Monday, December 24, 2007
For most people, Sunday is the time to relax, laze in bed, drool on the pillow and generally do their sloth impression. To lie in bed partially awake knowing you don't have to get up is a pleasure almost sinful. Add to this the pleasures of yawning, stretching luxuriously and absent mindedly scratching your bottom and there you have it, a hedonists utopia.
My mom however is not most people.
Unlike the males of the house (i.e.) my dad and myself, she does not care much for these simple pleasures. While at 4 AM, my dad and I snore in bed, dreaming the dreams of the blissfully ignorant, my mom has nightmares about dishes that must be washed, floors to be cleaned, houseplants watered, knick-knacks dusted, bathroom tiles scrubbed, pots scoured, closets organized and files filed.
As all males undoubtedly know, cleanliness is a key area in which my dad and I have enjoyed a key advantage over my mom , thanks to a superior blend of genes, evolution and good old common sense, we are pigs. We are content to see our pens gradually morph from a bacteria free environment, into a breeding ground for several small mammals and reptiles. Take my mom away from the house for a few days and you can see how living organisms evolve from single celled organisms to intelligent life forms which change TV channels with remarkable ease.
My mother unfortunately does not approve of our zoo keeper ways. An immaculate abode is one of her cherished ideals. Thus it is her sworn duty to arm herself with the broom and smote any traces of dirt that have the audacity to remain visible in front of her eyes.
When I come back from my college, I want to tackle my top priorities : eating, sleeping, eating and sleeping (though not necessarily in that order). My mom however prefers a slightly different routine. The moment she gets back home, she will remove her slippers outside, step inside gingerly, look around and perform a complete geological survey of the household. With the aid of her piercing eyes, she will mentally calculate the difference in dirt levels (before and after her leaving the house). Having ascertained this figure (usually 0.01 microns), she will curse us males for our primitive ways in cleanliness and hygiene. After this she will curse my servant maid and make scalding remarks about her skill with the mop and broom. This done, she will reach for the broom and once again go into sterilizing mode.
I often hide in my room to obtain sanctuary from my mothers rhypophobia (rhypophobia is a phobia meaning molysomophobia). Within these 4 walls, I am free to watch dirt accumulate to Himalayan levels. I spend hours staring at my computer screen while consuming vast quantities of chips, peanut candy, biscuits and occasionally even curd rice. Due to my slobbish ways, I occasionally spill some of my food onto the keyboard. These spills have accumulated over the years and I can now boast of a computer rich in carbohydrate deposits. If due to an unfortunate circumstance like an earthquake or a volcano, I am trapped in my room, I can stay alive for years merely by licking my nutritious keyboard.
My father and I generally find our incompetence spreading to other areas. Take for example the tube light in my room. Its a rather odd tube light which comes on only when it feels like. The moment I switch it on, it will come on for a few seconds, pause as if in deep thought and then go off again. After which it will flicker coyly for a few minutes, take a 2 minute break, marshal its resources and then continue flickering until I switch it off. Over the months my mom has repeatedly asked what was wrong with the tube light. She has rather naively assumed that because I'm a student of electrical engineering, I will automatically know what's wrong with tube light. That's obviously a ridiculous assumption. When the tube light flickers in class, we do what all electrical engineers do. We switch it off and wait for the watchman to come and fix it. This has not gone down well with my mom and she persists with her view that I learn nothing in college.
Mom: " What's wrong with the tube light ?"
Myself (Thoughtfully) :" Well, it appears to be flickering "
Mom( icily): " I can see that, but what's wrong with it? "
Myself (Even more thoughtfully): " Well, perhaps there's a problem with the capacitor, maybe the tube light has a leading power factor and is unable to draw a leading current, which means it might be drawing a lagging current which means there might be something wrong with the firing angle so the capacitor might not be able to provide a leading current.."
Mom: " What the devil are you saying? "
Myself :" Well, it appears to be flickering.... "
My expert knowledge has not satisfied my mom and she still feels that paying my college fees is an utter waste of money. That is very untrue. They teach me many fine things in college like " Touch the wire and you will be electrocuted!" or "Don't touch the guy who is being electrocuted, that way only one person dies.. " or " Please sign this paper. Now if you do get electrocuted, you can't hold the college responsible...".
My mom is however at her most crotchety self at the dinner table. Twice a day we assemble at the table to consume the healthy food that she has assiduously prepared. It during this time that my mothers blood pressure shoots up to sky scraping levels. While she scarcely looks down at her plate, her attention is focused exclusively on the bad table manners my father and I zealously display. This is quite a tiring feat as I sit diagonally opposite my mom and my dad to her right. So she stares menacingly at me for a few minutes and then suddenly turns right and stares menacingly at my father. This pendulum like feat enables her to realize that my table manners were genetically passed on to me by my father and that her genes didn't get much of a say in it.
Conversation recorded during dinner time:
Mom: " Don't eat with the spoon! We are Indians! You are totally ignorant of Indian culture and values "
Dad and myself: " Grunt.. Chew..swallow..choke..cough! cough! "
Mom: " Yuck! I cant eat with you people around! "
Dad and myself: " Water! Glug Glug..Aah!..Chew..swallow..choke..cough!cough! "
I have often suggested my mom wear blinders. This way she can only stare straight ahead and not be offended by our table manners. Or we could raise barriers on the table such that each person gets to sit on his or own cubicle. My dad has suggested ear plugs for ourselves.
