Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fringe-benefits of... well, living my life!

There are a number of fringe-benefits of being in teaching profession - most importantly, one learns something everyday.

There are other fringe-benefits too (specially, if for someone who has stuck around in the campus for now 2 decades): e.g., one meets some of the brightest, most talented - and weirdest - of people in the class, and gets in touch with real "Lives in Progress" (an old book by Robert White, which used to be my favourite back in 70s); one learns the changing values and perspectives across generations (and learns to accept the feeling of having played one's inning); one learns to live and underand the consequence of one's actions over years; and in one of routine days, one gets a chance of getting that snuggly-warm feeling for being remembered by someone whose life one touched inadvertantly, completely out of the blue...

That's what happened to me this evening, when I received this mail. Though I know the exercise which he mentioned, but frankly, I don't even recall if I ever used it in XL... Maybe I did, or maybe he mistook me for some other colleague... In any case, the very fact that after almost a decade he still remembered something which he learned during an hour of interaction with someone - me or someone else - made my day :).

This is the mail I received:

I am sure you won't know me - I joined BM(D) in 20xx, but discontinued after completing a year. Since then, it has been pretty much a tumultuous but enjoyable journey for me. Right after dropping out from XLRI, I took the entrepreneurial plunge and co-founded XXX in 20..., a test prep providing company. It had been a great learning story there - we pooled in all our savings, launched our products, incurred losses in the 1st year, faced death, raised angel investment, bounced back and now it is growing at about 100% every year.

I moved out of XXX in 20..., and went solo. I founded YYY, a technology enabled test preparation solution provider for Aus, UK, Ireland and New Zealand tests. I had assumed my prior experience of XXX would make the 2nd round of entreprenuership easier, but I realized that labour pain is as painful the 2nd time as it is the 1st time. The 1st year in YYY was equally tough. However, we have now crossed that blink-and-you-die phase, and slowly but surely moving towards stability. We are now a 38 strong team, and growing pretty fast.

Sir, I wanted to mail you to say a big THANK YOU. I did not have a chance to attend your courses, but you took an one hour session for our batch in the initial months. While you were discussing a lot of things, the seniors were preparing for the dunking phase of Bxxxxd :) [die-hard Xlers of recent years will know what the 'xxxx' stands for:0)]. You made us play a game that explained how we human beings have a great sense of timing, hence speed, but a terrible sense of direction. (You had asked us to guess the time, and also the north direction. While were were spot on about the time stuff, our sense of direction was wayward).

Many of the last 8 years I spent was in the wilderness.

That small game helped me understand how important it was to set a direction, and work towards it. And, that is one exercise that I share with all my team members.


So, what was my learning for the day?

Many actually, but perhaps most importantly...
  • That, in the Brownian movement of our "lives in progress", those mindless hello-goodbye encounters keep reverberating in some other lives for many years...
  • That, there is an in-built responsibility to other lives in all our interaction, connected as we are - and will remain connected...
  • That... life is sure worth it - actually a blessing - with all its inadequacies and contradictions - its joys, sorrows, guilts, elations, frustrations, longings, losses, fulfillments... In its ups-and-downs and myriad hues....when one fine evening, you suddenly receive a mail from an almost stranger ("stranger" being an artifact of my own clouded/cluttered memory) you had met almost a decade back, with a subject line "To Sir, With Love"

    In any case, it is a snuggly feeling to have, when one hits the sack! :)
  • Friday, May 07, 2010

    Omar Khayyam & Me - 5

    And we, that now make merry in the Room
    They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom
    Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
    Descend--ourselves to make a Couch--for whom?

    My Translation:
    हम, कलिका बन खिले -
    धरती ने प्रेम दिया
    गगन ने गीत दिया,
    और हम निखर गए...

    सूरज ने तपन दी,
    पवन ने झझकोर दिया,
    और हम बिखर गए,
    धरती के आँचल का श्रृंगार बन कर...

    कि हम, खिलें, महकें,
    अपनी ही सुरभि में,
    झूम-झूम बहकें,
    और बिखरें धरती के आँचल पर...

