Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nomoshkar Kolkata

Hii folks,

It was only a few days ago that I went to Kolkata to attend my friend's marriage reception; my second visit to the 'City of Joy'. But what a trip it was!! One of those trips where you see everything right from abject poverty to glittering luxury. Kolkata is one of those cities where people are very courteous and believe in the philosophy of 'Athithi Devo Bhava'. Unlike Delhi, where the Autowallah or the Taxi Driver won't miss any opportunity to take you for a ride; here there is a system which people make sure they comply. Right from the taxi drivers charging you as per the digital meter to people standing in a queue for buses and Trams, everything happens in a rather mechanical manner. So, the 'Chaos' that you observe in cities like Mumbai or Delhi is rather missing in Kolkata where despite a high population density, the vehicular traffic flows smoothly and pedestrians cross the roads promptly on the zebra crossing.

But the welcome that I received was something that shook me like hell!! First of all the pilot 'Captain John Thomson' made the landing with a thud; something that evoked a collective 'Ouch' from the passengers. For a moment I felt my heart stop and it took me a full 10 seconds to realize that we were all actually safe. Then the airport itself smelt of 'Communism' with green and red hues everywhere. It is I believe the worst airport in India with not even a 'Waiting Hall' for passengers. I could only imagine the chaos that would begin every time a flight is delayed. Just when I thought the worst was over, the man sitting at the counter of the 'Bengal Prepaid Taxi Association' announced that there weren't any prepaid taxis available now.

The next day was though probably the best time I had ever. It was because when it came to photography,  Kolkata offered me a lot. I could do all sorts of it, right from street, architecture, nature to abstract photography. As a photographer, you begin to see the world through the lens of your DSLR camera. That in itself is a different perspective as you begin to observe your surroundings closely thus creating opportunities to click some wonderful moments. And as I started doing it right from the word go, I found to my amazement that I was not that bad a photographer after all. I had consciously taken the decision to try clicking pictures even while in motion, which is difficult when you have to sit in the taxi. But I did manage to get some decent clicks.

Photography is not simply about clicking pictures, but it's also about understanding and associating with the stories behind each image. A good photographer can spot such stories in and around his surroundings quite instinctively and rest of the job is then done in a flash!! I can never measure myself as to how good a photographer I am as I am still learning the nuances of it. But let me share with you some of the moments in Kolkata which left a lasting impression on me.

Watching this kid play badminton with a small plastic Table Tennis bat made me go down the memory lane. There were days when even I used to play 'gilli danda' with a wooden bat that my mother used to beat clothes while washing them.

Took this shot from the taxi while on my way to the Victoria Memorial. I miss those days when I used to have my daily evening 'Masala Special Tea' just outside the IIMA campus.

These blue and yellow painted tin buses can actually sustain the load of over a 100 passengers. At least that is what I felt when I saw this one passing besides me. Travelling in overcrowded buses is something I did way back in Hyderabad and so can empathise with the elder man who knows it will take a lifetime before he reaches his destination!!

This yellow ain't dirty and in fact adds to the charm of the city. Kolkata seems so much more bright and joyful with this color around.

The reason I feel that a sense of 'Chaos' is missing in Kolkata is because of 'TRAM'. People still find the time to travel in these painfully slow rail bogies. Pedestrians of Mumbai could easily overtake a tram in motion any day!!

A great city is always known for the heritage value associated with it. And when it comes to Kolkata, you can't help but thank the British Empire for its ingenuity and persistence in transforming a once barren village to one of the most populated cities in the world. Same goes without saying for both Mumbai and Delhi.

This group of school kids reminded me of my school days. I thoroughly used to enjoy those excursions to the zoo's and the historical monuments.

The beautiful Victoria Memorial. To quote one of my friends,'Victoria Memorial is probably the most beautiful Indian monument after Taj Mahal.' Undoubtedly it is!!

The ugly face of India. This rag picker was reading aloud an English article on Gandhi using the empty plastic cup as his mic. With a near perfect accent and pronunciation, he was either showing off his oral skills which I thought were excellent or was simply being mad!!

