Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Good evening, everyone.
Dean Hubbard, distinguished faculty, honored graduates, relieved parents, family, and friends, it's a distinct pleasure to be in New York City this evening to celebrate the biggest milestone to date in the lives of you, the young men and women before us: your graduation from Columbia University Business School.
It may surprise you, graduates, but as big a night as this is for you, it's an even bigger night for your parents. They may look calm and collected as they sit in the audience, but deep inside they're doing cartwheels, dancing the Macarena, and practically speaking in tongues, they're so excited. This is what happens when parents anticipate that their bank accounts will soon rehydrate after being bone-dry for two years. So, for everyone here this evening, it's a very special occasion. And I'm delighted to share it with you.
I am keenly aware that graduates traditionally refer to our time together this evening as the calm before the storm. Some graduates -- perhaps those who minored in self-awareness -- refer to the commencement address as "the snooze before the booze." However you describe my comments this evening, please know that I understand. It wasn't that long ago that I was in your place. And I remember the day well. I knew that I owed my parents -- my financial benefactors -- this opportunity to revel in our mutual accomplishment. Yet, as the guy at the podium droned on about values, goals, and how to make my dreams take flight, I remember desperately checking and rechecking my watch. I thought, "I deserve to party, and this codger's cramping my style!"
In one of life's true ironies, I am now that codger. Well...I'm the female equivalent. A codg-ette, I guess. And I now understand that values, goals, and how to make dreams take flight, really are important. So being a firm believer that hindsight is one of life's greatest teachers, allow me to make belated amends.
To that distinguished, erudite, and absolutely brilliant man whom I silently dissed many years ago: mea culpa. Big, BIG mea culpa!
This evening, graduates, I want to share a few thoughts about a topic that should be near and dear to your hearts: the world of global business. But, I'm going to present this topic in a way that you probably haven't considered before. I'm going to take a look at how the United States is often perceived in global business, what causes this perception, and what we can do about it. To help me, I'm going to make use of a model.
To begin, I'd like you to consider your hand. That's right: your hand.
Other than the fact that mine desperately needs a manicure, it's a pretty typical hand. But, what I want you to notice, in particular, is that the five fingers are not the same. One is short and thick, one tiny, and the other three are different as well. And yet, as in perhaps no other part of our bodies, the fingers work in harmony without us even thinking about them individually. Whether we attempt to grasp a dime on a slick, marble surface, a child's arm as we cross the street, or a financial report, we don't consciously say, "OK, move these fingers here, raise this one, turn this one under, now clamp together. Got it!" We just think about what we want to do and it happens. Our fingers -- as different as they are -- coexist to create a critically important whole.
This unique way of looking at my hand was just one result of hot summer evenings in my childhood home in Madras, India. My mother, sister, and I would sit at our kitchen table and -- for lack of a better phrase -- think big thoughts. One of those thoughts was this difference in our fingers and how, despite their differences, they worked together to create a wonderful tool.
As I grew up and started to study geography, I remember being told that the five fingers can be thought of as the five major continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Now, let me issue a profound apology to both Australia and Antarctica. I bear neither of these continents any ill will. It's just that we humans have only five fingers on each hand, so my analogy doesn't work with seven continents.
Clearly, the point of my story is more important that geographical accuracy!
First, let's consider our little finger. Think of this finger as Africa. Africa is the little finger not because of Africa's size, but because of its place on the world's stage. From an economic standpoint, Africa has yet to catch up with her sister continents. And yet, when our little finger hurts, it affects the whole hand.
Our thumb is Asia: strong, powerful, and ready to assert herself as a major player on the world's economic stage.
Our index, or pointer finger, is Europe. Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.
The ring finger is South America, including Latin America. Is this appropriate, or what? The ring finger symbolizes love and commitment to another person. Both Latin and South America are hot, passionate, and filled with the sensuous beats of the mambo, samba, and tango: three dances that -- if done right -- can almost guarantee you and your partner will be buying furniture together.
This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, the United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg up in global business since the end of World War I.
However, if used inappropriately -- just like the U.S. itself -- the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I'm talking about. In fact, I suspect you're hoping that I'll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I'm not looking for volunteers to model.
Discretion being the better part of valor...I think I'll pass.
