Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A bit of introspection...

There are events in life which change you. Now that might seem as a bit of an understatement or stating of an obvious fact. But although these things keep happening, we rarely realize what exactly has changed in us due to them. This change is rather subtle, till one fine day it hits you.

Term breaks here are short, and time is scarce. Going back by train takes more or less 24 hours, which means that from the 10 days that we have as a break every 3 months, 2 go in traveling to and fro Pune. Which makes the case for traveling by air, maybe once every trip, decently strong. A lot of people do that, and my parents also keep asking me to do the same. However, I always refuse to, refuse to even travel by AC. It's not because I am a bit of a miser, which I admit to being. It's just that I tend to feel that I am not worth it. My time is not so precious that I fly in and out like a bloody prince.

Now, things weren't always like this. I remember one fine day in April 2007. The IIM results had been delayed (the first time around, when I had set targets for botching things up which few people could match :) ), and I grudgingly had to go and pay fees at IMT-G to reserve a seat. I was without a job and had nothing to do while waiting for the results. And I look back now, and find it difficult to believe what I did - I flew to and fro Delhi. I am pretty appalled by it now. I mean there I was, with absolutely nothing to do, and flying around for no good reason, when I could have perfectly easily taken the train and saved a good lot of money. I now wonder, had the IIM calls gone to my head? Had I become proud and vain and conceited, and thought too much of my time and comfort? Maybe I had. I shudder to think of myself like that, I'd hate to be like that. And yet I was.

Maybe the IIM shocker that year did me more good than I ascribe to it. Maybe it just prevented me from turning into one of those conceited, pompous buggers who think no end of themselves. Sometimes, it takes a good, hard shake-up to make things clear. Sure enough, I made it into the IIMs, but without, hopefully, turning into a prick. Somehow, that shock, and the events that followed over the next 12 months or so affected me so deeply, that it has changed me subtly in many ways - at least I believe so. When people ask me, as they often do, why I don't fly down, the answer is clear - because me and the time aren't worth it. It's not just about flying, of course, that is just something which is an obvious change. It's more with the way I tend to look at life and not take things, situations and people for granted. Which I was guilty of doing, for sure, earlier. Maybe I'll stop looking at the professors in IIMK who rejected me the first time around and going, why? Of course, it was never a angry, justify why kind of why, just a curious, scared, one.

Trains rock!

There's something about standing at the door of a train bogie and watching the world go by which fascinates me to no end. I don't need stunning vistas or incredible landscapes to be passing by - just the mere act of watching the world go by somehow is enough.

I was traveling to Chennai, and after a long nap, I was at door, watching the evening sun turn the world a golden yellow, lighting up paddy fields and coconut trees. The air played with my air, and a sense of peace engulfed me. It felt good. Life was, as it often tends to be currently, a bit of a mess, but this was good. And then it occurred to me, how much I love train travel. And it made me wonder - why am I flying down to Pune at the end of the term. Flying, while fascinating in terms of the effects of the joyride - especially the g forces during take-off and landing - is a rather boring way to travel. Traveling is an activity to be enjoyed for me and air travel makes it to mechanical and mundane. I really believe in the adage that travel is all about the journey rather than the destination and air travel pretty much sucks out all the joy out of that.

I looked at the outside world, and I realized why I'd always chosen to take the train, and specifically, the non AC compartment. And I wished I could always do this. But I knew I couldn't. In a job, time was going to be too short - for both me and the company - to allow me the luxury of traveling by train. Then, there was going to be no alternative to those depressingly boring, cooped-up-like-cattle air journeys. These journeys were ones to be savoured, savoured for a time when life would be a series of mad dashes from one place to another, without the time or opportunity to stop back and smell the fresh mountain air whooshing past or the loud clatter of the train passing over a bridge, with the swirling waters of some beautiful, lazily meandering river underneath. Oh, how I would miss these simple pleasures of life...

I wanna sleep... :|

Sleep is a funny thing. I never seem to have enough of it, especially in business school. Yet, when I have the time to get as much of it as I want, I don't use it to sleep. Or, rather, I can't fall asleep. Which is a bit ironic, funny and irritating, all at the same time. For I tend to fall asleep everywhere, and at all times. In class. In the library. While sitting somewhere. It just seems like an inescapable fact of life, falling asleep all the time. And then, when I have the time and the place to actually sleep, through some weird mechanism, my body refuses to listen. That is what happens to me nowadays in trains.

