My Life So Far – Part 3 (Work and Marriage)

This part should be the shortest of all, as it covers only the last 5 years. However, these years have been quite eventful, to say the least. I’ll probably spend most of my time talking about marriage and get the work stuff our of the way quick, because honestly, who wants to talk about work?

Handy links to previous parts are below for ease of browsing:

17th Dec, 2014 : Part 1 (Childhood and School)
18th Dec, 2014 : Part 2 (College Years)
19th Dec, 2014 : Part 3 (Work and Marriage)
20th Dec, 2014 : ???

I came back to Kolkata in January, 2010 after finishing up my studies. While I knew that my family would start preparing for my marriage, at that time I can honestly state that it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was busy establishing myself and starting work, though that had its own hurdles for me to cross.

I had seen the corporate culture in NYC and it was in stark contrast to India, especially Kolkata. There, meetings were structured, had an agenda, and would start and end on time, usually with a clear plan of action at the end. In India, by contrast, everything was much more free form. Someone would come in for a meeting and spend half an hour chatting about inane things till tea had been had, and the last 10 minutes would be about work, often with no clear objective achieved or plan of action made. It was tough to stomach the absolute waste of time and efficiency this constituted, and yet the vast majority of meetings I attended in various companies were similar in their structure. I have tried to bring some semblance of efficiency into my organization, and though progress has been slow, I’m just glad there has been some.

I started working at a Group company of ours called Indo-Thai. I had been involved in the bidding process while I was in NYC, but working on the ground was definitely far different than reading briefs, notes and Tender Documents. Similarly, building financial models was a much different exercise after spending some time at the airports, seeing how they were run, what the true costs were, and recognizing where we had been either overestimating or underestimating some figure. I toured Jaipur, Lucknow and Amritsar quite frequently in those early months as we started operations, and am happy to state that some of the processes I argued for have today been implemented. While I understand that its difficult to listen to the advice of someone who has just entered the work force, I’m just glad that the systems and processes we put in place in those early months are bearing fruit today. Better late than never!

After Indo-Thai became a known quantity, it was time for me to do something different. We had been approached by a company to give them a loan, but since it was drowning in liabilities, we had refused. They in turn offered to sell us their assets instead of requesting for a loan. We did some due diligence on the subsidiary company they offered and found it to have great potential. The name of the company we purchased was Bihar Rubber Company, and their brand was Duckback. I had known Duckback as a school kid for their school bags and raincoats, and taking care of a manufacturing company was a new challenge for me. I thoroughly enjoyed working with an impressive group of people, none more so than the General Manager and CEO of the company, Mr. Basak. He is a fount of knowledge regarding Rubber product manufacturing and has been a pioneer in this field in his 35-40 year odd career. While currently the company is stuck in some litigations, once they are cleared I have high hopes from this company. Its already a good performer and its future only grows brighter.

I was always involved in Real Estate. It had slowly become our main business and my father had taken care to keep me updated in all the year I was in NYC. I would sit on my mails every night and go through the documents he would send me, either to study, or simply for my information, or for me to work on. When I came back, the transition was very smooth for me as I already had a lot of information about deals, lands, projects and people. I also had a great mentor in my father, who was always generous with his time and his advice and guidance. Everything I have learnt about who to work has been due to him, and everything I do wrong is usually due to me not following him. Then again, we both understand that we are different people and will have clashes of opinion, however he has always given me a fair hearing and a chance to justify my arguments, which is all I ask.

When I was in India for 2007, one of the last things I did work wise was decide the terms of a Tender we were submitting for a prime piece of land. We eventually ended up winning the tender, beating out many established brands. Since the plot was so strategically located, we wanted to do something out of the ordinary on it. Thats when my father asked me to visit the World Trade Center offices in NYC. I would go to their offices and tried to create a rapport. Once I was back in India, I started following up with people at the WTC NYC offices and eventually ended up applying officially for the World Trade Center license. After a year of hectic back and forth, sending documents, letters of recommendations, presentation etc, we finally achieved what we wanted and are the proud holders of the World Trade Center Kolkata license. Like everything we do, we’ll take our time, move when its opportune and delivers something that exceeds expectations.

We have also launched a residential project called Pratham on BT Road. I believe we are the only developers on that entire stretch of road that are providing luxurious living at a price comparable to other projects. We are also the only project that does not compromise on the size of the apartment and provide full size, spacious living instead of asking our customers to live in matchboxes. I’ve been intimately involved in its launch and marketing efforts, and the response to the project has been beyond the goals we had targeted! Saying anything more would be marketing our product and I will refrain from doing so on this forum. Suffice to say, work has been sometimes a cakewalk, sometimes irritating and almost always interesting. Working in India has its advantages, but the way work is done is sadly not one of them in my experience. That is the only blot on my experience, and the perfect combination in my mind would be to work like New York, but in India. We put too much emphasis on inter-personal relationships to solve our problems instead of relying on processes and systems in my view, but things are slowly moving in the direction of a structured way of working, which I heartily welcome and encourage.

I am not going to talk about the work environment of Kolkata, because I was taught as a kid that if I cannot say something good, I should say nothing at all.

