Nick Second Life

The Story of an MBA grad in Recession times.. as told by Nick!

2011 in review

Posted by Subhendu on January 1, 2012

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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MiL – Who cares about Lunch Anymore

Posted by Subhendu on September 15, 2011

When Nick turned back and paced his way into his cabin, he brushed past the thoughts which were in his mind.

Normally when it nears lunch time, a Group chat window in Skype blinks red for him and his three best pals – Tom, Dick and Harry ping him saying its time! Introductions again? Sure. Tom is hefty, rides a Merc and is brimming with ideas all the time. Few of his ideas are so funny that you literally roll on the floor laughing. He is the only married guy in the group and he keeps giving Gyaan about bliss of married life. Result? Of course – Others keep bashing his statements! Dick has nothing to do with his name.  He is lean, 6 feet 2.  Creative Designer. His name should actually be Kid instead of DiK. Simple yet firm. Harry normally stays aloof – Sings bollywood songs when he is on mute in conference calls. No, never has there been any situation where mute went off. No one never told him that stop shouting Harry. Please dont assume things. Nothing such ever happened. And last one is me – Nick. I am what I am. Possessive about everything around me. Voracious eater. Believing more in gobbling rather than eating blissfully.

Near about the same time as everyday the Skype window went red. “Lunch?”… “Yes”… “yes”… and they were waiting for me. I was somehow not hungry. I was just looking at the chatbox aimlessly. “Nick?”. With a reflex action – I typed “Yes”.

MayfairThe restaurant was far away. Atleast 5 miles from the office, yet Nick and his friends drove there, everyday. They stopped at all traffic signals as usual. Occasionally Tom swore if someone suddenly came in front of his car. At times, they even were caught by traffic police but that is a completely different story. Today, however, was totally different.

“Where are you” – Harry blurted looking at me.

I woke up from the state of trance. “I am here only, why?” I blushed. I very well knew that i was still with the voice which called me up couple of minutes ago! But there was something in the voice which just stuck to me. It was as if I could hear the voice resonating in my ears even now. I was just listening to the same voice over and over. It just made me feel different.

“You are blushing like a teenager who just got proposed!!” Tom looked back from the steering wheel.

“No!! I am not. Comm’on you guys!” I defended.

I could hear their murmurs. And the hum of the car engine. And i could also hear the sound of the wind swishing past the glass windows of the car. As if each zephyr of air just came in close with a fresh scent of love. I could even smell the freshness of jasmine. Jasmine?!!

Finally everything stopped. We arrived at the restaurant. It looked all different to me. It just looked way too bright. I brushed past the thought. Wishful thinking or daydreaming! When orders were being given I said Ditto and thats it. Food was on the table.

The appetite was gone. I was just staring at the food. My fingers were numb yet fiddling with the fork. I wanted to appear as natural as possible. I was excited but i did not want to reveal. May be I am actually day dreaming or imagining too much. I did not want to appear stupid with a phone call.  Gobbled up whatever was there on the plate.

It was already 2 15 PM.  Back to work!

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7 Days – Madly in Love

Posted by Subhendu on September 7, 2011

Does matter if he added more inches to his waist. Does not matter if he lost more strands of hair than he added. But time flees by.

Nick is almost old. No..Just Older.

DAY – Zero

The last visit to the IGPark in Bhubaneswar made Nick realise he cant do this stuff anymore. Running around trees, Talking to each other for hours is just not possible anymore. Humidity worries overpowered the power of love. Still over the last 1 week, 7 days to be precise, what happened left Nick wondering. Wondering about how much Baccha still his Dil was!

It seemed like yesterday when the mobile stirred on “Silent Mode” when Nick was just about to go for lunch. Hurriedly, Nick rushed out of his cabin into the alley where he planned to take the call. He could hear his cabin door slam behind him, he could hear people murmur, he could even feel he would slip while rushing.

“Is it Nick?”

Day Zero - Nick Second LifeThere was a female voice on the other end. Tried to recognize hard before saying yes. Is it that Customer Service Agent Moitree from the Same Old Kolkata Matrimony office again? No it was not her. Is it that Client Relationship office of the Ford Showroom? No. Did not sound like her. She has a very false sweet accent. This voice was clear, curious yet vague as if the voice was trying to confirm while being assured that it would not be me.

“Yes”. I answered before I could think more. “Who is this?” I questioned back. I was cursing myself why did i reveal myself so soon when i did not even know who the other person was.

“Is this Nick of Nick Second Life?” The voice did not pause. This time her voice had tons of impatience as she blurted these words. She could not control her excitement. She was innocently restless. She just wanted to make sure that it is me.

“Yes! It is Nick of Nick Second Life” This time my answer was firm. My pupils had grown bigger and i was feeling very happy and contended from within. Not because someone is asking for me out of the blue but because readers of Nick Second Life actually believe in me. That I exist. In reality. I had hid my own excitement while speaking the line… “But who is this?, Do I know you?” I regained control.

“Sorry, You dont know me. I read your blog and I also saw you on one of the matrimony sites…. ”

I could not even hear further. I was getting more and more anxious. Hurriedly, I walked out of the alley so that i could smile on the phone while talking yet not being conscious of being watched. This seemed like the Matrimony bucks talking. I had paid the silly matrimony sites a huge amount now and in no way they helped me. This for the first time was looking like a Shaadi dot com commercial where couples meet online and match is done.

“Sorry – I could not hear”. I gave a lame excuse asking for her to repeat the sentence.

The excitement in her tone had not died down yet. She was breathing fast and as if she just wanted to say out everything in one breath. She started – “I am Kusum. You dont know me and I also dont know you!” She gasped for breath. And then she started giggling and then finally laughing. She continued, “I saw you on the matrimony website and i followed you to your blog and am a fan of your blog. But I have not called you for matrimony – I just wanted to let you know that you write very well and you should continue writing. I dont have anything else to say – i was not sure if I would actually speak to you so I have not thought what to tell you and I will call you tomorrow morning!”

