Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The koward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!"
                     oscar wilde , the ballad of reading gaol

When was the last that I thought of you...I know not...but am I the one who goes alone on this path...and should I but care only a little for the souls that follow or those as march ahead?

Mode C is a way of life, perhaps my way of life: C for Cool, C for Cold, C for Chaos, C for Calvin. Ultimately, all of it boils down to the way you look at things. Are they not how they are but just how they appear?? No...and yes...Almost all the seriously critical fundamental concepts of life...aren't they just the bogies under Calvin's bed that he is afraid of? Miss Wormwood, Susie, Mom and Dad, and of course above all, Hobbes...aren't they all merely the means that he uses to attack these bogies?

Reflecting on 'living the Calvin way', I have started to believe that life and our reaction to it can only be explained by a number of Calvin and Hobbes strips combined together. The philosophy, as I like to call it, is to know that you are not alone. It is not just my perspective alone that is going to help me fight my bogies. I will be able to inch towards the Calvin way only when I perceive the other perspectives on my way.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005
Of handwork and french cuts

Although this is a back-dated post, I still wanted to write about what happened to me a few days ago in my sleepy little village (particularly sleepy given the heat wave which makes practically anything else too difficult). As the readers of this blog may be aware, I hail from a small village called Pandeypatti in the district of Buxar in Bihar. This village, as the name suggests, is the fiefdom of a particular caste (of the many that rule the Bihar landscape) and much of what happens here  is guided by the whims and fancies of the village superiors...or it used to be guided by the above. Recently, there has been a marked change in the way the proceedings are carried out and even I have been able to notice it over my last few small visits.

The Buxar town that is flanked by villages like Pandeypatti (that form the Buxar district) is an interesting study, too. With four cinema halls, one big market (big by the rural standards, that is), two mandis (make-shift markets that meet twice or thrice a week and act as a meeting point for sellers and buyers across the district), and one shady Government hospital, the place has got little to boast of apart from the historic battlefield where the famous Battle of Buxar was fought (and which has now been converted into the political playground).

Enough of background now! Let's cut down to what exactly prompted me to write all this. Actually, it was a combination of two incidents that happened one after the other, one in Buxar town and the other in my own village. Taking them in the chronological order, the first of these incidents happened when I was on a visit to the Doctor of Homeopathy who has impressed my mother and sister by his smart talk and some lucky medicine selection that seems to have worked for their repective ailments. My ailment, as per my much-impressed and much-concerned mother and sister, is my thinning mane which needs something to be done about it if there is any chance to marry me off (ok, the marriage part was my addition of the spice, but you get the point, don't you?).

So as I was explaining the encumberances of desired matrimony to this doctor, he suddenly pops up a question and I am taken aback a little, considering the passion with which I was tring to communicate all the worries of my mother and sister and the reciprocal passion with which the doctor put the question to me.

Doctor: Night fall hota hai? (Do you experience night fall?)
Me: Huh?
Doctor: Night fall (with the fall spelt as phaaaal, as if to make me understand)
Me: umm nahi, normally to nahi, kyun? (Well, no...not normally. Why?)
Doctor: Hast kriya (literally translated, Hand Work)?
Me: kya (What)???
Doctor: Hast Kriya karte hain? (Do you indulge in hand work?)
Me: Hast Kriya??? (Hand work...still trying to relate to the terminology)
Doctor: Dekhiye, humse sach bataane me koi problem nahi hai, aakhir hum aapke doctor hain (Listen, there is no problem in telling me the truth...after all, I am your doctor)
Me: Accha, wo! haan karta hoon regularly (Oh that! yeah I do that regularly...suddenly realizing that he is referring to masturbation)

Doctor raises his eyebrows at regularly and looks at me.
I change the word to normally and am eagerly waiting for him to ask me the frequency but unfortunately, the question never comes.

The next incident happened when I was coming back to my village after the emotional meeting (at least for the doctor...he did not speak much in the same tone after hearing regularly, despite my subsequent reversion to normally) with the doctor. As I was passing the last of the nukkads (the corner shops that sell tea, cakes, eggs and such), I overheard the conversation taking place between some four or five young boys (most of them in their late teens) sipping their last cup of tea before going back to their household chores of the evening.