While my mom struggles to keep the house clean, keep all the equipment working and tries very hard to keep our table manners from slipping below barbarian levels, my dad and I are quite content to let things be as they are. For we know that in the end entropy will set in and everything will deteriorate. Clean the room and within hours, it has to be cleaned again. Food particles, dust, run away news papers all conspire against us. Like that chap from Greek mythology who had to keep rolling that boulder up the hill and watch it roll down again, we know that cleaning is an ultimately futile affair. My mom however is determined to gain a temporary foothold in the struggle against chaos. She does battle against the forces of deterioration and disintegration. I suppose she's earned the right to be pleased with herself.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I'm guessing the lethargy is mostly due to the fact that I once again have a knockout of a cold and and a gloriously upset stomach...not to mention that its absolutely freezing here.
Will the euphoria ever set in? Or am I just going to dully plod along? I'll just have to wait till my nose gets unblocked and my bowels smile again.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Yesterday I went out with my friends to the trade fair at Delhi. Despite the fact that we almost got squished in the stampede to the entrance we still emerged from that great swarm of humanity laughing, with numerous stories to tell on how we survived.
We spent the day roaming from stall to stall, eating every type of food that was on offer. We shopped, haggled with the vendors and spent a large portion of our time getting lost, getting repeatedly separated from each other and then frantically getting directions on the phone.
We huddled together in the cab on the journey back; the temperature outside being close to freezing. It felt good to be alive and surrounded by the warmth of the smiles of my companions. While it wasn’t mentioned, with placements around the corner, everyone was looking forward to that first salary. It felt glorious to be young, to be alive, to be with friends and to have the promise of a secure future ahead of us.
I’m aware of a certain amount of naivety that this post contains. But what is life without hope for a sunnier tomorrow? I’m just exulting in being alive here right here and right now :-)
Saturday, November 17, 2007
1) Leaky nose, rasping cough, head filled with lead and a stomach that is gloriously upset, I want to go home.
2) The room smells so much better after I washed 16 toxic pairs of socks in one go. I managed to survive so far because of a partially blocked nose. My roomie spent the last week in the neighboring room.
3) The dog keeps following me around. She sits quietly under my bed not revealing her presence. I don’t even know she’s there most of the time. She follows me all around campus. She even dutifully accompanies me to the bathroom. Other residents in the corridor are not impressed. I have decided to call her Silk Smitha.
4) How can I possibly convince companies that I am dynamic, intelligent, eager to learn and anxious to undertake extra responsibility? Will the MBA tag make up for my utter lack of initiative?
5) Winter is a lousy time to be single. The campus is lovely and everyone looks nice in sweaters and jackets. It would be heavenly to snuggle up to a warm and loving woman under the blanket. Instead all I have is a dog under the bed and an insomniac for a room mate. I hate all couples.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
At the end of 18 months in IMT, I have just begun to realise how appalingly ignorant I am of all thats been taught here. Sometimes I worry if I'm going to leave IMT knowing less than when I came in. I still cant get myself to read Philip Kotler and the Financial Management textbook gives me the willies. The Economic Times does a spectacular job of failing to hold my interest. I stare blankly at it for a while before my mind starts wandering. I fantasize about Deepika Padukone for a few minutes until she asks me my views on the sub prime mortgage crisis.Then I snap back into attention. I want to leave each job interview with my dignity intact.
There's about a month to go before companies descend on campus. God willing things should go well. Wish me luck.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
To those of you who read my blog, thank you so much for being a part of my life. I may not know most of you and may probably never meet you...but thank you just the same. It warms my heart to know that there are so many people out there who take an interest in what I say.
I love blogging..it only bothers me that there's so much more I can write but somehow end up never doing because I'm too lazy to latch onto every inspiration that springs forth.
Here's hoping that IBCD will continue to hold your interest over the next few years of my life. Here's also hoping that the future is warm and bright.Good night.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Harsha Bhogle, the host. The man is a gem. Great stage presence, fantastic sense of humor and best of all, completely down to earth with absolutely no airs about himself.
Thats my head there. It was unnerving to see myself magnified a few dozen times. I did my best to avoid looking at the large screen.I can only hope I did not have a dandruff problem at that time.
Thats Ali, certainly the more refined debater :-)
The prize distribution ceremony, with retail head of the Aditya Birla group and the Chief editor of Business Today.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
1)Flying is indeed for everyone one now. At the Delhi airport I caught sight of a large and raucous procession of people obviously from some small village in Tamil Nadu. Leading them was a man with long wild hair and a fierce unkempt beard. His dhoti was old and faded and his shirt was open till the stomach, revealing a rainforest on his chest. My heart melted when his wife timidly asked me in broken hindi if their luggage would be safe. I assured her in Tamil that Indigo Airlines was unlikely to steal her suitcase. She smiled and confessed that it was her first time on her plane. I promised to help her locate her luggage when we landed. I’ll never forget the reaction of the air hostess when we boarded the plane. She good morninged everyone with plastic earnestness but her jaw dropped when she saw my hero. He gave her a rough salute and pushed his way into the plane. I gloated over her reaction for a while. So much for manufactured politeness. Later on I began to feel guilty. I cant think of anything more horrible than being polite and sweet to people who want to go to the loo just when the plane is taking off. Sometimes I just wish that airhostesses would be rude to passengers and scream filthy cuss words at them when they didn’t behave. I want to know how an airhostess really feels. When we landed in Chennai, my hero refused to enter the bus which would take us into the airport, loudly demanding to see his luggage first.
2)The sight of my aunt holding a steaming mug of filter coffee for me when I open my eyes has been a welcome change. Usually the first thing to greet my eyes in the morning is the foul sight of my roomie spread out corpse like on the bed. He somehow always manages to look like he was pushed out of a plane and landed splat face down on my bed. (He even manages to look like he contracted pneumonia on his descent.) My aunt hovered about anxiously as I imbibed the coffee, desperately wanting to know what I’d like for lunch. In the last four days I have feasted on thakkali sambhar, vengaya sambhar and kara kozhambu with roasted senakazhangu ,urulai kazhangu and fried appalam. When I die and enter the gates of heaven, I imagine it will be a South Indian hotel with my aunt installed as the head chef.
