Leg anna leg!

September 28, 2006 at 1:56 pm

I was telling somebody how much luck I bring to everyone. And I consider everyone who studied alongwith me in the same batch as I did to be really blessed. And if you were in the same states at the same time as I was then oh my! you are as elite as I am! Our fundamentals are very strong. Why? Because we studied the same thing over and over again. Check it out:

When I was in my 7th standard in AP, it was the public exam and I was all serious about it. That’s when it all started. My fundamentals really becoming strong you see! The exams got canceled because papers leaked. And I had to study all over again!

Three years, weak in fundamentals phase went on. Then God became kind.

10th standard, AP, yet again paper leaked. Fundamentals that much more stronger now!

After I passed out of my school, the school itself closed down! Whew! That was close! And in the meanwhile, the school in which I studied till my 3rd standard also closed down. Well, if you thought that was some track record, then read ahead.

Two years later, another fundamentals revision class.

Intermediate II year (XII Std) AP, after we wrote our first two exams, we went to the examination center as usual on the “Mathematics/ Biology” day. Some newspaper, I don’t remember which one, it doesn’t exist today, had printed the entire paper on its first page. (I was about to type homepage! LOL!) There you go. I would have got 100% in all those subjects!

Same year:
IIT JEE papers leaked. For the first time in the history of IITs, the exam was canceled and rescheduled. I would have got through the first time you know! You are reading a blog of a could-ve-been IITian.

EAMCET, AP, paper format was changed that year. For the only time in its history as well as future. Never again have they introduced that stupid analytical type of paper!

CET, Karnataka, counselling sessions got scheduled and canceled and confusion prevailed before they allowed us to pick an engg seat.

Oh and yeah! My Intermediate college closed down after that!

Somehow scraped through all this. Made it to some college of engineering where thankfully the processes were more stable and even if the paper leaked (no proof of that) we never came to know(sad though!).

By the time we were about to have our campus placements, the IT boom was supposed to be at its peak. So, we had the best placements ever. With the highest salary ever and all that! But by the time we were about to finish our engg and join those companies, the bubble burst! And we also received the highest number of offer-revoking letters ever! A few companies ceased to exist! Anyway, that can be termed a coincidence if you want. My leg cannot have that reach!

By the time we finished our engg, it was September 11, 2001. And Osama thought it was the right time to strike US. Does he also belong to my batch? Well, terrorising thought! So, let me leave it at that.

I joined my first company Intelligroup in Hyderabad and there were strong rumours that Wipro was going to take over the company but before the rumours could subside I shifted to CMC. Now CMC doesn’t exist anymore. It’s taken over by TCS.

I joined Oracle after that. And for the first time in the history of the organization they laid off people on a global level. Think about the the customer for whom I write software. UWB. It’s being taken over by IDBI now!

Oh! I forgot this one. I decided to write Subject GRE in 2002. And had applied for it and booked a date. Again a never before never again thing happened. Afterall, my leg na. It was cancelled. No reasons given. Money was refunded.

The college from which I did my engineering was affiliated to Osmania Unversity all these days. Now OU itself will not be there. It’s going to be made an IIT.

Then, I started blogging enthusiastically and had posted three posts in a week when the Governement of India blocked blogs itself.

And now, I am going to write an exam in the month of December. Do you know why I don’t believe in the words “All the best” now? Leg anna leg! I know.

Sometimes life can be like this – Final Part

September 13, 2006 at 2:33 pm

Continued from Part I

UPDATED with English Translation of the Kannada sentences

As I sat there with my tea being only two sips poorer, the talkative boy approached me. This was his third round within a span of twenty minutes to clear my table. Generally people finished their tea within that much time I guess. I had noticed him come and retreat with various plates and containers from other tables over his previous rounds, but didn’t have the presence of mind that the kid would love to finish with this table too.

He approached me with a sympathetic look and asked, “Aa tea thannige agogiratte. Bere tankodla? Bisi ne beku antha helidri allva adakke kelde aste. Kopa madkobedi.” in what was a clear reference to our first conversation where I was rude to him.

“The tea would have gone cold. Shall I get you another one? Now, don’t shout at me for this, I just asked because you were particular about having your tea hot”

I looked at him and the tea in front of me. I didn’t remember whether I had sipped the tea or not, but my burnt lips did signify that I had. I appreciated his customer-centric attitude despite my apathy towards him and said, “Aadre nanu kudididdini kanappa idarinda. Adu henge bere thankodtiya?

“I have already tasted the tea. Will you replace it even then?”

“Enu parvagilla sir. Neevu yaavdo gnangadalli iddeera. Tea kudiyodu marethogiddeera. Nimma kashta nimmge. Atleast olle tea ondu tankodtini bidi. Adarinda nimma kashta enu kammi agalla aadre olle tea kotte antha nange santosha agutte.”

“No issues Sir. You seem to be lost in a world of your own and have forgotten to have the tea. You have your problems. Atleast I can get you some good tea to drink. Even though it doesn’t heal your pain, it would make me a happier man because I would have given you some good tea to drink.”

I just broke down. I guess I was waiting to break down. It had been a long time since anybody had actually bothered about me and my life. I wanted to hug that guy and thank him for his concern. But he didn’t quite look at me once he knew that I was in tears and had covered my face between the table and my arms. He quietly picked up the glass and walked off. I could hear the clipty-clopty sound of his hawai chappals fade away from my curled-up presence.

I came from the “Men don’t cry” school of thought. But here I was totally helpless. I found myself crying uncontrollably. I cried for my father, my brother, my mother and also myself. I just cried it all out. I didn’t know why it was happening and I couldn’t control it. I guess I cried for about half an hour or so with my arms curled around my head which was resting on the table.

I didn’t realize the kid was back with my tea. He had carefully waited for me to show my head again and approached my table. He avoided eye contact, probably for the fear of making me cry again, and just left the tea on the table and went away. I was too overwhelmed with my own crying that I didn’t want to begin talking to him. The tea was piping hot and I liked my tea to be hot.

As I resumed sipping the new tea, I noticed a dog stroll down the aisle separating the dhabha and the highway. The burnt lip hurt but the tea tasted better. It was a masala tea and I had not specified that to the boy. The dog had a belt around its neck. And that seemed strange to me. Just then the talkative kid ran behing the dog and attempted to direct it away from the highway. His timing was perfect because a truck loaded with more than what it could handle zoomed past the dhabha at a speed of 80kmph that would have run over the dog easily. For truck drivers, dogs are more of a liability than a beautiful form of life.

The kid caught the dog by its belt and dragged it into the dhabha. The dog blissfully unaware of what had just happened was happily wagging its tail and trying to lick the kid’s face. It was a cross breed-German Shepherd almost the height of the kid. The kid walked upto my table noticing that the glass was empty. The dog was close on his heels. And I loved dogs.

As he picked up the glass, he asked,”Tea chennagitta?” “Was the tea good?”
I replied, “hun”. “Yeah”

The dog was near my legs smelling my footwear. I was rubbing its neck and body. Dogs have this ability to make you forget sadness by making you shower affection on them. The kid started shouting at the dog asking it to get away from my feet.

