Category Archives: Memoirs

a letter to the batch of 2013-15

Dear juniors,

Tonight is different. Tonight is the night when I finally sign off as your Placecomm. Tonight is also the night when I can speak to you as any other normal senior for the first time in the last five months that you have been in XLRI.

In the last five months, as we shared a love-hate relationship (more hate than love), let me confess, I have been truly amazed by the potential that I have seen in your batch. I have not emphasized this a lot in our interactions, while on either side of the podium in FPH, but let me say this on record that I do not have an iota of doubt that you guys will take XLRI to heights never seen before and will match, if not excel, what the senior batch has done for this college. I wish you good luck on that endeavor.

In the last eight months at XLRI, I have dreamt about those three and half days of SIP again and again. Most of us in Placecomm did, but I will restrict this post to mine. In every one of those dreams I fancied it to end just the way it did. It was perfect. I could have lived that moment till eternity. However, I would like to remind you that this was my dream. Yours are just about to begin.

Exactly a year ago, I sat in the same chair as you. I attended PPTs, filled forms, gave psychometric tests, pecked and re-pecked companies. I went through the same Attendance Call and Well Calls as you did. I even managed an offer. And yet, I know no better than you do about what all of this means. For me, this process is an exercise in randomness – a lot of variables come into play to decide who you eventually do your summers with. And hence judging your potential or your future career by the results of this process would be entirely an exercise in futility.

If anything, this process was a crash course in Life – uncertain future, ample opportunities, lurking threats and random choices. If anything then this process teaches you that there is nothing called a perfect option. Neither will you ever have enough time to weigh all the options before you make a call. You will just have enough to move on. And trust me, most of you will do fine with that.

As you would have noticed, the success of the SIP process was measured in the number of days it took us to reach hundred percent. It sounds flattering but if you ask me, there is more to it than a hundred percent placement in record number of days. There is the concerned look of the seniors as to whether the juniors can sustain the grill, there is the unquestioned effort put in by every senior to ensure that you are as ready as it can get for every interview, there is that little group of friends who sat surrounding you as you saw process after process to tell you that none of this is a true reflection of the person that you are, there is the belief with which post SIP celebration preparations are done even before the process has started, there is the blind faith, year and year, that every junior batch will outshine their seniors as the SIP process unfolds. In these lie the true success of the SIP process at XLRI, in these lie the famed XL Culture, in these lie stories that we made for you and hopefully you will make for your juniors.

When I look at my batch, I see a bunch of highly talented people. I do not care where they did their internships or even what their projects were. Most of them, I am sure, will find a way for themselves. As a senior of mine wrote to me in a note before my SIP – Yes, lots of us will end up doing stuff we never imagined we would do. But then, before XL, most of us hardly ever imagined 🙂

With time you will realize the same about your batch.

Signing off

A rather happy member

Placement Committee 2013-14

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the bajaj-nagar gate

I am not sure if I know what it means to be an alumnus. I passed out of VNIT in the year 2009 and since then have been struggling to find a place for myself in the world outside VNIT and that pretty much sums up all that I have done in the two and a half year after graduation. It is a little premature on my part to speak about the world outside, the rules of which are no better known to me than you and it is quite unnecessary to speak of the world inside – I am sure every one of us have our own little versions of it and I believe no one has the skills to generalize it in a composition of a few hundred words. So I was in a little dilemma when I started this article and then I thought since I can neither write about the world inside nor the world outside, let me write about something that separates the world outside from the world inside – The Bajaj Nagar Gate to VNIT.

(If you believe that the Admin Block Gate is the real entrance to VNIT, I will safely assume that either you have never studied in it or probably things have changed greatly between the time you passed out and I did.)

I took my first baby steps into college life through these gates. On top of two huge orange pillars and a mesh of iron grill stands a broad sign-board that proudly proclaims the name of the place that I would eventually call home. And very close to it, of course, is the girls’ hostel – I am not an expert but I believe most colleges thrive in and around their girls’ hostel – and that ensures that we always have something interesting to hear about the Bajaj Nagar Gate (The last I heard, they burned down a bike there!). On the other side of this entrance is, what according to the college authorities, the sports facility, according to the day-scholars, the cricket-ground and according to the hostel inmates, a very unworthy-of-the- word football-ground.  However, on many casual evenings, when I have either walked-in or walked-out of that gate, I have wondered if life in VNIT would still be the same without this gate being where it is.

