Saturday, November 1, 2008

An eye for an eye..

The Bhadralokes of the city have switched off their bed-room lights long back. This is no decent hour for a well-bred woman to stay up but there she was. She was floating in the cyber-space talking to strangers just to alleviate the loneliness gnawing the silence of the night. The quintessential television was playing business news as a back-ground score talking the soothing language of money. A few books lay scattered at an arm’s reach, just in case she got lonely in the virtual world too, she would dive into fiction before the pain of solitude hits her.
She has stripped down her life into simple straight lines and simpler necessities. Office; work; food; movies on TV or DVD player; books and an online existence on Gtalk and Facebook. At times she wondered if she was to die this moment, how many cyber hours later her social network would realize that she has left forever. Friends she has barely interacted with in the physical world, would they ever feel the loss? Dark thoughts! Of late the followers of her poetry blog have started wondering if she dopes before writing. If anybody would understand the intensity of pain, misery and struggle she has experienced, because if they did they would know her poetry is a result of extreme agony not the ecstasy of weed.
Her family does call her almost every day. She is not sure if she feels anything for them except patient boredom. It is the same with people around her. Everyone expects to get something from her, advice on how to cope up with their miseries; what to do with a relationship going nowhere; an occasional financial help; her ears- ever ready to listen to them siphoning off the mess inside; career advice; help with the household chores when they fall ill; plain strength that they would just draw from her very existence. She is a prize fighter of life, an example of strength everybody can look up to. Don’t they realize it takes all her strength to stay mute and not cry out for help! She cannot. Partly because she is too headstrong to admit defeat, partly because she knows it would not help. One cannot expect a blood transfusion from an anemic. She has seen disappointment in their demeanor if she gave even a hint of weakness. She has to be rock solid allowing no fissures or else their world would start crumbling around them. Even as she is thinking, she starts surfing for channel that would be distracting enough to keep these dangerous thoughts at bay. They threaten her existence in the human form. The basics of anthropology define man as a social animal, she would not know where to go if these last ties are cut off owing to that brooding sense of betrayal that hovers at the edge of her consciousness, the one she ignores and keeps a wary eye on, simultaneously.
Ah! Better. The music channel is showing some brain-dead numbers, enough for spreading an artificial lightheartedness.
Her phone beeps.
An SMS at Two in the morning! Surely, no one misses her enough to need her at this hour. Unless it is another catastrophe that she can help them sort out. Who is it this time? Priyanka, an old college mate needs her because she feels depressed with life, that is, if she is awake at this hour. Without a second thought she starts dialing, abruptly stopping midway.
Wait! How many times did Priyanka call her up to figure out how she was coping with life, last year? Remember, how busy she was to even reply to her ‘Hellos’ on Gtalk. The last talk she had with her was months ago that she initiated to inform her that she is moving to a different city. All Priyanka did was give a perfunctory Good Bye and All the Best adding an accolade about her strength.
After a while she switches off the TV, shuts down the laptop and immerses into the book leaving her friend to sort out the mess all by herself. The sense of betrayal is slowly severing her ties. She feels at peace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

15th August- Just a long weekend!

My g-talk and Facebook is now full of people with status akin to ‘can’t wait for the long weekend’. There is euphoria all around. 15th of August is a Friday, which clubbed with the weekend makes a sumptuous treat for the sleep deprived, overworked tribe of people all around me!
Marketers are busy tying up the loose ends of the campaigns they would run in sync with the patriotic frenzy and there are free-bees floating all around the retail space. I wonder if people jump to grab those deals because they are commemorating their freedom from the British Raj or is it just because the deals are lucrative! I suspect the latter to be true but I am happy to see the tricolor adorning those advertisements nevertheless.
The entire rigmarole is leaving me confused. Professionals and businessmen who can extract some value out of an event like Independence Day are busy doing that. People who have no event centric activity to focus on are planning week-end get-aways or dreaming about three days of pure laze. Who the hell is euphoric about the fact that our ancestors liberated themselves and the coming generations from two-hundred years of oppression, bondage and an insensitive foreign rule? Who amongst us pauses to think the amount of obsession, guts, blood and passion it took to drive out an alien administration that was strong enough to flaunt the slogan ‘the sun never sets…’?
We complain that there is nothing to celebrate about because even after sixty plus years of independence X percentage of Indians are still below poverty line and Y percentage of children die out of malnutrition every year. We complain about everything right from pot-holes to the stinking drains that overflow, to power crisis to the state of education to corruption to everything that ought not to be the way it is.
If August the 15th is significant only because it offers one a long weekend, it is not one’s right to complain about the state of affairs anyway.
May be we need to be reminded the age old quote, done to death in elocution competitions when we were kids and were probably more sensible- think not what the nation has done for you, think what you have done for the nation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Love, as it happens