“Hello!!” I was surprised at the one gasp sentence and the abrupt end.

“Is it not okay if I call you tomorrow morning?” She thought may be she asked too much and this time it was a confirmation which she sought. That much only would relieve her.

“Yes, But why would you call … ”

She cut me through. ” Thank you Thank you!!, I will call you in the morning tomorrow.!” And then there was the stupid Airtel Beep tone which is always very frustrating. I looked at the screen – 3 minutes 54 seconds. I was wondering if this is the solution to all my problems. There had been days when i looked at the sky and wondered if when would all my problems end. There were only echoes. No answer.

May be this had the answer within. May be this was the final conclusive thing which was going to happen. May be I am hallucinating. Thoughts started overpowering me. That is when i decided..  Hataao Yaar.. Lunch pe concentrate Karte hain!

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Pulsar – Definitely Male looks out for Single Female!

Posted by Subhendu on August 4, 2010

Nick just loved the feeling.

As the flight descended at BPInternational Airport, Nick could not hide his excitement. Finally he was back in his home soil. Felt divine. Like someone was charging him up with a thousand volts yet there was no pain, only quanta of energy.

As I scurried down the alley, searching for known faces, I saw my family.. God! It was such a great feeling. I had waited for this day to come out of that depression and finally I am back into my strength domains. It was a sweet reunion and the Santro Xing swiftly moved past the Airport road into Forest park, Bapuji Nagar, Master canteen, Ram Mandir, Rupali and then the college… RD.

RD, this place had been a sight for sore eyes.

Well, this time there was a twist. RD is a college for people in their late teens and I am almost tipping thirty! I was looking at girls half my age and did not take me long to understand that this is no longer an option. I had become too old for all this. Suddenly the pang of distress overpowered me. Does this mean I have to go back to Oriyamatrimony? Well, if that is what it is supposed to be.

There were quite a lot of things which I wanted to do when I reached home. New Cellphone sim card, Copying all contacts and sending them a New business card, Visiting all friends who stayed here, watching a movie in the local Maharaja movie hall (Still remember when I got my fist bleeding trying to break the glass at the counter during the movie hall inauguration!) but most importantly the Gupchup attracted me. To do all this, I had to get my Pulsar from the Cargo.

Oh! the lovely feeling of the pulsar on home roads is just magical! Did all that I wanted to do the first day is and finally landed up at the Gupchup wala. The sight of the Gupchup wala and his blue wood and glass box made my mouth water. The Khatta paani which is tangy and spicy as well made my salivary glands go mad. Atleast 12 people surrounded each Gupchup wala.  Each of them had a peepal leaf folded in a manner to hold the Gupchup (Paanipoori) and the spicy water.  The Gupchup wala started. Searched for a round full crispy Gupchup and cracked it open. Stuffed in the AlooDum and dipped it into the tangy spicy water and then pulled it out quick and served the first girl standing near. And he completed all this so fast that in a minute, he was serving all 12 people twice. I was looking at his setup and relished the sight for a long time. And when my turn came.. when the gupchup melted in my mouth, the feeling was just divine..

I was slowly getting energized. Bhubaneswar was sinking into me.

Had a lovely day today and look forward to my new role in Office starting tomorrow.

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Bhubaneswar – Home Sweet Home

Posted by Subhendu on March 29, 2010

It felt so good searching.. Before Nick even realised, he had browsed over 800 profiles, spent over 200 hours.. It is like more than 15 minutes per profile. Looking at each profile for over 15 minutes! I was so much mesmerised with the black hair, tanned hair, silky hair, round eyes, squinted eyes, brown eyes, sharp nose, round nose, parrot noses and the list is endless.

49 profiles Interest sent. 32 Accepted. 12 Not viewed yet. 5 Rejected. Thought about who the heck the 5 people were who declined me! Days flew.

10 days gone. Last day in Mumbai. Movers and Packers guys packing up everything at home. Last beer bottle Nick left for the maid’s husband.

Air Deccan Flight to Home

Air Deccan Flight to Home

It was not nostalgic. But I was leaving Mumbai for a different reason. The same reason why I left FINO. But then I was happy too. I was going to the place where I belong to. As I boarded the flight to Bhubaneswar, I was feeling a sense of leaving something behind. A feeling of something, someone who I am leaving behind. There was none. But there was just a feeling, a warm but hazy aroma of the memory. I just wiped it off.

The flight was delayed. And it always is when you purchase tickets dirt cheap. I had bought the ticket a month back. No wonder I was the cheapest ticket served on the airplane. I always felt an acute pain in my eyes whenever there was slightest air turbulence and whenever the plane was on a descent spiral. This I had developed after my MBA, thanks to the thousands of problematic stuff which took away my peace of mind.  But then today, i was determined to not let the pain take me over.

I had prepared for this since the last 3 days. Otrivin – I used as Nasal decongestant. Hot coffee I had just minutes before I boarded the flight. i had two full packs of chewing gum handy, had a candy in my mouth and kept on praying. 2 hours 4 minutes. I landed.

Not  a sign of pain. I sang happily. I had overcome the fear. I was feeling like I had left all my worries back in Mumbai. No more worries. I am back in my own place. I have a job which I like. I have a place where I see my family everyday after work. And more over, I eat Paani Poori of Cuttack or Gupchup as we call it. It was just amazing.

As I dragged my strolley bags in the alley, I was looking at anxious faces outside the airport gate and all the raised waving hands.. I spotted my family!! I was so happy that I landed in Bhubaneswar!! Returning back, I was not feeling the heat at all. I was just looking at the trees, the roads and the street lights.. Everything appeared changed. Just as it always does when you come home after a long time. I was just silent. I just kept on gazing.

Then I crossed RDWC . Rama Devi Women’s college. My childhood romeo sprang to life.

