(A) Man’s (Poetic) Search for Meaning

“Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man :
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, —
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river.”
A Musical Instrument, Elizabeth Barett Browning
 
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Well, Now I am!

 

It’s been quite some time since I have written anything. Long enough for some people to question if my writing skills were dead, or for some even to ask if I was dead.

Its been a tough few months, and honestly, my willpower and ability to write have been in a downward spiral. As I write this post, there still remains a lingering that this too will be consigned to the darkness of the folder called “Unpublished Drafts”. Frankly speaking, what spurred this post was a late night jaunt into the world of Messrs Shelley, Browning and Whitman and a conversation with a friend at a wedding who asked me to start writing again.

I’ve always been fond of Poetry, the credit to which belongs to one of my teachers back in Class 9, and a textbook called ‘Wings of Poesy’. Those pages were my introduction to fantastic work such as the Forsaken Merman by Matthew Arnold, The Eve of Waterloo by Lord Byron, Ozymandius by Percy Bysse Shelley and my favourite, A Musical Instrument by Elizabeth Browning.

I still remember, one of the first poems I memorized was The Brook by Alfred Tennyson. A poem that I learnt as a rhyme, it gave me a comforting image of a flowing brook going past my house at night, slowly putting me to sleep.

Sleeping has been difficult over the last few months, so much that I’ve been listening to white noise for hours on youtube in the hopes of falling into sleep. Predictably, the sounds that I choose to hear are that of a flowing river or a brook, because it comforts me and lulls me into a false sense of security that’s often broken by rays of sunshine entering the window in the morning.

So, why have I quoted Elizabeth Barett Browning at the start of the post? Well, simply put, I feel like the Reed that Great God Pan moulded into a musical instrument. A reed that grows nevermore again, as a reed with the reeds in the river.

It’s a beautiful poem about making of a musical instrument. I tend to look at it as the shaping of life and destiny. A Life that’s been punctuated with more disappointment than achievements, more sorrow than joy and more hate than love, a life that’s still to make the music that the great God Pan envisaged when he carved out the musical instrument from the reeds in the river.

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I Want to break free!

Mysore has been difficult for the last Year and a half. The four walls I call home are also the four walls that seem to be closing on me, all the time. So, as you’d have noticed in my previous blog posts, when the going gets tough, I turn to books, in the hope of finding some joy, some fear and even some magic. Recently, I finished reading a fantastic book by Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. His work is based on his survival in Auschwitz. Frankl’s work formed a cornerstone of Psychotherapeutic Treatment, and how do people go through difficult phases of their lives in a quest of finding some meaning in the overall scheme of things, and in life. I’ve somehow found the study of grief fascinating as well. Maybe my morbid thoughts also have to do with the kind of stuff I’ve been reading of late, but things that do not explore the darker side of the human psyche rarely make good writing.

The darkness in us is not only confined to poems and books, but in games too, with this clip from The Last of Us probably being the only bit in a game that’s almost brought tears to my eyes.

People generally know about the Five Stages of Grief as researched by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, arising from her work with terminally ill patients in the 60s. From Denial (“No, this can’t be happening to me!”) to Anger (“Why me? What have I done wrong?”), to Bargaining (“If I stop drinking so much, my relationship will mend itself!) to Depression (“I cant do this anymore, so why bother?) and finally to Acceptance (“Whatever happens, It’s going to be Okay”), this model speaks about what people go through when losing a loved one, coming out of a difficult relationship, or simply, dying. It’s so surprising as to how something as complex as Human emotion can be broken down into five stages, and dissected to be studied like an experiment. How being human isn’t about individualism, but about being just the sum of a few parts.

So, coming back to Elizabeth Browning and the great God Pan, its just that life changes you in ways that are unimaginable, and as we see people change in front of us, I’m left to miss the wonderful people I knew, and their imposters that I come across these days.

But all said and done, maybe its time this blog comes back to life. To wind this up, I’ll leave you with a few words by Pink Floyd (and the song, if you wanna hear it!)

 

“I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life”

Life, one movie at a time!

Of late I’ve realized that my love for cinema has grown by leaps and bounds in Mysore. Having a multiplex across the flat (or what we call a Chummery) certainly helps, but there’s also a feeling that my appetites have changed and what excites me more now in cinema is not the same it was a few years back. And trust me, there has been a seismic shift in my preferences. From heavy critic appreciated stuff, I now look only for fun!

I’ve always felt that the Journalist Jai Arjun Singh has maintained a great blog, in fact it was one of the early influences that made me take up writing back in 2009. A lot of his work. Is on cinema, and it’s actually a treasure trove.

All of these feelings can be over-simplified and encapsulated in two words, ‘Growing Up’, but there’s something more to it. While I love cinema from across the world, I was advised by a friend recently, that blog posts shouldn’t be as ambitious as the previous one, so this post will be dedicated to Indian Cinema. So, all the Oscar winning movies, you’ll have a post for you soon too!

In my previous post, I’d written about Swades being an all time favourite movie, and while that still stands, its a feeling that’s emerged from my ideals, and not from what entertains me. But this post is going to put ideals on the backburner and just take you through some of the movies I’ve found extremely entertaining.

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Some of my early memories of Movies are at the Sapna-Sangeeta cinemas in Indore, and two movies I distinctly remember watching are Jurassic Park and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. There was a different feeling about going to the cinemas once in while with parents, in those single screen theatres. But the real movie buff in me woke up somewhere in class 9, when I was studying in Bombay. It was somewhere around that time I saw Shahrukh Khan’s Main Hoon NaaA Cheesy, masala, bollywood flick had me thoroughly having a blast, and even today, whenever it is on television, I make an attempt to steal a glance at the stunning Sushmita Sen. I think her character in the movie set expectations really high for any teacher I was ever to encounter in the future. Needless to say, no one ever lived up to them! What made the movie appealing was the fact that it was a lot of fun. And while a lot of movies such as Lakshya, Khakee and notably Mani Ratnam’s Yuva came around that time, Main Hoon Naa remains a treasured memory.