“I have seen people waiting for someone at Barista or CCD. I have seen even the SEC D types waiting at the bus stop or the malls now-a-days! Out of all the people, I keep on waiting on the lap-top hanging on to my dysfunctional data-card like a life-line. Tell me, do I really deserve this?” She wailed over the phone and as always, I was her sole venting machine. Yeah! I flicked the word from some radio station; to be euphemistic it’s called being inspired not flicking. It’s my story anyway!
I have been brought up in this small town where I could never see such issues cropping up amongst the females of the species. They finished their twelfth standard to get married. The more advanced forms finished their graduation and got married. Had I not been through this path-breaking experience called the B-school I would have never seen this particular strain of the feminine species- independent, rich, secured through education, single and lonely. My friend belongs to the particular type who is not even into casual relationships just for alleviating loneliness and my heart goes out for her. I feel I am better off; at least I can flirt and sleep around without losing my ‘character’ or charm to my future life partner. See how sensitive I am, just the kind of guy women would love to have, but we are talking about my best friend, Svet, short and sweet for Svetlana. Svet has a long list of characteristics that should match-up with her life-partner and the six-sigma approach leaves her single at the age of 30! Occasionally, she trips upon guys on Facebook and all and dates online. So far, I have never seen her actually dating any of these cyborgs in flesh and bones and I pray she does, so that the wailing ceases to torment my tympanum.
Svet, it seems, is mighty impressed by this man called Vikrant. She has started ticking off her ‘characteristic-walla list’ and as I heard from the horse’s mouth, 66.67% has matched so far and it will touch 99 point something when she knows him well enough.
“You know Pai (that’s me), I had started leaving office quite early, like by Nine, to be with Vikrant. We never talked about our relationship but both of us kept on lamenting about the loneliness of life and how we just can’t seem to find the right partners. I mean, it was fun talking to him and we discussed everything from the latest movies to the future of medical insurance in India, to dearth of good employees in the corporate world, to the hype about 3-G in mobile industry and the lack of apt life partners. He was looking for someone who was intelligent; understanding; independent; who needs and gives space; a great conversationalist, heck, everything that I was looking for and we clicked! We really clicked. I knew we could get to know each other better and, may be, start dating in the real world. And I had a hunch that we could have assuaged each other’s insecurities about sharing space and taken it from there.” That ‘taken it from there’ coming from Svet was not a corporate cliché, poor thing really talks like that for say ten hours a day so cannot help it. I can imagine that this was getting serious.
Svet has broken down and has started crying over the phone itself! I was dumb enough to think it was a network problem and not react immediately. But come to think of it, what else can I do sitting in Delhi for someone crying into the phone in Mumbai! “Svet, please don’t! You just bought that N-90, the salt water will damage it.” I try my best to stop her tears but she calms down after sometime, on her own. All the while, I hold the phone and wait for her.
“Pai, he has not come online for the last one week!”
“Listen woman! He might be busy or broke a leg or broke his fingers more likely!”
“No, listen to me! We were talking and as usual he started telling me how he can’t find the right woman and goes on casual dates to that CCD near his home so that if the woman is not that good, at least he could enjoy the coffee. And I hinted him that I might be going near his place for a meeting which might stretch till late evening, around the time he gets back from work…and I kept on waiting for him to reply. He never replied. After what seemed an eternity I buzzed him and he had already disconnected! He has not come online ever since. I have also seen his Facebook status update that says ‘Vikrant is depressed coz he can’t trust anyone’. Pai, I probably scared him off or worse, he thinks I was hitting on him or had some covert interest and I betrayed his trust and friendship.” The tears started again. She needed water but I curbed the hydrotherapy advice and said, “is he in added to your facebook or orkut account?”
“Ya! What do you wanna do?”
“I want to check out if he is a gay and whether I have a chance. By the way, you need to be in the office to interview those juniors you desperately need, so get some sleep and we will talk tomorrow.”
Hmmmn! Vikrant has a nice profile picture, probably flicked that of a lesser known model’s. He is averse to poetry and does not read books, so much so for that 66.67% compatibility! Is this woman blind? Svet is into someone who is not into books! And tell me that pigs actually fly. I searched for this loser who is currently offline, all over, facebook, orkut, linkedin, tag it, you name it, and found a common acquaintance on orkut.
“Jain! Hello! Do you know someone called Vikrant Nair?....What? Are you telling me that there is actually a company called Hungama?”
Next step, get Hungama’s Board-line number from the eternal savior called Google.
Receptionists are hostile world over. They expect you to know the all the details of the guy you want to get in touch with, his extension number, department (what kind of departments a company named Hungama could have, I wonder!) and all. My call is ported to the ‘Gaming’ people (is life in J P Morgan a complete waste? What kind of people work for Gaming in a place called Hungama! This is getting weirder!).
“Vikrant here!”
“Hi, Vikrant! You don’t know me but a mutual acquaintance called Svetlana Singh told me that you wanted to look out for new opportunities and I am an HR consultant.” I admit being dumb but what could I tell him, ‘look my friend is crying her heart out, please come online!’ and I am a pathetic liar.
“Actually, she might have misunderstood, I am quite happy here, currently, but, may I know whom am I talking to?”
“This is Ajitesh Pai.” I could not lie anymore!
“But, you were a financial consultant, when did you shift to HR?”
Oh Shit! I had to tell him the truth. “Svetlana was worried about you so I thought I could help. Apologies for the decoy.”
“Never mind, actually I am glad you called. I have been incommunicado with Svetlana for the past one week. My data-card has been corrupted and online chats are blocked in the office. I did not ask for her phone number fearing that she might think I had covert intentions. I did not even e-mail her thinking that I would scare her away if I drop heavy hints.”
“I still don’t understand the Facebook status- Can’t trust anyone.”
“You see, it was like I couldn’t even trust my own hunch that we could have possibly met offline, overcome our fears and gradually taken it from there.”

Bang on! I give him 99%, Svet!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan

A big smile and a hug and a frown, my friend tells me, “You should’nt have come to receive me at this hour. I know you are an Iron Woman and all, but why take chances?”
I have faced these paternal suggestions from scores of my friends whom I come to pick up at Mumbai Airport at un-Godly hours. All I can do is smile like a grown-up at an innocent child. I repeat the ritual and say, “This is Mumbai, and you will eat your words soon.”
How I love those moments when the friend sits back with me in an Auto and cruises through the roads still bustling with traffic awestruck, and I give it back, “So, you still think it’s unsafe?”
Mumbai makes me alive. When I return home all the way from Bade-Mian at Colaba at Three in the night, needless to say, quite drunk thanks to Leo Pold and Mondegar, I feel safe. Coming home at Eleven from office, an empty refrigerator does not make me sad, I know food is just a call away. I do not worry if together with friends we finish a full bottle of scotch without getting high. I call up the nearest boozewalla and get the replenishment before we finish that last drop. Walking down the road from home I can have a peek at the choicest of second-hand books by the roadside, buy them or rent them for a reading.
I make it a point to buy trinkets that sell at the Ladies-Second-Class on Mumbai locals. It gives me an odd satisfaction to ask the non-mumbaikars to guess the price of that latest fad ear-ring and disclose with a flourish, “Only Five Bucks!” I also love the utter carelessness with which the vendor leaves me with her entire collection so that I pick and choose at leisure. So far, I have never seen anyone cheating any vendor.
I love the pace with which Nimbu-pani is served to you at the railway stations so that you gulp it down comfortably before you start running.
I love the way people extend their hands to anyone running after the train in spite of the fact that apparently there is no extra room.
I love it when I see Mumbaikars braving the rains, strikes and floods to reach office on weekdays and love it more when I see decked up families hanging out at malls and eateries on weekends, as if stating, ‘we deserve it’.
I love the way my neighbours are oblivious of me reaching home at obscenely late hours, from work or drunk or with a male friend or with many friends or surprisingly early.
Now a days, I also shudder when my Autowalla refuses to disclose his native place amidst a harmless chit-chat fearing me to be a MNS worker. I clearly do not look like one but if you are an Autowalla from the God-forsaken land of Bihar you got to be cautious! I do not love this at all.
I have lived in most of the metropolis of India and have enough primary data to back this conclusion- In Mumbai, a Bangladeshi refugee; a Bihari Labour; an Autowalla from UP; a wada-stand walla from Mangalore, all shed their regional characteristics to become one with the land of professionals. The individual qualities of being a cheat; jingoist; anti-nationalists; unprofessional etc. do not apply to a specific regional group of people. On an average, a Mumbaikar, belonging to any caste, region or religion is more peaceful and professional than rest of our country put together.
At 1.35 AM when disembark the local train under the responsible surveillance of the armed guard in the ladies-compartment, I love the way I can catch an auto to my home without being molested or being harangued to pay extra.
To me there is nothing more a single, female professional can ask from a city!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Sixty Plus Nation is Maturing

I sip Cha, take a puff of nicotine and generally look around for some company. Mahadev, the Cha-walla is wiping brows and brewing tea again! How many times does he do this throughout the day? When he gets home what does he ask his wife to bring him instead of a cup of tea?
I wanted to ask him these stupid questions but the line of enquiry appeared pretty personal. Instead I asked, “How much milk does the business consume per day?” Surprise! This 3X3 square feet tea stall uses Twenty Liters of milk per day! That means about hundred Liters of tea! Encouraged, Mahadev shares his woe with me. He used to do better than that (my sense of proportion has gone for a toss now) but he cannot find any child labour to run around for him delivering tea to various shops near-by. Now he has to entirely depend on the customer traffic that turns up at his figurative doorstep.
I have nothing else to do so I probe further. Also, I firmly believe, I will get better attention and better tea if I sympathize with him. I do not deny the aforementioned ‘cheap’ statement but I am curious too.
It seems that these child-labours migrate to Kolkata from the villages of Bihar and this immigrant traffic has been reducing off late. The reason being, most of the parents, however bucolic, have lesser number of children now. This implies, parents like to keep their children close by and educate them instead of turning them away to the harsh life of earning livelihood in a metropolis.
Mahadev has his business concerns but is happy otherwise. He tells me that he is one of the many children his parents had and thus did not get any individual attention or resources to grow-up to be a better man. He had to find his own way and is stuck within his 3X3 stall with his tea brewing paraphernalia for the rest of his life. He is happy that now-a-days children are sent to school and given attention by the parents, something he lacked.
I am consoled somewhere deep within. While the cities are flooded with call-centre and IT blokes posing as the pin-up youth of modern India, the would-have-been child labours of Bihar are hauling up a new sun for me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sans hunger