I said, “Irli bidu. Nange naayigalu andre ista. Enu idara hesaru?” “Its ok. I like dogs. What’s his name?”
“Shaaroo”, he replied.

Interesting name I thought. “Chennagide hesaru. Enu hangandre?” “Nice name. What does it mean?”
“Nange Shaarookaan andre sakkat ista. Adakke avana hesare ittbitte.” “I like Shaarookaan a lot. So, I adopted his name for my dog.”

I almost burst out laughing. It was amazing how life could make u cry one second and laugh the next. I hated SRK!

“Sari. Elli siktu ninge ee nayi?”. “Ok. Where did you get hold of this dog?” It was a cross-German shepherd and one of the costly breed of dogs.

“Eno gottilla sir, bahala dinagalinda nanna jote ne ide aste. Ee dhabha serakke munche nanu city nalli footpath mele idde. Ondu divasa nanu oota madbekadre nanna oota kitthkondu horatuhoytu. Avattu nange bahala hasivu aagittu, adakke nanu adanna attiskondu hogi nalakku vadde. Aste sir. Avattinda nananna bittilla idu. Estondu divasa nange oota tankottide bere. Nanu shaaaroo na bidalla.”
“I don’t know sir. A few days before getting into this dhabha I was on the footpath. And one particular day, this dog came running and snatched my meal for the day and ran away . I was so hungry that I ran behind this dog and beat the hell out of it. After that it hasn’t left me. What’s more is that many days it has found food for me when I was hungry. I will never leave sharoo”

The dog had started licking my hands now. And it liked playing with me. Dogs and I got along very well.

“Dhabha serbekaadre nimma ejamaanaru enu anlillva naayi bagge?” “Didn’t the dhabha owner object to your dog coming alongwith you here?”
“Avaru helidru naayi togondu baa bekadre aadre adakke ootakke ella neene nodkobeku aste” “Yeah, he said that I would have to take care of the dog’s hunger et al”

“Aadru nanu oppikonde. Shaaroo illde irakke agalla nange. Nange oota illde hodru sari adakke oota haktini. Yake andre adu yavattu nanna jote bidalla. Nange enu aagde iro hange nodkota irutte”, he continued with his eyes getting moist, “Bidi, nimmge yake ee kathe ella. Nanu hogtini. Ondu tea mooru rupayi. Nanu nimmanna kelde ne masala tea tande adakke ondu rupayi extra sir. Neevu beda andre eradu rupayi kodi parvagilla.”

“I immediately agreed. I can’t live without Shaaroo. Even if I don’t have enough to eat, I make sure he is fed because he will never leave me alone and go. Moreover he takes care of me too”, he continued with his eyes getting moist, “Well, why should I bother you with all these stories. I ll leave now. One tea costs three rupees. And because I got masala tea which is one rupee more without asking you, you might chose not to pay me that one rupee.”

He motioned the dog to come towards him and the dog happily followed him wagging his tail.

“Sari sari togo ittko. Bahala matadtiya kano neenu”, I handed over a ten-rupee note, “Change ittko neene. Shaaroo ge enadru tinnisu.”
“Okay. okay. Take this and keep the change”, I handed over a ten-rupee note, “Get something for Shaaroo too”

“Bahala taanks sir”
“Many thanks sir”

“Lo nimma appa amma ella ello?”, I asked as he turned to take leave.
“Hey, what about your parents?”, I asked as he turned to take leave.

“Yaarige gottu sir. Yavattu nodilla avarna”, he shouted as he approached the counter dancing and almost running. He was singing “Mitwaa….!”
“Who knows sir. I have never seen them”, he shouted as he approached the counter dancing and almost running.

That was it. I got up and drove back home. I reached home at around 4AM, early in the morning. The door was wide open and I walked in. And none of them at home had slept. Nobody said a word. I didn’t speak to anyone either. I went into the room where my father was lying down with his eyes open staring at the ceiling. I settled onto the carpet made of plastic straw (called “chaape” in kannada) next to him and joined him in staring at the ceiling.

My dad spoke, “Bandyeno? Baa pa baa.”
My dad spoke, “So, you have come?”

Tears started running down my eyes. I replied, “I am sorry appa. I am sorry”

Sometimes life can be like this – Part I

September 12, 2006 at 10:52 am

I flinched as the tea was hotter than expected. Since it was a particularly cold night I had ordered for tea and told the talkative boy to make it hot.

“Sir, enu beku?”
“Ondu tea”

“Bere enu bedva? Roti, dal, paneer butter masala?”
It was natural for someone to order those since it was dinner time. But I wasn’t in the mood to eat.
“Ondu tea togondu baa. Saaku.”

“Sari sir. Nimma ista. Hasivu aagtirabahudu antha kelde aste!”, he shrugged.
“Lo, jaasti matadbeda. Tea togondu ba. Bisi aagi irli!”, I motioned a dismissal with my hands to this young talkative boy. I ain’t generally rude to the waiters, but then he was talking too much. Who was he to bother about my hunger?

I forgot completely about the order and was immersed in my own world. I hadn’t even noticed the boy spilling tea on the table while he almost stabbed the table with the glass. I am generally very meticulous about keeping the table clean and all that. Even at Dhabhas I am no different. But today was a different story altogether. I had taken a sip from the tea glass without even knowing what I had done.

I shook my head vigourously. The burnt lip (or was it my tongue that was burnt?) had got me back to the present. My eyes were filled with tears. They weren’t from the sadness that was within me, but from the tea that I had just had. Oooh… it was just too hot! I didn’t know if I had done the right thing by just fleeing the scene. But it had become just too much.

The latest incident was my father having two heart-attacks within a space of a day. The second attack was accompanied by a cardiac arrest and they had to revive him through “shock” techniques. “Hoge bittidneno?”. My dad’s words reverberated through my mind and my body shuddered at the thought of losing him in these circumstances. I closed my eyes tight as if to close myself from reality and took another sip of tea from the glass. It was tasteless or I don’t remember because I didn’t bother about it. And I was here, leaving him all alone to handle the situation at home.

My elder brother suffered a kidney-breakdown at a very early stage in his life. My father donated one kidney of his to him because the doctors felt that it would have better chances of acceptance with the body. For a couple of years after the transplant, my brother was normal. Then the problem began. Frequent attacks of fever and cold and cough. Increasing impurity levels in the blood, my brother’s body had begun to oppose the new kidney. Going to the hospital daily was a routine. The indication of hopelessness the doctor’s eyes gave away were cleverly shrouded by the words that he spoke.