While I was working to get Indo-Thai off the ground in early 2010, Pallavi was busy making my Bio-Data. I must compliment Pallavi for this stage, as she compiled all relevant information and produced a beautifully designed Document. I remember thinking that whether or not I got married, at least Pallavi will be able to get a job quite easily in any creative field. Unknown to me, my parents had already received a few Bio-Datas through family members and were sifting through them. I was quite happy being away from the whole process as I had no interest in the journey, only in the destination! I had told my parents to find someone who they would be happy with, as I was quite confident I would be able to adjust with whoever they liked. Still, once in a while a Bio-Data came my way and I was asked to give an opinion. I would usually keep it to myself and relegated my role to be the last approval required, after my whole family had been convinced. Then it would be up to me and the girl, and we found each other compatible, we’d take the final step. Formulating this step-by-step system definitely helped us in streamlining the whole process.

There was an incident in April or May of that year that might be instructive, but I will let that particular cat out of the bag at the end. 😉

While my parents were going through the Bio-Datas they had received, I was busy planning a trip attending the football World Cup being held in South Africa. Matt had gotten a job at UEFA and had kindly let me have an additional ticket he had been given. I flew into SA, hung out with Matt for a week, saw the Semi Finals and Finals, and watched in anguish as first Germany (my first choice) and then Holland (my second choice) were defeated by Spain, who displayed the most boring brand of football ever played. It was a deeply disappointing tournament in terms of the result but an exhilarating experience nonetheless. The people of SA were wonderfully helpful and I fell in love with Cape Town in particular, one of the nicest and prettiest cities I have ever been to. Unknown to me at the time, this was the last trip I would go on as a bachelor, and it was an excellent one!

I remember landing back in India on the 12th or 13th of July and staying in Mumbai for a couple of days for some work. My father was also in Mumbai and we were supposed to fly back to Kolkata on the 16th. The last day of our stay in Mumbai, during breakfast, my father told me that on 18th, some people would be coming to see me. I was totally taken unawares. Surely this had been brewing for a while, and yet I had been told just two days before the first step would be taken! Not that I was particularly worried, as I had no intention of pretending to be someone I was not to impress anyone, and this would be a sort of take-it-or-leave-it proposition for the girls side. My parents didn’t seem to be too worried either and made no special preparations. We would all be who we were, and if that was good enough, things would proceed. If not, that was fine too. Marrying under any pretension would be a fruitless venture in the end and I definitely didn’t want to go down that route.

I still remember that 18th of July, 2010 was a Sunday. I had not been able to go and watch Inception (which had released on the 16th) and was probably more worried about missing the afternoon show if the meeting ran late than the actual meeting itself. I had planned to go watch it with my friends, who didn’t have an inkling what was going on at that point of time, and since most of them were comfortable with an afternoon show, me asking to delay it would invite the inevitable question of ‘Why?’, which I would not be able to adequately answer! The Saboo family came on time and met my parents downstairs. I had been asked to stay upstairs, like a Rapunzel in my guilded castle, until I was needed. Since the gossiping downstairs was taking longer than expected, I opened up my laptop and started replying to my mails that had piled up during my South Africa trip. This itself should indicate how calmly I had taken the whole thing!

Without informing me, suddenly the door of the room opened and I saw my future wife’s family for the first time. We all got seated and had a nice, casual conversation for the next hour and a half. I still do not recollect much of the conversation, except that they all were exceedingly nice to me and made me feel quite comfortable. I remember thinking that if the girl was as wonderful as her family, I would be quite lucky. Unfortunately, she was not. Fortunately, she was better.

When they left, my family decided to sit down and discuss how the meeting went. My Blood Pressure was off the charts by this time as I was worried I would miss watching Inception if I got further delayed. Thankfully, the whole conversation was cut short by a phone call from the Saboo family saying that they thought the meeting went well, and inviting my family to come meet the girl. The thought running through my head was not “Oh snap I’m a step closer to marriage!”, but “Oh good now they wont bother me with questions about the meeting and I can leave for Inception!” This is not to belittle the fact that important things were happening to my life, but to give an indication of how strong my “what will be, will be” attitude was. I’ve always believed that it is futile to worry about the things that are out of my control. I would worry about something if it was in my hands to effect change, and that bridge was still too far at that point of time for me to worry about crossing it.

After this meeting, things moved like a boulder rolling down a hill. My parents went to see the girl and were highly impressed. I must note that they never put any pressure on me regarding whether I say Yes or No. They did their part and were content to let me do mine. They were also, however, quite serious about me taking it seriously, and I would have to back my judgment properly before they accepted it. A meeting was set up neither in Kolkata nor in Jaipur, but in Delhi, so that both families could go through the process without our whole social circle finding out.

We were all sitting in the Drawing room of our Farmhouse when their cars rumbled to a stop on the Porch. I decided to go out to greet them when I saw the back door opening and a girl come out wearing a green salwar suit. I walked out of the house, and Shradha walked into my life. We spent a hour or so sitting with both the families, and then spent a good 40 odd minutes separately. I was impressed even then by her honesty and clear minded focus on what she wanted from life. We met again the next day over lunch and talked privately for 15 minutes. We both left for our respective homes the next day. I wouldn’t meet her again till I was engaged to her.

My parents were eager to know what I had thought of the meetings, and whether we should pursue further. I quietly gave them the go ahead. Being expressive has not been my strong suit (much to Shradha’s chagrin), and they knew enough with the little I said that I was happy with the match. My grandparents were in Khachariyawas (our native village in Rajasthan) at that time and were returning soon. It was decided that they would finally go and meet Shradha (and Shradha’s family members, the ones who hadn’t met me, would see me as well) on the 24th of August, 2010, which was an auspicious day. My grandma had asked me simply before going “theek hai kya ladki?” (is the girl all right?) and I had replied with a smile “Theek hi hai.” (she’s decent enough). The families met at Rambagh palace and after a couple of hours together, the issue was settled. The Dhoot and Saboo families had decided to become relatives!

