Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Come, let’s talk :)

It’s not that I’ve stopped talking to you because I’m being lazy. I guess, I was not putting my thoughts in the right words, so I was writing the posts and then deleting these.

Sometimes, I was talking by writing it in the notebook.  For example - while sitting face to face with US Consulate General in the board room, evincing my interest in the climate change issue but scribing the squabbling in the diary. Professor sitting opposite to me too had the same kind of diary; we designed it and got it printed to gift to our alumni earlier this year.

Last week, the marketing head of a company, the biggest tobacco brand in India, too was giving his life’s learning for free. He’d given us all a pen and a notebook as an incentive to listen to him, and I started putting down the bickering to the words instead of paying attention to his story of breaking into top brands league. The page was shredded into pieces later on, just after coming out of the auditorium. It’s better to let the thoughts die sometimes.

Yeah, let’s get back to the talking issue, which I want to build this story up on.

This goes back a rather a longer time – almost 15 years, I must have been in 6th standard then. Another guy Surjeet, just in my neighborhood, whose home used to face our home at ninety degree angle, was also in the same class. He got himself electrocuted few years back, while trying to catch a bird. It made him sweaty most of the time, even while sitting under the fan. The black color of his skin made it even harder for him to get into Sun, as his face absorbed most of the rays, I didn’t knew this physics concept before reaching into the 12th standard. He was very silent most of the time, but we were good friends and used to walk to the school together, which was more than a kilometer away. It used to take us almost as much time as the rays take to reach the earth.   

It was December, the cold got both of us coughing like dogs, but he blamed me for his cough because it caught me first.  Other classmates too started pulling my leg every now and then accusing me that I got the cough from the puppies and was spreading it to the whole class. In the moment of embarrassment, I hit my friend Surjeet because he was taking side of other students instead of being with me. Both of us grappled with each other, pulling the hair and running around the classroom. A teacher gave us both good beating for it.

We stopped talking over it. The cough was gone but not the anger. We had common friends, studied in the same school for next four years till the 10th class but neither of us let go of our egos. We kept going to each other’s home, talking to other family members, who didn’t seem to know that the kiddos were not on talking terms!

The group study, doing homework together, climbing the Neem tree, running the cycle tyre, playing Kanche, all stopped all of a sudden. We crossed each other path many times but the eyes didn’t meet. After 12th class he got into the Army at the age of 18, I moved to Kota and then to Kgp. It had been almost a decade since we talked. His younger brother too got into Army, both of them got married in a joint marriage, as it’s a common practice there.

Now it was the summer time in 2005, I came for the semester break after my 2nd year; he too came for two months leave, a tough time to be in the heat of Rajasthan. One fine evening, both of found ourselves in the same kabaddi team. He was almost double the size of me now, a perfect army man. We played the match, covered in the dust; we held each other’s hand and stopped the other team’s players. After the match, both of us looked at each other and started laughing hysterically.

Other friends asked, what’s the matter? I said, guys it’s a special day, we have talked after a decade. Now it was time for others to laugh at both of us. I asked him, “Did you think about talking to me during all these years?”

He said, “yes, But I wanted you to talk to me first. I even forgot why we stopped talking!”

“Yeah, it has been a pretty long time; I guess it was in the 6th class. Even I thought the same that let him talk to me first.” I replied.

It has been more than six years now, I’ve not met him since that Kabaddi match, in fact I didn’t even remember our last meeting till I started writing this post. All I remember is the time both of us wasted by not talking to each other. The ego we succumbed to and the fun of playing together we missed.

This thought crossed my mind because I have got into a similar situation now, I made a mistake. I hope I don’t develop a similar ego problem again and I should extend the hand of friendship once more.

We should let our personalities be different, if they are so, and start talking all over again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nostalgia - IIM Kozhikode

“I want to know each and every one of my batch mates and befriend them all, it may take a month or two, but I really want to develop this culture of learning within a community here.” This is what was going on in my mind when we were asked by our institute’s director Prof.Debashis Chatterjee to let the mental chatter come out on a piece of paper, on the very first day at IIM Kozhikode.

