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The day he loved his life

Through a half-opened side window of the bus, Karan looked out. An unusual quietness gripped the surroundings. The streets, which otherwise would be flooded with young software professionals like him, wore a deserted look. Biting his nails in frustration, he cursed his stars for making him go to the office on a weekend. He fully opened the window. A gentle breeze came to his rescue, kissed him all over his face and brushed his hair. The passion between them increased with each passing moment. His eyelids were slowly drawing the curtains to further enjoy this romantic tryst when suddenly, he felt a strong jerk. He instantly pressed his hands against the seat in front of him and managed to stave off a certain collision. But the kiss was broken, a reason enough for him to get pissed off.

He moved up from the seat and looked out through the front windshield. His annoyance turned at first into astonishment and subsequently into admiration. A stray dog had brought this mighty machine down on its knees. Out of the blue, that filthy little animal had come in front of the bus, wagging his tail graciously, walking with an elegant charm, as if the city roads belonged to him. The driver was extremely furious, threw a stream of expletives at the dog in the local dialect. To his surprise, neither did the dog run away, nor did he bother to look up. He continued his walk to the other side of the road where his comrades were waiting for him. The driver had largely underestimated 21st century Bangalore; even stray dogs here understand only one language –English.

“I salute you sir”, Karan exclaimed waving at the dog as the bus passed by him. The co-passengers looked at him weirdly for this sudden display of absurdity. He ignored the glances, took a diary out from his bag and wrote ‘Street Dog – master of his fate, captain of his soul. Had I been the leader of this country, I would have definitely bestowed upon him one of those bravery awards’.

He put the diary back in the bag. He searched for earphones in his pocket and disentangled them. Tuning to Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ he plugged them in. The surreal music appealed his soul. In the next few moments, he felt his conscious slowly ebbing away, and then, all his thoughts came to rest. His mouth was wide open and drooling. His body was oscillating with each movement of the bus, rejuvenating itself before the onset of another day of hard labour at his workplace.

This trip to the better world ended when he half-heard the word ‘Garepalya’ in his sleep. He opened his eyes, blinked, and blinked again. He gazed outside. Yes, the conductor indeed had called out Garepalya, short for ‘Garvebhaviplaya’, a suburb in south Bangalore where Karan’s office was located. He immediately got up from the seat and stretched his arms to take a deep yawn. He moved his hand across his face to wipe off the spittle.

“Ten minutes late”, he observed as he checked his watch after getting down from the bus. His forehead wrinkles looked more prominently than ever before. He held his bag tightly and ran towards the entry gate when suddenly his eyes narrowed upon the small paan kiosk that stood in front of the office.

“I am going in that shit-hole only after having a couple of fags”, he declared and proceeded towards the shop.

He was one of the nine analysts hired to monitor and improve the Customer Service unit of a large multinational firm, a job he hated to the core.

“Gold-flake King – Full Packet”- he demanded and handed a crisp green coloured note to Billa Kaka, the paan kiosk owner, a bespectacled man in his early fifties.

“One whole packet in the morning”, Kaka inquired. His yellow teeth gleamed as he spoke.

“Just give me the box”, Karan responded in a slightly irritable tone. He snatched the box and lighted the first cigarette right away. He took a puff and immersed himself in the smoke to find a temporary relief from a terrible stench that saluted his nostrils from the pile of garbage right adjacent to the office building.

“What a beautiful place for photojournalists”, he imagined as he took another puff. The photographer only had to take a few photos of rag pickers, women and children, publish them in a magazine and live merrily. This is what photojournalists survive on, poor people, hungry people.

He had emptied half the packet when his lungs declared themselves full for the morning. He decided to smoke the rest of pack later. He bought a chewing gum from the kiosk and headed towards the office lift. The liftman had already seen his identity card and even before he hinted anything, pushed the button for 7th floor.

“Good job mate, your boss would be so proud of you”, he said in his mind and chuckled at the thought. The lift system in the office was pathetic. They ascended with such an aching slowness that made one certain that they would get stuck between floors.

“One two three … eighty-seven eighty eight … Ah, Survived again”, he sighed as the lift opened in front of his office.

