Oct 29, 2008

Episode ei8ht

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

, Warney was assuming charge. 'I'm sure Muthu, and maybe even some others, will try to hit on you in there. Junta are drunk, and you are more popular than you think.'
'Really?', Preeti had been a little reluctant to get back to the party when she was in this kind of blue mood, but Warney had been adamant. But she was already feeling better, and was getting back to her usual sharp, perky self. 'You think I don't know how "popular" I am around here?! I have grown up being "popular" everywhere. I can handle it.'
'I'm sure you can. But at this time, you don't need any of that shit.'
Preeti was silent. He'd made his point.

'We go in there, you stay with me. We'll dance together. I'll make sure no one tries anything silly.' He paused. 'Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to be your boyfriend, even if it looks that way to others. I'm just being a friend, and I'm looking out for you.'

Preeti was touched by the consideration the geek was showing, way out of character. 'I know, Deep. In case you haven't realized yet, I trust you. But are you cool with people thinking we're a pair? We won't be able to keep it up very long.' And then you might look silly, she didn't say.

'I don't care right now. You're my friend, and this is what's needed.'
'Besides, I think I'll quite enjoy having everyone jealous of me for once', he added with a big grin a few seconds later.

They went in and danced together, deliberately keeping away from everyone they knew. They looked good together. He started off with some Bhangra, and she matched his moves. Then she led with some salsa-jive-type stuff, and Warney kept up with some improvisations. Soon, they were encircled by people applauding and cheering. They really looked damn good together...


'Deep, Preeti - both of you please come to my cubicle.' Shubh looked serious, and impatient as usual. Our "couple" had no idea what this was about - they weren't working together on anything, and weren't aware of recent leads. Whatever it was, it was serious and was probably going to mean a lot of pressure for the next few days.

'There's a conference in Singapore - Consumer Banking in Emerging Markets. It's going to be attended by all the big guns from the world over. KVK has been invited to deliver a talk. Since he's going, we all also need to send some good entries for the conference, and hope that 1-2 from ICICI Bank get selected. I want you two to work on one entry.'
Warney and Preeti were taken by surprise, and neither knew what to say when Shubh looked at them.
'Any ideas? Come on!'

Warney spoke after thinking for a minute. 'Shubh, we've recently conducted that survey and I've also done some face-to-face interviews with customers. The big finding was - they don't trust private banks. Even though we offer better products, professional service, higher interest rates, multiple-channel access though high-end technology - they don't trust us with their life savings. They keep some amount with us, which they can easily access through debit cards etc., or to cover their loan repayments, but not the life-savings.'
'So you're saying that's a big challange in developing markets - educating customers and changing their mindset. Interesting.'

'In fact - we could even mention other products. Coca-Cola has had problems in India. People say deodorants cause cancer, shampoo damages hair... but we've adopted cellphones faster than anyone else. So, basically, people don't trust Western concepts. We need to create something new to win here.'
'Excellent! But do one thing - start with this background of how people here don't trust Western concepts. Then talk about the challenges this translates into - for Banks.'
'Right, makes sense.'

'One issue', Preeti spoke for the first time druing the exchange. 'You'e talking only about India. Wouldn't it be better if we could talk about something more general - so that it's relevant to the entire developing world.'
'India is almost half the developing world', Shubh cut her, 'and everyone wants to enter India, if they aren't already here. Others have come, but not been very successful. So, we can talk about India only, and that's enough.'

Preeti didn't look convinced. Shubh thought for a moment, then added. 'Do one more thing. Do some research on other developing markets. Look for anecdotes or publications that talk about similar phenomena there. If we can prove that what's happening in India - broadly - is what's happening in other developing markets also, that solves the problem. Then we can have a detailed discussion about our Indian experiences, and assume that it's relevant everywhere.'

'One more thing', Shubh was almost done, and this would be some general gyan.
'This doesn't mean you guys don't have to do your regular work. Business can't be de-prioritized. So, make the extra time for this research. Stay late, or work weekends... whatever. You're young, and this is a good opportunity for you to expand your knowledge.'


'How do you wanna do this?', Preeti asked Warney, as she always did.
'Jaan le lega yeh humari. I did the survey, so I'll start building some material from there. You can start the desk research on other markets. Tumhara hi idea tha. Ab karo!'
'Come on, karna hi hai to theek se karte hain.'
'OK. Today's Tuesday. Let's work on this whenever we can till Friday, and review on Saturday, aaram se.'


Warney and Preeti went through all their material and prepared a document to share with Shubh on Monday. It was 4:30 in the evening. They decided to head off to Mocha at Juhu for some well-deserved coffee.

'I want to go the beach', said Preeti just as they were nearing Mocha.
'Ok. Let's do that, then.'

They went up to the edge of the waves and sat down. Warney thought about sitting next to Preeti. He'd done that in Goa, and they were close enough now. But somehow, it felt too "forward", and he settled down about 3 feet away from her. This was perfectly symbolic for the state of their relationship - two of them were together at the beach on a saturday evening with no one around, but sitting 3 feet apart.

Warney's phone rang. It was Charu, his little-sis.
'Bhaiya, Dr. Grewal and his wife were here for lunch. They've just left. Mom and dad were talking about you and their elder daughter.'
'What? What do you mean talking about "me and her"?'
'Are they out of their minds? I'm not ready for marriage yet. I'm working crazy hours, and my boss is still trying to kill me and might succeed. Why'd they want to ruin an innocent girl's life?'
'Stop kidding. They're seriously considering this rishta. If you want out, better prepare your reasons. I think they'll talk to you at night.'
'But that girl's a doctor. And I'm a young banker, which means a slave. We can't live together. Our lives will have totally different directions. And I've only met that girl once - when I was in class 11. What makes them think we can be happy together?'
'I agree. In my opinion, the misfortune of marrying you shouldn't befall ANY woman. But I'm warning you. Be prepared, and be careful.'
'Ok, thanks chhoti'

Preeti had heard most of that, and had an amused look on her face. 'So, Warney's gettin married?'
'No freakin way! I'm just a kid. I'm sure chhoti's kidding.'
'Yeah yeah! Denial!'
'Screw that. I don't even wanna talk about it. So, do you have any siblings?'
'Nope. I'm the apple of my parents' eyes! Spoilt silly.'
'Yeah right. You're one of the most mature and level-headed women I know.'
'Sweety, how many women DO you know? 4? 6?'
'That's mean!'
'Sorry. Well, yeah - I'm a weird combination of spoilt brat and tough-girl. I guess that happens when your parents dote on you, but give you enough independence to learn your lessons outside. College really toughened me up.'

Her phone rang. It wasn't a "saved" number.
'Hello?'.... 'Hiiiiiieeeee!!!'

Preeti turned to Warney and whispered 'Arjun'. Then she got up and walked away, happily chatting away on the phone...

Continued here

Oct 23, 2008

Episode se7en

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

Preeti had met Arjun at IIM, Bangalore. They were in the same class, but didn't interact in term 1. Preeti, for understandable reasons, was very popular on campus and had made a large group of friends. Arjun was a serious, studious guy who spoke to few, and was invisble to Preeti.

