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Last words!

“That’s it – my fathers last words for me were – I love you!” –

Marshal Eriksen (HIMYM, Season 6, Episode 14)

I wasn’t in for any serious content today, especially when all my flat-mates and friends are not in the town, half the city being closed because of the COVID outbreak, and me hiding in a sad, lonely house – and that’s why I tuned in to “How I Met Your Mother”.

But life had some other plans for me – I stumbled upon one of the most serious episodes of the series – when Marshall’s (one of the lead of the show) father dies and the entire gang travels to Minnesota for the funeral, and talks about the last words their loved ones had said to them.

And I realized two hard truths about myself – I can’t take death scenes anymore.

And I didn’t have the most memorable last conversation with my brother.

“Do you want to come over to my place for the night? I have to catch a plane tomorrow morning though, so you might have to leave very early.” – My elder brother, asking me out of genuine concern.

“No, it’s fine. I anyway have a lot of work to do, so I’ll not take a stop.” – Typical jerk me, acting all busy and avoiding an extra stop in Mumbai, as I was only concerned about some additional sleep I can get by doing so.

The moron me didn’t realize it back then – but it was the last conversation I’d have with my brother.

A week later I received a call from my parents. They asked me to catch the first flight to Mumbai – My brother had passed away. All of sudden. And he was just 29.

Me and my brother – we were quite an inseparable unit when we were kids. We’d constantly play cricket in the home, hang around the city together, drink those boring glasses of milk while making weird faces and watching Shinchan or Tom and Jerry together.

Being an elder brother, he’d always take my responsibility, and would carry me around like his wing-man. He’d always keep up with what would be happening in my life – be it my screwed up placements, or IIM admission interviews or girl troubles – his advise would either be a super hit, or super blunder. But the thing is, he’d always have my back.

And things had taken a turn lately – we’ve not been that close in the past few years – we had our stupid arguments, mostly around me not listening to my parents and running a muck . Though my brother would try to mend the gap by having frequent calls with me, I’d usually have one-word-I-am-too-busy answers for him – I kind off hated the fact that everyone loved him, and such an ideal person he was – a huge contrast to the rebel, impulsive personality I sported. In fact, I had hardly met him twice in the past 2 years.

There were so many things we didn’t talk about in those 2 years:

I never asked him about the girls he has dated or been dating, and neither told him about anyone I’ve dated – maybe I just felt too awkward about it.

We never had a conversation about my dream to become a writer – and I really didn’t know what his true dream was – I just didn’t care much.

I didn’t tell him about my crazy trips around the world – I didn’t need another advice about not hanging out with strangers or hitch-hiking, again!

Neither did I ask him about his recent struggle with his job – I thought he’d be able to figure it out by himself. He has always been.

And I didn’t tell him for such a long time – that I loved him – I always thought, I’d say that to him when we sit together for a quiet dinner, probably after his upcoming marriage, which he was finally happy about.

I always thought that I had time.

But I didn’t! And neither do you.

The thing is, life is one unpredictable, cruel monster – it can take everything away from you in a blink – and all you are left with are unspoken words, and a lot of regrets.

So you think you are too busy for that call with your parents, and you keep stalling it? Are you sure, when you’ll want to make that call, your parents will be around?

So you think that expressing your love to this boy/girl is futile, cause you don’t see the future with him/her? Are you sure, that you have a future for yourself? Or, will that person be around the next time, when you get your surety?

And you are having this little argument with your friend and you’d prefer not calling him on his birthday this time . Remember this, if something happens in life, your last conversation will be an argument.

A stupid argument!

There were so many things that I had to say to my brother, but I couldn’t.

I hope you don’t make the same mistake with your loved ones – and actually tell them, how much you really love them – without occasions, without clarity about your futures together, without thinking about the consequences. Who knows, those might be your last words to your loved ones!

PS. I just poured myself a glass of insipid milk and started watching Shinchan on TV – and imagined my brother to be with me, drinking that milk while making weird yet familiar faces.

Cause last words are so overrated – it’s the lifelong of memories that count ๐Ÿ™‚

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Magic!

“I don’t think I can continue writing as good as I do, after I leave this city.”

“Why?”

“Because this place is magical; no other place can make me write so good.”