Boy 1: kaa ho, tu gaeel rahla na saloonwa me? (so, you had gone to the saloon, hadn't you?)
Boy 2: haan, gaeel rehni par okra paas na rahe kauno design (yeah, I had but he did not have any design)
Boy 3: Frencho cut na rahal ha? (he didn't even have the french cut?)
Boy 4: are na rahela ekni ke sang ei sab, okra khaatir jaaye ke padi Patna (oh, these people don't have these things, for that you will have to go to Patna)
Boy 2: haan, aur ou phatal boot cut bhi na rahela yaar kapadwa ke dukaan me (yes, pal and even the torn boot cut is not there in the clothes' shop)
Boy 1: aajkal ihe sab achcha laagela lekin ei Buxarwa me saala kauno samjhewaala naikhe (nowadays, only these things look good but in this bloody Buxar, no one understands)

So, no one understands, and as the school drop outs and Lalu's baal charwahas (the sons of cow-grazers for whom Lalu had so famously opened the special schools all across Bihar) discuss boot cut jeans and french cut beards, the doctors in the city are still speaking of masturbation in hushed tones. Probably it makes sense, too and is not that much of a contrast for I wonder what the reply of these french cut and boot cut boys would have been, when asked about the frequency of their hast kriyas...all I can say is carry on, doctor! :-)

Posted at 12:13 pm by Nitai

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Friday, June 10, 2005
Oh boy! The city of...

The sunmmer training process is over and I am waiting for the mail from my project manager approving my report so that I can send the same to the HR and complete the formalities that still remain between me and my goodbyes. Since this is going to be my last post for quite some time (perhaps till I reach IIMK on the 19th of this month), I thought that I might as well jot down some things that struck me the most during the past two months spent in Sonar Bangal (not the seven star ITC hotel with a slightly different referring to Kolkata). So here go a few observations about the city of joy:

Kolkata has a very high beauty quotient. Beauty Quotient, to me, is the natural beauty of the female population (can be accordingly modified by the fairer sex, if they wish so) divided by the forced beauty that is attempted at through tight-fitting clothes, layers of make-up and of course, some strong dieting and exercise to try and maintain that perfect 10. Compared to Bangalore (which has a low quotient because of the high denominator) and Mumbai (where the quotient is a little better but not as well because of the denominator and the numerator being high at the same time) and other places that I have had the opportunity, Kolkata scores probably the highest. The natural beauty of most of the girls and women of Kolkata is supplemented well by the sense (of dressing, carrying themselves, etc) of the not-so-endowed ones to get the quotient quite high.

Kolkata is liberal. It is the only place I have seen (and I admit I haven't seen all) where the ladies sit by the side of the auto driver right in the front. There is no difference between a guy and a girl when it comes to filling an auto (though the buses still have the "ladies" seats), which I believe, is an indication and a fallout of the matriarchical Bengali society that we have all heard of.

Kolkata is not expensive at all. For the typical middle class big-city-dweller, Kolkata is heaven incarnate. Cheap food, cheap lodgings (unless you take up living quarters in the extremely posh or estate scarce areas) and reasonably priced amenities, make Kolkata the cheapest metro to live in.

Kolkata is not cheap either. When I say that Kolkata is one of the cheapest metros to live in, I am not being derogatory. For all its traditional nature and Bengali conservative culture, the city is shaking its chains off and pretty fast at that. The number of nightspots is increasing dime-a-dozen and the number of people (including college goers and the fairer sex) who go out past midnight to return only in the morning hours, is to be seen to be believed. And lest you believe that the middle class is going to have fun here as well, something else is in store for you. The prices are steep (perhaps not as steep as they are in Mumbai but comparable, nevertheless) and as the lifestyle and Page 3 craze gets going, the exclusivity is going to come in big time as an attraction. The prices are bound to follow the exclusive pattern, too.

There are some good cinema halls in Kolkata but not good enough. Be it the INOX or the 89 Cinemas, the multiplex culture is catching up but a little too late. Mumbai is of course right there at the top but even late comers like Bangalore have an edge over Kolkata in this regard. As of now, Kolkata still plays host to cinema halls and multiplexes as a part of a bigger picture of a mall. However, in contrast, at places like Delhi and MUmbai, shopping malls have been built around cinema halls (Priya, PVR...).

Retail is booming in Kolkata. The Pantaloons outlet in Kolkata is their biggest grosser across India. The Pizza Hut at Camac Street, Kolkata is the largest selling Pizza Hut outlet in India. The INOX theatre in Kolkata is again the biggest grosser amongst all INOX theatres in India. The story promises to continue. With Big Bazaar lowering the prices to suit the pockets of the used-to-economy Kolkata inhabitant, there promises to be another surge, putting Kolkata firmly on the map of the retail industry.

