Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mo Cuishle..

So I was watching Million Dollar Baby on TV today. I like the movie (Can't resist many Eastwood movies), and this one isn't much different. However, this time I wasn't watching it for the movie, but for what it reminded me of!

I was talking to a friend today, when my school life came up. I am quite passionate about my boarding school days, and it shows when the topic gets breached. We invariably started talking about my school days, how we had to change uniforms as much as six (!) times a day (we used to have a different kit for everything we did - one to go for a jog in the morning, two to get into to go to classes, three for afternoon's leisure time, four for sports time in the evening, five after taking shower while going back to studies, and six for after hours). More on boarding school in next - this one is for something else. 

Getting back to watching MDB, I got glued to the movie because it reminded of the days when I used to box (yes, I did!). I could very well use imagery to go back to times when our weight was measured not in kgs or pounds, but Pinweight, Flyweight or Bantamweight. Like any boxer, before every bout I had to encounter fight or flight syndrome. Since "No" was never an option (that's military school for you!), the twelve year old kid would jump into the ring (of course, the competitor is also of the same stature/weight) and would get the first lesson of multitasking (that we managers boast so much of, today). One would use all relaxing techniques told by the coach (progressive muscular relaxation technique is one I remember my coach telling me time and again, which I could never practice).

Along with these techniques, while in the ring, one would try to think of all the good things that have happened to him ever, to keep his poise while he beats the **** out of the competitor, gets slammed with punches every now & then, stumbles while trying to figure where the ends are, and faintly keep an ear for the bell depicting end of the round.

The bruises, the blood, the sweat, panting, losing breath, almost fainting, cheering all around - nothing mattered. What mattered was winning! Please be blue, please be blue, at the end of it.

Frankly, I wasn't so glad when I had to enter the ring then. I am now, that I did enter in then.

The chills, the thrill - as I look back, I see that they were breathtaking. One of those moments that take your breath away! Miss those days. Miss the tough life that one led everyday. Miss living one day at a time - when every day was a battle, and one never knew when's the end of the war!   

I can still hear the referee saying, 
With a split decision, well played Red, Blue is the winner!

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I realized that the last post was amongst the first ones I have written that is purely driven by my professional life. Seems like last few weeks or months have had their toll.

Note to self - keep it in check! Separate professional and personal lives.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

For He's A Jolly Good Fellow

Day 35 - While it has been a quintessential week, 28th of March did bring about a new aspect of teams to the fore.

For starters, I have been involved with a project for last few months, that has been close to me in ways more than one. Not that the project is huge – it is a typical project. But what differentiates this project is the timeline in which this project was to be completed.

In an industry where it takes a deal closure to take months, land acquisition takes another half a year and execution takes another half, talks of any project that takes less than a year from conceptualization to commissioning would have been a laughing stock a few months back. Recent advancements in technology and processes have shrunk this end-to-end time frame to 8-10 months.

However, when our Chairman called me one fine day in Dec and told me that an opportunity could come up where the timeframe available would be less than 3 months, it was yet another super ambitious opportunity I was looking at, just like many others I had become accustomed to.

I am actually a die-hard optimist, and when I came to know that the deal could be real – I was excited as well as depressed! Depressed because I heard from every nook and corner that this project would not see the light of day; that it’s crazy to think of such unrealistic timeframes, what with the political and tactical complications in this particular deal. But at the same time, I was excited to the hilt. I was being given the opportunity to run with this from the beginning to the end; This was to stretch oneself beyond imagination. It was like a dream one can see when wide awake.

What this involved wasn’t really my cup of tea. I have not really been a field guy. I am not a marathon guy, nor am I good at sprints. This deal needed someone to sprint a marathon, 100 metres at a time, and the next 100, and the next, and the next.   

Any which ways, I ended up running the first 100, and the next, and the next, and cutting long story short, finally ran the final dash a week back.

It has been an unbelievable journey, these last 3 months, and there are so many stories to be told. However, this post has already digressed enough from the intended objective, so here it goes back.