But Term 2 was an eye-opener for Preeti. Nearly all her 'friends' turned out to be competitive, two-faced pricks with no qualms about putting anyone down for personal gain. All this became apparent after term-1 grades were declared and summer placements took place. They didn't invite her to study groups, didn't give her 'meaty' parts of projects on the important courses, and sucked up to professors in class as well as outside. She landed a 'Day zero' summer placement, but people gave credit to her 'looks and personality', rather than her competence. When confronted, they were rude and callous. She realized that none of them took her seriously as an academic/professional peer, and considered her just a pretty-face who was fun to hang out with. Not amused by any of this, Preeti lost most of her 'friends', even having open fights with a few.

Having learnt her lesson, she started keeping to herself, and only a few friends she really trusted. Her best friend now was Vineet. And a good friend of Vineet's was Arjun. Over the course of the first-year, the 3 of them became inseparable.

In the second year, Preeti was elected to the Placement Committee (placecom). Her life was hell - classes, assignments and placecom work kept her seriously busy for 12-14 hours a day. Hunger and hygiene took up another two hours or so. She slept for an average of 5-6 hours daily, and it was affecting her health badly. The only support mechanisms she had - were her helpful neighbor Vijaylakshmi, and her two friends - Vineet and Arjun. They'd help her with her coursework, remind her to call her parents every few days, get her snacks when she needed, and also force her to take a break and get some sleep every now and then. On the rare occasions she did not have any deadline zooming past, the three of them would just meet in one room, talk about random fun stuff, and get drunk (if Preeti didn't have deadlines to meet the next morning). Vineet was chirpy and childish, and Preeti and he chatted a lot. Arjun was always there, but took the back-seat most of the time. He was the one Preeti turned to when she had something serious to discuss.

In the 5th term, the placecom fell out with the rest of the batch over some allegations. As is typical on such campuses, placecom's methods were a closely guarded secret, and many people were suspicious of them. Everyone knows that placecom has a lot of power, no one knows for sure how 'fairly' they use it, but usually placecom is given the benefit of the doubt because they deliver big promises. 

However, this time some equally-credible people who'd been in the 'war room' team (carefully selected by placecom to assist them during those 3 all-important days), had disagreements with the placecom during the junior batch's summer placements, and had made claims about 'witnessing unfair practices'. This had the whole batch up in arms. It was too late in the year to change the placecom, but lots of questions were being asked in loud voices and nasty tones.

Preeti, under a lot of stress, turned to her two pillars of strength. But one was crumbling. Vineet told Preeti he trusted her, and was going to be her friend no matter what happened, but he also asked her questions about the working of the placecom. He felt, as a close friend, Preeti owed him the answers. Preeti tried to reason with him - their friendship and her placecom role were two different things. She assured him that all allegations were false, and she was a part of placecom because she really believed they'd always done the right thing. She begged him to trust her, and not abuse their friendship to glean information he was not supposed to have. She felt torn between responsibilities as a friend, and a member of placecom. But Vineet didn't let up, and their relationship became strained.

Arjun, on the other had, showed blind faith in her. He had questions too - about the others on placecom. But when it came to Preeti, he just accepted that she would never be part of any wrongdoing, and also respected her decision to not discuss 'placecom matters' with friends she would otherwise trust with her life. That meant a lot to Preeti. Over the year, their relationship became much stronger and deeper than ordinary friendship.

Term 5 ended. Just one term was left now, with only half the normal number of classes to attend, grades not being counted towards final placements, and the entire placecom burden off Preeti (her group had placed all the juniors for the summer, and now the juniors were going to handle her own batch's placements). To celebrate, she, Arjun, Vineet and a couple of others decided to go to Goa for a long weekend.


'We'd been driving around town the whole morning - drinking beer, buying random little mementoes, eating seafood, and evaluating all the hot firang chicks stutting their stuff. Then we came to this beach in the afternoon, ran around playing some childish games, went on a banana boat ride - and enjoyed ourselves so much we could burst with joy. At sunset, everyone else had gone off somewhere. I was reading some book with my iPod plugged in. I put the book down when the light faded, and I saw Arjun sitting next to me, watching me. I don't know how long he'd been just sitting there - just watching me. He took my hand, and didn't say anything. I didn't say anything either. It was perfect - no words were necessary. Then we kissed.'

Warney was listening. He heard, understood and 'recorded' everything in his head. But he wasn't thinking. It was all just too much for him to handle.

'That wasn't so long back. So, what happened.'
'Well, we were together for a few months. But Arjun wasn't cut out for the rat race. He wanted to do something more meaningful. He's gone to the US for his PhD. We decided it was best for us to part.' 
'But, he'll be back, right?'
'Deep. He'll be back after 5 years at least. We couldn't wait that long.'
'Why not? I mean, you two were in love and happy with each other, right? That's not easy to find. And if your parents and all are OK, you can wait...'
'No. First of all, we are from different communities. The parents would NOT be OK with it. And we've just been together for a few months. That couldn't keep us together for 5 years.'
'Not 5. I have friends who've finished their PhDs in 3'
'It's not that, Deep. 3 is very rare, and he'd also have to find a job. It would realistically take at least 4 years, more likely 5. My parents wouldn't wait that long. Not for a guy they don't like in the first place.'
'How do you know? They might like him. I'm sure they'd care how you feel.'
'No. The community thing was going to be difficult anyway. And with him away for 5 years, there's no chance. They WILL get me married to someone else. And honestly, even if they were OK, we weren't sure our relationship would survive 5 years of separation. Lots of things change in 5 years. People change in 5 years.'

'I can't believe you guys just let it go so easily.'
'Easily? Does THIS look easily to you, moron?'
'You can cry. But the fact is - you guys didn't really take your chances. You just gave up without trying.'
'It hurts. If we'd tried, it would've hurt even more. We just decided to keep the happy memories, and move on.'

Warney called for the bill, a bottle of water, and some tissue paper. Preeti was confused.
'What's all that for?'
'For you. We are going back to the party. And I don't want anyone to think I made you cry!'
'No, I'm not going back there now.'
'Yes, you are. I'm not leaving you like this. You'll just go back to your room, keep thinking about Arjun, and will just depress yourself. I'm not going to let that happen. Ab muh dho aur chalo.'

(Continued here)

Oct 20, 2008

Episode 6ix

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

They arrived in Goa on Friday morning, exhausted from the long bus journey. Nobody had managed a good night's sleep, and this was after four tough days at work. There wasn't going to be much respite, as they had to attend 'talks' from senior management post-lunch. The talks ended at 8pm, and after dinner, the five RCLG newbies decided to head to the girls' room (it was bigger than the boys', even though it was for 2 people rather than 3). For a few hours, they bitched savagely about their bosses and the Bank in general, downing more than one bottle of vodka in the process. They also played some card games for an hour. All through the evening, Muthu kept hitting on Preeti. Warney noticed every single time, and also noticed that Preeti gracefully ignored him every time. He was a little annoyed with Muthu, but thanks to the vodka and the generally cheerful atmosphere, it didn't bother him much.

