Masala Chai (or How I Ruined My Chances to Get Into IIM Lucknow)

It was not my fault.
Or maybe, it was completely my fault.

The day wasn’t much pleasant, but it wasn’t going bad as well. I had an easy WAT topic, and I believe I had created a good piece of essay. And I had almost had a good interview. But…..
Yes, I couldn’t control myself. I just couldn’t. I realised it a long after I walked out of the room.
Rather, I realised it when I didn’t get an admission in IIM L.
If only……………….
Yes, if only I had not said that (sigh!).
So, let me do a flashback, and let’s revisit that day again:

————————————————————————————————————————–

“May I come in, Sir?” I asked politely. I wasn’t much nervous. It was my 6th interview, and I was used to interviewers-asking-me-awkward-questions-and-making-fun-of-me. Rather, I wasn’t thinking about “what-if-i-don’t-make-this” kind of stuff. I just wished for an easy, relaxed interview, cause the previous one was a stress interview, and it had kind off frustrated me.
“Yes, Abhishek. Please come in and have a sit.” the male interviewer (let’s call him M), who looked in his early forties, said in his cold voice, while the female interviewer (let’s call her, well, as you thought so, F, and remember that it strictly denotes ‘Female’ and isn’t related to anything else) warmly glanced at me. I should have predicted that it’s going to be a song of ice and fire, literally.

F: “So Abhishek, I see a discontinuity after your education. You passed out in 2016 and don’t have any work experience. Why is that?”
I was completely ready for this question. I knew this would come. I knew it all along. I simply repeated my I-tried-to-start-my-company-but-failed-miserably story, with bringing as much enthusiasm in my voice as I can. Felt like, a person with lymphosarcoma of the intestine, trying to laugh even in the last moments (reminds me of some movie. Do you know which?).

M: “So, you basically wasted a year, right?” Man, again that cold voice. The empty glass on the table sported some drops of some cold-drink and his voice suggested, that it was way colder than it should have been.
Me (trying to bring some smile on my face): “No Sir, I tried to start something from the scratch and that was really a satisfying experience. I won’t call this a wastage, I’d rather call it an investment”.
He didn’t seem convinced. His follow-up questions suggested that.
I was tired of answering those questions again and again. My diminishing smile gave it up.

This continued for quite some time and only stopped when the female interviewer asked me a question.
F: “So, you have taught English, Tell us something about it.”
I felt relieved. I told them about my sisters English classes in my town and my short stint there. Then I guided them through my course on Unacademy as well.
M: “So, what was your target audience?”
Me: “In the classes? I have taught to students from 8th std to grown ups as well.”
M: “Do you read books?” Seemed like he wanted to change the subject. Great.
Me: “Yes.” Oh yeah, my territory.
M: “Chetan Bhagat Pada he?” (Have you read Chetan Bhagat’s books?)
Me: “Yes (unfortunately). I used to read his books when I was a teen (most of us have done that, haven’t we?”
M: “So, describe 5 Point Someone in only 5 adjectives. Let’s see how good a teacher you are”.
Me: “Sure Sir. I’d definitely start with Masala. And….” and that’s where he stopped me. And that’s where my death bell was rung.
M: “Masala? And you call yourself a teacher? Such a poor adjective. It’s not even an English word.”
Me: “Sir, you can find it in the Oxford dictionary as well (yes, you can). HDFC has also introduced a bond by the same name. And we often describe movies by the same adjective too.” I don’t know how I sounded, but it wasn’t polite. I could feel it.
M: “Really? I can’t think how dark the future of those 8th std student’s is going to be. I can only pray for them.”
I knew that I needed to break the ice. So, I tried a very poor joke.
Me: “Sir, if you consider that students, then I will probably use Erotic as an adjective too”.
F smiled. M looked at me, like I have said something really stupid (and I have).
M: Still, do you think Masala is an adjective? (Oh god, he is not ready to drop that bone). It is not. You should probably stop teaching English. At least your students won’t learn anything wrong”.
It hurted me a bit. I was proud of only one thing, and he has taken it away from me. M continued to question about my qualification for a while, but I just couldn’t say anything. (Btw, nothing wrong and unusual. That’s how a stress interview is. The panel tries to aggravate you, and it’s nothing personal. So, he was just doing his job, but I realised that much later).
F asked me some simple questions after that. I gave half-hearted answers to them. I didn’t know what to do at that time. I wasn’t thinking at all.
Someone knocked at the door and entered the room. I looked back. It was a waiter, with a tray full of refreshments for the panel.
F: “It’s OK Abhishek, you may leave now. Thank you.”
I got up, smiled at them and turned to go. Again, I wasn’t thinking. My body was on an auto-pilot (and that’s why that fiasco happened.)
I had put my hand on the doorknob and I was about to open it when I heard something.
M (to the waiter): “A coffee for ma’am and a Masala chai for me.”
I had heard it right. I stopped. My body reacted on its own. It removed my hand from the doorknob, turned itself and simply went back to the place where the Panel was sitting.
M (Puzzled): “Yes? Have you forgotten something?”
Me: “Yes Sir. I just want to say something. You said, Masala Chai, using Masala as an adjective, yes, as an adjective, to describe the noun Tea or Chai. Thank you”.
My eyes said everything else. I knew what they were saying, yet I couldn’t control them. He understood what they were saying, but he didn’t stop me.
I didn’t say anything else. I calmly turned back and left, as 3 people watched in horror: The waiter, F and My conscience. My body was betraying me. It was acting on its own.
And the result was as expected, I didn’t convert IIM Lucknow. 😦