“Worry madkobedi Sir. Enu agalla. Idella usual post-transplant conditions. Neevu enu worry madkobedi”
“Doctor, namma kynalli adashtu madteevi naavu. Neevu heli enu madbeku antha”

“Neevu enu madteera sir. Ella aa devara kynalli ide. Naavu namma kynalli agiddu madtane iddivi”
“Nimmanne nambidivi Doctor”

This conversation used to repeat itself in my dreams also. At times, I would get up from my bed only to see my brother writhing in pain. I used to wonder, “What is God doing? Does he exist at all?”. Sometimes, I would get angry with the doctors. Why can’t they do something? What’s their problem? But then I know, being an engineer, that solving a problem requires not only knowledge but some amount of divine intervention too. My brother didn’t have it on his side. God had supposedly forgotten about the existence of this creature that he had created but also forgot to support him when it was necessary.

This hospital-doctor-dream-wakeup-see brother in pain had become a daily event in our lives. My mother, suffering from acute arthritis, would do her best to serve us and keep us in good spirits. But poor thing, she couldn’t walk around much too with the joints pain. So, gradually I took over the cooking and cleaning department too. I didn’t want my mother to strain her limbs to the extent that she would have to just lie down for an hour waiting for the pain to subside. Getting up early, cooking, cleaning and hospital and again cleaning, cooking and sleeping were what made my day.

I was a successul engineer. Studied at one of the top 3 colleges of Karnataka and did well too. Was offered a campus placement after my 6th semester at one of the leading IT companies at that time. And as if God was out to prove that He didn’t exist, the offer was revoked by the time I finished my engineering. It came as a blow but that also meant that I could help at home. Take over from mom and help dad in curing brother.

For two years after my graduation, I worked as an intern under one of the professors at India’s leading Science Research Institute. That gave me ample freedom to manage everything I had to do in a day and also work at the night and learn. I was preparing for my PG entrance exam. Being an engineer to do a PG was my dream. Finally, when the results came out and the call letters were sent – I was through to one of the the world’s best Engineering Institute (say WBEI)! Man! That was my dream.. and i was there!

As luck would have it, the WBEI refused to give me a degree because my project hadn’t come out to their expectation. And they ran the risk of losing the funding for the project. So, they had to blacklist me and not confer any degree on me. The project was a work by a team of three of us, and one of them committed suicide as soon as he was told this news. I don’t remember developing suicidal tendencies but for the first time ever, I didn’t brand my late friend a “coward”!

I went back home after this happened. I didn’t believe in dreams anymore. And God? Ha ha! Tell me about it! Then, this series of heart-attacks happened. Now the daily routine meant visiting a hospital but a different one – a cardio speciality. My brother had taken the secondary role. He didn’t demand attention, not that he ever used to. But we now had to deal with my father who was getting increasingly worried about the finances for my brother’s treatment.

Whenever I thought I could chip in to help my father, I would realise that I was a mere B.E.(Bachelor of Engineering) and nothing else to the corporate world. I was worse than a fresher because they would consider me as a person incapable of acquiring a degree. All the years after my B.E. degree would be ignored by the corporate world as they have done. The on-campus offer from the world’s best consulting company wouldn’t hold any water anywhere without the Master’s degree from WBEI. So, I realised that I was not being much of a help anyway.

Not being of much help and having to daily go through this routine again made me go sick. Then, my father came back home from the hospital with a doctor’s recommendation that he should undergo a bypass surgery because the blockage was quite high in the blood vessels leading to his heart. I had just had enough of everything.

After lunch, I just took my bike and started out on a drive and arrived at this dhabha a good 200 kms away from my home. I haven’t told them anything. I didn’t know what they are thinking about my sudden disappearance from the scene. I had left my mobile also at home so that my friends cannot contact me. I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t know how to handle this situation. Will I ever come out of this? What to do? Should I flee completely or get back to help my dad handle the situation? What should I do?

To be continued…

The inspiring rags-to-riches tale of Sarathbabu

September 8, 2006 at 10:21 am

When 27-year old Sarathbabu graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, he created quite a stir by refusing a job that offered him a huge salary. He preferred to start his own enterprise — Foodking Catering Service — in Ahmedabad.
He was inspired by his mother who once sold idlis on the pavements of Chennai, to educate him and his siblings. It was a dream come true, when Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy lit the traditional lamp and inaugurated Sarathbabu’s enterprise.

Sarathbabu was in Chennai, his hometown, a few days ago, to explore the possibility of starting a Foodking unit in the city and also to distribute the Ullas Trust Scholarships instituted by the IT firm Polaris to 2,000 poor students in corporation schools.

In this interview with rediff.com, Sarathbabu describes his rise from a Chennai slum to his journey to the nation’s premier management institute to becoming a successful entrepreneur. This is his story, in his own words.

Childhood in a slum
I was born and brought up in a slum in Madipakkam in Chennai. I have two elder sisters and two younger brothers and my mother was the sole breadwinner of the family. It was really tough for her to bring up five kids on her meagre salary.

As she had studied till the tenth standard, she got a job under the mid-day meal scheme of the Tamil Nadu government in a school at a salary of Rs 30 a month. She made just one rupee a day for six people.

So, she sold idlis in the mornings. She would then work for the mid-day meal at the school during daytime. In the evenings, she taught at the adult education programme of the Indian government.

She, thus, did three different jobs to bring us up and educate us. Although she didn’t say explicitly that we should study well, we knew she was struggling hard to send us to school. I was determined that her hard work should not go in vain.

I was a topper throughout my school days. In the mornings, we went out to sell idlis because people in slums did not come out of their homes to buy idlis. For kids living in a slum, idlis for breakfast is something very special.

My mother was not aware of institutions like the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, or the Indian Institutes of Technology. She only wanted to educate us so that we got a good job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time because in my friend-circle, nobody talked about higher education or preparing for the IIT-JEE.

When you constantly worry about the next square meal, you do not dream of becoming a doctor or an engineer. The only thing that was on my mind was to get a good job because my mother was struggling a lot.

I got very good marks in the 10th standard exam. It was the most critical moment of my life. Till the 10th, there was no special fee but for the 11th and the 12th, the fees were Rs 2,000-3,000.

I did book-binding work during the summer vacation and accumulated money for my school fees. When I got plenty of work, I employed 20 other children and all of us did the work together. That was my first real job as an entrepreneur. Once I saw the opportunity, I continued with the work.

Life at BITS, Pilani
A classmate of mine told me about BITS, Pilani. He was confident that I would get admission, as I was the topper. He also told me that on completion (of studies at Pilani), I will definitely get a job.

When I got the admission, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was excited that for the first time I was going out of Chennai, but there was also a sense of uncertainty.

The fees alone were around Rs 28,000, and I had to get around Rs 42,000. It was huge, huge money for us. And there was no one to help us. Just my mother and sisters. One of my sisters — they were all married by then — pawned her jewellery and that’s how I paid for the first semester.

My mother then found out about an Indian government scholarship scheme. She sent me the application forms, I applied for the scholarship, and I was successful. So, after the first semester, it was the scholarship that helped me through.

It also helped me to pay my debt (to the sister who had pawned her jewellery). I then borrowed money from my other sister and repaid her when the next scholarship came.