    ...बनायें एक और आँचल
    हम पर गिरें जो पंखुडियां...
    उन्हें चोट ना लगे

    Omar Khayyam & Me - 1
    Omar Khayyam & Me - 2
    Omar Khayyam & Me - 3
    Omar Khayyam & Me - 4

    Monday, May 03, 2010

    इशरत-ए-कतरा है दरिया में फना हो जाना...

    Somehow, as one grows, every year adds to the number of cherished co-travellers whom one sadly outlived... Many of them younger to oneself!

    Some days back, a common friend had sent me a mail: "What I have to share with you is painful - Kokila is critically ill and is in the ICU for the past 15 days. There is little hope, except for a miracle...She is heading for multi organ failure and all this within a span of a fortnight. It started as high fever and before anyone knew anythign, it developed into a major crisis. "

    I prayed for that miracle, which did not happen....

    And now suddenly when she has left, some of those small trivial moments/occuring become significant, e.g.,..

    ...I have wrist-watch of more than 2-decade vintage... It was gifted to me when I left ASCI, Hyderabad, since during those years I did not buy a watch (mine had fell down from a moving train during one of the tours)... I used to just peep-in into my colleagues' cabins or ring them up to find time. The "system" worked fine, since that way I got to interact with them everyday). Kokila was a young bubbly girl who had joined us - full of enthu, warmth and energy...

    When I decided to leave ASCI in '88 (though remained informally part-time with the college), Kokila told me, "now you better get a watch, and we will give it to you"... And so that's a gift which I cherish...

    Today, this everyday wrist-watch suddenly became significant for me...

    After leaving Hyderabad in '90, we hardly had any contact. I know she had communicated with Geeta some time in early '90s - their common interest being the gender issues...

    About 3-4 years back, I was in Hyderabad, and rang her up. After so many years, I was not even sure, where to start.... in the meanwhile, she had left ASCI, had co-founded an organisation - FORDE ...Her warm, cheerful and reaching-out words still ring in my ears: "Hi rascal! Where have you been all these years?!! No news!" and we chatted for a long time...

    And then today I received this news which I was fearing to receive: "Kokila Parthasarathy, just 50, passed away today after 15 days on the ventilator. Undiagnosed infection led to multi organ failure. A vibrant and ever cheerful Kokila, who was globe trotting till her sudden illness is no more. It is very hard to believe it..."

    Good bye, Kokila!

    Sunday, May 02, 2010

    ...too much wine, too much song...

    A very old and dear friend of mine - of more than 3 decades vintage - recently posted a message on FB "...added Singing to her interests."...

    And I wanted to write back that through all these years, I recalled her only from this Terry Jacks song - of that golden era of our lives... "Seasons in the Sun" which she used to sing then (FB unfortunately does not allow such msgs):

    Seasons in Sun (Terry Jacks, 1974)

    ...and then I realised, that so many of my friendships - most of them lasting a lifetime (feel guilty to admit that it was their lifetime... for having outlived so many of them... and miss them in my life-space) were built around songs, music and poetry that we shared... the one with one of my "soul mates" (my sister, guardian and ward - at different points in time in our lives... When she left, I lost a segment of my life which we used to share since 1962)

    Ishrat-e-Katraa (Ghalib) by Shumona Roy Biswas

    ..and then today, I suddenly chanced upon a treasure - Zamfir - on YouTube... I got introduced to Zamfir during mid '80s by another of those co-travellers (now no more with me - bless her wherever she is now)... We used to freak-out on "Einsamer Hirte/The Lonely Shephard"

    Gheorghe Zamfir - Einsamer Hirte/The Lonely Shephard

    ...and the immortal "She" (not many would relate her to Rider Haggard... we, a part of a generation, grew on that legacy)

    Gheorghe Zamfir - She

    Well, well... lives go on (specs and sparks as they/we are in the benign indifference of the universe) - and as Ghalib wrote (and Shumona di' gave her voice to the verses:

    इशरत-ए-कतरा है दरिया में फना हो जाना...