Friday, August 18, 2006

UNCONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE

(My first attempt at writing a short story … read at your own risk!)



Moments later after I somehow managed to throw myself in the train compartment, it started moving. Had I been stuck in the traffic jam for even a minute more, I would have had to book my tickets once again. But finally I embarked on the journey, the one which will lead to my homes, the one which will make Bangalore “the city I lived in” from “the city I live in.”

I finally landed in my seat, somehow adjusting my luggage below and over the seat. I was really exited about the journey. I had managed to secure an admission into an IIM and was soon going there for a management education. To add to this I had a beautiful girl sitting next to me in the train. This was sort of unusual, as the coach usually I travel in hardly has any beautiful girls in it (courtesy Murphy's law). Later on I got to know from the reservation chart that she was Aditi Mishra, Female (obviously!), 21 years, going from Bangalore to New Delhi.

“Hi”
“Hi”
“Is the berth no. 32 yours?”
“Yup, else why I would be sitting here”

(Damn, what a bad way to start a conversation!)

“You are going to …?”
“Delhi … And you?”
“Agra. 3-4 hours before Delhi”

This was the only conversation we had in during the first 3 hours of the journey. I was thinking of some excuse to go and talk to her, but as usual, when required the most, ideas fail to come.

Still, few hours later and for the next 24 hours we were talking about millions of conceivable topics under the sun, ranging from Israel politics to meaning of life to religion to Zidane to how it would be like to be in Finland to the parallels between socialism and Orwell’s 1984 to some sweets made in some remote village of Kerala life, universe and everything. She seemed to know about everything! 24 hours from now, I would be thinking that she is one person whom I know since ages, someone who has been my best friend, I don’t know since when.

Aditi Mishra, at first glance would have appeared like any other “typical” girl (or rather young lady!). But in course of conversation I realized that she was anything but typical.
She was a daughter of a Delhi based businessman and a doctor. Her parents were about to celebrate the silver jubilee of their wedding in a few days time. She was the only daughter. She was yet another engineer from a college in Bangalore. She had completed her studies a month ago, and was there to get her degree. She had been placed in a leading multinational in Software industry. So what? There are many Delhi girls who have similar profile. But you won’t find many who would leave such a high paying job to become a teacher in a small government school, just for the sake of love for teaching, or someone who is selected to meet a CEO of a large US based company just because she feels that he is unethical and his company uses anti-competitive and coercive practices, or a girl who toils in day and night for few days before her exams to help in rehabilitation of tsunami victims and many more. She was one of the individuals who wouldn’t follow a custom she doesn’t believe in, just because she wants to be herself. She can talk at ease about her break-up with her boyfriend, and have no qualms about it; yet she very much believed in sanctity of relationships. She wasn’t just one of those run of the mill kinds.

We chatted till wee hours of the morning, and hardly did I realize that I didn’t sleep, and didn’t even feel like it. I was just wishing that this lasts for eternity.

Next day was also something like continuation of the previous. I chatted for a long time with Aditi. Though there were others who joined us here and there for some time in between. With children she would play like a kid, with someone like grandma she would talk about religious scriptures, about which she seemed to know all about. She seemed to be as friendly discussing issues with a middle aged businessman or a clerk traveling with us. This all lasted till about midnight, when I was feeling really sleep deprived and retired to my berth.

Still I couldn’t sleep. I was just thinking of Aditi. How often we do things just because everybody does so! How often we follow the crowd rather than our heart? How often do we fall in the trap of “typical ness” of life? But she was one of those who followed her heart rather than the crowd. She didn’t care much about what conventional wisdom said. She followed what she felt right. I the world felt otherwise and she didn’t, she wouldn’t do that thing. With these thoughts I fell fast asleep. I hoped to catch her up in the morning, maybe a couple of hours before my station came.

But this was the last I ever saw of her.

The morning later when got up, I was close to Delhi. Oh God! I had missed my station. And Aditi wasn’t there, nor as her hand bag, which was the entire luggage she had. How could it have been? She was supposed to get down at Delhi. Anyway, I would now get down at Delhi and catch some train from there to reach my home. Finally Delhi came and I was about to prepare myself to get down there, and planning the future course of action. But suddenly I realized that my entire luggage was missing. Oh my God! I lost my laptop, clothes, mark sheets, certificates, a credit card and few other things; or rather many other things. Couple of days later I tried calling the cell number she gave me, but there was no reply; even an email to her bounced. Probably all she was telling was a big lie! But still I couldn’t digest the fact that she did all these, any why?

