Friday, September 1, 2017

To Run or not to Run...

Over the course of the past two weeks I experienced contrasting reactions to an activity I perform regularly. The reactions left me amused and also served as a confirmation that I am now part of a generation that is right in the middle of a curious but affable previous generation and an inquisitive but unafraid next generation.

Last week, I was in Ludhiana for three days and stayed in one of the innumerable hotels on Ferozepur Road. Ferozepur Road is a broad, well-maintained road which is ideal for an early morning jog. I generally jog on the road and try to find long circular routes to avoid monotony of repeating the same stretch over and over. I found a lovely route from Ferozepur Road to Mall road which also had a fairly empty stretch where middle-aged and elderly people come for their morning walks. One such gentleman saw me jogging with my now customary Mobile-holder Armband strapped to my left arm. He stopped me, not with a show of hand, but with a bright smile and a question. 

Beta, What is it that you are wearing”, he asked, pointing at my armband.

I slowed down to his pace and explained to him about the mobile which also had a running application which tracked my speed, distance and calories among other things.

He seemed really impressed.

“How long do you run every day?” he asked.

“4-5 kilometers on average”, I replied.

“That is very good. Carry on Beta”, he smiled and bade me farewell.

I felt energized by this conversation as it had absolutely no motive other than curiosity and genuine warmth from the gentleman’s side and an eagerness to reply out of deference from my side. I also felt younger by his loving reference to me as beta.

This was an enduring memory of my long trip to Punjab and Delhi which culminated with my return to Bangalore last week.

My early morning office hours in Bangalore has forced me to reschedule my daily jogs to evenings. I usually go for my evening runs at around 6:30 pm which also happens to be the prime playing time for the children in my apartment. I remember my childhood when most of us talked only to our age group or at best to boys or girls just a few years elder to us. But today’s children are altogether different. They have no qualms about speaking to anyone and everyone.

As I stepped down for my evening run yesterday, a badminton racquet-wielding boy came up to me.

“Going for a walk Uncle?” he asked.

I gave myself a once over before replying. I had put on a pretty decent dry-fit tee-shirt over running shorts and was also wearing my Nike Lite running shoes. Even after exuding so much coolness I was getting ‘Uncle’!

That’s when I realized I was not wearing my mobile-holder armband. I immediately tucked in my belly and brought out the armband from my pocket.

“Going for a jog”, I replied, while giving him a supercilious smile as he curiously watched me wearing my armband. I was sure his impression of me being a middle-aged uncle would have changed now.

“What is it that you are wearing?” he asked.

I felt a wave of satisfaction as I explained to him about the running application in the mobile which I was wearing.

“Oh! So you don’t have a Fitbit?” he asked.

It felt as if someone punched me in the stomach.

“No”, I replied meekly.


“You should really get a Fitbit. It is much better than carrying around your mobile in an armband Uncle”, he further advised.

It felt as if someone thumped me on the back before I could recover from the punch in my stomach.

I thanked him and moved away from his eyesight before the impending extra-long inhalation brought my belly back to its original position.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Death

An eerie stillness succeeds the crude shock
As they see the termination of their life’s clock
The warmth when he lived gives way to the grim cold of death
That animal can consume someone even in his prime health

Friends reminisce, relative anguish
Even Foes forgive and join the languish
Stories emerge, nostalgia strengthens
In dire hopes that the inevitable lengthens

The son slowly readies for the formal last rites
The pain in his heart reaches tumultuous heights
He drenches his body from head to toe
Hoping it would drown the piling sorrow

Before proceeding he goes to his mother
Unable to face, he prostrates before her
She raises her hand, as if to bless
Something breaks in me, I become a mess

At no more than twenty six years of age
He is about to cremate his immediate lineage
I think through the heaviness for justification
I encounter blankness, and a lot of frustration




Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thoughts on Dangal

There is a scene in Dangal where Sakshi Tanwar’s Daya Phogat wonders aloud to her husband that she is unable to understand his methods to drive their daughters towards a career in the sport of wrestling. Aamir Khan’s Mahavir Phogat replies that he is in a situation where he can either be a Teacher (Guru) or a father, but not both. The line is intended towards the audience lest they end up thinking what a cruel father Phogat was. Towards the later part of the movie we get a brilliant scene where Phogat’s elder daughter Geeta calls home and asks to speak to her father. This scene is preceded by an ego-cum-wrestling clash between the teacher Phogat and the student Geeta. As Daya hands over the phone to her husband, we get to see the Teacher Phogat say a brusque ‘Haan’ intended to the student Geeta. But what he hears is sobbing at the other end, from the daughter Geeta. At that instant, the Teacher Phogat and the Father Phogat fight an internal battle and merge into one. Aamir Khan aces this scene in a way only he can and succeeds in making the audience buy this metamorphosis. I found this scene to be the most significant one in this brilliantly made sports drama.
 
While there have been many discussions as to whether Dangal is feminist or patriarchal, I personally found the cusp of the movie to be this metamorphosis of the Teacher and the Father. Of course, the movie had an engaging screenplay with some of the best casting one could see in a Hindi movie. Aamir Khan is easily the most assured star of Indian cinema. He doesn’t need all 161 minutes of screen time to enhance his stardom. He lets the new girls hog the limelight for most part of the movie while coming up with frequent scene-stealing performances. The Girls, be it Zaira and Suhani as the younger versions of the Phogat sisters or Fatima and Sana as the elder versions, are pitch perfect in casting as well as performance. It is hard to believe they are young actors and not actual wrestlers. While credit for this must go to the girls, a significant part of it must also go to the wrestling choreographer Kripa Shankar Bishnoi. The wrestling sequences were absolutely nail biting and never once felt staged. The second half is packed with so much of wrestling action that if there had been a slight misstep in the action choreography, it would have impacted the whole movie. But the sequences end up saving even the otherwise clich├ęd jingoistic climax.

As Geeta stands on the podium with her medal and the national anthem plays out, we see Phogat reacting like the true blue nationalist sportsman who has helped his country win an international gold medal. It is ironic that Phogat was played to perfection by the very same actor who was called out for being ‘anti-national’ and asked to leave the country if he found it ‘intolerant’. If Aamir Khan can give us a movie like Dangal every year, I personally wouldn’t give two hoots as to whether he is a chest-thumping patriot or not.


Friday, November 25, 2016

One Ticket to Bhayander

“How was your day?’ Sudeshna asked as her son made his way into his room.

He gave an almost imperceptible upward nod of his head to indicate nothing out of the ordinary happened, grabbed a towel and went into the washroom. Sudeshna waited carefully till she heard the bolt of the bathroom door and the sound of running water. With one eye on the bathroom door, she quickly went through his bag. She heaved a sigh of relief as she found nothing which she was afraid she would find. But that didn’t mean she would stop this routine of searching his belongings or keeping an eye on him.

She remembered the day vividly. She had just sat down after lunch to catch up on the series of Marathi soap operas on television when the landline had started to ring. The Principal of NMCC, the college where her son studied, had been on the other end of the line.

“This is regarding your son, Mrs. Kale. He seems to be permanently in a trance and least bothered about courses or exams. He already has very poor attendance and hasn’t come to the college today also, despite knowing there is a cycle test which has 30% weightage for the semester grades”, he had said.

Not knowing how to react, she had assured the principal that she would talk about this to her son and make him understand. She had been puzzled. Just as she had been about to call her son on his mobile, the landline had rang again. This time the voice on the other end was that of a stranger.

“Are you related to Mr. Pramod Kale?”

“Yes I am his mother. Who is this?”

“Sorry to say this madam. Your son attempted to kill himself by lying down on the railway track. One of our constables saw him and has brought him to the police station. Can you please come down to Parel Police Station?”