Back in their own room at 1 am, Muthu and Neil made a few lewd jokes about Muthu's 'luhhvv'  for Preeti. Muthu declared that he was gonna flirt a LOT with Preeti at the party on Sat evening. Warney heard all that, but didn't comment. He looked forward to watching this, and was curious to see how Preeti would react when Muthu got in her face. Though he didn't admit it to himself, he really hoped she'd brush him aside ruthlessly, and discourage him from trying again. She was better than this. He was the first to fall asleep.


'Lets hit the floor, people', announced Neil, and all five of them did. For a bit, they were all dancing as a group, with no one dancing with anyone in particular. Then Muthu asked Preeti for her hand. She danced with him for two songs. Then he started getting close to her, and held her by her waist for a bit. She was visibly uncomfortable, and Warney was boiling. When the song ended, she somehow managed to get away from him and rejoined the group. Muthu backed off for a few minutes. Then, he started turning towards her, and tried dancing with her as if the other three weren't around. Preeti seemed undecided about how she felt. She didn't make any effort to get away from him, but clearly wasn't dancing 'with him'. She looked like she was enjoying herself, aware of Muthu, but not quite with him. Everyone had had 4-5 drinks by then, and Warney was sure she'd give in soon. He was disappointed. He had hoped she'd give Muthu an ice-cold shoulder, but she wasn't doing anything like that. She seemed to be enjoying the attention, and playing just a little hard-to-get. Warney knew how Muthu's mind was working, and was very unhappy about the way Preeti was behaving. 

The music stopped for a few seconds. 'I'm hungry. I want some dessert.', said Preeti, sounding like a 10-year-old.
'I'm sweet, baby. Have me!', came the flirt-attack from Muthu. He made it sound funny, so that it didn't seem offensive or too forward. But Warney knew he wasn't just kidding. Now, Preeti's discomfort became more visible, and Warney felt reassured. She wasn't totally loose or easy after all.

Muthu went to refill his glass with another Bacardi. This was the time.
'It's really warm and stuffy in here. I'm stepping out for a bit.' Warney turned to Preeti, and asked only her, 'You wanna come along?'
'Yeah, sure.' And they got out, without bothering about Neil and Rags. Right now, Warney didn't care what they made of it.


'Thanks', said Preeti.
'What for?'
'You know what for. Thanks.'
Warney thought for a second, and realized there was no point in feigning ignorance.
'That was over the top, man. I dunno about you, but I was getting irritated for half an hour.', he paused, 'I mean, I assumed you weren't interested...'
'Deep! I'm not that stupid. I knew what he was doing, and FYI - I was NOT interested. But I deal with this all the time. I was just trying not to react and he didn't deserve any more attention. I thought he would back off after some time, when he saw I wasn't interested. But it's true after all - you guys simply DON'T take hints.'
'Don't generalize. That guy's scum. I mean - he's normal, and most guys are like that. But still, you can't generalize to all guys like that. I took the hint and got you out.'
'Yeah, you're a sweetheart. Thanks'
She smiled. He blushed, and gazed into the distance.


'Can we sit down for a bit? I'm tired, and I want a beer.' Deep wasn't really asking, he was informing her. They sat down just beyond the line the waves had made, facing the sea, and about 3 feet apart. Deep was too shy to sit right next to her. He ordered a beer for himself. She didn't want anything.

No words were spoken for some time. After downing half the bottle, Warney noticed that Preeti was sobbing quietly. He had no idea why she'd started crying, and no idea what the appropriate reaction was. Sitting close to her, beer in hand, all he could think was 'WTF?!', and was distinctly uncomfortable.

Nothing. An uncomfortable minute. Still nothing.
'What happened? Talk to me.'
Still nothing. She was crying now. His awkward questions weren't drawing any words from her. Only more tears, and the crying was getting louder. He felt like a deer staring into the headlights of a massive speeding truck 5 yards away.

After two minutes of total cluelessness, he decided to take a step. He moved right next to her, and put an arm around her. She buried her head in his shoulder, and cried freely. He didn't understand it, but somehow this felt a lot better. A couple of minutes passed. She seemed to be regaining her grip over herself.

'What happened? Talk to me.'
Nothing, again. 'Preeti, I won't tell anyone. But you can't be like this. What's bothering you? Tell me!'
'I know! If I didn't trust you, I wouldn't have broken down in front of you. Dumbass!'
She paused for a bit. 'One year back, on this very day, I was right here. With Arjun'


(Continued here)

Oct 19, 2008

Episode 5ive

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

'Lucky bugger, da'
, snorted Muthu. He, Neil and Deep were having lunch in the Cafeteria on Monday afternoon. The two girls were busy, and would probably grab a bite at the Coffee shop later.

'Big shit, man. She's my colleague. It's not like it was a date', defended Warney.
'Dude!' Muthu was having none of that nonchalance. 'That's the hottest chick on the floor, if not this whole bank. You had dinner with her on Friday evening, and you just said you had a good time. And you sit in the same cubicle. Do you have any idea how many guys in this building would love to trade places with you?'
'If anyone really wants to trade places, tell them I'd do it gladly. Two days with Shubh - and they'll forget all this hot chick shit.'
'Dude!' Muthu wasn't shaken. 'Seriously! Can I trade places with you? We'll talk to our bosses. We'll figure something out'

Warney was getting irritated. 'Muthu, get real. We're just two months into our roles, and barely surviving. No way am I telling Shubh I want a change. In fact, I don't. Working with him is a great learning experience, even if its murder'
'All I wanna learn' - Muthu was in his own world - 'is what it'll take to get Preeti to visit Enigma with me.'
'And then?', Neil spoke for the first time in this whole exchange, 'Will you bring her home?'
'Dude! This is true love. None of your dirty jokes about my true love', said Muthu with a naughty smile. Of course, there was no true love here, and dirty jokes were exactly what was going to follow. To be fair, though, Muthu really was smitten.

'True luuuhhh-vvvv', joked Neil, 'Yeah right! I've known you for 3 years. True love will last for about 12 minutes after you've scored with her. Not that you will. But, if you ever did...'
'Impossible is nothing! The makers of adidas tell me. And I'm serious about this one. It's not just for the score. I'm in luhhhvv'

By now, Warney was quiet and very pissed. He felt deep resentment toward this conversation and the other two guys. He had been part of these little guy-talk sessions many times in the past, during his college days. But somehow, he didn't want Preeti to be discussed in this manner. Or at least, not in his presence. She was a colleague he had some respect for, and they were doing quite well as a team. He knew she didn't like guys talking like this, and also knew that she had a fair amount of trust in him. He felt ashamed at some level, as if he was letting her down. But there was something more to it. Something more personal. A feeling of 'ownership'. A desire to protect. He wasn't sure what it was, and it was disturbing him. He just wanted to get done with lunch, get back to work and forget about this whole episode.


'Did we send the briefing document to Nielsen?'
'I dont know. Ask Jatin.'