Somehow, I managed to reach home with the money I had in my pocket, and sans my luggage. I still wonder how she could run away with all those stuff of mine! Despite some complaints and some half hearted attempt, I couldn’t get to know about the whereabouts of my belongings.
Few days later I received a courier from Mumbai with all my important documents. Still, I couldn’t figure out why she did this, and all this?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Games Students play

It is not about sports like soccer, cricket or TT; nor about some indoor games like chess or computer games. How often we hear words which on surface convey a simple meaning but deep inside the meaning may be totally different ?!. It is about these ‘games’.

Formally defined, games are a form of ulterior transaction, and which leads to a definite payoff. Ulterior transaction is the one, which on surface may appear to be completely normal and without any hidden “trick”, but at psychological level it may mean something totally different. For example it may appear as if an adult is talking to an adult (adult – adult transaction), but at psychological level the ‘adult’ speaker may be talking to a child (adult-child transaction).

(No more technical jargons from now onwards!)

How often we hear the phrase “In US it isn’t so; actually there it is …” At the surface it may seem like a mature adult talking to another, stating plain facts. But at other level it is telling that “I have been to USA”. The payoff being satisfaction obtained by means of boasting. Similar may be with someone saying, “In PQR book it is written …” at psychological level meaning “I have read this book.”

Even in classroom, we find teacher playing such games. Often during the course of a lecture we hear something like, “When I was working with company XYZ on ABC project …” On surface it also appears as a simple statement of facts. But the psychological meaning would be telling that “I have worked with likes of company XYZ”, and the payoff once again similar to the previous case.

During the course of conversation, we may hear someone telling something like “Oh … don’t study this much”. On surface this may be another normal conversation, but the hidden meaning could be that “I don’t want you to study that much. But I would, and get top grades!”

Or during exam time, a simple conversation may be of types “I haven’t studied a word. I am surely going to flunk.” All apparently normal on surface, the underlying meaning may be “I am making progress, but I don’t want to know where I stand. It is me who will get the good grades.” Or in the words like “Hey, you are a genius. You know everything about it”. Though it may not be a game many a times, but often at the psychological level it may mean “Ok, you have a last laugh before I get better grades in examinations.”

Games are many. This may include the replies like “Nothing special …” meaning “I don’t want to let you know” or replies like “The same standard …”, again meaning the same, and many more. These all may sound too cynical, but these are few of the many games played by students. Not only students, but we all play games throughout our life, and games do form an integral part of our lives.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Law of increasing competition !

"The first step of reaching the top is getting through the crowd at the bottom"

How often we think to cross one level of competition, and be assured that rest of the going would be smooth, just to realize that competion has just increased !
As a child we often didn't know what we are headed for. Later on we make a decision, usually the one that would lead to something more comfortable later in life, or colloquially "do this, then there is fultoo aish".

As a child I used to think that if I get good grades in school, life would be comfortable. Maybe comfortable meant "bed of roses" to me. In engineering, all the old school style of competition seemed somewhat trivial ! Bt still there is a big fight to get those coveted jobs, but again, on reaching "there", we often end up realizing that just to be ahead of the crowd, you have to compete a lot. During those job/graduation days it is a dream to get into any of the coveted b schools leading to a wonderful "bed of roses" type life. But again it is the same old competition, of the kind we had earlier, but much more fierce, with much more to win and much more a stake. All those "old" competition might now seem insignificant.

But still ... whether we like it or not, that's the truth. As we move higher and higher the intensity of competitiveness. If I land up at some dream job from here, to an outsider it may seem as an end - a comfortable life with success guranteed. But the one actually facing the music may realize that competition has just increased manifold. And as that chap moves up the hierarchical pyramid, he may realize that the competition for the next level is now manifold.

That reminds me of the process of selection of Jack Welsh's successor as the CEO of GE. All seemed to be absolutely fantastic, the margin for the final "winner" was almost negligible. Drawing inference from this, one can guess how competitive it would be as one moves up the career. And from the top looking in retorespect, all may seem so inconsequential. Maybe the school, or graduation was a cakewalk, as the person may think.

Maybe, getting ahead of the lot to suceed in competition may seem to be a tough ask as of now, but that may not be even a small part of the things to come and if it is just only about comfort without competition, it may just a form of manifestation of mediocrity.