This sense of bonding with the fellow students and colleagues probably comes due to my upbringing in a village, where I know most of the people, not just my neighbors but people from one corner to another.

Creating and moderating online social groups for my batch at IIT Kharagpur is something which is not mentioned in degree/certificates obtained but the experience is very much valuable.

The spirit of building a community continued as I was elected to Alumni Committee at IIM Kozhikode. The opportunity to talk to my seniors from different batches and the stories of their time in the Kampus has been something which I didn’t imagine that I’ll get before coming here. The excitement of preparing to organize our first ever International Alumni meet, Sangam’11, cannot be described in words. The pleasure of seeing two alumni of PGP01 batch meet for the first time after leaving IIMK is something which I’ll cherish for long time.

As the days of stay at the Kampus are in double digits, there are many important things to happen, appearing for placements being one of them, but the focus is set on Nostalgia 2012 – the on campus alumni meet. It’s just two months away now, and we are back to work to make it even better than all the previous meets.

It’ll be the 10th year of PGP2002 batch and I’m sure all of them would like to come together and enjoy the New Kampus, which was ready only by their juniors admission. For all of the alumni it’ll be a much needed break from their busy corporate schedule to enjoy and relive the two years of their college life in just two days during 14th-15th January 2012. The 2nd edition of Cultural fest Echoes is definitely going to be another attraction and will surely bring back the excitement of the carefree youthful days.

For me, personally, it’ll be another chance to work in a family like setting with my batch-mates and juniors and strengthen the bond with the God’s Own Kampus.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Intoxication Free Campus - A Crazy Idea

Laughing at this idea is encouraged - your lungs will get some fresh air :)

It’s very clear from the studies on smoking practices that most of the people start smoking while they are living their school or college life. The easy availability of tobacco products in and near the campus increase the chances of students trying to smoke and being habituated subsequently.

A person's friends help in starting the bad habit of smoking, sometimes unknowingly. On the other side, no one can be a better help than a dedicated group of friends who are committed to help their smoker friends in the process of quitting the habit of smoking. The social support along with the alternatives to tobacco products is very much needed in effectively countering the menace of smoking in the youth.

The biggest fear for the early smokers is to get caught by their parents, partners or close friends who care for their health and well being. However it’s important that the caring person come to know about their  smoking problem before they get addicted to it and it’s too late for them to quit.

There is need for anti-smoking campaign targeted on parents as well, so that they can talk to their kids about the harms of smoking and prepare them for the unwanted habits which they might be getting in their school/colleges otherwise.

There is a need for Intoxication Free Campus Campaigns across the world. To begin with we can start the anti-smoking awareness campaign on the social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, where most of the educated youth socialize. The online forums for helping the addicted people in quitting are also there, but they are not as effective as the regular as the personal attention by the close friends. The online pages/forums and groups can help people in smoking cessation by providing and sharing useful information, however the smokers keep avoiding these as long as they are not self driven and determined to quit. The social help can only support them, but the determination to quit has to come from the within.

Helping a friend or partner in quitting can be as much difficult as quitting your own, hence it's very important for the friends to be emotionally strong. To quit smoking is one of the hardest things to do. The importance of not nagging and making their life stress free is very important. For example a friend can join its friend to a quit class, so that the friend can understand the process of the quit and be more supportive. 

When a friend forces something on the smokers, it makes them back away from the quit and makes it much more stressful process. One thing we need to remember is that nobody is going to quit anything unless they want to. Forcing them to quit and bothering them is very different from being supportive.

Rewarding the smokers in quitting process is important. Reminding them that you are proud of them and acknowledging that it's a very hard process and it takes a very strong person to go through that process and you are always going to be with them

The institutes of higher learning and the public schools in cities, where the administration is relatively better than in schools and colleges in small towns, can kick start a campaigning for intoxication free campuses.  The strict implementation of government directives in the educational institutions is needed to stop smokers  from influencing other students who have not yet started smoking.