Preeti was surprised. Deep was behaving strangely distant and aloof today. Not that he was particularly social otherwise - he mostly stuck to his seat, with his gaze firmly fixed to his computer screen. He'd only come alive in meetings, and very rarely participate in the general gossip/timepass/bitching sessions that kept happening in the corridor. He had this ability to shut out the rest of the world when he wanted to focus on something. But he'd always been nice to her. When she spoke, he'd always turn away from the computer and listen, and try his best to cover up his impatience. She admired his work ethic, and also the quality of his ideas. Though she was quite smart and confident herself, whenever they worked on something together, she'd let him take all the 'calls' they had to, and he almost-never got them wrong. But, his focus on results was so single-minded, she wasn't sure he'd ever noticed it, or realized how much respect and faith she'd shown in him.

Preeti, herself, wasn't having an easy time in this office. She was there for 10-12 hours, 5 days a week, with tons of work to do. Shubh was an absolute slave-driver, and the others, except Deep, never had any time to help her. Also, with so much of work to do, she'd not found any time to talk to other people in the office and hadn't made any new friends outside the cubicle. To an extent, she'd become dependant on Deep. Professionally, he was reliable as a rock. When she needed advice, she could always count on him. On a more personal level, he was as good a friend as she could expect to find in office. When they weren't working, he was always around, giving her company. He could be fun - at least, more than the average banker. He always seemed cheerful, and had a sharp sense of humor. He never talked about work - he always was either actually working, or talking about something else. It was easy to forget all your worries and problems after a 15-minute conversation with him, and rediscover reasons to be happy. Even last Friday, she'd ended up on a 'dinner date' with him, and had a great time. It had briefly made her forget about...

Anyway, something was wrong today, she could easily tell. He wasn't behaving normal. And she suddenly had a realization - he'd become a friend she needed at work. Especially now, with all the shit going on in her life outside the office. But for once, when she probably needed him the most, he was far away and not listening.

'Goa!', announced Jatin as he entered the room.
'Again?' Vidya wasn't pleased.
'Yes, madam. Offsite means Goa. If we were more imaginative, we wouldn't be bankers.'
'When is it?'
'We leave Thursday night. Friday, Saturday we stay there. Sunday morning, we start back.'

Preeti looked towards Deep. Right on cue, he also turned. Their eyes met briefly, before Deep turned towards Jatin to ask for some details. It was only an instant, but both of them had got the message. 'This'll be a good time. We need to talk'


(Continued here)

Oct 13, 2008

Episode 4our

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

What? Neil and Muthu also ditched?'
'Looks like it. So you are gotta have dinner with me, rather than your boyfriend. Sorry about that', joked Warney.
'There's no boyfriend! And I'm ok with just the two of us here. Unless you're missing your girlfriend.'
Warney felt immensely proud of himself. He'd got an answer to the boyfriend question without really asking. He thought it was very smart play, and the bigger news was that the field was clear! Obviously, Warney wasn't very experienced with women. He had no idea how transparent his play really had been for Preeti. But Preeti had judged him as a nice and totally harmless guy. She saw signs of interest, but didn't think it was anything serious, and didn't think Deep would ever directly ask her anything. If he did, she'd certainly think about it - he did appear to be a nice, reliable guy who could be fun too (probably, not definitely). But she was sure she'd never face the question from him, so it didn't matter.

'You do know which colleges I went to, right?'
'Yeah, IIT, M and IIM, L. So?' She had an idea where he was going, but wasn't sure and didn't agree with what she thought he was getting at.

'If a college's name begins with two I's, and it is a reputed college, you don't find girlfriends there. Only a few non-males. Barring exceptions like you, of course.' His feeble attempt at flirting was about to backfire badly...

'Non-males? That's disgusting! I didn't expect that from you.'
'Sorry about that. But it is true. That's what all guys at II's believe and say. I probably just happen to be the first to say it in front of you.'
'No, I've heard that before. But i expected better from you, Deep. That's such a cheap way to view your peers. FYI - I used to stay at a girl's hostel at an II, and I disagree with the cheap generalization you just made.'
'I said I'm sorry. You're taking this way too seriously. It's just a guy joke, and for the most part, it's sour grapes. I didn't really mean to offend or demean anyone.'
'That's more like the Deep I know. Or at least, I thought I knew.'
'Oh, come on! You can't judge me for one silly little statement. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. Point was just this - I don't have a girlfriend because I didn't meet anyone suitable on campus. Partly because there were few of them, and partly because I didn't think any of them were right for me.'
'So, what is "right for" you? Dumb, hot Delhi chick, right?'
'Nah. You really think I'm that shallow?... Ok, you do! But I'm NOT. Sure, good looks matter and there has to be an element of physical attraction'
'Ahh! You make "dream girl" sound like a trigonometry lesson'
'No, I was getting to the dream girl part. Basically, you need a wavelength match'
He stopped. She was staring at him, with an "I told you so" smile. "Wavelength match" didn't sound particularly romantic either. He also smiled, a little embarassed now.

'No, what I'm basically trying to say is - when you meet the right person, you just know. It's natural. You like each other... like doing the same things... the time you spend together is never enough. It's just... right!'
'Finally, you sound human! But I know what you mean.'
'Did you know someone like that?'

She stared again, this time with an "I'm not telling YOU" smile. 
'Girl like you couldn't have gone through 2 years at IIM without having at least a dozen guys propose to her. There must have been someone...'
'What do you mean "girl like me"'?
'Oh, come on! Don't try to change the subject. I meant you are good-looking and nice and fun to be with. And smart. Just take it as a compliment and answer the question'
'Smart always comes last, doesn't it?'
'I asked a question first!'
'I don't like you. Just because you think I look good, you assume I must have had a boyfriend', she said, trying to sound indignant, but wasn't convincing.
Warney's patience was wearing out. 'If you don't wanna tell me, just say so. Stop beating around the bush and throwing barbs at me. I meant that as a genuine compliment, and you know it.'

She smiled again. It was an "OK, you win" smile this time. 'Let's order dinner. I have to leave by 10'

He stared this time, and waited for a sign of impatience to pounce on. It didn't come. 'OK'

(Continued here)

Oct 12, 2008

Episode THR3E

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

'Oh, I'd love to. But i've already made plans with some batchmates of mine.  I've just come to Mumbai, and last weekend I was busy setting up my house. I have to meet them today'
'Arre, no issues. We're anyway here nearly all the time, and I also have to get up early tomorrow.'
'Maybe next week sometime. A celebration is definitely in order'
'Hmm. Lets see', grunted Warney. He was trying to pass it off as 'no big deal', but in truth he was quite dejected. His first attempt to ask her out had been quickly and easily dismissed. He probably shouldn't have tried at all. After all, why would pretty-gal here wanna spend any more time with him. She was probably gonna meet her boyfriend in the evening. If not, she was probably gonna be on the phone with him for a long, long time.

(15 minutes later, in an auto-rickshaw, still feeling bad)  'Wait a minute. She did say next week sometime. Maybe she really had to meet some friends. Maybe I'm being a little unreasonable here. Let's see if this comes up next week.'
'But if she had other plans for today, there was still the rest of the weekend. "Next week" is just a polite way of saying no.'
'Hang on. She's a girl. In fact, she's THE pretty-girl. Obviously, she wouldn't suggest the weekend. That'd amount to her asking me out. Next week is probably the best she could have done, if she really is open/interested'
'But she probably has a boyfriend. Girl like that can't NOT have one. Especially one from an IIM. She probably had 50 guys chasing her there. Surely, one would've succeeded. If no one did, she perhaps isn't interested in a relationship. Why am I even wasting my time thinking about all this? I have to work with her, and I'm just getting started here. Any nonsense between us wouldn't help me with my job. Cool, Warney, Cool.' 
And, finally, Warney diverted his thoughts to other things.


