Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Hostel life

Two years of MBA is the first time I have ever lived in a hostel. So far it has been a roller coaster ride for me. All of you may have heard about the usual clichés related to hostel life such as shared accommodations, common toilets, ragging of juniors, shouting, chaos, fights, boozing, playing computer games, watching movies, messy rooms, and thefts and last but not the least, the unpalatable food. But you can truly appreciate them only if you have stayed in a hostel. On top of that if you happen to be a student representative for hostel and canteen, who is called as RAC (Residential affairs Committee) member in my college, then you would definitely learn a lot. By making such a claim, I am betting on the fact that you are a modest and sane human being who is ready to accept his mistakes and keen to learn from them, although your decision of becoming a RAC member itself might be termed as an act of insanity. By the way the literary meaning of the full form of the acronym RAC (Residential Affairs Committee, repeated once again to increase word count of my post and pamper my ego) member does explain one of his unwritten and untold responsibility of at least protecting, if not promoting, the affairs of the residential students on the campus and not grudge against them like other numerous single souls staying in hostel. The acts of these single men of venturing out into the virtual worlds of Yahoo chat rooms in search of fairer sex are often criticised as the manifestation of hunger for lust, but I would term it to be a side effect of nature’s curse of doping youngsters with high levels of testosterones. Anyways, the day I was asked to be a RAC member, I wondered what must have prompted my fellow hostel mates to do that. I am not a person who likes to linger in a fool’s paradise for long, hence I could quickly find out that apart from my affection towards alcohol (which was officially recognized by college authorities with a fine of 1000 rupees during the very first week of my hostel stay), I am not a very gregarious and extrovert person who has the persona of Sylvester Stallone of Rocky I, II, III, IV to punch hard blows and make the unyielding college authorities and shrewd mess manager to accept innovative and never ending, but often unjustifiable, demands of the students . But the simple truth of the matter was that there was no one else ready to be a scapegoat. I know the phrase ’to be a doormat’ from my undergrad study days, but I could realise its true meaning after being elevated (as in chane ke ped pe chadhana) to the post of RAC. So if someone’s fan stops fanning him in the middle of the night, I should expect a knock on my door. And if the washing machine is not working (thanks to some moron who stuffed it with all he was having including a leather belt, 4 coins of five rupees, a pack of condom and a pair of sport shoes along with the usual shirt and pant, before moving to the adjacent bathroom to take shower), expect another knock. If that is not sufficient, someone obsessed with cleanliness (perfectly suitable to be placed with the sanitation dept of NDMC) would come cribbing about his room being not cleaned properly. And there are many such maniacs obsessed with different things but yet staying in bonhomie in a boiling pot of multi lingual and multi cultural students called hostel. An ablutomaniac demands 24 hours hot water supply so that he can purify his entire body after wanking at multiple times during a day in winter. And there are dipsomaniacs who want consumption of alcohol within the campus to be made legal. And there are hydromaniacs who want water coolers to be installed on each floor. And there are insomniacs who want to wonder in the woods of Sanjay Van after midnight when the main gate is closed. And there are melomaniacs who play incomprehensible hard rock music at the deafening decibel levels to end up clashing with silensomaniacs (now that’s my addition to English language) at unearthly hours during night time.

Although Maslow’s theory of Hierarchical needs has been contested many times and the ancient Hindu spirituality advises to skip indulgence in the basic needs of food, water and shelter to pursue the higher goals of self actualisation and moksha, you won’t find anyone following this advice in the materialistic 21st century. At least not in the hostel of a B school. In fact the very purpose of seeking admission into a B school is to get keys to open the doors of a treasure of wealth and excesses which should last you forever. So the students staying in the hostel are keen to satiate their basic needs in best possible way (which is different for everyone), most important of it being food. But a hostel mess runs as a zero sum game where a Punjabi can enjoy his parathas and paneer tikkas by depriving a Mallu of having idli and dosa. Hence the RAC members are always chasing an elusive dream of coming up with a menu that can satisfy all the students. They sit together and break their heads over all possible permutations and combinations of food items to create an ideal menu, only to realise later that it is more or less same as the previous one. They are supposed to play the role of a mediator in a game which I would call ‘who blinks first’. The students pissed off with the pathetic food refuse paying the mess fee and the mess manager is reluctant to improve without receiving mess fees from the students. In such deadlocks, RAC experiences an ordeal similar to that of a middle level manager.

