Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Chiru-ism and the Foosball Table

“No one scores against Chiru, unless and until Chiru wants him to score” Old Indian saying.

If there was a demonstration of passion and an intensity to win that united the ALM team it was at the Foosball table. And if foosball is a religion then Chiru is god, or probably demi-god.

A common man plays foosball with his hands, Chiru plays with his tongue as well, and that is what makes him invincible… God.

A relatively new game for our ALM team members –the game of foosball; our team surprised all by picking up the game pretty fast… I was the slowest of the lot.

Our engagement at a client location has produced many many memorable matches and conversations which we will remember for a long long time to come. Though one team had to lose, everybody played to win and fight till the end. It’s the intensity to win and the never-say-die attitude which kept the spirit of the game alive… even after more than 6 months since we were introduced to the game. We have to thank Chiru for the broadcast messages before lunch which popped up on our screens telling us that a challenge was waiting… on the first floor foosball table.

Threats were exchanged, sledging galore even before the game starts… and the foosball table proves everybody wrong except for Chiru of-course. There have been n number of occasions when a winning team becomes complacent and exchanges a few words with the other team and the table is there to change the course of the game… unless of-course you are with Chiru. Sometimes Chiru’s sense of timing is so perfect that you question his potential to score and “boom” he hits a goal. Next statement from Chiru would be, “Please wait before you say something, you might not have to say it at all”. That’s Chiru.

A few words on the players now:

Vijay Hajare a.k.a Vijay Deenanath Chauhan is our “Aain” star [Amitabh Bachchan style]. Vijay most of the time partner’s with Chiru and half of his resources are wasted in controlling the inflammable Chiru, the other half on controlling the ball… on the table I meant. Vijay is a pure instincts player and even at this age his reflexes are sharp. His aces are the best. Vijay in offense against Libin in defense and you get a typewriter game… continuous shots, all missing the goal.

Deepu is our flamboyant player who took special training from youtube.com on how to hold and score. His style of play is extremely aggressive and uses his change of pace of shots effectively. If he concentrates on the game [which he seldom does] he can win any game single handedly.

Libin is the best goal keeper and he scores from the deep as well. His aimed shots which eventually land up either in Chiru’s or Vijay’s goalpost have been named as “flukes” by the God himself; more out of their incapability to understand the dynamics of the angles. He has used his angles so much that he is known as the “Fluke-master”.

Next is me. I picked up the game pretty late and so was named as “Harmless Sourav” [by God of-course] since Chiru’s defense was at that time capable to stop my goals. My slower goals have tricked many and all. Sometimes my reflexes come back to live and not even the best of the goalies can save them, forget God. But the reflexes ignite once in 12 years, so its not at all a big threat. My goal scorings are so simple that Vijay has gone on record to say, “Sourav scoring against anyone is like receiving a tight slap on your face”. And the frustration always shows on the goal keeper’s face. My favorite hunting ground is Vijay’s defense. Yes, I’ve had my share of fun whether I won or Vijay lost :-)

And that finally brings us to the God: Chiru.
He is the best because he not only plays with the hands but his tongue also; even the foosball table is jinxed by him. Chiru scores at will. He proclaims that he’d score and voila –there’s a goal. Apparently only Chiru can do this. The table has failed all the other’s who have tried this. Unlike all the others Chiru does not possess any special skills, more-so because he does not need them. His shots are loud with the “Awaz” and after every goal he gives a small speech on how it was made possible and Vijay’s half efforts are wasted here in bringing Chiru back to the game and remind him that the game is not yet over. Chiru is very media savvy and is ready for an interview even in the middle of the game.

We have another prolific player [though not in ALM] lovingly known as the “King”. The “King” though an old hand in the game was not able to progress as the other have, but nevertheless the skills are there and are visible in the way the goals are scored. “King” does not believe in power-play but is more skillful and reflexive. The best part of “King’s” style is the bowed head, raised look above his specs when he scores a goal as if questioning “Dekha? Daal diya.”

We won many, we lost as many but we still are together… as a team and our leader is Chiru. In the last 6 months I have had one of my best times in work… thanks to the lively and challenging team.

Some memorable Quotes exchanged on the table:
“I will stop only real goals, we don’t count flukes” –By Sasi when Libin scores a goal against him
“By the power of Fluke!!” –By Libin
“Sasi your Hindi is too good”- By Sourav when Sasi speaks in Hindi. Sasi’s response –“Yes I know. I am Madhyamika certified in Hindi”
“Sourav chup baith. Khelne de” –By Vijay when I score and sledge at his team. I loved the look on Vijay’s face.
“Ok. Now we will win.” –By Deepu, Sasi when the score is hardly 2 or 3 and the opposition is sitting at 1 goal away from victory.
“Sasi, you’re just too good. How do you do it?” –By Sourav when Sasi scores a miraculous goal. Answer by Sasi –“I will not tell you because I also don’t know it.”
“Khush to bahot honge tum aaj, aain?” Vijay on Vijay Deenanath Chauhan style.

The best of the lot:

If there is someone near the goal counting slot, Sasi would ask him to count on his behalf. This is to show that he scores faster than he can count the goals.

Oh boy!! What a team and what a boss.
Long live Chiru and his Chiru-ism!!!
Long live ALM!!!
And long live the foosball maidan!! Aajao maidan mein!!

Now as I write this its 1:20 AM, a new day as started. Tomorrow morning, 31st of December 2008 is the last day of our whole team here. After these wonderful 6 months of togetherness the whole team is splitting up. We are on our way back home.
Who knows the same team might be together in some other country working for some other clients. And who knows, we might still wait for the broadcast message from Sasi, inviting us for another challenge, another display of passion and determination.

Yes, I have faith that we will live. We will live to fight another day.

On the 31st of December we played one last game and the result was as anticipated. Chiru allowed his opposition to win, and Vijay Deenanath Chauhan had no words to describe Chiru's generosity.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Mumbai Attack: The Aftermath

Its more than a week now.
When I see video clips of Mumbai, I find the city back to normal. 26/11 has become history.

Hotels and café were shattered; our defense or rather our ability to defend ourselves was questioned mockingly; innocent hostages were held –some killed, some freed; politicians made their accusations and speeches; eventually the terrorists were killed. Mumbai, and India was free again. My home was safe again.

Just for the sake of a recap: A group of 10 terrorists came into Mumbai via the sea route and targeted important landmarks in my home to hold the hostages. They killed innocents at will. They sent shock waves throughout the community, the country, the world. After almost 60 hours our forces were able to free my home and bring the gun fire to an end. But is it really an end? I do not think so.

From one of the terrorists who was captured alive, it was learnt that this had been a failed mission of theirs. They came here with a target of 5000 in their heads. Not Hindus, Muslims or Christians. Not Indians, Americans or Germans. Just 5000 humans. Period. Going by statistics they achieved only 4% of their target.

I do not care about the nine terrorists being killed, but we lost around 200 people. And this 200 had our bests: The ATS team, the Police force and the NSG Commando, Sandeep Unnikrishnan. These are, sorry were, no are and will always be our bests. Heros don’t die, they are immortals.
But yet we cannot deny the fact that our losses were huge. We lost talent, we lost peace, we lost faith, we lost dreams and most important of all, we lost a sense of security inside our own homes.

A few days later a drama comes to life. The deputy CM and the CM were asked to leave their positions, having failed miserably according to the Congress Working Committee. Heads have rolled, but does it bring us any closer to the solution of the problem? One joker goes to be replaced by another one, and its life as usual. Over the last one week, I have read that the crowd, comprising of the “Aam aadmi” have taken things upto themselves and have held a lot of demonstrations to inform the administration that we are not going to sit down and let terrorists target our homes. That is a good move, but we need the engine to keep moving. Majority of the crowd was because of emotional reasons, we need sustained push towards accountability of the administration.

Some statements that I have heard are, “Close all ties with Pakistan”, “Bomb the terrorist outfits in PoK”, “Remove all the politicians”, “Remove the Z+ security of the politicians”. These were emotional reactions, but some were apt as well. Having gone through this shocking episode deeply, I have my own views on what should or could have been done to prevent such attacks.

Blaming the politicians might be the easiest job to do, but if not a Deshmukh, another one of them would come and rule. Exercising our right to vote and take ownership as responsible citizens would be the first step.

Information from the intelligence department had sent out a warning about an impending attack to Mumbai through the sea. Our guys didn’t take them seriously or they took the terrorists lightly. We cannot have our borders un-secured. This is a serious lapse in the security angle and should attract more accountability. And this accountability should be continued. Today for this mishap everybody is accountable: you and me. What had stopped us earlier from shaking up the administration and asking the questions we are asking now? Let us accept it. We had slept over our duties.

Accountability and ownership are of prime importance at this hour. Our leaders, majority of them, have taken things too lightly; and our leaders replicate us.

Would they have responded to comments like “Bade bade sheheron mein, choti choti baatein hoti rehti hai.” I would want to ask Mr R. R. Patil that would he have made the same statement if his own sons and daughters were held as hostages. I would not wait for an answer. Its quite clear: Accountability and Ownership.

When a leader assumes a post, he takes the responsibility of the nation on his shoulder. At the same time, we as responsible citizens need to (a) elect the right leader, and (b) hold them accountable for their decisions.
We need professionalism at the top and show the same professionalism at our levels as well. Coming back to handling terrorism I have only two basic solutions.

The short term solution points at securing our borders and empowering our intelligence and hitting and bombing the terrorist outfits.