The alarm went off at 8:35 am. It was 'snoozed'. 8:45 am. Snoozed again...

Warney woke up with a start, and looked at the clock. 'FACK!! 9:15? I'd set this damn thing for 8:35, and was supposed to get up by 9 at worst. There's no freakin way I'm reaching Marine Lines by 10!!'
Fortunately, Boys' Hostel hadn't been very long back, and Warney still remembered the 'rush-brush-splash-dash' routine. He was in a cab by 9:35. He reached the Cricket ground by 10:05, and was relieved to find only 10 people there. By 10:30, they had 16, and divided themselves into two teams. Warney's team was batting.

They didn't start too well, and lost wickets regularly. Warney went in to bat at 44/5 in the 6th over, with only one more batsman to follow. 100 was considered a good score for these 12-overs-a-side games, and anything below 75 would not even have been challenging. Warney was confused. Should he bat with proper technique, footwork etc., and wait for the bad balls? That'd definitely make a good impression on everyone. He didn't want to bat this low in the order again. Conversely, he could just go with his natural game, and try and get his teams some runs to bring this match back to life. His main skill was leg-spin, and he wouldn't get a chance to display it if there were no runs on the board. Still undecided, he took a deep breath and a proper, defensive stance with his grip a little firmer than it would be for only-defense-play.

The first ball he received was a half-tracker on leg-stump. Before Warney could 'think', he'd leant back and swung with authority. The ball sailed over mid-wicket, and his whole team applauded! That calmed him down, and he took guard again, less worried about the result this time. Another short ball, another mighty swing, another 6 over mid-wicket, and a lot more applause! Warney had arrived. The bowler looked exasperated - he had no idea what he was doing wrong and what he should try next. He got some advice from his captain, and bowled one outside off, beating a wild leg-side swing from Warney. 'That would've looked stupid. Concentrate! 6 over mid-wicket isn't the only way to score. Focus!'

The next ball, straigher, was hit back past the bowler for 2. And the last one was carved over point for 4. The crowd warmed to Warney, and he began feeling like God-with-a-bat. He took his team to 114 all out in the last over, scoring 52 off 16 himself. He also played his part with the ball in their 42-run victory, though it wasn't nearly as spectacular as his innings with the bat.

In the second game, his team-mates asked him to open the batting, but Warney didn't like doing that, and said he'd go in at no.3. The first wicket fell on the 3rd ball with the score on 1. Warney said it was still too early. Another guy went in and was dismissed first-ball. Now the stage was set for Warney the showman!

The Sardar bowler tried a bouncer for his hat-trick. Warney hooked it with total self-belief, but got a bit of a top edge. After a couple of nervous moments, the ball plopped about two feet behind the fielder and the rope. Warney, though shaken to the core, pumped his fist and showed off a bit. A couple of balls and 2 runs later, he edged one to the keeper. The umpire didn't detect it, but Warney walked. Once back, his team-mates explained that walking was simply NOT done here. While they appreciated his 'spirit', no one ever wanted to see him do it again! He bowled even  better in this game, but it was already a lost cause. 

Being a perfectionist, Warney wasn't completely satisfied with his performance on the day, but happy with his first innings and knew he'd made enough of an impression to be seriously considered for the Corp. squad.


'Warney nahin, Sanath hai yeh', said Jatin. Warney was thrilled and felt damn proud. But he wasn't sure how to deal with this attention at the Monday morning team meeting in office, and didn't react visibly. Divya asked a couple of questions, just being polite, and got an unnecessarily long account of Warney's Saturday cricket act from Jatin. Preeti was smiling, as usual, and looked impressed. But Warney didn't think she cared too much about office cricket, and was also just being polite. 

Having had enough of the fun and games by now, Shubh took charge of the meeting and started rattling off "to-do's" for all of them. It was going to be a very busy week. In fact, Warney realized, life was going to be very busy as long as they worked under Shubh. He made notes on all the things Shubh told him to do, and also put down some of his own thoughts on how he would be doing it. Warney also had a few passing thoughts about Preeti and how much interaction they'd have this week, but quickly put those away to focus on the tons of work.


Warney sat opposite Preeti at the lunch table, between Neil and Ragini, with Muthu placed between the two girls. The 5 of them were the "RCLG Batch of '08". Muthu and Neil were on the same team, and old friends from the same campus. Ragini was the only newbie on her team. Though stationed on the same floor, they all kept very busy and didn't get to spend a lot of time together. The idea was to meet for lunch on any day they could, but that didn't happen more than once or twice a week.

'Guys!', started Neil - always the enthu-cutlet, 'We're in this misery together. This bank is going to leave me deprived of friends and a life very soon. All we have is each other.'
'Yeah man! We're brothers', said Muthu, hitting his chest with his fist, and speaking with a mock accent, 'and sistahs! Wuss yer point, yo?'
'Point is - we should hang out! And NOT talk about work for a change. Lets get to know each other - as people'
Neil waited to see how the others reacted. Everyone seemed OK with the idea.
'How about - we all go to Mocha after work on Friday?'
Rags wasn't sure she could make it on Friday, as it was her house-mate's birthday, but said she'd try. Everyone else agreed, and it was a plan.


'Muthu, where are you, man?'
'Sorry, da. Boss gave us a shit-load of work to finish by Monday morning. Will be in office late tonight. Also working all of tomorrow, and probably Sunday.'
'Dude! This was your plan. Preeti and I are already here, and Rags isn't coming.'
'Sorry, da. I know I made the plan, and I really want to come, but there's too much work' 
'Seriously, man. You both have already worked your butts off all week. You need a break! Come on, you can finish this on the weekend.'
'Hmm... lemme discuss this with Neil. I'll let you know in 10 min if we can make it'
'Ok. I'll see you in 30'

Warney hung up, and turned to Preeti. 'Oh well, looks like it's just gonna be the two of us... It's a date!'

(Continued here)

Oct 9, 2008

Episode 2WO

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

'Shubham Dutto, then'
, she said, tilting her head sideways and raising both eyebrows to emphasize the o in Dutto. She was smiling. Warney was trying hard to supress a goofy ear-to-ear grin.

'Over there, third room from the left corner', pointed out Jatin. 'Come with me. I also had to discuss something with him'

Preeti returned in 10 minutes. 'About the same time the boss spent with me', Warney noted approvingly. Introductions  followed. Vidya said she was from FMS, Delhi, and handled 'marketing' for their products. 'If she's doing "marketing", what are the rest of us doing? She must mean promotions. These people have forgotten all the college lectures and theory about marketing meaning a lot more than just sales and promotions'. Warney already felt smarter than Vidya, and confident he'd be out-performing her soon (and he was right on both counts).

'Hi, I'm Deepesh Bhatia. But please don't call me that. Everyone calls me Deep or Warney'

(out of nowhere, male voice): 'Warney? Kya? For bowling leg-spin or maidens over?'
Jatin had returned 5 minutes later. Clearly, whatever he had to discuss with the boss wasn't major.