I was fully convinced that Now I am going to get married! Forget Oriyamatrimony’s 800 oriya profiles. Here is one state where I can get thousands of prospective brides. New era had already begun since the Air Deccan flight landed in Biju pattnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar.

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The e-arranged marriage fever!

Posted by Subhendu on December 22, 2009

In India, 10 years back parents would have actually shunned the concept of love marriages in India and considered it taboo. If one love letter got caught, or if someone in the locality saw the girl on a bike with a boy, it meant serious things for both the boy and the girl. Girl might be forced to leave college, boy might be threatened. But this force to restrain added in the challenge to some sweet couple in India. Now, it just seems like world got flatter faster. Parents are happy, more happy are the girls parents when they realize that their daughter is in love. Because in this highly networked world, where concepts of nuclear family, freedom, personal spaces have come into existence in India makes arranged marriage sustainability increasingly challenging. An increasing trend which somehow exposes marriages to more divorces in the educated and liberated India (Debatable?). So, if your girl comes home one day, keeps her bag on the table and tells you – Dad! I want you to meet someone special. And I want to marry him. You are no longer worried. You are just like – Phew! Atleast my daughter will feel happy and safe for her life.

But you know what. Where there is a challenge, there is fun. And arranged marriages are somehow back in action. I had so far ignored this and was searching for soulmates in Yahoo chats, Rediffbols and the like.  All I got were bots sending me invites to view them. If I started viewing them, my vaio would see all the infections as well. So I had resisted but now I had a perfect match platform – Genuine human beings, females in particular, single and asking prospective searchers to mingle! Nice. Suits the needs of both parties. As I hit the search button on the Bharat Matrimony website, I was already feeling the adrenalin in my body pump up! 975 profiles. Amazing.

23, Software Engineer, Fair, Slim, Convent Educated, 4 Lakhs per annum. Arunita. Photographs? I clicked on all the links which said photographs. But all it opened up was a pop up – Do you want to request Arunita to upload her photograph. I declined. There are 974 more anyway. Who cares to request.

Changed my search criteria. This time I selected the small box which said – Show results for profiles with Photograph displayed. 647. Smaller. Yet Better. Atleast I get to see who I am going to marry.

24, Software Engineer (presently in Onsite, UK), Fair, Down to earth, Believes in simple living high thinking. 27, MBA, Non-working (Blessed by recession, I thought). Moved on. 26, Athletic, PG in Sociology, Lecturer. Cool Types. Hot types wear jeans in matrimony sites. Cool types actually wear salwars in these sites and wear anything and everything outside the matrimony sites. I don’t say this. Parents say this. They are the first and major target market for sites like these. 24, B.A, Not working. 23, Engineer, Non-IT.. I just kept browsing and occasionally maximizing the thumbnail photos. I stopped at many. There is a concept of Send Interest! And I made good use of that in the free profile I created. I uploaded some of my US snaps. Those would cut the competition of the available grooms I thought. Somehow the photos you take in the US are the ones you look best in. So had uploaded my best snaps. Every interest I sent, I thought to myself, if she responds, I would be the happiest man on earth. Like this was the only step before marriage. There are tons of steps ahead, I realized much later. Welcome to the world of e-arranged marriages.

The amazing number of searches, types of searches mesmerized me. There is a facial search which you can use to search for the girl who looks like Aishwarya or Katrina. Engrossed, I was fast learning the website as well as browsing fast. Thanks to the Reliance Netconnect which matched to the speed at which I was browsing.

When I stopped, it was already 32 interests sent. 271 profiles browsed. Then I tagged on the search to continue next day. Way past midnight already. When I went to sleep, I was excited. 2 Things – One, I did not feel alone in the apartment today. Two, I would not feel alone in the apartment tomorrow. Because someone would respond with an interest tomorrow. If not, then I would start browsing from profile number 272! Once this website is over, will hop to Jeevansathi. Then Shaadi. Then SimplyMarry. The list is never ending. Then I can always come back to Bharat matrimony to check the new profiles.

Amazing. Nick thought looking at the fan in the ceiling. He was suddenly no more lonely.

He did not need any beer. Not that anything was there in the kitchen. 6 more days to go and the last week in office. Time for farewell parties and movers and packers.

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Nick Falls in Love

Posted by Subhendu on December 19, 2009

Little did Nick know when he woke up that the day is going to be so wonderful as it unfolds.

Tussle of the Business Models

Tussle of the Business Models

Lazily, I woke up. Dragged myself to the door to pick the newspaper from the balcony. Indian Express. The aroma of the newspaper, fresh newsprint, is intoxicating. I am one of those who loved new books in childhood because they smelled great. Old habits die hard. I inhaled a deep fresh breath. As I turned from the first page to the third, there was a colorful advertisement pamphlet inside the paper. I started reading.

It read – ” Express your love to your loved ones with Archies collection “.  Just the logo of Archies Gallery on some new retail outlet in Navi Mumbai made me go thinking.  I had seen the Archies and Hallmark ways of life sometime in my childhood.

School days. Tiffin boxes neatly packed by mom, black shoes polished by dad. The amazing bicycle with a straight handle. Riding the bicycle with both hands in the air just near the place where the girls got down from the school bus. The classrooms where boys sat in 3 rows and girls sat in one row near the windows. And then someone very special. Everyone would have some or the other memories. For me it is a little more vivid. Just because for me there were a lot of those girls in my classroom and in junior classes in school who were special. I still stocked all those images, cards, letters and teddies! So I remembered the so called girl friends in school who brought their lunch boxes for me, their madness in gifting me teddy bears. And just the fact that I had multiple people who I felt are my girlfriends <I bet, they would never have thought me as their boyfriend!>, I could know this is infatuation. Because, like Alok, a very good friend of mine,  always said “When everything comes in your way you’re in the wrong lane“. So somehow since then I had never looked back but then I had not thrown away those Archies cards either.