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A few years later, as I was in my initial college days, I finally saw a Mani Ratnam movie for the first time that I was able to comprehend properly. Guru was a movie that introduced me to the genre of Biopics, and business leaders, but two things I loved about the movie were the opening credits, with names being printed on polyester, with Maiya Maiya in the background, as well as the inquiry conducted by Roshan Seth. Simpy brilliant.

As I stepped into college, a lot of my personality was shaped by choices of the peer group who liked offbeat cinema, and treated Indian Cinema with disdain. Peer pressure gets to grown men too, and I was an 18 year old teenager. So my fondness for movies such as Dabangg, 3 Idiots and Taare Zameen Par became hidden secrets, as I rattled of names like Fincher and Aronofsky, while secretly watching entertaining Hindi movies too.

As I started working at GE, there was not a lot of time I spent on watching movies, but some movies like Rajneeti did catch my fancy. Another movie I thoroughly enjoyed was Vicky Donor, which, I’d seen with the entire GE team, and it was followed up with a sumptuous meal at Karim’s. These memories become etched in your minds, because there were so many shared jokes and laughs, which made the experience a worthwhile one.

Time flies, and I moved to Bombay, where, slowly, now I think of it, the change in the kind of movies I like watching started happening. I was a member of the Placement Committee back in college, and I started looking at movies as a way of releasing stress. Somehow, it wouldn’t feel like a movie, if the ending credits did not have a big smile across my face. And as I started working for ITC, that belief has only been reinforced more and more. Having seen almost all movies that have come out in the recent weeks, Pyaar ka Punchnama 2, Neerja and Piku remain special.

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I spent the afternoon today watching Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani for the first time, and I finally agree with the people who’ve told me it is unadulterated fun. Had me smiling from end-to-end, with small poignant moments once in a while. And to top it all, it had Farooq Sheikh, someone whose acting I’ve always liked, had one of his last performances in the movie. A happy, yet thoughtful, free spirited, yet based on friendships kind of a movie, it had me miss, recap and reflect on a lot of things in life. Have I had the right amount of fun? Every refused party, cancelled trip to a bar, unrealized holiday plan feels like a lost opportunity. And with the spectre of a six day week looming large over my head for the foreseeable future, it seems like there are going to be lesser opportunities of having fun.

Maybe, there will be a day when I’ll quit the trappings of a corporate job and make moe time for myself. But until then, the next Sunday belongs to a jar of Nutella and the movie Tamasha (Yes, I’ve not seen it yet!).

‘Yaadein mithai ke dibbe ki tarah hoti hai … ek baar khula toh sirf ek tukda nahi kha paoge’ – Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

We, the People.

Today was an interesting Sunday, a day that gave me some time to peacefully think about a few things in this post.

After a very long time, I had a conversation with a close friend that I really enjoyed. From favourite movies to work, weddings, it was an hour of bliss. Probably, the only thing I miss in Mysore is a few friends. People close enough to share conquests, joys, sorrows and anxieties with. I live with the hope that 2016 will be kind to me, and send some fun people along.

But lets put all of that aside, and come to the point of this post. I saw my favourite movie today, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades. A 2004 film about an NRI who comes back to see what India really is. A movie that I try and see once in a while on a Sunday when I have the time. (Not to forget, the movie is 3 Hours and 7 Minutes long, so watching it as often as I would like is a luxury I do not have.) A movie so entrenched in us, that almost every time people do a triple ride on a scooter, it is inadvertently referred to.

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India is much different from what it was when I first saw the movie in 2004. And so are Indians. Having been in a generation which knew about the existence of villages and associated hardships, the movie was believable, and a reminder of how the villages of India are. Back then, I would also visit my ancestral village way more often than I have in the last 12 years, and somehow, the Village Halwai (Ram-bharose, If I remember his name correctly) and his Samosas still bring fond memories. Memories of watching my Grandfather and his friends play a game of cards in the porch of our residence, the village children, running and screaming behind my father’s car screaming ‘Collector Sa’ab’  playing cricket with the children of the neighborhood are still fresh in my mind.

When I see the Indians of today, growing up in Metropolitan cities, oblivious to the realities of the country, it makes me feel uneasy. Maybe, a few months back, I’d also conveniently forgotten the fact that there are millions of people, without access to basic amenities in every part of the country, divided by caste, creed and religion.

In one of my assignments with ITC, I’d visited a few villages in the Mysore region with my colleagues and it was there where I felt that the convenience with which I’d forgotten what India truly is, even today. With multi-million salaries, cities that have every comfort imaginable, we have become a generation that only knows of issues that are #trending. Somewhere, I feel that we’ve become a generation that is using technology and progress to become increasingly amnesiac and blind to what our duties really are. Yes, Odd and Even was important, but so is the plight of millions of malnourished children. Warming ourselves up with a shot of vodka at Hauz Khas Village in Delhi winters is what we all love, but what about the thousands freezing in winter shelters?