Day 35 - While it has been a quintessential week, 28th of March did bring about a new aspect of teams to the fore.

I arrived at J in the morning for some finishing formalities for the project, and was supposed to leave back for Delhi the same evening. However, during my usual site visit where I meet with all team members who’ve been at site for last few months and take the status check, I came to know that it was birthday of one of the team members.   

He looked happy (of course, it was his birthday, and he was still not 30!), yet disappointed (again, he was away from friends and family – so I could understand why). One look at him, and I knew I had to stay back in the evening. It’s not just about birthday of one out of a team of 15, but about the feeling of having those who care for you, close to you. And to add to it, about the feeling of having those close to you, care for you.

So we did bring about cakes and drinks and what not in the evening, spent the evening like no one from the team expected to, smudged his face with cake time and again, drenched him with drinks on various occasions, and did not bother if we were getting late for the late night movie, while all this was happening. I just wish he didn’t miss his friends doing the same to him this year, and he would remember this one for the times to come.  

The day ended with a smiling birthday boy face, and the satisfaction was no less than I would have on my own birthday. And I did realize that teams gel together, eat together, work together, stay together all the time, but at an additional level, teams have to connect together. After all, it is about moments we gather from wherever we are, whoever we are with, at whatever point in time.

I met the guy again today, and he was as jolly as I have ever seen him. For He's A Jolly Good Fellow....

And no, it is not day 35 at a stretch – thankfully it is spread between Jan/Feb/Mar of this year.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Of weddings and parenthood

It's not even end of the month yet, and there's already so much that has happened in this one - one, in which I would expect the least to happen logically (even with the leap year, I would expect to work lesser # of days in Feb)! In fact, I don't even need to go as far as the whole month - last week in itself has been a roller-coaster.

What with starting it with Swap's wedding on 18th, then Mom Dad's anniversary, getting a lovely nephew next day and a cute niece on the next! And this doesn't seem to come to an end - have another friend expecting in this week, and two more in next month!

And as if this much overwhelming was not enough for the week - got to know that another friend is getting married, and another friend couple is also expecting (I still need to decide here whether I will be a "Mama" or a "Chacha"!  :O

While I was at A's place early this week in Allahabad with my niece, or yesterday at B's place holding my nephew, I could see the twinkle in the eyes of A and B (both first time fathers), and could see that they have arrived! Nothing can be more precious that the feeling that they are having - notwithstanding the fact that they won't sleep for years to come, and will have diapers to change every second hour. :)

I shall get to see them in their free time in what, another few years? :P


Saturday, December 24, 2011


I've been on the road for a while now. My travel is mostly such - that when it is travel time, I end up traveling up to 10 days a month, and when it's not, I don't travel even for a couple of months at a stretch. And most of the times, I can decide if I want to travel.

So recent travels took me to Mumbai. I don't dislike Mumbai, but I am not a huge fan either. I have mostly traveled to the city for work, and haven't stayed in the city for more than a week at a time. Plus, I haven't traveled extensively within the city as well, since mostly I end up staying close to my office, which is far from where most of the friends stay, and I hardly get time when traveling for work.

Of whatever I know and have seen, Mumbai has not been my cup of tea. Needless to say, Delhi's been my fav, and I could never get used to the pace of Mumbai. Too fast for my liking. And what puts me off most in Mumbai is that it is not conducive for self driving - I love driving, and staying in a city where I can't drive would kill me. Reading this (Delhi vs Mumbai) doesn't change much either. The debate on which city is better is endless, and I know I'm bull headed enough to stick to my gut.

Well, this time around, I ended up spending the weekend in the city as well. Friends insisted [and who am I to resist, when friends insist ;)], and the plan that chalked out was to make merry through the night, and go to WK the next day. Awesome fun, mind you. Can't describe better than P has, in her blog.