————————————————————————————————————————–

I made a mistake. A grave mistake.
I wish I had controlled myself. I wish I had not said that. I wish I had quietly walked out of the room.

If I can, I’ll apologise to that professor. Rather, I’ll go back in time and stop myself from saying that. But I can’t.

It’s easy to say something when you are angry or frustrated, but it’s impossible to take it back.

So, all I want to say is learn from my mistake and beware of what you speak when you are not in the mood.
You’ll be left with many regrets, and perhaps, a stupid blog post. Nothing else.

P.S. -Well, it was not all death-bells. I met an awesome person before the interview, who gave me a new perspective to look towards life. Read it here.

For The Night Is Still Young And Will Is Still Strong

The arrogant sea was in a rage.
He had allowed his waves to go wild. They were smashing the shore hard. The beach was shaking with fear. The coral rocks were being crumbled into pieces. Any boat that entered the sea would only return to the beach in pieces. Small pieces. With broken wills.
Indeed, the sea was in a rage and the waves were on fire.
None of the ships could stand in front of that dance of destruction. Big sailors decided to pull their bigger boats inside the safety of dock. There wasn’t even a single ship in the sea. The sea has marked his territory. Every floating object was either forced to return to the dock or had been smashed to the rocks. The arrogant sea has cleared every object from its waters. Now there were only waves, mocking all the sailors, who stood on the dock, with their hands held high and heart sliding down. The sea was smiling. He enjoyed the fear on the faces of those sailors. And all the sailors were watching this rage of the sea with a sea in their eyes.
All but one.

For the night was still young and the will was still strong.