As they say every dog has its day (har kuttte ka din aata hai ), the RAC also gets his chance of acting to be pricey when the second year room allotment is to be done. But in spite of allotting a smaller room with no box-in-built beds to himself, he is accused of playing favouritism. In between, he is summoned by college authorities to curb the menace of smoking in the campus where he reverses the argument on its head to lobby for a dedicated smoking zone for the so called adult and mature residents of the hostel and attracts wrath of hostel warden.

In hostel, birthdays are to be less enjoyed and more feared. Boys celebrate the birthday of their friends by kicking his ass without mercy till they get tired and pouncing on the cake to grab as much of its share as possible. The birthday boy would consider himself lucky if he even gets to know the taste of it. The interesting part is that the same guys would not hesitate from sharing their parathas, chips, biscuits, cold drinks and what not with each other on all other times.

The hostel life teaches you to be social, share everything with your friends and a sense of privacy is a rarity. So you decide to have a clandestine booze party with your close friends in the hostel to avoid the eye of college authorities and the next day you find everyone talking about your groovy footloose dance in the verandas after every man in the party turned into a superman on the high spirits.

But don’t get discouraged if you are planning to move to hostel anytime. The hostel life has its brighter side too. Sometimes you suffer from the panic attack before the exam and within one hour your room mate teaches you all the essential stuff to sail through the paper. You just screwed your interview with a dream company today and tonight you booze with your neighbour in the hostel to wash away the sorrows of the day. On a chilly winter morning, you enjoy sitting with friends in the sunshine in front of your room and blabber about anything from US Foreign policy to the difference between a bail and sand (ox and bull). You enjoy watching hi quality video movies in the free time thanks to your friend who downloads it for you. At the end of every trimester, when your ass is on the fire, you sit through the nights in the hostel and finish your group assignments and presentations in the company of your friends. You go out with them to explore all the food delicacies which Delhi has to offer. You make real close friends who know you inside out, whom you can trust blindly and whom you expect to help you any time in future. As only 45 days of my MBA are left now, I want to make the most of it. Create as many memories of my hostel life as possible so that I can cherish them for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A proverbial love story - Part 3

He was 22 years old and she was 24. Sameer was a spontaneous and crazy guy. He never allowed the teenager inside him to die. He was still a mischievous and spoilt brat. Vaishali was a mature girl who grew up in a protected and controlled environment. She was a decent and obedient child of her parents. They were quite opposite to each other and perhaps that’s why they were attracted to each other. On their walks after the class, weekend hang outs and random dates, Vaishali was living her lost adolescent life once again. From getting drenched in the rains and eating ice creams after that to hitting all the pins with a single throw of the ball in bowling alleys, from sharing jokes with each other through smses to watching movies together, she enjoyed every moment of her escapades with Sameer. He had the charms of a next door guy, while she had the affection of a sweet girl friend. Life was never such exciting and so much of fun for her. On the other hand he was never cared, loved and felt to be so much special for someone before. From the roses made of the tissue papers in a restaurant to yawning during the class, everything of his was cute and lovely for her. From her soft and fair hands to the curves of the outer lines of her long and thin neck, everything was sexy and beautiful for him. He would fantasise about holding her tightly with the same hands from behind and kissing lightly on the same neck. Once she had told Vijay about a friend of her called Sameer from the German class. But now days she was reluctant to talk about him with Vijay. It used to scare her, make heart beat faster, fumble and wonder what to say.