[ This post is based on a report submitted in Consumer Behavior Course at IIM Kozhikode - PGP/14/123 ]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Imaginary Girlfriend - My Experiment with Falsehood

Prof. “Fortunate Blessings” asked me not to write this experience in a blog, but it was a kind of experience which makes me laugh whenever I think about it. As they say “one lie leads to a hundred other lies” and it came true during those twenty minutes. Lying doesn’t come naturally to me but that day it seemed, even to me, as if I was telling the truth. It was the GD-PI for entrance into IIM Kozhikode at Monarch Luxor hotel in Bangalore on 15th April 2010.

I was the second last to be interviewed; it was around 5:00 PM in the evening. I did not have my lunch and was quite bored looking at the worried faces of the other boys and girls in the black suites. I came down to the reception and browsed through the TOI. A line caught my attention in an article about Oprah Winfrey. "I've confronted her and asked, 'why do you tell such lies?' Oprah told me, 'that's what people want to hear. The truth is boring',”

I came upstairs only to wait for my turn. Finally, Prof Blessings (PB) came out of the room, tucking in his shirt as he adjusted his belt. I thought he must be an Alumnus of the college; a professor cannot be so young and handsome. A kind of stereotype formed during IIT Kharagpur.

“Are you Vikram?”, he asked.

“Yes Sir”, I nodded.

“Please come in”, he invited and went back.

I took out my mobile, switched on the voice recorder and put it in the chest pocket of the coat. I took a deep breath and went inside the room. Our GD too happened in the same room. They had removed the bed of a normal hotel room and put a table and few chairs to make it an interview room.

Prof. Pleasure (PP) put his mobile for charging and started with a smile. The questions about my work, technologies like GSM, CDMA etc continued for 2-3 minutes.

PP- So which mobile do you have? Show it to me.

I was ice cold for a second. The mobile was recording the conversation. Does he know about it?

I somehow kept the composure, took it out carefully, saved the recorded file and gave it to him.

“It is an ordinary phone!” You are earning 50-60k per month, why don’t you have a smart phone?

I told that it was good enough for my needs; I’ll buy a better phone when I reach IIMK. (I still have the same phone). He inquired about its features and returned it to me. This time
I didn’t dare to switch on the voice recorder.

PB asked me about my hobbies- which I said to be reading novel and writing blogs about my experiences.

PB - Blogging is good habit but please don’t write about the questions which we ask you, it gives an unfair advantage to other people.

Ok Sir, I’ll write only if I make it to IIMK.

PP - So which is your favorite Novel?

Its “My name is Red”; (luckily) I didn’t say “Atlas Shrugged” which I had read just a week before.

I told something about it as my mind wondered for a moment about Shekure – the Lady in the Novel. It brought a smile on my lips. Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel winner, has done some good work while writing it.

PP – You look smart; you must be having a Girlfriend, don’t you?

I thought what a weird question is this? I surely didn’t have a girlfriend; in fact I didn’t even have a good female friend in those days. But why should I be a loser!

“Yes Sir”, I replied with a smile.

PP looked at PB and said, now a day’s everyone has a girlfriend, we’ve asked all the eight students today and every one of them has a girlfriend! Time has changed. We are the only people who were unlucky, or probably we are not as smart as these people are.

I kept mum, I thought it’s over with this answer, but there was more to come.

PP- So what’s her name? How did you meet her?

Now the challenge begun!

Her name is Richa Sharma and she’s my friend since I was in 12th Class. We went to tuitions together, later on she went to IIT Roorkee and I went to Kharagpur but we stayed in touch.

PP- Where is she now? And are you from the same caste?

Sir, she’s in Adobe Gurgaon and she’s a Brahmin. (I didn’t know that there is no Adobe office in Gurgaon, but it somehow came on my tongue.)

PP- Did your parents know about it, didn’t they object to it?

Sir, we have already told about our friendship to them. Even though we are from different castes but our parents are well educated and they are ok with it.

PP- But you are staying in Bangalore, how are you keeping up with your relationship?

We generally talk over phone, and we regularly visit each other within two months.

