Search

Category Archives: Episodes

I was about to crash out one night last week when I saw an unread email in my inbox. I wanted to postpone its checking to the following day when I spotted the sender’s name. I clicked on the mail immediately and in a few minutes had sent out a reply. Quite expectedly, I got another reply and it all felt just like old times. That was Meera ma’am and Shivani ma’am mailing from their joint email account. The outcome of our exchange was that I stood in the conference room of SFS last Thursday (16/7/2015) doing what was expected of me as an ex-Summerite. I gave a pep talk.  



















Dear Summerite,
I am writing this letter to you because I had promised to pen everything down in a coherent form.
I don’t know what I told you in that room that day. Because I have a tendency to ramble and digress when I am speaking, not to mention forget and lose thread. Still I hope it was all good and useful. Since I am more balanced when I write or rather I’m a different person when my trap is shut, I would like you to hear out both my selves. You met one last Thursday. You meet the other one today.
This post is mostly addressed to the XIIthees, since I had a chat with the XII batch when I was in school and since it is the final year of their school life and kind of a defining moment, after which they will be beset with mainly two questions- ‘what was your percentage’ and ‘where did you secure admission’. For the sole aim of preparing satisfactory answers to these two questions, the students (at least some of them) leave no stone unturned in putting up their best, studying more this year than in any of their previous years combined.
I will try and combine all my experiences and ‘wisdom’ (more like lessons) in as concise a manner as possible ‘cause the ones for whom this post is meant for hardly have time to listen to ramblings.
How to study
I won’t tell you how to study. Because I really don’t know. I told you how my study cycle used to begin with working at my desk for a meagre 10-15 minutes and end at the bed with the book lying flat on my face. Clearly, I’m no study guru. But I have some don’ts for you. You know enough ‘Do’s to actually want to ‘do’ them. So, here goes:
DON’T

> refrain from asking if you don’t understand. You have a right to ask. That’s why we have RTI. That’s why we have teachers and that’s why you are paying tuition fees.

expect teachers to feed the knowledge directly into your brain. That technology hasn’t been invented yet. Maybe you could invent it? As of now, it’s a two-way process. Much like ‘God gives every bird its food but does not throw it into its nest’.

>  compare. Even twins turn out differently. So, if one (or more) of your classmates gets into IIT or St. Stephens, don’t beat yourself up.

>  tell yourself to study. You never will. It’s a human tendency to do things averse to those someone tells you to do. Use reverse psychology.

>  live ‘half lives’. By half lives, I mean half of you is studying while the other half doing everything to keep the first half from doing so.

>  be aware of the posture you are in while studying. For if that happens, you are not as much into it as you would like to be.

>  let the past bog you down. Whether you have been a bum student or a star performer in the past, it really doesn’t matter. Simply because the past is, sadly or gladly, over.

>  let the others drag you down. Whether it’s their expectations from you or disenchantment with you, let the ‘others’ (whoever they are, for God’s sake! I never seem to find them!) go to Mars for all you care. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

>  worship each and every rule people tell you to follow (including my DON’Ts). One person’s food is another person’s poison. So, if something doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Listen to yourself and carve out a path accordingly. It’s a lot like praying. The destination is the same but we have different ways of reaching it. As long as it works for you, nothing matters.

>  let the stress of it all bog you down. Easy to say, hard to put it into practice. Well, I am still trying! All the best to you too!
Myths
There are some myths that people come up with and readily swear by. Sorry guys, but I am here to burst your bubbles and bust your myths.

>  This myth is exclusively for Science students-
Myth: Stuff that is taught in my coaching class and whatever is taught at the school are poles apart.
Truth: Newton’s laws of gravitation are universal. So they work as well in the Milky Way galaxy as much as in the Andromeda galaxy. Your coaching classes are in this very galaxy right?
Myth busted.

>  Myth: I just never seem to score marks. Since I landed in XIth, my life just took a U- turn.’
Truth: Don’t despair fellow humans! I was there too. All I have for you is ‘this too shall pass’.

>  Myth: There are multitudinous books, endless tests, a million xeroxes and zero time to prepare.
Truth: All you need to solve questions is understanding of the concept and a little pressure on your gray cells. Whether you solve one assignment or a hundred, study one hour or a ten, if you can get those questions right, if you know how physics, chem, bio and math run the world (including IT, English, Eco or any other subject you may have), you are good to go.
Guru Gyaan
These are some questions that are often asked in interviews. I never knew they were so important to one’s life. Ask yourself these. You will be amazed to find that these will be the hardest questions to answer. But once you answer them, your life will assume a much rosier tint than it had before.
Q1. What made you take up this subject?
Q2. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Q3. What is that which you will be happy doing for the next 40 years of your life?
There is a concept called Maslow’s laws of hierarchy. It says that once you have fulfilled your basic needs of food, clothing and shelter; you start looking for self-actualization. In our words, once your career can be called a career and once you have a steady job, you will start looking for meaning. In essence, the above three questions are the keys to unlocking your life’s meaning. All the best for finding your calling, people!