(Stern look) —

“I don’t think I can date him anymore.”

“Why?”

“He’s really a good guy, but he’s not so compatible with me – you know, like a soulmate. I don’t see the magic.”

(Stern look number two.)—

“I don’t think I can live in this room.”

“Why?”

“Because, you know, it’s not magical.”

(Stern look number 3)—

Magic – such a ‘magical’ word it is, isn’t it?

Or, just a cute, little lie? An excuse to not do the real work? A reason to stay away from things we that require some efforts? (Calling me a Muggle, already?)

I recently watched a Friends episode (more like, re-watched for the nth time), where Monica says something really nice to Chandler – “I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates. I don’t think you and me are destined to end up together – we just fell in love, and then we worked hard on our relationship. Some days, we worked really hard (and that’s why we are where we are!)”

I agree that Ross and Rachel were nice too – but I always liked Mr. and Mrs. ‘Bing’ (you just heard that in Chandler’s voice, didn’t you?) – two completely different people, got into a relationship out of desperation (or was it magic?), and then stuck together forever – caring and loving each other, getting angry at each other, cursing and cuddling at the same time – making every moment count! Isn’t this what it should always be? Is this what they call ‘the magic’?

Sure, a city can be more beautiful than the others – but writing is something in you darling – you have to work on it, daily, to make it as beautiful as the city you love!

Sure, he’s not your soulmate and all, but why don’t you give it a try and put a little effort in that a-little-boring-a-little-dormant relationship? Who knows, he might turn out to be a Chandler to your Monica?

Yes – this place sucks – it is not as awesome or magical as your last one was. So does your new job. And new colleagues. And new gym. And everything else.

But can you not give it a try?

A little renovation can make your new place cool?

A little extra involvement can make your work a little interesting?

A Chai-sutta-gossip can make your colleagues more fun? Or maybe, just a warm, inviting smile everyday?

Magic – is not a cute, little lie – it’s about the small, small gestures and a little more hard work you put in your work, your relationships, your hobbies – your life!

Magic is not in you – you are the magic!!!

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Love in the time of an MBA – pearls by a sea!

“That was a great presentation, Anay!”

They were impressed by his work, but he didn’t care at all. He quickly completed all the formalities and escaped that place as soon as he could, rushed downstairs and started his bike. It was 2 PM in the afternoon, and he needed to reach Alibag as soon as he could. He had a meeting to keep.

It takes around four and half hours to reach Alibag from Mumbai, and the road isn’t that great at all. But he always preferred using his bike. He knew someone else loved it as much as he did. Rather, even more, as he recalled.

“Why are you not taking your bike to IIM Bangalore? You look so good on it.” A giggle followed.

“Stop teasing. I know I have made a mistake by buying such a heavy one and find it tough to ride. But one day, you’ll see.”

“Yeah yeah, we’ll see ha, my little man.”

He reached Alibag beach when it was just the right time. The sky was dark enough to let him walk unnoticed by the passers-by, but the moon ensured that he could see someone from close proximity. The breeze was not a wild one, but cold enough to calm the wilderness inside his heart. The nostalgia was at its peak, and the night was ripe for it.

The moment he parked his bike and got down, he knew that he had made a mistake by coming here. He knew that he had made a huge mistake, and this night would probably haunt him for a very long time (as the previous one had). Still, he needed it. It was his drug. His raison d’etre.

Pushing all these thoughts on the back-seat, he moved towards the serene beach that he had not seen since such a long time. His suit was not made for such endeavours on a beach, and nor did his new shoes. Struggling to walk on the wet sand, as he saw his feet making strong impressions on the face of the sand, one could easily see two pairs of feet walking on the sand that came from a distant past and made impressions on his face.

“My feet are so small. Your feet just look like the ones of elephant’s” A sweet, feminine voice said.

“Oh yeah? Then see my feet crushing yours” He would retaliate while stepping onto her footprints, trying to make a statement. She would try to run away, making more sand impressions and he would jump on those impressions. This insane game would last only till she’d exclaim, “See, finally, I’m making you follow me.” and he’d say, “That’s what I want to do all my life, your highness”.

They both would stand there, looking into the eyes of each other, till tides would wash their feet.