The long walk from the hostel to the restaurant on mess-offs, the casual walk with a couple of friends over an interesting conversation and a ‘Kachhi Kairi’ from Dinshaws, the boisterous walk from the auditorium to the ice-cream parlor after a successful stint at the Institute Gathering,   the smeared-with-colors and moving-to-the-dhol walk during Ganpati Visarjan, the yes-I-am-from-VNIT walk in front of people from other colleges during Axis and Aarohi – it is strange how different walks culminate or rather happen to pass though this particular gate and that causes so many memories to flood your heart with a pining nostalgia when you refer back to it in time.

The Bajaj Nagar gate remains witness to all those moments when you have leave the college for the semester breaks and when you have come back after one, having figured out that life outside is not as interesting as inside. In fact, words simply roll out of the mouth when you are trying to negotiate a price with the auto-wallahs outside Nagpur Railway Station “Bhaiya, VRCE, Bajaj Nagar Gate? Kitna loge?” And, if you haven’t, you must see this place after the first showers of the monsoon. The dried and dusty vegetation suddenly look refreshing, there are two small puddles of water that get collected just outside the gate and if you happen to take a walk, drops of water from the trees, swaying to the mild breeze, pierce through your clothes that almost all the time reminded me of the small pleasures of life that we so often miss.

Among all these and many other experiences, time flies away and there comes a moment when you have to leave the college through those very same gates, pretty much the same way you came in through it for the first time. Among teary-eyed hugs and many emotional words, this gate stands tall. When I was leaving the campus, I wondered if there was something that this gate would want to tell me then what would it be. I now believe that it probably would have just smiled – the same smile that it would give to the fresh batch that would be joining in a few months time. In that consistency of expression, it embodies what a true constant should be among the changing faces that throng its vicinity every year.

Gates, from the towering ones at Mumbai and Delhi to the ones in front of our buildings have a very unique place in our history, in society and in our lives. Bajaj Nagar Gate is no exception. I revisited the college as a recruiter a few months back. At the entrance, the security-guard asked me for my identity. And as I rattled out the same, I had this really stupid feeling that the Bajaj Nagar Gate was smiling. To comfort myself, I will assume, it knew!

I had written this article for one of the alumni magazines. Today, I just happened to stumble upon it. With one of the batches that I was so close to passing out soon, it made me nostalgic enough to share the article. Cheers.

the onion pakodas

My Guest Column at The Viewspaper

“Taste is the feminine of genius.” – Edward FitzGerald, English writer. (1809-1883)

I do not think that at any point in my life, I have considered my mom a genius. She has always been the epitome of care and affection but somehow among the regular mundane dealings of life I had never paused and reflected if it would really take an enormous amount of effort to be the person that she is. Pretty much like the salt in your food, its presence is never acknowledged but its absence is always felt, she added the taste to our lives, literally and figuratively, without any one of us ever noticing the same. And then one fine evening, after I had moved out on my own, I decided to make onion pakodas!

When I was a kid, we used to have frequent load shedding in the evening. While the entire colony was in a black out, it was family time for us. My dad would have just returned from office and my mom would have just completed all the chores for the day in anticipation of the power cut. Huddled around an old oil lantern, we would discuss politics, play word games, analyze the actions of a particular neighbor or a relative and read out the headlines from the newspaper. However, none of these evenings were ever complete without munching on the delicious onion pakodas that my mom made.

Every day just before the power cut, she prepared them in three varieties – the salty ones for me, the spicy ones for my dad and the bland ones for my sister. For almost twelve and a half years, we munched on them –  almost every day –  and strangely we never got bored of the taste.

The onion pakoda is a traditional Indian snack made out of onion, as the name suggests, by dipping it in a batter of gram flour and then by deep frying it. However, it is not as simple as it reads in the recipe book. The flour has to mix well, the oil has to be hot enough, the frying has to be proper and the amount of salt has to be constant from pakoda to pakoda. Even though I gave my best shot that evening, by the end of my herculean effort, I was left with a dozen of inedible pakodas, a bunch of utensils that needed to be washed, oil all over the stove and a realization that making pakodas required one hell of an effort. To think of the fact that she went through this every day for twelve years and prepared them in three varieties seemed an enormous effort now. And she did it with a smile on her face, least perturbed by the indifference we showed to her efforts. I made a mental note of thanking her the next time I meet her.

We met sometimes later that year. During one of our many conversations I brought up the topic of onion pakodas and told her “You know I never thanked you for the efforts you took in making them. I should. Thank you mom for those wonderful evenings.”

She looked at me with awry eyes, smiled sheepishly and mumbled “I did have my rewards.”

“And what exactly do you mean when you say rewards?”