'Leg spin. Not in his league with the maidens - yet.', Warney said, trying to sound smart and witty. Everyone smiled politely. Warney anticipated another smart-ass remark from Jatin, but it didn't come. Warney wasn't so sure about his 'IIML senior' anymore.

'I'm Preeti Khanna. IIMB class of 08. I'm from Delhi'
'So, when did you come to Mumbai?'
'Saturday. We flew together, dude.'
(Googly!) 'Oh ya! I thought so, but wasn't sure' ('She recognized me! Yay!!')
'If you hadn't been studying the airports and the aircraft so seriously, you might have remembered.'
(Stumped!) 'I might have remembered if we'd talked. By the way, where's your iPod?' ('What the fack am I doing?! Sarcasm, and open admission of interest! What naivete, Warney!  But she remembers all that. Maybe she likes me. Yayyyyeee!!')
She smiled. Warney was blanking out every time that happened, and it wasn't good.
'iPod's in my bag. I'll introduce him later maybe. Day 1 - gotta make good, serious impressions'
('But you're being candid with me. You really like me, dont you? No one can resist the Warney!')


Jatin was going out of his way to help Preeti get her workstation set up, and to get to know everything around them. To be fair, he was getting Warney's workstation set up as well, and introducing both of them to the others on the floor. But all of his attention was obviously focused on Preeti. There was something there, which was bothering Warney. But Warney was more focused on settling in and getting started with work as soon as possible, and was trying not to think too much about the happy coincidence of meeting pretty-girl here. Of course, it was a big deal, and opened up a lot of exciting possibilities for the future. This, however, wasn't the time to think about all that. He had a job to do, and his first priority was doing it well.

Jatin, just off the phone, casually: 'Boss wants to talk to you both. I told him you're both set up with comps, and I've got all HR formalities done with. Don't tell him otherwise ( :) )'

Warney and Preeti walked to boss's office. He was on the phone, but saw them through the glass panel and waved them in immediately.

'So, both of you all set?'
'Yes, sir'
'Arree hero! I told you no sir or anything. Call me Shubh'
'Yes, sir. I mean Shubh. You can call me Deep'
'Not Warney?', Preeti butted in sharply.
'Warney? Haan, Shane Warne jaisa dikhta to hai. Lose some weight. Do you play cricket?'
'Yeah, I was on the Institute teams for both IITM and IIML. Primarily as a leg-spinner, though I can also hit a few with the bat.'
'OK. You should try out for the Corporate team. I'm sure you'd do better than oldies like me. Ask Jatin, he's one of the Cricket coordinators'
'Yeah? Both of you on the Corp team?' Warney was impressed. God-knows-how-many thousands of people in this human jungle, and the two men on my team are on the squad. Good signs!
After a pause, 'OK, I'll send you some presentations we use to make our sales pitches. Also a report from a good summer intern who just finished last week. And I want you both to do some market study. Look up the internet, industry reports etc., and get a feel of the market we're in, what our competitors are doing etc. etc. You can ask Jatin to explain anything you don't understand, but I don't expect you to ask him basic questions. Do some spade-work.'
Preeti: 'What does Vidya work on, sir?'
'Tum bhi! Please stop calling me sir, both of you. If HR hears, I'll be in trouble.'
'Vidya handles our marketing intitiatives - ad campaigns, outdoors, coordinating with all the agencies etc. Her role is more of creative and execution. If one of you is interested in that, we'll discuss it in the future. For now, I want y'all to focus on some research and analysis. Solid product management.'
'Sure! We'll do that'
'You'll be making a presentation on Friday afternoon. Together. And not more than one hour. And I want you both to get involved and contribute. I'll get some of my colleagues and my boss in. Tomorrow, I'll also give you some books to read.'

'How do you wanna do this?'
Warney was a little distracted by Pretty-girl's looks and her presence. He'd heard the boss, and he heard this question, but he wasn't mentally processing any of it as well as he normally would.
'Lets start with some google search. You take up comeptition, and I'll take up basic market structure - products and customers. OK?'
'OK, what about the presentations? I want to go through those.'
'I think we should both go through all of that, since we'll both need to know all of it. However, if there's too much, we'll split some of it. But the basic stuff - we both need.'
'Right, I'll ask Jatin for the ppt's.'
('Yeah, I'm sure we'll get everything we need and some useful inputs if YOU ask him.)


'Good show, guys'. Shubh was happy. His wards had made a fairly impressive presentation, and also seemed to make a good team. They'd been embarassed a bit by some of the feedback and questions offered by Shubh and the panel. But they'd fared much better than all the other newbies, who displayed neither knowledge nor teamwork - and whose fancy, airy presentations had been shredded by the panel.

'Phew! These guys were ready to eat us, man!'. Warney and Preeti were now walking back to their workstations, and were going to leave, like everyone else already had.
'Totally! I didn't expect them to be so aggresive in this presentation. We've only been here one week. But I think we made a better team than most of the others.' She put her hand up for a hi-5. Warney wasn't quite expecting that, but they hi-5'ed.

'What say we celebrate? Coffee?', he hesiated, but decided this was a good time, 'or beer!'

She turned to him and smiled, but it was looking like a 'Oh, sorry, but I have to... (something)' smile.

(Continued here)

Oct 7, 2008

Episode 1NE

If you are new to this story, you may want to start with the Index and Introduction page.

"Kingfisher Airlines announces the departure of flight IT 203 to Mumbai..."

Deepesh hugged his mom, and then dad and finally his little sis. Everyone's eyes were moist, including his. He bit his lip, waved at them, and walked towards security-check. A few minutes later, he put all home-sick thoughts away and began thinking about his new job, the exciting life he was gonna have in Mumbai, all he could do with the tons of money he was gonna earn very soon. He was rapidly alternating between a sad, 'leaving home' feeling, and excited anticipation of everything that lay ahead...

He proceeded straight to the boarding gate. His eye, by now well-trained at Engineering college and B-School, quickly scanned the queue for people of possible interest - batchmates/friends, other acquaintances, and most importantly - all young women. There were only two that appeared close to his age. One was a typical page-3 type, wearing a hot, black-brown-n-gold salwar suit with umm... glittering-black (?!) 6-inch heels and loads of make-up. 'Too pseud, n probably as intelligent as a tomato', he concluded. The other was a pretty girl, who looked more his 'type'. She was wearing blue denim capris, a pale pink tee, and sneakers. She had long, straight brown hair, brown eyes, rimless glasses and was reading some novel. 'Really pretty', he evaluated, 'but nothing exciting', and waited his turn to board.

As usual, he'd taken a window seat. Being a bit of a geek, he enjoyed observing the activity at airports. An old uncle came and sat next to him. Couple of minutes later, pretty-gal-in-pink-top came, verified the seat number and was about to settle in the aisle seat. 'Not bad at all', he thought.