The long term solution points at looking at aspects as to how we can avoid young men and women from becoming terrorists. You and me do not go to Mumbai CST and start firing at will. We would not do even if we had a gun. These individuals lacked the social cover that we all have. Reasons might be many; we need to target the social issues to prevent terrorism. It might be education, stable job, healthy lifestyle, equality in society. We need to address each and every aspect individually.

Terrorism is like a nail. They would grow and they would need to be cut. There would always be a section of unsatisfied individuals who would resort to gunfire. We need to continuously work towards reducing this number of unsatisfied individuals. And being practical I know that it might take more than a decade to reach such an ideal situation.

This time around I would want to invite comments from us on what we feel we should do to reduce terrorism. Write down whatever you feel should help us in making our homes secure and lives peaceful.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Chalta hai...

If there is one outlook or opinion that unites India apart from cricketing victories… and which we would not want to accept, though deep inside our hearts we know its true, is the “chalta hai” outlook. And this shows in the way we go about with our lives; we are just too gullible. I should say majority of the Indians since there are a few among us who have started raising their heads and voices and acted on their convictions.

Tell me one thing. Over the past 20 years, how many times have we gone through terrorists attacks? Kashmir tourism has become synonymous with terrorism. We have terrorist attacks and threats in the North East. A series of bomb blasts in 1993 rocked Mumbai. Rajiv Gandhi killed by a human bomb in Tamil Nadu. Multiple blasts in the Mumbai local trains in the last few years. And of-late a string of bomb blasts from Delhi to Bangalore to Ahmadabad. Not to forget Askhardham and the Parliament. Well, by the look of affairs in the country, I guess there would be many who would be sad that the Parliament attack was a failure for the terrorists. Anyways.

And I don’t think it would be prudent on my part to place the blame on the politicians alone… afterall even they are Indians.

India and Indians have not been attacked for the first time. And we are suffering all the time, rather the “aam aadmi” the common man is suffering.

A bomb blasts today and the city is back on track tomorrow as if nothing out of the usual had happened. We write blogs, read the newspapers, follow CNN IBN, discuss and condemn the attacks, but mind you, we do not let these things impact our daily lives, unless we are directly impacted due to the terrorist attacks. We show concern and at times are genuinely concerned. But it does not last for long. Our memory is short and vision near. We care only and only about our immediate near and dear ones, sometimes not even that. So you see, we were anyways gullible and now we are too self-centered as well.
We condemn the attacks. We blame the police. We blame the politicians. We blame the municipality, the electricity board, the water board, our boss, our company where we work and the list is never ending. We blame each and every entity which does not belong to us… because along with being gullible and self centered we are not ready to take any ownership.

It’s always the other person who is wrong and it’s the same other person who does not do his duty. And when it comes to us, we focus on our rights… and duties? Let’s talk about the rights; we’ll tackle the duties later. Like it or not, but I have seen very less people who think otherwise.

Another interesting aspect that arises from our willingness to not take ownership is that we believe and strongly follow this formula:

“Work not done + existence of reasons for work not being done = Work done.”

This means that if a work is not done by us and if we have reasons for not doing it, then its as good as it being done. Like I said, this can be very comfortably attributed to lack of ownership. You might be wondering as to where I am leading? No-where. I just wanted us to see where we are, where we have come with this “chalta hai” attitude.
Something goes wrong.. Chalta hai.
There is a traffic jam… Chalta hai... Kya kar sakte hai?
Increased electricity cuts… Chalta hai. Kya kar sakte hai?
Incompetent leadership at the top of the Indian political circle… Chalta to nahin hai. Lekin kya kar sakte hai?
Is it the question –What can we do? [Kya kar sakte hai] Or is it the answer “I do not want to do anything”

As I write this now, it’s around 55 hours and the operation at Hotel Taj is still going on. You make like to admit it or not, but the endurance of these terrorists are remarkable. And what does it certify? That these are not run-of-the-mill terrorists but highly trained militants specifically for such purposes.
This time since the police has lost important lives we are not blaming the police, so we blame our intelligence –RAW, our home ministry, our defense ministry or the ruling party. We have to pin the blame of someone… someone but us. Yes there has been laxity at the sea borders. This time its the sea borders, rest of the time it was the land. And we discuss this with a cup of hot tea and samosa.

About 15 years back when Mumbai was bombed in 1993 the RDX made its way through the waters. 15 years hence and things have not changed much. Our coast lines are still open. We paid a huge price then and we are paying a huge price now… and if we do not act, we will keep paying the price. Coming back to the recent killings a few things stuck me hard.

Point One: I felt a complete lack of leadership in tackling this situation. For those of us who had seen Dr Manmohan Singh make the broadcast, they would agree that it was a lackluster performance by the most powerful man in India. Our PM lacked all emotions, lacked conviction. He did not speak as if his own house is attacked. Lack of passion for the nation, lack of sentiments –a robot might have done a similar job. Dear PM, I have no doubts that you are one of the most educated guys in the Parliament but you surely lacked the vigor, passion and anger that a young nation like ours expected from the PM.

I somehow left that he did it because he had to do it… without conviction and a poor body language.

Point Two: Our home ministry led by Shivraj Patil. One look at him and I was asking myself –what motivation would the security personals get by looking at him. He just lacked the persona to tackle the crisis.

Point Three: Our dadu [grandpa] Pranab Mukherjee just followed the PM with the speech delivery. All that he said was that he and his ministry condemn the acts of terrorism and this is the worst attacks we have seen. Arre dadu, merely condemning might not be enough. You need to tighten up your dhoti and shake up the Pakistani External Affairs ministry and use you powers, to ensure Shivraj Patil does not slip and Dr. Manmohan Singh does not forget his lackluster and unconvincing resolution to take this issue to an acceptable result.

Of course our Navy, Army, RPF, NSG and the police have done a superb job and are still firing and on the other hand our political leaders are in a mess. They should keep out of places were they are not needed…I would also ban them from entering the Parliament. We can and will have varied views on this subject… but the bottom-line is, we as citizens have to say that enough is enough; we need to get into the thick of action. We need to take ownership and responsibilities. We need to perform our duties, ask for our rights, voice our concerns, question the administration. “Aab aur nahin chalta hai.”

How many more Hemant Karkares’ should sacrifice their lives to open our eyes? How many more Kamtes’? How many more Saluskars’? And as they died on the line of duty, what answer will we give when their kids come and ask us as to what improvements have we done to make their dad’s lives worth it?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Mumbai, How long and how many?

26th of November 2008. It was a good day for the Indian stock markets and to see how was the Dow Jones faring I flipped through the television channel in the gym. Channel 17, and I froze. CNN: Mumbai under terror seize. I forgot about my gyming routine and increased the volume.

At around 10:30 PM tonight open gunfire started in Café Leopold in Colaba. Over time the terrorists have taken up hostages in Hotel Oberoi and Taj Hotel. Foreign tourists have been taken hostages. A police jeep has been hijacked and unprecedented open firing was going on injuring and killing the innocent bystanders in the streets of South Mumbai. Open and indiscriminate firing at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the main railway station, killed a lot of people. Most heinous of all, hostages are taken up in Cama Hospital which is for women and children. I have heard that people have been killed in the hospital as well… But what do we do? How do we give these terrorists a fitting reply?

Till now 87 people are dead and more than 200 injured. Anti-terrorism squad Chief Hemant Karkare was killed in the shootout. The 54 year old veteran, one of Mumbai’s finest took the bullet on his chest. Additional commissionaire Ashok Kamte killed in gun battle. Vijay Saluskar, encounter specialist, killed in gunfire. These were the men who took care of Mumbai. Mumbai lost five of its finest officers tonight. The Army, RAF have already entered the hotels and till now four terrorists have been killed. But its not yet over, there are more terrorists holed in. There is a fire at Taj Hotel. Hostages are being relieved but they are too dumbstruck to talk. A total of 11 policemen have died and 18 have been injured. But what do we do? How do we give these terrorists a fitting reply?

This is not new. This is not happening for the first time and I know it is not happening for the last time. These hotels are the places where a majority of foreign tourists flocked. Will they come again? What impression will they have of our nation? Colaba market is a favourite hangout for Mumbaikars as well as for the foreign crowd. They have targeted places like the railway station, the hospital, the hotels and the streets. They are killing people… not a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian… they are killing the “aam aadmi” and the “aam aadmi” does not belong to one particular religion. He’s the same “aam aadmi” who lives inside you and me. And the “aam aadmi” is suffering. What is the “aam aadmi” in you doing?

Time and again, Mumbai gets attacked. And Mumbai rises again… what is the other alternative? You have to rise. But what exactly do you get by killing innocents? What exactly do they want? The whole nation, sorry, the world is watching this.

A hand made grenade was hurled in the BP petrol pump in Colaba, luckily the bomb did not affect the underground petrol bunk. I just saw footage of a hijacked police jeep and automatic gun firing near to the camera-man as all the people there ducked to shield themselves from the bullets. As the jeep left, there were injured people. People were screaming; they were frightened. There is no safety at all for the citizens of Mumbai.

One terrorist outfit –Deccan Mujahideen have claimed this as their doing. But what I fail to understand is, what do you get by killing people? What exactly do you get? Every-time our country faces such a situation there would be a terrorist outfit claiming “proudly” that this is their doing. Sometimes they demand a release of one of their kiths from the police custody. But still, I fail to understand what exactly do you get by killing people, killing not people… but innocent people? By disturbing the normal life? And when these in-human creatures are caught, we are not supposed to kill or harm them because we are a democratic nation and we have the Human Rights to ensure that they are not ill treated. My foot!!!