She had found out a whole new side to her Son that day. She had seen a vacant frozen look on his face that sent a chill down her spine. Her attempts at drawing him out and finding a reason for his depression were futile and she had no choice but to resort to professional medical help. She had lost count of the number of psychologists and psychiatrists she had taken Pramod to, after that day. While most of them were quick in their diagnosis of depression, none of them could give any clarity on the reason for the same.

It had been three years since that fateful day. The paranoia of checking her son’s belongings and following his movements in and out of the house had started since then and had not stopped. Pramod hardly talked to anyone anymore. Though he had scraped through college and started working in a local digital media company in the Kamla Mills compound, Sudeshna lived in constant fear. The only reason she had been fine with Pramod going to work was due to the fact that the company was situated at a walking distance from their house.  

But, over the last week or so, she had noticed an ever so slight change in her son’s demeanor. While he continued to converse in monosyllables with Sudeshna, she definitely found a positive change in him. She noticed it for the first time a week ago when he had a slight smile on his face when he had come out after a shower. Today, she was pleasantly taken aback by his off-tune whistling of the song Yad Lagle from the famous Marathi movie Sairat as he came out of the washroom. As he made his way into the hall, she went into the washroom. Nothing seemed to be out of place. Just as she turned to move out, her eyes fell on the box of detergent on the shelf. It seemed to be precariously balanced on something. She went across and lifted the box. Under it was a bunch of local train tickets. There were about eight of them, each bought over the past eight days. They were all tickets to the same destination – Bhayander.

Questions started flooding her mind. Pramod’s office was in Parel. Why were there eight tickets to Bhayander lying in the bathroom? And why were there only one way tickets and not a single return ticket to be found among them? Sudeshna was perplexed. She had been following Pramod to his office ever since he had started working there and he had always gone straight from their home to office every day, including these past eight days. Then it struck her! She raced back to the bathroom and grabbed the tickets again. Her eyes scanned the top right hand corner of each ticket – the time on all of them were between 13:10 and 13:15 – lunch hour at office.

***********************************************
The next day, Sudeshna was outside his office by12:45 pm. He came out exactly at 1:00 pm and started walking towards Lower Parel station. There was an unusual spring in his step. She followed him at a safe distance. He climbed the stairs and stood in line at the ticket counter. She stood a few feet behind him. He approached the counter and said “One ticket to Bhayander”.

She was surprised to find the sudden softness in his voice. It was as though his voice contained a smile of its own. As he took the ticket and walked back, she turned away, careful not to reveal herself. She could notice the same slight smile on his lips. As he moved towards the staircase, he started to whistle Yad lagle in his off-tuned style. As she leaned backward to get a better view, she could see him heading out of the station. The line in front of her was now non-existent and she found herself at the ticket counter. That was when she noticed the girl at the counter. She seemed to be in her early twenties, with curly hair, a pleasant smiling face and dusky complexion. The oval-shaped sandalwood bindi´ on her forehead enhanced her beauty manifold. Sudeshna noticed how crisp her salwar looked despite being old. There emanated from her a quiet sense of confidence and dignity. Sudeshna quickly got a ticket and made her way back home.

That evening she did not ask Pramod the usual question about his work. Nor, did she carry out her usual check of his bag. He finished his bath, came to the hall and sat on the sofa. She came by and sat next to him.

“You should tell her that you like her, Pramod’ she said.

Pramod did not respond. She could see that his mind was struggling to come up with questions and more importantly, reasons. She put a hand gently on his shoulder.

“Why don’t you tell her when you buy the ticket tomorrow?’ she asked.

Pramod slowly looked at her. He consciously smiled for the first time in a few years.

“I saw her a few days ago when I came out of the office during lunch. I followed her and found out that she worked in the Lower parel ticket counter. But I didn’t know how to approach her. So I went and stood at the counter. When my turn came I just asked for a ticket to the first station I noticed on the map”, he blurted.