I should thank my friend Prasad for postponing his plan to do some shopping or otherwise I would have never been on time at the Princep Ghat to capture this :)

The Sun at its glorious best in Kolkata. The new Vidyasagar bridge just adds to the charm amidst the serene and golden waters of Hooghly.

The boatman actually stood still for a few seconds probably thinking that I was clicking his pic ;)

This shot was quite interesting. I bent a little to get a suitable angle with the Sun and after the shot was complete, fell down on the boat as the boatman turned the boat sharply to my left.

Dancing in front of 200 odd people is never easy. But this wonder kid thought otherwise and rocked the floor with her mesmerising dance moves :)

Kolkata is a nice city to live in provided you earn enough. Otherwise, surviving in this city becomes difficult given the lack of infrastructure and amenities in most parts of the city. After experiencing the facilities or rather the lack of it at the Kolkata Airport, my friend commented, 'People here have forgotten to liberalise.' But the best part about this city is that the people here are sweet just like the sweetness associated with a 'Rosogulla' or a 'Sondesh'.

Signing off,

Monday, September 12, 2011


Hii folks,

Having spent a good 45 days at home after passing out from IIMA, life for me has returned back to normalcy. 'Normalcy' in this context means a routine mechanical life; one in which you know what you have to do in a day and then complete what is to be done. There is neither a sense of adventure nor a hint of novelty that I would any day love to be involved in. Life has become mechanical to such an extent that I find it difficult to make time for activities like blogging that I so love doing. But thanks to some good songs from the upcoming movie 'Mausam', I finally have the good mood to indulge in some writing.

Facebook now is a 'virtual' country with a population of a billion and is fast threatening to challenge our beloved country's position as the second most populous country in the world. I hate Facebook, but I can't ignore it because there is no disputing the fact that its one of the most user friendly tools to network and be in touch with friends and acquaintances. It recently helped me get back in touch with my long lost school friends; bringing back invaluable moments of happiness and pain, ecstasy and agony back to life and in the process making me nostalgic like never before. To an extent that now I can't resist the urge to meet with old pals and relive those moments of fun.

Reliving those moments help you realize the fact that with ageing comes maturity because with ageing, you experience many things and events that have something or the other to teach you. And yes, you also want to be a child again and live life without worries and the burden of responsibility that now tend to bog us down. As a blogger, isn't it a good idea to share with you some funny moments that I would like to relive now? Yes.

Circa 1992

I was playing with 'Nippa', my first friend who was a girl. And from then on, my saga of ups and downs had begun with the opposite sex. No offence intended; its probably a fault in my wiring that I have now come to realize that I can never anticipate or understand what girls do or mean. Well coming back to what happened that day; it was my first encounter with our ancestral cousins which are often lovingly referred to as 'Monkeys'. Me and Nippa along with some of our common friends were playing on a fine Sunday evening when we saw a 6 feet long guy trotting along with his pet monkey.

Me(Addressing that guy): Bhaiyya, is this monkey yours?
Guy: Yes chote, its mine.
Me: Will the monkey hurt me if I tease him?
Guy: You wanna take a shot? Go on

I made faces and teased him like hell, fully aware of the fact that the guy had him in chains. But little did I realize that I had managed to piss him off so well that a seemingly gentle one had turned to an aggressive monkey all set to show his might. It was trying hard to jump on me. Moments later, when the guy lost grip on the chain he started chasing me. I ran for my life. Well, the reason I remember the sequence of events is because of two things:

1. Though I managed to escape, I could see Nippa laughing aloud at me while I was crying out in fear. That hurt me
2. After 5 minutes when I came out of hiding, I was told that Nippa was on the way to hospital because the mad monkey which was clearly on a rampage had bit her before being brought under control. That hurt me even more (sob sob!!)

Moral: Never mess with our ancestral cousins. Never.

Circa 2000

I was literally begging for a cool 'bike' that I could ride on and go to school. The fact was that I wanted to brag and impress girls because not many boys then had the luxury of riding a cool red Hercules MTB to school. That bicycle then was priced at 2000 bucks and that wasn't a small amount to spend for a non-commissioned technician in the IAF (my father). So when he did buy me that, I was over the moon.