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At this point, my head is more full of questions than answers. What am I doing to make a difference? Am I really making a difference? What can I influence others to do? Why do we check if NGOs where we contribute are entitled to IT exemption under section 80 (G) of the Income Tax Act? Where is the Indian in all of us? The Indian, who stood behind the Mahatma as he peacefully drove Britishers out of India. The Indian who helped heal the wounds of the Partition. The Indian, who told Governments that merely a dynasty does not give them power to be self-serving. The Indian who is resilient, strong and caring.

As we increasingly become a part of this hashtag generation, somewhere I feel that we’re leaving a lot of people behind us. There always have been two Indias. the India of the haves, and the India of the have-nots. But there always was a connect between the two. But somehow, I now feel that these two Indias are strangers to each other. From We the People, it’s soon becoming Us and them. And somewhere, the Indian in me wishes that it is my thoughts on the subject that are incorrect, and it is not reality. There is a cry of anguish, somwhere deep inside, and I’m scared that it will die out some day, like a candle in the wind.

 “Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”

–  From the Preamble to the Constitution of India

Catharsis.

So, its been a while. All resolutions for writing something on a regular basis have gone down the drain. Well, the primary reason being that I’ve tried to hit the ground running after moving back into a job.

Working for an organization that relies heavily on written communication has its pitfalls too. Simply put, all creative ideas get drained out by the time you get your hands to a keyboard. And somewhere, the joy of writing was lost. However, there’s been a lot happening at work, and while its very interesting, its for another post. I’ve been posted to the wonderfully boring city of Mysore, which is so quiet, you can hear your own heartbeat most of the time.

I’ve read quite a few books of late, been in a multitude of cities, and made some great new friends while rediscovering some old friends, and forming bonds anew.

So, lets get straight to it. Catharsis, why though? Simply put, I just needed to write. And this time, not a work email.

So, when you work in a high stress environment, what gets you going? What gets you willing to go to work the next day amidst all the madness? What makes you , in simple words, ‘Chill the F*ck out?’

The answer, of course is known to the dark side. (Or that’s what Supreme Leader Snoke would have us believe!). Haha, enough of fooling around, but I personally think that the answer lies in experiencing music, immersing yourself in a superb book and just letting the environment soak into you.

So, let me take you through bits of music, books and places. Seems good? So read on.

I’ve never been a genre person. Anything that appeals is what’s branded in my head. A wonderful memory is a close friend singing the Lootera Song, ‘Sawaar Loon’ after a death defying trek to Garbett point in the first year of TISS. Read more about that here!

The beauty of her voice, coupled with the misty mountains cold (see what I did there!) made me really experience every single emotion the song wanted to continue. So, of late, I’ve tried to replicate beautiful music at home. So, Bose it was. The soundlink is one of the best speakers one can hope to find. If you want to live every beat, every note, every word of a superb song, that’s where you’ll find it.

So a song like Matargashti will fill you up with joy and laughter, and Luka Chuppi will make tears well up in your eyes. And well, Sawaar Loon, reminds me of that trek, and the classmate’s voice at Garbett Point. So yes, that’s how you experience music

There’s something about good music, good speakers, and some alcohol, that lights up all our lives!

Places and books, well they are for another post, very soon.

“Hawa ke jhonke aaj mausamon se rooth gaye
Gulon ki shokhiyaan jo bhanwre aake loot gaye”

Curtain Call

So, this is the last blog post I write as a free soul. 25 years (and  few months more!) is what it has taken me to become a budding manager. And as I wait, with tremendous excitement to see what the future holds, there’s a small tinge of sadness, at leaving home.

But then, to new beginnings, eh?


There’s a (not so) short story, where there was a boy, who, because of circumstances at home, was shipped off to boarding school, in the middle of great tears from both the child and the parents. As time passed, this pampered kid became used to the rules of the hostel warden, where the only way to call home was to use a PCO booth in the hostel, which would wipe out his entire pocket money.

Slowly, and steadily, this boy became used to the food that was served in the mess, because he could not afford the food that was served in the canteen (remember that bit about calling home?), and his greatest fear was the the joys he shared with his parents, his brother, would soon become a distant memory.

The Indian education system is never kind, and this kid, after years of excellent performance, saw his grades dip. And as he finished of class 12, he’d moved from the late nineties, to the early eighties. The expectations of the parents that he would move to an IIT after school weighed heavy on him, so much that every single entrance test failure fell upon him like a ton of bricks. He’d hit adolescence too, and, there was this wonderful girl he fell in love with, a girl who broke his heart. If you meet this boy today, you’ll realize that the scars of those years in the hostel are still buried somewhere beneath. The pain that ran through the nerves when the hostel warden would use a wicket to discipline him, for having dirty socks still makes him wince. The other, bigger, cooler kids, who would bully him regardless of whatever he did still give him nightmares. He could never be good enough and a failure was met with taunts, and an award, with mockery.

The one time, when his room-mate slapped him so hard, that the braces inside his mouth tore through the inside of his lips, the kids around who would smash his glasses for fun, this kid had a rough life. But never did he complain, because he wanted to achieve something, be someone of consequence, and make his parents proud.

Engineering from a college in Karnataka was not easy too. With a mind that yearned to be a lawyer, Calculus and Electronic Circuits were simply not something he could do. But he had learnt how to keep his head above the water, and while the braces on the teeth had come off, they still left behind the insecurity.

Slowly, this kid decided to make himself the master of his fate. The grades improved, the days were tough. And one day, he decided that his emotions were his own to control. Tall, long fences were erected, and his walls kept people from getting close to his emotions, and he drew strength from his isolation.

Today, as that boy steps out, hoping he’s become the man he’s wanted to be, he’s finding it tough to wish away that self doubt, and then suddenly, with the hands of both his mother and father on his shoulders, they feel a lot stronger, and it seems like it will not be so hard going ahead.