This was the most he had talked in a few years. Sudeshna could barely hide her happiness as she listened to her son elaborate on his first love.

“I have been repeating this since then. I just feel happy whenever I think of those few seconds I spend with her. Those few seconds drive the remainder of my day”, he continued.

“Then imagine if those few seconds can transform to a lifetime”, Sudeshna said.

“But how do I ask her Aaiyee?”

Sudeshna couldn’t control her tears. Pramod acknowledged her relation to him by calling her Aaiyee after so many years. It was in high school that she remembered him lovingly call her Aaiyee. She wiped her tears and looked at him.

“Take a leaf out of her book. Be simple and straight”, she said.

***********************************************

The next day as he stood at the ticket counter, he could feel his heart thumping. He smiled at her as his turn came. She recognized him and returned the smile.

“Two tickets to Bhayander”, He said.

“Oh! So you have a companion today for your travel”, she said as she punched the tickets.

“I will, if you say yes”, he said.

***********************************************

They got married three months later.

The first local train journey they took after marriage was from Lower Parel to Bhayander.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Iruvar - Cinema that flows

The enduring image I had of Iruvar before actually seeing the full movie in 2003 was Aishwarya Rai’s bottle-green dress backed by Harini’s sonorous voice singing “Hello Mr. Ethirkatchi”. I found this image captivating, not because of Aishwarya Rai but because it was a song from a Mani Ratnam movie. 



Like most of my wannabe-intellectual friends I became a Mani Ratnam fan long before I saw this gem of a movie. In fact most of us do not know why we became Mani Ratnam fans. Was it because his movies struck a chord with us? Was it because he chose to make movies that attempted to be more relatable and grounded? Or was it because he genuinely believed in the marriage of the commercial and the connoisseur aspects of cinema? It could have been any of these reasons, but if truth be told, we became Mani Ratnam fans because we wanted to project ourselves as intellectuals. I always had this notion that people believed that someone who loved Mani’s movies had to have a certain level of intelligence. This was the fodder for the fan in me, until I read Baradwaj Rangan’s ‘Conversations with Mani Ratnam’ and decided to revisit his movies. This myth of mine came unfounded and hence I decided to dig up my dormant blog to write about it. I could have written about Mouna Ragam’s poignant brilliance, Thiruda Thiruda’s extreme irreverence or Roja’s patriotic love but after watching Iruvar, there was no hesitation in my mind as to which movie to base this post upon.

Iruvar, in my humble opinion, is Mani Ratnam’s best work till date and not a single movie of his, save Kannathil Muthamittal to an extent, has even come close to the poetic flow that this movie has. Most of Mani’s other movies can be easily defined as a collection of brilliantly conceptualized scenes put together by masterful screenplay and strengthened by brilliant performances. Iruvar, on the other hand, consists of these sweeping sketches, each of which covers a phase of the protagonists’ life graph. The signature style of Mani ratnam – Shadow and lighting contrast – is limited in Iruvar. The film instead has a very different type of contrast. It has a highly detailed period setting as far as visuals are concerned and these visuals are contrasted by music that is stylized to give a modern feel to this setting. The song ‘Aayiratthil Naan Oruvan’ is a superb example of this. While Mohan Lal’s costume and the whole setting of the song are detailed in period, the music gives a periodic feel only with respect to lyrics and the voice. Otherwise the song is replete with electric guitar and pads. Another striking aspect of Iruvar is the manner in which Mani has written the two lead characters. Both the characters have a core and a periphery. A simplistic biopic could have easily imitated the periphery of these well-known stars – similar costumes, voice modulations, looks - thereby instantly invoking their memories in the audience mind. But Mani chose the more difficult route. He imitated the core. At the core of Anandan was a larger-than-life actor, a romantic and a charismatic do-gooder. The context was left to Mohan Lal and he came out with a performance that shouted out ‘MGR’s core while conceptualizing a periphery of his own. Similarly, at the core of Thamizhchelvan was a writer, a wizard with words and a fierce Dravidian. I don’t need to say anything further about Prakash Raj’s portrayal of this character.