Despair not, worry not; you will pass +2 with flying colors. Believe you me, give yourself a year and you will be capable of taking such a session as I did, all geared up with positivity ammo and study weapons. Keep calm and conquer +2. May the Force be with you!  
Yours truly
someone-who-went-through-what-you-are-going-through-now
:If I came out of it alive and kicking, you too will:

Every single hour and every single day, hundreds of trains shuttle back and forth between cities. On one such day, one such train happened to contain two people whom we are interested in. It was a father and his three-year-old daughter. They boarded the train, settled into a seat; the father seating her daughter near the window while he talked to his wife and the mother of the child trying to assuage her fears regarding the trip. Somehow, a situation had turned up when this motherless trip had to be undertaken. Understandably, the mother was worried sick and wanted to ensure everything would be all right. After a hundred assurances and cute goodbyes between the mother and the kid, the train whizzed off, taking the father-daughter duo on an excursion to another city.
It was 9 p.m. and they were in the midst of their dinner. The girl was making faces and refusing to eat much. The father, as opposed to his wont, tried to cajole her into eating a few morsels luring her by the prospect of an ice cream afterwards. The girl took one bite and stared out the window, which was black and glassy. She could no longer see the tranquil scenery of the countryside through the sealed window; all that she saw was the face of a girl with unchewed food in her mouth staring back at her. The father broke his chappati in two and stuffed the pieces into his mouth. Suddenly, a man from the pantry ran past them. A few more men went in succession. The father felt like getting up and sounding out what the matter was. Leaving his plate aside and instructing the kid not to stray from her assigned seat, he got up to investigate. It came out that there was a fire in one of the compartments and things were getting panicky. Now what happened next?
Before that, let me fast forward to the present day. That kid with the unchewed food in her mouth is talking to you right now. And it was my father who went to find out the cause of the hullabaloo. Now, what happened next I don’t clearly remember. In fact, I don’t remember anything at all. While I grew up, mom would tell everyone how she had reached the station frantically to inquire about the train after hearing a news bulletin about a fire breaking out; how agitated she had been that day and how madly relieved they had all been after finding me and my father safe. I don’t know if dad had acted as a hero then. Probably he did. Frankly, I don’t remember.


But what I do remember is him picking me up from school when I missed my school bus. I remember him being enthusiastic about my career (sometimes more than me!). I remember him undertaking a ‘city tour’ while I took countless entrance exams. I remember myself believing that everything in life is free ‘cause well, he paid for it all without me being any the wiser!
Today, if I call him, even if it’s a single ring, he will surely call back, even when he is top-hole busy or driving(let not the traffic guys read this!). Even when he cavils about me and my driving, he was the one who didn’t give up on me. He was the one who rode shotgun, shouting instructions, and pulling the handbrake right before I could smash into the car ahead. At times, I felt like asking mom to teach me how to drive but she refused point blank saying she couldn’t face life-threatening situations like that. He is the one who agreed to give me the car keys and didn’t get out of the car like my brother who said ‘safety first’ and scooted off. When dad is asked to bring vegetables or evening snacks, he will probably act grumpy but he will most definitely bring it all home, even when he has almost reached the parking lot and spotted a particularly desirable parking space. Although dad avoids shopping centres like the weight-conscious girls avoid pizzas, he will let us indulge ourselves to the fullest. When we buy outrageously expensive dresses, all he will buy for himself is a pair of shoes, that too just because his old ones are no longer usable.    


I could go on and on but you get the drift, right? And that is why even when I don’t much remember what happened on that fateful night on the burning train, I don’t once doubt that he had been the hero in the situation. Because he is the kind of guy who will do something outstanding and yet won’t put up a facebook status about it (the way I do for instance-not the outstanding part, just the status). Content to be out of the limelight, happy to work in the backdrop, not much into hype and the like, he is a selfmade man. An entrepreneur with a sweet tooth (pity he is diabetic!) and a simple man, he has no airs and no pretence about him. It would have been a grave error if I had forgotten to wish him today. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for being there!


“This father’s day, I am expressing my love towards my dad by participating in the #HugYourDad activity at BlogAdda in association with Vicks.”

You, dad, of all people deserve a hug and much more!