What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. -- the long middle finger -- must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand...not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. -- the middle finger -- sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.
Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand -- giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers -- but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.
I'd challenge each of you to think about how critically important it is for every finger on your hand to rise and bend together. You cannot simply "allow" the other four fingers to rise only when you want them to. If you've ever even tried to do that, you know how clumsy and uncoordinated it is.
My point here is that it's not enough just to understand that the other fingers coexist. We've got to consciously and actively ensure that every one of them stands tall together, or that they bend together when needed.
Today, as each of you ends one chapter in your young lives and begins another, I want you to consider how you will conduct your business careers so that the other continents see you extending a hand...not the finger. Graduates, it's not that hard. You can change and shape the attitudes and opinions of the other fingers -- the other continents and their peoples -- by simply ascribing positive intent to all your international business transactions. If you fail, or if you are careless, here's a perfect example of what can happen:
A U.S. businesswoman was recently in Beijing, China, on an international training assignment for a luxury hotel chain. The chain was rebranding an older Beijing hotel. As such, the toilets in the hotel had yet to be upgraded. There were no porcelain commodes, just holes in the floor. Until recently, this was the standard procedure in China.
Now, 8,000 miles removed from the scene, you and I -- and most Americans -- can shake our heads and giggle at the physical contortions and delicate motor skills necessary to make the best of this situation. We're simply not used to it. But to loudly and insultingly verbalize these feelings onsite, in front of the employees and guests of the host country, is bush league. And yet, that's exactly what this woman observed.
In the hotel's bar, the woman overheard a group of five American businessmen loudly making fun of the hotel's lavatory facilities. As the drinks flowed, the crass and vulgar comments grew louder, and actually took on an angry, jingoistic tone. While these Americans couldn't speak a word of Chinese, their Chinese hosts spoke English very well, and understood every word the men were saying.
And we wonder why the world views many Americans as boorish and culturally insensitive. This incident should make it abundantly clear. These men were not giving China a hand. They were giving China the finger. This finger was red, white, and blue, and had "the United States" stamped all over it.
Graduates, it pains me greatly that this view of America persists. Although I'm a daughter of India, I'm an American businesswoman. My family and I are citizens of this great country.
This land we call home is a most loving and ever-giving nation -- a Promised Land that we love dearly in return. And it represents a true force that, if used for good, can steady the hand -- along with global economies and cultures.
Yet to see us frequently stub our fingers on the international business and political stage is deeply troubling. Truth be told, the behaviors of a few sully the perception for all of us. And we know how often perception is mistaken for reality.
We can do better. We should do better. With your help, with your empathy, with your positive intent as representatives of the U.S. in global business, we will do better. Now, as never before, it's important that we give the world a hand...not the finger.
In conclusion, graduates, I want to return to my introductory comments this evening. I observed that as big a night as this is for you, it's an even bigger night for your parents. I ascribed their happiness to looking forward to a few more "George Washingtons" in their bank accounts. While this is certainly true, there is another reason.
Each of your parents believes that their hard work has paid off. Finally! They believe that maybe -- just maybe -- they have raised and nurtured the next Jack Welch, Meg Whitman, or Patricia Russo.
Don't disappoint them. Don't disappoint your companies. And don't disappoint yourselves.
As you begin your business careers, and as you travel throughout the world to assure America's continued global economic leadership, remember your hand. And remember to do your part to influence perception.
Remember that the middle finger -- the United States -- always stands out. If you're smart, if you exhibit emotional intelligence as well as academic intelligence, if you ascribe positive intent to all your actions on the international business stage, this can be a great advantage. But if you aren't careful -- if you stomp around in a tone-deaf fog like the ignoramus in Beijing -- it will also get you in trouble. And when it does, you will have only yourself to blame.
Graduates, as you aggressively compete on the international business stage, understand that the five major continents and their peoples -- the five fingers of your hand -- each have their own strengths and their own contributions to make. Just as each of your fingers must coexist to create a critically important tool, each of the five major continents must also coexist to create a world in balance. You, as an American businessperson, will either contribute to or take away from, this balance.
So remember, when you extend your arm to colleagues and peoples from other countries, make sure that you're giving a hand, not the finger. You will help your country, your company, and yourself, more than you will ever know.