PP- Do you believe in Live-in relationships?

I believe that Live-In relationships are alright, but I would marry her before staying with her permanently. (Our GD case was related to Live-In relationships and I spoke on the both sides of it)

PP- So, you are from a village. People must worship you there; he asked with a quirky smile.

Sir, no one worships me but whenever I go home, people do ask me about education for their kids and which stream to choose.

PB- You raised some good points in GD but you were not assertive and your spoken English isn’t good enough for an IIM, how will you cope with it.

I’ll improve it when I reach IIMK. (I’m yet to do it)

The conversation continued for around 20 minutes. I kept smiling most of time. I wasn’t even aware whether I was speaking or it was someone else who was doing all the talking.

PP- What is the probability of getting into IIMK? as he unplugged his mobile from the charger.

Its 99% my preparation and 1% luck. (What a stupid answer for a probability questions)

PP- Well, your interview is over, you may leave now.

Finally I came to IIMK. I’ve always told my friends that I have a girlfriend and I’m deeply committed. I don’t know why they believe it. Probably it’s something like a Fight Club type story.

Now as I sit in PP’s class I think my answers were affected by subliminal priming because of article about Oprah or it had to happen this way.

I think that even Adobe has got a connection in it, as I was planning to join it if I could not have come here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Politicians as Brand Ambassadors

They are some of the most talked about species on the earth, criticized, abused, dissected like a dead cockroach in a biology lab, some of them are not even good looking, every move of them is analyzed by the overzealous media, and millions of new age social networkers have fun reading stories about them. 

On the other end of the spectrum, they are revered like Gods; if they sneeze, thousands of well wishers line up to their residence, offering prayers, doing yagnas, plastering walls with get soon well hoardings, filling up the newspapers with advertisements for their speedy recovery. If they want to address a meeting lakhs of people turn up without any marketing. Roads are jammed if they move in city…you can just keep thinking about the influence they have on the day to day lives of common people like you and me. 

Source: BBC News
As you must have understood by now; I’m talking about a species called Politicians

Now as an Management student, with inclination towards marketing, what can I look for in these phenomenal creatures? It’s something which none of your marketing professors may have bothered to tell you even as an example. 

Yes, apart from the plethora of duties they have for the society, they can do wonders for the companies and that too in an ethical manner. Just think the value they can add to promote a product amongst the people in their area and even on the state/national level. 

For example: An MLA or MP can promote a loan schemes for farmers in his area. An MP from a city can help in selling apartments in a locality. A women leader can encourage jewelry and khaddar amongst her followers. 

 By now, it’s obvious that you must have got some questions about this proposition. Some of them which come to my mind right away are – 

 Is it a politician’s job to promote a certain brand? 

 My friends, if a cricketer or film actor can sell products from toothpastes to under wears of any sort of quality, then why can’t a politician encourage people to use a tractor of certain company which have explicit and proven benefits over its rivals. If a product can help people in genuine ways that it’s wise to give a face to it. 

Do they have experience in marketing? 

Yes, you must have seen photos of ministers, political party leaders on posters promoting government schemes, even on the schemes which many of them may not even understand about. In fact winning an election involves tremendous marketing efforts. The sheer amounts of people, a leader moves to win a Parliament election, and that too with very tight budget, can be any marketers dream. They may not be having degrees from top colleges but they certainly do have promotion and people management skills. 

Are politicians supposed to benefit by promoting a company’s product? 

Why not? Even they have their families to feed. Given the amount of supporters and the machinery they have to use to put even their own banners and posters during a high level leaders visit to their area. This all must be costing them a lot of money, what is wrong if they can earn few bucks by offering their services instead of collecting donations on birthdays. 

How can this be implemented? 

I hope some of you may have liked the idea, so let’s think about putting this in to practice. If companies and individuals can give donations in transparent as well as non – transparent ways, then doing it in open would definitely encourage more transparency in the system. The pathways are filled with the posters of products like TVs, Telecom Networks, Jewelers and the political leaders as well. If we can combine these two, it can be a win-win situation to both sides. A product can be visible to people along with the politicians faces. 