The scholarship, however, covered only the tuition fees. What about the hostel fees and food? Even small things like a washing soap or a toothbrush or a tube of toothpaste was a burden. So, I borrowed more at high rates of interest. The debt grew to a substantial amount by the time I reached the fourth year.

First year at BITS, Pilani
To put it mildly, I was absolutely shocked. Till then, I had moved only with students from poor families. At Pilani, all the students were from the upper class or upper middle class families. Their lifestyle was totally different from mine. The topics they discussed were alien to me. They would talk about the good times they had in school.

On the other hand, my school years were a big struggle. There was this communication problem also as I was not conversant in English then.

I just kept quiet and observed them. I concentrated only on my studies because back home so many people had sacrificed for me. And, it took a really long time — till the end of the first year — to make friends.

The second year
I became a little more confident and started opening up. I had worked really hard for the engineering exhibition during the first year. I did a lot of labour-intensive work like welding and cutting, though my subject was chemical engineering. My seniors appreciated me.

In my second year also, I worked really hard for the engineering exhibition. This time, my juniors appreciated me, and they became my close friends, so close that they would be at my beck and call.

In the third year, when there was an election for the post of the co-ordinator for the exhibition, my juniors wanted me to contest. Thanks to their efforts I was unanimously elected. That was my first experience of being in the limelight. It was also quite an experience to handle around 100 students.

Seeing my work, slowly my batch mates also came to the fold. All of them said I lead the team very well.

They also told me that I could be a good manager and asked me to do MBA. That was the first time I heard about something called MBA. I asked them about the best institution in India. They said, the Indian Institutes of Management. Then, I decided if I was going to study MBA, it should be at one of the IIMs, and nowhere else.

Inspiration to be an entrepreneur
It was while preparing for the Common Admission Test that I read in the papers that 30 per cent of India’s population does not get two meals a day. I know how it feels to be hungry. What should be done to help them, I wondered.

I also read about Infosys and Narayana Murthy, Reliance and Ambani. Reliance employed 20,000-25,000 people at that time, and Infosys, around 15,000. When a single entrepreneur like Ambani employed 25,000 people, he was supporting the family, of four or five, of each employee. So he was taking care of 100,000 people indirectly. I felt I, too, should become an entrepreneur.

But, my mother was waiting for her engineer son to get a job, pay all the debts, build a pucca house and take care of her. And here I was dreaming about starting my own enterprise. I decided to go for a campus interview, and got a job with Polaris. I also sat for CAT but I failed to clear it in my first attempt.

I worked for 30 months at Polaris. By then, I could pay off all the debts but I hadn’t built a proper house for my mother. But I decided to pursue my dream. When I took CAT for the third time, I cleared it and got calls from all the six IIMs. I got admission at IIM, Ahmedabad.

Life at IIM, Ahmedabad
My college helped me get a scholarship for the two years that I was at IIM. Unlike in BITS, I was more confident and life at IIM was fantastic. I took up a lot of responsibilities in the college. I was in the mess committee in the first year and in the second year; I was elected the mess secretary.

Becoming an entrepreneur
By the end of the second year, there were many lucrative job offers coming our way, but in my mind I was determined to start something on my own. But back home, I didn’t have a house. It was a difficult decision to say ‘no’ to offers that gave you Rs 800,000 a year. But I was clear in my mind even while I knew the hard realities back home.

Yes, my mother had been an entrepreneur, and subconsciously, she must have inspired me. My inspirations were also (Dhirubhai) Ambani and Narayana Murthy. I knew I was not aiming at something unachievable. I got the courage from them to start my own enterprise.

Nobody at my institute discouraged me. In fact, at least 30-40 students at the IIM wanted to be entrepreneurs. And we used to discuss about ideas all the time. My last option was to take up a job.

Foodking Catering Services Pvt Ltd
My mother is my first inspiration to start a food business. Remember I started my life selling idlis in my slum. Then of course, my experience as the mess secretary at IIM-A was the second inspiration. I must have handled at least a thousand complaints and a thousand suggestions at that time. Every time I solved a problem, they thanked me.

I also felt there is a good opportunity in the food business. If you notice, a lot of people who work in the food business come from the weaker sections of the society.

My friends helped me with registering the company with a capital of Rs 100,000. Because of the IIM brand and also because of the media attention, I could take a loan from the bank without any problem.

I set up an office and employed three persons. The first order was from a software company in Ahmedabad. They wanted us to supply tea, coffee and snacks. We transported the items in an auto.

When I got the order from IIM, Ahmedabad, I took a loan of Rs 11 lakhs (Rs 1.1 million) and started a kitchen. So, my initial capital was Rs 11.75 lakhs (Rs 1.17 million).
Three months have passed, and now we have forty employees and four clients — IIM Ahmedabad, Darpana Academy, Gujarat Energy Research Management Institute and System Plus.

In the first month of our operation, we earned around Rs 35,000. Now, the turnover is around Rs 250,000. The Chennai operations will start in another three months’ time.

I want to employ as many people as I can, and improve their quality of life. In the first year, I want to employ around 200-500 people. In the next five years, I hope to increase it by 15,000. I am sure it is possible.

I want to cover all the major cities in India, and later, I want to go around the world too.
I have seen people from all walks of life — from the slums to the elite in the country. That is why luxuries like a car or a bungalow do not matter to me. Even money doesn’t matter to me. I feel bad if I have to have food in a five star hotel. I feel guilty.

Personally, I have no ambition but I want to give a house and a car to my mother.

I did not expect this kind of exposure by the media for my venture or appreciation from people like my director at the IIM or Narayana Murthy. I was just doing what I wanted to do. But the exposure really helped me get orders, finance, everything.

The best compliments I received were from Narayana Murthy and my director at IIM, Ahmedabad. When I told him (IIM-A director) about my decision to start a company, he hugged me and wished me luck. They have seen life, they have seen thousands and thousands of students and if they say it is a good decision, I am sure it is a good decision.

Reservation should be a mix of all criteria. If you take a caste that comes under reservation, 80 per cent of the people will be poor and 20 per cent rich, the creamy layer. For the general category, it will be the other way around.

I feel equal weightage should be given for the economic background. A study has to be done on what is the purpose of reservation and what it has done to the needy. It should be more effective and efficient. In my case, I would not have demanded for reservation. I accepted it because the society felt I belonged to the deprived class and needed a helping hand.

Today, the opportunities are grabbed by a few. They should be ashamed of their ability if they avail reservation even after becoming an IAS officer or something like that. They are putting a burden on the society and denying a chance to the really needy.

I feel reservation is enough for one generation. For example, if the child’s father is educated, he will be able to guide the child properly.

Take my case, I didn’t have any system that would make me aware of the IITs and the IIMs. But I will be able to guide my children properly because I am well educated. I got the benefits of reservation but I will never avail of it for my children. I cannot even think of demanding reservation for the next generation.

Stories like these inspire me. I share the same thought process too. Of improving the quality of life through successful entrepreneurship. But I have been taking shelter with many safe steps in life. When my time comes, I shall join Sarathbabu in making this country a better country. Thanks to Rediff.com for carrying this story.