Thank you very much.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Access to sanitation 72% 77th
Drug access 0% 152nd
Hospital beds 0.9 59th
per 1,000 people
Physicians 0.6 19th
per 1,000 people
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
PN: I understand you are quitting Bombay and going away to Khandwa…
KK: Who can live in this stupid, friendless city where everyone seeks to exploit you every moment of the day? Can you trust anyone out here? Is anyone trustworthy? Is anyone a friend you can count on? I am determined to get out of this futile rat race and live as I’ve always wanted to. In my native Khandwa, the land of my forefathers. Who wants to die in this ugly city?
PN: Why did you come here in the first place?
KK: I would come to visit my brother Ashok Kumar. He was such a big star in those days. I thought he could introduce me to KL Saigal who was my greatest idol. People say he used to sing through his nose. But so what? He was a great singer. Greater than anyone else.
PN: I believe you are planning to record an album of famous Saigal songs….
KK: They asked me to. I refused. Why should I try to outsing him? Let him remain enshrined in our memory. Let his songs remain just HIS songs. Let not even one person say that Kishore Kumar sang them better.
PN: If you didn’t like Bombay, why did you stay back? For fame? For money?
KK: I was conned into it. I only wanted to sing. Never to act. But somehow, thanks to peculiar circumstances, I was persuaded to act in the movies. I hated every moment of it and tried virtually every trick to get out of it. I muffed my lines, pretended to be crazy, shaved my head off, played difficult, began yodelling in the midst of tragic scenes, told Meena Kumari what I was supposed to tell Bina Rai in some other film - but they still wouldn’t let me go. I screamed, ranted, went cuckoo. But who cared? They were just determined to make me a star.
KK: Because I was Dadamoni’s brother. And he was a great hero.
PN: But you succeeded, after your fashion….
KK: Of course I did. I was the biggest draw after Dilip Kumar. There were so many films I was doing in those days that I had to run from one set to the other, changing on the way. Imagine me. My shirts flying off, my trousers falling off, my wig coming off while I’m running from one set to the other. Very often I would mix up my lines and look angry in a romantic scene or romantic in the midst of a fierce battle. It was terrible and I hated it. It evoked nightmares of school. Directors were like school teachers. Do this. Do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. I dreaded it. That’s why I would often escape.
PN: Well, you are notorious for the trouble you give your directors and producers. Why is that?
KK: Nonsense. They give me trouble. You think they give a damn for me? I matter to them only because I sell. Who cared for me during my bad days? Who cares for anyone in this profession?
PN: Is that why you prefer to be a loner?
KK: Look, I don’t smoke, drink or socialize. I never go to parties. If that makes me a loner, fine. I am happy this way. I go to work and I come back straight home. To watch my horror movies, play with my spooks, talk to my trees, sing. In this avaricious world, every creative person is bound to be lonely. How can you deny me that right?
PN: You don’t have many friends?
PN: That’s rather sweeping.
KK: People bore me. Film people particularly bore me. I prefer talking to my trees.
PN: So you like nature?
KK: That’s why I want to get away to Khandwa. I have lost all touch with nature out here. I tried to did a canal all around my bungalow out here, so that we could sail gondolas there. The municipality chap would sit and watch and nod his head disapprovingly, while my men would dig and dig. But it didn’t work. One day someone found a hand - a skeletal hand- and some toes. After that no one wanted to dig anymore. Anoop, my second brother, came charging with Ganga water and started chanting mantras. He thought this house was built on a graveyard. Perhaps it is. But I lost the chance of making my home like Venice.
PN: People would have thought you crazy. In fact they already do.
KK: Who said I’m crazy. The world is crazy; not me.
PN: Why do you have this reputation for doing strange things?
KK: It all began with this girl who came to interview me. In those days I used to live alone. So she said: You must be very lonely. I said: No, let me introduce you to some of my friends. So I took her to the garden and introduced her to some of the friendlier trees. Janardhan; Raghunandan; Gangadhar; Jagannath; Buddhuram; Jhatpatajhatpatpat. I said they were my closest friends in this cruel world. She went and wrote this bizarre piece, saying that I spent long evenings with my arms entwined around them. What’s wrong with that, you tell me? What’s wrong making friends with trees?