He swiped his access card, opened the door to find a vibrant twittering and chattering from the two hundred odd call center executives charge into his ears. His workstation was all the way in the last row. He advanced speedily, exchanging brief pleasantries with the people he knew on the way through. He put the bag on his desk. He removed his laptop and charger. He got up to plug in the charger when his eyes stumbled upon Payal Banerjee, a fellow analyst in his team. Her workstation stood diagonally to his desk.

His eyes were fixed at the peacock blue bindi decorating her forehead. Perhaps for the first time in days, he found an interest to watch another person. He looked up at her little unkempt hair. He had sometimes seen her riding to office. “Helmet’s doing” he affirmed as he scanned her down. She had applied mascara over her eyelashes, which made her charming eyes look even more dramatically glamourized. She wore a plain white kurti. The peacock blue of the bindi matched with the patiala and the flats.

“An ethnic diva”, he muttered, smitten, lost completely in her charisma.

He put his hands at the back of his head and looked at her again, this time concentrating on the finer details. Two bright chandeliers dangled from her ears, radiating such alluring appeal that would get even the toughest of hearts flattened on her. A swan pendant glittered over her chest, the swan dancing in a rhythmic motion with each breath she took in and exhaled. His eyes were glued on the pendant, following its trace when she suddenly looked up. He was caught staring at her breasts. She looked at him with sheer disgust. It was too late for him to turn away. He had to get the matter straight. He had to talk to her. Bullshit.

“Hey, you look good today?” he remarked and immediately regretted striking a conversation with her.

There are only two things in the world that Payal is interested in – Shopping and talks about shopping. She got up from her chair and sat on his desk, cross-legged.

“Hey, you noticed. Thank you. You know, I was looking up online for a wardrobe to keep my shoes. There is a sale going on. I am so tempted. But I am a little worried too; these E-commerce companies sell such sub-standard items nowadays. I ordered a perfume a few days back worth 4000 rupees only to find that it smelled like washing powder”, her blabbering went on and on. She had a glow in in her eyes as she talked about her shopping endeavours.

“Did you apply it today?” He interrupted as he couldn’t take this nonsense anymore. This was the least offensive line he could come up with.

“What? No. Why would you say that? Do I smell bad today?” She blurted all these concerns at once and came very near to his chair. There were just a few inches of gap between them. The aroma around was enriched with sparkles of lavender and jasmine. For the next few seconds, he remained mesmerized by her sensuous persona. But he quickly jolted back to reality. He had to get rid of her.

“Well I wouldn’t say it is bad. I am just a little confused. Is it Surf Excel or Ariel?” he inquired trying to look as stern as possible.

“What? You are such an ass, go to hell” she ranted and slapped him lightly on his shoulders.

“Where do you think I am now?” he smirked. There was no turning back now. Just one more sentence and she would definitely leave him for good.

“Fuck you Mr. Karan. Excuse me, I have to work now”, she yelled, her eyes wider and redder than he had ever seen.

“You were excused all this time. But …”, he shrieked as she pinched him. For a woman for her size, she was tremendously good at this activity. There was no stopping once her fingers grabbed his shoulders. Men are expected to be alien to feelings like pain and suffering. He tried to maintain a straight face all the time. But the snob look soon had changed into a-goat-going-to-be-slaughtered look. He could not take it anymore. He moaned loudly and tapped his left hand over the desk. She finally let him off.

“Don’t try so hard to be an asshole you can never become” she barked and left to her workstation. Her eyes were a little moist. She took a paper napkin and carefully cleared off the tears, making sure that the mascara remained intact. Meanwhile, his shoulder hurt badly. He caressed the area smoothly with his other hand. When he felt a little better, he took his diary out and wrote,” Women are the most fearsome creatures on this planet. Lizards come at distant second”.

He started with his work for the day. A pile of spreadsheets opened up in his system. His job included preparing three daily reports for the management. Each report took about three to four hours. This was just the fixed part of his job. The variable part included meetings with managers, senior managers and various other clients to provide them with insights on the business performance.

“If only they’d pay me more, I could have easily made software that could do all this things. But then, I’d have nothing to do here”, he thought. Staring at Payal was one option of enthusiastic appeal. But he immediately discarded the idea and proclaimed, “I am not wasting any more of my time on her”.