There were some rituals that were done that night for Shradha and then we all sat down for dinner. That was my first inkling that something had gone horribly wrong. Apparently, no one had told the Saboo family that I wasn’t a big eater, and they coaxed me to eat like goats are fattened before Eid. Dear lord, I have never had someone feed me so much food with so much love. They would be so polite and saying no to them was so tricky that eventually I turned to Shradha in my desperation and asked her to please stop her family! She said “But these are just my cousins, my father’s generation hasn’t even started yet.”

There were butterflies in my stomach that night, though whether from getting engaged or from the food, I still do not know.

The next morning, I visited their home and my rituals were completed. This was also when I decided to update my relationship status on Facebook. This was when all my friends found out that I had gotten engaged, as I had told them I was going to Amritsar for some Indo-Thai work. Since this happened frequently enough, no one had batted an eyelid. When news reached that I was in Jaipur getting engaged, they exploded and the choicest words were flung in my direction. I had enjoyed surprising them a lot and their good natured ribbing as their way of getting me back didn’t bother me. I wont talk about lunch at their house, nor of any food related topics at all after this. Suffice to say, they firmly believe that the path to a mans heart is through his stomach, and they have done their level best to turn the path into a highway.

The next day, me and Shradha met separately for the first time as an engaged couple. She kept wondering how I could remain so calm and casual in the face of all the excitement. I guess that was her first experience of me not getting worked up about most things in life. I’m a pretty relaxed guy usually, and tend to keep calm in crisis. Not that getting married was a crisis, but you know what I mean.

The marriage date was fixed for the 2nd of December. (To those following my recollections from the beginning, remember the prediction I had made to my friends in NYC back in January of 2008? Heh.) Functions were held in Kolkata and Jaipur by the respective families, with the actual wedding taking place in Aamby Valley. I was kept completely out of the wedding planning by my parents and my only responsibility was to show up to the functions properly attired and on time. That was fine by me as I was anyways spending most of my time on the phone. The marriage went off without a hitch and soon we were Mrs. and Mr. Dhoot. There isnt enough space to mention everyone who worked so hard during the marriage, but I would like to mention my cousins, who gave their all and practiced really hard for the Sangeet. I was genuinely touched and I could see they were doing it out of their love for me. My sister, of course, was the show stopper, as was Krishna (Shradha’s brother).

In my life so far, marrying Shradha was perhaps the best decision I have taken yet, and definitely the happiest moment of it. I was surprised then (and sometimes wonder even now) what she saw in me to lead her to believe she’d be happy to marry me. She is astonishingly beautiful, wise beyond her years, gracious to a fault and unfailingly devoted to my family. She has been a wonderful wife, a trusted confidant and a rock for me to steady my ship with. She not only knows how to read my mood but also how to change it. She knows when to take control and when to cede it, maintaining a fine balance in our relationship that I never could. In fact, I would argue that most of the work done to keep our relationship strong has been done by her, while I have stood by like a silent spectator, marveling at all the things she does to keep me happy and content. She’s always remembered to celebrate our anniversaries and birthdays whereas I have maintained a good track record of sitting on my ass doing nothing until the last moment, when I suddenly realize that there isn’t enough time and start rushing around like a panicked headless chicken. She coordinates with my friends, makes plans, arranges gifts, plans surprises… I could go on and on. My only solace is that I had told her exactly the kind of person I was, non-expressive and a bit of a dolt about these things, before we were engaged, but I know that doesn’t absolve me from all my sins!

I’ve also had a chance to get close to her family, and the love and affection they shower on me sometimes feels undeserved. They have been a great support system. Shradha and I have had a wonderful married life so far, parrying our ups and downs like every other couple, and yet I am thankful every day that I married her. It isn’t often that you find the person who perfectly complements your personality and I consider myself a lucky man that I found Shradha. There are so many ways in which she surpasses my expectations, and she does it with such regularity that its stopped being surprising by now.

I’ll stop talking about her, or I’ll never stop talking about her.

As for the future, as the song goes…

I never know what the future brings,
But I know you’re here with me now,
We’ll make it through,
and I hope you are the one I share my life with,
and I wish that you could be the one I die with,
and I’m praying you’re the one I build my home with…
I hope I love you all my life.

If you’re not the one – Daniel Bedingfield.

P.S. I’d promised I would let the cat out of the bag at the end, and I will keep my word.

In April or May of 2010, before any concrete steps regarding my marriage had happened, my father received an email from a relative regarding a girl and the possibility of a match. I found out about it the next day when my mother entered my room in the morning and asked me to log into Facebook so she could see photographs of the girl. I saw her profile and read the email our relative had sent, and that was that. A couple of days later, I met my friends who were all of marriageable age and the conversation, naturally, turned to marriage prospects. I told Avishek with mock seriousness that “Boss I think I know who I will end up getting married to.” When he asked why I felt that, I had no idea what to say. I just said that we had just received her Biodata a couple of days ago, and I actually knew nothing about her at all. He was incredulous and asked me which girls Bio-Data it was. I replied…

“Its some girl named Shradha Saboo in Jaipur.”