But all said and done… what happens the next day? Is it life as usual? Are we going to go out as if it’s just another day? Are we so fragile that every-time such terrorism strikes us we would rush for the covers? Why can we not protect our homes, our cities, our countries?

The place outside the Oberoi Hotel has pin drop silence. People are scared and they know, that its not yet over. There are still around 15 member terrorists in the age group of 20-25 years active on the 19th floor of Oberoi Hotel. The Army, the RAF and now the NSG have also been called.

The route taken for the ammunitions is via the sea, as abandoned boats were located near Gateway of India.

There are a few questions that we have to ask ourselves.

Are we capable to take care of ourselves?

How long are we going to reel under such losses, time and again?

And last but not the least, what do you accomplish by killing innocents? 70 virgins when you die??? My foot!!!

Somebody needs to educate these fanatics. We really need to know why the youth are taking such a path. I know it would open a Pandora box but we really need to know. I can still hear the gun fire being played by IBN Live. Its exactly 6:50 AM India time as I finish this, but the gun fire is still on.

I don't know whether I'd be able to sleep tonight. Its a shame on humanity.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Dada -Straight from the Bat

On the 11th of January 1992, at Brisbane against the mighty West Indies, a lanky 20 year old guy took guard against the stumps. The guard was a bit too defensive and he was given out LBW to a delivery from the in-form pacer Cummins. Sourav Ganguly scored three runs in thirteen balls. When he was asked how he found the ball on the fast Aussie tracks, he answered, “I am yet to see the ball… All I can do now is hear it pas my ear”. And then there was a hiatus; a lul in his cricketing career.

Come 1996 –the England tour and history was being written. Navjot Singh Sidhu left the touring Indian side due to some internal ill-treatment from the then captain Md. Azharuddin and made way for India’s future and till date most successful test and one day cricket captain –Sourav Ganguly.

How many cricketers make their debut at cricket’s sacred ground –Lords? And how many of them score a century on their debut at Lords? Only three. And well, his 131 still remains the highest by any debutant. In his next match at Trent Bridge he scores a 136; only three batsman are in this league, to score two centuries in the first two matches. And if you would have seen him play in those days [I did] – the square cuts, square drives and the cover drivers were as masterful as they can be. He could hit any ball on the off-side with such perfection and elegancy that you had to agree when Dravid said, “On the off-side, first there is god, and then there is Sourav Ganguly”. Remember this comes from one of the bookish-est cricketers of all time –Dravid. Overnight he became the Prince Of Kolkata.

After being destructive in the longer version of the game, Sourav Ganguly didn’t stop there. In 1997 Ganguly made his maiden One Day International century against Lanka. In the same year he won four consecutive Man-of-the-Match awards in the Sahara Cup against Pakistan at Toronto, sizzling not only with the bat but also with the ball. It was the same series where he was christened “The man with the golden arm”. In the second match he had taken 5/16 of his 10 overs. The journey towards greatness had begun, and its reputation kept growing.

It was 1996 when Sidhu left, and that players like Rathod, S. Somasunder, Jadeja were being paired as openers against Tendulkar, but none survived. India faced an acute shortage of a killer opening pair and the prayers were answered bountifully. Sourav Ganguly as an opener in his very first match scored a half century and India found its other opener. History stands testimony of how destructive the left-right duo of Sourav-Sachin has been in tormenting the balling line ups of any country. The duo was the most successful opening pairs in ODIs having amassed the highest number of century partnerships [26] for the first wicket. Together they have more than 7000 runs in their kitty for the first wicket at an impressive average of 48.98. They are also the world record holders for the highest number of 50 run partnerships for the first wicket: 44 fifties.

Sourav Ganguly used to exploit the field restrictions in the initial overs by walking down the pitch and hitting the pace bowlers over extra cover and mid-off. His sense of timing was impeccable and he used his hand-eye co-ordination in picking up the length of the balls early and hitting it over mid-on or mid-wicket either for a six or a one bounce four. The best part of his ground shots were, that they always found the gaps. The only delivery that tormented him throughout his career, not initially, was the short ball. He was not at all comfortable playing the short ball and used to miss-judge or lose his balance. The short ball was extensively used against him not always to get him out with it but to make him feel uncomfortable enough to commit an error in the execution of his strokes. Later he developed the art of a pull or a hook, though not natural but it saved him his wicket and added a few extra runs to the kitty.

One of the lowest points in Indian cricket was its deep involvement in the match fixing scandals and a lot of senior players were lost in it. Sourav Ganguly was the man India turned to as a leader. Sourav brought together the youth and energy, the determination and the grit, the killer instinct and the never say die attitude in the youngsters. He changed them all to Team India. Sourav also has fought with the selectors for youngsters like Yuvi, Bhajji, Kaif, Zaheer, Veeru, Ifran. The never say die attitude is now paying rich dividends. The present Indian team was created by none other than Sourav Ganguly.

It was Ganguly who converted Veeru into an opener discarding the conventional methods of opening an innings. “In India you need runs at the top order, for once the ball becomes older, you can’t score fast. And if you get off to a flier the opposition will always be under pressure. Sehwag was our best bet.”

In the year 2000, India lost 5 test matches in a row under Sachin’s captaincy and the reins of Team India for test cricket was handed over to Ganguly. To add to his woes, Steve Waugh’s Australians were seeking to conquer the “Final frontier” after having won 15 test matches on the trot. Sourav Ganguly’s Team India not only broke the trot at Edens, Kolkata but also won the series for India at Chennai, 2-1. That was Waugh’s last series and he got a gritting team with an un-characteristic attitude to face at the end. Under Ganguly nothing seemed impossible and innovation was routine life.

The India cricket team under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly was being taken seriously in the cricketing fraternity. Team India had a burning desire, a desire to excel and win and most important of all –a team that believed in itself. It was Sourav who imbibed into his team a new sense of strength and faith in their capabilities. The bowling became tighter, the gaps narrower and the fitness perfect; and with one of the best batting line ups in the world, India was never short of runs on the board. Indian cricket was always about silk, about splitting cover and extra cover with neither fielders moving. It took Ganguly to put the steel in it. He never walked onto a cricket field to win friends, but to only and only win for India and he did that with an arrogance and self belief that irked almost everyone. His fiery attitude rubbed off on Team India; a team that believed in playing tough and winning from any situation. Remember the final at Lords in 2002 for the Natwest Trophy? Kaif and Yuvi were hand picked by Dada. Who would not remember Natwest? The heroic performances by Kaif and Yuvi brought out the spontaneous passion ingrained in our Dada, who celebrated the victory by taking off his shirt and waving it in the air from the Lords balcony. Off-course that was a fitting reply to Andrew Flintoff’s act while in a series in India. Ganguly has rushed from the balcony to the cricket ground and hugged his team mates in more than a bear hug. He loved his team and his nation. He was passionate for the game, for the team and for India and you could see it when he spoke. At that moment, my city was celebrating the victory… a victory that brought the nation together.

Brandished as being outspoken and arrogant, Sourav had often attracted controversies. The most famous being the Chappell-Ganguly one. What actually happened [am not talking about the credibility of the Chappell email] is not really known. But what we all know is that Ganguly built Team India and he brought the grit, the killer instinct, the passion and the determination to excel into the team, into the game. But at that time his form on the field was not too good and he was subsequently dropped from the team and stripped of his captaincy. It’s a humiliation to Indian cricket if they took Greg Chappell seriously. The Aussies have a habit of living upto the standards of their great grandfathers… whether its Clark, Symonds or Ponting, their integrity is always questionable.

It was the second Test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2007 in Sydney when Clark unethically claimed a catch [which was dropped] of Ganguly. Gavaskar went on record to accuse the Australian side for un-sportsmanship. Ganguly knew that it was not a catch but had heeded to the umpire decision; the umpire [ -a typical SOB] was shown asking Ponting whether it was a catch or not, but not Steve Bucknor the leg umpire. And whom do you ask? Ponting?? Who in the earlier inning had declined to admit that he was out when he was actually out?? There were many such dubicious decisions in that series and clubbed with poor ethics from the Australian side –it was enough for them to save the series which ended in a tie. I tell you, these Aussies are still a group of crooks…only their modus operandi changes that’s all. And well if I were in the field I would have shoved the Ricky Point finger and the umpire’s finger in each other’s arses… a few of such blunders had costed India the series. Every cricketer in the world is aware that the second test of BG Trophy was a total mess.

But come this year -2008 and India clinches the BG Trophy this time on home ground beating Aussies to a clean 2-0 series win. Dada had walked the Indian team one last time as captain and he is seen here standing extreme right with his simple signature smile on India winning. Looking at him who would say that he is the architect of the current India team?

Coming back to our Dada… he has always been the fulcrum of Indian cricketing performance and his own as well. He has staged numerous come-backs time and again to prove the cricketing pundits wrong who were always ready to pen down the obituary of his journey. But on 8th of October, he finally decided to hang his boots. The world can debate on whether a Voluntary Retirement Scheme was forced down our Dada or not by the BCCI but there would be no second thoughts on the fact that we would miss the numerous beautiful, gutsy, unforgettable performances. If Jack Welch called his book “Straight from the Gut”, Dada should call his “Straight from the Bat”.

Though I did not want to copy paste his cricketing stats but to give a sense of completeness to this blog, I am doing so.

Dada is the most successful Indian captain, having played more than 100 test matches and is the 4th highest run scorer for India. He holds an enviable record of 21-13 wins-losses as captain, Team India besides having lead the team to the World Cup finals of 2003.