Kolkata is going to be the next hot software destination. With places like Salt Lake already filled beyond capacity and new buildings coming up wherever empty space could be seen a few months ago, the scene is picking up. With Wipro having set up one huge facility in Salt Lake and in line to open another at Rajarhat, the upcoming software center of Kolkata and with TCS going full steam ahead with their new building, things can only go up from here. The Kolkata map is expanding like never before to accommodate the new suburbs that have been coming up over the past few months as a part of the software revolution.

Bengalis in Kolkata are turning into one neutral lot. Although the quintessential fights-with-no-blows-and-only-words are there, the Kolkata crowd is fast appreciating the value of silence. The metro culture is creeping in and instead of shouting at the neighbour, the preferred option is to just shut your doors and windows down. with the Marwaari community almost taking the town over from the native Bengalis, the culture is undergoing serious transformation. The helpful and straight-though-immediately-provoked Babu Moshai is disappearing fast but still exists.

Kolkata is hot and HUMID.

The smoke knows no bounds in Kolkata which seems to be the biggest consumer of cigarettes amongst Indian cities.

The PG (paying guest, that is) homes at Kolkata that shut down the doors at 10:30 (inspite of it being an all-guy PG) suck.

The Kolkata metro rocks...even now.

The wooden seats and the general seat layout in Kolkata buses don't.

There are not as many of the North East India people here as are the Biharis and the Oriyas (unexpectedly, for me).

There are some really good hotels in Kolkata (not to mention ITC's 7 star Sonar Bangla).

You can get a cab willing to go anywhere in Kolkata, if you flag it down from Park Street.

The walls and buildings in Park Street remind you of CP in Delhi and VT-Churchgate in Mumbai.

The water in Salt Lake area is to be had with a great deal of caution.

For a non-Bengali, the sugar in the curry is not digestible. Maarwari food outlets in outhouses rock.

There are quite a lot of FM stations in Kolkata and boarding a taxi without an FM radio is sacrilege.

The latest Food Plaza opened at the Howrah railway station serves some quality food and a varied lot at that.

It is difficult to commute from Joka to Dunlop if you are on a time crunch.

The CD renting shop at the BJ market in Salt Lake has an amazing collection.

The classroom at Alliance Francaise has an amazing air conditioner that makes the three hour class possible.

If you want to party hard in Kolkata, you need to have accommodating hosts like Sandipan's folks who can take in a guy at home even at late nights.

The tea and snacks jhups near PwC practices CRM and knows what is to be served to regular customers without their asking.

The libido of Bengali women is not just a fairy tale :-)

Believe it or not, I shall miss Kolkata and remember it fondly ;-)

Believe it, I don't want to come back to Kolkata for any long duration (short visits will be welcome).

Posted at 03:05 pm by Nitai

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Thursday, June 09, 2005
It's June 9, 2005 and I am a score and five

One of the first memories of my birthday celebrations that shall always be a part of my life is looking at my little sister (she was a kiddo then...not even 3...not that I was any older at my 4th birthday) sitting on the window sill all grumpy and teary eyed, with two balloon sticks in one hand and a candy wrapper in another. In fact, I shall always be indebted to whoever took the snap of her sitting there all alone, with her cheeks puffed up on being ignored and her tears having dried up on being given the little consolation she had in the form of the balloons and the candies. I still use the photograph whenever I have to get "kiddo" psyched up. :-)

The cakes and friends and temples and gifts routine carried on for quite some time but most of that is vague and hazy in my mind...till the last of them came about. Incidentally, it was my 13th birthday that was the last one celebrated with all fanfare and gung-ho enthusiasm on part of my parents and guardians. Everyone we knew in the city was called up and invited to the last birthday celebration of a 13-year old (I am not sure but as far as I remember, it was me in one of my crazy want-to-grow-up moods who suggested the birthdays-are-for-kids funda). And what a birthday celebration it was and what amazing gifts!!! It was the birthday when I received my first cricket kit, some "intelligent" board games and all this not for nothing...for it was also the only birthday where added to the usual cake and snacks bit, there was a sumptuous dinner spread for the guests, as well.

And then I was 18. Having already decided to avoid the guests invitation and gifts receiving routine (and unfotunately sticking to the decision), I had my family planning a rather moderate celebration and how moderate it was!!! We went to one of the most expensive and stylish and considered-hep restaurants of the city and reserved a table for nearly twenty (yes, that was the number of relatives whose presence blessed my trasition to legal adulthood). I had a ball that day and still carry so many memories of the Nana and Nani got into the party mood for the first my Mausis and Mami pulled my leg every minute of the first day of my adult I laughed and laughed and laughed!