“Well the reward came from the way your eyes twinkled when you saw a plate full of onion pakodas and the delight with which you relished them. Making onion pakodas every day was a tenacious job but I so loved the smile on your face when you saw a plateful of them that I can go through another twelve years of making them. No work is as pleasing as the one that makes your loved ones happy. And in that happiness I found my reward.

Someday when you will have kids, you will see to what extent you can go to see a faint smile on their face. And you would realize, that faint smile, those little words of appreciation can make you do crazy things again and again. Like making onion pakodas every day for twelve years – the magic will be passed on to you then.”

My mom is not a genius or she would have known to put it better. That magic is called love!

In a world where not finding the charm in your work is the buzz word, my mom had figured out the magic in making onion pakodas in a small kitchen every day for twelve years. Ask her if she has ever complained. You would get a sheepish smile and a plateful of onion pakodas!

two left feet

“Furthermore, in English, the expression “To have two left feet” refers to clumsiness in the domains of football or dancing.” – (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

As a kid, I never tried my hands at either Football or Dance. Somehow they never seemed to fascinate me enough. You can call me clumsy at both. You can say that I have two left feet.

In fact, I remember, there was a time when I hated myself because I could not participate in the excited conversations about the latest happenings in the Football world. I neither had the knowledge nor the expertise of the game to make any comments whatsoever. So I kept mum and cursed myself. I still do not have much idea about the game and I still find myself dumbstruck when someone starts a conversation with “Dude, you into Football?” But I had made my peace with this particular side of me. I had explained it to myself that I need not know or understand everything in the world.

With dance, it was rather easy. Most of my friends who are into dancing find me too geeky or bookish to discuss the nuances of this form of art with me. So I am spared the horror of trying to understand when people talk about the finer aspects of various forms of dance or compare two dancers and their native styles when actually I do not. Everything seemed to work perfectly fine for the first twenty-two autumns of my life. I had been successful in evading situations where I had to face my clumsiness either by dexterity or by wit.

However, this autumn, things turned a bit topsy-turvy. In a dance fest, which marks a popular auspicious nine-day period in the Hindu calendar, while I was trying my best to emulate all the dance steps that I had seen in my life (or at least get close to emulating them), having been caught in a situation where I had to dance and not been able to evade it with my dexterity or wit, a girl, somewhere in the age group of 10-12, approached me with the question that kind of left me dumbstruck. The question being

“Can you teach me how to do Dandiya?”

I am sure I could have handled it better had I been hit by the Tsunami. I, who had probably never ever moved his feet to any kind of music in the world, was being asked to teach a 12 year old on how to dance – that too, a synchronized folk dance where a possible wrong move can be as worse as being hit by a stick, 30 centimeters in length with a force that is directly proportional to the enthusiasm of the fellow dancer. I did not know what to tell her. Walking away would be rude, telling her I did not know how to dance would definitely make her think that I was lying, she being completely convinced that I am an expert in this form of dance, and telling her that I would teach her would be preposterous.

I told her, to be on the safe side, “I do not know much.” She quickly retorted back “Tell me what ever you know.” Damn! Didn’t I tell you that kids these days are getting real smart?

We tried around a little; me conjuring up steps from nowhere and she trying to mimic them as a disciplined student. After sometime, we both gave up; I from conjuring up weird steps and she from trying to believe that they were actual dance steps. And that was the end to my stint as a dance teacher. For a moment as I walked back, I felt a lot of eyes on me and it felt real special. Not that things would change much, not that I had suddenly metamorphosized into a good dancer, just that I had deceived those people into believing that I was a good dancer and thus was living my short moment of glory – the kind of glory that I had never experienced before and in all probability will never experience again.

In retrospection, I am, any day, a better writer than a dancer but I never had anyone approach me to learn Creative Writing. But the irony of it, I have been approached to teach how to dance. Life’s strange isn’t it?

Did I hear anyone talking about Football? Bring it on baby! Two left feet, my foot!

i just seemed to know

I do not understand what people refer to as love. Never did.

For me it was always an abstraction that I could never fathom, a feeling I could never explain. Whatever little knowledge I had of the same was all because of the numerous Bollywood movies that I grew up with. For reasons that I do not know, I always believed that I will be able to find love in some walk of my topsy-turvy life. I knew the destination. I knew how to get there. How difficult can it be?

And then I met her.

Nothing special happened. Violins did not start playing, a back-ground music did not take over me, and junior artists did not appear out of no-where shaking a leg with me. In fact, I do not even know the exact moment when the realization hit me that this girl over there is the one.

I just seemed to know.