So what I was coming to, was that traveling this time was so unique in ways more than one. Firstly, I ended up spending some quality time in the city. And second, in those 2-3 days, we chanced upon traveling on a bike, an auto-rickshaw, a cab, a bus, a ferry, a train, a local, an airplane, and even a raft! It was as if we were destined to travel by all modes - where we could not get a taxi, auto was the saving grace; where we could not get an auto, a bus saved us; en-route airport while I could have missed my flight, a local came to the rescue. So net net, realized that all means of transport have their own niche.

And I guess I left Mumbai with a few brownie points to its credit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Country Roads, Take Me Home..

My previous post did raise a question - whether big cities are the place to be, or should it be the small towns where one would find happiness. Going one step further would be to ask if countryside is what shall provide the much needed stillness in life?

One of my schooling stints did take me to countryside, where I ended up spending a good part of my childhood. And glad am I not, to have spent those years in the campus. Every time I cross the highway leading to my school (which is a good 100 kms+ away from Delhi), I would give a nostalgic look in that direction, wondering who would be going through life altering changes in his life, in that school of mine, sitting where I used to sit, sleeping where I used to sleep, playing where I used to play; wondering who's that Abhinav for today!

Tryst with destiny, and I ended up driving in that direction for a friend's wedding two weeks back. And there was no way I was going to let go of this opportunity to revisit those times. Not that I could enter the school campus, since no one is allowed to enter without a valid ID. I remember that even during the times when I was a student there, if not for valid documentation to allow my entry, I wasn't allowed to. Defence services and their rules, I tell you!

So we reached my school and I ended up driving around the campus. I was looking for the forests through which we used to run every morning. I was looking for the river front where we used to culminate our morning jogs, to sprint back to our hostels which were more than 3 kilometres away, just to make sure we'll be amongst the first in line to take a shower and be ready for classes. I was looking for the horse stables in the forest where all the horses of our school were kept. I was looking for the canal where we used to sit on second Sundays of the month, throwing pebbles and stones in it, waiting desperately for our parents, who could visit us only on this particular day of the month. I was looking for the fields where we used to sneak through at nights, tasting the fruit and vegetable gardens.

But the times have changed! The forests have been replaced by habitation. Fields and vegetable gardens have been replaced with hutments. Lost my way finding the river, and the canal had lost its prestige. That's when it hit me - that it has been so long - more than a decade. Things have changed so much - but not people from the school. Still when I talk to friends from the school, the relationships are so intimate, so warm, that it feels we all still get up together early in the morning, ready to run up to the river again. Every time I wake up early, the early morning sky reminds me of the foggy riverside from those 90's mornings. Every time I am talking to these friends, the same childish persona comes out, that used to be the distinct quality of those determined kids in their early teens. 

After circling the area, we stopped at the main gate (inset), for a memorabilia photograph for keeps. Nostalgia grew on me, and I had to pass on the wheel to A for further driving, while I sunk deep into the memories, relishing the awesome times we had at the school.

Not many can understand how disciplined and sincere the life would be in such a school run by the defence services - what they show in movies is not even the tip of the iceberg. And when my friends ask me, I do tell them that it's hard! Hard as in, I may not have the guts to send my kids to that school. (And I'm so glad my parents had the vision and guts to do so - they knew it was what would make me what I am. That has made me who I am today!) Hard as in, as hard as it was to cycle from Kullu to Khardung La. (Just like I wouldn't do the cycling trip again.) But ask me if I'll ever want to rewrite my past and not go in those directions - and the answer would be, "are you kidding"?!

Life gives us chances, and it's up to us to grab them with both hands. Hands could slip, hands could bleed - doesn't mean the chance wasn't meant to be grabbed. Just like I was telling a friend last week, if given a chance, I wouldn't change a single thing in my life, not in a zillion years!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Big Fish

I have lived in a big city all my life (actually, most of my life); Delhi is the city I have called ‘home’. Though I have stayed away in other cities for a few years at a time on multiple occasions, I still like to call Delhi my home.

The quiet, yet bustling metropolis is an epitome of diversity. It is dotted with scattered houses, shiny skyscrapers and green in between; and filled with eateries that have been the inspiration behind the new word “Delhi Belly" recently added to the Oxford dictionary.

