Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Way Back Home

The last few weeks have been very hectic as far as work is concerned. Late nights have become more the norm than the exception. And frankly speaking, I can't say I dislike it. Well, it could be because of my otherwise not so happening evening life or just the fact that this is a change from the usual. It might as well be the feeling that I am actually doing something which would directly or indirectly benefit me somewhere down the line. But no, this post is not about my experience in the software industry which by the way is nearing a year. That, will have to wait for a few days more.

The six kilometer stretch of road that brings me home from my office is one of the best in Bangalore. The road is wide and the traffic relatively less at any time of the day. So at around half past 10 when I hit the Outer Ring Road and put my bike to full throttle, the ride is enormously enjoyable. The smooth traffic allows me to touch speeds of 90 kmph on a regular basis and add to it the chill in the air especially if it has rained in the evening; and you have a 7-8 minute ride that robs you of your weariness of the day. It's one time of the entire day that I am completely living the moment without thinking of the past or the future. I hum along a few songs and at times even sing them at the top of my voice while racing past other vehicles on the way.

It's not that I have something very exciting waiting for me upon my arrival. Yet, the prospect of having a laugh with my flatmates, reading a bit, spending some time with my guitar and ringing up family and friends, makes me feel at peace with myself.

I can't help but reminisce about the time I used to make a similar journey back from school to my home on a cycle along with my friends. During the morning sessions before the summer vacations, school got over at around 1 o' clock and we would come home licking the 25 paise or 50 paise 'ice creams' that we bought in front of the school gate. Holding it in one hand and balancing the cycle with the other, we often rode our cycles at full speed to be able to catch some live action from the Sharjah Cup. There would be nothing, not even the scorching heat or the loo, which would slow us down during those times. Our orange coloured hands and tongue would bear testimony to the fun we had had. During the regular sessions when classes got over at 3:30, the ride would be more sedate. We went along discussing the happenings of the day, the latest affairs in school, cricket and what not. Since my house was the farthest away from school, I had to part company at some point and travel the last kilometer long stretch alone. I remember us stopping at the last junction (my friend's house) and chatting for a good 10-15 minutes before finally leaving for home. It really used to get tiring during the summers especially since the last bit was mostly uphill. But I knew that I had my prize waiting in the form of watermelon slices and mango shake kept in the fridge and at times dahi-chuda with gud. Ma would be waiting for me in the balcony with the keys to the garage where I kept my cycle and that was such a pleasing sight. She could make out my arrival merely by the sound of the gate. She said she could distinguish between the sound I made and that made by others! In later years, the scooter replaced the cycle and I became more reluctant on eating something after coming back but the pleasure of coming back home, coming back to your Ma waiting for you; well, that remained unchanged.

It's about comfort and a sense of belonging that makes the ride back home special. Whether it's to your waiting mother, or to a shared flat with friends or even a single room that you call your own. It's a journey that seldom has any surprises in store for us but one which comes with an assurance. An assurance of going back to the place you know, to the people you know. An assurance that another day has gone by. An assurance that a new one would soon begin.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I often crib about the fact that my life is boring and predictable. It lacks the Zing. Especially now, there seem to be very few 'new' moments. The 'firsts' have slowed down to a trickle. True, I belong to that always demanding, I-want-everything-that-everybody-else-has species that you can notice everywhere these days. It's good in a way. I mean, it doesn't make sense if I am already satisfied with all that I have. Ranting about the demands and expectations that we have of ourselves is not the purpose of this post though. It's just that I think that behind all this hue and cry for change, there's a part of me which seeks familiarity in whatever I do and wherever I am.