To close, there’s not too much to say, except that the above story needed to be told. Maybe, the best time to get closure is when things are at the close anyway. Because, there is, simply put, a new life up ahead.

“I open at the close”

Binging on Vacations!

I’m in the midst of long vacations, which are sometimes interrupted by Pre-Joining formalities of my future employer. Being a post graduate with a management degree has its own share of downsides. So yes, every social interaction these days isn’t a delightful affair. I start working with as Human Resources professional from the 1st of July, so yes, the last few weeks have been spent in absolute and complete boredom.

Everytime I sit down with people, the questions eventually boil down to Human Resources, and how it’s a soft career. As someone once said, Left is Right. Similarly, soft, is hard.

A lot of questions are asked, and some are plain infuriating.

1. “Beta, kitna kama rahe ho?” (Child, how much are you earning?)

An absolute favourite at social gatherings, everyone really wants to know the “Moolah” that I’ll be raking in. Except, the money may seem like a lot, but isn’t. As some people say, its never enough. I modify it to say, It’s never enough because its not there!

2. “Beta shaadi kab kar rahe ho?” (Child, when are you getting married?)

This question is something that makes my parents cringe with me. For god’s sake I’m just 25!

3. “Kitna deti hai?” (How much does she give?)

This was just to check if you were reading. Nah, no one really asks me that. Well, not till I own a car or a bike

4. “Mere liye Black label, paani ke saath. Inke liye Paani, Ice ke saath” (Black Label whiskey with water for me, water with Ice for the kid)

Seriously! I’m not in kindergarten. The problem with Free alcohol is, you can never have it. 

5. “Beta, gar pe bore nahi hote?” (Child, don’t you get bored at home?)

Of course I do! Why on earth would anyone in their right minds ask that question.

Moving on,

Netflix & House of Cards taught the world something us engineers already knew. (Unbelievable, isn’t it, Engineers knowing anything. These days, the littlest thing they know is a Quora thread. Can you believe it, I’ve even started writing answers on Quora!). Binge-Watching. In my days in undergrad (way back in 2011), boys would measure social standing by GBs on their external Hard disks, and the number of seasons they had. College is a great equalizer. People who were from smaller cities and had not been exposed to the kind of cultural upbringing people from the bigger cities have, changed, a lot. From being unaware of who Greg House was, to rattling off IMDB ratings of shows and movies, they’d traverse the entire spectrum of TV and cinema. (I was no different, becoming a fan of comedy shows in my time at college).

So now, as I finally quit college (postgrad!), after 4 years of Engineering, 2 years of GE and another couple of years of studying human resources, I’ve been given a long long vacation (almost three months) before I hit the grind again. And trust me, binge-holidaying, isn’t as easy as binge watching TV.

Life isn’t easy these days. The initial thrill of vacations has worn off, and the excitement of starting work hasn’t kicked in yet. It feels a little bit like a soft, listless existence. I tried picking up a few sports, but then, the Delhi heat got the better of me. And as luck would have it, all friends have ditched grand plans of taking a trip to the hills. Very very sad indeed. So what’ve I been doing? Read on.

Binge-watching: Well, lots of free time, a fast internet connection and a hard disk that’s finally not locking up and dying, what does one do? I’ve gone on multiple binge sprees in the last week, watching Despicable Me, The Thick of It, Veep, Kings and I don’t know what. TV miniseries like Band of Brothers, The Pacific etc get thrown somewhere in the middle. Over the last few days, I’ve been like an angry caveman, stomping out of my room for food, and then walking back in again. I’ve even seen Johnny Depp’s much maligned “Lone Ranger” and surprisingly, I didn’t find it bad. The train scene, out if the world.

The latest is Boston Legal. Having stopped at The Practice, I’ve never really started off with the spin-off, and after I saw Age of Ultron, I wanted to see James Spader in action. And somehow I think I like him better as a badass lawyer, than a Pinocchio singing robot hell bent on destroying humanity. My mother has permanently put a table mat in my room. She just doesn’t expect me to eat at the table anymore.

Sometimes, I just feel like randomly saying out, “Denny Crane” and I, have William Shatner to than for that.

Running: While running plans aren’t very regular, they do end up happening (with decreasing frequency now) because of the heat, and running a few rounds to Rid of the Valkyries, or the William Tell Overture (Loved it in the Lone Ranger) is very satisfying indeed. Also, with my mother breathing down my neck for ‘getting active’, (result of all the binge watching), I need to atleast try and look active. And, I spent 4K on running shoes from snapdeal. So yeah, Dil ki deal needs some running by the legs. 

Reading : Junk it, I’m not gonna write another book review here.

Meeting people: On the rare occasions that I do step out of my little cave, I do actually end up meeting some people. However, conversations just go on a single track. What am I doing with these holidays! If only I knew. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Holidays are the WORST TIME EVER! For someone who hasn’t worked on anything meaningful this year, at all, the end of five months of meaninglessness are very annoying indeed. And I still have 37 more goddamn days left!

So, what does a TISS graduate do in vacations. (Adarsh MBA types. I’m sure we’ll have a meme on it soon). This post is having way more lists than I thought it would.

1. Meet overenthusiastic relatives who wanna know all about how I’m going to transform businesses. (Yeah right)

2. Meet overenthusiastic friends who wanna know all about how I’m going to transform businesses. (Yeah right)

3. Explain to people what HR is. And how its not only payroll and hiring. (Though that is quite a huge portion)

4. Try and seem knowledgeable but always have an exit route out of a tough conversation. (So what’s your company’s Topline and bottomline growth over the last few years? Well, fairly strong, considering the industry and the operating environment)

5. Explain to people how TISS is not a bschool, but we’re all doing bschool jobs anyway. And the best ones at that. Not a very convincing argument, but its true!