This story
Another such inspirational story on rediff

Zindagi kaisi hai paheli..

August 30, 2006 at 9:12 am

Hrishikesh Mukherjee died on 27th August 2006. A void in the film industry that cannot be filled has been created. If I call him one of the all-time best directors, I will not be wrong. Though the movies he made during ‘my’ time were largely innane and thoroughly out-of-sync with sensibilities of today, his earlier movies are some of the best that Indian cinema has ever seen.

Hrishi da, as he was popularly known, started his career as an assistant to the great Bimal Roy in “Do Bigha Zameen” in 1953. His first movie as director was “Musafir” in 1957 which was a multi-starrer of sorts for its time including Dilip Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Nirupa Roy and Nasir Hussain. Hrishi da was also a Story writer and an editor at various points in his career.

Hrishi da’s friendship with Raj Kapoor is stuff that legends are made up of now. Interestingly enough, Hrishi da himself turned into a legend by claiming that “Anand” – arguably, the best Hindi movie – was a depiction of the friendship between Raj Kapoor and him. To strengthen the myth further, ‘babumoshai’ was the name with which Raj kapoor used to call him. In my opinion, “Anand” is the best hindi movie I have ever seen. (The title of a famous song from this movie has been used as the title of this tribute)

Those who were in their schooldays and college days during the 1960’s and 1970’s remember Hrishi da with great reverence. In those days, Rajesh Khanna was the star. To make him wear short and bland-coloured kurtas and play a terminally ill young man is against every conceivable popular formula. But Hrishi da was known to be a director who went by the strength of his story and screenplay.

“Anari”, “Anupama”, “Satyakam”, & “Abhimaan” were few of his early classics that established his worth as a director of rare value. These movies (Abhiman for sure!) have attained cult status after their repeated telecasts on television.

Hrishi da went on to establish that he was the only director who could make and handle movies of any genre. He is considered to be the king of “clean comedies” and that is because of the movies like: “Bawarchi” (this movie was the inspiration behind the David Dhawan-Govinda “Hero No. 1″), “Chupke chupke” (unfortunately, this movie cannot be remade by anyone!), “Golmaal” (they have only used the name in the recent days, the class is incomparable) and “Khubsoorat” (Rekha’s inimitable performance) to name a few.

Hrishi da would handle the most complex relationships with ease and elan. He didn’t require elaborate setting and millions of dollars to make a movie look good and a hit. He relied on basics to make a movie succeed. Basics like good story and better screenplay with the best direction! Music always conveyed the emotions of the character in his movies.

Hrishi da was undoubtedly the master of the medium. He has worked with every star of every age over the past 50 plus years. From Dilip Kumar to Rajesh Khanna to Amitabh Bachchan to Dharmendra to Anil Kapoor. Everyone will vouch for his mastery over the medium. Hrishi da will be missed sorely by movie fans across the globe. Whoever has watched even a single movie of his will feel a tinge of sadness atleast on knowing of his passing away.

Hrishi da will continue to live in our hearts forever through the classics that he has left behind for us. Thanks Hrishi da.


Dedicated to Sutejas

May 15, 2006 at 9:41 am

The perfect friend.. Since 1988.

No that’s not the year when Sutejas was born. That was the year when we met. And we have been friends ever since.

18 years we have known each other. And I must say he’s the ideal friend, ideal son, ideal brother and ideal boyfriend. Am sure whichever girl accepts his proposal will also get the privilege of being with the ideal husband.

A mature guy with a stable head on his shoulders. His knees are moody though! Has a good circle of friends and is very dedicated to them. Will do anything for them.

Both of us share a common love towards our first love Mysore. He can read and understand the vedas and our ancient scriptures owing to his knowledge of out language sanskrit. A great believer in Hinduism and India. I share the same thoughts with him.

Has the guts to say “No” when he wants to. Peaceful and stable. Fun-loving and emotionally mature. I am proud to have a friend like him. His parents call me as their “mane huduga”. And I love them too!

Meeting the one who made us complete!

May 2, 2006 at 6:46 pm
November 17, 1997

First day at college. A huge crowd had gathered in front of the notice board. The crowd was mostly us, first years! I don’t exactly remember if anyone looked particularly tense or what, but we were making one hell of a noise! It was already 9AM and the classes were supposed to start at 9AM. And I was atleast twenty people away from the notice board. Some bright idiot had placed the board on the floor in such a way that it rested on the wall and the floor. So, everyone was bending down to see the board. Studiously if I ever wanted to do anything; all I could do was an instant survey (technically called a snap poll!) of the various brands of college bags in Mysore!

When I went to the time-table I realised people were first supposed to find out into which section they were put into. And then according to your section you need to look at the next board for the time-table. I was told Engineering was hardwork. Now I understood why. We complicated the most simple of things just like that!

By the time I figured out my co-ordinates it was 9.45AM. I was supposed to go to some room no. 207 or something. The class that was going on was Engineering Mechanics by KCM (koLi Manja!). I had no idea which floor that damned room was in. The officials at the office were least bothered about me. Who else do I ask? Seniors? duh…!!

207 was the first room at the end of the staircase on the first floor. As soon as I arrived outside the classroom, I heard some heavily accented english and a few complex equations. As I approached the classroom I could see a group of people standing behind the classroom from the corner of my right eye. Sensing that they must also have lost the race in reading the time-table I approached them.

One guy with big eyes and big ears was beaming from one end of his prominent ear to the other. I casually walked up to him. And when I walk casually, the swagger can be worse than Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s!

This big eyes and ears guy asked me, “E Section aa?” [Do you beloong to the E Section?]

I said, “Hun, haudu. Neenu?” [Yeah. E section. What about you?]

He answered panning his hands across all the present people, “Hun. Naavellaru E Section ee!” [Yeah. All of us belong to “E” Section]

I tried putting on the mask of the sincere student and asked him, ” Horagade nintiddre enu use? Banni olagade bidakke permission kelana.” [What’s the use of standing outside? Let’s go and request to be permitted inside.]

The entire group was now looking at me with a what-an-extrasmart-guy question in their eyes! The grin which was ever-present turned into a guffaw! I knew I had asked the wrong question!

Pointing to a sweet-looking guy with a cute smile, big-eyes n ears said, “Avanu iddannalla? Avanu hoda olagade ‘excuse me’ anbittu. Sakkat aagi byiskondu banda horagade” [Do you see that guy? He went inside the class saying ‘excuse me’. He got scolded (by the professor) and turned him out.]

I gave the cute-smile-guy a sheepish smile and shut myself up for the rest of the time I spent with that gang. But since shutting up was never easy, I carried on a harmless discussion about CET Ranks, branches, counseling, colleges, origin, localite and non-localite, etc etc with big-ears. I understood that the entire gang of guys had done their Pre-University course together and hence they knew each other very well.