Yes, tides. He realised that these tides were now growing bigger and bigger, as he was standing right in their way. He was standing in a knee-deep water, and he had not even realised that. Sweet memories, he thought, make you forget everything.

He stepped out of the water and started walking on the pavement, which was adjacent to the beach. A pavement made up of concrete blocks and stones, had memories of several conversations stoned on them; and so on his mind as well.

“You are leaving for IIM B tomorrow. What will I do without you for 2 straight years?” A small, shaking voice had asked. She had been trying too hard to stop her tears, but he, like always, hadn’t understood it.

“I will be coming here every 3 months, in all the term breaks. And I am more worried about how I will do there. I neither am from any IIT nor have any good work experience. Plus, I have somehow managed to get in there, probably the last seat. I will be like a rat in the party of lions and dragons.” He was genuinely worried. He had worked so hard to get in there but was now having self-doubts about himself. He always had a world-size chip on his shoulder, and that weight had always scared him while taking his big decisions.

“Don’t worry Anay, you are going to do great. It’s a big achievement that you have made so big, despite not being from any top-tier institute. And let me tell you, its not about the size of a rat but the fight of the rat that matters.” She had managed to reassure him about his strengths like she always did.

Yes, she always had. She had stood with him during all of his bad phases. When nobody believed in him, she was there, holding his hand, giving him all the strength he needed. He knew he couldn’t have made through such a terrible competition at IIM B without her support. Especially, during the first two terms, known as the ‘Devil’s Terms’.

“Do you know Anay, I am at the beach right now. Missing you so much.” He could feel the love in her voice over the phone. He had just received the results of his first term.

“Guess what, I almost failed in my first term. A CGPA less than 2.5 and ‘C’ grades in almost all the subjects. This shouldn’t have happened to me. I have always been a topper throughout my life. This can’t happen to me.” He was collapsing. He was unable to digest his first failure. He was not used to failing.

“It’s Ok, Anay. Failure is the first step to success. If you don’t fail now, then it’ll be even more tough for you when you fail later. The taste of a failure is bitter, but a monotonous sweet life is no fun at all. This b-school is providing you a safety net, so use it to its fullest.” She had cut his fall like she would always do.“Listen na Anay, I want to tell you something.”

“Not now, I have an assignment to complete. We’ll talk later.” He had abruptly cut the call. She was used to this, yet a sob was unheard.

His feet stopped, realising that he had reached their usual spot. He liked that spot too much, only cause she liked it. And she had all her reasons to like it.

“See, this spot is neither too far from the beach, so it’s not too dark and nor is it too close, so we can avoid the crowd as well. The place is just near the pavement and is full of flat rocks, where we can sit without any trouble. You can see the Fort clearly from here, and so the sea. During high-tide, the water will touch your feet, but it won’t make you wet. Plus, the angle is so right, that you can easily see the moonlight illuminating the water, and the splashes just feel like pearls, don’t they?”

“Uh… Ha. Right.” His confused, perplexed voice had said.

“What has happened, Anay?”

“Summer placements. I am not getting any shortlists, and I am losing my mind over it. I needed some peace, that’s why I have come here. It’s totally out of my hands.”

“How?”

“The placements completely depend on your past records and your ability to network. Being an average introvert, it’s becoming very tough for me to get a shortlist. And if I don’t get placed on day 0, I’ll have to face the GD day, and I am not good at debating at all. How will I survive?”

“It’s OK, you’ll get a shortlist. And who told you that you can’t debate? You were so good in your school days. All you have to do is gain some confidence.”

“Yes, that I need. Otherwise, I’ll be grilled as hell.”

“No, you won’t be. Listen, I have to tell you something before you go. I….”

“Not now, please. I am really not in a mood now.”

“Uh…Ok.” He started walking towards his bike. Little he knew about the tears in her eyes, and her efforts to wipe them out.

She was right, he thought. Those splashes really look like a string of pearls. But she was also right when she had said, that you wouldn’t be able to hold them in your hand, ever. He remembers, how he had refused to accept the truth.

“Listen, you need to stop comparing your success with others. You have become very greedy.” She had never sounded so firm before.

“What are you trying to say?” He knew what she meant, but his ego was not ready to accept it.

