Week Two…..Strangers become Friends

……continued from week one

We reached the Campus gate. There’s no escape now, “ab to aar yaa paar..!!” (“it’s now or never”), my heart said to me. There’s something about breaking rules, the urge is so strong and enticing that you can barely resist it.  

I was carrying a bag, it was a sack actually, full of something. As I was trying to rush in with Dada (one of my batchmates), who was screening me from the guards, a voice stopped me,“Sahab! borey me kya hai?” (“Sir, what’s inside the sack?”). Before I could react or Dada could make a move the security guy announced,“Sir, checking hogi..!!”(“Sir, I will have to check”). I whispered to myself,“lo, ho gaya bawaal” (“time for another bawaal”). But Dada is really ‘a Dada'(‘a senior person’) in its true literary sense, he rushed on towards the guard in one of his very unique ways, ” Ohh..ho!! Pandit Jee, tum bhi kaisi baatein karte ho, bacche hain khaane-peene ka samaan to laayenge hee..!!”(“Pandit Jee, kids will obviously bring something with them to eat”). The guard smiled, I thought Dada’s magic words had worked, but he took the sack from my hands and started searching. Every voice was now echoing between my ears like it does when water seeps into your ears while taking a bath.

Checking stopped,“Sab theek hai Sahab, par itni cold drinks ka aap kya karoge?”(“Sir, everything’s alright, but what would you do with so much of cold drinks?”), the guard asked casually. Dada chipped in,“bacche hain, pee lenge.”(“kids will have it”).

I was still surprised,”COLD DRINKS…haha..!!”, not very much though because we were not idiots and the thing that shouldn’t have happened didn’t happen, we escaped. 

So now we were rich enough to celebrate and skip regular canteen meals provided in the campus. And please don’t talk about breakfasts, I have had it just four times in the canteen out of the whole forty-two days and I am sure I am the record holder though there are some close competitors for the title as well. Our batch had a significant majority from Northern India and I can guarantee nobody enjoyed the South Indian cuisine after the initial couple of days. I remember one of my friends saying,“bhai” as we used to call each other,“Yaar Manish, saale roz-roz ye idli-dosa kaise khaa paayenge yaar, tuu khud bataa bhai?”(“How can we have idli-dosa for every meal?”). Another one used to say,“Oye, kuchh paranthe-puronthe, ghee-makhan to hona chahiye na naashte me.”(“Breakfast should at least have paranthe and butter”).Well who could resolve this issue better than the man himself – ‘Dada’. He requested the same with the administration and soon some North Indian cuisines were introduced in the breakfast menu.

The mysterious contents of the ‘controversial sack’ were deposited in the secure boundaries of ‘Room 310′ the room that no participant of our batch could ever forget. Why was it so secure? There were no cipher or bolting door locks to make it secure, in fact, only a few know that even the cupboard planks were broken. So, how was it secure then? The answer is simple, the brand ‘310’ in itself was so notorious and infamous that nobody ever dared to breach the code of conduct to be maintained. It would also be important here to mention that the brands “Bajrang Dal” and “310” were synonyms, the latter being the ‘registered office’ of the most popular and populated group.

Weekend gone, I was a common friend to most of my batchmates but a best friend with none. As soon as this thought came to my mind the world adjusted itself once again to solve my problems. I was sitting with a guy with high-power spectacles on, naah…he was not a bookworm, in fact he is one of my best friends today. He was  very conscious about his looks and carried an amazing artistic talent. We used a term “introvert” for him a little later towards the end of the batch. We knew each other, but not very well, though everything was going to change now.

The Lecture was in progress, it was the second session before lunch and everybody was yawning and waiting for the lunch. He tapped me and asked to read something from his notebook, I glanced into the last page of his notebook. It read, 

“1. Puneet – Dada

 2. Kaushal – Baba

 3. Kiran  – Nawaab

 4. Somani – Boka

5. Manish – Tom “

“Wow..!!” was my reaction and we are still known by these names by our batchmates. I don’t know the reason behind such ‘naamkaran'(‘naming’) but it was cool, each one of us enjoyed it. Many other pet-names emerged as well and I will discuss them in the ‘weeks’ to follow.

