Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Madam Greedy Guts

A humid summer afternoon had given way to a gentle breezy evening in South Calcutta. I decided it was time for a pleasant evening walk. I roamed around the streets, taking in the sights and sounds of this city that have always so enchanted me. I stopped at a street-side stall where tea and samosas were being sold.

And that was when I spotted her.

She was barely 7 years old, wearing a white frock with pink roses delicately embroidered all over. Her chubby cheeks pointed to a love for food. Tightly clutching on to her dad’s hand, she was inspecting the options that lay sprawled out in front of her. What should she indulge herself in? Of course, the evening must start with that puchka-waala bhaiya (the vendor selling paani puris).

As I took the first sip from my cup of tea, I was captivated with her innocence as I observed the little angel leading her dad to the puchka vendor. She greedily eyed the fellow as he readied the preparation of potatoes, salt and chilli powder along with imli paani (tamarind water) which would be used to fill the puchkas. Taking hold of the leaf-cup from the vendor (after a struggle with her dad who unsuccessfully tried to explain to her that he would be able to handle the cup more stably), her eyes lit up with every puchka that was placed in her cup. Madam Greedy Guts would then gingerly pick up the puchka, her hands trembling with anticipation. She would proceed to take a bite and more often than not, the puchka was too big for her little mouth and the water would stream down her cheeks. She didn’t seem to mind at all as she gleefully looked up at her dad, who acknowledged the feeling with a smile.

Three puchkas later, it was time to move on to ice creams. As I ordered another cup of tea, she had decided she wanted a chocolate ice cream. Her father paid for the ice cream, and madam wrapped her little fingers around the treasure-cup holding the very substance that made up heaven. As she passed by, she looked up and with a cherubic smile told the tea stall vendor, “Kaaku, singhara kaal ke khaabo” (Uncle, I’ll have the samosas tomorrow). The ageing tea-stall vendor beamed back at her.

As I walked back home, I was wondering what purpose kids serve. Of course, procreation and all that nonsense about taking civilization ahead to survive another generation. But what that little girl taught me was the simplicity of man’s needs. Not 15 rupees (little less than 30 cents) had been spent on her outing, and yet she had had the time of her life.

Man’s needs are simpler than what the grown-up buffoon makes it out to be. It is the attitude that matters.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back home

It’s a quarter to four on a Saturday afternoon and here I am in my house in Calcutta with nothing to do. Err, technically speaking, of course I can keep myself occupied with a dozen things if I wanted to, but then, I’m me and I opt for the lazier way out and say that ‘I have nothing to do’.

Travelling in the train from Mumbai to Calcutta was unbearable…for the first few hours anyway. You see, according to me, one of the greatest pleasures in life is being aboard an AC coach in service of the Indian railways and to be armed at the same instant with a good book. The former without the latter is a deadly combination, as you’re then left with no other option but to:

a) listen to aunties discussing the ‘kundli’, the guest-list and the wedding card of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai

b) get irritated to hell by the snoring of an obese Bengali dude who just about manages to fit into the side berth and believes that sleeping away to glory (snoring in tow, of course) for 25 out of the 30 hour train journey is a brilliant strategy

c) stare out of the window praying for a station to arrive where a decent book-stall would be visible

(c) mentioned above was how I spent the first night in the train as (a) and (b) above were quite unquestioningly thrust upon me. I did everything I could to fight the fit of depression. I called up the Whale and Dolphin and tried to explain how the poor me had scouted the entire length of the Kurla Junction in a desperate bid to find a book stall owner, but to no avail.

Relief only came next morning at Nagpur station where I literally jumped out of the train and ran to the nearest book-stall. Talk about a weary traveller from the desert finding an oasis! I lapped up the books just as the aforementioned traveller would have attacked water. I decided to give in to temptation and bought two books; ‘Five Point Someone’ by Chetan Bhagat and ‘The Afghan’ by Frederick Forsyth.

The Heavens, it seemed, had decided to give me a fair return journey home after all, as Sam, Dada and Anubhav Misra came over to meet me up at Raipur station. Felt really nice meeting up with them. The five-minute stop at Raipur seemed to end too soon and I almost felt guilty for having asked them to come down to the station and meet up with me. But then, what the heck, they were ‘vella’ in any case and hey, given the situation, I would’ve myself hopped on to a bike to go and meet my friends at the station.