After the protagonists and the ensemble cast, each of whom came up with such a stellar yet sedate performance, the backbone of the movie, I felt, were Vairamuthu’s poems. When Prakash Raj mouthed lines like “Unnoadu Naan Iruntha Ovvoru Mani Thuliyum Marana Padukkayilum Marakkaathu Kanmaniyae” or “Udal mannukku Uyir Thamizhukku Idhai urakka cholvom ulagukku” I was mesmerized by the beauty of my mother tongue and also surprised by how easily I was able to understand these lines. Vairamuthu’s poems actually added a commercial aspect to the film by taking the viewer back to the sixties – the era of cinematic influence. 

Iruvar was the first movie to be produced by Mani Ratnam’s home banner – Madras Talkies. When people conclude that Mani produced this movie because he wanted to do away with commercial pressures that tag along when other companies produce his films, they have missed seeing the movie for what it actually was – a movie aimed to entertain. Even the second or third viewing of Iruvar will have you in rapt attention. Mani attempts to captivate the viewer not by forcible induction of masala, but through beautiful visuals, brilliant performances and, above all, the trust he places on the viewer.

Mani Ratnam does not necessarily acknowledge the intelligence of his audience. He simply refuses to assume their gullibility. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

THE SECOND INNINGS


“Look at straightness of his elbow!” exclaimed Raman, slapping his six year old son on the back. Swami smiled gleefully as the little man on the screen punched another good length ball to the boundary.

Swami was introduced to cricket by his father on a rainy Monday. He did not want to attend school and his mother would hear none of it. Raman, however, reasoned with her.

“Let the child rest. As it is I am not going to office today. I will take care of him”.

Jaya smiled.

“So, what was his score overnight? “She asked.

Raman grinned sheepishly and went out to get the morning paper.

The bond between Raman and his son started because of one man – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. That Monday changed the relationship between them as Sachin (thirty seven not out overnight on a tricky Mumbai wicket) went on to score a memorable century. A bewitched Swami fell into the world of Sachinism and, like millions of Indians, became its permanent occupant. His father was a purist as far as cricket was concerned and regarded Sachin as the most complete batsman. The expansive extolments by his father coupled with the string of breath-taking innings that Sachin played ensured that Swami matched his dad when it came to worshipping Sachin.

As the years passed Cricket and Sachin were the only topics that bound a rather fragile father-son relationship. Even after this mutual interest, the two of them found very few topics on which they were comfortable conversing with each other. Discussion regarding Sachin’s innings or India’s victory would last for hours after which there would be periods of awkward silence before both of them went their respective ways to mind their businesses. Further, College outside hometown and a subsequent job in North India meant that the relationship between Raman and Swami grew even more dysfunctional. Whenever Swami called home and Raman picked up, there would be uneasy pauses before either he asked for mother or Raman passed over the phone to his wife.

Fifteen years went by like this before Swami got an unexpected transfer back to his hometown. This meant that suddenly he was forced to spend more time with Raman. Like Swami, Raman had also changed. His conversations were now limited to Jaya and his need for companionship made him irritable on many occasions. When he got to know that Swami was coming back, he felt a surge of happiness mixed with a small dose of apprehension. What if his son carried the mannerisms he exhibited over the phone into the house? It had been more than ten years since they had had a decent one-on-one talk. When Swami arrived home and smiled at his mother while giving a perfunctory nod at Raman, his fears were confirmed. His son had almost become a stranger to him.

Swami’s views and outlook had changed a lot in the years he had stayed away from home. The same laidback, joke-cracking Raman who he used to look up to was now a source of annoyance to him. He despised the conservative attitude of his father and his insistence on following rules and regulations, even at home. Raman’s constant jibes at Jaya for issues of inconsequence irked him. When Raman tried to impose these rules on him as well, Swami’s attitude towards his father went from bad to worse. He gave a deaf ear to Raman’s pleas and appeals and refused to even look him in the eye.