On the funny side, just think of A. Raja promoting Uninor telecom. Suresh Kalmani promoting surf excel “Ye daag acche hain” and Rahul Gandhi promoting “Fair & Handsome”!!! 

I’ve certainly not put some 4Ps and 5Cs of marketing in this … but this is not so hard to understand..is it? 

Cheers till the next post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The 10th Board Examination

Yaar, I’ve a case discussion in a class! I’m getting late. Can I call you in the afternoon?

Which class is that? You are still going to classes? When will you stop these studies Boy!

It’s called SDM.

SDM? Sub Divisional Magistrate?

No, it’s not that SDM; it’s called Supply and Distribution Management.

Ok , I’ve called you after many years, you don’t know how I managed to get your mobile number and now you have got a case! You solve your cases later on. I’ve got amazing news to share with you.

Oh ok, what is it?

A chap has got into 10th board merit from our school. Finally someone has done it.

Ohh great! Who is he?

Yeah man, finally it is. It’s the principal’s son Prakhar Bansal.

Really, I’m so happy, we all used to be so much fascinated with the merit holders in our school time. Is that guy from our village?

No, actually that principal got his son registered in our school, otherwise he didn’t study there, he came to write the exams only from the nearby town, and you know some help is always there when it’s all happening in your backyard.

“he he, now don’t discredit the kid of his hard work. You were always suspicious about my marks too. You won’t understand what it takes to get first rank in the school”, I said.

Oh yeah! can you see his name on the internet? How much marks has he got? He asked.

Ok, let me try, Yeah, I found the name and roll number. Wait a second! Hey, here it is. Our dude has got 93.83%, and you know what his mother’s name is?

Hehe, Now what has his mother’s name got to do with it?

Haha, it is Sumita Agrawal! Sounds familiar, isn’t it?


Yeah, you remember, two girls with the same name were amongst the eight students whose results were declared in our time, out of the 180 students who wrote the exam at the center in our school.

Hehe, right! But there is more in this name. I can guess he was smiling on the other end of the phone.

Dude, I’m already late to the class, I’ll talk to you in the afternoon.

I entered the class, putting the mobile in the silent mode, looking for some empty chairs in the last rows, but as always the rows at the back always fill first, most of us are so scared to sit in the first row. It’s totally opposite to the school days, where we used to fight to sit in the front rows.

I hurriedly sat in the second row, first row was still vacant. I tried to flip through the pages of the case book. I haven’t even read the case; in fact I didn’t even know which case it was.

As I was still turning the pages, I felt as if I was sitting in that class room under the peepal tree, right next to the Hanuman ji ka mandir. All the girls sat in the first row, they had few advantage of being girls, and it was one of those. they got to sit in the first row, no matter how late they come to school.

“So, how are the preparations going for the board exams?” She asked without turning back.

I knew the question was for me only, not for the girl sitting to the right of her. I had come to school after many days as I was busy preparing for the final exams at home, there was no teaching in the school those days.

“Yeah going on fine, it’s just two weeks now. How’s your preparation? Still coming to school?” I replied.

The room was dark; the windows were sealed by bricks and plastered. The black patches looked strange on the white wall. It was second time that school was hosting the board exams and it was one of the sensitive centers. Being a village with majority of Jat and Gurjar population, the authorities didn’t want to take any risk.

Yeah, I thought someday you’ll show up, you vanished in thin air as if you never were part of this school, she whispered again, without looking back, only I and the girl sitting next to her could hear it.

“Good then, I’m leaving, I just came to collect the admit card today. See you in exam. Prepare well”.I said as I prepared to leave. I could see the smile disappear from her face.

I picked my notebook and rushed out of the class room. I didn’t want to stay there. Everyone in the class felt strange to me in those times, I used to feel as if I didn’t have any friend there and everyone was competing with me in one way or another, to get the attention of the teachers or someone else or to become the topper of the school.