Work has taken me to quite a few towns and cities in last few years, and last week was no different. I ended up traveling to these towns of Jhansi, then Agra, briefly Karnal also, and I realized that if I were based in one of these towns, the life would have been different altogether.

I find that, although small towns in India do not have the kind of traffic jams that the big cities have, the crowded areas of the town are not entirely free of traffic. Here the traffic is of the unruly kind with vehicles, cycles, carts, bulls, cows, dogs, cats, vendors and pedestrians all on top of each other. To drive a car in a small town requires unlearning the rules that big city driving schools teach and learning new learn-as-you-go rules.

To drive a car on the road means to dip and rise as if riding a ship in a sea storm; or to ride the auto rickshaw, which is more suited to the four foot wide, tiny, ancient streets, means to be tossed about like a marble and, even after you reach your destination for a few minutes, to have your teeth clatter and eyeballs continue to roll in your head. If you prefer to take the wider roads on the outskirts of town then be ready to wade through oceans of black and white goats that often flood the roads.

Time in the small town is a different concept, from time in the big city. When people give you an appointment for 10 in the morning, it means that this is just one of the possible times that they might appear. As I wait with my big city time precision, I find instead of losing my happiness at their casual attitude, it is a lot less stressful to loosen the hold that time has held over me all these years. The next time someone says they will come at 10 sharp, I find myself saying, “10 o’clock sharp means I might meet them some time today, if not, tomorrow, or if not, sometime this week, this month or two”.

I find more than once that small towns have the capacity to surprise. For example my first such surprise comes on the very first day I spend in Jhansi. I am tired with traveling and as the evening falls I settle down for my read before going to bed. As my city trained ears prepare to fight their accustomed battle against the “whirr” and “honks” of the city traffic so that I can concentrate on my book better, I hear something I have never heard before.

This sound is so unfamiliar to me that I put my book aside and listen to it with my full attention. It is the sound of silence. So complete and deep that it caresses me like a soft velvet auditory blanket. I close my eyes to take in the full feeling of complete peace that it brings. My breathing eases. My stressed out city senses covet this experience with unimagined thirst.

After spending some time just listening to the silence, I pick up my book again. In this magical silence, reading a book, I find, is an experience not ever duplicated in the city. The book covers your senses softly with its contents in the manner similar to the beautiful, deep silence. The lack of noise, I find is truly, truly beautiful.

Next morning the auditory pleasure of the night before continues when I wake up to an orchestra of birds. In Delhi, the birds would compete with the traffic sounds. Here in Jhansi the birds compete with no one but each other. They hold center stage with their performances. And as I sit with my steaming morning coffee cup looking out at the early mist through which the birds sing, I feel as though I have a box seat to their performance: a performance of so many maestros.

A few days have passed since I came back. But I still have the reassurance that I have the magical silence and the talented birds waiting for me when I get there again. I came home and was again reminded of the comforts and the system the city has which a small town doesn’t.

I am not calling myself best suited for a small town yet, but I am at a stage where a small fond place for such small towns has developed in my heart that is growing at an alarming rate. I might yet be in the danger of turning “small town”. I do not know when, or if, that will happen, but right now, I can comfortably say I am glad I know now what it would mean, to me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Changing the way FB looks

So, a few months after the last facelift, Facebook once again changed their layout. And, frankly, people aren’t too happy with the change. So goes another round of interweb bitching about Facebook’s new layout, even if the site is for free and they can do whatever they want with how the site looks. Heck, they can even put a big slab of google links on the site and they should be able to get away with it.

This is how Facebook should look like, forever.

As I’ve been following the updates of people trying to deal with the new layout, (yes, “deal.” It’s life-changing, didn’t you know?) I’ve noticed a pattern. People go through stages when trying to deal with this major tragedy called “Facebook changed its layout, holy shit, my life is over.”

One day, you log on to Facebook, and the layout has changed. it’s no longer the familiar layout you were used to from yesterday. You stare at the screen in shock. You press F5 continuously, hoping that the old layout will go back after a while. You refuse to accept the change.