Image Sources: www.goodmorningquote.com, www.vicks.blogadda.com
( One of the winning posts of IndiBlogger’s #MyFirstExpert contest )

I was an introvert by nature (I still am, for that matter) and my mother knew it. I would sit in a corner of the classroom by myself while the other kids chatted away animatedly. My mother always wanted me to be an eloquent public speaker. I guess every mother wants that. That feeling of seeing your child on the stage, it’s just too poignant to express in words. There was just one little issue. I wasn’t one of those voluble cute kids that everyone liked to talk to. I was one of those ruminating ones, sitting by myself, thinking and observing things around me.
My mother used to teach me two words everyday. Say Yes. She drilled these words into my head. Everyday when she got me ready for school, she would tell me to ‘say yes’ to any challenge- be it an activity, contest, competition; anything that ever came up (I guess she knew that activities and contests were challenges for me). I would nod and make a mental note of not saying yes ever.
It was on that hot sunny day, one of those days you wish you had been at home, when this happened. I was in standard 3rd then. Our English teacher had chosen some kids for a story-telling contest- one from each section. The girl who was selected from our section backed out at the last minute. The teacher was in turmoil. She scolded the girl a little but didn’t know what else she could do. She then turned to another good speaker A and asked him, “Will you be able to learn this story over the weekend?”
A shook his head.
She turned to B. “What about you?”
B gave an excuse about a sore throat and backed out. The poor teacher asked ten more kids in quick succession. There were around thirty students in the class. None of them were willing to be the fall guy. Finally she announced in the classroom if there was anyone who could learn the story over the weekend and recite it on Monday. Suddenly there was pin-drop silence in the class, as though, if anyone uttered even a sound, he/she would be asked to participate. I could see my English teacher’s face falling.
“Does anyone want to take part in the contest on Monday?” she asked again, almost like a final call. It was actually a privilege call. My teacher chose the most eloquent and talented people for the competitions and to be asked by her was no less than an honour. When no one answered, or even batted an eyelid for that matter, she turned to some guy X. He too refused. Her eyes roved around the room, her best warriors gone; now she only looked for a pawn, anyone, anyone who would agree to just stand there and say a few words. It was like she was looking for someone who would agree to be made a scapegoat of, someone who wouldn’t mind being made a fool of. The students looked anywhere except at her. It was only I, who was unwittingly staring at her, wondering about the color of her saree and the color of the blackboard and how they matched so well.
“Do you want to take part, A?” Out of nowhere, I saw the question being pointed at me. I probably didn’t hear her properly or perhaps I was too thrilled to be asked by her or (and I think this might be the actual reason) my mother’s aphorism had taken root in my subconscious so well that I could hardly resist saying-“Yes ma’am”.
I saw my English teacher heave a sigh of relief, the kind of relief that results from having found someone to send to the gallows. Only when I received the four-page story did I realize the extent of the predicament I was in.
When I got home and told my mother, she was so overjoyed to finally have me on stage that I didn’t have the heart to narrate the entire story to her of how I was chosen as the final resort more like a last expedient than a first choice for the class representative. I was just happy to see her happy, although my heart itched to think how she would feel when I would tell her on Monday that I didn’t win a thing. I was secretly glad she wouldn’t be there to see me fumble and make a fool of myself.
That weekend, my mother trained me very hard. Hour after hour, she recited the story with me, making me learn every word and narrate it with as much expression as I could muster. She knew learning a four page story by heart was not my cup of tea but she was determined to draw out my best. She was making her utmost efforts and I felt a little sad that she would be disappointed if I didn’t win anything. The fact that it was near impossible for me to remember the entire story, let alone win anything and that my competitors had been preparing since many weeks made me feel even more deflated. But I plodded on. Just to please my mother, if nothing else.
The D-Day arrived. I was frantic and my heart was beating erratically. I was not a very popular person in school but after this, I was sure everybody would recognize me. As the Fumbler, if not the Forgetter. Anyway, I went up to my English teacher. She was smiling at me. She looked happy with me. You see, sacrifice engenders faith. The sacrifice of my self-respect at the altar of my teacher’s had earned me a place in her heart. That is how I saw it that time, anyway.
https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-k9Ud8yNDv4A/VVHXYY77BEI/AAAAAAAACDc/1cDL5ly-fwQ/s320/IMG_20150511_205024_HDR.jpg
There were two participants before me. The first one had fumbled on some lines and forgotten parts of his story. I felt sort of reassured. ‘I have a companion’, I thought. The second one had spoken well though, and my heart sank again. Finally it was my turn. I will not dramatize it so much. I recited it as best as I could, looking straight ahead at the red school buildings instead of my classmates and teachers.
It was a story about a shepherd who fooled the villagers time and again by calling ‘wolf, wolf!’ just for the fun of it. After a while the villagers got angry and when the actual wolf arrived, they assumed that he was poking fun at them again and didn’t come to the rescue of the repentant shepherd who was then made a meal of by the hungry wolf. Story Finished. But instead of these two lines, I had to narrate a four-page tale, replete with dialogues and details. I don’t know how I managed to finish the story; I don’t know how the details stuck, perhaps it was the way my mother had taught me to enact the wolf part or the way she had told me to jump from the hill scene to the one which had the shepherd, over to the village scene and finally to the wolf one. Whatever it was, I kept looking straight ahead and envisaged my mother making me recite those parts. It all just flowed forth thereafter. When I descended from the stage, I was relieved to see that no one was sniggering at me. After all the section participants had spoken, the time for results arrived. I had never been bothered about them before and I wasn’t bothered about them then. I had done my job.
The result? Yes, it looks like a page out of a fairytale but let me remind you that fact is stranger than fiction. I heard my name being called out and purely dazed, went up to the stage.
Mother of God! I had actually made it as a winner!
https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-DF43xXncvFY/VVHZPLCLy7I/AAAAAAAACDk/YXzYDlWtnCU/s320/IMG_20150511_205235_HDR.jpg
Apart from shell shocked surprise, I was ecstatic beyond belief. My English teacher had a new favorite now. But the one who was the happiest was my mother. Her jubilant smile and shining eyes were the most most beautiful things I had ever seen. When I showed her the trophy that I got a few days later, she was almost crying with joy. I think it was then that I realized how much I liked to see her smile and how much she has made me into the person that I am today. Believe it or not, I went on to take part in nearly all the elocution contests at school and managed to win almost all of them. I also became the school’s Cultural Secretary and then the General Secretary in my college. Anchoring events and speaking impromptu now came to me easily. But they would never have come to me had she not taught me those two precious words; had she not sat with me and taught me the story that day; had she not urged me to say yes to challenges. She was, she is and she will always be My First Expert! Love you Mom…
https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-1Pu0cqmo0iE/VVHaEWn0NgI/AAAAAAAACDs/K4txEzLFpnQ/s320/mom2.jpg
PS : Those of you who find it hard to believe this story, spare some moments to go through the attached pictures. Of course, you can ask my old school mates as well. Or just drop by anytime at my place and I will show you my laurels!