I just seemed to know from the way she sits next to me listening to all the non sense that I have got to say with an attention that could put an ace shooter to shame, the way her eyes follow every movement of mine, the way she finds an odd stupid joke to giggle at. (Let me tell you, considering the fact that I am a chatter-box, it takes a lot of patience to listen to me. People usually get bored or get frustrated with my continuous blabbering.)

I just seemed to know from the wide grin that comes across my face every time I see her name flashing on my cell phone screen (and I am sure it happens at the other end as well), the way the whole world stops for a second as I browse through her SMS or pick her call, the way our cell phone conversations dwindle for hours without each saying the other anything significant, the way IDEA and Airtel people would be grinning having claimed two more innocent souls into the vicious circle of nonsense-talks-that-cost-a-fortune at the end of the month.

I just seemed to know from the amount of effort that she put in designing my birthday gift, the beauty with which each word was fit into the poem she wrote for me, the glee on her face as I cut my birthday cake. I just seemed to know from the fact that I could bring myself to go to a jewelers’ shop for the first time in life, stand and look at many similar looking chains, pretend that I understood which ear rings would match with the selected chain, and listen to the continuous talks of the sales guy who had an opinion and an information about every piece that he had without asking him to keep quiet, all the time thinking about the smile that would cross her face when I give it to her.

I just seemed to know from the way she keeps singing those wonderful old songs as we go on long drives on my bike, with a coy look on her face when our eyes meet, without a care in the world. I do not understand songs much (have never been the music kind) but it feels awesome to see her do so.

I just seemed to know from the way I miss her when she is not around, the way I keep remembering previous chats, the way the moments that I have spent with her keep coming back together with a deep sense of longing for those times to happen again.

I just seemed to know from the way she holds my hand, the way it feels perfect, the way it feels complete. I just seemed to know from the way she said YES when I asked her the question, the way a smile flashed across her face immediately, the way two drops of tear suddenly took over that smile, the way she tried to hide them, the way she looked at me after that – a long, piercing, continuous gaze that had no expressions.

I just seemed to know from the way she has changed my life, the way she has stood beside me as I narrated her stories from my past, the way she has been there holding onto me as few old problems got over and some fresh ones came, the way she has reinforced my belief on the goodness of mankind, the way she made me realize that it is better to face the truth than run away from it.

I just seemed to know.

Seven days old into my new found world, I am still trying to figure out if all that I have been going through put together would qualify as love. I do not know the answer yet. But there’s one thing I have realized. Contrary to my belief, I never found love. Love discovered me instead. I always knew the destination. Love gave me a purpose. I always knew how to get there. Love told me how not to.

May be, I do not understand what people refer to as love. But then, never will.

22 and SPOILed

“A birthday is just another day in the calendar. “

But then how many days in a calendar year do you sit in the hall all alone, knowing very well that people upstairs are actually arranging your surprise birthday party? How many days in a calendar year do you get kicked badly and then hug the person who just kicked you? How many days in a calendar year do you get phone calls from every person who has touched your life in one way or the other – a friend whom you had last seen in class seven, a friend who makes an international call from a different time zone, a friend who has listened to every story you have to tell, a few other friends who know you better than you do, a few juniors who have continued to be best pals beyond college, a sister who thinks she has the best brother in the world and many more who have defined you for years? How many days in a calendar year are you over flooded with wishes on all networking sites so much so that you really wish that you had an automated script to thank them all?

I think that answers – A birthday is not another day. It is a birthday!

“There is nothing iconic about turning 22. Everyone who survives till then does.”

I agreed. My friends did not.

As the candle was put out, the cake was cut, balloons were burst and music was played – I noticed that people I barely knew eight months ago were busy in their own little way to make the day as special as they could. I was showered with gifts and each of them was something that was handpicked or designed with the best of the efforts – be it the calendar with photographs of people who have their birthdays in that month or ‘Shantaraam’ from a friend who had promised me he would gift it to me on my birthday some three months ago when he was high (on liquid and life!).

And then there is this girl, whom I have known since the last four years (and for all together different reasons) but have only understood in the last couple of months, who gave me one of the best gifts that I have received till date. In fact, so beautiful is the gift that I am afraid that any attempt from my side to capture it in words might tarnish its beauty. Even the best from my vocabulary have nothing that can match my feelings when I saw it for the first time. And so I am going to leave it there – as it is on the walls of my bedroom – to speak for itself.

‘Perfect’ is too small a word and unfortunately English Dictionary does not provide anything else for things or emotions that go beyond.