On returning to Calcutta, I spent the first day in Dad’s office. Met up with Ravi in the evening, and as is our norm, we headed over to a dhaba for a cup of chai for him and gilassi of milk for me.

Ah, the joys of being back home. :)

Monday, April 16, 2007

From Mundan to MBA

Last night, I had dinner at an uncle’s place. Uncle is one of Dad’s closest friends and I have forever known him as ‘kaka’ (Uncle).

During dinner, conversation led to the time when he and Dad had established their friendship, and I was surprised to know that this is a friendship which has lasted *touch wood* for just over four decades now. Phew!

And as would be expected, he is among the handful of people who’ve known me since the time I could fit into his palms. :P

Last night was a rite of passage, as far as he was concerned. Happily sharing a drink with Dad, he looked at me and commented how he had been there at my ‘Mundan’ ceremony (the holy Hindu ritual when an infant’s hair is first shaved off at the age of 3 or 4) and here he was again after I’d completed my MBA. I suspected more pride in his voice than pleasure when he congratulated me on having gotten my degree. From what I gathered, it wasn’t the education which was as important as the degree which announced my entry into the world of corporate affairs.

Also, quite importantly, I lay bare before them what had been happening in my personal life for the last few years. I was surprised with the maturity and the calmness with which they accepted whatever I'd been through.

Just as we were leaving, Kaki produced an envelope with a few currency notes inside which were a sign of good luck. On the envelope were the following words:

Dear Shekhar,

May God bless you with lots & lots of happiness, success and good health. Don’t ever stop loving, don’t ever stop believing and don’t ever stop dreaming your dreams.

Blessings from Kaka and Kaki.

Love you folks. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Self fulfilling prophecies

I was having lunch at a wonderful couple's house in Ahmedabad the other day and the after-lunch discussion was most amiable.
We kept veering from one topic to another and during one such turn of discussion, I told them about a singular thing that happened to me. You see, apart from this blog, I do maintain a personal diary. And in that diary of mine, I had made a passing remark about how wonderful a particular eventuality would be if it indeed came true. As luck would have it (is it so?), things which lay outside my control almost magically happened such that I had to make my best efforts and hence, display some of my own strengths. I wondered out aloud if in writing that journal, I had somewhere unknowingly shaped my own destiny.
At this, the lady of the house also pointed out something similar. She said that in Linda Goodman's book (I forget which) she mentions about the people under a specific star-sign who never 'save for a rainy day'. And it so happens, that because of their belief, that particular rainy day never does arrive. We just laughed at this intriguing co-incidence, but what remained a question was whether man was indeed capable of carving out his/her own destiny.
I end this post by recalling a poster I'd seen in a faculty's room: "Be careful of the thoughts you think; they shape your future."

Devanagri script enabled on Blogger

क्या बात है! This is Awesome !! Google का जवाब नहीं।

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Defining Youth

The setting was indeed idyllic. Sun God raced in his chariot towards the end of the day and my parents, bhaiya and I were seated in a Maruti Omni which was taking us back to our native village. Bhaiya and I had occupied the side positions on the rear seat and emboldened by the sparsely populated Gujarat countryside, both of us had opted to keep the sliding doors open.

I cannot say about the others, but I quite enjoyed taking in the sweltering heat, the dust that was being kicked up by the tyres and the quietness of the surroundings. It didn’t take long for John Denver to start singing ‘Country roads, take me home…’ in the mind’s stereo-system.

I am pretty sure, though, that the setting sun was having a magical effect on others as well since all of us had suddenly gone silent and were perhaps meditating on some day gone by.

It was then that the stream of thoughts was translated into words and bhaiya and I started speaking about youth and their ways. The discussion came to a point where we needed to clearly define what ‘youth’ was.

It is here where bhaiya’s wisdom shone through.

“All those who always keep thinking or speaking about the future are children or immature beings. And those who crib about the past or keep living in the glories of the day gone by have weathered minds – no matter what their physical age, they’ve already decided to live in the past and are hence, old.”

“And what about the youth?” I asked.

“Simple. Those who live in the present and think about changing their present circumstances rather than choosing to keep building castles in the air or boasting about their past are youth. They, indeed, are the ones who shape the environment around them and to them goes the title of being ‘youthful’.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How the curtains were drawn

This post is authored as I sit in a flat in Mumbai with dollops of time to spare and a laptop which refuses to install ‘Counter Strike: Condition Zero’ no matter how many times I bang my head on the table and plead for mercy to the IBM Gods.