“How can Chota be closed now? Its only 3.30 for God’s sake!” I asked no one in particular and thus was answered immediately. “Yeah! Apparently these guys don’t have six assignments and four projects to submit tomorrow.” Somebody else pitched in, “you are forgetting the case-studies we have to go prepared with Dude, for six different classes.” A loser joined in, “what are you saying, I counted four! OB, Mark Ops, Brand and Retail, what are the other two?". The main concern was promptly forgotten. We had all gathered here hunting for food and Chota, the private canteen of our campus, was closed.
The conversation moved on to the numerous assignments and projects we had to submit everyday along with the mandatory readings and analysis etc. before classes. Someone even remarked, “Man! If we were paid two bucks per project and one per assignment, we would have recovered our tuition fee!” The third trimester has just started and we are already zonked. The 9-9 classes, group projects, individual assignments and projects, presentations, case-studies, mandatory readings and all, sapped life out of us. We have forgotten what weekends are, thanks to the visiting lecturers who make the most of the free day to teach. We have forgotten that 3.30 in the night is the time when normal people sleep and not wait on customers in the canteen. Off late I have started hating the dogs on the campus. While we are hurrying between classes or rushing to grab lunch in the 10 minute break these canines are in deep slumber in the middle of the road. They wake up to our noisy footsteps and give us loathsome looks for spoiling their siesta! These days I feel like killing anything I catch sleeping while I slog on with itchy eyes and tired limbs.
The rumble in my stomach reminds me that this is not the time to fret about the unfair thing called life in a B-school. I must get some carbohydrates to replenish my Adenosine-tri-phosphate levels, the energy currency of the body. It is irritating when biochemistry comes to haunt you at the most ludicrous instances. I cannot help being a Biotechnology graduate and thus come up with names of relevant molecules at the most irrelevant times! I never shared this with anybody lest I be deemed loony but my top-of-the-mind-recall associated with the word ‘sex’ is ‘estrogen and testosterone’! Anyway, I shove aside the adenosine thought and move on in pursuit of food.
Where do I start? Anumeha! That woman has her heart at the right place. She even keeps stuff that she can offer people when they ‘visit’ her room. The door is open and there are people on the bed, the chairs, the floor, discussing some case-study and gossiping. They welcome me like a blood-sister coming to join the gang, sniffing loose-talks in the air. I am also rewarded with the news of the latest break-ups and hook-ups in the campus. Somebody asks me about my neighbour and like a duh I answer that she is alright, as if they were interested in her health! Amrita knows me better and makes an eye gesture to others akin to- don’t ask her, she won’t notice a hook-up even if it danced naked in front of her wearing a crown lettered H-o-o-k-u-p. I let this insult pass and ask for food. Unfortunately, the women gathered there have polished off everything. Probably that explains the Kurkure ad. in which gossip starts flowing as soon as a fat woman munches on the snack! The Kurkure thought is making me desperate. I knock every possible door in Champa in vain. Ms. Jain opened the door and gave me a withering look, I should have remembered, all the hunger in Somalia combined is less important than her sleep.
Like a derelict I move to Gulmohar hostel to Veggie. She keeps Ayurvedic medicines for all ailments ranging from headache to foot-sprain, the corollary is, she must have something for the ailment called hunger-at-odd-hours. All I got was sympathy and an assurance that I might lose that flab if I spent some more hungry nights like this. Nobody dying of hunger would like to be pointed out the extra layers of fat she is carrying round her waist but Veggie might understandably be on a vengeance spree, she has had jaundice and is currently surviving on boiled vegetables.
The boys will not care to store any food I supposed. Most of the times they are raiding the likes of Anumeha but I have a Hobson’s choice. Chaddha offered me booze apologizing for the lack of food. Bose, my senior, told me a story to ease my pangs. It seems, in his first year he too faced this desperate situation. After scavenging for food all over the Campus he planned to return to his room, tighten his belt and get back to the numerous assignments awaiting his attention. Comming towards his room, from the distance he could see Mohit calling a dog and opening up a chocolate wrapper. Before Bose could shout ‘Stop!’ the dog had gobbled up the treat and Mohit delightfully crooned ‘Mera Baccha’. It turned out that Mohit fed the last available chocolate to the dog for the lack of a better palate and Bose resorted to his tighten-the-belt plan again. The story did not ease the pangs but I became smart enough to keep a look out for any dog-human interaction on the way.
Forlorn by now checking out the rooms for food had become a formality, and then, I get this surprising affirmation from an unlikely quarter. Saucy had food! He showed me the secret place in his room where he kept it. Digging through layers of books, clothes and books again I found a packet of Marie Biscuits.
“Ugh! This is not food! I do not like them,” I lamented. “Saucy, how can anybody eat this? What prompted you to buy something nobody wants to eat?”
As far as I know, I have not seen anybody jumping with joy at the sight of these biscuits. They are unappetizing enough to be left on the plate every time they are served with tea. Only old Bengalis or people with stomach ailments eat them! I have not come across a single person for whom these top their most-desired-biscuit list. I mentioned my analysis to Saucy while I helplessly swallowed them compelled by hunger.
The Guru of consumer insight spake thus- “Do you think I do not know any of what you are telling me? I bought them precisely because they are so undesirable. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have survived to quench your hunger at this hour of night, My Lady!”