Dada has got 16 centuries in Test matches and 22 in ODIs and is only behind Sachin, Ponting and Jayasuriya in the ODIs. He’s also got 35 and 72 half centuries in the longer and shorter version of the game respectively.

Dada is the fourth player to cross 11,000 ODI runs and third player to cross 10,000 ODI runs and so far the fastest in ODI history, after Sachin Tendulkar.

He is also one of the 3 players in the world to achieve amazing treble of 10,000 runs, 100 wickets and 100 catches in ODI cricket history, the others being Sachin and Jayasuriya.

His average is 41+ in both the forms of the game and has never dipped below 40 in the test matches ever.

Sachin On Ganguly: “Sourav has had a lot of ups and downs in his career; tough times but he has fought through it all. He was opening partner in ODIs for a long time and even attempted to teach me Bengali at times. In end we got to know each other so well that I could predict what he would do on the next ball. That for me was special. The entire nation will miss you and Anil when you are not walking with the team. Rest assured, I will too.”

When dada announced his retirement, all I wanted was that he leaves the same way as he entered… with a century, that he does not give another opportunity to the scavengers to write another article of the sorts “Hadn’t-I-said-so?” type. And Dada did it in style, a century with his long standing partner Sachin at Mohali and a gutsy 85 at Nagpur with one signature sixer of Jason Krejza…

This had to happen one day. Dada had to leave. But I was glad that he left when he was scoring. I would also want to show a small comparison of numbers for the benefit of all, of the performances of three great batsman of India cricket over the last two years.
They are arranged as “Matches-Runs-Highest-Score-Average-Strike Rate-100s-50s”

Rahul Dravid: 23-1292-129-33.12-40.40-2-7
Sachin Tendulkar: 20-1558-154*-47.21-55.96-4-9
Sourav Ganguly: 23 -1842-239-47.23-59.07-4-9

On the 10th of November, Dada scored a duck to wrap up his Test cricket and no one could believe that it would end this way. Not even Dada. Dada looked at the sky for a second or so to convey his thanks and embarked on a new journey… He was later hauled onto the shoulders when India won the match and the series and Dada was asked to perform the Lords act of shirt-waving… only the anger was missing, to be replaced with the mystical half smile. And then he left. He was gone.

Modifying Rahul Dravid’s views, I would say “When Sourav Ganguly is on wicket, even God runs for cover.”

But the fact remains, that more than Ganguly as the batsman he would be remembered as Ganguly the captain, the “game-changer”. Would this be his talisman to the Indian cricket? Only time can answer that.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The WASE Days: Bringing down the average

What do you get if you put a tough semester, a tougher end semester exam and the toughest post-result alcohol session together? If it were me, it’d be a classic theory. And that is exactly what I would be mentioning this time. The theory stands for the greater good. And it’s christened as “Bringing down the average”.

By nature human beings are very peace loving creatures of God. They love sharing and caring. They love laughter and happiness around them and wherever they go. They want to spread happiness, love and peace even if it comes at a cost. But how many of us are ready to bet on that when it comes to spreading happiness at our own cost… Contributing to that greater good?

Though we all know how our grading system works, let me still mention it – that it’s all relative. That means that if majority of the class scores above 50 out of 100, the average would be above 50 and vice versa.

Flashback: 3rd Semester WASE 2003 batch.

We were lucky to have a teacher like Jura for Object Oriented Programming concepts. I hope I have brought back the memories, -- good or bad, we have our own versions of the same story. To start with our teacher was “Ultimate”, but we had a lot of “buts” about his teaching style or rather his examining style, and believe me when we saw the examination paper a lot of butts were in the line of fire. Mine included.

When I came out of the examination hall, in 45 minutes instead of the 180 minutes, I was not alone outside. We were all in the same boat, which apparently was sinking. But we were ignorant of the fact then. That day I promised Debu and Panky that if I escape an E grade [fail grade], I would throw a party on it. As God had cherished, his chosen ONE, was safe. That day, evening rather, God had touched me again… this time not with the blessings but with a thought. Well after half a bottle of Blue Label, you see God in everything and everywhere. Anyways.

That evening not many were lucky to be on the safe side of the “E” grade… a few of us could not make it. And that is because a few of us wanted to reach for the stars. I’ll tell you know.

Take for example a class of five students appear in an exam for a maximum of 100 marks. Lets say A and B score 50 marks each while C, D and E score 90 marks each. The average of the class is 74 marks. A and B have scored below average and both are sad. C, D and E are happy but they have made A and B sad.

Let us see what happened in real life. Our class had around 90 students and a lot of them had participated in the race to reach the top and in doing so, have taken the average up, very up. But at the same time, there was a Sourav, who was the chosen one of the God [after half a bottle of Blue Label that is]… who knew how difficult it would be to bring the average down single handedly. So what did he do? He scored below average, much below the average and hence his contribution brought the average down.

For example, consider a class of 100 students and the average score is of 52. Say Miss A. scores 50, and since she’s below the average she’s sad. Then comes Sourav and scores 10 or a more realistic 5 :-) and the class average comes down to 48. Miss A. is now happy and who knows might as well kiss Sourav… a thank you kiss… [Please remember, it’s the half bottle of Blue Label].

Whether you are the Miss A or not I do not know, but remember that you got an A grade because there was a Sourav, who brought the average down. Sourav busted his own ass so that you could be where you are now.

Now, whether Sourav really wanted to be in the who’s who list of the scoring list is a different track. I just hope that we would not forget the innumerable Souravs who have contributed in we being where we are now… and we owe them a lot of our successes. Everything is relative… whatever comes in, goes out…

Let us slow down a bit, let us score a little less, let us allow someone else to run the show…let us be the Sourav for someone else. Take care friends, believe me, there is a Sourav because of whom we are where we are today.

By the way, I am currently looking for my Sourav, to thank him… I got a QPCL of 116%

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Uncle, aap office kyun jate ho?

Sam woke up on time and got ready to leave for his office. “Goodbye Tejas, bye-bye Arnav… ghar mein badmashi mut karma…good boy hokar rehna… Theek hai?” Both the kids waved goodbye and out of curiosity, that is so much associated with them, asked Sam, “Uncle aap office kyun jate ho?” Sam waved them goodbye and walked away as if nothing had happened out of the unusual, as if this question had been asked a million times and he knew what the answer was but the kids were too naïve to understand. Or was it the other way around? Even if it had been the case, Sam didn’t let it show on his face. The obvious answer to the kids would have been- Beta, humko company paise deta hai office jane ke liye. Throughout the way to the office, Sam was silent and I could figure out what was going on in his mind.

Sam does not have a poster-boy charisma. He was not in the who’s-who of his school. He was not the best in sports or in studies. Net net, he was a mirror image of you or me. He comes from a small town and carries the values and believes that are so quickly diminishing in our fast paced world.

Sam comes from the era when dad came home by five o’ clock in the evening from the factory or the office. Dad would bring samosa or jalebi while coming back home. Mom would have prepared tea by then and it would be a small family spending its time together, talking about how the day was. Sometimes Dutta-uncle or Raj Uncle would also come home with dad. The friends would have garam “chai” while they spoke about work or anything else. Their lives were so good, they were in control, and they were free. We kids envied their lives and vowed that one day we would also have a life like theirs. Sam’s dad earned less than 10% what he earns now, but I guess he had other ways of making up for the remaining 90%.

Sam works for an IT firm as a consultant. He’s earning good money, but he does not find samosas and jalebis to buy.

Sam takes the best food in the restaurant but the risotto or the burgers are nothing when it comes to simple sabjee with roti.

He stays in one of the best places to say, but still misses a place called home.

He works, works diligently but does not know whether the work is really making a difference, atleast not to him. Does he get a sense of fulfillment? Of personal satisfaction? Let’s not talk about it.

He’s not working on some cutting edge technology but plain vanilla process improvement consultancy. The work might be good, but is it challenging enough...:)

He stays in a place where his neighbors are from around the world, but he still misses his family.

Even if Sam returns home by five o’clock in the evening, even if he comes home with a few friends and has the garam “chai” he would still envy his dad’s life. The five o’ clock office won’t be for long. The friends won’t come everyday and the garam “chai” would not be garam for long.

Dads… we just missed your lives…

Sunday, 7 September 2008

One year hence...

A journey that had started five years back had reached a conclusive closure last year… and now its one year since the event. I know I keep going back to the past… but tell me who can ever forget the Wonder Years of WASE? Who can ever forget the day when WASE was finally over, or for that matter when it started? The dream… how strange it felt when it became a reality. I have dedicated two of my blogs to WASE but it still seems as if I have not done justice to the Wonder Years.

The timing for this blog couldn’t have been any better… five years back, on this very date -8th of September, I had set foot on the Wipro campus… A beginning of an era. I know it’s not cut to cut one year since we have completed WASE but for all practical purposes it is.

I’ve had enough of looking back at WASE. This time I wanted to write about where all the ex-WASEians are, one year hence after closure of their WASE. Apart from that, I wanted to comprehend how a WASEian faces life and career after the completion of the course. I guess one year is enough time to look back and evaluate how we have put into action what we’ve learnt from WASE… in life and in work.

I’m not sure if I would be able to remember all so please utilize the comments section, should I miss you or otherwise as well. Here we go…

Call it coincidence or whatever. The guy with whom I shared my work for the four years of WASE happens to still be working with me… even after WASE was over. He is working as an associate consultant for a Private Banking company based out of Zurich. Still in Wipro, his name is Libin Thomas. He has lost more hair than the waist-size that he has gained.