At 10Am, KCM walked out. We walked in. I found Sam sitting alone on the third bench. I walked upto him straight and occupied the place next to him. Now, there was place enough for one more only. Yeah, we were and still are fat! I spoke to Sam and explained why I didn’t attend the class. Hey! Wait a minute! The first class of my engineering course and I had bunked!! Wow! I was so proud of myself! Sam was rather disconnected with my idea of pride! Ha! Never mind! Great brains were never understood during their time!

Just then walked in the last occupant of the bench. He was dark, wide (but not fat, and that was then, now he is fat!) and wore spectacles. Sam waved to him and gestured to come and grace us with his esteemed presence. [The effect of composing wedding invites!] K walked in with all his style with a bright smile on his face.

As soon as Sam said, “Hi”. I heard K’s reply “Hi!” and almost fainted! It was as if he was saying hi to someone zipping on a motorcycle with a walkman in his ears across the Manantody Road [The road overlooking the college]!! Man, was he loud?!

Sam said, “K meet adi. Ade nanna jagadalli KSS Hostel ge baro avanu idda nodu. Ivane avanu! ” [K meet Adi. He was the one who was supposed to come in my place to KSS Hostel] Oh! so they were hostelmates!

K shouted and at the same time extended his right hand, “Oh hauda. Nice meeting you ma. Enu ninna full hesaru?” [Oh, is it? Nice meeting you ma. What’s your full name?]

I shook his hand and said, “Aditya. Aditya Nataraja” [I always say that in the ‘Bond. James Bond’ style!]

I repeated K’s full name which was Krishnaprasad and asked him if I could call him “KP”. He shouted in reply, but I understood that he had agreed!

KP and Sam were hostelmates during first year at the KSS Hostel. After which, KP separated out of the hostel and stayed with his uncle and aunt at Chikkahardanahalli 2nd stage, Sriramapura. [He always insisted on telling his full address to anyone who asked him, “Where do you stay?”] It is an area right behind the Ashokapuram Railway Station. KP used to have a cycle (Canon Barrel Blue colour) on which he would frequent me and Shastri wherever we stayed. Though he used to sweat profusely after the Tour De France kind of journeys, his inspiration never went down even for a while. As someone has said, “Success is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration” [Or was it the other way round?!]

KP graduated from NIE (Mechanical Engineering) in 2001. He has been with the corporate world ever since. He has worked with companies like Festo & ESMA (Abu Dhabi). Presently works in Webex as a Sales Manager handling Bangalore region.

KP, Sam, Sha and I formed a relationship. If I call it “Friendship” it sounds too flimsy. But I realise that I cannot give this any name. And I believe that if you have a relationship that you cannot confine to the boundary of a name, then it’s a relationship of the highest order. And that’s what the four of us share. We are proud of what we have with us. And intend to keep it with us forever.

The four of us have given each other strength during trying times. We have given ourselves direction when we were lost. We gave each other a mouthful when we began flying too high. We can say “Very Good” and “Very Bad” with the same intensity and be sure that it will be received with the same intensity. Yeah sometimes we end up breaking our bones, but then if you got the point, then that’s it! Whatever we are today is because of what we were during those years from 1997 to 2001. We know it and live by it!

Meeting NS

May 1, 2006 at 2:43 pm
November 1997

Tomorrow was going to be the first day of engineering. A dream I had seen since passing out of my tenth standard. Doing my graduation at Mysore with all my friends. Coincidentally, most of my friends had found their way to NIE Vivek, Goddi, Raj, Harsha and Sutti. Rohith was in the nearby SJCE. It was the college I had chosen in my first round of counseling.  

I was sitting in my hostel room and matching dreams with reality watching the beautiful network of cobwebs woven by the extra-active spiders on the roof. Then walked in NS. We started speaking on some topic, and both of us felt claustrophobic.

What else do you expect?

It was a 10′ x 13′ room with walls that were last painted when the Wodeyars were ruling Mysore. The walls, probably, were built much before that. It is said that Tipu Sultan supervised the construction! Four of us were supposed to live in that monument of a room. Till I came in, my roomie was the only one to have been staying there. And he was what we called, “Doctorate in Engineering”. It was his fifth year at engineering! Anyway, more about him later.

NS and I stepped out of the room into the corridor. The corridor of this monument overlooked the road to our college. Manantody road. The hostel was just off the road. Nobody would even notice the hostel unless someone they knew stayed in the hostel. From the outside it looked like a neglected Government project of lined up houses for the slum-dwellers. Not that it was a palace from inside, but still!!

NS said, “Ninge bere yaava hostel siglillva?” [Didn’t you find any other hostel?]
I answered, “Sikktu. KSS hostel nalli sikkittu. But alli nange munche inda 6 jana iro room kottru. Nanu hogididdre 7th man aagtidde!” [Yeah, I was offered accommodation in a room where 6 people were already staying as the 7th man!]

NS said, “Sari bidu. Olledu aytu. Illige bandyalla” [Good in a way. You ended up here.]
I said, “Haudu” [Yeah]

NS asked, “Estu ittu ninna CET rank?” [What was your CET rank?]
I said, “2930, nindu?” [2930, what was yours?]

NS said, “1068” [It was around that number! I don’t remember properly!]
I exclaimed, “Enu?! NIE Mech enakke togonde?” [What?! And you landed up in NIE Mech?]

NS said, “Hun. Nange mech ee bekittu. NIE gintha na Mech bekaadre. E&C, CS ella madakke ista illa nange. Adanna elladru kalibahudu” [Yeah. I wanted Mech only. And NIE is the best in Mech. I didn’t want to take up E&C and CS]
I said, “Nandu ade idea iddiddu. But NIE mech sikkidu punya ne anko” [Even I belong to the same school of thought. But getting NIE Mech was a matter of pure luck!]

NS said, “Illa. Hangenu illa kano. Ninna rank ge general aagi sigutte NIE Mech. Olle rank ee nindu. [Nothing like luck. You had a good rank. You got the seat you deserved]
I said, “Nanganthu counseling time nalli full tension. Bari onde seat ulidittu nanu togonda mele” [I was very tense during my counseling. After my chance, only one seat was left]

NS said, “Nanu togondaaga, ade second seat. Naanu first inda second seat togonde. Neenu last inda second seat togondidya! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” [I picked the second seat from the top and you picked the second seat from the bottom! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!]

I joined in the laughter.

By the time we ended laughing we had settled ourselves comfortably on the bench under the Neem tree within the hostel compound. The weather during November in Mysore is just amazing. The birds migrating from Ranganathittu to their winter capitals. The “V” shape that they formed against the backdrop of the clear blue sky gave me a metaphor to think about. V stood for victory and the sky for the amount of potential we had to achieve the victory. Also, at times it gave me the feeling that our playground is like the sky. Unbounded & limitless but you will encounter clouds as you come down on your value system if you are blinded by that “V” for Victory.

Mysore gave me unlimited metaphors to life with its easy-going nature. The town would be called sleepy by those who had lived in the so-called big (and hence considered as better) cities. If you were not materialistic in nature, then Mysore is a place you would have loved during those times!