And if you thought that was all, let me tell you it was not. I have an idiot of a friend at IIMA (look at the irony of it!) who is probably the only guy in an IIM with no work at all. And he comes up with this all new concept of releasing a book on me in general and my love life in particular (once again, look at the irony of it!) and so right before I fell asleep on my birthday to wake up again on any other normal day, I sat before my laptop and read 14 pages of ‘Shreetam Aaj Tak’ (Yeah smart you are, aren’t you? That’s what it is called!). And as I was reading it, I realized whoever said that nothing comes your way unless you deserve it was wrong. I met these people on the way of life, just like that. We hung on to each other at times – good or bad! Most of the times it has been them, who have taken the extra step to keep things going between us with me playing the role of the brat. We have smiled, fought, quarreled and cried together and today when I reflect back I realize that I owe it to that one particular moment or that one particular incident that brought us together because now I cannot even think about myself without them.

You might argue that life moves on and had that friend not happened to you, someone else would definitely have. That’s the way life is. You may be true but I do not want to believe you. I am not even remotely interested in the other alternative that my life could have been. I told you I am a brat, didn’t I?

And so 22 was iconic – the best birthday I ever had! Everyone who survives reaches there. Very few live through it the way I did.

“There is nothing great about getting spoiled. In fact, 22 and not-spoiled-yet is any day a more admirable quality. “

Right but when you have friends like the ones I have mentioned who leave no stone unturned to spoil you, you cannot do much, can you? So if you think I am spoiled, you know whom to blame for it.

As of now, I am 22. I am spoiled. I am glad I am.

a walk down the memory lane

Been to Nagpur and back, this weekend! And before you sigh, “Once again!” let me just make it clear: ‘I simply cannot resist the temptation to come to this place.‘

It so happened that the Department of Computer Science, of which I was a rather average student once, won the Institute Gathering this year (If you are wondering what that is, do not worry, you will never understand unless you have been there and seen it) and that was enough for me and another crack head like me (rumor has it that the term Red-Hot-Chilies is inspired from him) to end up in college apparently to congratulate the people who brought the trophy home but in reality with no agenda and no specific reason. (I am dead sure that we would have gone to the college anyways. But it is good that these people came first. We had a reason and did get a complimentary T-Shirt. Ironically, the caption on the T-Shirt said “There’s more to us than meets the eye.”)

So thus began the journey which as always starts at the Nagpur Railway Station with “VRCE jana hai? Kitna loge?” and continues with “Bhaiya omlette tamatarwala”, “Aur bata, koi ladki mili”, “Abey, Kaustubh kya mast badi khelta hai yaar”, “Isko computer kyun bolta hai, electronic dabba bhi chal jata”, “Abey c*****a, ball kya tera baap pakdega?”, “Mess-off ke liye kidhar chalna hai?”, “Nobel, suitcase hi uthata rahega ki aur kuch karega?”, “Guddu, tere liye abhi bhi bus main half ticket hi lagta hai kya?” – conversations which are seemingly meaningless but that which captures the very essence of life at VNIT and the ones that you miss the most when you pass out of its walls. But somehow in those mess-offs on Saturday nights, fights over the bill in CCD, late night non-sense gossips , sleeping late, waking up to “Aisi Uljhi Nazar Unse Hat Ti Nahi”, waiting eagerly for the Sunday feast and then fighting over the last Fundoo ice-cream, cheering VNIT through 3 sets of a volleyball match, playing cricket in NBH where the ability to win is directly proportional to the ability to argue that you are not out (Why do they call it Clean Bowled?), taking that nostalgic walk around the campus makes me realize that no matter how many years pass by and how much things change – a part of me will always belong to VNIT and a part of VNIT will always belong to me!

Before I stop, Happy 60th Republic Day, people! Blame it on my nocturnal activities that are on the rise, I missed the flag hoisting at the Oracle Campus again! Do check out the all new ‘Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” on Zoom. It’s a must watch. (The Salman Khan part was really touching and I am still wondering why Deepika was wearing that stupid dress. It was indeed a pleasure to see Sudarshan Pattnaik in the part of the song sung in Oriya. Well deserved, for I would have immediately switched off the TV if they had put an Oriya actor/actress for the same.) This song, with all of its six lines, has long resembled the secular India almost gaining as mush popularity as the National Anthem.

Since I am already on a nostalgic mood, this did remind me of the golden days of Doordarshan, which was the first channel to air the song, of reception that got better when your TV was inclined at a particular angle, of the large crowds that gathered around the TV set, resembling a fair, when Mahabharat was aired, of days when News was short but genuine and Cricket Matches boiled down to family evenings. But more on that later!