Kiran was a good friend of mine back then and she had come to my home for the first time to ask for my notes, as she was absent for quite a few days in school. Our families were very close. I was just beginning to think of having a friendly chat when my mother hijacked her. They were both having the usual gossip (pun intended!!) inside the kitchen and here was me, cribbing over the fact that I lost a golden chance. After a while...

Kiran: Thanks Sandeep for these notes. I will return it to you tomorrow in the class.
Me: Oh yeah, yeah. Take your time. By the way, can I drop you home? (Looking back, that was a blunder!!)
Kiran: On your cycle? No way, I will walk home. (She was staring at me, wondering how the hell did I manage to feel as if I had a motorcycle)
Me: Oh! Its ok. You know my cycle is new. Just bought it a week back
Kiran: Nice. Bye

And she left. Two hours later, I was riding my cycle aimlessly on the road enjoying the pleasant whiff of breeze flowing even as the majestic evening sun was calling it a day off. I saw her on a distance with another girl. A stupid me was thinking of doing some stunts and I did manage to show off some quite well. Moments later, I went and greeted her.

Kiran: Sandeep, do you really want me to praise your bicycle riding abilities? I know you bought a new one
Me: Ah....hmmm...Oh no! Its not like that. I just wanted to.....(The following words never mattered as both of them were laughing at me)

Moral: Never show off when you don't know how to. Or even if you know, never be a dumb*** like me to use a bicycle. Does someone recall a similar scene in the movie 'Boys'? I won't blame you though!!

There are countless such moments that I would love to share. But am I the only one to be living with such exciting memories? No. There are people who probably have endured a myriad of painful heart wrenching experiences. There are people who inspire themselves to get up every morning and do what they are supposed to, just because they don't have any other alternative. And there are people like me who are fairly comfortable with their lives and still find waking up and going to office a routine. But isn't that a corporate life is all about?

Its all in the mind. Isn't it?

signing off,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hii all,

Its been a long time since I blogged. There was a time when blogging was a regular activity for me; for which I could take out time and vent out my feelings on various issues. But from the day I made the transition from being a student to a manager, life has never been the same again.

As a student, you have less things to worry about. Its all about scoring good marks, making good friends with whom you can be yourself and dealing with the burden of expectations which your dear ones have. You do have a choice. You can either do well as a student or screw up your career, sit at home and become a zombie. But there comes the transition phase, you become a professional and things change drastically. There is a fundamental shift in your personality. There is a sudden sense of responsibility and you feel more mature than ever. Of course there are always exceptions, but I am talking about the majority of us. Or at least this is what has happened with me. The me who earlier never thought twice before spending money for his indulgence, now at least thinks twice before doing so. The me who never shied to speak his mind with his dear pals now is beginning to think of the repercussions if he does so. The me who earlier struggled to understand the subtle hints his pals used to give, now doesn't find it difficult.

In my case, the transition was smooth and the best part of it is that I realize this change happening. And it has been because of the two years I spent at IIMA, away from best friends and family. And in these two years, I have traveled like never before which I guess is also one of the driving factors behind the change/transition I was talking about earlier. Two months back, I became a manager in a big Indian conglomerate.

Its not only me that feels the change. One of my very good friend almost spoke my mind, when one fine day she sent me a rather emotional sms which I must say was very uncharacteristic of her. She was experiencing a void, something which each and everyone of us at some point of time do experience. Despite having a great set of friends and a set career in life, there is this feeling that you are missing something. And that 'something' is happiness. It was the same experience which me and my friend were going through. Now the question arises on how to tackle such kind of a conundrum. The answer I guess is very simple. Watch a beggar on the street or a struggling rickshawallah. But not many people follow this mantra and that also includes me, for we are so preoccupied with our life or rather I should say we are so egoistic that our problems are always the worst and can't be compared. Leaving aside the philosophical aspect of it (which I am so good at ;-) ), how many people would consider leaving a well paid MNC job to follow their heart's desires?? Not many; but fortunately there are some people whom I have had the good opportunity to meet with during my travails across the country.