“Tum humsha haste hi kyun rehte ho?”. “Kya karun Ma’am… meri shakal hi aisi hai”. That shakal (face) is something that has not changed except for the extra pounds that he has gained. His dream of having a six pack abs is still a dream. Having traveled to the US for a couple of times over the short term visa he is currently resting in Bangalore, before Uncle Sam gives him the H1. He holds the position of a Senior Software Engineer for a telecom major. Name: Debabrata Bhattacharya

She was beautiful when I first saw her… she still is. But I never knew that she talks so much and so fast!!! She’s a good blogger as well and a topper. No wonder I do not know much about her… I always kept my grades and myself as far away from the toppers. She’s a module lead for a Stock Exchange major based out of New York. The name is Kimi Shrivastava.

The first thing you would notice about this lady would be her ability to crack a joke without much of an effort. She has a big heart. A voracious reader, she had worked out of the US for quite a lot of times before she finally answered to India calling. This Module Leader has a remarkable mind and is fantastic with words. The name is Vrushali Nayak.

A pure coder and a technical guy, he didn’t know the meaning of A**Hole when he joined Wipro. Over the next four years he has improved a lot. Having worked out of the US, he is now back to Chennai as a Solution Delivery Analyst for a financial major. The name is Hemachandra Jayapal. “Ada Paavi”- his favorite quote.

He often gives the look as if he’s just been dropped from the sky. The curly hair adds to his composure well. An excellent and analytic mind, but extremely down to earth. The Hindi is pure, the jokes genuine and the look hilarious. After completing a short assignment at Montreal our Solution Delivery Analyst is back to Namma Bengaluru. No points for guess the name… its Deepak Aravindan.

Her smile is the most remarkable part of her. A ready 100 watt smile greets everyone. She prefers to be in Bangalore and not move too much though she works for a US major in Consumer Goods. She holds the designation of Senior Software Engineer. The name is Abitha Gujala.

They were together always. They came from Pune to Bangalore and were the members of the Pune Party. They worked for the same Insurance client. Having worked for a few months at the US, they came back home, got married and went back to Uncle Sam’s land. One is an Application Lead and the other Senior Business Analyst. Both complement each other… but he is lucky. The names are Azima Afrin and Fakhrudin Munshi.

“Yo, yo yo”. The American from Hyderabad. A dream to be in the US. Loves a certain genre of rock which is hard to pronounce and even harder to understand. Having been to the US for a couple of times. Getting ready for the final leap. Working as Module Lead for a Finance giant, he sees to it that he gets what he wants. The name is SaiKrishna Rao.

Size is deceptive. This lady is a potential atom bomb. Working as a Project Engineer for an Insurance major based out of Pune. Ask her something which she does not want to answer and she will ensure that she confuses you such that you would think (a) What was my question? (b) Why did I ask? If you have learnt how to surpass these two questions then believe me this atom bomb will never burst. She is now a content woman with a steady married life. The name is Anna… oops Annie Mathew.

Living life in slow motion- this is the mantra of the next person to be described. Her Hindi is masha-allah but atleast she tries. Jai Prakash Mishra loves playing pranks on her. A hardcore Bengaluru-wasi, she has been currently deported to Canada working as a Module Lead for Healthcare major. The name is Shylaja. “Aarey tum log hass kyun rahe ho”.

Another topper so I do not know much about him. Apparently we belong to the same for our graduation degree. God knows how many A+s he has got while I struggled to keep out of the Es. Works as a Technical Lead for a Retail major based out of Minneapolis. The name is Gupta babu... aka Niladri Gupta.

Another member of the Pune party, the most vocal. She has Bangla written all over her. A mischievous smile always on her she has finally resolved to India calling. Designated as Project Leader for an Insurance major she had once shared a plane trip with our annadata Azim Premji. The name is Cinema Ghosh… sorry Sunnyma Ghosh.

He could touch the ceiling while his hair could touch the floor. No flesh only bones. Based out of Boise for a Retail giant this Project Engineer is another potential topper. The name is Abhinav Das.

A lawyer would have been a suitable role but not a Senior Software Engineer. There is no autowallah left in Bangalore who has not had a row with this powerhouse. A charmer with the ladies, but luckily only once. His UP-70 Splendour does not leave him come what may. Someone once told him that he looks like a DJ and since then there is an honest attempt at pursuing this art… atleast the photos in orkut say so. The name is Kartikeya Roy. No no, he is no Bong…

Intense. Practical. A module Lead working for a banking major based out of London. Everything has a limit and every problem has a solution. Like me he also believes that daru peene ke liye sahi partner hona zaruri hai. This guy will make it big. Mark my words. Meet Sonal Srivastava. Please… it’s a he and not a she.

This guy is already big. Its hard to miss him. Debu had once seen a huge body coming from quite a distant and told me Panky is coming “Itna bada aur koi nahin ho sakta”. Over the years he has grown in all directions. His marriage was also one reason for him to grow. A perfect advertisement for the power of the Pulsar 150, a module leader for an Embedded product based company. Over the last few months has made the NSE/BSE as additional source of income. Meet Pankaj Dwivedi… Bade Pankaj.

Another lady with a ready smile on her face. I never knew that behind a serious face there was a funny character… leave that apart I even did not know that she was in my WASE batch. She had to do a lot of arm twisting to get into where she is now: an associate consultant for a private banking major. Just back from a two week business trip from the US; the name is Supriya Ananth. Always giggles. Her Hindi is lovely.

Late night Romeo. This is what the orkut profile says. Otherwise he is module lead for a manufacturing company. Always the heart of a party… loves to enjoy the jokes, most of them would be on him. Had worked out of Canada and would be traveling to the US… thanks to the H1. The name is Jaiprakash Mishra. “Aarey Saala…”

My erstwhile roommate. Loves to live in a world of his own. At times confusing but otherwise fun to be with. An application analyst with a financial major based out of Boston. Books, “Friends”series and any untouched concepts are his favorite. Otherwise he would be seen gyming or jogging. Meet Pankil Shah.

Netaji. Breaks all deadlines and promises. Too good with the Hindi language and caught in the wrong profession as a project engineer from San Francisco. He has the remarkable capability to talk gibberish about anything and to such an extent that you’d go mad. Meet Niloy Sen.

Mr Cool... the silent one, he speaks little but never one of those who misses out on the fun. Working as a module lead based out of Pennsylvania for a healtcare major. Loves his Apache... Its our own Awinash.

There was no pretty girl whom our dear friend had not tried to be .. you knows Friends-type. ;-) He has a recipe to fall in love and out of it in record time... I've been hunting for it but alas. When it comes to work he goes out of his way and helps... and if its a pretty girl... wel, yes, you guessed it right. Currently he's playing love games with the Queen... Neel Kamal is based out of London working as Solution Delivery Analyst for a Media company.

Last but not the least. Seth. Based out of Beaverton this Solution Delivery Lead has a secret dream of owning the BSE, NSE and the NYSE. And he has embarked on the journey long long time back. Everything is planned and there is a plan B always ready. Till that place its fine… but I get mad when he comes out with Plan C and D as well… supposing A and B does not work. This is one of the toppers who happens to be quite close to me… Life cannot be boring when this Hyderabadi is with you. The name is Bhavesh Heniya.

Of-course there are many others whom I have missed due to lack of information on my part. And that brings us to a couple of important questions: Are we there where we wanted to be? Have all the ex-WASEians started the journey towards their dreams? One year hence…

Saturday, 30 August 2008

The scent of a woman

The only way to tie the necktie that I know is the Windsors’. Generally I prefer wearing heavier ties but today I was wearing a lighter one, after a pretty long time. The result was that it took me three attempts to adjust the length. Before I left my house, I knew that I’d miss my bus. My fear was granted when I saw the bus leave from the bus stop, 50 meters from where I was.

As expected the bus stop was deserted when I finally settled down, trying to figure out which are the other connecting train and trams that I’d be missing for this delay. The frequencies are quite high at that time so I might not get delayed for the meeting.

I was waiting for my bus when a pretty lady came and sat just besides me. Usually I do not bother to look at whoever sits besides me, but she was someone different. It was the perfume that she was wearing, fresh floral fragrance. All that I can recollect was that the smell was fresh. Well, for the rest of the time I just tried to relate the scent to something which would help me remember it. I didn’t see her face then, but I knew she must have been attractive. A floral skirt and a thin anklet is all that I could see. She was reading the newspaper, while I tried to focus my attention as to what Nicholas Sparks had written in “The Rescue”.

The bus arrived and I found an empty seat, one of the only two empty seats and I was being followed by someone. This time I saw her face. The reason to be glad was that I could spend more time with the perfume. Our eyes locked and she smiled, I smiled back. Throughout the journey I contemplated whether to ask the name of the perfume that she wore. I knew it would be too rude on my part, but… but I wanted to know what the name was. Our destination came and we parted. From this place I was to board a train and at this time around it gets pretty crowded.

Putting the scented thoughts behind me, I started figuring out how my day was planned. A meeting at 8 would be the one which I was looking for from quite sometime. I had a couple of presentation on the solution proposed for the stakeholders in my assignment. Just as I was thinking about my work, it struck again, though mildly. I searched for the source frantically, because I was sure the carrier was not here with me. She had walked in the other direction as we alighted from the bus. This had to be someone else.

And then I found her. She was standing a couple of feet from me. Striking though, I thought I could do nothing more than to remember the smell. Our destination came quicker than what I had anticipated. Having spent quite sometime with the scent, I was sure to be able to describe it to the shopkeeper when I’d ask for it for my sweetheart.