Swami felt thankful for Sundays as it was a holiday for him and both his parents. This meant that he needn’t be alone with Raman. Saturdays, though, were a nightmare as Jaya went to work while Swami and Raman had holidays. Swami tried to avoid staying home on Saturdays by planning meetings with school friends, colleagues and even cousins. Another significant change in Swami was the fact that cricket had lost its charm on him. Sachin was no more the boy wonder who drew Swami to cricket and made him bunk school and college lectures. He was a tired old man trying his best to leave the cricketing scene with dignity. It had been three years since he had scored a century. Naturally the cricket conversations between Swami and Raman had become almost non-existent.

It was a usual Saturday morning and Swami was getting ready to flee the house as quickly as he could. The TV blared in a volume high enough for the whole apartment to hear, which was typical of Raman whenever he saw TV. Swami felt a bout of irritation creeping into him.

As he crossed the hallway he caught a glimpse of the TV. Live cricket was going on between India and Australia. He wanted to get across and out of the door quickly, but something held him back. The moment he slowed down, a wicket fell. India was now two down. Sachin Tendulkar walked into the ground. Swami cast a sideways glance at Raman and was surprised to see the familiar glint in his eyes. After all these years, the expectancy had not reduced one bit. He felt somewhat ashamed at his own loss of faith while his sixty year old father’s enthusiasm had not diminished at all. He looked back at the screen as Sachin took guard. The all-too-familiar body language of the champion had not changed. The fuss with the sightscreen, the adjustments in the groin area, the slight nod of the head, they were all intact. There was one difference though. The twinkly eyes had given way to a look of steely determination. He faced the first ball with a decisive forward movement and defended with a full-straight bat. Raman smiled eagerly. Swami knew that the old Raman would have immediately made his trademark comment – “Ah! The forward movement! He looks good today.” There was no comment from his father though. That moment threw open a floodgate of memories for Swami. He felt a pang of guilt at having side-lined the two men who had made sacrifices in their own capacities to nurture the love for cricket in him – Sachin Tendulkar and his father.

He pulled up a chair and sat down. The next ball was just short of good length. Sachin went back and punched it down the ground. The ball raced to the boundary.


Swami looked into his father’s eyes for the first time in many years.

“Look at the straightness of his elbow!” He exclaimed.

And thus began their second innings... 

Friday, November 9, 2012

We know what we did this 'SUMMERS'


Disclaimer: This post is a mixture of truth, exaggeration and utter lies, but in order to preserve the safety of my provisional summer internship offer I am not going to reveal which parts are true, which are exaggerated and which ones are utter lies. So I am giving a disclaimer within a disclaimer: I am not responsible for this disclaimer nor the disclaimer outside this disclaimer and whatever I post cannot be taken at face value.

I was under the impression that business school involved this high-funda lifestyle where people got together for group projects as if they were convening an annual general body meeting, cracked challenging problems like they were born business magnates, germinated path-breaking entrepreneurial ideas and, most importantly, had absolutely no restrictions to venture into girls’ rooms. Three months into B-school, only one of the above myths turned out to be true (you might hazard a guess as to which one, but I am not revealing it). We still mugged, we still procrastinated everything to the last moment, we still felt happy when people around us did badly in a particular quiz or exam and we still tried our best to catch the cute girl’s attention (at least most boys, and maybe, a few girls).