“See, you needed good grades, which you got in all the terms. You needed a good company in summers, which also you got, and you converted the PPO too. Now, you want to start your own company, just because some random friend of your’s has started one and has raised funding. I don’t have any issue with you starting a company, rather, I’d love if you do so; but don’t start it just for the sake of gaining popularity.” She was begging, and he knew it.

“How dare you question my dreams? And what’s wrong with becoming popular? Success is all about popularity, and I have a world to conquer. I have to prove my worth.”

“No, Anay. Don’t define your success in terms of the world. It’s not right.”

“Why are you saying like this? Now I see, you don’t want me to be popular, cause you don’t want me to leave you. That’s all you want, don’t you?”

“Why is it always about you, Anay? First, it was about IIM, then grades. Later, it was about your placements and salary and everything. Why don’t you see, you are running behind materialistic things, and you are not caring about me or even your family. When did you ask me last time about how I was, or even, how my job was going on? Do you even know where I work?”

“That’s enough. I don’t want to talk to you at all. Ever. That’s it.” He rammed his phone. He was angry, but he knew, she would be there for him, no matter what. But all he needed to do now, was to focus on his new start-up. Things will get right in a few days, and he’ll call her then.

And things had gone well. Though he had struggled in the initial phase but managed to raise funding for his new venture eventually. Conditions were favourable for his idea, and he capitalized on it and built a successful startup, which was worth millions of dollars. He became popular in the process too, but realized, how hollow the popularity was. But it took him 8 years to understand what she has been always saying to him.

He checked his watch: it was at the time. He stood up, walked a few steps behind his ‘spot’, just to hide behind a coconut tree. He was expecting her here, and he knew exactly what he needed to do.

And she came. He could see her clearly from behind the tree, only he didn’t want to. Cause she was not alone. She was holding a hand of her 4-year old son, whose second hand was being held by Rohan, her husband. She had tried her best to tell Anay that her parents were forcing her to get married, but his obsession with his dreams and his ego had always stopped her from doing that. And Rohan had always been a friend who stood behind her in every situation, so she had agreed to his proposal.

Anay learned about this marriage only after it was too late. He had always hoped her to be with him, whenever he needed her; but he had always forgotten that she had a life too; filled with ambitions and dreams; filled with a desire to be loved.

He stood behind the tree, quietly, watching them sit on the ‘spot’. He knew of their habit of coming here every weekend, and he’d also arrive here often, just so that he could get a glimpse of her. He had never approached her again but had never forgotten her too. He would always watch her holding Rohan’s hand and playing with their son.

“Anay beta, don’t play in the water. You’ll catch a cold.” He heard her call her son. Tears rolled out of his eyes, blurring her image and dispersing onto his hard-earned suit. A suit, that had cost him his love.

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How I fought 3 dragons and still survived (or the story of my IIM Bangalore Interview)

Background: I failed to score well in CAT 2015. I had converted a new and baby IIMs, but decided to not join them. Also, I had not taken any placement from my collegeโ€™s placement process, as I wanted to start something of my own. I had tried to convert my final year engineering project into a product but failed in that too. So, after graduation, I formed a team of a few like-minded people and started developing Android apps and websites. So, basically, I was neither a fresher nor an experienced person :p

WAT: How can we improve the quality of primary education in India? (I think I nailed it. I had already written a similar answer on Quora, so I knew a few stats and I used them profusely. And, fortunately, the writer in me came up with a few good metaphors and analogies. A pat on his back. He deserves it.)

Interview:

3 profs. Let’s call them P1, P2 and P3.