Friday, July 11, 2008

Being a Psycho's Girlfriend

Nobody is talking to Tejas. Where ever he goes, people vanish off faster than the capacity of staying alert in Prof. Jain’s classes. He has only me to talk to, a person he has come to hate in the last few days because I am the only one who talks to him!
“I don’t like it”, he laments every now and then.
He almost cracked up when he went up to the water cooler in Chandni Hostel and Shyam and Anand furtively scooted from his sight. This was followed by a hush on the Badminton Court and even Ketaki, the one everyone feared, left making a sad excuse that she got to study. Tejas’s God like fearful stature is finally coming to haunt him.
“I am going to tell everyone if this gets unbearable! And listen, don’t you keep on following me as if I am going to crack up or kill Peggy any moment.” Peggy is the tail-less-bitch that has become a part of MICA landscape, so much so that our revered seniors have christened our Intra-net e-mail as Peggy. It has been rumored that Tejas chopped off Peggy’s tail and would murder her if he can. True, Peggy’s howling replaces the cock’s crow at wee hours of the morning when the majority finally gets to bed and we all have contemplated murder at some point of time or other but the tail thing is quite baseless, I swear. Tejas would have loved to chop off the tail if it had not been already.
I shrug shoulders and abscond from his sight to go terrorize the Facchaas. Facchaa stands for the fusion of ‘first-year’ and ‘baccha’ (kid). These are the first-year kids who have just entered the campus and we second years are religiously stripping them off their pride of getting through CAT and one of the best institutes in the country. We are making them humble and emptying those heads swollen with self-congratulatory bigotry. Some might argue that we are ‘ragging’ them but please note that our intentions are pure and there is no physical assault involved. We just give them assignments and projects related to management, tell them switch-off the lights and go to sleep at 10 PM and have ordered them to keep off the bucket-chairs and hammocks of the campus. And the whole thing has to be endured till the Fresher’s Party after which we become as friendly as we are within the batch. But, tell you what, the Facchaas are terrified of Tejas and by the virtue of being his girlfriend, they do not dare cross paths with me as well.
The other day a poor Facchaa happened to ask me the direction to one of my batch mate’s room and Tejas glowered at him like a raging bull. He was just about to charge at the clueless guy when I dragged him away from the scene. After that incidence the first-year guys stay away from me, Tejas or no Tejas around. I am enjoying the fearful aura around me. None of my batch mates have stopped talking to me like they did with Tejas and on top of that I get sympathetic looks from everyone for bearing the role of being his girl-friend so well.
It is tough being his girlfriend, though. Yesterday, it rained very hard and the evening tea was being served in my Hostel, Champa, for a change. The tea, the pakoras (bless the mess Bhaiyas) and the rains had made people utterly crazy and romantic. Someone started loud danceable music on someone’s computer and everyone including the Facchaas started an impromptu Rain-Dance-Party. I was at Chota enjoying a rare Tejas free moment immersed in an erudite discussion with Srikant and Kamini on the mad Tuglaq’s leather coin’s impact on the then Indian economy. All of a sudden we hear this distress call vaguely sounding like my name. The call for help was chilling enough to have all three of us running like mad and not mind getting drenched like wet dogs in rain. It came out that Tejas hearing all that racket in Champa, yes, the dance-music was racket to him, has gone berserk and somebody needs to contain him. I reached the scene to witness Tejas grabbing the wrist of a whimpering Richa asking her to reveal the rogue who started the noise. Sharma stepped in to rescue Richa and got promptly slapped in return. Even I had a tough time cajoling him to get away from the scene, it seemed he would not spare even me, this time. I took Tejas to his room and calmed him down. I suddenly saw Harkishan braving his way across Chandni escorting Priyamvada to her hostel, in full view of Tejas. Some people would go any lengths to be chivalrous to entice a woman! I so wanted to dance with the rest of the gang but I too was trapped with this boyfriend of mine. Everybody must be questioning my senility by now.
Tonight Tejas is going to work on his Brand Management project quite assiduously and thus my time has been booked by all the women of the batch for a special training session with the first-year girls in Gulmohar hostel. I really do not want to miss this one, managing Tejas has made me miss enough already.
Richa is in her full swing bossing around. Even Murugeshwari is giving orders! Paula is as usual getting cozy with Sneha, unable to curb their lesbian gestures even in public. We were accustomed to their ways but the junior girls gave a mixed expression of intrigue and distaste. The training session of the newly initiated was in full swing when Tejas bursts into the scene again. Friends signal me with a sigh, he can’t stay away from you, move along poor baby! But Tejas is climbing up the stairs of Gulmohar staring intently at the first-years lined up downstairs. The girls are obviously cringing at his sight.
I walk up to him and ask politely so as not to incur his wrath, “what are you doing here? It is an all-girl’s gathering. Come along, we will go back to your hostel.” No response, he is focused on the frozen scene downstairs.
I implore, “Tejas! You are not supposed to be here!” Finally some reaction, he tells me to come out of the congregation, he has something grave to discuss.
The situation is becoming desperate and I can sense Tejas losing it. He is not going to bear with it for long. It is a boon that the Fresher’s Party happens tomorrow.
“I am sick of being a psycho and sicker of you being my girlfriend!” He bursts out. “You know what, all the other guys are having a hearty look at the First-year girls but they scoot away seeing me. Even Harkishan has gotten that Priyamvada hooked and I am stuck with you. When this is finally over who is going to believe that you are not my girlfriend? I am jinxed now!! I can’t play this hoax anymore. Everybody is enjoying me terrorizing people but me. I feel so bad when the Facchaas get scared of me.” I gesticulated to say something but he went on. “It’s OK with Paula and Sneha, they are playing to be lesbians, so what? Nobody runs away from them and they already have boyfriends. But you have ruined my chances with the juniors. Nobody is going to believe that we are just friends!”
My heart went out for this guy. The traditional hoax we are playing for the juniors has demanded him to be cut off from the entire batch till the fresher’s party day, when hoaxes will get announced in the afternoon. I offered him to write and sign on a stamp paper that I am not and was never his girlfriend and as a gesture of thanks, Richa, the Fresher’s Party coordinator will personally introduce him to every girl of the new batch at the party.
Suddenly we see a junior passing by and Tejas snarls as if daring him to look at me and I know he will endure playing the psycho for one more day!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Intruder

‘I am finally waiting! There is nothing special about waiting except the fact that at times it is so irresistibly romantic! True, there is nothing romantic waiting for a client-meeting on those couches dirtied by millions of strange butts and being stared at by a hostile receptionist. But this one takes me on a high. Two whole years! We studied together and she never even suspected that I am smitten by her. No, I don’t think that was subtlety; it was shyness combined with lack of courage!’
And thus he dreamt on. The hero of our story, shy, eager to fall in love and have a heady romance, a dreamer hell bent on directing a Bollywood blockbuster at some point in his life and a good at heart guy. He has this habit of falling in love every now and then and dreaming on. In most of the cases the dream girl is unaware of her being the pivot of his romantic plots and went on with her life, and eventually with another guy who took the trouble of informing her about his crush.
Our hero stumbled across Ms. Mathur, his current crush, for the first time after finishing B-school. Ms. Mathur, our Hero’s batch-mate, was also a fresher in the professional world and longing for familiar faces amongst millions of strangers in Mumbai. When our Hero walked up to her she almost jumped with glee! An immature psychoanalyst would say, she sent out the wrong signals. It’s a different story that at that point of time she would have welcomed even the most obnoxious guy of the batch with a dazzling smile. Getting surrounded by strangers suddenly, does something to the alchemy of psyche. However, to get on with the story I must tell you that by the end of the conversation our Hero managed to ask Ms. Mathur out for a cup of coffee and is waiting for her while she ties the loose ends of her work for the day.
The day dream melts away on a happy note as Ms. Mathur is seen walking towards the Café Coffee Day outlet. But hey, there is another familiar face accompanying her. Our Hero is not perturbed. The other person happens to be Chaturvedi, another batch-mate, about whom we can swear that he is as interested in Ms. Mathur as a cow in having beef-steak for dinner. The trio is thrilled to catch up with each other and gossip starts flowing more freely than booze in MICA. Yet, there is a point where reunion must end and romancing should begin. Our Hero in his own shy ways is sending signals to Chaturvedi. “So, when do you go back to your Hostel?”And the other guy gets interested in talking about the grueling schedule that he has sacrificed himself to, for the sake of brands his agency has sworn to revive. “That must be a lot of work, man! Today you must be glad to leave early and catch up on some sleep”, pushes our Hero. Chaturvedi innocently rambles on about the futility of even thinking about sleeping at the onset of his career, “we have to think strategies, do some intellectual crystallization, chalk out the way forward for converting dogs into cows on the BCG matrix and think top line while reinforcing brand saliency. Nah, I don’t sleep, I utilize my time to think.” It seems that the man-to-man signaling about Leave-me-alone-with-her is failing to reach his target audience. Though our Hero is not giving up but the conversation has drastically turned to BHAGs, Silver Bullets, HLL’s (now Unilever) marketing strategies and all. Sipping politely on her coffee Ms. Mathur tries to chip in to the conversation only to find her being covertly signaled by Chaturvedi!
Our Hero is desperate to rescue the situation but Ms. Mathur is simply not interested in brands and marketing strategies any more after dealing with them throughout the day. It not only reminds her of work but also of the devilish hours she slogged to be one of the toppers of her batch. Our Hero can sense her ennui. Desperation makes him mention Chocolate Brownie with ice-cream, not only on the mention of which a lot of women give up on ‘mid-riff thoughts’ but also the food has always been associated with romance, but no avail. It seems that the high-calorie food reminded her that she will miss her Salad laden meal if she is late to the Hostel mess. Our Hero suggests she grabs some dinner with him but it seems his choice of fatty foods has induced her to re-evaluate the merits of tasteless hence low temptation hence low cal Mess food.
Our Hero is shy and thus good at hiding emotions.
Chaturvedi least suspecting our Hero to be planning to poison his coffee or strangling him bare handed gives him a big grin. “What a dumb woman yaar! I have been hinting her to leave us alone but she won’t budge.” The shock of Ms. Mathur leaving has rendered the Hero numb, he just stares at Chaturvedi hoping to receive further explanation to his inane comment. “Look, why don’t you come over to my room for the night?” Chaturvedi asks expectantly. The numbness is beginning to be replaced by chill and intrigue. “What the hell yaar, that woman was sitting here all the while and there are things I cannot reveal in front of her. That’s why I never liked her! She is so stupid that she could not understand that I needed some time with you alone, can’t she take the hints!” While Chaturvedi rhapsodised on Ms. Mathur’s lack of communication reception skills, our Hero donned the Freudian cap to decipher Chaturvedi’s sudden affinity for him and the analysis was not an appealing one.
“Look I needed to discuss this business plan with you. I am planning a start-up and need your take on the strategies I have prepared. I could not tell this in front of that dumb gossiping woman, for the whole world will get to know about it and it might be plagiarized. The plans with detailed calculations are lying in my room, are you coming along or not?”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008