Ultimately, most of us had one goal for getting into a B-school – placements (most of us won’t accept this openly). The summer recruitment, which used to be a two-month exposure for enthusiastic management students, has transformed into a genuine opportunity at high-paying PPO giving jobs. So the tension of summers was in the air at least a month before the actual process started at my school. I tried to go with the group and force some tension into myself, but my efforts were in vain. I had found a cosy little group which had troubles similar to mine and we ended up preparing together for the summers. Now, imagine three to four people, all pretty thick-skinned to worry too much about summers, PPOs and ‘day zero’ shortlists sitting together every night to prepare for the same. Naturally, we ended up discussing one-sided crushes, Sridevi’s hottest songs, which different place to order food from, how our future wives should be and other such topics. Suddenly Day zero of placements arrived. Obviously, we didn't have any shortlists, but were expected to be present in something called the ‘common pool’ so that we would feel ‘part’ of the process. I decided to add a little creativity to being part of the process by wearing a bright pink shirt and an even brighter red tie for this common pool assembly on ‘day zee’, as the ones who got the coveted calls referred to it. Day zee was a breeze for me as I just sat around for most of it, only getting up to congratulate the people who cracked their shortlists. I had a heavy lunch and decided to take a short nap, commonly referred to as ‘SNAP’ by us lazy non-day zee people. I reached my room, divested myself off the layered apparels I was forced to wear and slept like a baby. I was woken by someone urgently asking me to come back to the common pool as some venture capital firm had shortlisted me for an interview. I cursed the firm and its owner using some choicest native abuses as I struggled with my double knot. As I sat waiting in the common pool, I was handed a copy which briefly described what this firm did. There was no reason for this firm to shortlist me based on my resume or profile, so I was still hoping for some placement rep. to come over to me and apologize  saying that there has been some mistake and I was not in the shortlist after all. The placement rep. did come, but only to escort me to my interview room. After an embarrassing forty-five minutes with the founder of this focused Venture firm, I decided to never apply to companies just for the heck of it; otherwise such shocks are bound to occur.

Day zee was followed by the group discussion day, where all the marketing and general management companies’ shortlisted people for group discussions and these people got together and did everything but physically and verbally abuse each other. I got the first shortlist that was out and felt pretty pumped up. It was scheduled at 6:30 am, so I was expecting a day packed with group discussions after that.

That was the only shortlist I got; of course I didn’t convert it.

So we trotted on to day zero-point-five (don’t even ask me to explain the logic behind this bizarre numbering). With no shortlists in the vicinity and people around me getting placed left right and centre, a group of us started to see the funny side of things. We realised that we were the ‘paneer’ gang – the group which stood at marriage hall entrances and sprinkled rose water (paneer) on the guests. The only difference was that we were standing in the common pool and showering wishes on the people who got placed. We formed a circle, discussed random topics, waited for the caterers to appear with the morning tiffin, intermediary fruit plates, tea/coffee, afternoon lunch, evening snacks and night dinner. Overall, it was a perfect marriage-hall experience. I got a group discussion shortlist in between my ‘paneer’ commitments. This time, I buttered up the panel by thanking them for giving us this chance to discuss. Apart from that whatever I spoke had tremendous likeness to whatever I excreted in the morning. As you would have guessed by now, I cleared the Group discussion round and got an interview shortlist. The interview went better than I expected and when the HR lady asked if I viewed their firm as a long-term, say twenty year, career option I was pretty certain that they would be extending an offer to me. I came out of the interview room, phone ready in my hand and my home residence number already scrolled and my thumb on the call button. The placement rep. came and informed me that I can go and wait in the common pool for other interviews as the firm was not considering me for further rounds or offer.  I switched off my mobile and went back to the common pool. I resumed my paneer commitments for an hour or so before another PR came to me, stating that a major media firm is calling me for an interview. I trudged along once again, my mind almost blank and my eyes droopy. I remember being asked about brand perception and brand image during the interview and if you ask me even now, I would not be in a position to answer these questions. I do not remember how I answered them during the interview, but the company extended an offer to me.

I entered the common pool with a smile plastered on my face. The ‘paneer’ gang continued its work albeit a touch emotionally, as it had lost one of its members.

The ‘sprinkler’ had become the ‘sprinklee’