I was a young adult, fresh out of the sheltered arms of my school. College life is every teen’s dream, hence, with high aspirations, great expectations and slight apprehension, I set foot on the grounds of JMI, to an altogether different milieu. My hopes battled with my perceptions as I struggled to adjust to the simple unadorned environment- the unaccustomed reality of my college life. Constant cribbing and aversion to the surroundings gradually gave way to blooming fondness as I discovered simplicity in place of severity, candour in place of crudeness, love in place of oblivion. And three years passed thus.
Those long late night conversations, trolling on facebook, the string of comments on a single status- my heart lurches when I see it all drawing to a close. One semester left. I think of the day about three years ago when we used to discuss amongst yourselves about how we will pass these four long years in a college which does not host a good fest, does not have enough exposure and is ridden with rules and regulations. It was a place where I would be bound for four years by shackles of attendance, classes, assignments, unreasonable teachers, empty canteens and envying my peers who were in fancy colleges like DU where fests were a rage, celebs were a regular affair and life was one big party.
Then a picture appears in the kaleidoscope of my mind- celebrating a friend’s birthday in McD, roaming the streets in CC, eating chhole bhature from the central canteen, standing on the benches in the classroom posing as models, playing temple run in the back seat while the lecture went on, chewing gum and blowing bubbles amidst giggles, spending hours chatting in the parking lot…  
There had been so many firsts during my college years-the first time I organized an event, the first extempore that I won, the first face painting contest we won…I remember my buddy’s painted face and how we posed and shouted and screamed in joy…Those dance practices in the first-year classes…the first nukkad naatak we won- oh the jubilation on our faces! What with the sleepless nights spent working away for the magazine, staying till late in college for the meetings and the work, the bohemia and fervour that took hold of us during the fests, the feeling of unity in everyone from teachers to students to the lab assistant Imran bhai, it made me feel like a part of one big family.   
I remember bunking my Software Engineering class to watch ‘Bhaag Milkha’- sloshing about in the heavy rain with drenched socks and shoes. And the umpteen poses we made to get a photo clicked. And our endless chats while leaning on the corridor railing. And our frantic search for a lady teacher to accompany us to Goa. And those walks to the bus stop with friends, chatting and laughing.
It takes a minute to say hello and forever to say goodbye…    
Today I am poised over a crossroads, where I have no idea what the future will hold, what people I will meet and what will become of my career.
Some of us will rush aboard the ship of the future. Others may be more hesitant. Some of us will have plenty of baggage to bring; others will travel lightly. One thing that we will all bring is our memories…I used to feel so wrongfooted when I first stepped in Jamia, I go out now, surefooted…taking with me –wisdom, experience, memories and the tag of a JMIite…

~~~PUJO SPECIAL~~~


www.bhakti-online.com

As Durga Pujo comes to a close, strangely, it’s the trifoliate bel leaves which have won a place among the number of things uppermost on my mind. Don’t worry, I am not going to expound on the sanctity of belpaata or their significance in Shiv Pujo or Durga Pujo. I don’t have the faintest idea about it nor do I want to know much. As I stood waiting for pushpanjali to begin, my stomach grumbling with the long wait for AshtamiSandhi Pujo and Navami aunjoli, my mind cooked up some weird thoughts. Here they are…
The kohl rimmed eyes stared straight ahead-unmoving and unwavering. There was a smile in them. It was mesmerizing to look at them. I could look at them all day long.
“Side deen please (Excuse me),” someone shoved me, tearing me away from Maa Durga’s eyes and bringing me back to earth, back from a world where Her elegance had entranced me into believing in a heavenly abode resplendent with majestic Gods and Goddesses. I stood erect, my legs going steadily limp, as I waited for the Purohit to commence the pushpanjali. I am not into fasting. I need food as soon as I wake up. Whenever I wake up, that is. I summoned all of my patience, believing it to be some sort of a test, which, if I passed would win me choice blessings from the Mahishasur Mardini. But I couldn’t put up a show for myself any longer. Soon, I came into my own, my face wearing that worn-out look, my forehead glistening with sweat. I had put on my best attire for Ashtami, had had a haircut and tried to look decent. But now my hair (previously kept open in a layered style) was up in a clumsy bun, my hand frequently running over my face in an effort to wipe away the sweat and the irritation level rising every minute. The Purohit was doing the Aarti now. A huge crowd had accumulated. It was the final pushpanjali and mom and dad had issued a caveat that I must not move from the mandap till I was done with the aunjoli
A lady stood ahead of me, her hair brushing my face every now and then. I couldn’t say much since she had a baby in her lap. The baby kept trying to reach my spectacles. I turned my head this way and that but the clever little child would manage to extend his hand and tug at my glasses. I finally changed my place, going back a few paces, earning my parents’ displeasure.