 A small boat, with a small sailor sailing it, entered the raging sea. The sailor has challenged the sea. Sea looked at that small sailor. And he commanded his waves to turn his boat to pieces.
But the sailor sailed his boat so skilfully, that even the waves couldn’t crush him. He would wait for the wave to come, and then climb on that wave and slowly slide down. Though the sailor was small, but he has a heart of a lion and swift of a horse. He looked straight into eyes of the sea and dodged every wave sent by him. And the sea saw a hope in his eyes. A hope of not only to survive the rage of the sea but also to win this battle with him. A hope that made the sea nervous. The smile on the face of the sea disappeared. He sent his best waves to destroy that sailor. But the sailor dodged them again. The sea kept increasing the size of his waves and the sailor kept dodging them.
Sailors on the dock watched this duel between the small sailor and the gigantic sea. They had asked the small sailor to stay at the safety of the dock, not to take a risk and enter the waters. But now they cheered for him. The hope has spread from the eyes of that small sailor to the faces of the other ones. The dream of that small sailor was inspiring them.
The sea was worried now. A small sailor was challenging him with a small ship. And he was dodging all of his waves. The sea decided to use all his power to crush that small sailor. And he sent his biggest wave. That wave touched the sky and fell with all of its power on the small boat of that
small sailor. And it did the trick. Though the small sailor used all of his skill and strength to dodge this wave, but he couldn’t. The wave crushed his boat and turned it into the pieces. And it threw the sailor to the beach.
The sea took a sigh of relief. That small sailor has made him run for his waves. But finally, he has emerged as victorious again. The smile on his face returned.
The arrogant sea came to the beach, where the small sailor was now struggling to stand up. He attacked him with another wave. The sailor fell to the ground. The sea laughed at him. And said, “See, I have crushed your boat to pieces. This is what happens to those who dare to challenge me.”
The sailor gathered all his strength and stood up. He looked again into the eyes of the sea. His eyes still had that hope. With a smile on his face, he said, “Tonight, the destiny will declare you as a winner. But remember, you have crushed my boat, but not my will. I shall challenge you again, oh mighty sea, coz there is still a lot of fight left in me.”

Failed startup – but a broken glass ceiling

“Am I doing the right thing?”, asked a little voice inside my head, as my hands were busy in the process of tearing my Placement I-card.
It was not that easy thing to do, considering the position that I was in.
It meant that I would no longer be eligible to seek a placement from my college’s placement process. It meant that I would walk as a jobless person at the end of my postgrad.
It meant that I would be living on my parent’s expenses for at least one more year. And don’t know, for how many more years to come.But, to a person with a modest financial background and an orthodox family, it meant a lot more than that.
For me, It meant a rebellion. A battle-cry, signaling the impending, uncertain war ahead.
Scars were inevitable, both before and after the impeachment of this sacrosanct placement process.
“Your friends will earn lacs. They will own good bikes, even cars (and shall have their girlfriends to sit on/in them). Achha ghar hoga, society me prestige hoga (they will own a good house, will have some reputation in the society), And you will do nothing? What will you have exactly?” 
The typical Deewar dialogue was on a repeat in my head. But the irony was that I wouldn’t even have the support of my mom. Rather, my mom would be asking similar questions to me. Damn you, Shashi Kapoor, why did you have to say “Mere Paas Maa hai?” Couldn’t you have said dreams, or passion or something else? (which I had my heart filled with).
“So, I’ll have to pay around 10k as a fine for opting out of the placement process. Plus, I can’t even opt for deferrals now and will have to write an apology letter as well. The bashing I’ll get from the place-comm, well that’s going to be a different thing altogether.”
My calculative mind was tormenting me, as I was throwing my torn I-card (and perhaps, shackles of slavery) into the waters of my favorite lake. A lake that gave me hope all the time, and was swallowing my possible, probable and predictable future too, as I stood there, shaking in fear, unaware of what I had just done.
“You will fail. You don’t have any experience. You need to get experience to start something of your own” My mind kept bugging me, as I walked on that red clay path, which appeared even redder that day.
“Red signifies danger. Red is bad. Red is asking you to stop this utter nonsense” Stupid mind of mine.
Perhaps, he had forgotten, red is also the color of a rebellion.
A rebellion, that was taking its shape inside of me.
A rebellion against “the usual”.
I started my bike and decided, this day will be written in the history of the entrepreneurship. That too in the golden words. On a silver paper. With a diamond pen. So I thought.
So wrong was I!
Stupid me!

After almost a year later, I still remember that day.
As my co-founder puts in his papers and jumps the boat in the most extravagant way possible, I still remember that day quite vividly. Just like it had happened yesterday.
As I decide to shut the shop, with shaking arms and reddened, I remembered that red clay road. Yes, perhaps, I mistook red for rebellion. Red means danger. DANGER.
As I pack my bags and say my final vows with the choked voice, I remember that torn paper. Did I end up tearing my future with that paper? It seems like I did! 
As I let tears flow down my eyes and embrace my pain, without giving a single fuck (Note to editors: you can replace the F-word with ‘thought’) to the typical Bachchan dialogue “Mard ko dard Nahi Hota!”, I remember the water of that lake. It hadn’t looked convincing that day. Probably it was also shaking with fear, something I had mistaken as an effect of wind!
And as I leave the city where it all had started, I remember that day!
The one that should have been written in the history of entrepreneurship.
In golden words.
On a silver paper. 
With a diamond pen.