Yesterday, I met Rana, a long lost school friend. I promptly shared my joy with my mother and her reply was a question, where? The baffling answer compelled her to revisit the geography lessons but she could not figure out Orkut on the world map!
The poor thing did not understand how people meet on the computer and got intrigued enough to open an account. Then she asked me to find her long lost friend ‘Chandan’ believing the computer to be a Gennie! It is my turn to be baffled now. How does one explain a net-working site to a person who opens her leather-bound address book, searches for a phone number and dials it from her mobile? Would she understand, now-a-days people not only make out but also make babies on the Facebook!
When my elder generation passively observes my routine, they mutter, “at least we had a life”. I retort mentally- and we have a lif-e. You may also write it as Lif_e, that is, a life where e underscores.
The boundaries between life and lif-e are blurring for us. We no longer talk, we scrap. Distances have diminished and meeting people after years is no longer bundled with a shock or surprise. Of course, we had already seen their prospering tummies, grown up babies, seventh anniversary pictures etc., online. Heck, we even know what they are feeling like at any point of time thanks to their G-talk or Facebook status.
According to common understanding Jane Coloccia would be a loser- she sought dating partners, soul-mate, ideal life partner etc. through online dating. Jane, has now come up with a best-seller called Confessions of an Online Dating Addict: A True Account of Dating and Relating in the Internet Age, elaborating the tricks to spot liars, married ones, perverts etc.. Marriages on the internet are so passé now, that they do not even make it to the content starved 24X7 news channels’ headlines! My friends who have worked hard to gain and retain a love life in their lives have finally posted their profile on shaadi dot com and jeevansathi dot com et al firmly believing that they have found the route to nuptial bliss.
I even shout on my blogs and do not care if no publisher will bind my creative scribbling into a great looking book and place it on the Bestseller Shelf of Crosswords or Landmark, I believe I am already reaching out to people! And I am not the only one, there is a whole tribe of writers who throng the blogs venting out creativity and showing middle finger to regret letters from publishers. Twitter has a novelist posting his novel in parts and is getting read without even publishing the book.
I am on Facebook, linkedin and Orkut. Not to mention that my G-talk is on even when I skip meals to finish work. I rarely small talk with people around me but I do message or ping and I get messaged and pinged in return. So much so that at times I meet about twenty friends online on a given day, jabber with them individually and the socialization leaves me as exhausted as it would in real life.
At my B-school my next-door neighbor and me used to catch up with things on Yahoo Messenger at three in the night, sitting just a wall apart and perfectly free to open one’s door and knock on the other’s. There were emotions which would have probably looked silly when spoken! No, nobody was a lesbian but hugging each other to convey the depth of friendship was not ‘cool’, the emoction worked better.
Today, I meet new people from across the world in online communities sharing similar interests and feel like I belong to one big family. I have received flirts, flowers and wine online and accepted them with a genuine smile, a fete unachievable without getting embarrassed and blushing in the real world.
It’s about 2.30 in the morning and I see people online probably catching up with Lif-e, which for them is synonymous to Life and I my eyes are complaining from staring at the screen for so long.
Darn! I have misplaced my glasses! I wish I could Google them…