3)I love my 3 year old niece Sri Nidhi. She sits on my outstretched legs every afternoon as I catch up on the latest Tamil movies with my feet resting on a stool. I did my best to jiggle my legs in tune with every song and smiled as her head wobbled unsteadily on her slender neck. She is so slender, so delicate, so beautiful that I think I’ll have a daughter when the time comes. If I have a son, I’ll leave him with my sister.
4)I am convinced that I am wearing someone else’s face. Two days ago, I removed my French beard after being unable to bear my family’s stricken expressions. My 7 year old nephew had respectfully addressed me as ‘Chitappa’(uncle) when I entered. However that quickly deteriorated to “Ey meesai vechha dhaadi”(Hey moustache with the beard) by the evening. Now I gawk at the mirror unwilling to believe that the reflection(sans facial foliage) returning my horrified expression is indeed me. My French beard helped me define myself. I was BAD. I had enjoyed the porikki/tapori look. In the two months in IMT that I had it I had received repeated pleas to get rid of the fungus but I had braved it all. I was a rough and uncouth man, someone who would initiate a bloody fight at the slightest provocation. Now I look like I only eat fruits to survive.
5)I tried meeting all my friends in Chennai. The plan fell flat because I fell asleep the moment I landed at my friend Shobha’s place. When I woke up, everyone had left. Thus continues the curse that every MBA must endure when he goes home. Sleep takes precedence over a social life.
6)Its been a welcome break. I was getting moody and irritable at IMT and desperately needed a change. I cant think of anything more relaxing than spending time with family. I’ve had time to eat well, to sleep and most of all think clearly about some issues that were bothering me. Turns out that once you have the love of your family, good food and eight hours of sleep most problems cease to be problems.
7)At the Chennai airport, I decided to try something new and parted with a fifty rupee note to try out a new fangled massage chair for five minutes. It was the most terrifying five minutes of my life. I was the powerful grip of a ruthless machine that stopped just short of crushing my bones. One wrong setting somewhere and I could have been reduced to pulp.
8)While I sat on the chairs waiting for the boarding call, I realized I was sitting opposite to Meena, the tamil actress. During my troubled and hormone driven teenage years, Meena was the ultimate sex symbol of every horny teenager in South India. I would stay up late at night watching “Midnight Masala” hoping that my parents wouldn’t wake up and Meena would star in practically every steamy song. It felt odd sitting so close to her, knowing that once upon a time the sight of her clad in a clinging wet saree had aroused such fervent lust in me. Did she know intimately familiar I had been with her curves? Now she looked perfectly ordinary and aunty like, nothing like the curvaceous babe who had driven millions of teenagers to madness.
9)I’m writing this on the Indigo flight to Delhi. I’m already deeply in love with one of the airhostesses whose name I wont reveal due to some unpleasant experiences with Google.
10)I still want you Meena.
Monday, September 24, 2007
It was simple to pretend that nothing had happened. My mother had never existed in IMT and so I found it easy not to notice her absence as I smiled into the camera, decked in a business suit as I posed for the placement brochure. I did not miss her when I stayed up for weeks at a stretch preparing for the exams, the quizzes and the projects. I forgot about her as I danced with gay abandon with my friends on freshers night. During the times when I asked my heart if it had acknowledged what had happened, I received no response. I had no feelings, no pain, no lingering memories of motherly love. I shouted into the depths of my soul and waited for a reply that wouldn’t come.
IMT had done its job splendidly. It wordlessly sealed that raw gaping hole in my soul with neat stitches and pretended that the wound would heal. I ran my fingers over the stitches and thought things were all right now, that I was healing beneath the threads that held me together.
The months passed and I settled back into the routine: Classes, mid terms, parties, dinner at nice restaurants, staying up all night just talking to friends, bothersome case studies and end terms. The reward for joining a B school - the much coveted placement now dangled tantalizingly in front our noses after seeming so distant in the first year. There was a sense of purpose to the life I led.
And then when I least expected it, my soul replied. After staying up for an entire week to complete another set of projects, I sat back dirty, weary and tired and said to myself “Man I need a break, I want to go home!” and my soul said “What home?”.
I got scared.
I had a 3 bedroom house complete with furniture, TV and hot water but no one to make it worth returning to. IMT was the only place left where I knew who I was.
Now I feel the pain in every waking moment. I feel it when I see my friends talk their parents on the phone, I see it when they bring back sweets made at home and I taste it when I drink that cat piss that passes off as Nescafe coffee.
I have to feel my way along blindly , without the comfort of parents to tell me who I am and where my place is in this world. I don’t know where I’m going and how I’m going to survive. I ask myself “Why me? Why does all this have to happen only to me? Why must I recover from one blow only to be hit below the belt again? Why do some people get to live their lives so smoothly while others have to struggle just to be able to breathe?”. Perhaps the self pity will get me nowhere but for the moment its all I have.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
We took time getting used to IMT’s culture. We settled in gradually, the essence of IMT seeping slowly into us. We took time to get to know each other, to trust and to have fun. We tested the temperature of the water with our big toe before lowering ourselves gingerly into the pool. The juniors however have leapt off the diving board, screaming joyously, arms and legs splayed out wide and splashed loudly into the water, violently displacing those of us who were content dog paddling.
Maybe we’ve just become old. An entire year of relentless projects, exams and quizzes followed by a grueling summer internship has robbed us of our initiative. Perhaps the time has come for us to move on, to get our jobs and get out and leave it to IMT to wring the zest out of them.
To someone who loves popcorn...