Duration: around 40 minutes (yes, it was a very long interview. So I will share only the relevant part).I was the last candidate from my batch, and I walked in the room at around 6 PM. P1: So Abhishek, you are the last one. How does it feel? Me: It feels great, Sir. I know I have been waiting for quite some time, but it was worth it. P1: Worth it? Why? Me: I talked with almost all the candidates and made some good friends. They shared some great stories and experiences with me. I think…(I was cut in between here) P1: So, what did they tell you about us? Me: The rumour in the town is that you are grilling a bit too much (I shouldn’t have said this.) P1: Really? I don’t think so. (To P2) hum grill kar rahe he kya kisiko? P2: (With a smirk on his face) So, Abhishek, I went through your SOP and let me tell you, it’s quite a different. I liked it. Me: Thank you, Sir. (Yippeeee). P2: But, it says that you are a risk-taking person and think out of the box. We will test both of these skills today. So, tell me, how are you a risk-taking person? Me: Told him everything about my startup attempts, my opting out of the placement process and also about several decisions I had taken in the process. P2: I don’t see any risk here. Me: Sir, I come from a middle-class family. After scoring good in my college, my parents had expected me to join a good company and earn some good bucks. But I rejected the offer of a couple of companies (I named both of them, but I think should avoid naming them here. Hint: both are top MNC’s and fortune 500 companies. You used their products every day), and tried to start my own company. Though I failed to do so, but I still tried my best. P3: So, what was your company all about? Me: told them about all the apps we had developed. Showed him the website we had developed on his laptop. We had a lot of discussion about the website and its design. He said that he strongly disliked the design and suggested a few changes too. (BDW, he was a bit harsh and told me that my website, and the apps too, are trash. Maybe it was a stress interview). P3: So, you haven’t yet registered your company? Me: No, Sir. We didn’t have enough money and the manpower too. Also, we wanted to get our business model right first (which we couldn’t, even when we decided to shut the shop). P3: So, what if I just copy your idea and start my website, by some other name? What will you do? Me: First of all, this is just the tip of the iceberg, we haven’t implemented the whole idea yet. And I think I’ll come up with some idea to make my website better and then challenge you in the open battle. It’ll actually keep the focus on both of us, thus by eliminating the other competitors (I tried to explain this point by giving several examples, but he didn’t appear convinced). P2: Anyways, let’s check your second skill. You are an Electronics engineer and have done an honours course in Embedded Systems. Tell me, ye honours kya he bhai? Me: It’s just like a specialisation, Sir. P2: Ok. Let’s say you have to transport fish from city A to city B in a closed truck. Tell me, how will you design an embedded system to manage the temperature of the truck. Me: (the smirk was on my face now) had a discussion on this for about 15 minutes. At the end, I not only developed an embedded system to manage the temperature of the truck but also an Android Application to get live updates from that system and to make any changes in the system as well. I made a detailed block diagram of the system and the application too. The rest of the part was really challenging. They kept taunting me and trying to put me under a lot of stress as well. I lost my calm at a couple of places but managed to regain it quickly. P1: I don’t see any point in taking you in. You are neither from any IIT nor NIT. Why should we waste a seat for you? Me: Sir, I am neither from IIT nor NIT, still I am sitting here, and answering all the questions as well. And I don’t think these tag’s matter that much. The question is, at the end of the day, would you hire a normal person from a great college, or a person, who is from a tier-2 college, but still has a tremendous amount of potential. I am not saying that I am the second person, but the ball is in your court. P3: Why did you try to start your own company? That too failed, right? Perhaps you just wanted to add another point on your CV. Me: Sir, everyone has his own definition of failure, and in my definition, I haven’t failed. Though we couldn’t generate much revenue, the satisfaction to create something from scratch and to run it for 6 months can’t be described in words. P3: That’s all, Abhishek. Take my advice, work in a startup after your MBA. It will benefit you a lot. Me: Thank you, Sir. I’ll definitely consider your advice. At that moment, I felt that it was a terrible interview and I was really frustrated. I couldn’t answer a few questions and some of their taunts kept repeating in my head. Now, looking back to it, I feel that it wasn’t that bad, was it? Verdict: Converted IIM Bangalore – And I still don’t know how! ๐Ÿ™‚

The portal of truth – knowing your ‘it’!

“So what are you exactly looking for?” A pair of half-slept eyes and sheepish smile had a box of questions today. While the playful conversation of her hands with his hair was keeping the moment casual, but in light of the candle on the table, the topic had the depth of the shadow for sure.

“A set of imperfections that blend sublimely with my batch of blemishes, so well that you now see a masterpiece carved out of broken pieces!”

Words spurted out of his mouth like a well-trained parrot ringing through his ritualistic line; but his eyes were lost in some portal on the wall, that transcended him to a world unknown to any kind. Parrot-like delivery it was, but the spontaneity was as sharp as her reaction.