“No software”, he concluded and continued his romance with numbers.

He engrossed himself deeply into his work. To save some time, he brought his lunch plate at the workstation. It was already evening when he finished the second report. By the time he completed his work, it was nine in the night. The office was all deserted except for a dozen odd consultants doing the night shift. Unlike in the morning, his took slow small steps while walking out. He did not have the patience to wait for the lift. Instead, he took the stairs. As soon as he came out, he opened up the pack of cigarettes and started smoking the remaining ones.

“Pure bliss!” he exclaimed as he took the last drag for the day.

He looked up. The night was still young. He gave up the idea of taking a bus and decided to walk all the way to his home. He advanced speedily. The road was empty except for an occasional honking by cars and auto rickshaws. The air was corroded with the emissions from vehicles and nearby factories. He was well used to it. His lungs were far worse. He passed three temples, two signals, a coffeehouse and numerous street vendors. After having covered just halfway through the distance, he was down on his knees, panting, yearning for a glass of water. He had largely overestimated his athleticism.Luckily for him, there was a park nearby. He got a bottle of mineral water and headed inside the park.

The park was well lit and lively, with families and couples occupying most of it. Luckily, he found an empty seat. He kept his bag beside him and sat there, looking at small kids run, fall, laugh and cry. A sudden vacuum gushed through his heart. He tried to remember the last time he felt happy. He could not. Maybe he had embraced this monotonous life so much that happiness seemed a distant dream now. He took out his diary and pen and started scribbling.

It has been eight long months since I’ve started working. I took this job so that I wouldn’t have to bother my parents with unnecessary worry about my future. I do not know what is next in line for me. But neither would I know if I slog in office for twelve hours a day.    

The fact of the matter is all of us, the pan kiosk owner, the lift-man, Payal and the other teammates, even my boss, are dogs, tamed to serve a more powerful dog. The only difference between us is that some dogs were more privileged than others. But hell, we are all slaves. I am 22 now, more than a quarter of my life is done and I don’t think I’ve lived my dreams for one single day. I’ve always lived other people’s dreams, first my parents, then the teachers, relatives, friends, ex-girlfriend and now my boss.

I envy the stray dog of the morning; wish I could live his life. Sleep when I want to. Fuck when I want to. Eat when and what I want to, from KFC bones to pile of shit. The pressure of a belt around my neck is too much to bear. I am sick of pretending of being someone I am not. I am lost. I am tired. I wish I had the guts to walk freely and not give a damn about what society thinks of me. I wish I could just leave this stupid job and do something I like. I wish I knew what I am good at, what I should try my hands on. I wish for live in which I am hero and not one of the side characters. I wish to be the master of my fate. I wish to be the captain of my soul.

P.S: I’ll resign tomorrow.

He finished up the passage, rested the pen in his shirt, held the diary in his hand and started walking towards the exit of the park. He came out and advanced slowly, breathing deeply with each step. The road was dead. Out in the corner, he saw a stray dog roaming around. “Lucky bastard”, he said as he passed by him.

In the very next moment, a speeding car came from the other side of the road and hit the dog. The driver didn’t even bother to apply brakes to check upon the damage that was done. Instead, he accelerated the car and swiftly moved out of the sight. The car had passed through the dog right through his abdomen area. Such strong was the impact that the whine of the dog lasted barely for a second. Post that, a pin drop silence. On the spot death. The body was cold. At peace. The eyes of the dog were still wide open, staring forever at nothing in the distance. His face was distorted with the tongue hanging out. Blood was continuously oozing out from his mouth filling the potholes of the road. How much of blood could come out through one’s body?

Karan looked at him for a long time. He was holding his breath all this while. As he slowly eased the air out of his lungs , a putrid scent invaded his nostrils. He covered his nose with his hands. The road around the body had turned carmine. There were a few other dogs at the end of the road. None of them bothered to pay their last respects to their mate. They walked in the other direction, exchanging a few barks between them every now and then. No one looked back. Karan had never been so close to death in his entire life. He looked horrified. But he had to see this other side of life, where solitude was not a choice but the only option. He stood there, gazing at the eyes of the dog. Something hit him, real hard, penetrated deeply in his soul.