6. Look enviously at other people at work, and wish you’d start already. (Lots of seniors at work tell me that I will revisit these thoughts once I join, but then, what the heck)

7. Think of blog posts to write.

8. Make lists (and, I should stop.)

So to sum it up, I’m a bored soul, and if you have any ideas of what to do, please please let me know.

Else, very soon, I’ll be hollering the following words every minute.

“Denny Crane”

A hard fought century! (of posts!)

100 is a significant number. It’s a number that’s a big milestone for a lot of us, and gives us a sense of fulfillment, closure, satisfaction and joy. Like age is just a number, so is 100, but it is an important one. At least, that’s what I feel as I type out my 100th blog post. I’ll take this post to write about two things (continuing from this last post, I think writing about two things is my forte, much like talking about Two things is my friend Menon’s). GE, then TISS, both had an adverse impact on my habit of reading, and as days have gone on, I felt both my knowledge and ability were on the decline. So, these vacations have been spent reading anything I can lay my hands on. From books about Cricket (which will get a mention later in this post), to reports of Standing Committees of parliament, this time I’ve devoured stuff like a madman. And, every time my Dad sees a new book at home, he reminds me, that once I start working, then he’ll stop paying for any book, ever again.

A fabulous read, every Indian history buff and cricket fan must read it!

A fabulous read, every Indian history buff and cricket fan must read it!

A book I absolutely am loving reading is Ramachandra Guha’s ‘A corner of a foreign field’. A fabulous book about cricket’s impact on social change in the Indian subcontinent, it is one of those books that you dislike reading, because the farther the bookmark travels in the book, the more you realize that there’s lesser of it left to read. A section of the book deals with the Palwankar brothers (Vithal and Baloo being protagonists) and how they fought against caste discrimination to pursue what their true love was, playing cricket. Baloo was a fabulous left arm spinner and Vithal, an amazing batsman. Guha has also included a lot of social commentary in the book, and one of the most peculiar things I found about Pre-independence cricket was the Bombay Quadrangular, which had 4 teams, Hindus, Muslims, Parsees and Europeans battling it out year after year for what was then, India’s premier cricket competition. With stories about the remarkable battle of European Polo versus Indian Cricket, this is a fabulous book. The description of players like C.K. Nayudu is such that you feel they’ve literally walked out of the book to stand by your side. It is an ambitious book, and a must read book for every INDIAN cricket fan, because the making of India, did, and always will have a lot of cricket in it.

The entry pass!

The entry pass!

Today was one of the most remarkable days in my life, because I finally got the opportunity to attend a debate in Parliament. No, I’ve not abandoned my fledgling career for a jump into politics, but I did get the opportunity to sit and watch the entire proceedings of the Lok Sabha today, perched atop the house in the Speaker’s viewing gallery. Unlike the usual visitors gallery, which allows people to attend a debate for only one hour, this gallery has no time limits (but it must be vacated at the time of voting), and has equipment to hear simultaneous translation of speeches into English/Hindi, as they are made. The Sansad Bhawan is a magnificent building, but as always, TV channels do not do it justice, and it is simply a sight to behold. As we took our seats in the Gallery, the house was just being called into session, and then, the treasury benches were slowly occupied by the government. Mr. Modi also dropped in for a few minutes, while Dr. Harshvardhan answered Member’s questions in the Question hour about Nepal, our preparedness for disasters, our technological progress etc. A very entertaining passage of events was when a member questioned the Telecom Minister, Sh. Ravi Shankar Prasad about the sorry state in which BSNL is today. The sparring that took place between members of the government on these issues was very entertaining indeed. The opposition was very lively too, with Jyotradiya Scindia playing the role of disruptor-in-chief, by ensuring that he made interjections at appropriate times. Sonia Gandhi’s pointed questions about non-appointment of a Chief Information Commissioner Chief Vigilance Commissioner had the MoS (Personnel), Jitendra Singh reeling out red tape as an answer. However, the truly majestic part of the debate was when Sh. Arun Jaitley introduced a Constitutional Amendment for the passage of the Goods and Services Tax. A detailed discussion followed, with Veerappa Moily, Bahrthruhari Mehtab of the BJD and Thambi Durai trading punches and counter punches with the FM. And then, the Congress Party did stage a walkout, with a BJP MP shouting out “Madam Sonia Ji, aap inke behkave me na aayein” (Madam Sonia, please don’t fall into the traps of your leaders), as she and Rahul Gandhi were followed out by a bunch of Congress MPs. An interesting bit of the debate was on inclusion of Tobacco within the ambit of the GST bill, whereas Alcohol had been left out. Mr Jaitley humorously quipped “Saugata Roy ji, you are the most frequent user of the MPs Smoking room, it is good that the West Bengal government charges you a luxury tax for it.” What was interesting to see was that every MP who asked a question, or a supplementary had put in a lot of effort. Their were multiple files they carried with them, with flags, post-its and even highlighted text (Yes, Mallikarjun Kharge had a document with him, with his pertinent points highlighted in Blue). As we met one of the officials from the Lok Sabha secretariat, he said that there is a huge misconception about MPs. Most of them do actually put in a lot of effort in Parliamentary debates, which was a point that was reinforced by the staff at the Parliament library.