Aage aaye! (Come ahead), my mother ordered. And I meekly went to her, saying a thousand ‘excuse me’s and nudging past people with folded hands. Suddenly, I felt the crowd converging at a certain point. Everyone seemed to move left. I finally got some space. As I stood happily, dad nudged me to the left.
Ki? (What?),” I asked.
Aarti !” dad answered.   
And then I saw a huge flame travelling inch by inch from group to group as the dhaakis continued playing their dhaak, making everyone’s voices except the purohit’s (because he had a microphone) ten times less audible. There was a mad rush to get Maa Durga’s blessings in the form of that flame. It was as if the flame contained the solution to everyone’s problems.
“A similar thing happened 3 million years ago. When man discovered fire,” someone whispered in my ear.
I looked around to see T. in a brand new kurta pajama, looking oddly out of place without his trademark Superman tee.
“Looking nice,” I complimented him.
“Want to impress Her you know,” he replied, winking at Maa Durga’s idol.
There were two more flame fights wherein in the first one, I managed to secure the ‘essence’ of the aarti and in the second, dad blessed me on the Goddess’ behalf by running his hand, that had brushed the flame, through my hair, thus imparting some of the ‘essence’ to me.
Finally, we huddled together, hands folded, eyes towards the basket of flowers.
Phool…phool…phool (Flowers! Flowers! Flowers!),” everyone chanted, groping for flowers as my dad managed to get me some. I tore up my flowers and gave my friend some petals. He did the same with his friends.
Ektu belpaata nei? (Don’t you have some bel leaves?),” someone put up a million dollar question. And everyone started rummaging in the basket for belpaata. My mom and dad couldn’t find any. They asked the distributor, clad resplendently in a white silk saree with a red border if they had any belpaata. She entered the mandap maze, trying to collect some. Meanwhile, someone had been lucky. A trident-shaped leaf stood out amongst all the flowers, the holder of the leaf triumphant, as if Maa Durga had chosen him out of all the rest to bestow her blessings. The others looked away, trying to be indifferent and act like adults and yet, feeling that irresistible pang of envy inside. Just then, the flower woman came with another basket, bringing with her some belpaatas. Everyone fell on her as she handed the basket to a man, clad in a maroon kurta. He took over the proceedings in an authoritarian way that the woman couldn’t and started asking around if everyone had received the flowers.
Belpaata! Belpaata! Belpaata! (Bel leaves! Bel leaves! Bel leaves!),” came the exclamations from different directions. This must be the only time when leaves get more importance than the flowers. 
My dad tore the tiny scrap of leaf he had managed to get. 
“It’s okay, I don’t need it,” I said as dad gave me a part of his ‘blessings’ or the coveted belpaata. I didn’t pass it on this time. I had gotten a small enough piece, barely visible.
Chheedbenna paata chheedbenna (Don’t tear the leaf),” someone protested against the tearing of the leaf to pieces. But that is how we humans are. We want to get as much as we can, take as much as we can manage, try as far as our last efforts let us.
With the amalgam of gainda phool (marigold flowers) and bits of belpaata between our palms, we closed our eyes and chanted after the purohit.
‘Om...’
The purohit’s commanding voice seemed to bewitch us as we repeated after him. “Namostute!” A kid in front of me exclaimed in a mock-purohit voice.
“You asked me to repeat after him. He spoke like that I swear!” the kid said in his defense as his father reprimanded him for insolence.
“Where are the rest?” I asked T. as another bout of flowers and belpaata began.
“Who? A. and B.? Come on! When have you ever seen them praying?”
“Well, last year, you know.”
“They were in XII grade last year.” He gave me a look that said ‘isn’t that obvious’. “That’s why I am here this year. Else I would have been at home. Sleeping and enjoying my hols. What about you? I always see you in the devotee line. You a fan?”
“Umm…I guess I am one of those flowing-with-the-tide kinda people. And…yes I sort of, am a fan, I guess.”  I replied.
‘Om…’
Another round of chanting ensued.
“Flowers?” a friend of mine offered me some in the third round.
“Hey! What are you doing here?” I inquired, a little surprised at seeing her otherwise uppity self, delving into the nitty-gritty of the Pujo proceedings.
“Why? Doing some pujo work, what else!”
“I thought you didn’t fast.”
“Well I didn’t. So? You need the spirit, not some bullshit rituals that decide whether you can do pujo work or not,” she said with a self-assured flourish, giving me a paltry amount of flowers sans belpaata (as an answer perhaps to my curiosity) and moving on, with a wave of her hair this way and that.
‘I guess I am one of those who go by the rule book.’ I thought to myself, as I threw the flowers at Maa’s feet with all reverence after the chanting.
The final round of prayers doesn’t require you to pray with flowers. We chanted with a namaste pose; I, all the while, wondering what to pray for after the chanting ends. That little amount of time between the end of pushpanjali and the consumption of charnamrito always had me in a fix. I just didn’t know what to say. I sorely wished I had some more mantras to utter. That space, that silence always made me uncomfortable. It was like I was on a phone call with the Goddess and I didn’t know how to open the conversation.