Perhaps the battle-cry wasn’t strong enough and should be dissolved in the wind.
Perhaps the impeachment was a mistake, and it should be forgotten.
Perhaps the scars were unnecessary and should be hidden.
Perhaps this is just a failed rebellion and should be buried, somewhere deep inside my heart.
Only, it shouldn’t be.
Because it’s not over, yet.
As I embark on a new journey, the dream, the rebellion is taking a breather.
It’s getting bolder, and more ambitious with every passing moment.
One day, it will come back again, with a bigger battle-cry, with a bigger impeachment, will demand bigger sacrifices and award me with bigger scars. The rebellion will be bigger, and so shall the size of courage that will embrace it again.
One day, it will all come back again, and that day,  I’ll be better equipped to deal with the monstrosity of my dreams.
And when that day will come, it will be written in the history of the entrepreneurship.
That too in the golden words. 
On a silver paper. 
With a diamond pen.

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 college’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! 🙂

An Unexpected Truce

If you put me and my elder brother in a single room, you can only have one result: chaos!
Since the inception of my little life on this earth, my brother has given me a such a hard time (btw, the converse is also true). In my early childhood, when I was unable to defend myself, my brother would keep pulling my chubby chicks all the time. When I managed to stand on my feet (well, literally, the other ‘standing’ is still a lot far away), he would deliberately put my toys far away from me and make me walk all the way towards them. When I started going to school (and unfortunately, we went to the same school), he would drop in my class in the recess time (in the name of keeping a watch on me) and call me by terrible names (his favourite being ‘bibi’), and embarrass me in front of the whole class. And in my high school, when I would ask him to knot a tie for me, he would make such a great job that I would nearly die of suffocation. But I also accept that I have not been a saint! He also had some terrible days (and nights too) because of my pranks. And in this nuclear warfare between two brothers, on the battleground of my home, my parent’s temper would always be a casualty (and then they would make us the ultimate casualty).
So, the moral of the story is, I and my brother shared a rivalry of the order of Man U and Man City (and yes, both of us will fight to be Man U).
But things have changed since past month. I have started messaging him good morning and a good night on each day. I also call him twice a day, just to enquire if he has taken his meals. I even take his side in front of my parents. And the reason is, the new smartwatch he has gifted me, that to a I5+. (though I would have liked a Fitbit Smart Watch or a Fitbit Super Watch but i5+ is also very good). And since then, I have hardly separated it from myself (actually, my wrist).
Till now, I had hardly known what obsession is all about. In my childhood, I would not allow anybody to touch my mobile phone (not a real one, the one that played ‘chhaiya chhaiya’ 😉 ), but still a girl living near my building had a special permission to access it (my attempts to get a GF started very early, but seems like girls also start their attempts to get away from me pretty quickly). But my I5+ is only made for me.
Well, my parent’s don’t have any problem with this obsession, though. Cause, just because of this smartwatch, I have started going for walks (just so that I can increase step-count on it and feel good). And, thanks to the alarm in it, I manage to wake up early (and then do nothing). And it’s find-your-phone helped me a couple of times, obviously, to find my phone (which was in my pocket). So, this smartwatch has virtually solved all of my problems. 🙂
But, it has created some new ones too. Because of its sleep tracker, I realised that I don’t sleep enough and my ‘deep sleep’ is very less (hardly 20% of my total sleep cycle). And I also found out that my only ‘deep sleep’ cycle is in the afternoon, and eventually, I started taking bigger and bigger afternoon naps (and now I have a scientific proof to show my parents).
Anyways, if you neglect this minor(?) con, then my brother’s gift has inspired me to live at least a bit of a fitter life. And it has, at least now, improved the relation between me and my brother (to be honest, we both love each other, just don’t know how to express it. But he has taken a great first step towards the universal(?) peace, and I think I will reciprocate it in the near future). While giving it to me, he said: “Fatso, you need to burn some calories. This watch will help you to do so” (not very touchy, yet it shows that he cares for me).
Let’s hope this smartwatch obsession sticks and I end up making my life a bit healthier!
P.S. – I lost my brother to a sudden cardiac arrest in December 2019. All I have, is memories like these, that keep me alive.