My last leg of travel was via the tram. This time I did not have to try so hard. The lady sitting just ahead of me just took out the bottle as she sprayed modestly over herself, giving me enough time to read the label on the bottle and also have an extra share of the refreshing smell, just as the tram came to a stop. Feeling quite contend on finally being able to retrieve the name of the producer without much of an attempt I started for my day. How many times has it happened that something irresistible strikes and after eluding for a couple of times finally reveals itself? For me this was the first time.

Just one thought had lingered -all the three ladies were not one of the best looking but had dressed too amazing well. And I knew that my babe would have been as good as them and with the perfume… well I would need convincing reasons to leave her side.

As far as the name is concerned, it was Weekend by Burberry.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Daal, tadka laga ke !!!

The places might be thousands of kilometers apart… but the feelings are so close to be as one. The circumstances stark different… but not the view.
The mind races faster to connect two seemingly insignificant events into what might be a pleasant walk done memory lane. The power of thought or the memories of the days gone by… hard to judge. But it’s strange isn’t it? Why are old days always good? Is it because we are so occupied that we forget our greatest joys… our existence? Is it the promise of a better tomorrow that strains us from admiring the present? Or are some incidents in life meant to be savored from the future?

The time 10:15 PM.
The place: Naini Chauraha, Allahabad District.
The Period: April 2003

Our end semester exams were quite close and the frequent power cuts along with the chaos around us had become a part of our lives. The yellow lamp did little to sway our concentration… I had never loved studying as I had in those days. After having allowed the mosquito coil to trouble me more than keep the mosquitoes away, I glanced around. Ravi was humming one of his favorite songs while he focused his attentions on one of the algorithms. Dinner time was close and reluctantly we got ready to make the move.

The Naini Bazaar was a small town in itself. The money was short and the hunger resilient as we settled in one of the dingy restaurants. “Bhaiya, char roti aur bhindi ki sabzee do jaghe mein” Ravi said over the counter as we found an empty bench to ourselves. It was quite dark out there, cannot expect much from the street lamp or the lantern hanging near the wall. We seated ourselves among all who came from various walks of life… mostly truck drivers. The garam garam rotis instead of receding our hunger had flared it more. “Ek daal tadka laga ke yahan par” said one of the drivers and we held onto the aroma for a bit longer. A minute passed by and then another, “Bhaiya yahan bhi do daal tadka laga ke” I said as I looked at Ravi. It would cost us seven rupees more.

The time 10:30 PM
The place: My room, Schumacherweg 47, Zurich.
The period: August 2008

The day was tough, a client meeting ensure I had enough work to keep my coffee breaks and lunch as short as possible for the week. But I was at home. A half an hour call to my sweetheart with a cup of hot tea made the day lighter. A cursory glance over the financial sites told me that the day was lackluster with no wild swings. Orkut showed me a couple of friends’ updates. Gradually it was time for dinner. “Sourav, khana khayega?” Libin asked me. “Kya bana raha hai?” I asked. “Mujhe to bus ek hi cheez aata hai… daal, tadka laga ke”.

The places are thousands of miles apart… but the thoughts are not. That evening while walking back with Ravi to our room we would have discussed about either the exams or a movie. Could I ever in my wildest dreams expect the “daal tadka” memory to make such a remarkable comeback when I would have least expected it.

Old days are always good and so are the memories. One day… one day, I would want to go to the same restaurant… sit with the same people in the lantern lit place while I would say, “Bhaiya, teen daal tadka yahan par”. Ravi, lets relive the old days. Libin, a bit of Ganga jal will do you no harm.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Life in a metro or Love Unconditionally?

I guess most of us would have watched the Hindi movie “Life in a Metro”. Accidentally I happen to stumble upon the songs from the movie…
“In dino… dil mera mujhse hai, keh raha…. Tu khwab saja….
Tu jeele zara, Hai tujhe bhi ijazat kar le tu bhi mohabbat”

The gist of the song concentrates towards finding love... true love.

No this write-up is no movie review, it’s about my thoughts towards the lives in the movie… the few lives that try to find true love without fancying going against the shackles of the traditional society… the few lives who just want to love and be loved. Strange isn’t it? Are they asking too much? Is love difficult to find?

Bollywood veteran Dharmendra plays the role of Amol, a grand dad who has returned to India to spend the rest of his life with the one lady he had always loved Vaijanti, played by Nafisa Ali.

Vaijanti a widow happens to be the aunt of Shikha [Shilpa Shetty] and Shruti [Konkona Sen] and is staying in an elder home.

Shikha is married to Ranjeet [Kay Kay Menon], but the marriage has turned sour as time silently moved by. Ranjeet on the other hand has found solace in the arms of Neha [Kangana Ranaut] who grants personal favors to her boss to climb the professional ladder. Rahul [Sharman Joshi] who works in the same office, silently loves his boss, Neha.

Akshay [Shiney Ahuja] a struggling theatre artist and a divorcee meets Shikha and instantaneously fall for her. Their romance takes off even as Shikha is torn between her love for this new man in her life and her fidelity vows towards Ranjeet.

Shikha’s sister and Neha’s room-mate Shruti desperately wants to get married and settle down. She encounter’s Debu [Irfan Khan] through the internet and finds him not fit for her soul-mate. Co-incidentally they happen to be working for the same firm and Debu loves her, though she hates him.

Amol and Vaijanti have got only a few years left in their lives. Amol hads come all the way to rekindle memories with Vaijanti who has been left back in an elderly home by her kids. Amol and Vaijanti want to go into a live-in relationship. They have nothing to loose and there are no reasons other than “true love” to be together. At that age I guess its companionship that matters than physical love. They want to live the memories of their youth together. What threat can they be to the society or to anyone for that matter? But the same society which shelter’s them is against it. Well, we may find it quite annoying about what our society does… but ask yourself what you would do if you would had to choose between staying in an elderly home or finding love in that age? What would you do if you have no family left with you and an old memory eager to be stirred? What would you do if your heart promised you companionship? However practical we may want to sound, had we been in that place, we’d have wanted ourselves to be together with the love of our lives…
Just a change in setting now… instead of ourselves imagine our parents. Would we allow our widowed moms or widower dads to go that way? Would we prefer them to stay in an elderly home devoid of the love of a family and still deprive them of the only chance of making the remaining days of their lives memorable for them? And who are we... the very society.

Shruti hated Debu. The reason is nothing but stupid. Just the first time that she met, Debu seems to glance quite more than often below her neck every-time she was talking. Of course that’s a reason enough to find someone annoying… but not after knowing that the guy meant no harm and that he simply loved you. He makes her a part of everything that he does… right from having lunch together to even his wedding shopping. Debu shows her that life is not that complicated, provided we are ready to make it simpler. But Shruti had written him off. They are a perfect couple, they compliment each other. And believe me, at times opposites do attract. But once we have an impression, we stick to it. We are the society.

Shikha and Akshay came so close but could not carry the relationship any further. She was bounded by her wedding vows, while there were nothing more than the words left in her marriage. She had just started living a lovely live again with Akshay. She had started enjoying life. Her relationship with her husband had nothing left. But the very society did not allow her to go ahead. Not that she had not tried fixing up her marriage, but it had passed all limits of repair. They were just playing the part of a family, probably for the kid. This is not life. Life is full of love… and when there is no love, there is no life. We find many such instances around us but we do not want to discuss these. We do not want our people to love and to live. We are the society.

Neha realized sooner than later that at one point in time, we want true love. But she had gone too ahead and expected true love from someone who was no suit for her. Ranjeet had left her. Suicide, though a quick solution is not at all a solution. A life is a gift from God, learn to love life. There always are new beginnings. Rahul was completely aware of what had happened between Ranjeet and Neha. After Neha’s suicidal attempt he was the one to take care of her. Of course seeing someone we love being in someone else’s company is painful. But loving when that same person needs love is humane. Rahul inspite of the tormenting facts, had loved Neha… and truly loved her. After her suicidal attempt Rahul ensured that she did not retry. Once unable to find her where he has last seen her, he rushes from one room to the other, only to find her enjoying the rain in the balcony. The sight of finding our love enjoying life is wordless. The fact that she had once had been in a relation with her boss had not deterred him from loving her. Why should it? Rahul had concern and love for Neha. Does Neha not deserve love? Are we so heartless to deprive someone of the love that they deserve? But let’s keep ourselves in Rahul’s shoes. How many of us can love Neha? We are the society.

The name of the movie according to me should have been “Love Unconditionally”. These incidents are true and are enough to open our eyes and embrace the facts thrown at us.

Had I been Vaijanti’s kids, I would have allowed her to make her life loveable. Afterall I care of her happiness.
Had I been Shruti, I would have seen that Debu compliments me and not base my views on the first meet.
Had I been Shikha I would have started a new life with Akshay.
Had I been Rahul, I would have loved Neha… and love her unconditionally, because she deserves to be loved.

No I am no rebel and I mean every word I write. I am also a part of the very society that I live in. And I know that we live as long as we love.

After publishing this post, I received a few comments that though we say that had we been so and so, we'd have done this... done that but its not true. Its not possible.

