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The Angrej in us

(thanks BACHCHU for editing)

Finally, the summer that lasted 69 days was over and we were back in our campus in Lucknow. The first thing I wanted to do was to go out with my friends for dinner. To add to the happiness of meeting all the friends after a long time, I came to know that Nidhi had received PPO in her internship. We decided to go to one of the costliest restaurants in Lucknow as it was pending in our to-do list. Though our group comprised of foodies who loved checking out new restaurants, these were the prime chunk of Lucknow’s food joints that we couldn’t visit due to our helpless empty pockets.

We split into the groups of 4 and took cabs from our campus to a restaurant. Our cab was the first to reach the venue. Once we took our seats, we started going through the menu. As it turned out, it was a buffet, out of which we could order anything. I went through all the dishes offered and I found one fancy name among them. When everyone ordered a different soup for themselves, (I still don’t know why I ordered that particular one) I suddenly said, “Lemon Coriander!” Rest of the people joined us afterwards. They started asking about our order. Ankush told others that I had ordered Lemon Coriander, and everybody started laughing and joking about it. When someone joked, “Dewa will eat Lemon water with Coriander”, I realized the blunder I had made. All it took me to understand it was splitting those words apart. And that is precisely how terrible it was when I tasted it. But I had made a mistake, so to save my face I had to drink it. But it was so unpleasant that I couldn’t drink it after few sips. When everybody got busy in drinking their soup or chatting, I just slipped my soup towards the other side of the table without anyone noticing. Thinking about it, I looked around. I was embarrassed. But then I thought, “Was I only one who is so Angreja?”

The person sitting just in front of me has cheeks resembling that of the typical younger version of Hrithik Roshan in the movies – too chubby. That is why we sometimes call him ‘Chhota Krish.’ I had started mocking him about those since our college began and used to call him Golu. Though I was his first friend in the college, he got really irritated by this and almost stopped talking to me. Ironically, the same guy now feels elated when his girlfriend calls him Fatty.

Then I looked at the person sitting next to me. Just 8 days back, I had asked her opinion on which mobile I should buy. I had found a good Micromax mobile and asked her whether I should buy that. She was furious about it and asked me, “How can you buy such a locally made phone?” I knew how angry she gets sometimes and so instead of arguing over it, I asked her, “What shall I do now?” She told me that she will come up with some good options to buy from. What she came up with was a ‘One +’ and a ‘Redmi’. Though I agree they are making good phones these days too, but come on!! You are so sure about these Chinese brands but not Indian brands! When the same person accompanied me to buy clothes once, she didn’t like the apparel from Indian Terrain. Then she said she knows a good brand and she took me to Bossini.

Sitting on the head seat of the table was a person who is probably the second best master of finance in our group. Whenever we used to talk about jobs she used to term CRISIL, SBI and ICICI as ‘not-too-good’ companies. She wanted to work for Bank of America, Master Card, etc. I know these companies are different, I am not denying it. What I am saying is, she could never come up with any good reason to defend her strong perceptions, except that the latter were MNCs. It was just deep fitted in her psyche.

The next one in the line was a guy with whom I had partnered on a few projects. We had had a discussion on one of the projects just before coming to dinner about plumbing services and we were making some assumptions. During that discussion he repeatedly said, “The work won’t be inferior there; it’s not India.”

Lost in thought, I was not enjoying the moment. I made an effort not to think about all this and start enjoying. I started concentrating on food and chatting. The talk had gradually shifted to a different topic. The tallest girl in our group had suddenly said, “Wow! This is such a delicious food! I surely want a guy who would at least cook food for me.” Another girl from our group replied to her, “You surely need to go outside India. Choose an Indian if you want, but he must be living in US or Europe; they are very helpful to their wives in the house work. And most importantly, only there will you get a tall and handsome guy who will match your personality.”

I was surprised to see how all of us have that element of “Angrej” directly or indirectly. The irony was we were Indians and the proudest tag that we carried had also started from Indian (i.e. IIM) People tried very hard to attain this tag, sometimes preferring it over any international university. The fact is that our attire might have been changed but from within, we will remain Indian.

There are so many reasons that are given for such a behavior, for example. people want best for themselves and aspiration of the youth has been going up. Some say its era of globalization. For me, the best argument was that I had heard from someone in the past, that we were ruled by the British for long and they were considered supreme. Even when they left, they left the impression on the Indian hearts so deep that anything outside India is better. Instead of it getting out, it has probably found a permanent place in our psyche.

Role reversal

(Thanks Pandu for editing this 🙂 )

I got a call from my cousin stating that my father needs to go through a check-up. I asked him to plan it on a weekend, if that was possible. While discussing with another friend that I will be going to Aurangabad on the weekend, he asked me about why I am going and I told him the reason. He happened to have visited that hospital before. Also, he told me about the hospital rules that even in the ward only 1 person can accompany the patient and said that if your cousin is a doctor, then let him be there. He suddenly asked, “What you will do when you are not even allowed to stay with your father?” I didn’t utter a word and left to visit him there.