‘Hello? How are you?’
Oops…no…Start again.
‘Hello. Thank you for your blessings. I would like it very much if you could get me a nice job with a nice pay. It would be great if I could learn how to cook, how to take decisions and how to not be awkward. I would love it if…’
And the list would continue. And then I would feel guilty that I was asking far too much. But my heart would crave for ways to say that I wanted miracles to occur in my life, that I wanted to be loved like the princess in the fairy tales, that I wanted to find the answers to all the doubts I have ever had, that somehow somewhere I wanted everything to be just perfect, that I wanted to be assured of a utopia, that I wanted to know why we live the way we do- why we think, behave and act the way do, why we were born at all, and most importantly, importune the God to somehow exist. I was always in a terrible fix and my views swung wildly between atheism, agnosticism and theism. I didn’t want to be caught unawares at the end of my life. I wanted to know now. Then I would check myself thinking that I should pray for serious stuff like health, wealth, joy and happiness. Aaannnnnd….TIME OUT!
Charnamrito arrives and the phone call ends. Tada!   

***
You could use these meanings:
Aarti- A part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities
Ashtami- Eighth day of the Hindu lunar calendar
Aunjoli- Offering to God with folded hands
Belpaata : Bel or Bael or Bengal quince leaves
Charnamrito- Sweet drink offered after Hindu prayers to break the fast
Dhaak- drums
Dhaaki- people who play drums
Durga- Hindu Goddess
Gainda Phool- marigold flowers
Mahishasur Mardini- Slayer of Mahishasur (a demon) referring to Goddess Durga
Mandap- temple porch/ temporary platform for puja activities
Navami – Ninth day of the Hindu lunar calendar
Pujo- The act of worship
Purohit- priest
Pushpanjali- offering of flowers to Indian Gods. In Sanskrit, pushpam means “flower” and anjali means “offering with folded hands”.
Sandhi Pujo- A puja performed at the juncture of the 8th and 9th lunar day
Shiv-  Hindu God

Turning the wheel of time and reliving those fond moments…it has hardly been a few months since college ended and I still feel like a plebe. So vivid are those moments and so easily those exchanges come to mind. Simple and yet satisfying, I take a ride on the memory carriage and halt at the fest of 2011.
The sun’s rays fell full on our faces as we sat on the very lawn benches where we did revision for our exams. The purpose was not very different though. We were trying to brainstorm our way to a new event in the CSI fest- Algorhythm 2011.
The thought of coordinating an event sent a thrill down my spine, that familiar sensation of excitement which always struck me when there was something fun and innovative to be done. But the important point was that there were so many events in the fest that to make our event fun-filled and worth participating in would require us to have an impressive format that would get us approval from the team that would decide and finalize the events for the fest.
So we sat, wrote, cancelled and quarrelled. As in a beehive, our buzz reached other bees of our class. “Salad-making? In a fest?   Go for some game, yar…Like Tekken…A1, S1 and S2 are doing that”, A2 said.
“Their entire group is involved. They have even got the posters ready,” K joined in.
“Salad-making wouldn’t be uninteresting , you know…” H countered. “Aashi, you start framing the rules. Just write a lovely description that would impress Sir.”
“Mouth-watering salad that would make the meal afterward taste like crap…”, I sang.
“Why not a salad-eating contest? I want to take part in that!”, M smiled.
And everyone else raised their hands.  Titters and giggles followed.
“And now is the part when we bid goodbye to our lovely group for a while…”, I chirped in, taking H away from the class.
“Want to do the event?” I asked her.
She looked at me for a minute, a resigned smile on her face.                                                                            I tore a page from my Mechanics register and started writing.
*
We entered the CSI room.N di, Y bhaia and T Sir were sitting across a table. We sat on the other side and gave the description of our event.
“How much budget have you allotted to the event?”
The first question had us foxed. We hadn’t thought of that.
And the questions that followed made me feel that our event was off the list even before it had a chance to be a part of the fest.
Nevertheless, we lounged about the CSI room the following day, trying to know the results.
We saw Neha di walking past so we accosted her.
“Look for a volunteer”, she said and smiled.
So, we got it!
Despite our amateur handling of the questions, they had decided to give us a chance. Were we ecstatic!
Now came the preparation part- the publicity, posters, the infrastructure involved and …the volunteers.
‘We don’t need a volunteer’, we decided.
‘Nobody would volunteer for us’, we meant.
When we gave the news to our friends, even their faces betrayed surprise. They promised to support us and publicize the event as much as possible.
We couldn’t contain our jubilation and kept discussing while the class went on, the rules and the materials required and how we would go about it, in low voices. Right behind us sat L, who probably couldn’t concentrate on the given question because of our chatter. He finally got drawn into our conversation and asked, “mind if I volunteer?”