Though I did not reply, but I realized that its all in the mind. The limitations, the reservations and the inhibitions. Had there been unconditional love, every hurdle would have a solution. After all we want to live. We want to love.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

The WASE Days: The Last Semester

Like all good things, our WASE program also had to come to an end and it did, but not before four years of testing emotions and efforts. I’m not sure which one was more. Of course it was a big relief and I’m quite sure none of the ex-WASEians would want to contradict me now –almost eight months hence. As with all the semesters, out eighth semester was equally dramatic… but the end was a state of exhilaration to such an extent that the feeling started to elude as the D-day came closer. I went through all emotions right from fear to happiness and ultimately a feeling of nothingness in the final two hours. I had finished WASE. I knew that the feeling of euphoria would be short-lived, where it was just me and my thoughts… me and my thoughts of completing WASE. I didn’t want to think of the future or of the past… For those approximately 120 seconds or so, time stood still… my mind was blank as I stared into the vast openness of the Wipro campus. And to make the feeling sink in, I told myself “It’s all over… WASE is over… My WASE is over.” WASE has and will always be a major milestone of my not-so-spectacular academic life.

The end of WASE, the dream of a two day holiday weekend didn’t wait for WASE to get over. It started about one semester back… when we had finished our seventh semester exams. With only one semester between us and employment, we thought the next four months would be a cake-walk. Our perception was not wrong except for the days when the submission dates for the project were looming nearby.

I was always amazed by the capability of static analysis techniques to report major bugs quite early in the software development cycle and hence I had decided to do a project in the same field. Since the project was close to my heart, lack of dedication was not a question at all but even then it was marred with a few surprises, and that too at very wrong times… close to the end; all due to varied visions of various stakeholders. I found little solace looking at a similar chaos all around me with my fellow batch-mates. No, I was not alone… though my project was a bit different; we all were sailing in the same boat.

As the end date came nearer, my desperation to complete the project documentation and just submit the papers overthrew my dedication towards the project.

A few weeks hence, our project presentation was scheduled and believe me, the ghost of a “repeat semester” loomed heavy in the air… luckily it was not only me who felt that way. Having come this far, we were just not willing to extend the program any more. Our entire batch was evenly distributed into groups to be reviewed on different dates by different panel members.

As if the last minute rushes to submit the papers were not enough to get us anxious, the list of panel members when it was made public, made it look minuscule. The names sent a chill down our spine as we all endorsed the fact that the inevitable was about to happen. Old wounds were savagely opened. Scores had to be settled. It’s not over till its over.

By the end of the first day the verdict was out, battle lines had been drawn. Group A, B and D was being grilled and more often then not with out-of-context questions. For the logical questions, a few of our guys were dumbstruck and were having issues with communicating the project concept to the panel. The panel had consisted of professors who had at one point of time taught us in the last seven semesters. Some were good and some were hated.

My presentation was on the last date of all the days and that did give me enough time to gauge what the panels were looking for. But the only panel which happen to be talked about were A, B and D. I was to present to the E panel which luckily happened to be tooth-less and nail-less; nevertheless I took all precautions in my presentations slides, while preparing for it.

On the D-day, I was never as proud to don my Wipro shirt as I was that day. I was clear in my message to my panel: You are reviewing a Wiproite, a Wipro project was under way and there are much smarter brains at work behind the project concept. Believe me, the clear demarcation of territories helped turn the tides on our favor. My project concept stuck the panel as something distinctive and within minutes of providing the introduction they started showing keen interest in the project findings. The questions were logical and I enjoyed answering them as I loosened up and realized that I might get through quite comfortably.

My presentation lasted around 25 minutes and when I came out from the discussion, I had expected life to be different… I had completed my WASE… but why did I still feel same? Was I still the same? I didn’t feel something phenomenal, but as I walked a little bit away from the clamor and stood in solitude, it was all coming back to me… the invite for WASE, the trip to Bangalore with very little hope to clear the test, the bond signing, the first day at Wipro, the trainings in the first month, the canteen, the amphi theatre, the early morning bus rides through sparse traffic to reach the EC campus on a Saturday morning, the mid and end semester exams and last but not the least, the classes of the semesters… all this and more came back to me… all memories right up-to the very moment where I found myself standing there… staring at no-where and telling myself- “It’s all over… WASE is over… My WASE is over.”

Of-course not everyone shared my panel and the luck that came with it. Bhav, a very close friend of mine had a demon as a member for his panel, lets name him Mr. J. Our panel member did not share a very pleasant rapport with the entire batch and I can assure you that the feeling was mutual. Mr. J had achieved the rare distinction of not taking notice of life beyond the 8086 micro-processor and when Bhav had explained his project on Supply Chain Management, it was not surprising to see the Mr. J stare as a 10 year old was being explained the concept of Integral Algebra. Not to mention, Bhav’s 15 minutes presentation was a little too much for his [peanut sized] brain and having hurt his ego with enough unknown knowledge he asked Bhav to stop his presentation and declare that he understood nothing. Neither do we expect you to know it Mr. J, life has moved much ahead. After a few futile efforts, Mr. J asked Bhav to either take a “FAIR” rating or come up with a fresh presentation a couple of days later. Bhav was asked to report his decision in the next half an hour. Bhav consulted a few people who belong to the IT industry and came to the common conclusion that: (a) how much ever he tried, he might be able to teach a donkey about Supply Chain Management but Mr. J (b) Mr. J was still nursing old wounds of the past years and would not let go of Bhav so easily, and (c) last but not the least, Bhav like all other wanted it to be over once and for all.
The encounter had reached a much higher altitude; it was no longer confined to the walls of the assessment room. For Bhav it would be better if he took a back step and agreed with what Mr. J had to offer. With his decision made Bhav met Mr. J again and conveyed his willingness for a FAIR rating. Mr. J had just started enjoying this combat and Bhav raise the white flag… this pissed him off and he stared at the unexpected twist, unsure of how to respond, with bloodshot eyes. Bhav smelt revenge and just to have some fun asked him if he would stick to his words and award him a FAIR rating. This time his already bloodshot eyes sputtered enough venom to kill himself. Having settled his score, Bhav had a dramatic ending to his WASE as he closed the door behind him and walk with a light heart.

A month or so later we received our provisional grades and one of my greatest achievements in life slipped down memory lane. Like it’s said—“Savor the journey, the destination is a mere state of mind.” Our WASE was also a journey and if we try to find that one exact moment when we felt elated—for me it would be the entire journey.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The Lost Hour

“We’re already late by an hour” Rennick told me. I looked at my watch, it was still 5:45 PM and we had another 15 minutes more.
“Are you still drunk?” I mockingly asked him; he didn’t talk gibberish earlier in the day.
“Today is the last Sunday of March…” that was some fact he was telling me, so he’s not completely knocked out, I thought, but still could not figure out how does the last Sunday have an impact on us getting late, when we are 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
“Daylight saving Sourav… we moved ahead by one hour last night”.
“Daylight saving?” I thought to myself, yes that is something I had heard about, but what is it? Rather why do we do it? Is it enough to move the hour hand by one? Not to be bogged down by some phenomenon, I had decided to spend some time to understand this, as I got into the bus.

My quest took me not only to medieval times, but made me read a bit about the earth’s revolution around the sun and the impact that it has on the changing times. Having been in India which is quite close to the equator than other European nations, I never had undergone a need for the daylight saving. But as the latitudes increase, the reason becomes more and more resilient as to why the concept of daylight saving came into existence. The culprit is the earth’s axis.

As kids we had been taught that the earth’s axis has a slight tilt. Due to this the far regions away from the equator will have an impact on the duration for how long the sunlight is available; more during summer and less during winter for the countries close to the North Pole and the vice-versa for countries close to the South Pole. The deviation in the sunlight availability is quite high and this requires for adjustment in our time as well. For the regions closer to the Equator there would be equal day and night hours all year around.

Daylight saving is not new. In the ancient times, a water clock with a series of gears rotated a cylinder to display hour lengths appropriately for each day. Our ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun more flexibly than modern Daylight Saving Time does, often dividing daylight into twelve equal hours regardless of day-length, so that each daylight hour was longer during summer than during winter. After ancient times, equal-length civil hours eventually supplanted unequal; so civil time no longer did vary by the season.

It was Benjamin Franklin, who had suggested that Parisians [citizens of Paris] economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. Later in the year 1905 Daylight Saving Time was invented by William Willett during one of his pre-breakfast rides when he observed how many Londoners [citizens of London] slept through the best part of a summer day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later.

Willett’s 1907 proposal argued that DST increases opportunity for outdoor leisure activities during afternoon sunlight hours. Obviously it does not change the length of the day; the longer days nearer the summer solstice in high altitudes merely offer more room to shift apparent daylight from morning to evening so that early morning daylight is not wasted.

There is a saying that wealth is the root cause of all changes. An earlier goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a primary use of electricity and thereby utilize the energy judiciously. This would only be possible if the evening reduction would outweigh the morning increase, as in high-latitude summer where most people wake up well after sunrise. Moreover the retailers, sporting goods makers and other businesses benefit from the extra afternoon sunlight, as it induces customers to shop and participate in outdoor afternoon sports. Conversely, DST can adversely affect farmers and others whose hours are set by the sun. For example, grain harvesting is best done after dew evaporates, so when field hands arrive and leave earlier in summer their labor is less valuable.

I would not be going into the depths to explain how it is done, since different countries have different times of doing it and not all nations do it together. Since 1996 European Summer Time has been observed from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October across the European Union.

In reality we don’t lose an hour in March and gain an extra one in October, rather we tweak the clock to make life more enjoyable. That was a short description on how I found my peace of mind back after coming in terms with the lost one hour. The change in the schedule is so systematic that you just go ahead as if that hour was non existent. But for me… well, I’m waiting for October to gain my lost hour.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Easter Bunny

Barely a week into office and one fine morning I find a pretty young lady moving from desk to desk distributing what seemed to be a gold paper wrapped in the shape of a hare or rabbit.