He turned and started walking away from the scene. At the end of the road, he found an auto standing. The auto driver, sensing his helplessness, asked for double price than the meter reading. Karan did not have the energy to argue. He agreed. As the auto proceeded, he opened his diary once again and scratched the passage he wrote just a few moments back. He then opened a fresh page and wrote “It’s better to die a little each day than to see an abrupt end to your dreams”. He took a deep sigh and looked out. A sweet expectation of unknown happiness took possession of him. The joy, the vigour, the beauty of this madness called life succeeded in getting a faint smile on his lips. He loved his job. He loved his life.

A drop of tear

A drop of tear,

Can sprout millions of lives,

Home a number of species,

Flora and fauna,

And serve as their guardian.

Don’t believe me, eh?

Go to a beach,

Gaze at the infinite blue,

For all I know, the oceans,

Are nothing but a big drop of tear,

Shed from the eye of the god,

For his beloved!

Life – Since the last post

After a long drought of five and a half months, I finally got my lazy ass back to writing. The last time I posted on my blog, I lived in room no. 320, IITH Boys Hostel, studied control systems and speech processing and had a lively junta in the neighbourhood. Today, I live in a flat in Bangalore with two of my friends from college, use excel for work and have no idea who my neighbours are. There has been a drastic shift in the last couple of months. Some things have turned out to be bad, others good.

The last month of college will surely be one of the most beautiful periods of my life. The farewell parties and get together made our bonds stronger. The first party was thrown by the junior batch of 2014. It was easily one of the best parties I’ve ever been in. From the roses and the applause at the entry to the wonderful souvenir in form of a plain t-shirt, which was supposed to be filled with quotes from batchmates, everything about it was perfect. The things that people wrote on the t-shirt made me feel happy and contended that I did spent some real good time here and that my friends believe in me. By the way, I got my t-shirt to Bangalore. Everytime I feel like a little lost, a look at all the things that people wrote and I feel quite motivated.

Then there was official farewell by the director. Director’s party started off with speeches by the people of our batch for their alma mater. Director’s speech was totally awesome. One sentence by him, “IITH will always be your second home and you can come anytime here” made my eyes wet. The 2 odd kms walk from the institute to the hostel at midnight, singing songs like yaaro dosti, hum rahe yaa naa rahein kal etc. and then sitting on the middle of the road and everyone sharing interesting stories from their life was surely a night to remember.

The third get together was with the team Egnite (which by the way is now an officially registered NGO \m/). Over the dinner, we discussed about a lot of things. Our team had 12-13 people from 5-6 different states. Over the year, we had become very good friends. While returning back on auto, someone asked a question as to what do we really want to achieve in life. All of us answered as to what we want to accomplish. My respect for comrades increased exponentially after listening to their vision.

The last get together, the Spartans get together, was a day before I was scheduled to leave. We went to Athidi, the same restaurant where we had our first party four years earlier. Life is a circle they say. Our journey had to end at the same place at where it started. Just as we went and had ordered the appetizers, one of us stood up for giving a toast. This was followed by a toast raised by each one of us. By the time we finished, we had been in the restaurant for more than 3.5 hours. The waiters were instructed to tell us that it was their closing time. But they, after seeing all the emotions in the room, lend us more time to finish. The whole exercise was as if, the story of those four years, the good and the bad things, the fights and the celebrations, the struggles and the victories were played before us. By the time we left, most of us had moist eyes, all the differences among us had vanished and we only had one prayer for each other “Jab bhi milna, haste hue milna” ( translation : whenever we meet in life, have that smile of yours intact).

Life at home went quite real quickly. The first 10 days went into remembering the last four years and regretting that life would not be the same again. It is said that time is a great healer. For, the next couple of days, I had a great time hanging out with Nagpur friends. We had couple of treats and when we were out of money, we gate-crashed into marriage ceremonies. But before I could extend that phase of chilling out in my hometown, I had to pack up for Bangalore. I hardly got a month’s rest. Blaming my bad luck and cursing the company, I started to pack up for the new journey.