We both stared at him and didn’t waste another moment. Before he could change his mind, we texted his name to Neha di. Volunteer Problem Resolved!!!
*
Publicity- online and offline, endless discussions about how we would conduct the event, late-night last-minute arrangements were some of the things I wouldn’t forget easily.
The event was to take place on Sunday. The vegetables were to be bought the day before so they would remain fresh. Hence, the night before the event saw us in frantic discussions, ensuring the availability of the various veggies plus extras like mayonnaise, pepper, salt, plates and the stuff required for the next day, while the rest of the crowd cheered for the contestants of Manhunt.
*
The D-Day arrived. The event was about to start at 10:30. We three rushed to our stall with our paraphernalia and started setting everything up. While our friends crowded round our stall, lifting our moods by playing music and frollicking about, we put up our charts, bought the remaining veggies from the Julena sabzi mandi, decorated the tables and waited.
It was a weird wait. For the first time, I felt like I was selling something and wanted to have customers.
As soon as the above thought crossed my mind, I saw a group of people approaching our table. Quickly handing them their share of knives, carrots, radishes, onions, tomatoes and so on, we inaugurated the competition. And then followed a hustle-bustle that kept us busy for the rest of the day. What with timing the participants, storing the plates for the judges to see, making available the necessary condiments and barring the participants from demanding extra cucumber, we lost track of time. By the end of the day, we were all completely spent.
The judge for the contest arrived and a crowd gathered to hear the result. She was amazed to find this culinary creativity in budding engineers…so beautifully were the salads garnished and so skilfully the shapes cut out of vegetables.
We proudly called them the Saladgineers of our event- “SALADGINEERING”.

I had written this in 2010 when the Bengali Committee in our colony had organized Rabindra Jayanti at Sarita Sadan. I had worn a red-and-white saree and recited Gurudev’s poetry. It was quite an experience. As usual, I felt awkward, wearing wet red lipstick, wanting to wipe it off, scared of swallowing it and feeling the glare of lights on my face. But when we ended, I couldn’t recognize myself. I felt like some artist flown in from Kolkata, such was the effect. 

Unnecessarily long sleep stretches had entered my life after the main bout of exams got over. Mum must have diagnosed it early as three days later, she sent me to Shibangi di’s place to meet up with the two enthusiasts behind the ‘Rabindra Jayanti’  on  16 May- Shibangi di and Neena aunty.
So,began another kind of coaching-a Bangla crash course or ‘Mastering Sruti Natok in a week’ programme. Anyway, coaching has been the buzzword in my life for two years now, though I expected this to be better than unbearable monologues by some middle-aged science freaks. And it lived upto my ideas-with visual aids,a comfortable and amiable environment and ample breaks.
The evening practices brought back those old times when I used to be a part of the plays, dances and songs. With Mili and Lipika aunties taking the lead; other kiddos had succeeded us (very well) in the dances. Catching up with friends was a bonus.
The result?
When D-Day arrived, the audience could vouch for me being a ‘pukka’ Bong! Success- that’s the word, I guess. 

·         The story is about a girl who’s excited to enter her dream engineering college. However, she finds that her aspirations clash with her desires and expectations of a trendy life when she encounters the simple unadorned environment of her new college. I had written this in my first year. And all the characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental 😛

The first day of college. She was mad with excitement-the kind of childish fervor she had not felt since say, she was 13. Things had become so mundane. Preparation for the entrances had sucked up most of her time and life in XI and XII. Now finally, the fruits had appeared-sweet, lovely and so very dreamlike. Though not IIT, she’d got into one of the most prestigious colleges of the country. Sweets, treats, parties-all followed. The two years of rigorous hard work had paid off and beautifully so. XI and XII students-engineering aspirants all congratulated her and came to her for advice- the same advice she’d run after,  when she had landed fresh in XI. Now arrived the big day- the first day of college. Tales of ragging and romance had already frequented her. She was all for fun. College life is every teen’s dream. She had passed a major part of her teenage with Mills and Boon and the Twilight Series. To fantasize had almost become her right now. Putting chains on the mind while her exams ploughed on wasn’t easy. Even Lord Krishna in Mahabharata says to Arjun that nothing can match the speed of the mind and its nearly impossible to stem the flow of thoughts that would go on and on. But she did try her best and the results satiated her. Now she was free to fantasize. The first day was hardly a few days away. And she hadn’t renewed her wardrobe yet.