Sameer’s birthday was a week away. But he had already made plans regarding how he will spend his birthday night. He decided to spend it with Vaishali. She could easily figure out that Sameer was really up to something. He was quite excited about it. Perhaps, it was the right time for them to express love and commit to each other forever. But that was not going to be easy. Like Simran of DDLJ, her parents had already decided to hitch her with Vijay. But unlike Raj Malhotra of DDLJ, the charms of Sameer would not be sufficient to convince her parents. There were so many other issues. Sameer was not just Sameer but he was Sameer Khan. Although from a progressive Muslim family, he was still the guy who loved eating Mutton Biryani and Chicken kebabs. She was also not just Vaishali but Vaishali Kulkarni, the elder of the two daughters of a devout Brahmin family. She was 2 years older than him. He was still a college kid with no defined career path. Moreover he had plans of doing MBA after his graduation. There was no way she could defend her decision of parting ways with Vijay in front of her parents. In addition to that, was it just an infatuation or she was really in love with Sameer? More important was what if it turns out to be an infatuation or just a passing affair for Sameer. He was too good to be true for her. But she had never felt this way for anyone before. It is so tricky to find out the truth. The risks are too high. Either you have to separate from that person to miss him or her for the rest of your life and realise that it was more than an infatuation. Or you have to commit to the person to realise that you were not made for each other and carry the burden of an estranged relationship for the rest of your life. She was never so much confused in her life. It was becoming unbearable for her to continue like this. That day while coming to home after the class, she decided to pour her heart out in front of Sameer tomorrow, on his birthday. She prayed for his acceptance, but she decided to never question his rejection. When she reached home, she saw her ailing father who was suffering from cirrhosis, smiling at her; her elder brother with always frowned face, was wearing a big grin on his face and her perennially worried mother was ecstatic. She considered it as a good omen. She went and hugged her mother tightly.

It was Sameer’s birthday and it seemed as if a new Sameer has been born that day. Instead of a round neck bright coloured T shirt sporting cartoon characters, he was wearing a blue full sleeves Louis Philippe shirt. The never washed and faded blue jeans was replaced by a black coloured Formal Trouser from Allen Solly. Instead of red canvas shoes, today one could see him wearing black leather shoes with sparkling shine. He was not just looking different, but was also behaving so differently. Instead of teasing and irritating Vaishali with his PJs, he was talking in a very decent and polite manner. He was being appreciative and chivalrous tonight. One could see a peppy, chaotic teenager transforming into a mature and sensible guy who had taken the most important decision of his life and was ready to implement it. While savouring on the delicious three course dinner at an expensive restaurant, in a very casual manner, Sameer said, “I am thinking of abandoning the idea of pursuing MBA. I might lose focus of engineering study while preparing for MBA entrance exams. It’s better if I devote my time for preparing for the campus interviews. If I can get into a good company, I would earn a handsome salary and can settle down quickly in my life. The CAT exam is just one month away and frankly speaking I have not studied anything for that. My mom and dad are quite old now and perhaps they need me and a daughter in law to take care of them.” Vaishali could sense that Sameer was creating a conducive background to pop the ultimate question. He was clearing all the possible doubts which could prevent Vaishali from saying yes. Vaishali did not utter a single word. She kept on listening to him intently. Sameer chuckled for a moment and taking a deep breath, he said “you know what … Ich liebe du.” It is still a mystery for me as to why some people decide to express their love in a foreign language. Probably it is the nervousness that prevents them from expressing it in their own language. Vaishali dropped her spoon on the table; she moved her left hand on the table to hold Sameer. She kept on staring towards Sameer for a minute. She was not thinking about her response. She had already thought about it last night. All she was wondering was how to express it. Sometimes, it is best to convey some of the most serious things in a light manner. So she said, “But this is wrong. This is not acceptable…You just used the wrong form of the object pronoun in the sentence.” * For the first time Sameer thought that Vaishali was looking ugly. The fake smile on her face and the wet eyes filled to the brim with tears, were in contrast with each other. Sameer moved his hand backwards, away from the grip of her, he again chuckled for a moment and said” How can I learn all this when I have got a nice distraction in my class”. After that, except for the clinking sound of the plates hit by the spoons, there was total silence till they finish their dinner. As they reached the bus stop to part their ways and reach their own destinations, Vaishali took out a box of sweets from her purse and offered them to Sameer. In a firm but sombre manner, she said “Have some sweets. Thanks to Vijay, yesterday my brother has finally got a job in Germany.”