Monday, July 7, 2008

Living In

Meeta has just arrived. Literally and figuratively in the big bad city of Mumbai.
In fact, more than half of the entire B-school population probably moves to the city after campus. After slogging without pay on a score projects a day, the poor chaps get a respite. Most of their KRAs are peanuts compared to what their monstrous profs drove them to, day and night. You can hear most of them sigh after getting out of the sophisticated sweat-shop and the ‘sigh’ is quite eloquent- damn neat man! I get to work on a project for at least a week, more over I get paid for it and people even praise the presentations for which I could have flunked back there!!
So Meeta has arrived. With a baggage which is absolutely figurative. A broken relationship, thanks to the odd hours back there! A moral dilemma- is it right to give so much to the career that love gets buried in an avalanche of deadlines! A considerable weight in the baggage is the mighty weight of loneliness. A B-school is a microcosm where everybody knew what the other is up to. In Mumbai on the other hand, you are jammed in close quarters with hundreds but they are just people, faceless and uninteresting.
It may have been tougher academically in the B-school but travel didn’t eat up those blissful work-free moments. Then there was the mess-food, however messy, you could have counted on it being there. Not to mention the life where one didn’t have to do anything but projects and assignments. The cost-benefit analysis that Meeta swears by, has gotten quite confused. Only getting-sloshed-up sessions with Mr. Kuggi helped, where both could reminisce about the good old days, vent out the frustration of yet being single and desperate to mingle and console each other by giving out a mutual feeling that someone got a worse deal than you!
Enters a new guy:
Put the alarm to ‘snooze’; snooze yourself. Motivate yourself to wakeup. Note the time. Flat fifteen minutes, she locks the door and dashes off to the work.
You do not appreciate being woken up again but someone is calling for her in the bus! Surprise and irritation, he is an ex-school mate who can’t believe his luck in finding her back again after so many years! ‘Why were you looking out in the first place?’ Another stroke of ill luck, it’s his birthday tomorrow and she has to attend! ‘I am going to be very busy. Too busy to leave office before 12.’ The situation turns worse when phone numbers are exchanged and the next day reminder calls and SMSes drive one crazy enough to attend the ‘Birthday’ and get over with it. The bash turns out to be a congregation of about twenty men gathered around a meager cake only to look up to find the ‘friend’ introducing Meeta. The ‘friend’ goads about his friend who is a rare combo of beauty with brains. ‘No wonder he is in sales. Liar!’
A few days later….
Hello! Meeta?
Yes, who is this?
Do I know you?
Yes, we met at Sapan’s birthday party! Remember?
You can be about twenty people!... Ya, of course!
So, what’s up?
More of the supercilious conversation follows which boils down to the conclusion that the guy is hitting on her, hard enough to give her a mental bump.
A few days later…
Bumps and lumps forgotten with Mr. Kuggi’s call.
Meeta, how much rent do you pay?
Three thousand two hundred for this one room kitchen light years away from the office. You are lucky to be staying near Manisha Koirala’s house…
Man! When she starts…OK listen, I want to move in with you, we will share the rent, OK?
What happened? (Friends have this nasty habit of jumping to the worst conclusion at the most innocent statements and the conclusions are seldom wrong. The latter makes it worse!)
I quit my job and will be taking a break to search a new one. Need to curtail my costs in between and…
Man! When he starts ...OK. Move in today and don’t worry about the rent. Pay me once you get the job.
No, I will move in this weekend. Have to serve some notice period.
K. see ya then.
Hmmm. Bye!
Well, that is nothing to worry about. A good management graduate is seldom worried about getting a job. That species frets more about ‘getting the right break’.

The Plot:
As Meeta’s mental bump becomes more painful the iron lady in her awakens! This bludgering has to stop and I hope he calls me this weekend. Follows, an evil grin.
Hello, Meeta!
Hi, Abhishek!
So what plans for the Sunday? What do you do?
I am learning the cruciatus curse so that I can hone my skills on you…Nothing, generally get bored. Why don’t you come to my house and we can get bored together?
Gee that was fast, am I a charmer or what!... OK. Tell me if you will be there in the evening.
Yep. Come along.
OK. I will meet you at your place.
Ya. See ya. Bye!

The next phone call-
Kuggi! When are you coming? .....

Comes the evening-
Meeta! I have just entered your Complex. Where next?
Kuggi! Take left and come straight till you see ICICI Bank next to Reliance web-world. I am waiting to guide you from there.

The real-time conversation-
You brought these Dumb-bells? How dumb! You will carry them. I do not want muscular arms.
Abey! At least pick up that bag, no! What’s the use of having you as a roomy?

Home, at last-
There you are Kuggs. This is the room and this is the house as well. Good, you don’t have furniture or we wouldn’t have had a place to sleep. And listen, there is a guest coming to meet me. A guy.
OK. I will stay out for a while.
No! You have to stay in and behave like we are ‘Living In Together’.
Don’t get you. Do you mean we are Living In as in LIVING IN?
Whatever, we are staying together, that’s enough for some people to assume we are living in. Anyway, I don’t get the difference. Of course we are living in together! We are roomies now…and who says only lovers can live in together, why can’t friends?
Point. So, who is this guy?
Some guy who is interested in me and I have invited him to my place to show you off as my room partner. Ashawatthama hata! We don’t have to say Naroti Kunjarah.

Abhishek vinis vidis loses-

Gee Kuggs! Good that you shifted. Though you will have to search for a job and all which is not that good.
Meeta! It was an opportunity lost man! Why did you drive him out like this.
Do you think I would have been happy with someone who believes living in as in LIVING IN?

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Kolkata sleeps in the night. This comes as a culture shock to me, a self-baptized Mumbaikar.
Almost as if not to hurt the Bengali hypocrisy, Sonagachi emerges out from the shadows after the Bhadroloks go to bed.
Cocooned in the taxi I rode past the notorious streets looking at its inhabitants. I admit I was curious, delighted to be able to see the bejeweled and decked up specimen of my species transacting, striking deals on the streets and disappearing amongst the shadows to ‘deliver the purchase’. The delight of being one of the privileged few women who can safely observe the world’s oldest profession being retailed soon gave way to a sickening epiphany. Snob, snooty, sick, cruel as adjectives felt short of describing the horrible light in which I saw myself.
My glasses replaced, I saw a different picture. Women, beautiful all of them, eager to sell because each one faces a begging bowl poised at them, back home. Someone’s hunger, someone else’s aspiration, someone’s disease, someone’s debts, someone’s irresponsibility, someone’s indulgence all gratified through the millions quenching their loins at Sonagachi.
How difficult is it to turn one’s deepest expression of love into commerce?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Axioms of life-I