“Well, well ,well – that was brilliant. But what do you exactly mean by that?” Her innocence knocked wryly on the door of that portal, but that was enough to bring him back to the realms of reality.

“Uh, sorry. What I meant is – you know it, when you get it. Simple.” His transition from the land of poets to that of peasants was an anticlimactic one. If only he could manage to keep his senses alive and still weave the strings of words, he’d be a ‘package deal’ – or so was told to him.

“C’mon. This is so vague. How do you know you’ve got it?” Yes, she didn’t expect such a fuzziness from a guy who ‘did math’ for his living. Isn’t specificity a rule of thumb there?

“Well, that’s the beauty – the ‘it’ changes every time, as you grow and go through your relationships.” And he was travelling back through that portal again, but now she wanted to be a companion too.

“It’s simply an iterative process, a set of mistakes and memories you make before the final act unfolds itself.”

The prolific prologue powered the portal into the two sets of eyes now, each staring at the other instead.

The portal, was the reality now!

How to give a better Advise?

Yesterday, I asked my friend for some advice. And though he said some wise words, all I could feel was -“Damn. That’s the vaguest thing I’ve ever heard”

I gulped down a cup of coffee to get into the zone and decided to make a framework for giving better advice. So here I present my ADVISE framework:

A-Acknowledge: You need to first acknowledge all the feelings/ thoughts a person is throwing at you. And of course, ensure the other party that you have!

D-Diagnose: Now you need to diagnose what is the real reason for the problem/ dissatisfaction. Check around, check sources, put some shots in the dark – or just think a bit.

V-Visualize: Very important. Put her shoes on, and visualize the entire thing from her standpoint. Otherwise, it will be just your judgment taking the call.

I-Infer: And now you infer the real problem, situation and contextualize it. And of course, concur it with her.

S-Solution: This is the step where you give your viewpoint. And it will better, researched, much pinpointed and appreciated too – as the person has seen you take some effort as well.

E-Evaluate: TBH, follow-up is a better word, but you know ‘advise’. So, evaluate the outcome/ result of your advise by following up with her in a few days. Don’t just hope for a miracle.

Now, this sounds like a good tool for personal context, but if you think in broader terms, isn’t it a good way of solving problems in professional life too.

P.S. – I called my friend at 3 AM in the night to tell this framework. His advice – ‘Mr. Consultant, stop creating frameworks, or you’ll die alone’.

Pretty good advice, huh?

What if I asked her out? Mistake vs Regret

So, there is this cute girl in my Cure.Fit dance class. I see her every day and think that maybe I should ask her out. I think about a conversation starter, almost approach her – but then I think that my conversation starter is not the right one, and just walk away.

In my mind, I am waiting for the perfect line to use – and when I’ll find it, I’ll approach her.

And this is true with all of us. We are all waiting for that perfect idea to start a company; that perfect story to write a novel; that perfect gym/ routine to start workout; that perfect time to start meditation; and god knows how many other perfect things!

The truth is – we all are afraid of losing that tiny ray of sunshine that clings us to that dream – what if I start a company and fail? What if I write a novel and it turns out to be a mediocre one? Or even worse – what if I just can’t finish it? Not even 10 pages?

They say – you are winning till you’ve not lost. And that’s what comfort use – the false feeling of winning.

But they could never be more wrong – just an intent is not a sign of progress. Forget about winning – you are not even in the game. You are sitting on the sidelines.

You need to try that startup, idea, novel, whatever today, to know what you’ve got – if doesn’t work, well, you are free to move on to your next dream.

Trust me, it is easier to live with mistakes than regrets – at least you have a collage of fun experiences and stories to tell ๐Ÿ™‚

PS – I asked her out. She’s already engaged. I am gonna die single :p

#motivation #lifeadvise #success #failures #giveityourall #tryit #justdoit

A box full of memories!

Returning hometown, especially to an Indian home, has its own advantages – you get stuffed to the neck with delicious, homecooked food; bed feels warmer with your old blanket, and sleep is peaceful after the ‘champi’ (head-massage) by your mom; the nature smells divine as the pollution is nowhere to find; and friends that are always ready to play cricket with you.