What can I say… God works in mysterious ways.

My Life so Far – Part 2 (College Years)

For Part 1 of this small chronicle of mine, go here. It covers (highly inadequately, I might add) my childhood and school life. This part covers my college years. Here’s some links to help you in following it all the way through:

17th Dec, 2014 : Part 1 (Childhood and School)
18th Dec, 2014 : Part 2 (College Years)
19th Dec, 2014 : Part 3 (Work and Marriage)
20th Dec, 2014 : ???

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The first thing that hits you when you land in New York is the air crackling with energy. Everyone is busy doing something or the other, and no one cares a whit what you are doing and with whom. The no-one-has-time-to-judge-you-24/7 freedom of New York was a refreshing change from the stifling societal situation of Kolkata. I had never been to the US before, and that doubtless added to my excitement.

New York (I’m gonna stick to NYC after this) is a difficult city to explain. Perhaps the best way to describe it is that it is all things to all people. If you are a loner, you will feel right at home. If you are a party animal, you will find your mecca here too. If you want to raise a family, you will find like minded people who are in the same boat as you (namely, wanting to enjoy all the benefits of NYC life without going bankrupt raising kids there.) The defining characteristic of NYC for me, though, is its energy. The city positively oozes a metropolitan, industrious personality. It almost seems to me that living in NYC automatically improves your body’s metabolism by 10%. The city has… how should I put it… speed! You walk fast, you talk fast, you work fast. In this particular context, it is almost the exact opposite of Kolkata.

NYU is a microcosm of the city. A university that caters to more than 50,000 students from all walks of life. Whites, Blacks, Jews, Gays, Middle aged men, child prodigies, pregnant mothers, social activists, the incredibly wealthy, the dirt poor… all form a part of the NYU fabric. It helps that it is situated in a location that is the envy of almost every other college in the world (yeah, I include Columbia in that.)

My parents had come to drop me off and were understandably hesitant about the lifestyle they were seeing everywhere. My first year, I roomed with three other kids and nothing could tell my parents more clearly what NYU was all about then their meeting with them. The first guy was a Jewish kid whose goal in life seemed to be to annoy as many people as he could with his conscientiousness. The second roommate was a short kid from Texas who was gay and wanted to become an actor. The third dude was a Bisexual black intellectual who was already an accomplished writer. I rounded out the quartet of our room, an international student who drinks too much coke and is always on his computer. I would love to say that we were the most multicultural and ethnically, sexually, intellectually diverse group of people living in a flat, but this was really par for the course instead of something our of the ordinary at NYU.

I distinctly remember my first day at Stern (the Business School of NYU.) It was Orientation Day and I fell into conversation with a Brazilian girl who had been assigned into the same group I had been assigned in. Her name was Gianna, and I’m happy to still count her as a good friend. I also looked from a distance at an indian dude who looked weirdly asian and had brown hair with red and golden highlights. He would turn out to be one of the closest friends I would make at NYU, but that wasn’t till a couple of years later. All students were also asked to fill out a questionnaire that had questions like – Where do you see yourself at the age of 30? What do you want out of your college experience? We handed them back, and didn’t see them again until graduation day, when we were all given our sheets back! It is an excellent idea, and I loved reading what I had written 4 years ago. I doubt many people remembered this questionnaire and we all were pleasantly surprised!

Classes were conducted completely differently from my experience in India. In subject after subject, I was taught how to think instead of what to think. I was a little nonplussed at first, having never had to think critically for myself, but I soon grew to love the system. I must thank the Indian Education System though, and especially my school, for preparing me well for College. My first year I pretty much coasted along, as I was well prepared for subjects like Calculus, Economics etc. I also took courses in things I didn’t even know were studied. One of the required liberal arts courses was called “Conversations of the West”, or Con West in short, which was about reading, analyzing and interpreting the great books of western literature. I took the Section which focused on Greek Classics, and it was a completely new field for me and quite eye opening. The flair and method shown by old Greek Poets like Homer was astonishing, as were the intense and deep philosophical outpourings of Plato. Another class I (and everyone else at NYU) hated was the required ‘Writing the Essay’ class. We would have to submit some assignment or the other every week, and the writing had to be of good enough standard to pass muster. I wrote about all sorts of things, including the Mona Lisa and how it reminded me of my Maternal Grandma, a walk in the park with descriptions of everything around me, my understanding of Death, etc etc. It was boring, it was routine, but I find now that it was also necessary. It taught me to give my thoughts some semblance of order, taught me how to write passable prose, and also how to work under deadlines. We all came out better writers after this class, but its definitely the most hated class in all of NYU.

I didn’t make too many friends easily in the beginning. I had trouble relating to the experiences of other students, who had all traveled more, seen more, experienced more than I had. In time, I got close to a bunch of people. Varun Kapoor was a great dude from Mumbai, as was Anand Piramal, who later transferred out to UPenn. I also hung out with Rajiv Harjani, one of the nicest people I have ever met. Its true when they say that good people are called by God before their time, and so it was with Rajiv. The memories he left his friends with are priceless. Haresh Kishore was a chilled out guy from Chennai. Everything was funny to him, and I almost never saw him lose his cool or be flustered. He was permanently high on life. Rakesh Mani was the intellectual of our group. He was the type who would discuss scholarly articles and worry about the condition of the world.