So you sailed away
Into a grey sky morning
Now I'm here to stay
Love can be so boring
Nothing's quite the same now
I just say your name now
But it's not so bad
You're only the best I ever had
You don't want me back
You're just the best I ever had
So you stole my world
Now I'm just a phony
Remembering the girl
Leaves me down and lonely
Send it in a letter
Make yourself feel better
But it's not so bad
You're only the best I ever had
You don't need me back
You're just the best I ever had
And it may take some time to
Patch me up inside
But I can't take it so I
Run away and hide
And I may find in time that
You were always right
You're always right
So you sailed away
Into a grey sky morning
Now I'm here to stay
Love can be so boring
What was it you wanted
Could it be I'm haunted
But it's not so bad
You're only the best I ever had
I don't want you back
You're just the best I ever had
The best I ever had
The best I ever
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Today the post lunch session was to be handled by G.D.S who would explain the intricacies of supply chain management. G.D.S was old, competent, confident and had a large and lovable pot belly that hung wearily over his belt. With his thick glasses and acerbic manner, he gave the impression of a disgruntled communist. With a no frills presentation displayed on the screen, he would walk around with his arms folded, chin tucked into his chest as he held a long sarcastic conversation with himself. The monologues were meant to be enlightening but we merely found them enervating.
However today when we opened the door to enter class, it was a new face that smiled at us. G.D.S slouched morosely at the back of the class looking like a wise hippo with a tummy ache.
“Mrs. J.R will be discussing the use of data mining and date modeling in supply chain management.” He announced grumpily before resuming his wounded expression.
We gazed at Mrs. J.R, waiting patiently for her to begin so that we could let voice gently numb our senses before we toppled over. Mrs. J.R however looked fresh and eager and she played impatiently with a piece of chalk as she waited for the rest of the students to enter.
And then suddenly she began “ Good Afternoon students! My name is J.R and I will be talking about the uses of data mining and data modeling! Now you are all marketing fellows and you must be asking yourselves why must I study Data mining and Data Modeling?? But my dears, these days IT is in yeverything! Suppose I go to a supermarket and buy bread and butter on Monday and milk and beer on Tuesday and nothing during the rest of the week then the marketing fellows at the supermarket can look at their database and say ‘Oho! J.R shops only on Mondays and Tuesdays!’ So they use my buying patterns to decide what I will buy and where I will I buy it next! Are you getting me dears??”
Her onslaught was met with a stunned silence. The enthusiasm and energy coupled with a strong accent and the ability to recite the entire Indian Constitution in one breath proved to be a little too much. The students shifted uneasily in their seats, unsure of what to make of this new specimen that bought milk and beer on Tuesdays . I however only had to hear her say “Good afternoon!” before my heart began to throb with affection. I knew she’d used the beer example to try and reach out to us. Her accent, her simple chappals, her sari, her flushed and sweating face but most of all the earnestness with which she addressed us caused the years to fade away. I was 12 again, listening to a school teacher.
My school had been filled with these motherly figures. They were pious, intelligent, hardworking and radiated affection. With cheerful smiles that lit up their faces they waged a constant battle against time to complete the syllabus. They worried about your health, comforted you when you were depressed and celebrated your small achievements. After a year of being taught by unsmiling disinterested men who kept to themselves outside class, listening to Mrs. J.R was balm to my soul.
She continued with vim and vigor, like she was entertaining a roomful of children with a scary story. Her voice rose and fell as she led us through the treacherous paths of data mining. As she performed a variant of Kathakali, opening her eyes wide to stress a point, I caught a glimpse of the thirty year old marine engineer smiling shyly at her. As the minutes ticked by, we slowly stopped mimicking her accent and mannerisms and grinned at her, letting her know she had our attention and our affection.
I was sorry when the class ended. Time caught up and once again I was twenty four, a so called MBA expected soon to increase profits, reduce costs and keep shareholders happy. Mrs. J.R thanked us for our patience and began packing up. I smiled again at her as I passed her by on the way out, silently thanking her for taking me back to a time I would stand up with my little finger sticking out and earnestly say “Miss, I want to piss” without ever intending to be funny.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
After much cajoling from my friends I finally agreed to visit a doctor. As we couldn’t find an ENT specialist my friend Shublina and I visited a general physician. He took one look at my ear and then called up an ENT friend and said " Why don’t you come here, I have a cartilage infection for you". I took offence at that. I had a proper name and didn’t appreciate being referred to as a disease.
For reasons unknown the first doctor seemed to be very keen on showing my friend Shublina what was wrong with me. Together they peered deep into the recesses of my ear and then made oooh, aah and sympathetic clucking noises. I'm pretty sure that Shublina saw nothing and purposely faked comprehension in order to impress the doctor.
The ENT finally turned up and gravely told me that my canal walls were swollen. He then proceeded to stuff a large wad of cotton down my ear. Shublina walked me back to college like I was recovering from a heart bypass surgery. I resented it when she kept giving me directions on how to cross the road.
I'm not saying that the ear infection is not without benefits. I enjoy the sympathy lavished upon me by all my female friends and I fake incomprehension whenever the topic of project work comes up. I can make crass remarks and escape physical injury because after all, I'm a convalescing patient.
However my writing schedule has gone awry. Once I extract this damn wad of cotton from the depths of my ear, I hope I will be sufficiently motivated to do some serious writing.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
“Sir!” He croaks, “ I beg you, Switch it off! Switch it off! I’m going to have a heart attack!”. He searches frantically between the sheets and under my pillow for the phone. I fumble about blindly until I find it and switch it off. With an exhausted groan he drops back into bed and then sighs pitifully.
More out of necessity than affection, Ankur and I had joined our beds together so that we could both benefit from the roaring cooler that made sleep possible on summer nights. Unfortunately as a consequence we had to tolerate each others bedside eccentricities. Ankur is an extremely light sleeper and the mildest of disturbances jolts him awake. Even the light that steals into the room from the crack between the door and the floor can prevent him from falling asleep. Thus every night he seals the crack with the jhadoo I use to sweep the room. He in turn has to put up with the alarm I use so that I may enjoy an early morning jog before the sun becomes unbearable.