It was morning of 23rd March 99; I woke up early, as it was the day when the board exams were to start. I must have been cramming the essays, it was my weak part. I got my tea in the bed that day; father brought it along with the news paper.

Your exams are cancelled. The English paper was leaked last night! He said with a bit of disappointment on his face.

I, on the other hand was quite happy about it. I put the passbook on the side of the bed, grabbed the newspaper and read the news myself. The exams had really been cancelled.

I came out of the room, as if the exams were over on that day itself. Most of the friends, whom I met that morning, were quite happy too. We all went to play cricket in the afternoon that day.

After a week or so, the new date came as 22nd April. We all got one more month to prepare.

This time again we were all ready to write the exams, I was again cramming the essays in the morning that day, but as the luck would have it, the papers were leaked once again. But this time I too was not happy along with my father.

It was getting quite boring; after all it was end of the April, when will the exams start? I was getting really frustrated after so much preparation, how many time would someone read those books, I even had a marriage to attend in the family in the first week of May, which I was planning to go for sure after the exams.

The new date was declared by the end of the April. It was 13th May. The local politicians demanded fans in the class rooms but that was all in the talks, who will arrange fans for a million students in two weeks.

The marriage was on 6th May. Now I worried that I could not attend it, I knew it for sure. But somehow father agreed. He allowed me to go to it, the request made to mummy worked.

Finally it was the eve of day; the 13th May had come at last. I was hoping it doesn’t get shifted once again. It was really very hot during that time. I had really put in my best in the preparation. I had never stayed awake after 10 PM unless it was the Friday night movie on DD-1. But now I couldn’t sleep even after 11 PM, father would ask me to sleep, quite surprising, I thought!

The power cut had its own timings; it didn’t matter if it was exam time. My father would clean the glass of the kerosene lamp and lit it up at the roof top. It was better at the roof; it is a common practice for the people to sleep at roofs during night time. We didn’t have the water cooler either and the fan was useless, as it was just hot air blowing on your face.

I woke up early, still struggling with the essays. This time I had written these in Hindi, and was planning to translate the sentences, which I had mugged up, directly into English. I reached the exam center along with my father. I said I would go alone but he insisted to come along. It was an electrifying scene there. Students had come from nearby villages on cycles, motorcycles and tractors while some on foot. More than students, the people came to see the board exam, what does it feel to appear for a metric exam, they just wanted to have a look at the preparations there.

I was chatting with my friends, wanted to be away from my father, how other students would think about me that I had come with my father, and I was still a kid in nursery. No one wanted his parents to come to school. They used to come only if someone had big fight with some teacher or other student and the rustication was on the cards.

Then one of my classmates tapped me on my shoulder and indicated to one big fat man, it’s him. He smiled at me, shook my hand and said, so you are Vikram!

I think it was the first time someone’s father shook my hand; it was not a common practice for the elders to shake hand with boys of my age. He’s her father, my friend informed!

I was surprised, why would he come to me. Has he also come to know about the rumors which my classmates have made up? I gathered myself hurriedly and said, “Namaste!”

So, how are the preparations? He asked. Which one of you is getting in to the merit list? You or she? Both of you have got good competition. Let’s see who had prepared well.

I smiled, let’s see, I haven’t prepared well. But she is very intelligent. I hope she’ll make it to the merit.

Why not you? Students like you only do it. You have prepared enough for it, he said, smiling at me.

My father saw us both, he came towards us. By this time the gate had opened. It was the first time I had seen policemen guarding our school gate. She too came towards us from a corner where all the girls were chirping like birds at the dawn. She was smiling as she walked towards us, keeping her eyes straight, she didn’t even look at me. Her father kept his hands at the heads of both of us. Do well! He said.

“Take it easy, and don’t rush to finish the paper, take your time before writing the answer”, my father suggested.

Both of us moved towards the gate, tried to see our seats on a display board, students were hurdling in front of it. We are in the same room, she said, finally looking towards me, but still avoiding the eye contact.