Bangalore – The city made me fall in love with it as soon as I entered. The weather is probably the best among all the big cities in India. My job is pretty chilled out. My boss says that the starting phase of your job is your honeymoon period. This time won’t come back. So enjoy to the fullest. It has been about 2 months since then and the work pressure is about the same. I am kind of enjoying this extended honeymoon period (don’t tell my boss about this :P).

One big difference between college and corporate life has been the number of girls around. Coming from a skewed ratio of about 1 girl per 11 boys or so, entering an organization with almost 1:1 ratio was a distant dream ( “:P” for those who are still working in an organization with less ratio). My faith in humanity has been restored. 😀

A group of around 10 of us college friends try to meet up during the weekend and plan out something. We went for a few outings, had a few bakaiti sessions and watched a lot of movies. I’ve made a couple of friends in office too. Enjoy hanging out with them.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. When in college, we would wonder and talk about the life outside, about the things money can buy. Here, after a few months, there is one thing that I know for sure. Money cannot buy happiness. Family and friends can! 🙂

Well, that’s about the last couple of months. With a promise that I’ll continue to write more frequently, I’ll sign off! 🙂

The art of selling – story of my placement

The last few weeks have been a hell of a journey. This post is mainly about my tryst with the placement season. Most of the blog post was written the day after I got placed (which is more than a week ago). Blame my laziness; I didn’t take the pains to write anything after that day. Only today, after a height of boredom, I decided to get back to writing. So here is my story:

December is the month where placement season starts at all the IITs. The slots for the first few days are generally given to the core companies and management companies having a good pay check. All the technical companies had a CGPA cut-off and I could not even write the preliminary test.  So, with a screwed CGPA and little knowledge of coding, getting into big technical firms was out of choice for me. The only domain where I could fight up at equal level with my colleagues was Consultancy and Management.  Being a new IIT and the focus of Placement Cell being bringing as many technical companies as possible, I was left only with peanuts to choose from.

I started with the preparation for placements only in late October with aptitude, logical reasoning and verbal ability. Many of my friends had written GRE and CAT by then. So, I was a late starter. Also, there was an arrangement made by the placement cell to have a few sessions on programming skills. I attended those lectures hoping to atleast put up a fight when the IT companies come.

Our end semester ended on 27th of October. The first preliminary test for one of the best technical companies was on 28th. I could not appear for it because of my CGPA. The next test was on 1st of December of another big shot technical firm. Luckily for me this time, I could appear for it. But, as expected, I couldn’t get past the preliminary test. In the afternoon session, I gave three back to back tests. I came at my room at around 9 p.m., exhausted and tired. I called my parents, told them that the placement season has started and that I am trying to get one. A small conversation with them helped me gain some confidence. I looked at hot Group Discussion topics for the next hour or so and went to sleep much earlier than my normal schedule. I believe this was one of the best things to happen that day and I realized it after I got placed the next day.

December 2nd was the D-day, when Flipkart came to recruit for the post of management trainee from our college. I woke up early, took shower (at 6 am in December :D) and wore formals for the first time in my life. I was confident to put up a fight in the placement process. The placement process was an aptitude test followed by a group discussion and personal interviews. More than 2/3rd of the students eligible for placements gave the aptitude test. Sixty questions in sixty minutes. I somehow just managed to complete the test in time. I was sure of getting into the group discussion round. I was expecting around 30-40 shortlists for the group discussions. But then, news came that the Flipkart recruitment team could not come to our campus for some reasons and that there will be Skype interviews for the candidates. As group discussion was cancelled, the number of selected candidates was expected to be somewhere around 10-15. The list was to come up in half an hour. I came back to hostel to have breakfast. While I was having the breakfast, one of my friends told that I had been shortlisted for the interview. I quickly finished the breakfast and went to the institute.

There were 15 of us. I was 10th to be interviewed. The first person told the kind of questions that the interviewer was asking. It was mainly a resume based interview. I made some changes in the resume and highlighted my managerial abilities. I expected some questions that he might ask from my resume and rehearsed the answers for the same. My turn for the interview came. I was asked with the following questions:

1. Tell me about yourself?
I told him about my childhood and educational background, my internship at Rakshak Foundation and another Organization I have been associated with.

2. Tell me more about your internship project at Rakshak Foundation?
I was expecting this question. I had prepared a long answer for the same. I gave him my project summary on ‘Improving catering services in Indian Railways’. I explained him my research methodology, my field visits, my interaction with officials from the government, NGO and the corporate sector, my recommendations and their possible applications.