I had grown. I had grown out of this Archies and Hallmark way of life. I had grown older. 28. But I always missed the girl who wore 2 pony tails, sang loudly in the lunch break and wore a pink hairband. She was Minal. Minal was very talkative and she never stopped blabbering.  Her voice was so sweet and cute but the class monitor always had her name up on the blackboard. I loved it anyway. I mean I loved the lunch which her mother prepared for both of us.  I loved it when she gifted me anything and I just gave her small cadbury’s! She waited for me in lunch break to eat together, after I finish playing. When she sang Antakshari in the class, she looked at me. It was a great feeling when sometimes I would turn my head in the class when teacher was teaching to look at her and find her looking at me. Then she would smile and I would smile too.  But then that does not mean we love each other right. For my curious readers , No, I never proposed. And She never did too. We just were good friends. Dont wink at me now.

In my journey from 16 years of age to 28, there had been things which I saw and which made me what I am today. I was alone in my apartment and my apartment had a great view outside from the 20th floor. But I cooked for myself, bai did the dishes, dhobi pressed my clothes, I drove myself, I partied with friends, went to malls with friends, went to movies with friends and did all that a bachelor should or could do. But somehow I felt lone. And I was looking at Bharat Matrimony advertisement on the 7th page in the Express, since long, sub-consciously.  The message was too tempting – ” Join Bharat Matrimony now to meet your perfect partner”.  I was amazed by the correlation between the two business models. MBA teaches you all this – to split apart sentences and think why the heck the guy who wrote this line actually wrote it. It actually does not need an MBA to understand that the target market of Bharat Matrimony and similar sites are for those who actually are not convinced by Archies way of life. (I would not dare to say which one is the best. That is irrelevant anyway.  It is like telling which is best – Air or water).

I logged in.

Amazing Site. As anyone of you would have done, I did the same. Started searching! Quest to find a partner. There are 975 profiles of brides in my own caste, speaking my mother tounge! Amazing! I am going to have a wonderful day and equally hectic, I told myself as I clicked on the Signup button. I did not care to strike off another day to say 7 more days left to leave Mumbai. I just wanted to make my loneliness of the apartment vanish. And I just felt, this is another beginning. Am I falling in Love with multiple search results? I just cant. I am no longer infatuated. I started browsing the profiles… I was searching for Minal..

It is the start to a new journey. Nick told himself.

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Someone Listens to your Heart!

Posted by Subhendu on December 15, 2009

It is amazing how life keeps changing. It is amazing how there are so many things in store, yet we don’t know anything in advance. It is like you just see the next step but you don’t know where the staircase leads to or how long would it turn out to be. During this journey, when you feel at some point in time, that there is no one listening but you want yourself desperately to be heard, to share out your feelings, be rest assured there is someone who is hearing you. And answering to every question of yours. Listening to your heart!

It was a Saturday. Wrong day of the week to wake up early and be on your way to office. Many people grudge about it. I too did. On the way, I parked my Pulsar in front of the local betel shop near Truptee for a pack of Gold Flake Kings. Brushing past the crowd of people, I made my way to the panwala. The faces near the shop were all familiar, thanks to the habit of mine. As I watched the circles of white smoke circle up in the air after the first puff, I overheard Raghunath.

Raghunath, a chain smoker in his late sixties always had a lot of stories and his stories always had a lesson. Frail body, bald, shriveled skin, white moustache with a Wills Flake between his shaky index and middle fingers, Raghunath smoked in a hurry always. He took in large puffs of smoke in one go and wanted to feel all the smoke everywhere in his respiratory system.


Pray with your heart

“I was reading in class 6th. At home there always was a shortage and scarcity of food. In 2 days we could not afford even one meal of rice. 5 kids, 2 parents, in all 7 hungry mouths. One day, I was getting ready for school. There was nothing to eat at home. My mother had some wheat flour collected. She put some hot water and salt over it, mixed it and served to me and my brothers and sisters. I was so hungry that ai just tried to drink up all of it. But I could not bear it. I vomited as soon as the hot porridge touched the first taste buds of my tongue. I could not eat any longer. I just could not stop crying. My mother hugged me tight, her eyes wet. She wiped my tears with her saree and barely could utter, unsure.  “Go to School. When you are back, I will have lots of rice cooked for you.” As I opened my eyes to look behind my mother, I saw my brothers and sisters hungrily eating the food which I left off. And fighting amongst themselves. I could not bear the sight and I fled from the place. On the way to school, I was praying to God – Would this ever be over? That day in the school prayer hall, I just cried and prayed.  In the lunch break, when other students rushed out to play and eat, I just was crying and was alone in the class room. Just then the peon came over and said that the headmaster was calling me. I trembled.

I entered the room and the headmaster was sitting in the room surrounded by around 12 teachers. He started- What have you eaten in the day? “Wheat flour porridge” I said and waited to hear everyone laugh. Surprisingly, no one did. They all were looking at me in sympathetic eyes. My headmaster pulled me closer to him. Hugged me and said. “Here are 231 rupees Raghu. Because of your excellent performance in Class 5 exam, you are being given a scholarship of 231 rupees.” He put the money in my pocket and made me sign a form. I was so happy. I had not seen a one rupee coin ever and I was given 231 rupees in one go! I felt so happy. I ran home, breathless.

When I reached home, I saw my mother in her torn saree, with hands on her forehead. My father had not yet reached home with the food. I gave all the money to my mother. We then bought rice with the money, and even after eating, we could re-sell and get going. After that, somehow, we managed and never ever had to go hand to mouth again. So from that day till date, I believe in God the most. And I believe that when all doors close and you feel that no one is listening, there is someone who listens.

My cigarette had ended since long. I was just waiting for the story to finish. Raghunath had had a tough life. Now he owned 5 apartment buildings in Mumbai, had 2 chains of retail business and his sons are doing good in life. The wrinkles on the old mans hands and forehead actually told many such stories of his struggle in his lifetime.

I started my bike and left the place. It etched my mind that when called with a pure heart, God does listen. Suddenly, Mumbai is teaching so many things to me.