An hour later I open my eyes and the large framed poster of Swami Vivekanda, arms folded, face determined greets me with great dignity. I had nothing to do with the poster much preferring delicately clad underwear models to spiritual leaders to gaze at early in the morning. My roomie however was so taken with the poster had seen on the road that he’d immediately had it framed and mounted on the wall. “Soon, Salma Hayek will adorn these walls too!” I promise myself silently for the millionth time.
I brush my teeth and return to the room. Ankur has two pillows covering his face. He hears me enter and partially removes one of the pillows. A single horrified eye looks accusingly into mine. I avert my gaze and look at Vivekanda instead.
“Every morning!” he whispers savagely. “Why must you go jogging when the rest of IMT is still dead? Why must you torture me so?”
I say nothing and continue to look fixedly at Vivekanda. I wonder where I’ll stick that poster of Salma Hayek. Not on the opposite wall, Ankur could consider it blasphemy. It would look like the Swami was determinedly avoiding looking at that fabulous body. Hmm…perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea at all…
I turn back to face him. The intensity of the accusing eye is weakening. The eyelid shudders and slowly descends. A gentle snore escapes from under the pillow. I put on my shoes and quietly slip out.
The sun is still mild and I enjoy my run around the ground. I’m mildly pleased with myself for having managed to consistently wake up every morning and pant around the field. Ankur though is beginning to get black circles under his eyes from the lack of sleep. Unlike me, he cannot enjoy an afternoon nap as the sun shines far too brightly through the windows for his comfort.
For all our differences I couldn’t ask for a better roomie. Once properly awake Ankur transforms miraculously into a cheerful, God fearing individual with a permanent smile creasing his face. He gives me a tired smile from the bed when I return.
“What sir, had a nice jog?”
“Fabulous sir, and did you sleep well?”
The smile falters for a second and then returns.
“Sir, why do you even ask me that question? You know I cannot sleep in IMT as long as that bloody alarm of yours rings day and night.”
To an outsider it might seem like a polite exchange of words between strangers. Our habit of addressing each other as Sir might puzzle most people yet it is how we always speak to each other. Ankur started it. When we first met he claimed that as I had professional work experience I knew a lot more than he did and therefore deserved to be addressed as sir. In return I replied that as he was a full year older to me, I had to return the salutation. Most of our friends think we are either nuts or sarcastic in the way we talk to each other. But there’s nothing acerbic in our tones, we sir each other with affection.
I had come to IMT mildly apprehensive of hostel life. Eager as I was though to take advantage of the freedom that the hostel offered, I was unsure of what kind of specimen I would have to share my habitat with. Would he be a tall menacing individual who came in drunk every night and threw up on my bed? Or would he be a Casanova who brought a different girl to the room every night and threw me out? Would he steal my underwear when his own inventory ran low? As I approached my room for the first time my mind conjured up an enormous hairy individual with a bottle of Old Monk in one hand and bikini clad girl in the other. A beedi would hang from his lips and he would glower at me, clad all the while in nothing but my underwear. Instead I got Ankur.
We got along fabulously from the moment we met. The moment he found out that I had no curtains to cover the window on my side of the room, he had them ordered at his personal expense. He bargained ferociously with the cooler salesman and had one installed in the room. I in turn swept and cleaned the room and tried to keep things in order. However we really bonded together when the ragging began.
IMT has a tradition of warmly welcoming all the first year students. The seniors do so by keeping the juniors awake every night for an entire week. I was made to dance, to sing, to deliver long speeches in broken hindi and from time to time act in pornographic skits for their entertainment. I endured it for about 3 days before going out of my mind from the lack of sleep. Ankur went around looking like he was carrying the sorrows of the entire world, with dark circles and bags beneath his eyes. On the fourth night we pledged that we would no longer subject ourselves to this humiliation. We locked the door and went to bed.
It began with a few inquiring taps on the door. It was nothing more than a polite signal from the senior who stood outside our door. The taps meant “Hey, guys its 11 PM and you know what that means. Kindly report to the basket ball court so that we may strip you off your dignity.”
Our hearts went cold. Ankur and I looked at each other and then somehow gaining strength from it we pulled the sheets back over our heads. Perhaps if we were quiet they would go away.
The taps became more persistent. We could sense the anger that was slowly building up in the nincompoop who stood outside. He began to thump on the door.
“Ankur Poddar of HR and Dinesh Devarajan of Marketing, bahar aaja saalon!”.
We cursed ourselves for not removing the stickers that had our names on the door. Now he knew our names.
The nincompoop had actually kicked the door. “ANKUR AND DINESH!, COME OUT NOW!”. He began to rapidly kick the door, each bang echoing loudly down the corridor. We could hear him panting heavily. Each assault would make us wince. We thought it was only a matter of time before the door was broken down and we would be taken the basket ball court and shot.
He was soon joined by some equally boisterous seniors. They held a loud conversation outside our door and took turns yelling insults and accusing us of incestual relations. As the minutes passed by they grew more and more frustrated. It was unbelievable our attitude they muttered. No respect for seniors at all.
Ankur and I lay in our beds wondering how on earth such specimens could be found in a B school. We had come here expecting mature and reasonably intelligent individuals. Instead we had the spawn of Saddam growling at our doorstep. How could these people ever lead organizations one day?
The kicking and yelling continued throughout the night. At several instances both of us were tempted to just open the door and make the noise stop. But then we would look at each other and our expressions would harden. Let the bastards kick all they wanted to, we wouldn’t give in.
At around 5 in the morning they finally quit. Irritable and hurt that our spirit had not been broken, they warned all the other juniors on our floor that they were to be informed immediately if either of us showed faces outside.
