Sunday, October 29, 2006

On ''Then and Now'' Kind of Moments...

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."

Paul Valery
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25th October 2006, 11:54 pm -

I have just reached home after a two day vacation (well, if 2 days of getting wasted in Jaipur qualify as a one!).

The drive back has been exhausting, because the Octavia is a painful car to drive if you're not used to it. To add to the that, blinding headlights and noisy co-passengers leaving no stones unturned in an effort to mess with your concentration levels. All this and more at 140 kilometres an hour.

On my way home, I dropped Abhishek at Gurgaon and picked up the girlfriend from somewhere in CP.

I open the front door of the apartment with my key and the girlfriend and I enter as noiselessly as possible. The mother is sleeping. The brother is listening to music in his room.

I enter my room and almost collapse onto the sofa. The girlfriend finds herself the next most comfortable spot in the room (the bed), and starts fiddling with her new toy, a video iPod.

The room is sparkling clean. The mother knew I was coming, so she removed all traces of encroachment carelessly left behind by the brother. She knows how much I hate anyone inhabiting my room while I'm away.

The cleanliness and symmetry make me happy.

11:58 pm - I take my cellphone out of the pocket and look at the screen. Still two minutes to go, and I'm already waiting for the phone calls to pour in. Who all will stay awake just to call me? Who will get through to me first? Will there be someone on call waiting constantly, wonder how that feels?

I have no answers. One minute left.

What do you do when the clock strikes 12:oo midnight, marking the beginning of the day you were born? Are you sleeping? Or are you hanging on to your phone just like me?

The girlfriend insists that I help her in connecting the iPod to the computer. She is in no mood to share my anxiety. I tell her to wait.

I get up from the sofa and walk to the dressing table. I take off my watch and empty the contents of my pockets. The change scatters on the dressing table. The few hundred rupee notes find their way into the drawer. Just as I'm closing the drawer, I notice a white slip of paper in between the notes. I pull it out and look at it.

It's exactly like a credit card cover, except that it says:

Tanmay Sahay
Room Number 1421
ITC Rajputana Shereton
Date Of Arrival: 24th October, 2006
Time: 10:15 am

I know why it is there in pocket and I know exactly what I need to do next. I forget that my birthday has just begun.
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26th October 2006, 12:04 am -

I'm sitting cross legged on the floor in front of an open suitcase. The suitcase is beige, but it looks almost brown owing to the layers of dust that have settled on it since the last time I pulled it out of the loft.

I'm searching for diary. It's blue in colour and the cover reads Raghubir Singh Junior Modern School Annual Diary (1993).

A quick survey of the contents reveals no sign of anything vaguely similar. I shuffle the contents carelessly and look again. Some things fall out. My attention is diverted to them.

A badge that says House Captain (Class 5), a party invitation on an LP from Supriya (Class 9), the receipt of my first ever pair of Reebok shoes (Class 8). Just as I'm about to go down the memory lane, the phone rings.

Hello!

H-a-p-p-y B-i-r-t-h-d-a-y t-o y-o-u! Da da dee da dum dum!

Thanks you so much Yesha!

The conversation goes on for a minute and then good byes are said.

Suddenly the girlfriend realises it is time.

Big Hug-Bigger Kiss-Lots of smiles-I'm glad she's there, right by my side.

The Happy Birthday-Thanks-Have a great year-You too-Ok Bye routine continues for about 10 minutes or so. All this while I'm desperate. Not to answer the person on call waiting or to attend to the 10 odd sms', but to go back to the suitcase.

Frustration.

Luck. The phone runs out of battery and I don't have my charger.

No moral dilemma.

Peace at last. Cigarette lit. Now where's that Diary???

I notice the girlfriend reading something. She notices me noticing her. She looks up and has the w-i-d-e-s-t possible grin on her face. That's when I realise she's holding the diary!

I ask her to give it to me. She thinks it's time we played beg.

NOT.

One minute and two wrestling moves later, I have the diary in my hand. The girlfriend is pinned to the bed and is trying everything possible to escape my clutches.

I make her promise that she'll behave. She does so, she has no choice.

I open the diary and start flipping through the pages. I find the excerpt I'm looking for:

Monday, 10th May, 1993 -

Hi Diary. How are you? I came back from Jaipur today. I had a lot of fun there. I stayed at Rajputana Hotel and it was FIVE STAR. I saw Hawa Mehel and Amir Fort. We went everywhere in the school bus only. I bought a pen for Ma and Vasu.

When I went for dinner, I was first in wishing Naina ma'am good evening and she made everyone clap for me.