10 more days to go!

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The Truptee Restaurant Case

Posted by Subhendu on December 13, 2009

Palm Beach Road

Palm Beach Road

From within the Studds helmet, the sound of the bike actually appeared muffled.  These new high CC bikes are amazing with their pickup, silencers and control. I was speeding at 65 mph. Palm Beach Road was well lit at 3 AM in the morning, I thought.

It had been a hectic day, I remembered. Anyone related in any way to the IT industry would understand the pains during a software implementation. Today was one such day. In the last one year of my association with the current team of mine, we had made one thing sure -partying every weekend even though we were under the radar consistently and were crushed under thousand pascals of pressure. I had a brilliant team and each backed up the other. I felt lucky working with them. Issues just disappeared when my team and I sat over any such for an hour. When I was on the bike after the last piece of code was executed live, my team had opted voluntarily to watch over issues, all night.

I looked into the concave mirrors. Could see only a couple of high speed bikers and zazzy cars in the trail. Software buffs, I thought.

I was already hearing the sounds from my intestine. How long would a 30 metre tube inside stomach last with 2 pieces of family size Dominos. My eyes hungrily scanned through the transparent glass of the helmet for a light in the roadside. Which restaurant would be open at 3 AM in the morning. but, strangely, Mumbai is different. Like NY which claims to be the city which never sleeps, Mumbai does not fall much behind. When I took the final turn near Suryansh Apartment, I was just searching for the tag Open on the doors of Truptee. And I found it. The restaurant is just near the corner, barely 100 meters away from my apartment.

Mrs. Sawant was a lady in her late fifties. Her husband died of some disease which the doctors could not diagnose. Her only son, now thirty some, had married and settled in States. Like most parents of our generation, Mrs Sawant could not just adjust with the climate, surroundings and people in the states. She was not very comfortable speaking English and never cared to learn. No Nick, What will I do learning English at this age..I am happy here knowing that my son is happy there. She had come back to Mumbai after staying for 3 months with her only son, daughter in law and Silvy, their daughter. And she never forgot to thank her husband for having had the wisdom to buy this place for her. When her husband actually had bought this restaurant space, they had had a serious fight….I knew it all.

After all, when one grows old, all you need is companionship. Money is not a matter. Property is not a matter. Parents take so much care of their children. When a kid is born, the mother keeps awake to see the child sleep in peace. When the kids starts to crawl, mothers are so happy. Kids ask the same questions a thousand times – where does the crow live, mama? Mama, where does the wind come from? Where do the clouds come from? Who is throwing water from above? ..Parents never get tired. When  the kids want something and they cant express, they cry. We all have cried for something or the other in childhood. Somehow we forget all of it when we grow up. But mothers are always there to understand, just that we fail to understand that they also need something. They don’t demand as we did. We cried loudly and they cry silently. Mrs. Sawant had asked her son to come back. But he now is a father too and Silvy could not adjust here in India. So, he denied. I would not blame her son nor Mrs. Sawant. She just wept silently.

She looked at me as her son. She used to wait for me so that I don’t go to sleep, hungry. Strange chemistry. Home away from home for both of us. She never accepted money when I wanted to pay the bill after the meal. She just wanted someone to hear her story. And I was never tired hearing. I missed my family too and everytime I went to Truptee, I got a stronger resolve to go back home, spend time with my mother. And indeed, my resignation had this as one of the reasons.

I counted the days. 11 more days to go home.

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The Defense Canteen Beer

Posted by Subhendu on December 7, 2009

Recession did a lot of things. Mostly bad.

Few good things did happen too. Organisations consolidated. Real estate prices fell, relief to people like me who had missed out on the bull run. Not that I can afford buying it now. Its just a feel good factor. While some people grew efficient, by sitting on benches and adding certifications to their CVs, others grew clever.

It was a Wednesday. I grew restless looking at the newspaper. The Times ascent pages were filled up with junk job postings and & jobs have like dried up. Somehow I was lucky to have found someone who offered me a second job so I could resign from the current one. But Notice periods still did not cease to exist. And I had to get ready for office.  As I entered the dining room, i froze!

I stayed alone in the apartment. I lock my doors securely everynight. There is no way in which someone can actually enter into my room. And now, in the middle of the room, he was standing alone. His head was covered with a steel helmet which glazed in the sunshine. His face was pale or rather he was perspiring. Beads of sweat adorned his forehead but he never made any attempt to wipe them off. He looked tired but his well built, well carved body suggested that he must have been through the toughest phases of his life. He was wrapped in a thin golden scarf which glittered too. I watched him closely. He stood with eyes closed.  He was not breathing! Was he dead? Did he freeze near my window? Why was he alone? Questions like this kept coming into my mind. I was not shocked anymore seeing him in my room, I just stood, thoughtless.

Then I remembered Maddy. Madhubhusan Mohanty.

Maddy was my classmate in my engineering days. Loved to keep a moustache and it made him feel proud. After engineering when 70% of our batch actually went ‘softies‘, he went the ‘hardies‘ way. Obviously there are differences when you actually fight for the country in armed forces and you actually work in a software company for foreigners. But nothing bad in any of it. Both are trying to revive the economy of India and safeguarding it. Maddy was posted in Shimla point and as a Serviceman, he enjoyed lots of privileges. He showered some of them on me too when last week we had shopped for one crate of beer. Mumbai had a bandh declared on the day when both of us drove the Pulsar to nearly 20000 meters into the defense canteen. Inside the canteen was a different story.

Mostly ex-servicemen, their wives, kids with trolley bags were picking up grocery. Felt really good that Government actually has this facility for people serving the forces. They spent their entire lives on government salaries, without corruption and it is actually their right to get things where they dont have to pay taxes. But I also loved Maddy’s generosity. Allowing me to get a bottle of KingFisher Strong for 50 cents  against a market price of $ 2.0.