The Draftsmen

A tour of the Parliament is never complete without a visit to the Parliament museum, which took us through the history of the Indian Constitution, how it was drafted, some memorabilia of previous speakers, and a massive auditorium dedicated to the Late G M C Balayogi, the NDA speaker who met his demise in a helicopter crash. Another fabulus attraction is the ability to sit among life size models of the members of the First Constituent assembly (S. Radhakrishnan, Sucheta Kripalani, Vallabhbhai Patel, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee), and hear Pandit Nehru’s life size model read out the Tryst with Destiny speech as Dr, Rajendra Prasad’s model looked on. I chose a seat next to Vallabhbhai Patel, as I heard the speech that has been imprinted in our minds from when we were children. As we reached the memorial for the people who gave their lives up for this democracy in December 13th 2001, true realisation of how sacred this democracy is sank in.

Tagore.

Tagore.

Finally, we concluded the visit by polishing off highly subsidized food at the Parliament Canteen. The Fish Fry and the Mutton Curry are to die for. Setting foot into the heart of Indian democracy further strengthened my resolve to be a responsible Indian, to follow my duties, protect others’ rights and be the citizen our forefathers wanted us to be. And as I walked out, a renewed sense of delight, inspiration and a Marble Pen Holder (bought from the Parliament Souvenir Shop) accompanied me back. “We are citizens of a great country, on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, 15th August 1947

(For those who wish to attend proceedings of the Parliament, the best way to do so is to get authorization from the MP of your Lok Sabha constituency, and a magnificent experience in the Lok Sabha awaits you. The Parliament Museum, Library and Canteen (which are all housed in a separate building), are open to general public)

Three Books, Three Stories, Three Experiences

Its been a tough few weeks, walking out of college with a feeling that there aren’t going to be too many opportunities for all of us to meet together, again, for a very long time.

But then, the convocation is coming up, so life should be good, right? That’s what I hope, anyway.

So, I’ve moved to the next best thing, Books. I have an extensive collection of books, and these few books have made a long boring holiday, worth something. Everyday, as I settle into a long bus journey to my NGO, a good book makes the one and a half hour journey seem very short.

A book I’d been avoiding reading completely for a very long time was the Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a book, that the author says was inspired by a patient’s question. “I was having a conversation with a patient who had stomach cancer,” he recalled, “and she said, ‘I’m willing to go on fighting, but I need to know what it is that I’m battling.’ It was an embarrassing moment. I couldn’t answer her, and I couldn’t point her to a book that would.

Truly, the Emperor of All Maladies

Truly, the Emperor of All Maladies (The disease, not the man!)

 

As I delved deeper into the book (with true determination), I absolutely couldn’t think of what it would be like to be an oncologist and see a lot of patients fight a battle that if won, is always a Pyrrhic victory. In most cases, there isn’t a victory to be had, but an agonising defeat. Having lost a family member to cancer years back, my family does have first hand experience of what a beast caner can be, with its moody, volatile unpredictability. A treatment for cancer was born out of War itself, when in the Second World War, hundreds of Tonnes of mustard gas were released in the Bari Harbour in Italy. This gas decimated the white blood cells, leading pharmacologists thinking about using a similar chemical to kill cancer of the white blood cells. Chemotherapy, literally, was a product of war. In the end the disease wages a war on the body, and doctors, literally, nuke it in hopes of a victory. A sad, sad war, if there were ever one.


 

As I flew back to Delhi after spending almost 22 Months in Bombay, I was welcomed home with Mom’s homemade Chicken Biryani, and a book from my future employers, ITC Limited. They’d sent me George Orwell’s 1984, for leisure reading. Felt good to receive a good book, and it was fun, kickstarting this vacation with the same. When it comes to Orwell, I’ve read Animal Farm (partly because of its length), and seen John Hurt in 1984 as Winston Smith. The book drew a lot of parallels with present times, where Censor boards give us a list of acceptable words, the government controls what we eat, and private corporations, making a huge attempt to control what we use our smartphones for (#NetNeutrality?).

Napoleon and Snowball!

Napoleon and Snowball!

Speaking of Animal Farm, before I forget, how many of you think that Kejriwal is Napoleon, and Yogendra Yadav is Snowball? Very good metaphors to describe the state of the Aam Aadmi Party.


 

Coming back to books, another (and the last for this post!) book that’s been a wonder to read is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. An author (and a Nobel Laureate!), whose work caught my fancy in arguably the best lecture I’ve attended in TISS. A lecture on Prospect Theory in advanced compensation, it remains one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt at TISS.

The book is an anthology of Daniel Kahneman’s life of work, and the way he tells the story to us with believable anecdotes of his research with Amos Tversky, give a human touch to ears of his research. The anecdotes are real, and in a lot of cases, very funny. A fantastic and engaging read, this book (and rightly so) puts Daniel Kahneman head and shoulders above other writers who work on similar themes.

So, to wind up this filler vacation post, I’ll leave you with a simple thought.

“Luck plays a large role in every story of success; it is almost always easy to identify a small change in the story that would have turned a remarkable achievement into a mediocre outcome”

– Daniel Kahneman

Moral of the story? Always thank your stars!

 

Growing up with the Indian Cricket Team

There’s always something about the ball sweetly striking the middle of the bat and racing through the covers for a four. A stroke that’s sweet, grounded, and effortless. Something we don’t see as much anymore in the brute hitting that’s come to characterize modern cricket. I like Glenn Maxwell, and AB and the big hitters that we’ve all seen, but the classy play of a Hashim Amla, or a Virat Kohli grafting a brilliant innings together is what I cherish more in a game of cricket.

There’s much more love I have for Test Cricket though, and the matches played on fast seaming pitches are one of the most exciting matches that can be seen. Pitches and rules today are biased to batsmen to such an extent, that commentators have started considering economy rates of 5 a good one. Gone are the days when Glenn McGrath would beat a batsman 5 times in an over, on any pitch.