The wi-fi is slow, and memories are fast – crawling, jumping, running on the roads that are devoid of traffic, entering your heart that is devoid of city-lights and day-to-day-fights for survival as well.

And then, once you have soaked all the joy in, and your family is busy in taking an afternoon nap (that is a sacrifice you’ve to make today) – you walk towards your old almirah, just to find yourself in front of that ‘box’.

The box of memories – reminiscent of what used to be your life.

Make no mistake – this is not any ordinary box – this is a living, breathing animal in itself. It is a flask with the elixir or life – each droplet containing an emotion – endless joys and hardest goodbyes; smiles so wide they squeeze pears out of your eyes; a string of lives you lived and touched.

Ohh, the variance is so high – such an irregular, diverse set of pebbles.

A photo of your first set of friends in college laughs awkwardly with their goodbye notes.

An I-card from your PG is looking curiously and sternly at a photo of a 10 year-old kid playing cricket – refusing to believe that it is looking at its own reflection in the mirror.

A letter you wrote to your loved one but never posted – well, it is still not your biggest regret, tells a bluish bookmark wryly, as it has divorced its connections with books and rather marks a time, a phase, a memory in your life instead!

Yeah, such a random collection – just like a piece of stone you picked up on every road your travelled on random – but guided by an ‘invisible hand’ of destiny – as this irregular set is the best collage you’ve ever seen.

It’s 4PM – the tune of the town is returning to its chorus – it is about the time. Your deep sigh is an ode to the inexplicable set of emotions on your face, your hands guiding those memories a way home with abundant admiration.

You pack your life and return to the normalcy with a sense of contentment and a smile that is forced and genuine at the same instance.

With a fuel of purpose, you start walking on your road to collect some more stones and pebble on the way – the ones that will become jewels of this collection someday.

The collection, the box called ‘story of my life!’

KPIs that matter

Key Performance Indicators, or simply KPIs, well they form the bread and butter of a post-MBA job.
Utilization, CPC, CTR – or some cool-sounding professional name to a number – we all are tracking them for sure.
What about the KPIs in life for measuring success? How do we know that we have ‘arrived’ finally?
Salary is one – 6,7 figures – that’s some increment for you!
And there is this typical criterion – how many cars, phones you own and add a social layer to it. A car is not enough, tell me if it’s aย Jaguar Land Rover. A phone is not sexy, show me thatย Apple.
And you need to add glitter as well, right? Then the proxies become – number of credit cards (of course, throw me a black card), Gold/ Platinum status onย Marriott Bonvoy, and whatnot.
We all are talking about these things and using them as proxies to measure our success, even without realizing it – am I already on the last layer of Maslow’s hierarchy now?
But, what if these are not the real KPIs to track (except, that they are actually not).


Did you contribute to the education of a child or two? How many people did you help yesterday? How many lives have you changed?


Well, if only we tracked these KPIs – but hey, who cares, as long as I have that wallet full of proxy-success-cards, right?

Cross the road – and your fears!

I looked at my right- crawling cars and peeping peddlers on a backdrop of a crowded-chawl – all the right things inย Pune. But the city served as an acute reminder, “You are not in an IIT”
I turned my gaze to the left – an empty square- no hopes & dreams – nothing was left in the eyes I had stared in the mirror earlier.
I looked straight and stood still. As I closed my eyes, all the memories of that terrible road accident came crashing down on the doors of conscience.
There I was – an FY student, standing at the edge of a road, too afraid to take a step.
“Can you hold my hand?” A strange request made me open my eyes, only to find a 7-year-old child extending his hand towards me.
“My school is on the other side”
That child has grabbed my hand before I even realized, and we were walking down the road, cautiously first, confidently later, and reached the other side in a jiffy.


“Thanks, Bhaiyya (brother). My mom told me – take the help of good people to cross the road now. And when the time is right, you’ll cross it by yourself”

That boy left me with great advice to counter my fears!

Achievements and speed bumps!