As a result, the post is slightly longer than my usual posts, but I have made sincere efforts at keeping it interesting. Do read. :)

Let me recall the events of my last few hours at Nirma.

Anyone who thinks packing bags is an easy business hasn’t obviously met me. I have been told that I have the most exasperated look on my face when such an eventuality occurs. In fact, I keep getting this uneasy feeling that people are reminded of dear old Uncle Podger who hung a picture upon the wall (for further references, please read “Three Men In A Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome).

I am almost certain that I must cut a sorry figure while packing, what with running from one end of the room to another, picking up an article, thrusting it wildly into a bag, scurrying to another part of the room, only to realize that perhaps it would be better if the article already tossed into the bag should indeed be packed in the carton which is to be couriered.

If any further proof is required of the fact that things can go horribly out of control when I’m packing, let me cite the example of last year when I had to pack my bags before leaving for my summer internship. I had projected that I would leave the hostel by 3 in the afternoon. As expected, the packing Gods didn’t approve of my projected figures and my friends heaved a mighty sigh of relief when I finally left the hostel at 11 at night.

Going by my track record (late by 8 hours on the previous occasion), the crime this time around was definitely excusable. I was late by a meagre 2 hours; I had planned to have my bags packed and left the hostel by 9pm, but could not leave till 11.

Of course, Dolphin was partly to blame. The moment she saw me wearing my red-and-white t-shirt, she grimaced in a manner which would’ve made Jeeves proud when he didn't approve of an article of clothing worn by Bertie Wooster. And in order to ensure that I would never again have the happy privilege of wearing the particular t-shirt, Dolphin simply asked for a pen and promptly proceeded to write a good-bye message on the shirt itself. This was encouragement enough for everyone around to jump in and write their ‘love-you’ and ‘goodbye Rupa’ messages. It was a good twenty minutes more before I could step into the waiting auto-rickshaw. However, it was worth the wait. I love that shirt now and am going to treasure it forever. :))

But it didn’t take more than 2 hours in Bhaiya’s house that night for me to realize that I was now on a different plane altogether. Mom and Dad hit the sack around midnight (they were awake only since I had been late in arriving home) and when Bhaiya wished me good-night around 1 in the morning, the house plunged into darkness and silence. To think that Sahu Sahab and I had made a daily routine of going down for a cuppa of tea at 2 in the morning!! Wow!! This DEFINITELY felt weird.

I felt as if 2 years ago, I had been plucked off from this (so called) normal planet and had been placed on a different one where not only were you responsible for everything you did, but you were also certain that no matter what happened, you would have a rollicking time. Sitting in the darkened hall, I could almost see the two years zip by right in front of my eyes.

The next day was Convocation day and boy was it fun. The best part about the day had to be us roaming around in the boys hostel wearing our convocation robes. All of us were in a crazy mood that day as we’d realized that this was our last opportunity to hang out like a bunch of happy-go-lucky characters. We had a gala time walking the ‘ramp’ and doing the ‘Reservoir Dogs’ walk in our convocation robes. [Crab even did a special Muzaffarnagar dance, details of which cannot be provided on blogs such as these which are meant to provide wholesome reading material for the entire family].

It was while these crazy deeds were being executed that I realised that I just HAD to spend the last night at the hostel and not at Bhaiya’s place in the city.

Wise decision. I got to take a tour of the most coveted real-estate property on the Nirma campus, i.e. the Girls’ hostel. ~wink~

It so happened that some of the girls convinced the girls’ hostel warden to allow them to visit the boys’ hostel. Now, since we had all convocated that very evening, we were technically not students anymore. And that, ahem, gave us the license to roam around. So, even before the girls battalion could move into our hostel, we attacked theirs. I had the privilege of visiting just two rooms, that of the Dolphin and the Piranha. Motee had already vacated her room, and poor Dolphin was left all alone to do her packing [She left with a record 8 bags the next day]. And true to her character, the room was a mess. To be honest, Whale and I looked at the room with a certain sense of pride in knowing that the Dolphin had come somewhere close to keeping her room as untidy as we had in the last one year together.

Next was Piranha’s room, which was, as expected, clean and a shocking contrast to Dolphin’s. Utterly neat (ouch!) and almost a hotel-room like feel is what all three of us (Sahu Sahab, Whale and I) felt.