It was with these kids I roomed in my second year. We transferred from Third North to Water Street on the south side of Manhattan. We were on one of the higher floors, 24th or 28th, and we had beautiful views of the South Street Seaport and beyond. Education wise my first two years were excellent, and I scored the highest grades possible in almost all my classes. I was also the quiet, studious type in those years, and usually applied myself to make sure I was in the good graces of all my teachers. I am glad to state that this happy state of affairs continued throughout college, ending with the Dean of Stern, Professor Sally Blount-Lyon, writing me a glowing recommendation for admission to MBA courses.

I had decided I wanted to travel and make the most of every opportunity NYU threw at me. With that in mind, I applied for and was accepted to spend the second semester of my Sophomore (second) year in London, where NYU had a study abroad program. I lived in Crawford House, near Farringdon, and it was a 25 minute walk to the main NYU building at Bedford Square. I used to cross the public library on my way and got a monthly subscription there. In fact, one of the things that most fascinated me was the library of NYU. Called Bobst library, someone had jumped off the top floor during the first few weeks of my first year, and since then they had installed tall glass on the stairways and corridors overlooking the atrium. The small library of my school next to the Bobst Library looked like a snowball in front of an avalanche. I must have checked out at least 400 books during my undergraduate years from Bobst. I maintained the same schedule in London, checking out around 50 books during my 4 months stay. London was definitely a lot of fun, though I was none too impressed with the city as such. What made the stay so much fun was the group of people I hung out with.

My flight got delayed a couple of hours so I reached London late. The bus taking the students to their dorms had already left, so I took a cab down to my dorm. As I got down, an Indian kid skipped out of the building and told me “Yo Piyush you’re with us!”. That might possibly be my first interaction with Chirag. Matt was right behind him, a white guy in shorts with a weird stubble that never seemed to go away, however much he tried. He was good natured without being a pansy, and knew how to have fun. The dude living below us was Amir, and he was, and still is, one of the funniest guys I have encountered. He had tons of stories, the large majority of which were exaggerated beyond belief, but the amount that were true was still mind boggling. If you wanted a story about trying to follow a police car while driving drunk, he would oblige. If you wanted to know what it felt like to jump on cars at 3AM and get their roofs dented, he’d done it. In fact, if you could think it, either he or someone he knew would have done it. The chances of him having done something was directly proportional to how outrageous the thing was.

With a group like this, London was far more fun that I had thought. I remember going to Rosebury Kebab late at night for burgers and discussing whether the owners were part of a sleeper cell (dont ask, it was completely dumb and yet completely plausible.) We used to go to a bar called Printworks which had turned into the designated hangout spot after classes got over every evening and eat some Indian food. I remember accompanying some friends on the Yellow Line Pub Crawl and having to help support them back to our dorms. I went with a friend to see The Mousetrap, which was pretty amazing. It was the longest running show in history at that point in time. I also enjoyed finally talking about cricket to people who seemed to know what the sport actually was, after two years of getting blank looks in the US when I mentioned Sachin Tendulkar!

Classes were pretty chilled out, so we had a lot of time on our hands and used it to get into all sorts of trouble. One night, the printer of our admin building was somehow ‘misplaced’. The next day, an email was circulated to all NYU London students regarding the ‘theft’ of a printer from the admin building. It was found, back in its usual spot, the next day. Another time, I helped a few people carry an 8 foot long bar table (with attached benches on both sides!) back to our dorms. This was at 3 in the morning. When the security guard asked us what the table was for, Amir nonchalantly replied “Its a birthday gift for a friend, actually.” The poor guy helped us carry it inside. Of course, he found out the truth the next day and we had to send it back with our profuse apologies. Drunk friends are the best people to have spontaneous adventures with.

The summer of 2005 was not a happy time for me, and I will be eternally grateful to friends like Chirag, Matt and Amir for cheering me up. I met a lot of great people in London and those friendships carried over once I came back to NYC. Pavni, Meena, Amanda, Larissa, Jenna, Jenn, Richa, Amit, Naveen, Neerav, Lenny, Manasa, Kinjal, Amita… the list goes on and on. Of course, many of these guys had nicknames too. PK/Pavneezy, Meenu, Larizzle, The Blumkin, Richardina, Wombat/Wombino, Navi… Chirag was Hugo, Matt was always Horseman, Amir was Ballack, and I was Pi, as in the mathematical term, and the four of us together were the Sonic Breaker.

The above paragraph alone contains a hundred stories.

Things accelerated from there. Classes got harder and the courses became more advanced, but Chirag and I quite easily maintained our reputation as Finance geeks. I had tons of friends by this time and usually had something or the other to distract me pretty much every evening. I used to go out almost every night and would meet new people, make friends as well as stories, and study hard during the day. It was in NYC that I really understood the meaning of work hard and party harder. I would see executives in suits leaving a club at 4 in the morning and still reaching their offices at 8 for work. It was a crazy, uncompromising attitude towards making the most of the life you are given, and I quite enjoyed it. NYC is the best place in the world to taste every cuisine, meet people from every country in the world and experience things that just aren’t available anywhere else.