We were not only in the same room, but very near to each other. Out of the four rows in the room, my seat was at the end of the fourth row while she was at the end of the third row. We were seated just two-three feet away from each other. Both of us laughed after seeing that, we felt as if our school teachers had knowingly arranged it this way.

The exam started, unlike normal exams, lots of instructions were read out by the invigilator who was one of our teachers from the same school. A team of teachers checked us thoroughly if we had any paper or unwanted material. The first part of the paper had multiple choice questions and it started at 10 AM; it was for half an hour. After around twenty minutes, the peon of the school came with a jug of water, his son was my classmate and he was also writing the exam at that center only. The peon offered me water, I denied, I thought that the exam had just started, and it was too early for the water break. But his purpose of the visit to my seat was something different. He slipped me a small piece of paper, and asked me to write the answers on it and left to make a round of the room with the jug in his hand. He came in two minutes, asking everyone if they wanted water. I had not written anything on the paper and rolled it into a small ball and threw it out of the door which was just in front of my table.

He came back to me and asked for the paper slip. I said, “I threw it”. He stared at me and left, without saying anything.

In next few minutes, the first part was collected and the second part was given. The answers to these questions were to be written on an answer sheet which was given before the start of the exam. It was made of good quality paper; I had never seen such a big answer sheet. How someone would fill it, I thought for a moment.

I started with the essay, it was my weakest part, and it had a significant part of the marks. I started with the translation work. I sneaked a look at her; she too was busy writing with her new pen, which was brought by her brother from Jaipur, especially for the board exams. She too gave a look towards me, which I could notice, but I continued writing, as I was in danger of forgetting the essay!

It was almost an hour now; the peon came back with the jug of the water, and slipped a sheet of paper once again. I threw it away in front of him only and warned him that I’ll tell invigilator. This time he left without even looking at me.

The time was running short, I wrote whatever I could, and English was never my strong subject, so even more worries. Finally the time was over, and I could hear the chatting of other students as I was the last person in the room and still trying to finish the answer but the invigilator snatched the sheet.

So how was it, you were writing all the time, she asked after coming out of the room. I said, “It was ok”.

After coming out of the school we came to know that some of the students in other rooms were caught cheating, their answer sheets were seized and new answer sheets were given, it was all the talk about them afterwards, and no discussion about the paper as it happen in schools in cities.

The exam continued, the peon didn’t come with the sheet again as I had told my father about it and he complained to the center in charge before the exam next day.

It was first paper of the math; most of the students were worried about it. By now everyone knew that she and I were sitting next to each other and they used to come to see us in our room just before the start of the exam, as if we were some items!

In these three four days, the students were comfortable in talking to each other during the exam; we too used to steal a moment from the invigilator and ask each other the answer to the multiple choice questions, we used to indicate the answers by count of showing number of fingers like 1 for A, 2 for B and 4 for D. It was fun!

After almost an hour after start of the exam, someone struck at the window which was sealed by bricks, from outside. It was a loud noise, after two-three hammers the brick came out and fell at the table of a girl sitting by the side of it, luckily she escaped unhurt. The person tried to trough few papers thorough the newly created hole in the window, but the invigilator took it before someone could pick it to copy the answers. This was something totally unexpected. Few policemen rushed to look out for the person who was doing it. After few minutes, they came towards to center in charge’s office dragging and beating a boy, but he didn’t cry. I was just seeing it all from the door in front of my desk.

As the exam time was coming to end, both of us tallied the answers of questions, as it was just a numeric figure in the math. I came to know that one of my answers to a question was wrong, I corrected it and finally the dreadful math paper was over. It wasn’t that tough, and I was quite happy about it.

The next paper was of social science, it was second last paper of the season. While everyone was busy writing the paper, suddenly an outside checking team came to our center. The gatekeeper informed the administration before opening the lock at gate. The invigilator in turn informed us all that the checking team was in another room and it was about to come to our room. Suddenly many of the students started giving many pieces of paper to the invigilator, while some of them tried to throw them out of broken window and the gates. The invigilator was Rekha Madam that day; she tied her Dupatta at her waist, collected the pieces of paper from many students and put them in her kurta. In few minutes her belly looked as if she was pregnant. Even though she was strictly against cheating but that day she helped many students saving themselves from the checking team. I still couldn’t believe that she took such a big risk to help the students which she didn’t even knew as she was a new teacher.

