Disconnection

•November 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

There are times when one needs to pull out of the multiple spheres in which he is bound to operate as a result of being a part of the world around him. He needs to rise above the humongous mess and take a look at the map of intervening realities of which he is a part on the ground.

Obviously, there is a trigger for this event and this trigger can be a social push, an extremely high pressure scenario or even a voluntary break from the cycle of getting up in the morning and going back to sleep at night. Sometimes this arises as a culmination of a long session of self evaluation and realization of a need to take some definitive action, however drastic it might be. It will always lead to burning away of all the frills that had gathered around one over a long period of meaningless associations and living under the illusion of creating and nurturing relationships which have gone obsolete long back.

Its almost like cutting a tree down to its bare shank by removing all the unnecessary branches and twigs that had grown all around it and started refusing sunlight and rain to its own roots.

The output of such a pruning is not always the greatest, but sometimes, it becomes necessary nonetheless.

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I want to talk

•November 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I have a quiz in less than an hour. Have gone through the slides, skimmed through the cases and didn’t bother to read the readings or the chapters in the text book. A younger me would scoff at the older and more experienced me for doing this, but the older me knows better. Its no use.

I feel terribly wound up inside, like a spring waiting to recoil, but I don’t know who or what should be the trigger? What has led to this insane degree of turmoil on the inside. There was a time when I thought I had mastered my emotions and as Kipling put it, learnt to “treat those two imposters (success and failure) just the same”. But alas, I realize with time, that emotions are tough to gain total control over. I seem to have gained control over happiness, but depression refuses to yield to reason. The reason of cold logic, that this too shall pass, doesn’t seem to work any more.

And I sit scribbling on the web with 40 minutes to go before a quiz, to get my brain aligned to my work.

The title of the post is such a misnomer, I really don’t want to talk to anyone any more. Just sit and reason and go somewhere, where the context of the world doesn’t bother my existence. Where I am free from everything and everyone around me.

Pattern in Randomness

•November 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Two chaps, during their undergrad days, used to walk all of three hundred meters to a corner of the campus for a break. The walk became longer when their classes shifted from Faculty Divison II to the new lecture theatre complex (better know by FD V, as a result of the average BITSian’s love of orderly behaviour and serial numbering). They made their comments on how the campus was slowing molding them into what it wanted them to become (in second year) and how they didn’t want to lose the identity the campus had bestowed upon them  (in the final year). More often than not, they met someone on the way and pulled him along. Now that the author thinks of that time in great detail, the fact that they never met a girl on their way to Sky beats him.

 

They would settle down on the soft grass (or sometimes on the horse-shoe under the scanty shade of the babool, when it was too sunny) and order their poisons (word used to make the piece sound funky, the closest you could get to poison at Sky was non-alcoholic fruit beer and hopefully, it remains that way). One of them would invariably have a black coffee and the other would start with shikanji, follow it up with something to eat and end up with tea. This ‘something to eat’ would usually be followed by a loud burp indicative of unprecedented satisfaction and a magnanimous announcement that he would to skip lunch. At times it would even sound as if the mess ought to pay him a tribute for his generous decision of not putting them through the pain of serving him the assortment of exotic extras he ordered. In most cases, the first one would pick up a plain cheese and mayonnaise sandwich (for the uninitiated, it is an ostentatious sandwich with one plain slice of cheese, smothered in mayonnaise, in between two really thin slices of bread). Something they couldn’t help noticing was the fact that the shopkeeper had somehow gotten himself into believing that mayonnaise is always pronounced as mo-ee-nee. It has somehow become a legend and even now, whenever they meet someone who’s fresh out of campus, they are still curious to find out if the plain cheese mo-ee-nee is still one of the fastest selling items at Sky!

 

But once they had their food and drink, they started talking. And it was not mean talk. They would start with the state of the world, the macro issues that faced the world which started existing once they stepped out of the steel gate with BITS written across it, twice over. The world, they were only technically a part of, but nothing that went on in it ever made any difference to them. In fact, in their second year, while the whole of Rajasthan cast its vote for the Lok Sabha elections, these two guys were holed up a room along with fellow classmates writing the ES II compre (for the forgetful and the dumb, it was electrical sciences two, the course which dealt with stators and rotors and winding and coppers wires which gave them nightmares of reaching the end of their earthly lives entangled in a number of those orange, glistening reptilian creatures!). Such was their exposure to democracy in the largest democracy in the world. No doubt, BITSians come out with a healthy disregard for the democratic processes and a healthy regard for the autocratic rule of one Dr. Sundar. Both these guys (or shall I say men? Because I am sure they would love to think of themselves as men now) had their time on the other side of the desk from Dr. S. They won’t dare say that they enjoyed it to a great extent!