Since that day till today, 2 more birthdays of Sameer have passed so far. But he celebrated neither of them. Ironically, Vaishali for whom Sameer was ready to forego his ambition of MBA turned out to be his best inspiration to pursue it later. He kept himself totally busy with studies. His efforts were rewarded handsomely. He could get an admission into a premier B school and today, he was placed with Deutche Bank with a dream profile of an Investment Banker. He was supposed to spend his first year of the job in Germany. He was obviously happy. Meanwhile Vaishali got married with Vijay and has moved to Germany more than a year ago. She and Sameer were still in touch with each other though. Once in a while, she would write an email to him and he would reply to it. He was happy to know that she was fine over there. That her husband loved her took care of her and provided her with all sorts of comforts. They were a happy couple now. He wanted to call her and tell the news of his placement. Now he had a chance of meeting Vaishali after 2 years. But he was in a dilemma about that as it was so difficult for him to lie in front of her. He did not want her to know about the façade of his hunky dory life which he had conveyed to her through the mails. He did not want her to know that he did not have a single girlfriend after her. That he still misses here now and then. That he has stopped eating butter scotch ice cream as it makes him long for her. That he still repents for letting her go so easily. That at times he feels that she was a coward who broke his heart and why should he still care about her. But the scarier scenario was of finding out her lies. What if she had also lied about her life in Germany? What if her life in Germany was not awesome but was in fact awful. He could still muster courage to expose her to his lies but did he have the guts to confront her lies? As the night grew, the chaos in his mind became severe, memories of past and thoughts of future started pulling his head apart in countless directions, he could not control himself. He hastily opened the bottle of whisky in his room and decided to get sloshed. He was now fast asleep with his mobile still clenched in one hand.

P.S * - In German language, du means you and the correct form of du to be used with lieben verb is 'dich'. Hence the correct way to say 'I love you' in German is 'Ich liebe dich.'

Monday, February 8, 2010

A proverbial love story - Part 2

As happens in so many Bollywood movies, in this story also, as the days passed, Vaishali’s apprehension about Sameer started to disappear. She realised that the first impressions are not always the right impressions. The guy was not as bad as she had thought before. In fact, he was intelligent, witty and interesting. He used to bug the teacher with all sorts of questions in the class. Like everyone else in the class, he used to get upset with the exceptions for each rule of grammar in German Language. But the only difference was that, with his expressive face, it used to be obvious for everyone to notice it. Being a student of engineering, it was hard for him to accept that the rules of a language are not as universally applicable as those of Physics and Maths. Everyday while walking to the bus stop after the class, Sameer and Vaishali used to chat. The discussions during initial days were restricted to the topics of weather, traffic, bus routes and of course the class. Later, it graduated to subjects such as food, family, hobbies, movies and friends. After a couple of months, they could talk about anything under the sun. Sameer was frank and would not hesitate from complementing or criticizing Vaishali about her looks and dresses. Yes, he was flirtatious. But he used to do it so effortlessly that it looked like his natural behaviour. He would also brag about how he could make the most sought after hot chicks of his college fall for him. He was articulate and eloquent with his language. But he was equally grotesque and at times flamboyant with his looks and dressing. He was capricious. At one moment, he would talk like an astute mature guy about a serious subject and in the very next moment, he would make a frivolous, childish remark on an equally serious subject. In spite of knowing about Vaishali’s hatred for boozing, he would at length describe her about his binge drink parties with friends. She would get angry and shout at him. He would argue with her. Sometimes the tiny squabble would turn into a brawl. Vaishali used to explain him all sorts of social, financial and health related hazards of drinking. But all her persuasions had no impact. He could not understand that why she was making so much fuss about his occasional indulgence in alcohol. It was very much common among his friends. Sameer used to pretend that he is agitated by Vaishali’s objections to his so called social drinking. But deep inside, he was pleased to see her care so much about him. Unlike his girl friends in college, he did not have to take Vaishali out to cafés and movies, he did not have to race his bike with other guys of the college to win her heart, he did not have to flatter her with complements, gifts, chocolates and flowers, he did not have to keep himself updated with latest Hollywood movies, Bollywood gossip and English pop to impress her. This was a girl whom he not only loved but also respected. He used to eagerly wait for their short meetings of 15 to 20 minutes at the bus stop every weekday. This was perhaps the first course in his life where he did not want to bunk a single class.