Defense Canteen Beer

Now, I remembered. The lone bottle of beer which stood on my dining table in the centre, shining in the sunlight was actually the only bottle left. All its other relatives had dried up, and lay dead on the floor. Beer does a lot of wonderful things. It brings back a touch of nostalgia, a lot of memories. It helps people remind how kind other people are, how generous they are. How armed forces guard our motherland and how recession makes people clever!

With all the things said, I was wondering whether I should go back to bed with ‘The Last Samurai‘ or buckle up for office. While I stretched myself near the window, I looked down to look at the pigeons, threw some more rice grains for their day. These are the species which are free.

“I too am, I have resigned”, I said to myself and killed the last man standing. Nick was not going to office today. 14 days to go! No beer left!

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The Fish Wali Case

Posted by Subhendu on December 1, 2009

Tuesday. Mumbai.

It was a busy street. But still people stopped and poured over the area. There was a pungent smell in the area but I did not pay attention to my olfactory cells. I pushed my way in. She lay motionless, but I could sense her soft breathing. It was as if she was trying to breathe in the last of her breaths. It was as if the world was going to end for her. Her body had lost its shine. She lay wounded, on the stone. I looked around, curious faces but none paid attention. This was perhaps routine. I had been to this place for the first time. I looked at her eyes – crystal clear, glass like. I spread my hand forward to touch her, to feel if she is still warm.

Kya dekh rahe ho.. Mari nahin hai. Abhi Taazi hai! A shrill feminine voice echoed.

Go Buy Fish!

I changed my focus. The FishWali (fisherwoman) was barely 27. Of Course Maharashtrian. The street lamp about 30 meters high was showering all its light on her. She was glowing in the light. Hair neatly combed, colorful bangles on both her hands, she was wearing a crumpled cotton sari till her knees and was ready to see my lips move. She was full of anticipation like a robot. Ready for the next instruction. To cut the fish into pieces and wrap them up in the black polythene. I turned to her left. There lay a kid, barely a year old, naked, covered up in dirty yet thick but torn clothes, crying intermittently. She looked at her child, caressed her a bit, then picked up the stick to shoo the cats/dogs near her business capital. I normally don’t eat fish. I love prawns but had convinced myself long back that prawns are not fish. The Fishwali was not selling prawns so I had no reason to be at this place but somehow I was meant to be here today.

As I stood looking at the mother and son, I could feel the same love and affection. The one which makes the father and mother pigeon birds on my window pane sit hours together on their eggs.

I had been to a hospital where someone in my near family was admitted. While I was attending him, I turned to look at the side bed where a middle aged man, barely in his 50s was attending to his wife. Curious, I asked him about what happened and why they are here. The man said – She is my wife. Our only daughter had both her kidneys infected so had them removed. Now my wife is donating one of her kidneys to her. That is the reason we are here. I was speechless, moved. Never ever had I thought that someone could donate something from their body for someone else. But this is what is love, this is what is affection. Parents can actually do all measures to see their children happy. I could see the same love and affection in the Fishwalis eyes.

She was getting impatient. All this while, she was blabbering something. I could see her lips move but my inner voices were so loud that I could not hear her at all. Then she said, Aap ko lena ho to lijiye, warna jagah khaali kijiye! I could hear that somehow.

I asked her to pack 500 grams. As I uttered these words, I could see the smile twitch on her lips. She was excited, and picked up a large Rohu and sliced it clean. When I walked back holding the wet polythene after counting the smelly currency notes from her, I could notice that she was smiling of satisfaction. I felt contended too. Chemistry! The child also stopped crying.

Back in the 11th floor of my apartment, while I was wondering what to do with the Fish, since neither I knew how to cook, nor I loved fish, I struck off another day in the calendar. Threw the fish in the trash.

15 More days to go!

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One Night in Suryansh Apartments

Posted by Subhendu on November 27, 2009

I had already struck off the day in the calendar. It was 16 more days to go.

Every passing day at Mumbai office, I felt more and more helpless. The fear of going into a path not trodden, a road not taken was making me all the more nervous. Whenever I looked back, I remembered Robert Frost who always inspired readers to come out of their comfort zones and tread unknown waters. I was going to do just that.

It was 10:30. I was not hungry, I was not gloomy. But I was missing something. Someone. The feeling was such that I did not want to think any longer. I wanted to have an excuse though I did not need one. I wanted to get some beer. Options were many. And company was plenty. Time was abundant. Phone bills were paid by the company.

In about an hour, Rugan, Ronjon and Santhanagopalan joined me. The Kingfisher Strong bottles in my refrigerator were greeted by chill dudes Fosters, Budweiser and Carlsberg. And they all had a common pal – Gold Flake Kings. The best place to enjoy a drink is under open sky. The open roof of Suryansh Apartments on the 20th floor.

Rugan was my classmate during MBA. Always ready for 3 things – beer, bike, and bakar. Rugan had looks which any girl would fall for. He was a hunk. 6 ft 2, Muscular build. At times people in disco parties mistake him for the bouncer. Ronjon was a Bong, my co-worker, married, father of 2 kids, in his late thirties. With a amazing beer belly which looked like 2 stuffed pillows under his XXXL shirt. His Hero-Honda Splendor had been with him since he married his wife 7 years ago. Santhanagopalan was a regular software engineer. Amazing with his code, boasting about his zero defect percentages, he wore stylish specs, expensive watches but never cared about his hair. He drove a Santro. They had one common thread – they wanted to quit their current companies. So I gelled with them. I had met them all in a cafeteria in the software park where my company had an office. So our paths crossed. Monday evening was not a great time to party but Vodafone had actually helped in convincing them.

The roof was bare. Seemed like Mumbai was celebrating festival of lights. You could almost see entire Mumbai from this location. Blinking lights, Steady lights, constantly moving lights on the road. We stopped drinking when the lights on the horizon seemed to fade and when Santy, as Santhanagopalan was fondly called, started his narration of how his project manager tortured him on weekends by calling him to office to debug code. Fosters and Kingfisher became just brand names on the empty bottles but were hollow. When Rugan started blowing whistles with the empty bottles, I asked Ron to carry the other two into my apartment. I wanted to enjoy the night.