KK: Then, there was this interior decorator-a suited, booted fellow who came to see me in a three-piece woollen, Saville Row suit in the thick of summer- and began to lecture me about aesthetics, design, visual sense and all that. After listening to him for about half an hour and trying to figure out what he was saying through his peculiar American accent, I told him that I wanted something very simple for my living room. Just water-several feet deep- and little boats floating around, instead of large sofas. I told him that the centre-piece should be anchored down so that the tea service could be placed on it and all of us could row up to it in our boats and take sips from our cups. But the boats should be properly balanced, I said, otherwise we might whizz past each other and conversation would be difficult. He looked a bit alarmed but that alarm gave way to sheer horror when I began to describe the wall decor. I told him that I wanted live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings -since I liked nature so much. And, instead of fans, we could have monkeys farting from the ceiling. That’s when he slowly backed out from the room with a strange look in his eyes. The last I saw of him was him running out of the front gate, at a pace that would have put an electric train to shame. What’s crazy about having a living room like that, you tell me? If he can wear a woollen, three-piece suit in the height of summer, why can’t I hang live crows on my walls?
PN: Your ideas are quite original, but why do your films fare so badly?
KK: Because I tell my distributors to avoid them. I warn them at the very outset that the film might run for a week at the most. Naturally, they go away and never come back. Where will you find a producer-director who warns you not to touch his film because even he can’t understand what he has made?
PN: Then why do you make films?
KK: Because the spirit moves me. I feel I have something to say and the films eventually do well at times. I remember this film of mine - Door Gagan ki Chhaon mein - which started to an audience of 10 people in Alankar. I know because I was in the hall myself. There were only ten people who had come to watch the first show! Even its release was peculiar. Subhodh Mukherjee, the brother of my brother-in-law, had booked Alankar(the hall) for 8 weeks for his film April Fool- which everyone knew was going to be a block- buster. My film, everyone was sure, was going to be a thundering flop. So he offered to give me a week of his booking. Take the first week, he said flamboyantly, and I’ll manage within seven. After all, the movie can’t run beyond a week. It can’t run beyond two days, I reassured him. When 10 people came for the first show, he tried to console me. Don’t worry, he said, it happens at times. But who was worried? Then, the word spread. Like wildfire. And within a few days the hall began to fill. It ran for all 8 weeks at Alankar, house full! Subodh Mukherjee kept screaming at me but how could I let go the hall? After 8 weeks when the booking ran out, the movie shifted to Super, where it ran for another 21 weeks! That’s the anatomy of a hit of mine. How does one explain it? Can anyone explain it? Can Subodh Mukherjee, whose April Fool went on to become a thundering flop?
PN: But you, as the director should have known?
KK: Directors know nothing. I never had the privilege of working with any good director. Except Satyen Bose and Bimal Roy, no one even knew the ABC of film making. How can you expect me to give good performances under such directors? Directors like S.D. Narang didn’t even know where to place the camera. He would take long, pensive drags from his cigarette, mumble ‘Quiet, quiet, quiet’ to everyone, walk a couple of furlongs absentmindedly, mutter to himself and then tell the camera man to place the camera wherever he wanted. His standard line to me was:Do something. What something? Come on, some thing! So I would go off on my antics. Is this the way to act? Is this the way to direct a movie? And yet Narangsaab made so many hits!
PN: Why didn’t you ever offer to work with a good director?
KK: Offer! I was far too scared. Satyajit Ray came to me and wanted me to act in Parash Pathar - his famous comedy - and I was so scared that I ran away. Later, Tulsi Chakravarti did the role. It was a great role and I ran away from it, so scared I was of these great directors.
PN: But you knew Ray.
KK: Of course I did. I loaned him five thousand rupees at the time of Pather Panchali-when he was in great financial difficulty- and even though he paid back the entire loan, I never gave him an opportunity to forget the fact that I had contributed to the making of the classic. I still rib him about it. I never forget the money I loan out!
PN: Well, some people think you are crazy about money. Others describe you as a clown, pretending to be kinky but sane as hell. Still others find you cunning and manipulative. Which is the real you?
KK: I play different roles at different times. For different people. In this crazy world, only the truly sane man appears to be mad. Look at me. Do you think I’m mad? Do you think I can be manipulative?