On the bench, I couldn’t resist sharing these metaphors with NS. Instantly he agreed! He started sharing how much he loved Mysore. And I was agreeing to each and everything he had to say. It was like he would say something and I would build on it. And later, we would build on it. We enjoyed the conversation immensely.

It was like we were finding our wavelength. And it was being so easy. We felt like we were destined to meet each other this way at this time. Also, both of us were feeling homesick. It was the first time we were away from home. I remember both of us taking an oath that we would stay together throughout engineering. We had struck an emotional bond!

NS is what he signs at his office. Called “Harsha” by family and “Shastri” by friends. Narasimha Shastri and I went on to endure the hostel during the first year. Later on, we moved into a room at Kuvempunagar during the second year. And stayed as PGs at Jayanagar during our pre-final and final years.

Shastri graduated from NIE (Mechanical Engineering) in 2001. Got through Mico Bosch on campus and stayed with them till 2002. Secured an MS in CFD from NUS, Singapore and flew back to India. Has been working for GE JFWTC, Bangalore, as a scientist ever since. He insists on being called a technologist. Has his own blog too.

Shastri tied the knot this year in February to a very cute, sweet and strong-willed girl who goes by the name “Shrivalli”. Shrivalli is an M.Sc graduate from Karnataka University and was with I.I.Sc as a Research Associate. She also has a paper published to her credit while at I.I.Sc. A girl with a clear determination to do her Ph.D in Glass Transition, Shrivalli and Shastri are colleagues at GE JFWTC presently! And it was all arranged!

Meeting S – Part II

April 29, 2006 at 2:03 pm
September 1997

Same place. SJM Samudaya Bhavana. Second round of counseling. Counseling in this part of the country meant seat-selection. Second round meant that if there were any students who chose medical seats and dropped their engineering seats or vice-versa [very rare phenomenon – this vice-versa!] they get a chance to review their choice and pick a better seat if available.

We bump into S and his father again. S was more candid this time.
I said, “Hi”
S replied, “Hi”

I asked, “So elligadru shift maado idea idya ninge? Athava NIE Mech khushi na?” [Are you planning to shift anywhere else? Or are you happy with NIE-Mech?]
S answered, “Nammappa helta iddare E&C togo antha. BMS nalli ide. Aadre nange ista illa. Nanu Mysore ge barbeku antha iddini”[My father is asking me to take up E&C that is available in BMS. But I don’t want to. I want to come to Mysore only]

I asked, ”GMR quota nalli BMS E&C sikkta idya?!” [Is BMS E&C available under GMR quota?!]
S, “Hun ide” [Yeah]

S asked me, noticing my fixed look on the electronic display board, “Neenu enadru change goskara nodta idya?” [Are you looking to shift out?]
I answered, “NIE Mech nalli 5 seat mikkide. Inna 100 jana counseling aagbeku. Adenadru iddre nanu baro thanka, nanu adanne togoteeni. Illa andre JCE – IP ne saaku nange” [The board is showing that there are 5 seats left in NIE Mech. There are 100 people to go. If there is a seat remaining till my chance then I will shift in there. Otherwise, I am happy with whatever I have]

“So nanna jote ne barthiya?” [So, you will be joining me?]
“Nodana. Luck hengidyo gottillvalla!” [Let’s see. You never know when luck deserts you!]

As we finished the conversation, S moved towards the counseling table. And since we were 34 ranks away, I had no idea what happened to him. Whether he chose BMS E&C or stayed with his selection.

When it was my chance, there were exactly 3 seats left in NIE Mech. And surprisingly I ended up at the same smiling guy’s table!
I just shouted, “NIE Mech” on reaching the table lest anybody grabbed my seat!
He comforted me by saying, “Neevu seat togoLo tanka bere yaarigu access iralla sir. KutkoLi”. [Till you choose your seat, others cannot choose from the seat matrix sir. Please be seated.]
That’s when I realized my father was still standing!
So I cooled down. Did I really? I don’t think so. I didn’t believe that smiling guy. This time the smile wasn’t there. But it still haunted me!

“NIE Mech”, I repeated showing my receipt of fees paid for SJCE IP.
“Good choice Sir” he said looking at my father.

My father was also happy. One of our relatives was a lecturer in this college and several of our acquaintances had studied in this prestigious institution. This confirmation from the smiling guy only strengthened our belief in the choice that we had made.

The look on my face was of absolute relief! To be among the last ones in this race is really a pressure cooker situation. And somewhere while doing my homework for engineering colleges in Karnataka, I had told my aunt, “Nange yako anista ide that I will get into NIE, Mechanical antha”. [My sixth sense tells me that I will get into NIE Mechanical!] And that was a good six months before today!

Before we could get up and leave, the smiling guy said, ”Neevu first round nalli SJCE IP select maDidaagle ankonDe nimmge ee round nalli NIE Mech sigutte antha. Sikktu. Congrats sir!” [When you selected SJCE IP in the first round itself I guessed that you will get NIE Mech in the second round. Congratulations for getting it Sir!]

And that was the reason for his smile! “Thanks” we replied. And came to the foyer again.

S was there with his father. I approached them with a wide grin on my face. I had this victorious feeling that I had earned my seat in the General Merit Category!

I walked upto them and said, “Nange NIE Mech sikktu” [I got NIE Mech!]
S’s father, “Congratulations kanappa! Neenu ivanu ottige irabahudu hangaadre!” [Congratulations my son! You and my son can be together!]

I couldn’t resist the temptation of asking, “BMS E&C togollilva?” [Didn’t you pick BMS E&C?]
S, “Illa, Togollilla” [No, I didn’t take it.]

I asked without any sign of remorse in my voice, “Nijavagilu open aagi itta BMS E&C?” [Was BMS E&C really available?]
S, “Hun, ittu”

If you haven’t changed your option in the second round, you wouldn’t be loitering around in the foyer. So, what were they upto here? And as usual, I asked them the same.

“Illi enu madta idya hangaadre?” [Then what are you doing here?]
I had no sophistication about myself then. And never did I attempt to get better!
“Nanu general merit ge shift aagbitte. NIE Mech ee aadre” [I shifted from Rural quota to General merit keeping NIE Mech constant]

“Sari bidu. Olledu. NIE nalle sigana hangaadre. Bye” [Ok then. Let’s meet at NIE]

The next step in the procedure was that: You need to go to the concerned college, submit the receipt and get your seat confirmed. Also, if necessary make your booking for the college hostel in case you are a non-localite and needed accommodation.

My father and I went to Mysore by bus. Though we preferred a train journey, we didn’t want to risk missing the working hours of NIE. We wanted to finish the formalities and return the next day to Hyderabad.

We are at NIE Mysore. And guess whom we meet there? Yes! Brilliant answer! S and his father again! This time S and I took the lead in completing the formalities. As it involved just going to the office and submitting our documents and saying “Hi” “Hello” to them and coming. Also, additionally by then S & I had realized that we needed accommodation. So, we had to approach the Manager of the Hostel too.