At this point of time, I recall an incident which astounded me and made me realize the importance of being earnest and the value of staying humble. At my age, I was the champ in multiplication tables. I was having a great time with my cousin brothers and sisters at the public park at my native town. That was a Sunday evening, pleasant with birds chirping all the way and the setting Sun looking as majestic as it has been all these years. Suddenly, my uncle asked me to accompany him to a blind school where he often does some voluntary charity for the kids. The creaking door at the entrance of the school gave me the impression of the workhouses often described in Charles Dickens' novels. But to my pleasant surprise, it was well maintained. Even as I was looking at the children diligently studying through their Braille textbooks, my uncle called up Shiva.

Shiva was hardly about 4 years old. The warden said he was just three and a half. A frail looking boy who was hardly three feet tall, he straightaway identified my uncle and confidently pronounced, "Namaste sir". I was speechless. Not because he was a frail blind boy, but because I never expected such levels of maturity from a three and a half year old boy. I bent down, introduced myself and gave him a candy. He initially refused politely and that spoke volumes about the way he was being groomed in an excellent manner. But later he took it on my insistence. Then started the magic show. My uncle asked him to recite the multiplication table for the digit 19. He started off with, " 19*10, 19*9, 19*8.......and so on and ended it on 19*1=19. Incredible as it was, he was bang on target!! It was like he stupefied me. He made me look like a stupid arrogant fool. And when I challenged him to tell the table for the digit 17. He smoothly delivered the answers. I was so humbled that I was looking for something else to give him as a reward. When I couldn't find anything suitable in my pockets, I appreciated his flair for mathematics and then there was the thousand watt smile, much brighter than the "Happydent smile". That is when it struck me that nothing works more effectively than well deserved words of appreciation, something which I learnt in the first year of MBA.

Now what does the above mentioned incident tell you? In plain terms, it tells you that you are nothing. It takes a lifetime for us to become something and unless you reach that stage, keep your ego in check. Of course, this is something which is difficult to follow at all situations. But, an awareness of this fact will hold us in good stead. Though I am having a tough time trying to settle down professionally, but I have got a good gang of friends who I share a great rapport with. And there are my old and very very special pals who understand me so well that sometimes I genuinely feel the need to improve my non-verbal communication skills. Hoping that this period of transition brings with it lots of happiness to look forward to; both for me as well as for my dear ones and special pals who form an integrated part of my life.

Signing off,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

India and its colors

Hii folks,

With its rich cultural heritage and diversity in terms of people, language, flora and fauna; India ought to have been one of the biggest superpowers by now. But toxins like corruption, greed and an unending desire to quench the thirst for power have rendered it and its people handicapped, not physically but with the "Chalta Hai" attitude. But all is not bad with my country. The fact that it is the largest democracy in the world amply proves that we still have the time and the wherewithal to burnish our country and make it the next political and economic superpower in the world. It is with this optimism that I present to you - INDIA, and its various shades through my eyes.

Past Present and the Future

Hell: One of the most heart-wrenching moments I have ever faced in my life

Is the Himalayan fresh water actually pure? We found it to be otherwise

Serene Ganges: I now know what 'Serenity' is

Majestic Himalayas: Go on a trip to the Himalayas and get your ego busted for free!! You will feel so small in front of the mountains that it will do you more good than otherwise

Illuminated Helix: Louis Kahn couldn't have been more symmetrical!!

Diwali 2010 @ Dorm 13 - IIM AHMEDABAD: Though we were the joint runner-ups, but as usual there was no dearth of creativity and innovation in our presentation. Some couldn't understand, but that's ok!!

Misty Paapi Kondalu: We were cruising on the Godavari and it was very difficult holding the camera still for that perfect shot especially with the misty and chilly weather conditions around

Bhadrachalam Temple Complex: Specially decorated for the festival popularly known as "Vaikuntha Ekadashi"; a day when the gate to Lord Vishnu's inner sanctum is opened

Golden Jubilee @ IIM AHMEDABAD: Doesn't IIMA deserve those stars?