I never believed in the GOD

I never believed in the god,
And everybody called me an Atheist.
They said, believe in the “divine”,
It will change your life,
But they never said, how?
Will I get supernatural strength
Or will I be able to breathe the purest of O2?
(Oh man, that I really need to)
Perhaps, my life will be a less messed up (and it should be)
But then, those ” hard staunch god supporters” don’t enjoy privileged lives,
A few have worse than mine.
They say, “Have some faith in the Supreme”,
But I already have faith,
Faith in my values, which has helped me propel my ship through the storms,
Faith in the power of my mind, and my arms too (I need to hit the gym though)…
Faith in the wonders of nature,
Faith in the blunders too.
And I’d always support the lack of faith,
Instead of a misplaced one.
They say “the blind faith in god drives the world”,
Oh, but I beg to differ,
I think the driver has always been the power of reason,
And to betray it is the biggest treason.
” the X happens because of Y”,
You only need to ask why?
Say “the god wanted this to happen”,
And you are in a fall, that no one can stop.
The world works only on the principle of the ” Equivalent exchange”,
And it’s been doing so for several years,
And “selfless altruism” is nothing but a trick,
Cause “satisfaction” is also a chip in the game.
And I can’t stop laughing when they say,
“The God is responsible for the peace”.
Well, religion is not my territory,
And my love’s never been history,
But it screams out aloud,
That’s millions have died, and billions suffered,
All but in the ” name of god”.
I never believed in God.
Rather, I couldn’t.
I always wanted to,
(Still searching for a good reason though)