For the next couple of nights we bolted the door from the inside and then pushed the table against it. When we said good night to each other we actually meant ‘may we live to see the day’. In retrospect it all seems silly. The seniors couldn’t actually have done anything to harm us and were just looking for juniors to push around. Ankur and I remained a thorn in their flesh till the very end for we never surrendered.
I think the ultimate proof of our friendship came at the end our first year. IMT permitted the students who had the best grades to move to a single room. I was by no stretch of imagination among the top, Ankur however was. I began to ready myself for looking for a new roommate for a single room is highly coveted(especially by those who have girlfriends). But Ankur surprised me by turning it down. “ Would much rather share a room with you” he smiled.
The news spread like wild fire, that a moron had actually turned down a single room. Ankur was immediately flooded with offers for the room he had turned down. All day and night his phone would ring with classmates and friends asking him to take the room and later hand it over to them.
One evening Ankur’s friend walked in and announced that someone on the 3’rd floor was offering to pay five thousand bucks for the room.
“Is he nuts??” asked a surprised Ankur.
“Yeah, I told him he should pay at least eight thousand” snorted the friend and went away.
Ankur and I now remain one of the few room mates who continued to live together even after the first year. “ I need to improve my English sir.” Ankur told me gravely “and you’d better help me.”. I smiled and nodded.
Now at nights as I check my mail before I go to bed, Ankur sits and writes down quotes which impressed him. “ Humans come in all shapes and sizes!” he read aloud. “Sir have you read this quote before?” he bestows me with a beatific smile. “ Humans come in all shapes and sizes and it is upto to us to forgive them.” I grin back at him and slip into bed.
“Good night sir” he wishes me, “Good night” I reply.
Ankur seals the door gap with the jhadoo, turns off the light and climbs into bed. I silently set the alarm for 6 AM and keep the phone as close to his ear as possible.
He’ll sure regret that decision to let go of a single room.
Friday, August 10, 2007
What I will try to do is write for about half an hour everyday and then post the completed article every Sunday. Your comments and feedback will do a world of good to me :-)
1) will not read the Economic Times even if he was paid to
2) would much rather read Malgudi Days than Jack Welch
3) thinks Kotler is just a book with of lots of colour pictures
4) will shoot anybody who utters the words "Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning"
5) would rather sell his soul to the devil than take up a sales position in a firm
6) wonders why MBA's should ever be paid so much
7) will never aspire to "Climb the Corporate Ladder" or "Move up the Value chain"(barf)
8) if ever asked to craft a companies mission or vision statement, will leave out "benefit to the shareholders"
9) will probably never get hired because this post will turn up against my name on google
This list will be updated periodically.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
However this post is not meant to be a lament. I have no idea what the future has in store for me but I still have my dreams. I still hope to get a book published, I still hope to fall in love and I still hope to rise in the world without being too pushy about it.
For now I just want to enjoy what I have. IMT has given me some truly wonderful people as friends and for now its all I need.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall
Mama's in the kitchen, baby and all
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you're missing
Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair
Papers on the doorstep, you're not there
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you're missing
Pictures on the nightstand, TV's on in the den
Your house is waiting, your house is waiting
For you to walk in, for you to walk in
But you're missing, you're missing
You're missing when I shut out the lights
You're missing when I close my eyes
You're missing when I see the sun rise
Children are asking if it's alright
Will you be in our arms tonight?
Morning is morning, the evening falls I have
Too much room in my bed, too many phone calls
How's everything, everything?
You're missing, you're missing
God's drifting in heaven, devil's in the mailbox
I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Breakfast would be eaten in a daze and then I’d go into a coma in class. I’d stare glassily at various lecturers who inhabited the podium for an hour and half each until it was time for lunch. They could have set fire to themselves or swallowed tube lights for all the difference it made to me. I treated each one of them to the same vacuum of indifference.
Post lunch, I’d try to crawl into bed for a few hours of sleep but then the phone would ring again. More committee work. I’d wail and complain but I had no choice. My conscience would gnaw at me leaving me both sleepless and feeling very guilty. The nap would be postponed and I’d report at the office.
Once at the office, I’d make dozens of calls everyday. As part of the committee, I was responsible for implementing a number of initiatives. Most of the initiatives involved making cold calls and cajoling people into helping us out. I deeply disliked calling up individuals who were complete strangers to me and sweet-talking them into agreeing to an idea. I wasn’t actually bad at it, I was pretty successful at converting nay sayers into reluctant helpers but the very idea of sweet-talking bothered me. The feeling that to most people I was a chirpy, persistent and thorny individual who wouldn’t take no for answer tore at my conscience. Everyday when I looked at the long list of names and phone numbers of people I would have to call, my heart would grow heavy. If anybody called me ten times a day to sell an idea I really wasn’t keen on listening to, I’d rip him to pieces. Yet, I was the one doing the selling.
The afternoon would melt into evening and my nap would be reluctantly abandoned. After some snacks, it was time for more calling or for holding a meeting. I attended a lot of meetings in the last 8 months. Some were scheduled but more often than not, they were emergency meetings. These meetings threw my own schedule into disarray and left me very irritable. I started getting tired of being on call 24/7. When I was hurrying to the committee office and saw my friends unwinding over a game of basketball, my stomach would clench with jealousy.
I began to miss writing. It’s hard to compose light, pleasant humor when all your brain can do is worry about meeting targets and deadlines. It’s even worse when you don’t even believe in what you are marketing.
In the beginning of the third semester, I was fortunate enough to win the debate at IIT Kharagpur along with my friend Ali. Somehow the win helped me put things in perspective. For the first time in months, I had really enjoyed myself. I decided to quit the committee and focus on activities I preferred doing and not stuff where I’d be forced to meet targets.