It was 3 AM in the morning. I lay flat on the mat. 20th floor did not take me closer to the sky. The stars still seemed far away. They were talking to each other. Then they looked at me. They knew that I could hear and they started whispering. They were talking about me. I tried to listen. Keenly. They were actually giggling, laughing at me. They were laughing at my lack of control on situations, at my frailty as a human who lost so much in a matter of months and still was trying to cope up. And then I talked to them. I told them who I was. I told them, I am the same guy who was run over by a bus on the National Highway and who managed to stand up and fight. I had fought and I was not afraid to stand up. My father helped me. Now I am fighting against his loss. I am fighting against so many things at a time that at times I feel my head will burst. But then I have to. We just cant give up. We are humans after all.

You know what, there are people who study stars. And they say, Stars speak the truth. Stars can reveal everything about someone who is born. Depending on what star was at what place and talking what to the other about the person, fate of that person is decided. You feel so helpless when you know you did everything right and still things go wrong. But I learnt the lesson, things happen for good. And you know why you cant change it? Because that is past. Those damn stars were actually at a place talking .. sometime when you were being born and there is no way you could change their positions in the past. I just wanted to ask the stars – why is all this happening with me. They kept answering me. I just could not hear. May be because of the distance. May be I was sleepy. May be it is not the time yet.

Time! 8 AM. I could not bear the sunlight anymore. Have to get up and get ready for office.

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Salonis Uncle Episode

Posted by Subhendu on November 26, 2009


13 Years. Kid. Mischievous. Loved ice-creams. Loved Cadbury. Loved Rains. Loved to Play. A typical child. And like every other child, she hated Mathematics. Her mother, Neha, was a typical mother. She wanted her child to do all things which she herself was unable to do. Neha lost her husband a year ago. In 10 years of their married life, she had seen so much happiness that the loss of her husband came to her as a disaster. Since then, she took up the charge to bring up Saloni and wanted to fulfill her every dream. Saloni was her only focus and both mother and daughter had a great time. Neha managed to get few girls to stay as Paying Guests (PG, as they say) who shared their rooms and paid something. More than the rent, Neha and Saloni actually wanted company.

But also, living in Mumbai is tough if you have got adjusted to a lifestyle and then you suddenly don’t have access to it. Saloni was a kid, but strangely, she understood. She never cried for Cadbury in the shop, never cried for Masala Corn in the mall, neither she was fond of the junk food. They were lucky that they had an apartment in Mumbai and they managed somehow. I knew Neha was searching for a job. I worked before my marriage and I am trying now. But since I had a break of nearly 10 years in my career, I am not able to get into one now. I am a Cost Accountant… Nick, Do you have any openings in your company? Neha would continue..

She wanted Saloni to become and engineer or a doctor and would keep asking me how I studied and always asked me to help Saloni in her subjects. I would politely say yes, but knew that it is not possible. Which kid would be awake at 11:30 PM at night to study Mathematics. And which Program Manager would have the luxury to return home before 11:30. Program Manager who is forcefully single.

Sunday Morning. No office. One day when I live for myself and my family. Pains of yesterday were gone. I was feeling great. I wanted to thank Neha. And I wanted to cook something for my neighbours, my only extended family in Mumbai. Saloni loved sweets. The easiest thing to cook was Custard Kheer. I was no cooking expert. But with Google around and with Mom on the phone, no one needs to be. In minutes, I was looking up the internet for recipes. Its good that the STD call tariffs have come down drastically and Internet speeds on a Wireless Datacard have shot up in India.

3 table spoons of Custard powder, ½ cup condensed milk cream, 2 table spoons of sugar…Mix up the contents…Boil Milk and pour… And lo..The custard is ready. I put in the refrigerator and am done. In 30 minutes, amazing custard is ready!

As I rang the bell and waited for Saloni to open the door, I was trying to think if I put sugar in the custard. Saloni saw me and was very happy seeing me. Bhaiyaa, Aap mere liye kuch leke aaye hain? And when she saw the custard, she was overjoyed! I loved her smile.  This is the family which saved my life yesterday and gives me a feel of home away from home. Neha came out of her room, greeted me and asked me if I have sometime today to teach Saloni. I had all the time in the day. Lol. Salonis smile faded. She brought her Maths text book and said – Uncle!! Aaj thoda sa hi padhna hai.. Aaj na meri tabiyat na .. itna jyada thik nahin hai! I was smiling. Mathematics can make me Uncle and Chocolates/Custard can make me Bhaiyaa.

17 more days in Mumbai. 17 days remaining to accept Kotler as God.

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Neha – The Messenger of God

Posted by Subhendu on November 23, 2009

Weekend! Sun had nearly traveled halfway on his daily route when Nick welcomed the morning, a little dizzy, a little sleepy.

Yesterday had been a leisure day. I had ended the day with loads of Pani Poori, a large Mysore Masala Dosa and few idlis. I never bothered to cook on a weekend, and yesterday had eaten my heart out on South Indian dishes. Today seemed somewhat different. I was not hungry. I just was a bit dizzy, thats all. I assured myself this is routine and my body just wanted to idle out a little more on the bed. I could see the sunlight beams coming in through the skylight on the wall forming beautiful patterns on the pink wall of the room. Amazing.. I thought. Mind is supporting the body too. I pushed both of them aside. Woke up.

Boy! I was indeed filling dizzy. I just could feel my head reeling. Strange chemistry between mind and body, I thought. Focussed on the ground below and started walking. Thud. I could not believe myself that I actually stepped down from the bed and fell down like a stack of cards blown by the wind. No control. I felt a weird feeling in my stomach. It might be the junk food of last night and some bowel problems, I assured myself. Not a surprising thing for people of my profession where you spend nearly 90% of your work time sitting down – the era of pot bellies and cholesterol. Even after the routine days work, I could sense that my stomach pain is actually growing intense with every passing moment. I ignored it saying its psychological to be thinking too much of the junk food of last night.