Its All About The Attitude…

Mumbai is hot (literally). And it feels even hotter when you are wearing a suit. Wear a tie if you want to add a pinch of suffocation. If you will add the tremendous amount of sweat and the humongous pressure of an IIM Lucknow interview, then I guess you’ll get a recipe to make a perfectly roasted Abhishek. And this roasted Abhishek was having a really terrible time that day. He had failed to catch the bus he was supposed to. He had somehow managed to reach Andheri in time, just to find that he had forgotten to charge his phone in the night and now was unable to book an Uber or Ola (or even to call his mum, and he knew that he has to face the consequences of such a ‘terrible crime’ later, once he would return to Pune). He got robbed by a rickshaw driver, who charged him 100 bucks to go to the hotel, which was hardly a km away from the place at which he had made a mistake of getting into that rickshaw without asking the fare. And after reaching the centre, he had realised that he had forgotten an important document( but fortunately, the IIM Lucknow profs didn’t ask for it. Phew…). Plus, my IIM B interview had gone terribly bad (read it here). I was questioned about my decision to not take a placement on the campus, my failed attempts to start my company and most of all, about the past year, which according to them, I had wasted “trying to do some random things”. My confidence had really taken a hit after that and I was still unable to let go of the burden of their comment’s from my shoulders. My day was going south. Until I met him (You were expecting a ‘her’, weren’t you? Sorry you poor souls, but it was not a romantic encounter). He was sitting next to me in the waiting area. We’ll call him PD (of course, his initials, cause I haven’t taken his permission to use his name. When I’ll meet him again, and may I meet him again, I will take his permission). A tall, slender, handsome boy with a constant smile on his face. It was his smile that made me talk to him. After a basic round of introductions, we started opening up about our lives (he really had some sense of brotherhood, which made me tell him everything about my life, including my failures and the ‘wasted year’). But his story was way much astonishing than mine. PD (with that constant smile on his face): “You know, your life is not that bad. At least you know what you want to do in your life, which is actually a rare thing. I still don’t know what to do with mine. I am not sure if I want to do an MBA or not. And guess what, this was my 4th CAT attempt.” His smile really amazed me. I couldn’t stop crying after missing the 99 mark in my second attempt, and he was smiling even after his 4th attempt. PD: “So what that you are a 2016 graduate and don’t have an experience? I am 2012 graduate.” Me: “2012? Then you should perhaps apply for an executive MBA”. PD: “I can’t. I have an experience of just 3 years and the minimum requirement is 5 years.” Me: “Something doesn’t add up. Can you please elaborate a bit.” I really had that perplexed look on my face. I have never been good at maths, but my “intensive calculations” (if they were right) suggested that 2012+3=2015, and when the last time I had checked, it was 2017. I am a fan of science fiction and have read stories about how people travel back in time, and the bus which I had taken from Pune to reach Andheri, had really looked suspicious. PD: “I hear that a lot. Let me explain. Just like you, I had taken a gap after my graduation and prepared for CAT. But, unfortunately, I got distracted in the last months and failed to clear the exam. But I had somehow managed to clear SNAP and joined Symbiosis.” Me: “So this is your second MBA? Amazing.” PD: “Hold your horses, tiger. I left it after one year.” Me: “But why?” I never appeared for SNAP, but I knew that Symbi is not that bad a college. PD: “Because I felt that I wasn’t in the right place. I felt suffocated. I tried to get along for a few months, but I wasn’t feeling right. Something was missing. So, one day, I gathered all the courage that I had, and put in my papers.” Me: “Whoa. It must have been a tough decision, right?” PD: “Yes it was. I had talked with my parents, they were completely against it. Even I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I just knew that this is not the place where I belong. And it’s no use to be in such a place. I left it and then I was jobless for a brief period of time.” Me: “And how was your life after that?” I know the weight of being a jobless person, I have been experiencing the same for about a year now. First, you parent’s support you, then they indirectly suggest you go and find one. You hear stories of that “Sharma Ji ka ladaka who is earning 10 LPA” and “Patil Ji ki ladaki who went to an IIM”, over and over again, until the point where you start either searching a job or ignoring your parent’s. (I am not blaming my parents, they just wanted to see me happy. I was really frustrated after the failure of my first startup attempt and wasn’t doing much at home either). PD: “Yes, life was really terrible for a while. I was trying to find a job but my poor acad’s were haunting me. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I was a terrible engineer. It’s a miracle that I finished my engineering within four years.” He suddenly turned towards me and asked, “You don’t drink, do you?” He knew the answer before I can say anything. My face somehow reflects my 23 years of sobriety. PD: “Perhaps you should drink. It was the alcohol that helped me find my new attitude. One night, when I was drunk as hell, I realised that I am suffering because I am giving adverse reactions to the actions taken by the world. I was getting angry at all the taunts by my relatives, neighbours and parent’s as well. I was replying to them with counter-taunts. But perhaps Newton’s third law (I hope you know that) has no use outside the physics. I decided that I will stay happy, no matter what. I guess, that night, alcohol was responsible for my ‘spiritual upliftment’, or whatever you call it”. (NOTE: The author neither consume nor supports the consumption of alcohol. There you go sensor board, I’ve said it. You happy now?) Me: “Everybody says it, but it’s not that easy. I have been trying to do so for some time now, but haven’t succeeded yet.” PD: “I know, being happy is not as easy at it sounds. But it’s not that difficult too. See, everyone says that there are two ways to face a difficult situation: One, cry and give up and Two, fold your sleeves and tackle the situation till you either resolve the situation or die trying. But, there is a third option: fold your sleeves, maintain a smile, try your best to tackle the situation, but if you can’t, then simply say that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and move on. Tell me, if you don’t move on from your failures, how will you get the other and perhaps better things?” He was right. I had finally decoded the secret behind his constant smile: it was his attitude. His attempt to be happy all the time, irrespective of the situation. Rather, his smile was the reason behind his “smile”. I had always tried too hard to understand the concept called “recursion”, but what I saw that day, was a live example of it. Me: “So what do you do now?” PD: “Oh, I am glad you ask it. Now, I work in a bank (a big public sector bank) and hold a very respectable position. I earn handsomely and things are going well now. Which reminds me to tell you one more thing: money is not as important as the effort is. I learned it the hard way. You had said that you couldn’t generate much revenue through your startup, but it’s ok, cause you learned some very valuable lessons which shall help you in the future. So, never make money as your motivation and learn as much as you can.” I remembered that an old person (read here) had told me the same thing, but I had conveniently forgotten it. Now, I was getting a revised and refreshed lesson again. Before concluding our meeting, he told me about his dream. PD: “You know, I want to be a film director. I am a huge fan of Hollywood and the kind of movies that we make in Bollywood really hurts me. I want to make intellectual movies.” Me: “But why an MBA then?” PD: “Well, if you see the top film directors and heads of top producing houses from Hollywood, then you’ll find that they are either Stanford, Havard or MIT graduates, and most of them are MBAs. We, Indians, do an MBA just to earn som handsome salaries. But my dear friend, an MBA is more than that, if done the right way. You see, an MBA teaches you a way to live your life. It’s less about the placements and more about the perspicacity that you are bound to develop.” My IIM L interview went great, and so did his. I gave him my number and we parted ways. I don’t remember much about the interview, though, but I remember everything he has taught me, especially the secret of his happiness: It’s all about your attitude.