  • Workaholism is the aphrodisiac of the romantically challenged.
  • Nobody owes you happiness and nobody is responsible to act in a certain way so as not to hurt you. The vice-versa is also true.
  • The decision to accept somebody's decision is also your decision.
  • Nobody's decisions are supposed to gurantee you happiness, even yours. But you can change your reality and your decision as soon as you wish.
  • Turn the wreckage of your life into stepping stones of success. Every wastage has its uses, why not wasted emotions?
  • When you give at the cost of your happiness, you also bundle bitterness with the package.
  • Sleep not only helps us escape reality, it also lets us get in touch with the subconscious and unconscious and reveal answers deep within.
  • If we can feel guilty about letting down someone's expectations; not bringing somebody happiness, why not feel more guilty about not giving ourselves the success, the rest, the happiness our body, mind and soul expect from ourselves?
  • Its good to sacrifice when you feel happy sacrificing for someone. Sacrifice should however, never be at the cost of one's own happiness.
  • It will be happy world when children stop feeling bitter about certain decisions their parents made for them AND when parents stop expecting children to act in the way to please them all the time.
  • The rising real estate prices should not be the compelling reason to have our own home. Do cheap travel packages make you a compulsive vagabond?
  • Whatever you do, if your last breath says," It was worth it", it had been worth.
  • Friendship is the only relationship forged without a ritual, a certificate or an 'on-paper' record hence devoid of barters.
  • Most men are scared, vengful, spiteful and scornful of strong women. Whoever gave up strength for popularity!
  • It is up to me to create my own comfortable and lovable microcosm. The general state of the world dose not necessarily indicate the state of My world.
  • The law of Karma exists even if one denies it. Ignoring gravity wont make it go away!
  • When you want something truely, badly, with all you heart etc., the entire universe conspires to make it happen to you.
  • A good book can cure a bad day.
  • Do not expect people to understand you. Feel happy that your mental wave length has not sunken to the level of their understanding.

The Red Bathrobe

It lied there, sprawled on the corridor of our hostel wing, abandoned enough to get Tyagi salivating. “Can I trample on it wearing my slippers?” she begged to me and Kavita, as if we cared! It was that famous Red Bathrobe belonging to Nups, a quintessential sight that we have started relating with our microcosm for the last one and something year in Champa, an unlikely name for a hostel.
To understand Tyagi’s delight and trepidation about trampling that bathrobe, one does not need to read Freud. You simply need to wake up reluctantly at the unearthly hour of Eight in the morning and listen to the argument between the heroine of our story and the possessor of the bathrobe. Every morning Nups would get up with the birds and attempt to do Yoga. She would also maintain her record of being the first one to go to the canteen for a cup of tea and try to teach Bhaiya how to brew the concoction correctly. At this point I must mention that all these early morning trysts are here say, yours truly was never a witness to it. It is alleged (by Tyagi) that after this Nups came down to her real agenda of the day- no, not studying frantically to beat Ms. Mathur living downstairs, the agenda was to stop Tyagi from bathing directly after toppling down from her bed.
Our heroine is a simple woman who loves gossiping, studying, getting nervous before exams and claims to grow up to be a ‘kitty-party’ woman. Tyagi had apparently promised her mother that even in the hostel she would bathe assiduously every day. Nups is hell bent on sabotaging her solemn promise. Whenever Tyagi gets up, as explained, she would head towards the bathroom only to e stopped by Nups who claimed right to use it first because she was the first one in our wing to wake up! All through this routine argument of the past one and something year, Nups struck a ready-to-bath pose always in that bathrobe.
Our Professor’s futile attempts at making us branding wizards has at least instilled enough understanding in us to appreciate the fact that the Red Bathrobe is something that Tyagi has come to associate with feelings of being helpless, cheated, dominated and bewildered. Her attempts to trample the Red Bathrobe were probably a symbolic expression of ‘breaking away from the shit’ that she endured every morning. I could also associate it with the ‘Deewar syndrome’. For the uninitiated, it is a term coined by our home-grown advertising gurus who claim that any product advertising itself through a Mother and son relationship sold. This phenomenon is correctly portrayed in Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bacchhan’s famous interaction in the movie Deewar ‘Mere Paas Ma Hai’ representing the strength of the bond an Indian male feels with his mother. In Tyagi’s case it has extended to the fairer sex as well, after all, the Indian woman is emerging as a force to reckon with these days. I analysed, Tyagi felt quite strongly about that promise about maintaining her personal hygiene.
So there lied the Red Bathrobe, tantalizing our woman to step on its luxurious folds and smear it with MICA mud. But hey, our heroine stood there biting nails wavering between temptation and fear of incurring Nups’ wrath later.
“You guys won’t tell her, no?”
I repeat, as if we cared!
I must admit, being her next door neighbor and being separated with Nups by one room in between (Tyagi’s), I was psychologically closer to Tyagi. Not to mention, we had even drawn a window in her room using crayons, as a symbol of ‘being there for each other’. I even wrote some funny lines on her walls selfishly, because I would never besmirch my room, however witty the lines might be. And Tyagi not only did not mind, she had been positively delighted with the graffiti.
I even offered Tyagi to ‘do it’ for her but she was not going to forsake the most glorious moment of her life. For once, I felt proud of myself. It was as if I have influenced her to be reckless!
While the neutral duo, me and Kavita, were not only goading Tyagi to get over with it but also keeping an eye on all possible places from where Nups could emerge and spoil the fun, Ms. Jain’s good-morning happened. Getting to see each other awake was something like catching people from India, Australia and New York chatting with each other on Yahoo Messenger. Our time-zones were so different you see. While we expressed our mutual delight on being able to catch up with each other, Tyagi froze like a rabbit in front of a car’s headlight. She could trust her ‘wing’ mates, but she was not sure if her crime would be stowed away in the secret vault of Ms. Jain’s memory. Moreover, who trusts people who would not even recognize their best friends if threatened to be woken up at 12 noon!
As expected, I witnessed another triumph of caution over indulgence. But Tyagi, you did not have to be cordial to the level of picking it up and restoring it to the washing line!