The mother of all parties, however, was when I turned 21 and when I gave a birthday treat to my friends out of my own hard-earned money, for the very first time. I was in Bangalore then, working as a research assistant under the fellowship program of JNCASR (Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research) and had received the monthly stipend of three thousand bucks for the month of May. About ten of my batchmates from engineering were doing their summer projects in Bangalore at the time and then of course, there was Shabana from JNCASR. I don't know where you are, Shabana but this memory shall always be incomplete without you...without your childish enthusiasm, without your corn cobs...without the great friendship that we had. And before I forget, it was also the time when we had some good fun with another of my good friends. Ashish, with his girl-who-was-born-on-the-same-day connection and the rest of us, with the freshly created mail id inviting him for the girl's birthday treat...that birthday was FUN. In fact, whenever my friends from college wish me on my birthday post that year, they always refer to "that party we had...when's something similar happening again?" Probably never...but who knows!

I went out with my PG room-mates last night and thanks to the extra half hour that the PG aunty graciously allowed us post closing time, we were back after a good (though expensive :-( ) dinner and back to open doors for a change. The cake was there, courtesy Anurag and so were the cards with all those whacky messages. And then it was keep the cell phone in one hand pressed hard to the ears and the knife in another slicing the cake in one sweet motion amidst loud cheers of "Happy Birthday to you". There is another party due tonight with all the summer trainees (thanks to Orkut, my birth date is not something I had to shout from the rooftop for the others at PG or office to know...I know that you were not thinking I had done something like that but still... ;-)). Thnakfully, this party involves a fixed (though by no means small) contribution from me and the rest is going to be pooled in by everybody as the contribution to the summers-at-PwC-Kolkata farewell party.

Since it is my birthday, I will leave the cynicism part for some other day and won't talk about how wishing people on their birthday is fast becoming a social farce and how long-lost friendships seem to come out of thin air as soon as the birthday comes and get lost into oblivion a day later. But didn't I say I will not talk about this? So long then and thanks for all the wishes!

Posted at 01:00 pm by Nitai

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The drums are rolling..a la..a la...a la la la

Congratulations are in order (in no particular order...ain't I funny :-)) to:

Yash Sehgal, for becoming a certified derivatives and commodities trader

Vishak Hemchand and Rahul Nallari, for keeping Ernst & Young buzzing all summers and grabbing a PPO (pre-placement offer) each

Rajan Venugopal and Nimish Menon, for doing the same at GE Money

R Vishwanathan, ditto for Wipro

Jaspreet Chandok, who did the same at ICICI OneSource

Kunal Bharadwaj, for the PPO at Godrej and Boyce

Rohit Bansal, for bagging the second best summer project award at Godrej

Kiran Rama, Manish Shukla, and Prashant Kowshik, for receiving a PPI (pre-placement interview) each from Patni

Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode,
for being brave, bullish, and agressive enough to increase the batch strength to 180 (from 120)

The Class of 2006 at IIMK, for the success stories yet to come and for making their mark wherever they went this summer

The Class of 2007 at IIMK, for having decided to spend the next two years of their lives at God's own campus.

Sandipan and poor-ole-me, for having managed to scrape through the summers :-))

Posted at 06:15 pm by Nitai

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Monday, June 06, 2005
From the mountains to the lakes

As the taxi driver steers the vehicle over the umpteenth uncovered manhole, a smile starts playing on his lips while he calculates the huge fare that he is about to receive from the four co-passengers...people who, he thinks, can not even comprehend the speed of his thoughts...who have no way to know that he can calculate 1.7 times the meter reading faster than they can say "Joka Management". And what about these co-passengers? They appear to be tense and seem to have little time to devote to saying "Joka Management" (having already said that when they had specified their destination). They have even less time to think of the taxi fare or ponder needlessly over the extended tables of 1.7. All they are worried about right now is a place called Pailan where the last of thier saviours exist.