My decision was met with disbelief in college. Surely I wouldn’t want to leave what was considered to be a fairly prestigious committee. When I pointed out that it was permanently eating into my time, I was told that I wasn’t managing my time properly. All that was needed apparently was a little focus and a little commitment and it would not be that tough. Look at ‘X’ they’d say. He takes time out for himself and still manages, why not you?
It troubled me. Was I just a lousy manager of time? Perhaps if I were a little more organized, life wouldn’t be so difficult. Could it be that I was running away from what was unpleasant? Were my friends right?
But then I realized they didn’t understand. To ‘X’ taking out time meant playing tennis and spending time with his girlfriend. To me taking out time means sitting in front of my laptop and trying to write something funny or thoughtful. To be funny or thoughtful, I need to spend a large amount of time doing absolutely nothing. I need my mind to wander aimlessly. Out of the million thoughts that stroll casually through my head and saunter out, I need to latch firmly onto one. And that wouldn’t happen if I was attending a meeting at four in the morning.
And so I quit. My friends thought I was either lazy or nuts or both. I tried ignoring them as I settled it into my new life. Initially the amount of free time I had unsettled me. I could now sleep in the afternoon and go jogging in the evenings. I had time to have dinner outside instead of settling for the same dull fare at the mess.
But now I enjoy the sheer freedom of not being at the committee’s beck and call. No more emergency meetings, no more cajoling phone calls and no more saccharine sweetness while dealing with irate individuals.
But best of all, I love lying idly in bed wondering about what I’ll try my hand at writing today. I have dreams of finally writing my book, of being published and being famous. The thought of making it in life without running around meeting targets and deadlines appeals to me immensely. Its my way of winking and sticking my tongue out at the focused and driven achievers who dot the MBA landscape.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Yes, I am aware that a lot of you are amused and I dont blame you. I spent 2 years writing code for an american investment bank and now all of a sudden I'm going to be running around asking complete strangers questions like "So what do you REALLY look for in your mouth freshner?"
Still, I do look forward to the experience. It will be rather different from the rather quiet career I had before.Besides, I'd like to know what hardcore FMCG sales is like before I make my final career choice.
I hope to catch up on my writing in the mean time. I'm guessing that my lifestyle will be a little more regular than the highly unpredictable life I led at IMT.
Until later then.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Deepa and I emerge from the acad block and make our way across the college grounds towards the mess. A few of my friends are indulging in a lazy game of afternoon cricket. As the stumps are not available, they’ve settled for a dustbin. The umpire is Jango, IMT’s resident mutt. Most of the game involved chasing the umpire as he made repeated attempts to swallow the ball. I smile as we pass him, choking on his prize, eyes far back in their sockets but unwilling to let go. The campus is beautiful in March. The weather is mild and the flowers are in full bloom. I inhale deeply as we stroll.
“So what plans after lunch?” I casually ask Deepa.
She pauses and thinks, a frown of concentration furrowing her brow“ Well, I’ll have to finish working on my short term project. At 5:30, have a meeting with my project group members. At 8:30, there’s an important meeting with the MADF committee members. That should be done by 12:30. Then I have to finish editing the MarkUp Magazine…
Her voice trails off as she pauses to catch her breath. I use the pause to smile a superior, condescending smile. I wait to see how much more she’s stuffed into her day.
She resumes“... Have to register for the case study competition conducted by XYZ B school. Also have to volunteer to be part of the marketing conclave on Saturday. Will later spend a couple of hours studying for tomorrow’s quiz. I’ll probably go to bed by 3 AM. How about you?”
“Umm..I’ll take a longish nap, perhaps for a couple of hours. Jogging with Ali at 6:30 and then dinner outside. Might study for the quiz but good chance I’ll doze off before that.”
Deepa’s countenance is a picture of disgust.
“You waste your time doing absolutely nothing! You are a poor excuse for a manager. I bet you were just as lazy when you were working!” She narrows her eyes in contempt.
“Oh yeah? Well at least I’m not running around sticking my head into everything just for resume points!” I shoot back.
“At least I’m making good use of my time here. There’s some value add in all these activities you know? I don’t see you learning anything new if all you do is lounge around all day. Why did you even come here??” She retorts.
Her question catches me a little off guard but I reply anyway.
“I’m here for the money, what else?”
She says nothing but I’m disappointed with my own answer. I had no idea I was so shallow. Was money the sole motivator?
Like hundreds of thousands of students, I had enrolled for prep courses offered by TIME, IMS, Career Launcher etc. I’d been promised that cracking the CAT involved nothing but hard work. I had diligently worked out thousands of numericals. I’d read long, boring and obscure passages on philosophy, religion and Trade agreements. I’d forced myself to read the editorials of business dailies so that I could reel of statistically proven facts and knowledgeable opinions when required.
After the CAT, I attended numerous classes for Group Discussions and Personal Interviews. I’d been coached to appear to possess leadership skills, to give direction to arguments, to think out of the box, to have a pleasant smile on my face when answering questions, to appear refined and to appear like I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
During the personal interview coaching sessions, the instructors had been pretty clear about one point “ No matter what happens, never tell an interviewer that you want to do it for the money. You’ll come across as shallow and directionless. He’ll throw you out the moment the words leave your mouth. Instead tell him how an MBA will help you with your career goals!”
At the interview, I faked my career goals and waxed eloquent on the benefits of the course. When I finally got through, I was thrilled. I’d actually made it. All the hard work and effort had paid off. I’d gone to battle against hundreds of thousands of students and managed to emerge reasonably victorious. The irony was I didn’t know why I was fighting the war. Besides “Lots of money” and “I want to be a post graduate” I had no idea why I wanted an MBA.
I know I’m not alone. While there certainly are a lot of people who know exactly how an MBA will get them to where they want to be, most of us get into a B school and then get even more confused. “Should I go into the manufacturing sector? Or should I go to Pharma? Wait, IT pays the most! No wait, I think it would be really cool to tell people that I’m an investment banker…. But I hate finance!……oh crap, what am I even doing here??”