“Man, how could I be so forgetful? So immersed in merriment that I’d forget this important day?” Even as she said this, instead of tension, only a wave of pure excitement washed over her. She was gladdened by the fact that she ‘had’ to go shopping. This haste and strain was of a nature a lot different from the one before the exams. So, a list was prepared. Timings settled. She was to go shopping! The universal female pastime!
The wardrobe got stacked with new t-shirts (with funky quotes), low-waist jeans, capris, spagetti tops and dresses and beads and danglers for accessories. She returned home, covered with polybags. It took two trips for her and her mom to get all the stuff up. After all, there was this stylish bag too with metal chains, lending it a trendy look.
“So, what kind of ragging will happen, do you think?” she asked her friend on the phone. That friend’s college would begin two days after her own.
“If its normal, it’ll be a song and dance or some DARE probably!” and they chatted on, discussing about Imtiaz Ali’s outrageous ragging (going full Monty) that landed him up with the police.
The night came and she went out to the balcony. She hung against the balustrade. It was her favorite way of relaxing- staring up at the stars and letting the idleness wash over her completely. It was a new moon…she now had a chance to start again, afresh. She felt herself swell with happiness. It felt unbelievable that the best things in life are available to everyone- the vast black sky was for her as well as for the lizard that sat still on the balcony sill…what would the stars mean to the lizard, she wondered, probably it would never be able to admire their beauty or their count…but it meant something to her…little bits of happiness awaiting her in life…she liked to link things that way…it felt sweet and surreal. But the lizard would probably never experience that…nor would it have the sophistication ever to be in her shoes…think all that she can. Her world was far superior and with a big bubble of happiness inside her, she decided to call it a day. A new phase was awaiting her. It was a triumphant feeling.
The next day looked the same but she was dressing carefully for the special day. She put on kohl too (which she seldom did) and with a hint of gloss on her lips, started out with her dad for college. It was decided her dad would take her on the first day; she would travel by herself, preferably auto, on the following days, once she got the idea of the route.
The campus was large, green and…well…deserted. She waved her dad off and felt her first pang of apprehension. Was she dressed okay? Would she behave smartly? Her questions were tempered by the eerie silence…her mind’s rational wheels had started churning. What if today was not the first day? If the holidays were still on? She quickly glanced at her cell, made some quick calculations but couldn’t find any mistake. The normal procedure better be followed, she thought. So, she went on to the office. A bored woman took her admission slip and typed her details on the computer. She couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between her ensemble and the lady’s clothes. The receptionist at her school’s desk dressed as if she had to attend a cocktail party after work; she often suffered pangs of envy looking at that woman who also had a certain ‘attitude’ and enjoyed a certain attention.
She went on to check up her first class on the big board, covering a major portion of the wall behind the woman. It was Electrical, room C9, 3rd floor. She leapt up the stairs, looking around tentatively. Soon she grew tired and had to lessen her pace. It made her pay attention to the corridors which were almost empty save for a few students, huddled in corners, whispering, not even looking at her. There was one board per floor, with notices sticking out of them and a dull blue-grey paint filled the walls. This didn’t have that chirpy feeling of a college, but she didn’t want to conclude anything before reaching her own floor, which she finally did. The ninth room on the third floor opened onto a verandah (“atleast that feels good”, she thought). She made her way to the room; the bubble of happiness that had taken home inside her last night, struggled with its existence. She checked the time- it was 8:40am. It had taken her 10 minutes to find her class and the class had begun. No sound except the authoritative tone of her new professor. She debated whether to ask for permission to enter but judging by what she had been told by her pals about college, she didn’t and took a secluded seat by the window. The class continued but she hardly listened. That bubble of joy had succumbed to the disease of dissatisfaction and shattered dreams. She replayed the morning till that point and felt cheated, though that was a kiddish feeling, she decided.
The rest of the day was long and full of disapproving stares from people whose eyes she met. She restrained from asking if there would be some welcoming ceremony for the freshers. She felt like the receptionist from her school whom she used to consider ‘overdressed and hammed’. She made no friend, simply because she didn’t think they would talk. She couldn’t imagine college without clusters of people hanging out and poking fun at each other. Her school had had better scenes. Although she knew about anti-ragging rules, she didn’t expect such tough enforcement in this place.
She stood against the railing of the verandah during recess, looking up at the sky, trying to spot some stars. But the sun was too bright. Nothing else could be seen.
That night when her mom asked her what had she decided to wear the next day, she replied, “ Anything.”