India’s tour of Australia, though it ended winless was a beautiful display of test batting. With Virat Kohli’s imperious form, and bright spots like Lokesh Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane, Indian Test Cricket seems to have a bright future up ahead.

For all the love Indians have now started professing for the Manchester Uniteds and the Liverpools of the world, if its the last over of an India-Pakistan game, every single Indian tunes in.

As India won their 9th World cup game in a row today, by beating Ireland, I look back at some past world cups through my eyes, and some memories that are strongly associated to them. Somehow, they’re all vivid, and every single run scored is something I remember.

The 1996 Wills World Cup

This world cup is a faint memory, where names like Kaluwitharana & Jayasurya would evoke terror in the hearts of my cricket loving parents and uncles. I dont remember too much of this one, but there’s still a certain fondness for the cup, considering that’s when I became aware of Cricket for the first time. But this World Cup did turn the game on its head.

The 1999 Cricket World Cup

This totally had my generation hooked!

This totally had my generation hooked!

This was the time when every single kid was devouring packs and packs of biscuits. The ‘Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao’ ad campaign caught on like a bush fire. Every single friend I had was busy collecting wrappers to exchange them for a ticket to the world cup. I remember, there was a flurry to get the scratch card booklets, so one could actually get something. I was convinced I’d get a Britannia Bat, and with Dravid and Ganguly both batting with Britannia Bats (I was too young to understand that the Britannia was a sponsor, and not the maker).

But gimmicks aside, this was the one World Cup that put me into the Sourav Ganguly fanclub (and since then, I’ve been a big fan of Left handed batsmen. There’s something simply classy about a southpaw). The 183 at Taunton agains a Sri Lankan attack was probably one of the best one day Innings I’ve seen Dada bat in. Ably assisted by Rahul Dravid, it was one of my favourite performances of the 1999 world cup, along with the 5/27 by Venkatesh Prasad against Pakistan at Old Trafford. I was hugely impressed with the New Zealand team, with Geoff Allott’s strike bowling ability, Gavin Larsen’s economy, and Astle’s sheer destructiveness. It was a fun world cup, that one, and sadly, inspite of collecting a lot of wrappers, I never even got a keychain. But even though India didn’t reach the semis, a passion for cricket in a 10 year old had been born.

The 2003 Cricket World Cup

If 1999 belonged to Dravid and Ganguly, 2003 belonged to Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Nehra. Yes, Ganguly did hit three tons (two against Kenya), Sachin played that blinder (with that six!) against Pakistan, but the consistency of the Indian Pace trio was fabulous (the game against Sri Lanka didn’t even need a fourth bowler. Haha, revenge for 1996!). I could have never imagined Indian fast bowlers being as good as they were. While the final (cruelly so), slipped away from us because of Ponting’s brilliance, there was a new found belief in the team that Ganguly infused. All of us thought, maybe West Indies was the place where we’d conquer it, once and for all. The Indian team did bunch together and play a fabulous cup, but in the end, Ponting’s squad were just too strong. A far cry from the underdogs who won the 1999 world cup, gone were likable medium pacers like Tom Moody and Paul Reiffel, and the ferocity of McGrath, Gillespie and Lee was too hard for anyone to handle. That team, was a great team.

This world cup is also the one where I became an absolute fan of Rahul Dravid, for his keeping and the way he took one for the team. There are very few cricketers who are as amazing as he is, and maybe, the hurrah with which India reached the final had a lot to do with the game’s ultimate gentleman being behind the stumps.

The 2007 Cricket World Cup

2007 was an aberration. Matches at ungodly hours, halfway across the world. If the ICC would have learnt one thing, it’d be never, ever, host a World Cup in the West Indies ever again. A forgettable world cup for India, with defeats against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh sending us back, and killing my interest in the tournament. I didn’t even watch any of the games after it, which is a shame, because I was told Glenn McGrath had a tournament to remember.

And the earth did shake.

And the earth did shake.

A defining memory of that world cup is the Bermudan player Leverock taking a great catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa. Literally made the ground shake, that catch.

The 2011 Cricket World Cup

What a win!

What a win!

 

2011 was a fairy tale. The defining moment where M S Dhoni launched Kulasekara over long on to fulfill dreams of the Indian crowds is still imprinted in my memory. That night was the crowning glory for all us cricket fans, with the beuatiful batting of Sachin, Yuvraj’s all round performance and Dhoni’s captaincy. But events leading upto the final were more special, with Ponting’s ton in the quarters in vain, the tie with England, the defeat to South Africa. Emotions came pouring out that time round. It was the year when I finished of college and was about to start working for GE.

As the 2015 World Cup goes on, I realize I’m about to start working again as college draws to a close.

While this world cup has been dominated by stories about Southee’s yorkers, McCullum and Maxwell’s big hits, there’s a strong Indian story developing, with Kohli and Dhawan in great form, Dhoni having his instincts intact and Shami and Co hunting in packs. Even Ravi Ashwin, who gets a lot of stick about overseas pitches seems to be in control of his spells.

So, to wrap this up, I just hope that work starts again the way it did after 2011. With an Indian Win.

Step Out, PNK

This is a momentous post. So much that I’m taking the liberty of modifying the words of a song the great poet Roger Waters wrote.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find two years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

– Pink Floyd, Time, The Dark Side of the Moon

Two years (well, a quarter short, but then who cares?), quite a rollercoaster ride. The memories are so many, and my words too mediocre to actually even make an attempt to summarize it my own words. Except state that yes, two years have gone behind me.