“I am worthless, that’s why they fired me” Words hardly making their way through the moist eyes and trembling fingers.
“No, that is not the case. You know it is because of the COVID” A comforting voice.
“I don’t know. I was never so unsure about my career. I am not ready to handle this crisis. I am so scared” A morale that is on the verge of breaking.
A momentary silence, before he confessed “You know what, we all are scared”, and the monologue continued.
“Yes, maybe you were not ready, but the entire world was not ready to fight a global pandemic. That doesn’t mean you haven’t done anything in life.
What about that UG/PG degree which you worked hard for?
And internship/ job that you excelled at?
Those countless courses/ certificates you gathered?
Sports you championed?
And the life you lived?

๐˜๐จ๐ฎ ๐œ๐š๐งโ€™๐ญ ๐๐ข๐ฌ๐œ๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐ญ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐š๐œ๐ก๐ข๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ฆ๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ฌ ๐›๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ž ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐œ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ซ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ž๐ž๐ ๐›๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ฉ๐ฌ!

It is ok to be scared, but you survived a global pandemic, and that itself shows your tenacity.
Your dreams await you on the other side of the road.
And dear we are all in this together!”
Smiles!

Toughest job in the world?

Afternoon. 2.30 PM. Intense struggle to focus on work and combat against sleep after a heavy lunch, only to be broken by an annoying phone call – a sales call.
“Sir, I guess you should buy our product, xyz.” A tepid request.
“But I don’t need it”
“But sir…..” a founder pitching me her new product, which transpires me back to my startup days.


(cool flashback sound and swirl)
“Sorry, but I can’t buy your product.” A suit and tie, and a firm no.
“But we have such a great tech – we have an embedded system, and an android application.” Me trying harder.
“Not interested” Firmer no.
“But …” I eagerly pushing it.
“Not interested” Cold-as-the-north-pole no!
“But why?” Almost teary-eyed me.
“Because I don’t need it”
I drop my shoulders and walk away, realizing an important fact – Sales is probably the toughest job in the world. Be it your fancy degrees, or coding skills, nothing makes sales very easy. And you lose your heart and mind for hearing the 100th reject.
To rise for 101!
(Flash-forward swirl and sound)


“and that’s why you should buy our product” that 20 something finishing her pitch.


“Listen, kid, I hope you manage to sell your dream, without selling your dreams!”


A smile on my face (but a confused kid, I suppose)!

Fragility: imperfections that make us perfect!

The currentย COVIDย situation has put all of our plans on hold and we have suffered in various ways – Job loss, pay cuts, death of closed ones, and counting.
This uncertainty got me thinking about my fragility as a human being.

Yes, I am a human, and the truth is, to be human is to be fragile.
Yes, we break very easily. Be it because of relationship twists, or academic woes, or professional downturns. We break like a fragile piece of glass. Always.
But another truth is, we are meant to rise up quickly too. Be it by assembling the broken pieces together, or by melting and recycling them.
I am never a perfect vase on the table, I am always some structure of those imperfect pieces.
But a Unique structure, after every reconciliation.


Every imperfectly broken piece adds that perfect hue to this unique structure, called you!

And that is the beauty of our life!

Two broken hearts :) (:

Two broken hearts,
oh, theyโ€™ve been squeezed so hard,
by the hands of the destiny? yes, maybe,
and yet they parade the streets,
marching on the tune only they understand,
itโ€™s a way to the dreamland!

Two sets of eyes, both spectacled,
and yet spectacularly readable,
sometimes the pearls of sadness, not so frequent on the shore,
sometimes the awkward glances, and yet a playful galore,
reading the unsaid stories, propagated on the wind,
by the silence in between,
an absence has never been so abundant before!

A set of random notes on a table,
and the photos smiling on a wall,
a gallery to the past, and a reflection of the present,
with lights that spread a message,
creation by a gentle wave of a finger,
on a neck that looks proudly at the feelings on display!

Two tired birds, back in the nest,
one ready to fly, towards the uncertainty that awaits,
parting is a line in the black, darkness is a fact,
but not tonight, say the broken hearts,
as they listen to the beats of their counterparts,
the world dissolves in their arms,
and just a dream prevails!

Two stories, with two different endings,
yet so intertwined,
both incomplete without each other,
forbidden labels, but the feeling is love,
oh, poor broken hearts, you canโ€™t be together,
but the streets will weep, in your memories forever!

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