Stern used to host the International Study Project where the whole class was sent to a foreign country to study its business environment as well as be exposed to different cultures. I was in a class that went to Germany, and my company was Schering, the pharmaceutical giant. The day we were supposed to go to Schering’s office, we opened up our morning newspapers to see the headline – “Merck makes play to acquire Schering.” Obviously, all the preliminary due diligence of the company we had done as well as all the questions we had prepared was for naught, as the whole outlook of the company had changed. Of course, at Schering, they weren’t going to answer any of our questions related to the takeover/merger due to all sorts of non-disclosure agreements they had signed. Amir and Me were in the same group, and we ended up changing our whole presentation to focus on whether Schering should let Merck take them over. We decided that they should… and our recommendation came true in the future. By the way, we won amongst all the groups of Germany, and went to the finals with two other groups who had gone to the other two countries. In the finals, our group came second in the ISP competition, and I still feel we were robbed. I still remember the recommendation of the two other groups, and ours was bang on the money while theirs wasn’t.

Pretty soon, my time left at NYU started dwindling. I had taken extra classes in the Summers, and was ending School a full semester early. I left in December of 2006, but not before throwing a going away party. I held it at 40/40, Jay-Z’s club. The peeps there were kind enough to give me a room after looking at how large the guest list was, and I was told later by the hostess that 213 people had come, far more than I had anticipated. That was a far larger number of friends than I had thought in 2003 I would have at the end of college. I can never thank my NYU classmates for being great friends.

I next got back to NYU in April 2007 for graduation, giving a pleasant surprise to many people by arriving early. I enjoyed the Stern Formal party as I got to meet all my friends again, and it didn’t hurt that I was looking and feeling pretty good, even if I say so myself. I hate almost every picture taken of me, and yet that day I couldn’t get a bad picture taken! Our graduation was held at Madison Square Garden, and I was happy that my parents had come down to US for it. Walking up the steps to the stage, getting my certificate, hugging the Dean and then throwing our caps in the air… that was a bitter sweet moment. This was the culmination of 4 years of hard work, and I was admittedly proud of my grades, but I was also sad that my NYC adventure had come to an end. Then again, all good things in life come to an end, and I was glad I had that experience. It made me more social, turned me into a critical thinker, and helped me broaden my horizons and dream bigger, better and farther. While I will always credit my family members and the values they inculcated in me for making me the person I am today, my time spent at NYU was instrumental in shaping my mindset and thought process. Like I said previously, I have never regretted going to NYU.

As soon as I was back, I started working with my father. Things seemed to be going smoothly, until one day I heard my grandma talking to someone about my marriage, and how it was time, and that they might start the process soon, etc. Talk about a shock to the system. I had planned on working for a couple of years before going back to do my MBA, but I moved my plans forward. I talked to my Dean at NYU, and she said if I could wait a couple years till I had come work experience, she would be happy to see me apply back to NYU, but work experience was a mandatory requirement. Unfortunately, I wanted out of this situation, and I wanted out NOW, as I simply wasn’t taking any chances, however remote they might be. I also thought that it might be a good idea to get my education wrapped up asap so I could get into work full time quicker.

I gave my GMAT on the day of the Inaugural T20 world cup final between India and Pakistan. I had to miss watching the final live as my exam was in the evening, during the same time the finals would be played. Since it was computerized, I got my results immediately, and was happy to see I had scored 760/800, a score good enough to land me once again in the 99th Percentile. I have always been blessed in such things. As soon as I walked out of the testing center, I could hear fireworks all over the city. I knew India had won, and though the surprise element of watching the taped final was lost, my elation at both the events of the last couple of hours knew no bounds!

I had applied to colleges that I knew would waive the work experience requirement if they got a good enough application, and top of my list were Fordham and Pace (both were in NYC and had good MBA programs). I was lucky enough to not only get admitted to both colleges but also to receive scholarships from both, and eventually decided to attend Fordham with a Presidential Scholarship that took care of all expenses for the whole of the first year. I had also given the CAT and gotten an extremely good result, but by the time the results came out I was already on my way to NYC to celebrate New Years with my friends!

Fordham was very different from NYU. I was almost always the youngest person in every class I attended, and there was much less socialization as my classmates were older than me. Almost all of them were working, and some were married and had kids. I used to attend the birthday parties of my classmates at NYU, whereas at Fordham I was invited to attend the birthday parties of my classmates kids! Thankfully, a lot of my NYU friends were still in NYC and I hung out with them for the next two years. I did meet a bunch of people accidentally and they have been good friends ever since. Arpit and Ankit Goel, Karan Darda, Sanam Agarwal, Prerna Jhunjhunwala nee Sarda, Aanchal… I dont talk to them as much as I would like to but I know that we will always pick up from where we left off whenever we meet next.

My last semester, I tore a ligament in my left leg. It was almost impossible for me to walk for a couple of weeks. I was living on 26th and 7th with Prashant, the best roommate a guy could ask for. He helped me out a lot, putting ice on my leg, helping out around the apartment while I was out of commission, giving me company while I was stuck at home on the bed. He’ll be one of the first people I call whenever I next visit NYC.

Soon enough, my time in NYC was over. I was sad at leaving a place I had come to love as my own, a city I identified with far more than my birthplace, and yet I was also excited to start the next phase of my life.

On the 1st of January, 2008, once I had landed in NYC to start at Fordham, I had made a prediction to my friends that I would get married in either November or December 2010. I was now back in Kolkata, in January of 2010, and it was time to see if that prediction would come true!

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As usual, many things have been left out. Here’s a small sampling of stuff left out on the cutting floor:

My trip to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with Shweta’s family, and my role in persuading her to pursue a different course of action on the urging of her parents.