There has got to be somebody to blame. You are seething with anger. You need somebody to hit. You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?”

You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair. You try to give up something, just to see the old Facebook again. For one last time. But deep inside, you know it’s all futile.

A long period of sadness may overtake you at this point. People are telling you that you should be moving on, but you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you.

Finally, you learn to accept that Facebook is going to change, whether you like it or not. You begin to see hope, and you move on. It’s not like the world is going to end, you realize. It’s just a stupid website.

And there you go. I hope people can understand that their lives ain't over just because they feel that a web company decided to let go of all common sense and churn out a look that doesn’t give anybody a clue on how to navigate it. There’s always Orkut if you feel like bitching more.

Also, I like the new layout. So guys, stop bitching and whining. Please. Except for a couple of changes I don’t like, the new Facebook rocks. Get over it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Spirit of 'Dilli'

The time is here, when the festivities galore!
Last week was Dussehra. And Durga Puja. And I could not help but recollect the times when these days used to be the most sought after vacation days for us kids. With the pepped up mood, numerous shopping sprees, moderation of Delhi climate from acute summers to chilly winters - this time used to be the epitome of Dilli's spirit.
Not that Dilli has changed - the times have. Now-a-days, kids would rather spend time at home zooming their iPads, then going out having fun in those quintessential melas! In fact, during a conversation with one of my teenage cousins a few days back, she mentioned she so much wanted to go to these fairs with friends, but friends thought there were better things to do!
I don't remember where I was last year at this time. Neither do I remember the year before that. But I knew I could not miss these Ramleela fairs this year.
My craving to attend these festivities, buying those "teer kamaan" & swords & "gada" (mace) & shields, and having that Lovely Chuski, had the better of my schedule, and I managed to go out to a couple of Ramleela grounds! As always, I ended up breaking quite a few of these things I bought on my way back, but as the Mastercard ad says, the feeling was priceless!
On one of such outings to a nearby fair, one of the things that grabbed my attention was a piezoelectric ball that had a pressure sensor in it which glowed when struck on a surface forcefully. I was so fascinated by it, but I never realized that it has always been available everywhere. In fact, one of my friends who I was out with me that day told me that even their baby daughter had grown out of such glowing balls long time back! Not me though - I was just getting into it. And what fascinated me most was, what seemed like a simple glowing ball to everyone, was one of the very few implications I had seen of effects of physics that were so hard for me to grasp when I was a kid. Simple, yet Marvelous.
Add to it the ritual visuals of Ravana idols (and of his son and his bro) all around, waiting to be burned down, depicting victory of good over evil, and everyone dancing around the idols. Before long Lord Rama arrives, blessed in his guise, with his bow and arrows, and gives everyone the flavor of what they had been waiting for.
Like someone said, it is on such days that I feel with greater vigor that what a marvelous thing is it to be born an Indian. One thing is true - we are such amazingly crazy for festivals people. It is on these festivals that we bond again, leaving behind whatever little there is to nag about.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Michhami Dukkadam

My Bad, I'm sorry.
That's the meaning of the phrase I was recently introduced to by a friend - Michhami Dukkadam.
Digging deeper, I realized that this is not Sanskrit, but Prakrit, which is derived from old Indic dialects. Interestingly, Sanskrit is a language with literary and religious roots, while Prakrit is derived, evolve-as-you-go kind of language.
Michhami Dukkadam is a concept where one feels and asks for forgiveness from those who have been hurt knowingly or unknowingly. It is also a way of letting go of any resentment or qualms one may have with anyone.
A noble thought in principle, I found it to be much more than a means to control the ego.
Many-a-times, especially in today's fast paced age, we end up spending insufficient time on things that matter, and run after those that don't. Few weeks back, when I came to know this concept MD - it was a perfect launchpad to try something new.
Not that I have an army of enemies I needed to say MD to (!), it was anyways good to know that there is something to take cue from, and be yourself for a moment. Like I always said - "People are good, unless proved otherwise". While it still holds, a more relevant thing to say would be, "People are good if you give them a chance to be"