Old-uncle: Excuse me, beta
Pretty-gal: Yes...
Old-uncle: I came late and got the middle seat. I may need to go to the toilet a few times. Could I take your seat, please?
Pretty-gal: Sure, uncle (and smiled)

The smile struck Deepesh hard. She was even prettier up close. 'Awesome! Even better!' She settled in the seat next to him, and gave him a minimal smile.  However, Deepesh, a little awkward, gave a sorta-smile back, and turned his gaze to the IFE screen. 

'Kya karoon? Should I talk to her? What do I say? Hi, I'm Deepesh... hmm, nah! .... so what? despo lagega. Come on Warney, show some class'

Deepesh had been known as Warney on both his campuses. (Thats' coz he looked, bowled and batted a lot like Shane Warne. Especially the leg-spin bowling.) Over 6 years, he felt more Warney than Deepesh Bhatia (kya bore naam hai! Deepesh. D-uhh!)

But Warney wasn't sure how to proceed. He didn't want to end up hit-wicket. He was trying to figure out how to hit a six with pretty-gal. But he wasn't getting any fail-proof idea. If he initiated conversation, he'd have to sound casual and have something interesting to say. And it should lead to further conversation. Otherwise, it'd be a waste of effort and he'd feel silly.

Dr Vijay Mallya: 'Hi, welcome aboard Kingfisher Airlines...'

Warney: I love this airline! (not quite to her, but in her general direction, and loud enough)
Pretty-gal: Really?
Warney: (Bingo!) Yep. It has an atmosphere. The only airline you enjoy traveling on!
Pretty-gal: First time for me.
(Silence. 'Abbe yaar! Aage sochna tha na')

Warney looked out the window as they started moving. But he kept checking himself. 'She shouldn't think I'm a kid - excited by planes and all'. Once air-borne, he started browsing through the menu, in-flight magazine etc. About 10 min. later, he stole a glance at her. 'Damn! They should ban these bloody iPods for the entire flight. And everywhere that a babe is within talking distance. Sheesh!'

He noticed she was reading Prizes by Erich Segal. He'd read it, and in fact nearly all books by Segal. He liked that she was reading Segal, and started thinking how he could bring it into conversation, if and when her attention diverted and the damn iPod was shut off. 'But it shouldn't be for the sake of saying something. She'd think "saala despo! i love this airline, aur ab bas fight maarne mein laga hai". How do I smartly engage her in conversation?'


'Veg. or Non-veg, ma'am?'
'Non-veg., please'
('Great! She respects her position at the top of the food chain. I love this babe!')
'For you, sir?'
'Non-veg., please'
(iPod already plugged back in. 'Abbe yaar! Yeh iPod se kya pyaar ho jata hai logon ko? Khana to tameez se khao! Aur Warnie-boy ko mauqa to do!')


'Ladies and gentlemen, we are now beginning our descent into Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport...'

They landed and everyone began getting ready to de-plane. Warney kept stealing glances at her, without letting it become apparent. Or, so he thought. Girls know better and see through the charade all the time, but Deepesh Bhatia didn't know that. Anyway, he didn't make it painfully obvious, and she didn't react at all. Since he was at the window seat, he joined the queue right behind her. And he stayed behind her till the baggage conveyors, and then went off to find a trolley and a good position. 'Damn these iPods! Bye bhi nahi bolne diya. Shayad kuchh baat ho jaati, aur number/email mil jata. Damn! Damn! Damn!'

He kept looking out for her, and sighted her a couple of times. However, her bags arrived early, and she left. Deepesh collected his baggage later, and took a taxi to his friends' place at Prabhadevi, where he was going to stay in one room. The weather in Mumbai was much warmer than Delhi, and bloody humid. He cursed, but the excitement of a new life started returning...


Deepesh got off the bus outside ICICI Bank. He was a litte awe-struck by the sheer size of the building, and to be honest, it was magnificent by Indian standards. As he entered the building for the first time, he felt as though he was entering a new world. The interiors, the technology on display, and the sea of professional-looking-people around him were quite impressive. He walked towards reception.

'Hi, I'm Deepesh Bhatia, joining the Salary Accounts Marketing Team today'
'Which group?'
'RCLG - Retail Channels an..'
'South tower, sir, to your left. 4th floor. Just ask anyone there'
'Thank you'

Suddenly, Deepesh felt very sure of himself and confident. Warney's here! He found his way to RCLG, and to Subham Dutta's office. He knocked, and the smart, middle-aged, slightly-graying-haired man at the desk nodded for him to enter.

'Mr. Subham Dutta?'
'Shubham Dutto, son. You're Deepesh?'
'Yes, sir.'
'Don't call me sir. Everyone has to use first names here. So, how are you feeling?'

Some polite introductory converstion followed. Warney was impressed by Shubham Dutto's energy levels. His new boss then gave him directions to the cubicle where he was supposed to work, and said his two seniors there would help him out with setting things up and all.

'Hi, I'm Deepesh'
'Hi, I'm Jatin'
'Hi, I'm Vidya. Welcome to our team'
(smiles and hand-shakes)
'You're from PGP-22, right? I'm also from L - PGP-19.', said Jatin, and Warney's comfort level doubled in an instant!
'Another girl's supposed to join today... Preeti, I think IIM Bangalore', said Vidya.

Right on cue, a girl walked in. Warney froze. It was pretty-gal from the flight on Saturday. She was wearing a black business suit, a smart white shirt, the same rimless glasses, and black heels, about 2 inches. She looked stunning.

'Hi, I'm Preeti. Where can I find Mr. Shubham Dutta?'
'Shubham Dutt-o', offered Warney with a big smile. She looked at him, and smiled...

(Continues here)

Oct 5, 2008

Brain Drain

Till I was 25, I didn't understand this phenomenon. Having grown up among men who were willing to lay their lives down to defend their country (some even did), I mildly despised those who fled the country for personal comforts and gains. I formed the argument more clearly in my head, when I was at IIT/IIM - the government subsidises the higher education of a few, using tax-payers' money, so that some of them help build a brighter future for India. They reap the benefits and then escape their responsibilities.

A lot of my batch-mates left for the US etc. as soon as we finished our courses. I was determined to stay back and do something, in my own small way, for my country. And with the development we'd seen in the past decade or so - 'India Shining' and all - I felt confident I could lead a good, comfortable life right here!

A little over 3 years later - having lived in Bangalore and travelled to London and a lot of S-E Asia, I've changed my mind and I want OUT of this place. Lemme explain why...

Aspect 1 - Public goods and services
In all cities I visted, one could:
- drink tap water
- not have to worry about power cuts
- reach anywhere quickly, and very conveniently, using public transport
- drive without losing their temper a dozen times an hour
- start working young. You have to work hard and PAY for higher education. And if you did, it would mean something

Aspect 2 - Discipline and behaviour
People formed and respected queues everywhere. Traffic signals were followed. Rules were respected. In general, people were courteous and cordial, and showed a basic minimum level of respect for each other even if they were strangers.

Aspect 3 - Leisure and luxury
There were 24-hours-open 7-11 stores and McDonalds everywhere. The number of convenience products available, large stores/malls, brands of apparel/automobiles etc. - was absolutely mind-boggling for an Indian.
After a hard day's work, or on a weekend, you had leisure establishments you could go to, have a good time, and meet new people. Contrast this with Bangalore - where everything MUST shut down at 1130. Single guys are not allowed in. And dancing is illegal.