PN: How would I know?
KK: Of course you would know. It’s so easy to judge a man by just looking at him. You look at these film people and you instantly know they’re rogues.
PN: I believe so.
KK: I don’t believe so. I know so. You can’t trust them an inch. I have been in this rat race for so long that I can smell trouble from miles afar. I smelt trouble the day I came to Bombay in the hope of becoming a playback singer and got conned into acting. I should have just turned my back and run.
PN: Why didn’t you?
KK: Well, I’ve regretted it ever since. Boom Boom. Boompitty boom boom. Chikachikachik chik chik. Yadlehe eeee yadlehe ooooo (Goes on yodelling till the tea comes. Someone emerges from behind the upturned sofa in the living room, looking rather mournful with a bunch of rat-eaten files and holds them up for KK to see)
PN: What are those files?
KK: My income tax records.
KK: We use them as pesticides. They are very effective. The rats die quite easily after biting into them.
PN: What do you show the tax people when they ask for the papers?
KK: The dead rats.
PN: I see.
KK: You like dead rats?
PN: Not particularly.
KK: Lots of people eat them in other parts of the world.
PN: I guess so.
KK: Haute cuisine. Expensive too. Costs a lot of money.
KK: Good business, rats. One can make money from them if one is enterprising.
PN: I believe you are very fussy about money. Once, I’m told. a producer paid you only half your dues and you came to the sets with half your head and half your moustache shaved off. And you told him that when he paid the rest, you would shoot with your face intact…
KK: Why should they take me for granted? These people never pay unless you teach them a lesson. I was shooting in the South once. I think the film was Miss Mary and these chaps kept me waiting in the hotel room for five days without shooting. So I got fed up and started cutting my hair. First I chopped off some hair from the right side of my head and then, to balance it, I chopped off some from the left. By mistake I overdid it. So I cut off some more from the right. Again I overdid it. So I had to cut from the left again. This went on till I had virtually no hair left- and that’s when the call came from the sets. When I turned up the way I was, they all collapsed. That’s how rumours reached Bombay. They said I had gone cuckoo. I didn’t know. I returned and found everyone wishing me from long distance and keeping a safe distance of 10 feet while talking. Even those chaps who would come and embrace me waved out from a distance and said Hi. Then, someone asked me a little hesitantly how I was feeling. I said: Fine. I spoke a little abruptly perhaps. Suddenly I found him turning around and running. Far, far away from me.
PN: But are you actually so stingy about money?
KK: I have to pay my taxes.
PN: You have income tax problems I am told….
KK: Who doesn’t? My actual dues are not much but the interest has piled up. I’m planning to sell off a lot of things before I go to Khandwa and settle this entire business once and for all.
PN: You refused to sing for Sanjay Gandhi during the emergency and, it is said, that’s why the tax hounds were set on you. Is this true?
KK: Who knows why they come. But no one can make me do what I don’t want to do. I don’t sing at anyone’s will or command. But I sing for charities, causes all the time.
[Note: Sanjay Gandhi wanted KK to sing at some Congress rally in Bombay. KK refused. Sanjay Gandhi ordered All India Radio to stop playing Kishore songs. This went on for quite a while. KK refused to apologize. Finally, it took scores of prominent producers and directors to convince those in power to rescind the ban- Rajan]
PN: What about your home life? Why has that been so turbulent?
KK: Because I like being left alone.
PN: What went wrong with Ruma Devi, your first wife?
KK: She was a very talented person but we could not get along because we looked at life differently. She wanted to build a choir and a career. I wanted someone to build me a home. How can the two reconcile? You see, I’m a simple minded villager type. I don’t understand this business about women making careers. Wives should first learn how to make a home. And how can you fit the two together? A career and a home are quite separate things. That’s why we went our separate ways.
PN: Madhubala, your second wife?
KK: She was quite another matter. I knew she was very sick even before I married her. But a promise is a promise. So I kept my word and brought her home as my wife, even though I knew she was dying from a congenital heart problem. For 9 long years I nursed her. I watched her die before my own eyes. You can never understand what this means until you live through this yourself. She was such a beautiful woman and she died so painfully. She would rave and rant and scream in frustration. How can such an active person spend 9 long years bed-ridden? And I had to humour her all the time. That’s what the doctor asked me to. That’s what I did till her very last breath. I would laugh with her. I would cry with her.