At night we were very scared because some told us there is a ghost in the next room. I stayed with my best friend Abhishek, Parichay Mehra, and Ashish Tandon in one room. We saw cable at night and played chess. I won two games but lost two also.

Our room number was 1421. Abhishek said the hotel had 2000 rooms but I know he was lying.

Ma is calling me, I'm going now.

Bye.
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Have you ever had a 'then and now' moment in your life? I've had a few to be honest, but this one tops them all.

In the May of 1993, my school had organised an overnight trip to Jaipur. It was a trip of firsts. I was in class 5. The diary entry you just read about that trip pretty much sums up all I remember of it.

So there I sat in front of the suitcase, thirteen years and 6 trips later, amazed at the significance of insignificant detail.

I called out to the girlfriend.

"Come here!"

"No, you help me with the iPod first!"

"Arre come here na! Please!"

She came and sat next to me.

"Can I read he diary after that or will you wrestle me again?", she asked.

"You can read the damn diary and ransack the suitcase sweety, but listen to me na! I was right about the room!"

"You're serious???", she said, with a look of disbelief.

I showed her the diary entry. She read it and looked up at me.

"So strange huh?", I said.

"Yaaa, totally!", she replied.

"Ok now the suitcase is all yours. I need to make a call."

She smiled in delight and immediately went to work on the suitcase.

I picked up my cellphone and called Abhishek. He didn't answer. I guessed that he must be exhausted from the trip too.

I gave up after one try, knowing well that I would speak to him the next day.

I lay down on the bed and fell asleep reading the diary. At some point in time the girlfriend switched the lights off and snuggled into the bed with me.
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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two to Tango

Year: 'yir
  • The period of about 365 1/4 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun.
  • The time required for the apparent sun to return to an arbitrary fixed or moving reference point in the sky.
  • The time in which a planet completes a revolution about the sun.

Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

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5th October 2004, Tuesday, 12:00 noon:

"Welcome to Daksh ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to IBM Daksh!"

The words echoed in my head for a while.

A short announcement followed, informing us about the events to follow. By 7:00 pm, the time the joining formalities were over, I had written down my particulars over twenty times and signed around 30 delarations of various kinds. I was exhausted.

The only settling factor was that everyone who had joined with me in that room was in the same boat. If I remember correctly there were 9 of us. I was the youngest, and one of two freshers.

I didn't utter a word throughout the day. I was nervous, unsure of what to say, not wanting to put my foot in my mouth. I remember this lady (also a new joinee), Aditi Malhotra, attempted to strike a polite conversation with me. I think the couple of replies I did manage were monosyllabic and without a hint of enthusiasm. She gave up almost immediately. Little did she know that this lost soul would come around to haunt her, and maybe even make her cry one day.

When all the formalities were over, we were informed that we could leave. As I walked out of the building and started walking towards my car, I felt disappointed to the point of being unsettled.

Thought: That's it? That was my first day at work? Isn't the first day supposed to be memorable? Aren't you finally supposed to feel in control of your life, untangled at last? Why is this happening? Maybe I'm not ready for this. Maybe I should go home and get back to travelling.

My thoughts were interrupted by a loud "Bye!" I waved back at Shweta, the DU History teacher turned housewife turned Voice and Accent Trainer at IBM Daksh, who had also joined the same day.

As I settled into the the driver's seat of my car, I finally felt in control. I welcomed the feeling, considering it had eluded me throughout the day. After I turned on the ignition, I pressed hard on the accelerator. I think I did it just because I could. Then with the push of a button, I had U2 calm my nerves. Well, almost.

"Is it getting better? Do you feel the same?

Will it make it easier on you now, if you got someone to blame?"

The traffic was heavy. My head, in comparison, was still heavier with the thoughts from the day. And now, these lyrics. I should have changed the song then and there, switch to happy music. Something like I'm like a bird or whatever.

Did I disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?

You act like you never had love... *Click*

I switched off the music system.

It took me almost two hours to reach home. Sitting in the car that day, crawling home at a snail's pace, I did something I hadn't done in a long time. I thought about where my life was heading.

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5th October 2006, Thursday, 5:00 pm:

Two years, three managers, four office spaces and a different department later, I can safely say that I'm one of the familiar faces around. It's a comforting feeling. A walk through the corridors, or lunch at the cafeteria involves making polite conversation with almost everyone. I think they think of me as the nice guy who's been around.

Aditi Malhotra, well... Adi (she insists I call her that), sits in the adjacent room. I think she and I moved out of training around the same time. I moved into quality and she moved into Research and Development. We're the only two left in the training division from the bunch that joined that day. The only difference being that Aditi was promoted to the post of an assistant manager in April.