What is Life?


Life is a story, waiting to be written.
And, it is your story!
I have a very strange habit. I like to talk with strangers and learn about their lives. Wherever I go, I manage to find some stranger, who is either happy or sad, but definitely willing to talk and share his/her story with me. And through this long (yet very short) life of 23 years, I have met several such people and heard their interesting stories.
I have met an old person on a train and heard his entrepreneurial adventure.
I have met a person in a waiting room and heard a courageous story of a nervous breakdown and a fight against it.
I have cried when a boy told me that he lost both his legs in an attempt to save his younger sister but still, couldn’t do it.
And I have laughed when a happy couple sitting next to me on an airport, narrated the pranks of their two years old daughter, while the culprit was busy in playing with my beard.
And I have heard hundreds of such stories. And I have smiled, laughed, blushed, winked and even sobbed while listening to them.
But, even after listening so many stories, I couldn’t find two identical ones.
Each story had a different hue. Each story breathed a different life. Each story had its own soul, which touched mine in a very different way, each time.
Somebody had said, “Everyone has its own legend to fulfil”, and It is so true.
We are the hero of our own story, and we are the writer too. While others have their own stories to write, some of them play either a supporting role or a guest appearance in our stories as well.
And with so many stories interlinked with each other, the ultimate story, the story of life unveils itself, slowly, yet so mesmerizingly, that all we can do is be amazed and ask: “Oh my god, what is this thing called as life?”