It’s hard to imagine as to what impact would a simple act of naming each other would have on the relationship between individuals. I guess the meaning of the word ‘bhai’ was getting its true justice now. 

Soon after, the above people were coined as “the Promoters” of “Bajrang Dal”. First “official” meeting that is worth mentioning was between some of the Promoters and our batch’s Table Tennis champion which would follow. Now, the “official ” nature of this meeting was appreciated by all who participated and some significant disclosures were made. The meeting place was surprisingly changed due to the “official” nature of the meeting and the “controversial sack” was very useful. Meeting was followed by dinner, though from the campus canteen only, it was great for obvious reasons.

There was a lecture on Professional Etiquettes in the first week itself, some sweet memories cross my mind from that to. The lecture was very informative, the part that I enjoyed the most was the ‘newspaper dressing activity’ which taught us the art of dressing for the occasion and ‘the handshake courtesy’ in which we were practically informed not to get carried away and press the hand of a lady so tight that it would hurt her. The most surprising thing that day was that everybody was trying to act sophisticated and well-mannered, the results were quick but lacked permanency which was evident in the second week.

I was always late for the class, the main reason being our “official” meetings and the biggest problem “ironing”. I had never ironed my clothes myself before I came here. I took help from one of my batchmates from Kerela, the most humble and helping person that I have ever met in my life. In simple words,“bahut achha insaan”(“a beautiful human being”). He taught me to iron formal shirts which was something I was struggling with. Also, he didn’t understand and speak much of Hindi but conversing with him in English was very exciting.

Well, I think I should now talk about the ladies of the batch as well, they also deserve the much respected fame that our batch had to offer. I can’t say much about others but I was really afraid of all my female counterparts in the batch, especially after what had happened in Mr. Mathew Joseph’s lecture in the first week. But when I had to work in groups for tasks assigned in the class, the fear slowly vanished and everybody came along as very nice people, not the ones who would make you feel nervous or separated. And there were some beautiful ladies as well, seventeen of them, each in her very own way, though I reserve my right to have “favorites” which would never be officially announced in the time to come.

Our’s was a multi-geographical batch. There were people from states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,  Kerela and even Goa apart from the regulars like Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and the like. I think this was the most incredible learning than any of the regular course curriculum, India is really great, rightly said by someone,“yahan kos-kos pe paani badle, chaar kos pe baani”(“Water nature changes here each mile and there’s a different dialect every four miles”).

A lecture on “Goal Setting” by Mr. Gampa Nageshwar Rao in the first week was not something that I cherish a lot. I have high regards for the man but it went too far in the end and disturbed all of us emotionally, though it’s totally a personal view.

‘India 2025’ was our next activity, this task was assigned to us by none other than ‘Fungus’. We had to prepare a presentation on the topic in a group of five. Another controversy arose as to how the groups were decided. Obviously, it was rigged. What was the basis? Who did it? What was the purpose? Well, that’s confidential and even I am eager to get the answers even today.

I dressed so formally for the presentation that even the “British House of Lords” would have feared competing against me. This time I was wearing a tie, the same old deadly combination of white shirt, red tie and black trousers was making me anticipate some complements, yes from the ladies as well. But no success, I guess something was missing, fortunately I found it in the weeks to come.

The presentation went really well, everyone was good but “Nawaab” stole the show that day. He had managed to learn some beautiful lines from a bollywood movie ‘Namaste London’ and enacted it superbly. Well, he’s the guy who has this natural flair to communicate and impress. Good sense of humor and perfect timings are to his credits. We went along really nicely and both were a significant part of the “official” meetings. “Aage chalke badaa bawaal machaaya humne”(“We created a lot of fuss in the weeks to come”).

Classes went on, yoga sessions had started and the late risers tried their best to at least say “hello” to the yoga instructor once, but all in vain. I asked one of my friends to wake me up as he had a very loud pitch voice, so that would have helped. He was a South Indian from Nagpur so his expressions were from the “bambaiya dialect” only. He followed my instructions judiciously and banged my room’s door every morning, but I think I was least bothered about it and gave full priority to my sleep. No doubt, he had failed every time.

Weekend was near and this time a trip was planned to “Ramoji Film City”. 

to be continued…..




Looking back…..Week One, where it all started

“Bawaal”, a hindi jargon that means “stupendous” in english, is the expression that I have been living with day in and day out for the last five months now.