 

During the journey, all I could think was the situation just a few years back when he used to travel all the way form Maharashtra to Rajasthan just to accompany me to IIT-JEE and AIEEE exams. He was asked by his friends that what exactly he does when he accompanies me. He used to say, “I don’t know, I just go there with him. Other parents keep telling their kids what to do. I don’t know those things so I just try to be there with him. I wait for him to come back after the exam, outside the exam hall ”

I reached Aurangabad and went to my friend’s home, lived just a kilometer away. I was aware of the fact that I have reached earlier than my parents. I got a call in some time that my parents have reached the hospital. I asked them to enter the hospital and told them that I will meet them in a few minutes. I took more than few minutes and thought that maybe they would have entered the ward. I didn’t call them and was trying to figure out a place for me to sit. Again I got a call from my mother asking about my location.  With her help, I reached where they were and was surprised to see even my father was waiting at that gate. He was a bit tensed, but looking at me had a moment of relief.

The doctor kept us waiting for more than 6 hours. My dad was asked not to drink even a drop of water, so he was without food or water from morning itself. Even in that hospital building, the sun was showing its effect. The air around us was hot, maybe the context added some temperature to it and the sun was not the only one to be blamed. But my dad was calm and at peace when we were there with him. There was this tiredness and nervousness on his face and so was on ours, but we were still able to smile. As only one person was allowed in the ward, I asked my mom to be there. I knew she would be more tense, if she was out of the ward. I was the one who was sitting in the reception area, which reminded me of how my father used to wait for my exams to get over. Just like he used to be tensed for my results, this time i was for his results.

Finally, the test was carried out. He was bit unconscious because of the anaesthesia. I was looking at him. The only think that was moving around was a machine making beep sounds. I was in a standstill position. I didn’t realized I had a smile mixed with tears in my eyes. I only acknowledged it when one of my friends texted me. While replying to her a tear dropped on the mobile screen. This reminded me how he used to have tears in his eyes after my results. I used to ask him, “Why are you crying?” He used to say, “You will know it some day”. Maybe he meant that I will know once I will have a kid but never knew I will know it in some other way when the roles will reverse and I will become the caretaker.

Trade off

 

Today was Diwali. The calendar reminded me about it and so did Facebook. But I don’t know why it didn’t feel like it was indeed Diwali. After roaming around the college till 4.30 a.m., I woke up at 2.52 p.m. I checked my mobile, everyone was sending good wishes for Diwali, effectively reminding me that its Diwali. So I replied them back and I wondered what to do next. Nidhi called me and invited me to join the group to watch a movie. But I didn’t have enough energy to do so. So I chose to visit my first love once again. That is, I chose my beloved sleep.

Again, I got a call from Nidhi in the evening. She enquired about my whereabouts. I told her that I was still sleeping. She tried to sound angry (I know she can’t get angry in real life) and asked me to get ready ASAP and join others over dinner outside the campus. I couldn’t say no and had to accept her request. I again checked those messages and found one of them to be really nice and sent it forward to my friends. Realising the late timing of the message, one of them even asked me how many times was I gonna wish! How was I supposed to tell her that I still didn’t feel like it is Diwali.

Then my fellow council member asked me to come to Pooja (the prayer ceremony, not the girl), so finally I said goodbye to my bed and freshened up. I went to the venue where the Pooja was organised, people were happy and jovial. Everyone exchanged wishes on Diwali. But I couldn’t conjure that feeling. I was merely reciprocating to people but hardly did I initiate a greeting. Finally, I tried to get myself busy with my newly found love at IIM Lucknow of taking photos.

When I was a kid, if someone would have asked me what is Diwali, maybe I would have answered that it is a day for which I buy new clothes, a day for which a new market is set up in my village, which I visit multiple times. A day on which I light so many firecrackers that even the neighbouring aunty, who otherwise found me most adorable, starts hating me. A day on which we light Diyas and go to the temple, a day on which my mom cooks for hours, a day on which all the employees of my papa’s shop come for dinner, a day on which we can’t locate dogs in our colony (I always wondered where did they go), and so on….. But today, if someone asked me what is Diwali? I would say a day on which I am with my family.

When I informed her about having got no holiday, my grandmother had asked me what kind of education was I taking? And I had replied, “This is the way it is, nowadays.” But today, even I don’t know what exactly is this way! A few days ago, one of my friends had lost her grandmother and she couldn’t go and see her grandmother for one last time before the funeral. She had asked me, “What’s the use of the world becoming faster and people saying it has come closer, when I can’t even go and see her?” I had told her, “ It’s all about trade off that we have made.”

She replied while wiping her tears, “Indeed. My friends doing business always tell me that I am living a tension free life, but they would never understand its cost!”

Same was the case with another of my friend who had to unwillingly part ways with his first and only love. The reason being the different lifestyles that they had to live were incompatible. One was MBA and the other was in the technical field, and both had their own fledgling ambitions.

 

One of my friends even had posted this on social media: “Score is 1/26, not at home on Diwali.”

I wanted to comment, “Now that you have chosen this side of the trade off, it’s surely gonna increase.”