At 1 PM, I was lying on the ground, writhing in pain, cuddled up with my knees near my face, hands covering my stomach and I could barely see. I was crying aloud in pain. My headache had reached its peak and I felt my skull would tear apart and explode. My stomach felt as if there is some poisonous snake inside, biting me every second and I felt that I was seeing my last day. I could just not bear. This is Mumbai. I stayed alone in an apartment and there was no one nearby. I tried standing up again to go to the door to get help, not sure if someone would actually help me and if they did, how. As I stood holding the wall, I felt that my legs dont have the force, my hands are slipping from the wall and I just could not stand up. I gave up the idea. I did not move, could not move and wished something to happen before I was dead.

My cellphone rang..

The other side of the phone was a person who understood. God sent, I thought. I crawled to the phone, picked it up and cried aloud. He asked me to just open the door and I dont know if I did or I did not. I just could not remember more. I thought I am dreaming, or was it a nightmare. Things flashed in front of me. No idea what visuals they were but it was something, it was not just dark. I could not even feel the pain anymore but somehow could not open my eyes. I just felt that I can not move a limb. It was such a terrifying feeling, knowing that your eyes are closed and still you can see. Knowing that your limbs are frozen, still you can actually stand up with ease.

Suddenly, I saw people. They were dragging me. I recognised a few of them. One was Saloni, another was her mother, Neha. I saw a friend of mine too, dont remember her name. They were terrified. There were others who were taking off my clothes and covering me with a white bedsheet. Gosh! Am I dead? I just could not open my eyes. I was tired. I wanted to sleep and then I lost it. I could not see anymore.

After decades of sleep as I felt, I woke up with a jolt. It was all white around me. White walls, white screens, white backgrounds, white beds and the same white bedsheet. Then I saw colors too. I saw Saloni, dressed in her usual weekend denim, with a surprised yet sullen face. I saw Neha and others and they all appeared relaxed. It did not take me long to understand that I am back into life, back into action. I was alive again, or was I not dead at all. Did I just faint? Whatever be it. Cholesterol is a bad thing and still worse is High Blood Pressure. When you have High Cholesterol and Blood pressure of 170 and you still eat junk food, it is worst.

As I was carried home to my apartment, I was so much thankful to Neha that she pitched in at the right time to save me this time. I never asked her how she opened the door, I never asked her if it was she who called. I never asked her how she came in to my rescue. For her, I was never dead. For me, I was in the Second Life.

Nick Second Life.

I did not have the strength to actually get up and scratch off one more day in the Mumbai chapter of my life. I counted myself – 18 more days to go.


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Rains are mischievous

Posted by Subhendu on November 19, 2009

It was a rainy day and it was pouring as hell. I had seen 6 summers by then and loved the smell of the first rain drops on the soil. The aroma of rain drops on the parched land intoxicated me. I inhaled a deep breath wishing to breathe in all the scent in one go. I just loved the scent. It was all over, near the window pane, near the open door and everywhere.

The door is open. This is all I wished. I was so short that I could not reach the door latch. It was plain luck that I could now do what I wanted to. And all I wanted was to dance in the rain, get wet, dirty and keep on dancing in the mud. And I did.  I did not notice the bullock cart which came trotting from behind. When I saw it, since I was not mischievous, no idea struck me. So, I just climbed on to the bullock cart silently by a rope hanging at the back. The driver obviously did not notice, unluckily! The cart kept on trotting and I was enjoying the rain and the free ride. Boy, did I know the concept of free and paid that time!

When I suddenly could not recognize the streets anymore, I could not see any way how to go back home. God told me to cry. I obliged. The cart wallah had the shock of his life seeing me hanging to the rope at the tail of the cart. He asked me a lot of things which I never answered, I was good at doing one thing then, crying and I did not want to get diverted. That guy had some tough time it seems, he returned in the rain and kept asking the shopkeepers on the way if they recognize me. LOL, no one knew. So he kept returning back on the way he had went. When he reached near my place, I suddenly stopped crying and jumped out of the cart. Landed at home safely. I could hear the guy shouting at my back, but then I was good at doing one thing at one time. I was running inside and I did not want to get diverted.

Its 10 AM already and the rain just does not subside. Strangely, I don’t love rains anymore. I love the scent of the rain nevertheless. Somethings just don’t change. I checked the rice grains on the window pane, still there. May be the birds had their stomachs full or I had been overgenerous yesterday. I looked down from my 11th floor. Dots of blue, yellow, green each accompanied by a black dot started from somewhere in the ground floor of my apartment and ended at the school bus on the road. After the bus moved, the black dots returned to the base of my apartment. Children look really beautiful when dressed in these colorful raincoats. More beautiful than the rain. Mothers, as always, are a caring lot. Even if the black umbrellas would be swaying in the windy rain, still they would stay with their child till it climbs up the bus and waves its hand from the window.

The rains continued till afternoon. All day I was thinking about the countdown to my new life which is 20 more days to go. Saloni came in from school when I was just closing the lift door in the ground floor. She was a mirror image of mine. Dirty as mud personified, wet as rain, barely able to carry her overloaded bag on one shoulder, she was enjoying her ice-cream! She is 12. I was better. Much better than her. I never ate ice-cream in rains. On the way up, she just blabbered, kept on with it and licked her ice-cream in between. Her mother, my neighbor, saw her state when the lift opened up on the 11th floor. She opened her mouth and Saloni hid behind me, tight-lipped. Amazing chemistry! But one thing I admired, Salonis calculation – she was done with the ice-cream when the lift opened.

Tomorrow is weekend.

As the evening entered through the window in form of darkness, I striked off one day more in the calendar. 19 More days to go for the Bhubaneswar Pani Poori.

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