3. Tell me more about other NGO you are associated with?
Again I was expecting this. I told him that we are looking at reducing the educational disparity that exists in the country. As a part of the organization, I had a chance to interact with more than 500 students and 30 teachers. In addition, we have conducted a career counselling session at two schools. I added the vision and mission of our organization.

4. Why do you want to come into the corporate sector when your heart lies in the NGO sector? Would you continue your association with NGOs after joining flipkart?
I was taken aback by this question. He raised a valid point. But I quickly composed myself and gave examples of various personalities I met during my internship. I gave him the example of founder of Rakshak Foundation who is a senior manager at Adobe in Silicon Valley.  I gave him another example of a dynamic personality we had at one of the guest lectures Rakshak who was Director in Microsoft, New Seattle but also ran a few non-profit organizations. I added that as a person who has been lucky enough to get good education, I feel it is a moral obligation for me to do something for the society. I added that given a chance, I would like to rise in the corporate ladder as well as give back to society.

5. Do you have any questions to ask?
I said I had read about the job profile and I don’t have any doubts. Just after I finished saying this, I realised that I should have asked any random thing to prove my interest for the job. Anyways, the damage (if any) was done.

The interviewer told me that the interview was over. All throughout the interview he had this strange expressionless face. Probably that was to make the candidates uncomfortable. I was not very sure whether my answer on NGO vs Corporate appealed to him. But then, there was nothing I could do. My fate had been sealed. I came out, met my friends and told them about the interview. I was again, thinking about whether the answer appealed to him. Tensed, I went for a walk around the college. This helped me relax a bit. By the time all the interviews finished, there were only 6 of us waiting for the results.  Coincidentally, all the 6 of us were selected for the position. We celebrated there, called back our friends and rushed to the hostel. Then again, there were congratulatory messages from friends from the hostel which was followed by a small treat at cafeteria. After all the celebrations, when the news finally sunk in that I got a job, I finally called my parents and told them that I’ve been placed. My father replied ‘Motha Zhalas’ (You’ve grown up). That was the moment of the day for me!

P.S. (1): A few things that I learnt from the placement process:

Being Positive: From my experience, placement season is the toughest time of the entire four years of engineering, atleast for those who have job as the only option for the future. The rejections in the interviews, the frustrations in not being able to qualify the written test and most importantly, peers getting placed leads to high loss of self-confidence and  sometimes, depression. Just before the day I was placed, I had not been shortlisted in any of the companies. But then, only a small belief ‘stay in the game till it is not over’ let me through.

Friends are of a great help: The time I got shortlisted for the interview, I had a call from few of my friends here. They all gave me some motivational talk which enhanced my confidence. Believe me, those few words by friends at the high time were a great morale booster. I told them ‘job mile ya naa mile, fight maarke aata’(Whether I get placed or not, I’ll put up a fight).

Play on your strengths: There were people in the test as well as shortlisted for the interviews who had better profile than me. I knew my limitations. That is why I highlighted only the points which I was comfortable in my interview. In the first question, where he asked me to introduce myself, I smartly emphasized on the points I wanted him to enquire more about. I decided the flow of my interview.

Luck: I feel this is a very important factor in the placement process. Strange it may feel to some persons, but placement procedure doesn’t only focus on the profile or the achievements of a candidate but they have more things in their mind. That is why there is an aptitude test. There were many deserving candidates, some even had their profile better than all of us who were shortlisted, but they couldn’t get passed the aptitude test. The highest score in the flipkart aptitude test was 50. The cut-off was 42. I got 44. Who knows, one or two answers here and there and I would have been out.  Again, there were a few people in the interview who were as good as the rest of the selected people. In other companies too, the same story repeated itself. Having a good luck is an asset. It would be needed to connect all the dots, to crack aptitude/technical tests, get into a good technical interviewing panel and finally get through a good HR round.

The above three points that I listed can be cultivated and polished from time to time, but regarding luck, one can only HOPE.

P.S. (2): A big congratulations to all the people who have got placed and best LUCK to all those who are yet to be. 🙂

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