He decided to learn German language so that he could add some weight to his resume. He was never much active with the extracurricular stuff in his school and college days. He realised their importance by the last year of his engineering. It was easy for him to be part of the basketball and volleyball teams in his school because of his towering 6 feet tall structure. But there was nothing much to write about that either. He could not transform himself from being a participant to an ultimate winner in any of the sporting competitions. He knew that his decent academic record alone could not fetch him admission into any of the premier B schools after his Graduation. His German course was supposed to fill some glaring voids in his resume.

Vaishali was a quintessential Marathi girl from a middle class family. She had all the values of a bourgeois background imbibed in her. She would wear Punjabi suits and keep her long hair open all the time. She would not apply heavy makeup. She was a decent cook. She was a religious person and a strict vegetarian. She would keep fast on Chaturthi each month to worship the god Ganapti. She was hard working and a soft spoken person. She would concentrate in each class and would make detailed notes. She had a close group of four friends. She used to hang out with them on weekends. And yes she was a big fan of Shah Rukh khan. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was perhaps her the most favourite movie which she had already seen at least 10 times so far and was willing to see it for more number of times. When she was in last year of her post graduation, her marriage was fixed with Vijay. He was a sophisticated tech guy working with a software company in Germany for last three years. He had plans of marrying an Indian girl and settle there forever. He was from a rich and prestigious family. His proposal was too good for her family to refuse. They met up once last year and the marriage was fixed within next 2 days. The engagement was hastily done within a week. Vijay came to India for two weeks and changed Vaishali’s life forever. Consequently, her parents did not allow her to do job hunt after her post graduation. She was being groomed at home to be the perfect house wife afterwards. She would talk to Vijay almost everyday when he would call after finishing his day’s work. Their main topic of discussion used to be ‘how was the day?’ Vijay would enquire in detail about what she did the whole day. There was not much of common interest for both of them to talk about. But there was willingness on both the sides to learn about each other and their interests in life. At times, the conversations used to be prolong and boring. But no one was complaining.

By the end of 3 months of the course, Vaishali and Sameer had become good friends. One day, while waiting at the bus stop after the class. Sameer told Vaishali “Today I will come with you in your bus. I have to meet a friend of mine who lives near your home.” Vaishali looked at him for a moment and smiled. After 5 minutes, they were sitting inside the bus adjacent to each other. Vaishali again looked at him and said, “You are not going to meet your friend. You are following me.” She started laughing then. Sameer was shocked. He could not speak for a moment. With a sheepish smile on his face, he nodded his head and asked “how do you know it?” In a cool and composed manner, she replied “It was so easy. When you told me that you were coming to meet your friend, you avoided eye contact with me. Your head was down, your shoulders were slouched and you moved both hands inside the pockets of your jeans. Your facial expressions had suddenly changed from casual to a serious one. It was clearly written on your face that you were lying. You can’t fool me.” She started giggling then. Sameer could not stop blushing and slowly his smile changed into a loud laughter. Sameer was now convinced that Vaishali’s Masters in Psychology was hard earned through honest studying. That was in complete contrast to his studies during four years of engineering. He was no more a student in its true sense, but was merely an examinee for the sake of degree. During their journey, Vaishali asked him to come to her home for a cup of coffee. Sameer was quick to say no. He was interested in having coffee with her but was not ready to meet her parents. He wanted to go out with her in a Barista Café near the bus stop. Vaishali was caught in an emotional dilemma. She was hesitant to accept this implicit date. She was already engaged to someone else. Such acts of flirting were now forbidden for her. But she also wanted to spend more time with Sameer. Her mind was not ready to accept that what she missed on weekends is not the classes but Sameer. She did not realise that she had started taking him seriously. She had stopped wearing those dresses which Sameer did not like and she was watching the movies which he had recommended. She thought for a moment and decided to say no. But she ended up saying yes. That night, her mind was occupied with thoughts of Sameer. She just could not stop thinking about him.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A proverbial love story - Part 1