I had to go to Chennai for some urgent work. I'd been way short of sleep for around a week before that, caught up in submissions and project work, and I figured that the journey would be a perfect way to reduce the sleep debt before it went to ridiculous levels during the exams. And sure enough, I started drifting into a nice, fuzzy sort of slumber when I lay down on my berth and plugged in my iPod. And I did fall asleep. But then, sharp at 3.30, when not a soul was awake in the train, I woke up. And I was wide awake. And try what I did, nothing would make me even remotely sleepy. I tried music, but that didn't work. I thought of mucking around with the laptop, but that was a bit awkward since I couldn't sit up straight on my upper berth. So then I proceeded to do what I like doing the most during train journeys - get out of the cold as hell AC compartment and watch the world go by at the door. There's something about this which can make me do this for hours and hours, whether it's daylight or dark, morning or evening, some stunning forests passing by or an urban landscape with its filth and glitzy lights and people waiting impatiently at railway crossings. Which is all fine, but the important point here was that instead of reducing the debt, I was adding onto it. Oh boy...

Almost done...

This term has been rather long. Which is strange, because it isn't really. It's just around 5 or 6 days more than the previous ones. Yet it felt as if this one would never get over. Which is a bit funny since the first half passed by with some or the other activity going on for every weekend. Suddenly, we had mid-terms, and that was followed by some of the most dreary weeks I have experienced here.

Well, anyway, that's over now. It's almost term end, with around a week to go, which should pass by rather quickly, on account of exams. The last 10 odd days have been fairly crazy for me, as I've been running around for the visa work.

It feels weird. On one hand, this term has been a tad boring, and I want it ti get over quickly. On the other hand, this is our last week here as juniors, or now, more correctly, as first year students. So I want to hang on to it just a little bit longer. As always in life, I am a bit confused, wanting a bit of everything and a bit of nothing. I often suspect that the fact that I can't do much about most of the things in life is actually a good thing due to the amount of time I spend in being confused. Anyway, so it's almost over and done with...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Farewell

3 am. A few dozen souls strewn around along the walls. A tired DJ taking yet another request for the 'last' song. A sad looking bartender trying to tell half a dozen folks that the booze was indeed over. And a hundred and fifty odd, rather dazed and somewhat drunk fellows wondering how it could all get over so quickly. How 2 years, and for many of them, 2 of the best years of their lives, could pass by so quickly. How they would adapt to the world outside again, and live 'normal', routine lives. Another couple of hundred folks thinking that they'd be in the very same place, just a year down the line, and that how horrible that would be.

We often tend to live life by taking for granted the things around. And so it was, for almost a year. We ran around, studied a bit, partied a bit more, and rotted around a lot more, all with the supremely arrogant assumption, atleast a sub-conscious one, that we would be able to do this, live this incredible life of comfort and be surrounded by friends, and have it all for the rest of our lives. And then, suddenly, it strikes you, one fine day, that things will change, change forever, and we will miss these days like we have probably missed nothing else in life. That was what the farewell party did to us juniors. While the seniors went around hugging and saying good-byes, we went around wondering how it could be that we had only a year left, and only 9 months of that on God's own campus.

Parties here generally tend to be rather wild and vigorous. Parties are enjoyed out-and-out. The mood is exuberant and ecstatic. Yesterday, however, felt different. It was as if everybody wanted to enjoy this party, this one last party by not completely letting go. There was a sense of restraint and a feeling of nervous laughter in the air.

So that's it from the seniors. They have been an interesting bunch, and there's no doubt that life here would be much tougher and much less fun without them being around. I'd always thought that the junior-senior thing was a tad overhyped, but after landing up here, I'd say I was wrong. They've helped us get used to the system, find our ways through and at times around it. They've been there to guide us through the nonsense that business school life tends to degenerate into at times. They've been there during testing times, like during the summer internship selection process to give us a sense of perspective and keep reminding us to look at the bigger picture. And now, suddenly, they are gone, and we are left to ourselves here for a year. It's not that after a year here we can't really take care of things ourselves, but having somebody you can always approach for just about anything kinda rocks. And for that we'll miss them.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Purpled!

I confess, I have never been too fond of holi. Yeah, it was great fun as a kid, but then somehow it turned out to be one of those things you tend to grow out of. So I rarely play it, and every year for the past 5-6 years, I've found some excuse or the other to avoid playing it. Not so this year.