In the office, they changed my system today so I had to set it up from scratch. And while doing it I felt that most of my efforts were focussed on getting the exact look and feel of my earlier desktop. I needed the same wallpaper. I wanted my old bookmarks to be arranged in a particular way. I had to have all my shortcuts to be exactly in the right place as they were earlier. I did all this before I started to install the stuff on which I had to work. Somehow, it was imperative that I feel at ease with my system. Feel familiar. And that got me thinking. What I realized was that it's not just restricted to the way I want my desktop to look. It extends; well, to my entire being. From waking up in the morning and listening to a few songs to the sweetness of my coffee, from the way I expect my bike to zoom past a car to the sound of a particular chord on my guitar, from the mails that I find in my inbox daily upon my arrival in office to the people I talk to over the messenger, from the 10 o' clock Comedy Show to the late night lets-see-if-anybody-is-online habit, subconsciously, I crave for acquaintance with my surroundings. I am (aren't we all ?), to use the cliche, a creature of habit. Is that the reason I don't like train journeys, particularly the ones made alone? Because they are transitory in nature. Is that the reason I prefer having daaru parties at my home and playing the host? Because I feel I am in control.

Knowing what to expect, knowing what's coming next, provides me with a sense of security. I like to be in control in most things I do. Or to put in in a better way, I like to know the way a certain activity is likely to occur or a certain thing is likely to behave. Like singing a song, riding my bike, doing my job (although it happens rarely in that case!), talking to people. And I think being in sync with your surroundings, lends that control to an extent. Although at times I wish to abandon everything and just let go. Let go of the banality of my life and take a plunge into the unknown. So there are these two conflicting me's. One which craves for familiarity in everything and the other which seeks newer, unexplored horizons. And while the former makes its presence felt subconsciously, everyday, the latter comes in bursts and is more intense in nature than the former.

There's a pattern to our daily existence which we all come to feel contented about. We all want to know what's coming our way and that's why we want things to be just as they have been earlier. Sure we like surprises and the occasional change is welcome. But the comfort of the known is something we need very much in our life. It could be in small things like the little hard spot in your bed or the particular way your flatmate pulls your leg, and we might not always realize its presence. But when its not there, like the picture of a small wooden bridge sent by a friend that has been my wallpaper for a few days now, you can definitely feel its absence.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Remembering Those Years

Exactly six years ago to the day, my life changed. By evening, the various coaching institutes had already come up with the solutions and the indications were fairly good. Sitting today in my home in Bangalore with one of my flatmates, with nothing better to do on a Sunday night than the usual, I cant help but think about those years that lead to it all .

School was...well...easy. I was a good student, had the best set of friends to hang out with, the teachers knew me and my parents never complained about anything. I didnt know what failure was. I didnt know that life wont always stay the same. The last two years in school were madness. Get togethers, farewells, parties, cricket; the fun never ended. What hastened it was that one of the most (ok, the most) popular girls in our batch was leaving school to study in Singapore. That was the perfect trigger to the festive spirit that continued till the end of 12th grade and a little more. Classes became a mere formality and even the teachers understood that. Especially our English literature teacher who taught Hamlet to almost empty classes. In fact there was just one boy who regularly attended her lectures sitting in between all the girls who by nature were more sincere than the boys. We made so much fun of him that he was often on the verge of embarrassment.

Anyway, we used to arrive almost an hour before the official assembly time and play what we termed as Australian Cricket. The most striking part of the entire exercise was that a 2 feet, cylindrical bamboo stick substituted for the bat which meant that edges flew thick and fast. We therefore had a slip cordon in place for all the edges. Laboratory windows were broken more than once and we went to apologise to the Vice Principal demanding a second innings! It helped that we were the 'bright' boys in school and so everything was forgotten and forgiven pretty soon. A few classes were also attended in between all the fun and laughter. Then there were the quizzes for which some of us were officially allowed to bunk classes. Lunch was quite often taken at one of our friend's house which was a 2 minutes walking distance from the school gate. Again there was some cricket that followed which on occasions extended well after the lunch period was over. In fact, I remember one occasion when the Principal on his way to school after lunch spotted us playing cricket when we should have been attending classes! What I dont remember is how we explained it. Classes got over at around 3:30 in the afternoon but school didnt. It was time to either play some really silly games or go to the nearby Vora Brothers to have soya chilli and some Pepsi.