In the last few days that I had been out, I saw many such gold shaped rabbits being sold in the shopping stores. Like everybody else’s, even my table was a proud owner of the Goldhase [German for gold hare]. I read to find that it was from Lindt. Being naïve about this I waited for my boss to inform me what it was all about.

What boss told couldn’t have made me less pleased on the prospect:
(a) The hare shaped thing was all chocolate; a Easter gift from the company
(b) Lindt is supposed to be the best chocolate manufacturer in the world.

But that was not enough for me… Why hare? Why during Easter? My quest took me to a few websites whose information I’ve collaborated and presented here.

The Easter bunny has its origin to the fertility lore in the pre-Christian era. The hare and the rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the spring season. Eggs are also fertility symbols of extreme antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.

Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. The females can conceive a second litter of off-springs while still pregnant with the first. The two litters are born separately. This phenomenon is known as superfetation. Lagomorphs mature sexually at an early age and can give birth to several litters a year and hence the sayings- “to breed like bunnies” or “multiply like rabbits”. It is therefore not surprising that rabbits and hares should become fertility symbols, or that their springtime mating antics should enter into Easter folklore. So much so for history.

Seeing the chocolate hare in the fridge and not eating it was one of the greatest tests of patience I had undergone. The fast lasted for barely a couple of weeks where in it was executed in less than an hour. Needless to say the chocolate tasted YUMMM!!!

After having satiated my chocolate hunger with a couple of mouthful of chocolates, I decided to take it back into the fridge from my prying eyes. But the “one last piece” never ended and the chocolate was only the gold paper. I savored my chocolate –and there is one more of my room mate in the fridge. Though it’s out of sight, every time I open the fridge one thought does run in that direction, till I pull the string back.

While savoring the chocolate... a few questions had poped into my head... Why does chocolate make me feel like this..? I again logged into the internet to find some more info about the same. What I found was a bit of past and a bit of present.

The world "chocolate" comes from the Aztecs of South America and is derived from the Nahuatl word "xocolli" which means "bitter" and "atl" which means "water". The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal- The goddess of fertility. Chocolate is also associated to the Mayan god of fertility.

That's about the past. Now about how it makes me feel... and why the "one last bite" never ends till the chocolate is no more. Ask yourself- How does it feel when I place a piece of chocolate in my mouth? The pleasure, however hard I try cannot be penned down... somehting that only consuming it can describe. Part of the pleasure of eating chocolate is due to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body tempreture: it melts in the mouth. A study report by the BBC indicated that melting a chocolate in ones mouth produces an increase in brain activity and heart rate that is more intense than that associated with a passionate kiss, and also lasts four times as long after the activity has ended.

Chocolates are good for health too, provided consumed in the right quantity. Dark chocolates benefit the circulatory system. Chocolates is also a good anticancer, brain stimulator and cough preventer. That's all towards the health impact of chocolate.

If ever blessed with an opportunity of being offered Lindt chocolates- let go of the outer self, let go of the moral values taught, let go of the hypocrisy , let go of everything that might hold you back from taking as much as you can and please be kind to offer me a few if I happen to be near. Be rest assured, even if I have more than a bagful of the same, you will never find it out, unless of course you check the waste basket under my table.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The seven stamps...

I’ve always felt that pursuing a hobby gives a greater sense of personal fulfillment in our lives. Time just seems to fly when we’ve dedicated our heart and mind to a passion. Having a personally accomplished life ensures that our vision towards professional goals are focused. There is a goal why the individual is living, and the sense of satisfaction… which needs to be felt.

We all have hobbies. If someone tells me that they have none then probably they haven’t yet explored much on their personal front or have lost their hopes of pursuing them. Reasons may be many to abandon ones hobbies; one of the most common is “no time after work”. Though there is no set time when to start a hobby, but generally it seems we decide our hobbies during the growing years of our lives: the school and college days. Being a lazy bum, I realized some of my hobbies after I got into work :)

Yes, even I have a few hobbies and have made it a point to dedicate a certain period every month or week in pursuing them; some of them started way back in school. That’s the reason why, as an 11 year old kid when Sam came to me and showed me his stamps, I was not surprised. I realized that Sam had set forth in defining who he is and what he’d be in the coming years, through these little steps. Sometimes I was skeptic whether he’d show enough perseverance in this new found love of his. Frankly speaking, I never expected Sam, an ardent cricket fan, to have the flair and tenacity of a philatelist.

I came to know that one of his neighbors had given him seven stamps and had promised a few more if Sam kept these stamps for more than a year. Having seen Sam grow up in front of my eyes, I knew that come one month and these stamps would be history. A couple of weeks later Sam showed me a new stamp that he got from those Maggi noodles packs; I had completely forgotten about his collection spree then. But Sam was going strong… even I had been asked to supply him the stamps that I’d get from letters…

It seemed that Sam picked up this collection thing after having been a spectator to one of the stamp exchange sessions during recess in school. He’d tell me about the beautiful stamps that his friends had, courtesy relatives living abroad and that he could never have a collection like them. I knew it was true and instead asked him to focus on stamps of India. Probably his friends won’t be able to appreciate it but if he got a sizable number then he could exchange them by writing to the Philatelic society. Every evening after his cricket practice he’d make a short visit to my house and collect the stamps that’d have arrived from post.
Early in the journey, Sam started showing signs of being articulate. He had a neat envelope where he used to keep his stamps. After a few weeks he explained to me what a “damaged” stamp meant and how to remove the stamp from an envelope without damaging it. He also told me that a damaged stamp has no value in the exchange table. I knew he was picking these from school. He also had a magnifying glass to check the writings on the stamps and I realized Sam might pull this through… Sam might stick to this for more than a year.

As we had discussed, I saw that Sam’s Indian stamps packet was bulging against the other packets. Sam had also gone against one of the most important principle of stamp collection and had exchanged stamps for which he didn’t have doubles. He was told by his neighbor not to exchange stamps for which he didn’t have doubles. But I saw that his collection of stamps was becoming diverse and he focused more on wildlife and history. Though he had violated the unwritten rule, atleast he was moving ahead. He also told me that stamps of Russia, South Africa and Czechoslovakia were in demand due to the fact that newer nations were emerging and hence there would not be many stamps of the erstwhile nations.

After six months or so, Sam’s count on India stamps had crossed 500 while others were at a paltry 25-30 or so. Sam used to be very excited whenever I’d give him stamps of foreign countries which I’d receive from mails. Sam had started pushing me for the Indian Philatelic Society address and in-turn I had to depend on my friends for the same. Those days in the early 90s’ computers and net-connections were not that common and finding information took time and patience. That was Sam’s testing time and I wanted to see how long he could hold onto this.

One Sunday Sam didn’t come to my house and I realized that probably I’ll have to find the address soon or a hobby might die; I could see him loosing interest in stamps. Luckily my friend was able to trace a Philatelic Society in Baroda and I had decided to enroll Sam into the society. The next Sunday Sam came to my house late in the morning, all smiles with a small bag which I knew carried stamps. What he showed me was nothing less than a goldmine of stamps. A week back a friend of his dad from office had come from New Zealand and on his way back taken all his Indian stamps and brought a similar number of stamps from there. He had lots of doubles now.

Stamps with animals, birds were galore. We arranged all the stamps together and it seemed that space was not enough. Sam had a grin etched on his face which was already glowing. I knew that it was a jackpot what Sam had now. But he could easily flounder away these if not guided properly. I took the role of the mentor again and Sam promised that he’d obey the rules now. There were about 250 odd doubles which had to be exchanged but at the same time exchanging too many of them might not give him a good return. He had been good in getting two for one stamp that he gives but at the same time not compromising on the quality of stamps. We decided that we’ll release the stamps gradually and not together. He had to be persistent for the stamps that he wants but also not be too lenient in letting go of his multiple doubles. We had listed down the countries of which he didn’t have stamps or stamps that he had seen with his friends which he’d want to own. We had a strategy in place now. Sam had to control his excitement while dealing with the exchanges.

Over the next couple of months, Sam was able to able to disperse a lot of New Zealand stamps among his friends and also enrich his collection with one of the best stamps. In all the collection and exchange spree, what I liked in Sam was that he was still focused towards collecting Indian stamps… he knew where he came from, and he still valued it. Within the next five to six months, Sam’s collection was enriched with stamps of Queen Victoria’s series from half penny to forty penny and a lot of other sets of stamps. He had also dedicated one album for all the Indian stamps; a lot of them were new even to me. Sam was prosperous now and had a collection of more than 700 stamps from different parts of the world. He still had a month or so for one year to go since he started.

Sam’s stint had mellowed down in the next couple of years till he was in college and was handed over an old collection from his landlord. The new set of stamps had not seen the light of the day for more than 20 years and had to be very carefully handled; a lot of them were “damaged”. After his college I didn’t hear him talk much about his stamp collections. He had grown out of the hobby by then. Though he had the stamps with him, he was not actively into the art of exchanging and studying them.

I knew like all of us, his hobby had taken a backseat. I was not unhappy though; Sam had shown the perseverance to keep track of them for quite a long time… much more than I had expected. It’s not only that his interest had died, but the onset of emails has also driven us away from writing letters; though the latest news from him gives me a glimmer of hope.

Sam had been sent abroad for an assignment and he’s managed to collect a few local stamps from there. Co-incidentally the number of stamps that he’s starting with is again seven. I hope the passion holds enough heat to be called a second innings with his hobby.