Yes, it was the pleasant weather of July 2011, one of the most important year for me as a professional, or you can say “to be” professional – a Chartered Accountant. For now I was frustrated of people asking me, “kaun si university se CA kar rahe ho….?” (“which university are you enrolled with for your CA studies….?”) and I was sick of explaining that its regulated by an institute-ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India), set up by an act of Parliament, the anxiety to get my hands on that prestigious Membership Certificate was ever increasing.

Ruined by these technicalities, I decided to run away from the fear of failure and joined a professional skills development program at The Centre of Excellence, Hyderabad-city of pearls, Nizam and biryaani, here came my first date with “Bawaal”. Though I know the   word very well but never felt it as strong as I do it now.

We were fifty five students, ratio in favour of boys, a common site in a country like India. It was a 42 days residential course and the response of previous batches was very positive and attractive. Further, the very existence of world class campus facilities was exciting and eagerly awaited for.

The course began, everything seemed to be slow and boring, people were shy and I admit I was one of them. Soon, friends emerged and regular sleeping hours were restricted to a maximum of three. I guess the stage was all set for something extraordinary-something to remember all our lives. “Bawaal” was getting very popular and even the food was praised with the magical word. Most importantly, the ‘magic code’ was coined by my roommate, one of the better poets that I have met.

Well, the fun had begun and it was ‘inconvenient’ in it’s most astonishing fashion as one of our faculties had informed us “we are not here to make you feel at home but to make you feel uneasy and challenged….!”

So, came the first testing day. No, it was not any official challenge but a surprise one, and I am still searching for the reason as to why Mr. Mathew Joseph chose me as the first candidate for the challenge. Was it for the reason that I had answered his question on “brand appeal” as “it (a soap) reminds me of a beautiful bollywood heroine…”  or was it just a matter of chance? Anyways I had to face the challenge now.

The task was simple, not in it’s true literary sense though but the process was quite simple, to propose to a girl. And I feel so embarrassed now to admit that I didn’t even know her name inspite of her being my batchmate. So, as it ought to have been with regard to the miserable state of confidence that I was carrying into the activity, my task was a complete failure, rightly said by one of the girl judges,“Manish lacked confidence, he was dull, not clear and afraid, there was no appeal in his expression.” 

At the end of the day, in my room I was feeling different, a negative different. “I lost” was all over my mind, it’s not a big thing that I was worrying about but the fact is I was very, very upset. I have this incredible ability to disguise my feelings except from my family, they know it before I realize it myself. But I must admit, it made me much bold and determined, Mr. Joseph’s trick was working well.

Everyone joined for evening photo sessions and fun was all around, it was haphazard because there was no mutual consent, in fact there were some small groups which kept to themselves, I was also a part of one of them.

“Bajrang Dal” was my group’s identity and we were a bunch of seven or eight people, all guys, of course for obvious reasons. We started having our group meetings after dinner which continued till early mornings and since we were very loud and pompous soon many other guys joined in as well. Gradually, “Bajrang Dal” became a well recognized group of “hooligans” mostly characterized for it’s ill-behavior and mischief rather than some of the positive aspects that professionals ought to carry.

Classes went on and we were faced with one more “Bizarre Element” on this earth, one of the greatest psychologist, philosopher, paleontologist, physiologist and the list is still being updated for want of professions and adjectives. I would call him the “Total Transformation Faculty” or “Fungus”-a more famous title. I am still trying to comprehend his expressions in class, My God it was pathetic. My roommate used to giggle,“he is bawaal in his very own way…” Well I was scolded by him on the very first day of his lecture for not wearing a tie and it didn’t help me anyway in the time to come.

Weekend was near, first weekend and the freedom to go out and enjoy was getting us excited, yes we were not allowed to go out of the campus except on weekends, that too subject to permission from Fungus and time constraints. Still, we were excited and all set to go.

The eagerly awaited day came. We all went out, obviously in groups. It was good fun in shopping malls, gaming arena and food court. Everyone was so happy like he/she had got a pardon from death sentence. With all this positive energy we returned to our campus literally chanting “bawaal” on our way back, and then something happened that shouldn’t have happened.

to be continued……..