There’s no easy way to summarize how this course has been, except maybe using the phrase, life affirming.

There are somethings at TISS, that puts it apart from the rest. The neverending credit facility at DM canteen, the sessions of drinking in the room, or the amphitheatre, Hans Zimmer and Pink Floyd playlists on never ending loops are just some of the things that stand out, but its really really hard to pin it down.

As the last lecture ended a couple of days back, there was a strange sense of disbelief. The end of student life as I’ve known it. In my days at GE, there was always a belief that a few months or years down the line, I will quit the job to go back to academics. As I look at TISS and the end of days, it seems sad that I will be unable to go back to assignments, crazy deadlines, walks in Bombay, early morning tea at the Taj among other things.

2014 was a year that was, by far the toughest I’ve had, with internships, academics, existential issues, a general state of being unhappy and facing issues of credibility, both personally and professionally. But then, I put all of it down to character building, and to the fact that good things in life, are never easy.

So let me recap a few things that I believe made TISS very special for me, and I will always keep them very close to my heart.

The Placement Committee

Brothers-in-Arms!

Brothers-in-Arms!

Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I’ve valued the 5 other people who are a part of the TISS placement committee with me. Placement committees, historically in colleges are a bed of intrigue, a melting pot of conspiracies, but for us, I think we ended up being the best of friends through meetings that would last entire nights.

While a few of us did have certain personal commitments to cater to, the committee came first (on most occasions). Being one of the few committees to have an exemplary track record, we humbly accept that none of it would have been possible without all of us. The ingenuity of Anurag, the ability to see the bigger picture of Akhila, the doggedness of Srinidhi (find someone who has the enthusiasm she has for meetings and I’ll quit my job), the out-of-box(or window) thinking of Bhat, the sheer brilliance of Meghna, and well, my ever constant presence brought together what was an extremely high performing, yet a well gelling team. While there aren’t too many happy memories, considering the pressure we operated in as a committee, the questions we had to face, the days where we couldn’t believe what the insecurity of a few individuals could make them do, we understand that we got through the tough days because we stuck together.

It’s a curious thing, insecurity. We all are insecure, but it’s how we deal with it, that makes us different from the rest. Life is not about channeling insecurities negatively but having faith in yourself. There’s no one who is out to purposely ruin things for us. Our enemies are the creations of our own minds. Life isn’t a movie, where there’s an arch enemy. Differing opinions exist, and Tiss has taught me that they need to be respected, and not hated.

The Room

From A-602 to C-302. A pleasure indeed.

From A-602 to C-302. A pleasure indeed.

I’ll quote my good friend Damahe here ‘the first set of friends we make in college are more incidental than by design. They’re more a matter of convenience’ and three of my closest friends have been my roommates. Damahe, Godara and Saha, from A-602 to C-302, all four of us have come a long way. Three of them are fairly well settled when it comes to life, with priorities pencilled in, and what makes me sad is that inspite of there being a lot of commonalities, the bond is not as strong as it once was. I don’t know what or who to blame, but there’s always the hope that things will be back to the good old single days at Nandanvan, where every drunk was not enough, and every laugh would not have an end.

The Course

Compensation, Advanced Compensation, Labour Law, Diversity, Employer Branding, OB 1, these are just some of the subjects that were an absolute delight to study. After all, we come to Tiss so that we learn some HR too. I loved an internship that I had at Mondelez and the chocolates that accompanied it. Never did I learn as much about human resources as I did at my month there.

Godara and I were once talking that every single advanced compensation lecture was like a hidden gem. We’d never want a break, nor would we want it to end. A seminal article, ‘the pretence of knowledge’ by Sumantra Ghosal is one that’s imprinted in my head, and shall be for a very long time.

Those classes were fun, challenging ourselves, trying to put in as much effort as we could and also realising that our boundaries were set only by us.

The parties

The last party!

The last party!

The parties at TISS have always been a cut above the rest. After all, put 120 drunk people in a room and what you get is mayhem (as owners of Sindhi Society and Oasis will tell you). I’ve been a part of a few crazy ones myself and its a great thing that I remember almost nothing.

The People

Bunch-o-crazies!

Bunch-o-crazies!

There’s a lot I’ve written about my class but a few of my closest friends have been those who I’ve never shared a classroom with. A really close friend being Hamsini, who is, in all probability going to work in chennai and will be tough to trace going ahead, but she and her gang have provided me with peals of laughter (of late, I’ve been returning the favour), good moments, and crazy head blowing movies. (kingsman, ftw!)

My classmates have always been a source of support when I needed it, criticism when I deserved it and help when I was lagging behind on assignments. A big thanks to all of them.

The lessons

Everyone’s read Tuesdays with Morrie, and it remains, one of the best quick reads that have had a profound impact on me. While life’s lesson wasn’t taught to me like Mitch was taught by Morrie, I’ve had many Morries, whether it be Malvika who propped me up in a really tough phase last year, the Placecomm girls who always made me believe in myself, my superboss at ITC, Mr Sajiv Nair, who told me that I give up too easily and kicked me into action, a certain gentleman who lives in Mysore and is fond of the Laphroaig who’s been riding shotgun with me every way of these two years, telling me when to speed up, or Hams, Nen, Shreya and The tall one, who’ve all been my Morries, giving me life lessons, one after another.  To all of them, I’m grateful. And if you’ve been reading my blog, you know I don’t take names easily here.

So to close this rather sentimental post, I’ll leave you with a thought.

Step out, 2015.

“House on fire, leave it all behind you
Dark as night, let the lightning guide you”