It is eleven in the evening (evening!!! exclaims the taxi driver but who's listening) and there is the whole night that is to be brought to life. Bringing nights to life, if you have not noticed it already, requires a little more than idle chanter and any charms that even the elusive Joka Management might have for the first timers (which is the category that entails three of the four co-passengers of the now-never-been-happier taxi driver). As the taxi screams down the dirt track, putting all dirt track taxis of the world to shame and screeches (okay, maybe whimpers) to a halt outside the place that the helpful directions refer to, the co-passengers stare in amazement at the run-down dhaaba and the even more run down (if that is even remotely possible) surroundings. But cease the amazement does as the saviour comes forth from the drakness with his shining torch, the elusive elixir that promises to bring the life to the night ahead.

Tucking the nectar under their arms, they make their entry into their nightspot. As the first of the lakes looms up on the visible horizon, there is very little for the first time visitors to drop down for. This however, as promised, is not all and yet to come are the gleaming beauties of OH, the NH, and of course, the WH. As the taxi toils on (but not the taxi driver...he knows what's coming and is...lovin' it), some more lakes pass unnoticed and so do some of the monuments of learning that stand quite close to but quite different from those of education (if it is not too difficult to get, I am sure that you must have realized that I am talking about the academic and the hostel blocks).

Finally, the deserted Annexe welcomes the weary travellers but with nectar in its various forms to refresh one and all, the weariness is soon washed away (or perhaps down) in tune with the exit of the taxi driver (who could not hide his hideous grin as two papers with an old man staring out passed hands). A couple of people can be heard (seeing is difficult because of the all pervasive darkness...of soul??) moving in and lest there be panic, there appears light at the end of the staircase. As the party moves up the staircase and looks down at the central quad, short talk of the possibilites of one-tip-one-hand cricket passes around.

And then there comes civilization as the travellers knew it. The computer screen is flashing, the speakers blaring and the playlist stuck (that was after one of the travellers tampered with it) at the "Kajraare kajraare" song from Bunty aur Babli. Like moths get attracted to a light bulb, the nectar does bring life to the sleeping campus (or would you prefer to say that  no one had been home at all...not yet?) as the room next to the top floor square gets filled up with intertwining limbs and light hearts. The neighbours are not in and they shouldn't have been especially since the genesis can be quite upsetting for some but then...perhaps not for this neighbour. Paper leaves orphaned and even the book trees abandoned, the beast sits proudly. The future Frankenstein and/or(?) Dhapadhap is stationed in the corner in all its glory and as the new comers struggle to get the better of its experience, the beast plays along.

It is time soon for the ultimate journey...the goal whose pursuit had brought the new comers to this strange land. Despite having come from the hills and having lived on clean and thin air, they were prepared for what was to come. As the bridge (with a famous name sake) appeared and the stories were re-laid about morning sojourns and nightly crawlings, the visitors are amused...the grass lands they come from and the wood and concrete and iron that they find...interesting is all that they say with any sort of commitment. The next in line are the temples. The travellers are wondering if the temples are spelt as Temples and while all this wondering is happening, their eyes dart all over the pithy quotes strewn all over the place. There  is darkness all around but as must have been the case with earlier visitors (in front of whom the temples are always showcased), they seem to feel the light.

From temples, across muddy lawns after the evening's showers that were not threatening enough to act as spoilers, our vaoyageurs move on to the Big one. The nearly 500 seating auditorium with enclosing lakes in abandon (and of course, the only  parking lot nearby) seems to entice the travellers, mock them with its grandeur at the same time. While they ponder on all this and pass by the academia again, they stop...not physically but to apply their thoughts...what lies beneath, they speak aloud?

And then come the tales of glory, of tradition and bravery...of raids on the enemy and the wars...of digging the tyre in and getting it out...of liquids less than a month old...of booking advertising space by forming human chains...of the con and the parties...of other nights that have been brought to life earlier...of the silver jubilee reunions...of the hang outs and the jetty...of boating round and round and not being able to find the shore...of climbing atop the 70 feet high water tank and getting scared coming down...of much much more.

As the travails of the day start taking their toll and the wanderlust seems to have taken a break, and as the firt timers retire to bed, one of them can not but think of what sets this place apart. It is not the lakes...not the buildings...not even the bridge or the temples or the audi or the huge acres of land that stare at you as you peek out of the balcony. It is people who have made this place what it is right now. It is not by virtue of being the oldest that it is grand, but it is by virtue of having played host to people who wish to return, to keep themselves associated with the tradition that they had helped set up.

It is because of all these things that one of those three people, the new comer...the traveller...the first timer, while setting his body and mind to rest on a very early Sunday morning, says his final words aloud, "I salute you, IIM Calcutta".

Posted at 05:54 pm by Nitai

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