PN: What about your third marriage? To Yogeeta Bali?
KK: That was a joke. I don’t think she was serious about marriage. She was only obsessed with her mother. She never wanted to live here.
PN: But that’s because she says you would stay up all night and count money..
KK: Do you think I can do that? Do you think I’m mad? Well, it’s good we separated quickly.
PN: What about your present marriage?
KK: Leena is a very different kind of person. She too is an actress like all of them but she’s very different. She’s seen tragedy. She’s faced grief. When your husband is shot dead, you change. You understand life. You realize the ephemeral quality of all things.. I am happy now.
PN: What about your new film? Are you going to play hero in this one too?
KK: No no no. I’m just the producer-director. I’m going to be behind the camera. Remember I told you how much I hate acting? All I might do is make a split second appearance on screen as an old man or something.
PN: Like Hitchcock?
KK: Yes, my favourite director. I’m mad, true. But only about one thing. Horror movies. I love spooks. They are a friendly fearsome lot. Very nice people, actually, if you get to know them. Not like these industry chaps out here. Do you know any spooks?
PN: Not very friendly ones.
KK: But nice, frightening ones?
PN: Not really.
KK: But that’s precisely what we’re all going to become one day. Like this chap out here (points to a skull, which he uses as part of his decor, with red light emerging from its eyes)- you don’t even know whether it’s a man or a woman. Eh? But it’s a nice sort. Friendly too. Look, doesn’t it look nice with my specs on its non-existent nose?
PN: Very nice indeed.
KK: You are a good man. You understand the real things of life. You are going to look like this one day.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
by Eddie Currents
One night when his charge was pretty high, Micro-Farad decided to seek out a cute little coil to help him discharge.
He picked up Milli-Amp and took her for a ride in his Megacycle. They rode across the Wheatstone Bridge and stopped by a Magnetic field with flowing currents and frolicked in the sine waves.
Micro-Farad, attracted by Millie-Amp's characterisic curves soon had her fully charged and proceeded to excite her resistance to a minimum. He gently laid her at ground potential, raised her frequency and lowered her reluctance.
With a quick arc, he pulled out his high voltage probe and inserted it in her socket, connecting them in parallel. He slowly began short circuiting her resistance shunt while quickly raising her thermal conductance level to mill-spec..
Fully excited, Milli-Amp mumbled "OHM...OHM.. .OHM".
With his tube operating well into class C, and her field vibrating with his current flow, a corona formed which instantly caused her shunt to overheat just at the point when Micro-Farad rapidly discharged and drained off every electron into her grid.
They fluxed all night trying various connectors and sockets until his magnet had a soft core and lost all of its field strength.
Afterwards, Milli-Amp tried self-induction and damaged her solenoids and with his battery fully discharged, Micro-Farad was unable to excite his field. Not ready to be quiescent, they spent the rest of the evening reversing polarity and blowing each others fuses.
Monday, August 3, 2009
After vouching for good characters and guaranteeing that all of us are from respectable families, we finally managed to get this apartment - 1450, Park View Apartments in Sector 25. We’d a harrowing experience with the land lords because most people were reluctant - and I believe they are still now in any part of India - to give rent to bachelors citing many moral and social reasons. Luckily our land lady used to stay in Pune and might be she was not that bothered about the social implications of four bachelors staying in a locality where she anyway didn’t stay. The series of interactions with the landlords, in course of house hunting, turned out to be quite interesting. Apart from telling tons of lies about our characters already tinted heavily in the past four years in KGP, and taking totally unkeepable oaths like not drinking in houses or not using loud music in nights we also had to cope up with our terrific proficiency in Hindi. For the first time we all learnt that the lingo that we used in KGP is not actually a usable one, not at least when we’re giving character tests. Talking with aged uncles and aunties, who anyway have so much suspicion about our characters, was not an easy one with our the vocabulary of Hindi words – most if which were slangs and unutterable at most places of the world. Tanujoy, the most ordered one among us, came up with an idea that we should take a flat that had a garage attached to it. He had the furthest foresight and wanted to think of some day in future when we’d all have a two wheeler each. Now when he was asking for the garage, he mistakenly told that we’d have two four wheelers - instead of four two wheelers. The landlord became very suspicious of someone who wanted to fit two four wheelers into a single garage!!