I receive an email from the HR department congratulating Adi and me for achieving this 'milestone.' The mail is copied to every one in my business unit. Within a minute, I 'm in the process of deleting the clutter from my inbox and frantically replying to congratulations messages from people I don't know of, haven't met or ever said hello to.

I get this email from Karishma Bajaj. It says 'Congratulations Fossils.'

The phrase stays in my mind for a while and I continue staring at the colourful screen. Flowers, satin ribbons, twinkling light and designer font make for stylish viewing. I remain unmoved, wondering when the nostalgia will kick in.

Viren (close friend and colleague) backslaps me rather violently, ordering me to join him for a smoke downstairs. I look at my watch, 5:10 pm; time for the hot chick from Tower-A of the building to come down on her smoke break. We don't want to miss out on the limited viewing pleasure we have at our disposal. So I lock my desktop and we hurry downstairs.

After two cigarettes and a little disappointment (the chick never showed up), Viren suggests we go back upstairs and get back to work. While we are in the lift lobby, I ask him to carry on and tell him I'll be up shortly. He asks me if everything is alright (I hate perceptive people). I say Yes! and he gives me the look of How did you know I was going to ask you that??? He doesn't protest, and takes the next elevator.

I walk out of the lobby, into the open. I go straight to 'Costa Coffee' and buy a cold coffee. Once out of there, I light a cigarette and go park myself at the far end of the building. The area is dimly lit, but provides a fantastic view of the commotion around. It's also an area where you can find class four taking their beedi breaks. And every now and then you can spot a couple, desperate for some alone time.

Today, strangely, there is nobody.

As you may have guessed, the nostalgia had kicked in the elevator lobby.

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6th October 2006, Friday, 3:51 pm:

Yesterday evening, as I sat there with my cigarette and cold coffee, I reflected on the two years gone by. It was more an act of recollection than actual pondering over the events.

Here is what I could remember:

My first day at work. In retrospect, that day does hold a lot of significance. It may not have been eventful but memorable it was, simply because I will never forget it.

Rohit Chopra. Inspirational boss and fantastic manager, now reduced to a detail in my phonebook. Even now, when I wear floaters to work, I think of how he used to pull me up and urge me to wear formals. I'll never forget that smile of his, a smile of general well being and of unconditional acceptance.

Mimansa. Colleague, dear friend, angel. She taught me how to dress, where to party and in many ways, how to live. She doesn't work here anymore but I try and meet her as often as possible, even if all she has to offer is a reality check.

Viren. Best friend, fellow negro, golfer, dancer, and in many ways, a philosopher. He taught me how to appreciate video games and vampires at an artistic level. Currently, he's teaching me how to play golf. Every now and then he also tries to teach me how to dance, much to his and my frustration beacause I'm still pathetic at it. He also taught me that it's never too late to make a best friend.

Chinese and Thai Cafe, Gurgaon. Nights of endless alcohol, useless conversation, dancing in the parking lot to Alan Parson, and more. Half my income is in the club's bank account.

Sugandha. Trainer, gambler, wanderer, friend, guide, snob, philosopher, critic... the list is endless. 'Sugi' is my inspiration in many ways, and I think she knows it.

Leon, Maxwel and Siddharth. A comic, an achiever and an alpha male. A day at office is incomplete without Leon's useless (and fantastic) jokes, Maxwel's favours and Sid's almost dictatorial pieces of advice.

IBM. I love being here. In some trying times, I've often wondered why. Maybe because of the space and comfort I've been given, or maybe because it's my only means to a socially acceptable identity.

U2's One. Club, Disco, Parking lot, Dance Bar no bar. Whenever this song plays, you will find Tanmay, Leon, Viren, Mimansa, Sugandha, and whoever else is there locked in a group hug, singing loudly and out of tune. There is something about this song. I wonder now, as to why I turned it off in the car on my first day at work.

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There were a lot more flashes of people and places, of accomplishments, disappointments, embarrasments and more. But the cold coffee was long over and my last cigarette had just died on me, almost burning my fingers.

When I came back to reality, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the grass. I got up immediately and dusted the dirt off my trousers. As I walked to the elevator lobby, I thought of how much these last two years meant to me.

I am more complete as a person today than I ever remember being, good or bad notwithstanding. A subject matter expert in training, a reasonably good colleague, an amature golfer and writer, a socialite. When my trainees meet me, they never forget to flash their widest grins and try to convince me about how often they think of me. I think I must've made a difference, however miniscule, in improving their life. My colleagues always tell me that I'm great with meeting deadlines. And Viren never forgets to talk about my flair for golf when we're in mixed company. As for the writing, I'll let you decide.

I think all this makes for an interesting profile for a 22 year old.

I feel it could do with a little improvement though, I still can't dance.

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