By then S had told me that he was a very influential person. He knew the secretary of NIE Management committee who was in fact in-charge of assigning hostel accommodation. The clerk at the office told us that we needed to talk to the secretary itself. And also added a footnote of information saying, “As far as I know, hostel accommodation is not available”. And that’s when S told me about his high-level contacts.

We came out of the office and by then our fathers were having a conversation. My father was telling S’s father, “Sankethi hostel antha yavdo idyalla, alli try madtivi. Nodana sigutta antha.” [There is a hostel called Sankethi hostel, we’ll try our luck there]
S’s father, “Sari sir hangaadre. Bandillvanthe secretary sahibru. Avaranna bheTi aagi horadteevi” [Okay Sir. The secretary has not yet come. We will meet him and then make our move] and he continued, “Aditya, all the best mari. Namma hudugannu nodko chennagi. Ibbaru ottige iri. Guide maadappa namma huduganna swalpa” [Aditya, all the best to you son. Take care of my son also. Both of you be together. Please guide my son also]
I answered, “Uncle, naanenu guide madodu. Nange enu gottilla. Ibbaru ottige anthu irthivi uncle. Hogbittu barteevi. Bye S” [Uncle, What do I know to guide him? But we shall be together for sure. We will take your leave. Bye S.]
S answered, “Bye”, with a smile on his face.
The fathers shook hands and the sons exchanged smiles bidding farewell to each other.

Little did we know that this farewell was going to be the beginning of a friendship that would blossom into one of the best ever relationships. S (Sameer alias Sam) and I stayed (almost!) & studied together at Mysore. As if to prove uncle (Sam’s father) right, we stayed together during engineering and even much after.

Sam graduated from NIE (Mechanical Engineering) in 2001. Worked with I.I.Sc. for two years as a research associate. Topped in GATE 2003 (Vulgar percentile he got: 99 point something! I almost disowned him after his results!). He is presently pursuing M.Tech in Aerospace structures from IIT Bombay.

Meeting S – Part I

April 28, 2006 at 9:56 am
June 1997
It was that time in a student’s career when he is about to choose a college where he believes a platform for his future will be set. Sitting inside the SJM Samudaya Bhavana where the CET counseling used to take place then, I was thinking of what lies ahead for me. One thing I knew for sure is that I was going to be in Mysore. The question was: NIE or SJCE

Having secured a rank of 2930, I was well poised for a seat in NIE. I could choose from Mech/ EEE/ IP or Civil. My dodappa [father’s elder brother!] had told me that EEE involved lot of head-breaking studies and that Civil was not a branch with great opportunities. The infrastructure boom was not even on the horizon then. So that only left Mech and IP as the two branches for me to pick from. But there was one problem – you won’t be able to get into Software Industry from these branches. Of course, the boom went on to surprise us!

It was the first round of counseling. My father had come with me. We were sitting on seats which were in a 2 + 2 fashion like in a hitech bus. One student and his escort on each pair of seats. It was my father & me on one pair and next to me was S’s father & S on the adjacent pair of seats. This was the arrangement:

My father-Me-S’s father-S 

S’s father: “Enappa ninna hesaru?” [What’s your name?]
Me: “Aditya, Sir”
(S’s position: Looking away from the conversation)

S’s father: “Localite aa neenu?” [Are you a localite of Karnataka?]
Me: “Hun Sir” [Yes Sir]
(S’s position: Looking away from the conversation)
My father and I talk to each other in telugu. Hence the question. But since I was talking to so many other people around in Kannada, he started the conversation with me in Kannada. And I love Kannada!

S’s father: “Elli college odiddu?” [Which college did you study in?]
Me: “Hyderabad nalli”
(S’s position: Looking away from the conversation)

S’s father: “Hyderabad nalli odiddre localite henge aagtiya?” [How can you be a localite if you did your college in Hyderabad?]
Me: “Nanu seven years Karnataka nalli odiddini. Plus ondu public exam kooda bardiddini. 4th to 10th standard. Hangaagi nanu localite! [I have studied in Karnataka for seven years and also written a public exam. So, as per rules am a localite of Karnataka]
(S’s position: Looking away from the conversation)

S’s father: “Estu ninna rank?” [What is your rank?]
Me: “2930”
(S’s position: Looking at me with great interest and anxiety as if I was going to tell a secret that would expose his position! After my answer, he was back to his ‘looking away’ position.)

S’s father: “Enu togolona antha idya?” [What are you planning to choose?]
Me: “Branch yavdadru parvagilla, Mysore beku aste nange!” [Whatever the branch be, I want to go to Mysore!]
(S’s position: Looking away from the conversation)

S’s father: “Adeno CS togondre, E&C togondre ella bright future ide antharallappa?! [They say that if you choose CS or E&C branches you will have a bright future, is it true?]
Me: Adella gottilla nange. Yaava branch togondru opportunities naave create madkobeku allva?! So yaava branch togondre enu heli?! [I cannot comment on that. Whichever branch you choose you need to create opportunities. So, how does it make a difference which branch you choose?]
(S’s position: Looking away from the conversation)

S was actually looking at the Electronic board displaying the rank numbers being called for counseling. It had reached 2890. His rank was 2896. So he was tense. They went off after sometime, and I turned my attention back to the big electronic display board.

The person with 2929 rank was choosing a seat. The seat availability board read:

GMU quota (GMU: General Merit Urban)
NIE, Mysore
Mech – 00
EEE – 04
IP – 23
Civil – 27

SJCE, Mysore
Mech – 00
EEE – 06
IP – 18
Civil – 25
I had made my choice. As soon as I went to the desk, I said “SJCE – IP”. The person at the counter gave me a strange smile, which I was not able to interpret. I was not in a mood to interpret actually. 

Then we walked upto the foyer (fees-paying counter in fact) of the CET cell. I was happy that I had got my Mysore seat. My father had no problems since I had what I wanted. But that smile was haunting me. What did he mean? Why was that smile necessary?

Near the foyer we bumped into S and his father again. I asked him what he had picked.
He said, “NIE – Mechanical”
I said, “Congratulations!”

I started thinking. As long as I remembered there was no seat available in GMU quota. So immediately without any hesitation, I asked him how it was possible?

He said, ”GMR Quota. General Merit Rural.”
I said, “Oh ok” 

And just turned (as rudely as possible) and walked away from the scene. I hated reservations right from the beginning of my education.

(I used to always wonder why I should pay Rs.450/- as fees where some other people could get away by paying only Re. 1! I had a friend during my schooldays. He belonged to the SC/ST category. He was also the son of the District Commissioner of Mysore. He could bloody well pay the entire fees. But he would pay only Re. 1/-. With due regards to his father, I think he could have risen to that level by making use of the benefits arising out of the reservation policy itself. Which very well means that the policy has achieved its objective and can be withdrawn henceforth. But then what are we mulling today? 49.5% reservation in IITs and IIMs?Reservation for SC/ST in private sector?! I support Lok Paritran!)