My ridiculous cell phone bills in the beginning, before I figured out a far better plan.

My 24 hour bus ride to watch the Indianapolis F1 grand prix, and the 12 hour car ride and 6 hour bus ride to get back an hour before an exam.

How I didn’t speak to my roommate for a whole semester my freshman year.

Attending a Sorority’s graduation party with Matt and Jenn when Jenna kindly asked me to tag along!

Sleeping in a suit in Chirags bed.

Becoming fanboys of Aswath Damodaran.

The incident in the lift lobby at Palladium while Wombino suddenly walked by… and giving him a high five behind my back. Its the sort of cool shit you see in movies. Oh, you had to be there.

Berlin. For those who know, the word is enough.

Frickin Crocker Liu.

How I (completely accidentally) hung out with Arpit and Ankit Goel on Diwali, and only found out how closely connected we were when they came down to see me off!

St. Patricks day, 2008-09.

Harry Potter. Denied. Fish Bowl. My journey through Madison Square Park and conversation with Police Officers. All these events took place over a period of 6 hours.

The story of the Dhoot Booth and crying waitresses.

The one time I almost stabbed an 80 year old man with a plastic knife.

The Village Pourhouse passport.

Watching a TI concert at Hammerstein from the back, and halfway through it, figuring out I couldnt see the stage because of all the weed smoke in the middle wafting upwards.

I could go on and on… you get the picture. See you all tomorrow.

My Life So Far – Part 1 (Childhood and School)

I’ll be turning 30 soon, so I thought I should chronicle some of my memories of a life well lived so far. This first part today covers my childhood and school days. The next part tomorrow will be my college years, and the last and final part on the 19th of Dec will be about life after college (and marriage!) I’ll try my best to stick to this schedule!

I have also mentioned only a few of the people who have been an integral part of my life, as writing about everyone I remember would turn this blog into a novel (not that I promise this wont be novel-length!) This is unedited, stream of consciousness writing, simply because I know I will leave out all kinds of stuff if I spend more than a minute on thinking about what I have written. I only promise to be honest about whatever I write.

I’m including some handy links for ease of reading:

17th Dec, 2014 : Part 1 (Childhood and School)
18th Dec, 2014 : Part 2 (College Years)
19th Dec, 2014 : Part 3 (Work and Marriage)
20th Dec, 2014 : ???

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I was born into a loving family on 20th December, 1984. At that point in time, we used to live in an apartment in Howrah, small enough to be called cozy and large enough for me to play around and get injured again and again in. My grandparents and parents were amazing and I have seen innumerable photos of them teaching me how to play, giving me gifts, bathing me, scolding me, feeding me etc etc. Not all memories of photographs are good, though. My mother had an obsession of dressing me up in weird clothes (using a rajai as a pallu and making me pout with a finger on my chin) and making me do weird stuff (kissing a barbie doll) while she took photos. And no, I am not posting those photographs here. She still laughs about them, and I still flush with embarrassment every time they are mentioned.

I dont think I was a very mischievous kid, though my elders take pains to point out how mistaken I am in that belief. I will concede, however, that I was always a bundle of energy and at times may have been a handful for my parents. However, I was usually quite obedient and didnt trouble my mother much. Most of the growing up I did was due to my mother. She was always there to guide me, to teach me, and to take care of my every need. I know she took many pains to make sure I was healthy and for that I can never thank her enough.

My grandmother was the disciplinarian of our house in those times. I would usually sleep with her at night. Later on, once I started going to school, she was the one who would bathe me and get me ready. That was quite an experience, as I still marvel how a child can be ready, from waking up to going inside the school bus after having his breakfast, within 20 minutes flat. My grandma was an iron lady then, and still is one now.

My father also sacrificed a lot of his happiness for the sake of his children. He worked very, very hard to make sure his family was well provided for. I also remember him taking time off to celebrate our birthdays. He would always look quite dapper in those family functions, though most of the photos of him at those functions are with Pallavi, my sister. She has always been his favorite, a fact I am quite used to by now, but I know his love for me is unconditional and that others do not recognize the small ways in which I sense it as his actions are never overt.

My grandfather is the greatest man I have ever met. I have only heard stories of his struggle, but I know for a fact that if I was ever in his situation, I would never be able to accomplish even 10% of what he did. I marvel at his persistence, his capacity for hard work and his uncompromising principles. I have never known him to do something ethically wrong. I feel like there are a lot of similarities between his nature and mine. We are both closet introverts who act as extroverts, we both feel bad if any family member is inconvenienced for our sake, and we both tend to keep a lot of things bottled up inside of us. With me, however, he was as free with his time as he was with his advise. He taught me how to play cricket, how to hold a badminton racquet (captured in a photo by my mother, of course!), how to cycle etc. I love a photograph we have of me, a tiny kid, jumping on his stomach while he is laughing, looking at me with happiness. There really aren’t words fit to describe how much I love him.

Which brings me to my sister. I often say that the happiest years of my life were the first three, as after that my sister was born. In reality, its a joke, and a pretty poor one at that. She was always the laadli of the house and everyone pampered her, but none more than me. She was always either in Papa’s godi or running along after mummy, holding her sari. She was perhaps a little more shy than I was with strangers, and would hide behind papa or mummy when others would be around. We used to play a lot as kids and it was always me with the ball, and she with the bat. My parents would usually take her side and would urge me to bowl. Of course, once she was out, she had a million other things to do rather than bowl to me while I batted. I remember once that I had become very angry at her (for she could be very, very annoying if she wanted to be) and would not come out of the room to play badminton with her. She wrote an extremely sweet letter to me, in her small, crooked, childish handwriting, saying she was sorry and would I please come out to play with her (Mummy was the emissary she sent with the letter to mollify me). She has the baffling ability to disarm me with a sweet gesture or word, as I can never understand how she does it. We fight like all siblings do, but she is one of the most clear hearted people I know with no malice towards anyone, and I love her a lot.