Aspect 4 - Safety
If you live in a major Indian city, you could get bombed out of existence any time. Consider this - there were bomb blasts in M-block (Delhi) on a Saturday evening last month. Couple of years back, there were bomb blasts in Mumbai Locals at 630 pm. I could have been there. And ceased being the next moment. We have shockingly inadequate police coverage, high levels of corruption and low levels of motivation within the force. And we have popular politicians who defend the terrorists! Anywhere else - I don't think I'd have to worry about this. Such incidents would be exceptions rather than the bloody norm. And they are becoming bolder and more frequent. People laud our resilience. That's bullshit. It's actually apathy.

Aspect 5 - Govt. and policy
Kashmir. Godhra. Singur. Mandal commission and Reservation. Farmer suicides. Communal riots. Fodder scam. Bofors case. MP's involved in '86 anti-Sikh riots. CM's convicted of murder (and then acquitted to be re-instated as Dy-CM to keep the Congress in power). Mayawati. Jayalalithaa and Karuna throwing each other in jail. Laloo Yadav and fodder scam. A Prime Minister who slept during meetings. A president who couldn't maintain a dignified posture. Naxalsim. A colossal failure called PDS. Another, paradoxically named Public Sector Enterprise. Loan waivers. Currency scams. Exam paper leakages.
An electorate that fails to learn. Educated and affluent sections that refuse to stand up, roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
Need I say more?

Aspect 5 - Social standards
I've often heard that Indians living overseas often confront the ugly face of racism. Maybe they do. What happens here? Lemme narrate a few recent incidents:
- I expressed my views against the restrictions on leisure establishments at an online forum, where, supposedly, one'd encounter only educated and civilized citizens of Bangalore. I was told that people who partied and consumed alcohol (like me) became like 'horses without reins' and were a public hazard, and didn't deserve more freedom. 
- I was sitting on the steps outside Gokul Arcade (about 50 yards from Forum - very open, well-lit and public) with a female friend after an evening movie show. My bike was parked there, and we were just waiting for me to finish my cigarette before driving. We were harassed by cops and ordered to get the hell out of there and go home.
- A friend of mine is a graduate of IIT Madras and IIM Calcutta, employed with HSBC as a Marketing manager. He was, for a while, unable to get a flat in Mumbai 'coz he's a Muslim.
- Even in my own country, there are places where people have been hostile because I was from a different region and did not speak their language.
So, are things any better here?

For most of my life, I lived in Army Cantonments or reputed campuses, and did not have to face any of the problems mentioned above. I believed in India, and Indians. 3 years of living on my own, in Bangalore, has made me aware of a very different, and quite harsh, reality. Most Indians do not have a 'sense' of nationalism, or 'greater/public good'. Even a lot of those who are supposedly educated and should know better. Of the few who do, most either don't bother doing anything about it, or end up frustrated after failed attempts (like I have).
Having seen the alternative (US/EU/HK/Singapore), and evaluated all factors, I understand why some of our best brains escape. It's not just deplorable selfishness, it's also a natural instinct - self-preservation.
I love my job and the place I work at. But I hate the life I have outside the office. Given an opportunity (hopefully by my current employers), I'd get out! And maybe someday, when the love of the land becomes irresistible (akhir dil hai hindustani), and our nation has taken several steps forward, I'll come back. For now, I just want out!

Oct 4, 2008

The perennial problem

Scene 1
Year: 2000. 
Age: 18. 
Location: IIT Madras. 
Life-stage: vela, 'fighter' college freshman.

There are only 2 'status symbols' at IIT Madras - a 9-point-plus CGPA, or a girlfriend. Since relative grading ensures no more than 10% can have the former, everyone wants the latter.

The month is Jan. Saarang is on. The air is thick with rumors of hotties from the local Stella Maris College and the 'pseud' Mount Carmel (Bangalore) being on campus, and 'available'. There is a flood of testosterone at the IIT boys hostels. 

Silo and Moma Singh are sitting out on the balcony at Mandakini Hostel, 3rd floor, surrounded by hajaar other freshie junta. Moma, wearing a tight, plain white t-shirt, and imported bright, yellow shorts with a large black smiley (:)) printed on it, gets up and proclaims 'Yaar, bandi chahiye'. He says it very earnestly, with a huge smile and a million dreams visible in his eyes...

Scene 2
Year: 2006. 
Age: 24. 
Location: Happening bachelor pad in NGV, Bangalore. 
Life-stage: young, single, stressed-out professional.

DaKatalyst (DK) is lying on the 'Diwan-i-khaas' and Silo on 'Le Lounge' in their living/party hall. It's late on a Saturday afternoon. Both are stressed, having survived yet another tough week on their jobs.

Silo: Kya plan hai?
DK: Athena chalte hain
Silo: Fight hai
DK: Kya, couple entry?
Silo: Yep. 1k per couple. Can enter as group with more guys. Will hafta pay 1k per couple or guy. Stags not allowed otherwise.
DK: Yaar, kya ch****p hai. Phone lagao...
(30 min later)
Silo: Spoke to Redskin. She's meeting some old friend. Dante has gone to Dharwad. Sirf Kilkari hai. Hum 4 hain. Bakiyon ko kata bhi dein - 2 of us and 1 girl will be weird.
DK: Abbe yaaaaar! Aur bandiyaan dhoondo...

Scene 3
Year: 2008. 
Age: 26. 
Location: Large, empty bachelor pad in low-rents, no-life nook of Bangalore. 
Life-stage: Professionally stable, dead bored single guys facing an early mid-life crisis.

Most friends have got married or moved on from Bangalore. Silo and Donnie-boy have moved into a flat where no pizza chain delivers! Now they're facing something they've come to dread recently - a 3-day weekend! Fack! So much time. Absolutely nothing to do. After 2 sessions of ping-pong (all equipment is set up at home), hours of aimless browsing, watching the latest episode of Splitsvilla, and cracking many many lewd jokes, the following converastion (inevitably) ensues:

Silo: I'm BORED. Let's go out
Donnie: Main aur tum?
(still more lewd/gay jokes follow)
Silo: Pak gaya hoon main. I need to get a life
Donnie: You need to get a WIFE. Shaadi kar leni chahiye ab
Silo: I'd like to. Koi mile to
Donnie: Single bandiyaan hain hi nahi...

Location, life-stage, time sab badalta hai... saali ek haqeeqat nahi badalti...

1. Officially, the gender ratio in India is ~900 females per 1000 male (in cities). Logically, only around 10% of all guys should be single. The real number is statistically significantly higher.
2. Silo did find partners shortly after scenes 1 and 2. Both were great. But, both didn't work out after all.
3. Scene 3 is very recent. I hope Silo manages to hook up 'soon after' again. Though it's gonna be tougher this time as opportunities are few and far between. However, this time, it will probably be the 'happily ever after' kind.
4. Actually, Silo believes he has found the Ritegal. Ritegal, however does not seem interested at all, and has masterfully been playing the 'worm effect' on him, pushing him close to his wits' end. Though it doesn't appear likely, I hope they manage to work things out