A student threw a piece of paper under the table of the girl, who was sitting next to the broken window. She was unaware of it and was caught by the checking team. She denied vehemently that it was not her chit. But the checking team member snatched her answer sheet and put a note on it in red ink. She was given another answer sheet but she started crying loudly as soon as the checking team left. That day she disturbed most of us, I could not write answers as she kept crying till the end of the exam, teachers from the other rooms kept on coming to console her. But she won’t stop.

It was the time for last paper, I was quite excited, and finally the exams were coming to an end. Previous night, another classmate of mine at the nearby roof top was busy tearing apart his book to make chits. It was final exam and he was ready to take any risks to pass the exams, after all he was preparing to join Indian army and it was necessary to pass the secondary exam for achieving his dream. I turned off the kerosene lamp around midnight and went to sleep.

It was the last day; I bought some toffees on the way to school. I was planning to offer these to her probably for the first time. I called her and threw one on her table. The toffee fell off the table and she bent down to pick it up. She noticed that there were some paper chits inserted in to cracks of the table. She took these out and started searching her table and chair to look if any more are there. I too started searching my table and chair and to my utter surprise, my table was also full of paper chits.

Someone, probably one of the visitors, who curiously used come to our room to see both of us sitting next to each other, had put these intentionally to get us caught by the checking team. But luckily these chits didn’t come out in front of the checking team or the invigilator. Neither of us knew who had put these and when. But there were many who could have done these as no one was happy even seeing us talking to each other. It’s still a secret who did it.

The final exam was a lot tougher for me, as I was still worried about what might have had happened had any one of us was caught with paper chits in the table. I wrote whatever I could write; we didn’t tally the answers as we didn’t want to take any further risk. Both of us were sitting idle just after half way through the exam time as we didn’t have any teacher for social science in our school and we didn’t even complete the syllabus for this subject.

We kept looking at each other; I could see the feeling of sadness in her eyes. It was probably the last time that we were seeing each other, and who knew where we would land up for the further studies. School was the only common place where we could see each other, in fact just feel the presence of each other as we never saw each other perfectly as we were so ashamed of even having a good look at each other’s face, what to say of an eye contact.

The board exams were over; our fathers came to receive us. It was second time that I saw her father. I strangely asked him, where he was planning to put her in the next class. But he had not thought about it. “Let’s wait for the result!" was the only reply came from him. All four of us walked together to some distance before they moved on the way of their village. Both of us looked at each other as if it was never going to be possible for me to even see her again. There were no telephones or mobiles at our homes back then, so there was no question of being in touch with phones. It was over! I felt strange and came home along with my father.

The board exams were over on 22nd may. It was a lot hotter by now, the power didn’t come and it was really tough if I look back, but it was good time.
The result finally came on 26th July in the local news paper. Everyone was shocked, only 8 student’s out result was declared while other’s result was withheld. No one knew the reason. Luckily both of us were successful in being in those lucky eight successful students. The newspaper informed us about the passing division only and the marks could be seen at the internet, somewhere in the Bharatpur city. None of us knew what internet was? But my father went to see it. He noted the roll numbers of all the eight of us and got the marks for both of us. Later we came to know that the other student’s result was blocked because there was mass copy at the center and the answers were matching with one other for most of the students in the science paper.
The report sent by the checking team recommended the removal of the board exam center.

Whether I got to see her again is something which is still a mystery as her presence is always felt, unfortunately she has not grown up in my memories as she still seems to a girl studying in that school. But the time has passed like anything….It has been 12 years since that board exam.

“There are two eternities that can really break you down, yesterday and tomorrow. One is gone and other doesn’t exist! So live today only”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mahatma Gandhi: Are we forgetting him?

It was 62nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. I searched the main web pages of Times of India and The Hindu, but there was not a single mention about this!