There's this thing about campus. Unless you are a real recluse and a people-hater, there's little chance of escaping from celebrations here.If you don't turn up on your own, chances are that a nice little gang of boisterous fellas will turn up at your door, and haul you off to wherever the celebrations are happening. Which is what happened a few days ago on holi. There was I, sitting quietly in my room, hoping that they would somehow miss my absence, and thanking god for sparing me the trouble of 'uncolouring' myself post the festivities, and tending towards a nice little afternoon siesta, when there was a loud banging on my door. Oh dear. Within minutes, they'd barged in (I could have technically kept them out by refusing to open the door, of course, but the ruckus they would have created would not quite have been worth it) and after much bargaining, I managed to throw them out and change into something which I afford to lose.

This proved to be a rather sensible thing to do, for the moment I went outside again, they promptly pulled at my tee, and tore the whole thing apart. Great.

I was hauled to the center of celebrations, where the rest of the revellers fell upon me with glee (they were bored of recolouring the already coloured souls, and were looking around desperately for somebody new). I was thrown into a tank full of purple water, and dunked in a couple of times for good measure. Then, I was promptly purpled, from head to tow.

Surprisingly, I liked it. It was a tad too violent for my taste, but it was a load of fun. Campus activities are like that. They usually tend to be rather on the violent side, but still a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately, at that time, I had missed one crucial point - how tough it would be to get rid of the colour. First off myself, and then off my poor mac keyboard, which I had used without my fingers being completely decoloured.

So back I came to my room, and started the process. The next 3 hours went in a crazy bout of scrubbing and scrubbing and more scrubbing. All that managed to do was remove a wee bit of the colour. So then, more scrubbing. All sorts of ideas were being floated on the internal messenger to get rid of the colour, some of them normal, some a bit whackly, some outright bizzare, and a few, plain scary.

Finally, after 4 baths, trying body wash, hand wash, bar soap, shampoo, and moisturizer+cotton swabs, I finally managed to look like a shade of my previous self. Then, it was the turn of my mac. The poor thing had to ensure a scrubbing off a lifetime, during which, since I had forgotten to switch it off, I ended up renaming a whole lot of files. So my mac ended up being christened as 'mjadjad7777fffff' for a few days. Which rather intrigued me when I first noticed it, and puzzled me to no end. Thankfully, and hopefully, that was all.What I had missed, however, and which I realized to my chagrin when I got a few weird looks in the city mall the next day, was that I had completely forgotten to scrub my toenails, with the result that I must have been quite a sight with bright purple toenails. Now, Kozhikode isn't as happening a city as Pune or Mumbai, but I doubt it would be that accommodating. Sigh. Painted toenails. Bright purple. Aaaargh! As if getting a girl was not tough enough in the first place!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bananas, Part 2

So there're aspects to banana loving which I missed out on. Oh boy.

It's all nice to have the yellow fruit as an occasional snack to prevent you from tearing yet another packet of chips. But then that means you have to have the stuff in fair numbers in your room. Unfortunately, that brings with it its own set of problems. Which I realized a little too late into my banana obsession.

I used to wonder why the room smelt a bit funny when I entered it lately. Being the lazy pig that I am, I never pursued it too much till, one fine day, it became a tad unbearable. The combination of the tropical fruit, a nice, warm and humid climate, and extended periods of the room being completely closed meant that I would almost gag every time I entered the place. Trust me, a warm room full of the smell of warm bananas does not make for a pleasant experience. But then I had little choice, what with the resident feline making it a point to prove it to me that she owned the area comprising of my room, whenever she could gain access to it. Now, I have no problems with felines. They are rather nice creatures. But this one's slinky, and really scared of anything that moves, and scares the living daylights out of me given half a chance. So closed it has to be, the room.

The second problem is way more annoying. The campus is full of these largish red ants, who pretty much infest the place. I got the shock of my life when I first entered the room and found it a wee bit full of them. Now, red ants are scary. They have a nasty bite, and I'd give them a wide berth on most occasions. Thankfully, the Kozhikode variety was much more docile. They were the most unaggressive creatures around, and never bit. That was a relief, and improved relations between parties to a great extent, but I still didn't fancy them going all over the place. A bit of ant chalk did the trick for a while. Until I got the bananas.