 

But we shall not prevaricate any further, so our men would take their food and talk about diverse stuff and solve the myriad problems that faced the world with their time. But this pretentious discussion won’t last too long. By the time the coffee and the shikanji took effect they would get back safely to confines of their own world of SUB, the general secretary and his painful repeated demands that he be respected for reasons unknown to anyone, the pain associated with academics and such important issues as grossly mismanaged love-lives. They would sometimes be unanimous in denouncing certain idea and people (the 11 o’clock curfew and general secretary for example) and debate over some (the health quotient of the plain cheese mo-ee-nee and the value of attending SAPM class). But on some, they would disagree completely, thus giving direction to what shall soon become a heated debate which, in most cases than not, will remain unresolved leaving each to his own opinion. Nevertheless, they would breach the topics. The necessity to flirt, the food at Noble’s, the reason for not apping even when you have a good CG, the purported hunger for money and fame of the prospective NRI, the love for one’s country and the resolve to serve it. All these things would be talked about, each one giving his view and stuffing as much irrefutable logic into it as possible till they were both tired. They would stop the discussion, look up at the sky at the same time (sometimes with unmatchable comic timing) and exhort the Gods to get the other guy to desert his cryptic logic and fall in line with his own! Finally they would let each one to hold his own view, get up, dust themselves off and amble along to their hostels.

 

That was something of the past, these two men have grown up now. While one spent the two years after BITS at a University in Buffalo, getting his MS, the other spent a two year long ordeal at one of the critical refineries of a public sector oil company.

Then, both of them returned to Bangalore, one working with an auto company, the other trying to get himself branded with another prestigious logo, after BITS. They meet often these days, but the randomness continues to be a common thread in all their conversations. It is often said that people change with time, but I have this gut feeling, if those two guys were sitting at the same place, eating the same stuff, they might just become two undergrad students ready to change the world. All over again. After all, all randomness has an inherent pattern, sometimes it’s visible and sometimes it’s only felt like a nagging doubt after writing a wrong answer and submitting the paper.

One more Durga Pujo, One more year blown away

•September 26, 2009 • 3 Comments

As is evident from the to heading I am not too happy about the fact that it has been 7 years since I went home for Pujo and 8, since I went pandal hopping. One of the reasons I did not leave India was because I wanted to stay close to home. But after some casual discussions with friends who have been to US and back, I seem to have gone home much less than even those who decided to take the plunge,  studied and got back!

When  I look back on those years, the usual mix of some nice and some not-so-nice memories come back to me. I seem to have never struggled against what time had in store for me. After escaping from Pilani to get home for my first Pujo while at college, I didn’t see a point in running home for a Pujo. The next three were spent in Pilani, each one enriching the tradition of Pilani Pujo.

Then came Mathura, but this time I ran off to Pilani to spend time with my friends there instead of staying back for the Pujo at Mathura. But then, I had joined my office at Mathura 3 days before the beginning of the Durga Pujo and I hardly knew anyone at Mathura. The second year at Mathura as a little more eventful with my Grandparents coming over to spend a day with me. Though the last day was marred by an AIMCAT (yeah, I was fighting to get into a decent B School at that time).

The first year at IIMB went off quickly with the exception of terribly frustrating stretches which keep coming back at alarming frequencies even today. And now I sit in front of the computer two and a half hours and a plate of cheese maggi into Maha Ashtami. I shall get up tomorrow morning, bathe and dress in a white kurta and become a part of a group which shall got to some pandal for the customary flower throwing exercise followed by ruthless gluttony at some restaurant. Hopefully, I shall be able to put aside my love-hate relationship with God and do what needs to be done.

Somewhere, the will to do things on my own seems to have vanished. I am only going with the flow without anything really coming out of it. There is something about me I have hated for a long time, but I cannot put a finger on it any more. Its so deeply integrated in me, the hatred for that one thing becomes a hatred for my existence. It is true that I am my harshest critic but now it might even be appropriate to say that I am probably too harsh with myself, maybe I am wasting my time on me. Maybe, I am beyond repair now and the rest of the road looks totally downhill. But the nice thing is, I am not seeking solace in running home, I am trying to stand my ground and fight my battles. The result, of the battle might be unknown, but irrespective of whether I win or lose, I will not leave the field and run off… not just yet.

Mathura trip: Looking for the lost years I

•September 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The plane landed at 11:55 at Delhi Airport. It was probably the roughest landing in my life. A tremendous jerk followed by the noise of the air hitting the airbrakes, that along with the engines and the hydraulic brakes made the noise levels inside the fusalage unbearable. But thankfully, we came to halt finally and it wasn’t long before I was standing beside the luggage carousel waiting for my maroon strolley. I don’t know why I bought a maroon one, (probably because black, navy or gray were not available).