We liked the Park View Apartments at the very first time we went there to check the flat out before taking it for rent. It was a spacious two bedroom apartment with a very big living room and a total of five balconies. Any part of the house opened on a balcony. There were enough windows everywhere. The flat was open in two sides and got enough sun light and air. When shared between four people, the rent, 6.5K per month, was not much for each of us, even though our take home turned out, much to our surprise, to be something around only 6-7K per month. One and a half decade back, when we’re offered the jobs in the campus we’re not at all smart and well aware as the fresh grads now-a-days are. The salaries were at least four five times lower than what it’s now, and also we never knew how much of the salaries actually go for taxes and ‘allowances’ which inflate the salary figures to a great extent.
The first thing we noticed, to our satisfied surprise, was that unlike our engineering days in IIT KGP, there were too many girls around. The initial euphoria, something similar to hikers seeing water in a desert, got the immediate shock well within a day when we found that almost every girl was accompanied by guys, who were no less than bouncers compared to our starved physique. Moreover the bouncers had at least a fashionable motor bike. The more affluent bouncers had the then newly launched car Cielo. We, on the contrary, didn’t even have the money to buy a bi-cycle, at that point of time. I remember that my dad had given me ten thousand bucks to manage till we got the first salary – that also for a partial month – in August. The initial excitement of seeing so many girls around – almost each flat at the Park View had eligible and quite attractive girls – converted into a frustration very soon when we understood that starvation due to non-availability of food is a much better scenario than that due to non affordability. The frustration gradually gave rise to a philosophic outlook. We seemed to appreciate Keats – a thing of beauty is a joy for ever. So even though neither we had the guts nor the means to approach any of the so many girls in our apartment complex, we still kept a track of each of the girls – when they returned from schools, when they went out with their dogs (these does were something that we’re very envious of), with whom they went out regularly, which color of dresses they preferred to wear and many other minute details. The problem we faced was that we didn’t know the names. Hence it was not easy to discuss about them later as we couldn’t make references to them. That’s when we christened them as M1, M2 and so on – where ‘M’ stood for a Bengali slang for girls. I don’t think algebra came to us so handy ever in the past!!
Off course the girl on whom all of us had a huge crush was our neighbor, Prarthana. She was also the only girl whom we knew by name. And very interestingly she was perhaps also the only girl who used to listen to us, come to our house and spend time merrily with us. We used to take her out also. But the only problem was that we’re not very comfortable dealing with her on roads – because you really need guts and nerves to handle girls of Prarthana’s age – she was just three years!!
One evening we had a visitor – the aunty who stayed in the building opposite to ours in the third floor – we’re on the first floor. We’d seen her number of times in our apartment complex, moving with her Doberman. Hers was one of the very few houses where we didn’t locate any girl. It was quite a surprise when she came to our house – she was the first visitor we had at 1450 Park View. Our drawing room used to have just a B/W portable TV, placed on the floor and nothing else. The attached dining hall had a huge dining table that could accommodate at least ten people but we’d only four chairs. Hurriedly we brought one of those chairs for aunty. She smiled at our condition, asked a few questions about our families and then asked us to go to her house and collect a set of window curtains. We tried to explain to her that we’re quite fine without the curtains. But then she tried to explain that not all our neighbors might be fine with that. Anyway, we couldn’t mind accepting the first ever invitation to anyone’s house in Noida. On her departure we started speculating why she was so keen to help us. We started nurturing a feeble hope in our minds that perhaps she had eligible daughters (thinking that she had only one daughter would put four of us in quite a competitive situation) and wanted to check us out!! This very thought made us all wait with all eagerness to go to her house. Finally it ended with an anti climax. Aunty had two boys of our age and both were out in their jobs. We reminded her of the boys and that’s why she had generated a soft corner for us. We’re both sad and happy – sad because she didn’t have eligible daughters and happy to get a motherly person close to us.
That’s how passed the days in 1450 Park View apartments – with meager means in today’s standard but no less fun in standards of any age. Few months later, on the day of Holi, we finally solved the algebraic equations with ‘M’s!!