Apparently, I am not the only one who loves bananas. So every time I get the stuff from downhill and keep it in my room, the whole place is pretty much swarming with ants in a while. Entering a hot, humid, and pungent smelling room full of ants on a regular basis is not something which I take to too kindly. Unfortunately, I don't have much choice here, so I have to live with these side-effects. Maybe I should just succumb to temptation and buy one of those stalks of bananas having a hundred odd of them and hang it in the balcony, outside the room. But then, I somehow foresee trouble from simian quarters in case I do that. The last thing, and this is laster than not wanting ants and a warm, smelly room, I want is to find a happy langur, having managed to figure out a way to open my balcony door, sitting pretty on my bean bag, eating my bananas!

Friday, March 13, 2009

When the days drag by...

It's a rather dull time on campus here. All through this, we had something or the other going on. Most of first term passed by in a whizz, with assignments and classes and fake assignments from seniors and trying to cope up with the crazy schedule. By the time we had any time to breathe, it was second term, and with it summer placements. Second half of second term went in recuperating from summers, and enjoying the first real slightly relaxed time we had since landing up here. The first half of the third term passed by quickly in a spate of campus events and long weekends. And then, we landed up here, third term, second half.

Hmm. The hitch is, there is not much to do. Either the workload has decreased dramatically, or we have managed to adapt. Whichever it is, this is getting on many people's nerves. It's definitely on mine. It's kinda frustrating to be driven up the wall for around 7 and a half months by the workload, and then realize that you have nothing to do. it doesn't help that Term 3 is the longest of first year.

So here we are, waiting for term 3 to meander its way to an end. I am sure that relief, more than anything else, will be the paramount emotion on campus on 31st March.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Land of errr.... bananas

Maybe it's a silly thing to come to a new place with a lot of expectations. It doesn't help when the place has a name which makes you think that those expectations aren't fanciful. Like Kerala. Kerala means the land of coconuts. Now forgive me for assuming that the land of coconuts would have plenty of coconuts. Actually it did have a lot of coconuts. The only issue was that it had a tad too many. So many, in fact that they grew all over the place like vermin. So nobody bothers to shimmy up those long things called coconut trees and fetch the humongous things down. And since everybody has enough of them growing in their backyards, and their foreyards - and hey when did this one come up in the driveway - nobody in their right senses would buy them. So that left the third biggest city in Coconut-land effectively coconut-less.

Which is fine in the normal scheme of things. But then, as it were to happen, I love these things. And I came here with dreams of a coconut for breakfast, and one for lunch and one for... you get the drift. Which is what I tend to do when these things are available in plenty and are inexpensive. Which is what I did on a trip to rural Andhra, when I had enough of them to make the poor shopkeeper get cursed by his wife for not getting down more from the tree the previous evening.

So Kerala isn't, unfortunately, the land of coconuts. What it, however, is definitely, is the land of bananas. Yes, bananas. Tonnes and tonnes of the yellow stuff, hanging all over the place, in every nook and cranny. Any shop worth it's salt sells bananas. They sell them, ranging from yellow to red, tiny and medium to gargantuan, sugary sweet to starchy tasteless, beaten black and blue to smooth, untouched glossy yellow. There are shops which sell only bananas. One small hole in the wall, with a dozen odd stalks with a hundred odd bananas on each, and one heck of a contented shopkeeper swatting off flies and enjoying his afternoon siesta. For he knows, this is safe business. Nobody would be bananas enough not to eat bananas. His income, although nothing approaching astronomical would ensure a happy for himself and his progeny. Which is what most people in Kerala are more than happy with (damn, I wish I was as content as them).

Now, I hated the stuff before coming here. No particular reason, other than the taste. But then the lack of a overtly edible alternative in the form of good mess food drives you to places you never though you might reach. So now, I love the stuff. Yes, bananas. So much that I ate... how many of them today.... yes, 6. So now, I binge on bananas. Wow. How sad can life be! Atleast it's better than gulping down other random packed stuff, but bananas? 6 of them in a day? I mean, come on. Well, there's some solace from the fact that the damn things are dirt cheap and don't make a banana-sized hole in my pocket. I know, terrible joke. But then the yellow stuff ain't too well known for brainpower increasing nutrients.

They were right. MBA does change you. Completely :| Whether it's about a new found love for bananas or a significant decrease in the quality of my jokes. Sigh.