Till the time Neha left for Singapore, we had lost count of the number of parties that we had had at each other's homes and at times in the school. It was the best time spent in school. The farewell was happening a year in advance and all because of her leaving. People got closer to each other, understood each other in a different light. Some people cried when she left, some fell in love with her, it was all very emotional and dramatic at times. She left sometime in the December of our 11th grade, after celebrating her birthday; before celebrating mine and so I made her promise to send me the first postcard from there.

In between all these, there were the Physics, Chemistry and Maths tuitions. We changed tutors and made our life hell by attending tuitions in the wee hours of the morning even during the rains and the winters in search of something we werent even very sure about (or at least I wasnt very sure about). But even the tuitions were made out to be more of fun activities than educational ones. Laughing behind our tutors, imitating their mannerisms, even laughing at how we didnt have a clue about some physics problem, we didnt realise that we were about to get the shock of our lives. What helped keep us in this illusion was the confidence our peers and teachers had in us. We were supposed to clear all entrance exams easily. There was never a doubt about it. Even slam books (that sounds so childish now!) were full of references like...'when u get into such and such college...'. So the cricket and the parties continued as a huge chapter in our lives drew to a close.

I vividly remember the day my father left me in a private hostel from the balcony of which I could see the Convocation Hall of IIT Delhi. It was a tough decision. The urge to leave everything and join DU was overwhelming. I was never a fighter. Things either came easily to me or didnt at all and I saw my first failure in life as an indication of the fact that it was not meant to be. I never saw it as a result of my foolishness, my overconfidence and my extreme optimism. My first reaction was, what the hell... I have a good percentage.. let me get into Stephen's and study Maths Hons. So standing in front of Hindu along with my father, almost ready to fill out the forms while all of my friends were either preparing for life in IIT or dropping a year in pursuit of it, he asked me one last time about my decision. I have always been instinctive when it comes to decision making and so I said the first thing that came to my mind. I said 'Ok dad, lets give it one more try.....'.
Anyway, that day when he was leaving, he just said one thing. He said 'Son, you never really deserved it this time around. You never tried hard enough. With all this fun and frolic, it was always going to be an uphill climb. Anyway, thats history. If you want to do anything this time around, just try.... a lot harder and you can get it.'
I cried. I cried for what must have been about 5 minutes. Non stop. Not because I had failed. Not because I hadnt achieved what I had set to. But because I had let down my parents and all those who thought I was capable of it. Because prior to that moment I hadnt even felt bad about it.

The year went by amidst some serious studies and realising the mistakes of the past year. There were several trips to home. There was VVS Laxman's epic innings in between. New friends were made in the hostel. I grew up. A lot. Living alone, caring for myself, cutting out on the fun things in life to achieve something. These were totally new experiences for me but I somehow managed. The experiences of that year, the ups and downs, the agonies and ecstasies are too much to put in this post.

The last day before I would leave for home having done with all my entrance exams, we were having one last bakaiti session. All of us had done reasonably well in the exam and so were expecting a call. The brightest amongst us by a long way had his birthday on the 18th of June, the same day the top 1000 would have their counselling session at IIT Delhi. I told him, 'Chal yaar, milte hain 18th ko Delhi me tera birthday manane.....'. He didnt make it.

There are a lot of factors that affect our lives. Instantaneous decisions, luck, surroundings, circumstances. In hindsight everything looks much more clearer. The mistakes that we made, the what ifs. But thats life. These lines from Rushdie's Midnight's Children put it aptly.

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems - but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible. Suppose yourself in a large cinema, sitting at first in the back row, and gradually moving up, row by row, until your nose is almost pressed against the screen. Gradually the stars' faces dissolve into dancing grain; tiny details assume grotesque proportions; the illusion dissolves - or rather, it becomes clear that the illusion itself is reality.

Those were memorable years. In more ways than one. I dont want to get into the paths I could have taken other than this. That's not the point. Remembering those days which have largely shaped the person I am today, is.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Delhi Walla Blog

Thanks to Sammy, I got an opportunity to write for his cousin Mayank's blog about some of the hangouts around IIT. Here's the link. The original post was modified at places by Mayank and it looks much better now :)