A journey to remember……

“What are you studying, beta?”
I hate when people disturb me. I hate it the most when I am reading or studying. So, with a dash of anger, I looked at the old person sitting next to me, in that second class coach of that train, which I had boarded from Mumbai and would take me to Ahmadabad. After a failed attempt to crack CAT 2015, a couple of failed attempts to start my own company and 3 months of intense preparation (or maybe, just preparation), I had managed to (somehow) get an interview call from IIM A (nothing to be happy about, I screwed it up big time). I was happy as hell; But there was a problem: my interview was scheduled at IIM A campus, that too on the very first day of the interview season and I wasn’t prepared for it at all. I had decided that I would prepare for my 8 hour train journey to Ahmedabad and crack the interview (well, I couldn’t do the both) and I had started reading my notes, then as I said before, the old person sitting next to me asked me the above question (and also managed to anger me).
“Nothing Sir (his formal clothes, white hairs, and big specs suggested me to address him Sir), I have an interview tomorrow, so preparing for that”.
“Job interview?”.
“No Sir, I have got a call from IIM A. MBA interview”.
As he had got my eyes out of my notes, I took a casual look at all the people sitting in that boggy. The old person (let’s call him X), was sitting to my right and had a very pleasant yet authoritative voice. His wife and 10-year-old niece (he introduced them to me after some time) were sitting on the opposite couch and a fat, typical Gujrati looking man (call him Y) was sitting to their right. And to my left, there was another old man, who was 70 something, but his french beard and ponytail made him look 10 year’s younger (let’s call him Z. And sorry, I am an engineer, so I always stick with XYZ).
X was asking me random questions, and they were frustrating me. After some time, Y and Z also jumped into the conversation.
If anybody had told me, that 8-hour journey (actually just a few hours of that conversation) will change my whole perspective to look towards life, then I would have said that Mr Trump will win US elections (and both the things eventually happened).
Mr X had worked in a production company for 20 years and then started his own workshop after that. I told him about my aspiration to do an MBA from a reputed B-school and then start my own venture.
X: “Beta, It’s good that you want to learn further and are ready to take effort’s towards it. A person should learn as much as he can. But you should work for a few years before starting your own company. You should avoid taking such a huge risk”.
Y: “Sorry to say uncle, but I don’t think that is necessary. See, I am just 30 years old and I run my own textile mill. And I neither have any work experience nor any fancy degree (he is a commerce graduate). Abhishek (oh yeah, that’s my name), take as many risks as you can and feel the rush of this 21st century”.
For next hour, X and Y had an intense discussion about the right time to start a company, value of experience and mostly, the lifestyle of today’s generation.
Y: “Sir, with due respect, I would like to say that your generation is very risk averse. My dad (who is a very wealthy trader) wasn’t ready to invest in textiles. It took me 4 months to convince him. On the other hand, I take risks worth crores on daily basis.”
X: “You might be right, beta, but our generation has always maintained a healthy work-life balance. We would work only for a fixed hours of time and devote the remaining time for our families. You see, in the end, it’s your family that matters the most(this sentence has reserved a fixed position inside my mind). But today, our children are ashamed of us (ouch).”
At this point, Mr Z, who was also running a company (so basically, it was buggy filled with entrepreneurs), jumped into the conversation.
Z: “I guess Mr X is right. When I used to wear a dhoti and kurta, and my son, who works in an MNC, would not even allow me to come near his office. But, since I have changed my attire and grown a french beard and ponytail, my son takes me to all his office parties. You know, I don’t like these attire or beard, but I do it just for the sake of spending some time with my son”.
I remembered the time when I had not allowed my dad to come to an event in my college and I realised how he must have felt. I made a promise to myself, that I will try to involve my parents more in my life.
Y and Z got down at Surat (an intermediate station), but the conversation between me and Mr X continued for the entire journey. He told me some interesting stories of how he started his own company and ran it successfully for more than 20 years.
X: “The most important thing you should remember while running a company is: your company works because of your employees. You should always find the right people to do a job and make sure that they don’t leave you. If you hire people just cause you know them or they are good friends of you, then your company will definitely fail.”
My two startup attempts flashed in front of my eyes and I realised that I couldn’t find a proper team for any of them.
X: “Also, your primary target should not be to earn money, It should be to solve a problem. If you manage to find a prominent problem, the money will follow. But earn only as much as you require to live a good life, but not a luxurious one. Luxury cripples you. Earn enough to buy a car, but not so much to buy a Ferrari or BMW. In the end, you shall use a car to travel, and not as a status symbol.”
When I told him about many of my failures, he smiled and said: “See, the aim of life is to struggle. And everyone has to do that. All of us face failures. But the winner is the one who accepts those failures, learns from them and then work hard to achieve the success. Though success gives you a sense of satisfaction, but a failure makes you stronger. Actually, a failure prepares you for a success.”
I tried my best to learn as much as I can from Mr X, but finally, that journey came to an end. We reached Ahmedabad and all of a sudden, it was a time to say goodbye.
X: “Don’t panic, even if your interview goes bad (how did he manage to predict that?), you have an entire life to live. Work hard, never give up, help others and spend some time with your family. This is an ultimate way to achieve success. It took me 40 years to understand it.”
The interview went bad. It was a terrible one. Perhaps, I should have prepared for it in my journey. But, then I’d have missed so much of wisdom and knowledge.
It took Mr X 40 years to understand the ultimate way to success, but he selflessly taught it to me within a journey of merely 8 hours.

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