I guess I realized why I didn’t share the same enthusiasm that Deepa did. The poet in me had been offended. After the euphoria of getting into a good school had died down, I’d been forced to come to terms with the fact that I had willingly become part of the rat race. And with it went the privilege of looking down upon the masses…
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Its 8:30 PM and I’m sitting in the mess in front of the recently purchased flat screen TV. Its enormous and the sound emanating from the speakers collides violently with the din made by future corporate leaders fighting like savages as they queue up for dinner. There’s no time for elegance and etiquette, you either fight like a mad man for your chappati or end up with nothing but plain rice and a few pieces of carrot.
I’d taken the easy way out and had made it here much earlier than the others. Thanks to my foresight I now had a plate full of chappati’s, panneer, daal and potato. Surprisingly every item on my plate is yellow. Thanks to my foresight, I now wanted to puke.
Bidi Jalyle plays loudly on the TV and the fighting stops temporarily as people stop to admire Bipasha Basu. Any other day, I would have joined the crowd in openly appreciating her fabulous curves but today I’m not in the mood. The alien food, the noisy music, the lyrics I don’t understand and the “Saale Be.. Ch..! Choo..! Maather Ch..!” uttered like a mantra as the fighting resumes depresses me. As if reading my thoughts, my friend Naganathan, also an import from Chennai remarks “First thing we do tomorrow before the others come is set the channel to Sun TV and then hide the remote. Lets see what the Sardar’s do then!”
I grin at the thought of Gurpreet Singh sitting perplexedly in front of a Vadivelu comedy scene. It somehow helps me make my mind. I push my plate away and ask Nags “ I’m going to Krishnasagar for food. Coming?”. He declines, preferring to watch Bipasha’s legs. Unlike me, he finds the food quite palatable.
I pick up a book from my room and head out. I’m one of the few people around in IMT who would go alone to a restaurant. I don’t always need company, a book will do perfectly fine now and then.
I’m heading to a place where I’ve practically emptied my life’s savings. Hotel Krishnasagar is a 10 minute walk from the campus and it’s the only place I can get curd rice. A plate of dosa and curd rice will easily set me back by a 100 bucks but I don’t care. I’ve got a little left in the bank after which I’ll collect alms from my family and friends.
The waiter greets me with a smile. We’ve almost become good friends. He already knows what I’m going to order but waits politely anyway. I order a dosa and a curd rice and he nods knowingly. He leaves with my order and I sit back and read my book.
My food arrives and I admire the virgin dosa as it sits steaming in front of me, long, thin, crisp and pure. I break off a piece and then dip it into the piping hot sambar. I then dip it into the pudhina chutney, the coconut chutney and then into the onion chutney. My dosa piece looks like the Indian flag. I pause respectfully for a moment and then put in my mouth and exhale heavily as the ghee, sambar and chutney blend gloriously and gratify my taste buds.
Next comes the curd rice. Every spoon of it slides soothingly down my throat reminding me of home. Back in Chennai, I couldn’t understand why we ate it everyday. Now I know. It’s the most tranquil food one could have.
I finish my food, pay the bill and head back to college. My stomach is full but I know I cant afford to come back here for a while. No matter. I have a little piece of home in my tummy and its all I need to feel at peace with the world.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Today I became a celebrity. I was part of a discussion on the railway budget on CNBC Awaaz. Granted I contributed nothing significant but now the entire nation gets to see me looking intelligently at the camera for one hour.
It was my first time in a TV studio and it made me feel very important. I’ve never seen myself on television except at weddings where they take videos of you eating. These are profoundly embarrassing as you don’t know how to react when you are blinded by the light and a camera takes a close-up of your face as you chew. Do you look at the camera? Or do you engage in a serious conversation with the person next to you? Are you eating in a refined manner? Or do you look like you are going to steal from the neighbors plate?
12 of the most unqualified people from my college were selected to attend the discussion. We were the management students and our role was to raise pertinent issues and provide solutions to them. On our way to the studio we discovered nobody even had the faintest idea on the railway budget. Instead we came up with brilliant ways to sabotage the show. Balaji and I would heatedly discuss the Cauvery water issue and then wrestle all over the studio floor while Ali vehemently demanded the independence of Ghaziabad from India.I pondered about raising the issue of certain anti social elements who make a nuisance of themselves on the train but the idea was quickly shot down my Bala and Ali. We didn’t want the country’s entire eunuch community clapping outside my college.
At the studio, the 12 of us were made to sit on a very uncomfortable 2 step arrangement. With us sat some very important people from the railway ministry. To my horror I discovered that the entire program was to be held in pure hindi. While I can swear convincingly in the national language, I cannot for the life of me discuss the railway budget in the same.
The anchor was a nervous man with hairy ears. I noticed the hair on his ears glint in the bright lights. Once the show began, he seemed to calm down and there were very few retakes. I realized we were merely props. While the anchor turned to us occasionally for our point of view, most of the discussion was carried forward by the old men from the railways.
The blood froze in my veins each time the anchor turned to us. I couldn’t understand what he was saying and for some reason he kept turning to me for my opinion. I maintained a fixed smile throughout and prayed until someone else said something.
Somewhere in the middle of the show, I wanted to point out how difficult it was for the elderly to board a train. But a little voice in my head said that I shouldn’t say “ Budde train mein nahin chad sakthe hein.”
By the time the show got over, our bottoms were very sore. Nobody had said anything spectacular and most of were just relieved that our ignorance was not revealed. We shook hands with everyone in the room and were later politely thrown out. They had another show to shoot apparently .
So that was my 60 minutes of fame. I didn’t say a single word for the benefit of the nation but I think my good looks saved me from ridicule.