Then started the actual journey to Mathura.

Outside the airport, I started with haggling with a cab driver for a ride to Sarai Kale Khan bus stop. we started at 320 bucks but couldn’t settle on a final amount. I didn’t budge from 150 and he didn’t move from 180. The next target was an auto rickshaw and the chap agreed to take me to the bus stop for 150 bucks (not without making faces and exclaiming how I was taking out the last penny of his munafa). I thought I’d driven a bargain. To my horror, by the time we reached Sarai Kale Khan, the meter read only 94 rupees and 25 paise. The autowala won again! Phew.

The UP road transport buses that run from Sarai Kale Khan all the way to Agra were waiting in a neat row, one behind the other in a perfect order. That is where the order in the system ended. Once inside, the buses were just as filthy and stinky as any other public transport vehicle that ply on National Highway 2. The jouney was supposed to take around four hours including a twenty minute stop at one of the dhaba conglomerates (read: one big dhaba, surrounded by shacks selling namkeen and coloured water in the name of soft drinks; one stinky dysfunctional toilet in a corner, which people generally bypass to pee under the open skies instead and a tubewell which yielded nothing more than brown water from drying water table underneath) which sold everything from snacks to suitcases.

I reached the township at around half past five and spent the rest of the day roaming around the campus, catching up with colleagues and had a delicious dinner comprising steamed rice and chicken. The usual mess fare on Wednesdays. However, after a gap of 15 months, it tasted brilliant.

Mathura Trip

•September 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Its been really long since I went out on a trip. The upcoming 5 days of Delhi-Mathura-Agra-Delhi could well be the trip that I have been looking forward to over a long time. A trip that is mostly devoid of a fixed purpose. A trip that has no reason, nothing that justifies the rigour involved in undertaking the tiring 240 minute bus drive from Sarai Kale Khan Depot to Mathura. It’s perhaps a ploy to prove something to myself. Somewhere in me, the arbit decision maker still lives. I have not been turned into a pseudo machine. Perhaps, its just the urge of having a look at the refinery once again, inhale the stench of crude oil and sulphur, gaze at the towering distillation columns and remind myself that a part of what I am today is also a function of the two years spent in the units.

It had helped me get over the fear of large machines, high columns or electrical equipment I might have had in before. It taught me the rewards of being prudent and plan ahead and also the fact that one might have to pay with his life for being careless. The learning was good, but it came at a price,which, in the hindsight, I might not have wanted to pay.

This trip to Mathura is probably a wrap-up tour. Last time I left Mathura, I was in a hurry to leave it behind me as fast as possible. This one is only to make up for the things I missed out in the hurry. Stuff that I should have done, people I should have met, some goodbyes that I should have said before boarding my train to Delhi and from there to Asansol.

Hopefully, I shall do all that before I board my flight back to Bangalore.

In search of a Patronus

•August 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I guess the concept of a patronus was always there. Long before Mrs. Rowling brought it to our notice through the silver hued embodiments of imaginary beasts that drove dementors away.

Unknowingly, I have used such happy thoughts at different times to battle the pangs of loneliness and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

Remember Ellis Redding in Shawshank Redemption talking about how some birds are never meant to be caged because their feathers are too bright? I used to say those lines over and over again to myself to get out of a wretched mood every now and then while I was holed up in Mathura during those two lost years of my life. Those two years that did more harm to me than the four years in Pilani could do good. The visions of a free soul driving down the freeway with the glistening Pacific on one side and the mountains on another always came back to my mind as I kept reminding myself, Hope is a good thing.  I could remember those days back in high school when Tuition classes gave over late in the evening and a group of 4 guys stopped at a road-side chaat shack for some hot fried stuff before heading home on their rickety bicycles. It brought back the innocence and the will to struggle to achieve all that we dreamt of.

But its too far off now, time has blurred the memory, its not strong enough be the Patronus. I am still looking for something, something that makes life a little more colourful, something that hides the grey, even if its for a few weeks or months.

As Khaled Hosseni put it while describing the happy memory that almost saved Amir’s life (while being transported from Jalalabad to Peshawar in a gasoline tank),

I didn’t remember what month that was or what year even. I only knew the memory lived in me, a perfectly encapsulated morsel of a good past, a brushstroke of colour on the gray barren canvas that our lives had become.

I am still searching for that morsel of the good times which would take me through the darkness that encircles me now. The Patronus continues to be elusive.