Later that night, after the girls had visited our hostel, we decided we didn’t give two hoots about the boys’ hostel warden’s calls of returning to the hostel before midnight. Most of the gang was outside on the benches and on the lawn. The poor hostel warden had to keep getting up at regular intervals in any case, since many of the hostel-ites had trains and flights scheduled at odd hours.

The next afternoon, I too left the hostel along with the Whale. And with that auto-rickshaw ride on the Sarkhej Gandhinagar Highway, my life as a student of the Institute of Management, Nirma University officially came to a close.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Nirma Boys Hostel, Block B, Room no. 309 - Adios

Last post from this room and from this hostel.

One evening, after a marketing prof. introduced us to the world of blogs. Fascinated, that night I started this blog from the confines of this hostel.

So, as I pack up my laptop and gaze at the tonnes of baggage that has been packed before I vacate this hostel forever..

THANK YOU NIRMA BOYS HOSTEL.... I found the warmth of a place called 'home' here. Thanks for all the wonderful memories that shall always bring forth a smile, a chuckle and even the occasional tear.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blood, toil and sweat...

In my two years of MBA education, I thought I'd seen it all. And just when one thought that everything there was to be seen and done had been achieved, there was just that one little thing that needed to complete the picture. I realised that most of my friends at this b-school had been part of one small road accident or the other (most of them, thankfully, not very serious). ~wink~ Today, was my turn.

So, a friend of mine and me were on this Kinetic Zoom when we skidded on this patch of sand and landed, face first, on the ground. Thankfully, none of the cars nearby rolled right over us and we were up in a jiffy. In fact, we were pretty lucky to have gotten away with just minor bruises. I managed a slight cut on my right knee to show for the evening's efforts. Even better was my friend, who immediately stood up and after casting a look at all the dust on his clothes, looked up dismayed at me and announced, "Yaar, kapde dhone pad jayenge!" ("Dude, I'll have to wash the clothes.") The next instant, the two of us were in complete splits and the onlookers were (I think) left wondering if these two nutcases had suffered serious injuries to the skull. :D

Anyway, ~deep intake of breath~ the MBA draws to a close and I've emerged victorious from a battle (of the mind?) which, I must admit, got almost too close for comfort. ~phew~ Friends who've been close to me have witnessed the nervousness and anxiety that I used to feel from time to time. In the end, I knew there was no one else but I who was responsible for putting myself into a difficult position. Like I said to a benevolent professor who offered to lend me a ear, it was again no one else but I who could draw myself out of the mess.

And work myself out of my troubles I did!! There was blood, toil and sweat (Sorry to disappoint you Mr. Churchill, but there were just no tears). Tell you what... it was all worth the fight in the end. The very man who predicted my doomsday congratulated me this evening on a brilliant performance. The same man who had told me that I was fast hurtling towards failure gladly shook hands with me and told me [not in as many words, I admit; but then, I'm a dreamer, and a dreamer who has just won has the liberty to dream these words ;) ] that I had the mettle of a winner.

Some have told me, in jest of course, that I should've laughed at him or reminded him mockingly of his prediction that I was headed for failure.

The truth is that I did remind him. And frankly, I couldn't be more thankful to the gentleman. If it hadn't been for that one statement which put the fear of the worst-case scenario in me, I don't think I would've pushed this hard. True, I couldn't sleep peacefully for days in a row and had the most harrowing nightmares of living the failure that had been promised to me. However, if it hadn't been for that feeling of cold sweat on my forehead, I don't think I would have excelled in the manner in which I did.

And so: 'Thank you Sir for your unkind words. That was simply the BEST thing that you could've done for me.'

Like all victories, though, there is more than just one person to whom the victory can be attributed. This victory, too, wouldn't have been possible without my parents, Aunt Patricia, and all my friends who stood by me and supported me. They did all that they could, either by doing their little bit in finishing excellent group project work or by giving their words of encouragement and hope. I can't end this post without thanking 'Bulla', 'Herbert', 'Horatio', 'Biscuit', 'Whale', Sam, 'Basanti', 'Piranha', 'Gola', 'Dolphin', 'Mr. President', Sahu Sahab, Motee, Sudhanshu, 'Pappu' and of course, 'Baap'. Thank you folks.

Perhaps for the last time on this blog, I must also mention 'her'. I must thank 'her' for the encouragement she provided and the promise she made me make.

(Although our paths have parted for some time now, you were among the first few persons I thought of when I knew I'd won. May God be with you. And yes, I shall keep my promise. ~smiles~)


And oh, if you were wondering how the Goa trip was, what do you think of this??