The concept of bounded rationality states that the behaviour especially the decision making of an individual is limited by the information he or she possess, the cognitive limits of the mind. In accordance with this concept, this story is a manifestation of the random thoughts which got provoked in me due to the observations of the world around me and the countless Bollywood movies which I have seen since from my childhood. Hence an intelligent reader like you would have now set his expectations about the creativity and innovativeness in this story to a realistic level: P Some of you will completely agree with me that this story deserves to be called ‘A Proverbial Love Story’.

Tonight was different. It was neither Friday nor Saturday night. There was no loud rock music blaring out of his music system. No one was dancing. There were no boxes of half eaten pizzas lying around. There was no one else. Tonight, Sameer was all alone in his messy room of the hostel. He was holding a glass full of whisky in his left hand. In front of him was the half empty bottle of the blue liquid. He had already guzzled four double shots of it in last one hour. The room was full of darkness except for the glow of his mobile screen being lit intermittently as he was fidgeting with it. Fingers of his right hand kept moving up and down on the keypad many times. He reached to one particular number in his phone book every time. But he could not muster courage to press the call button. People say alcohol makes you loosen up and speak about things which you would never tell someone while in full control of your senses. But tonight, that theory was being proved wrong. He had surrendered himself to Alcohol. He was feeling giddy and disoriented. But still his mind could not allow him to speak to Vaishali. As he tossed down one more peg of whisky, the convulsions inside his stomach became extremely intense, forcing him to open mouth and throw out. He then fell sideways on the bed and closed his eyes. Ironically, the darkness in front of his inebriated eyes vanished when he shut them close. All he could see was the glow of a smiling and beautiful face of a tall, slender and shy looking girl sitting quietly in one corner of a class. It was the first day of her basic level German language course. She did not want to miss the pronunciations of the alphabets of this foreign language. As the teacher was explaining the important differences between the sounds of a and ä, o and ö along with u and ü, he was disturbed by one guy among his students. In his harsh and agitated tone, very much characteristic of the German speaking people, he scolded him. Sameer certainly did not have the best of the introductions, anyone could have hoped for, to the entire class. Thanks to the teacher, everyone came to know that he was looking at the girl sitting in the corner of the class. Before calling off the class, the teacher asked “what else would you like to know about Germany?” Sameer immediately raised his hand and asked” Sir, would you tell us something about October Fest. Is it true that in Germany beer is cheaper than the mineral water?” There was a little laughter in the class. Vaishali was amused by the awareness of the questioner. But she was also disenchanted by his interest in the topic of beer. Her eyebrows went up to form a perfect bow.

After the class got over, Sameer was waiting for bus to go back home, when he saw Vaishali also waiting over there. He wanted to talk to her. But he didn’t know what to say. He did not want to deteriorate his reputation further. He did not want to be seen as hitting on her, although that’s what he exactly had in his mind. He could not stop himself from looking at her. Finally he gave in to his temptation. He went to her and introduced himself. She snapped him saying “Are you the same guy who was asked to concentrate on the studies in the class?” He replied “It was not my fault. I am not used to have such nice distractions in my class. I am a final year student of Mechanical engineering.” He expected her to blush, but instead she decided to introduce herself “My name is Vaishali. I have finished my Masters in Arts this year and I am learning German language so as to settle down with my fiancé in Germany after six months.” After 5 minutes of silence between them, a bus came to the halt and Vaishali got inside. She was relieved to go away from the stare of Sameer.

P.S : I will post the second part of the story on tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed reading the first part.