My buas filled the role of the pampering aunt to a T. While my elder bua was married when I was a kid, she would always make me feel important when she visited by spending time with me, however little time she had. She was also the person who went through a lot of struggles in her life and came out stronger for it, and that was a strong influence on me. My younger bua was always filled with mirth and merriment, and her nature was infectious to someone like me, who was naturally inclined to be boisterous. I spent more time with her as a kid as she got married when I was about 6-7 and would marvel at how beautifully she danced (like I marvel today at how amazingly graceful Pallavi is at dancing.) I would be the one to go and pick them up from their homes when they were coming to stay with us for a weekend or a function, and their in-laws would always pamper me as well. My younger buas family members would make me recite the whole Bheeshma dialogue from Mahabharat as payment of letting my Bua go with me. I would always oblige, as there would be much laughter and chocolates as part of the payment!

My whole family has always been musically inclined. My grandfather would sing for us and he was excellent. In fact, he still sings beautifully, though he gets short of breath nowadays. However, he has an excellent grasp of sur and taal, and he has given the same gift to his three children. My buas were both very good singers, and my younger bua was also a great dancer. My father is an excellent singer, something that perhaps many people may not know. My mother sings beautifully as well, so it was quite obvious that even a talentless hack like me would enjoy singing. I am nowhere near as good as they are (my sister got those qualities, while I lost out!) but this is the origin of my love for singing. My grandfather really wanted me to learn tabla, and I am happy to say that I followed his wishes. I learnt tabla for many years, eventually getting good enough to perform in front of the Governor for a program.

My constant companions in Howrah were my two other buas, Sonu bua and Monu bua. They were always over at our house and, since they were elder to me, would always good naturedly boss me around. For a kid like me, they were super smart, super obedient, super liked by everyone, and super fun to be around with. In fact, while my mother always encouraged me to read, a large part of the credit for my love for books must go to Sonu Bua. In my formative years, she gave me a gift of the box set of Sherlock Holmes (all 4 novels and 56 short stories) for my birthday, and my interest was well and truly piqued. I devoured them from end to end within days, and I knew I had found a wonderful hobby, one that is with me to this day. That was also my introduction to Sherlock Holmes, one of the characters that has influenced me, my thinking, my mindset and my life in no small measure. That box set of Sherlock Holmes is yellowed and well thumbed through, but in great condition and still a treasured part of my Library.

When I was 5 or 6, we shifted to Salt Lake. A large house gave a kid like me many more opportunities to get injured, and I took advantage of them to the fullest. I remember I used to have a yellow cycle with three tyres, which I used to race in circles in Howrah. Once I got a little older, I got a red cycle with only two tyres, while Pallavi got the yellow cycle (she’s always complained of getting my hand me downs as a kid. Now she has more stuff in one cabinet than I have collected in my whole life.) There is a great photograph of me and Pallavi on our cycles, with Udita (my older buas daughter) in my arms as an infant. I would often come home with the skin of my knees completely scraped off after having fallen on the road. My grandma would scold me, put some ointment and some white powder thing on my knee, bandage me up and send me on my way. As soon as the bandage would come off, I would be out of the house, racing away on my cycle. I would inadvertently come home with the newly formed skin freshly scraped off after falling down somewhere again. My grandma would scold me, and the cycle would continue. BTW, she was the one who would scold me the most at my injuries and cycling escapades, but she was also the one who got me a larger cycle once I was tall enough to ride one.

My cousins were, and still are, supremely important to me. I have never felt the division of an own brother/sister and a cousin brother/sister. I have tried to be an older brother who would lead by example, perhaps an ideal that is spotless and good enough for them to strive for. My mother impressed upon me the importance of doing the right thing at all times, as there were a dozen kids watching my every move, waiting to emulate me. While it was a lot of pressure to set a good example to them, it was all worthwhile in the end. They have far surpassed me in many areas, and they are each impressive in their own right. Udita, Harshu, Ujjwal, Gudda, Sanchit, Garima, Sonu, Krishnam, Devansh, Tanisha, Yamini, Yashu, Monu, Saurabh, Shruti… the list already seems endless, and I havent even covered all of my Buas and Mamajis kids! Nowadays I take them out once every few months to Bombay Shiv Sagar, and the few hours we spend together as always entertaining and full of fun. I love them all, and would sooner take a bullet for them than find them in even the slightest trouble.

I remember we used to have a chandelier that had a lot of glass pencils hanging down. My cousins would come over for a night stay over the weekend, and my Grandma would go to Satsang on Sunday at Alipore instead of Salt Lake, meaning we could cause whatever chaos we wanted for at least a couple of hours. We would play badminton a lot and our favorite game was to try and get the shuttle as close to the pencils without touching them. Either that, or to get the shuttle to rest on top of the chandelier. So while we aimed for either the top or the bottom of the chandelier, it was impossible for us to not hit the glass pencils in the middle. If the glass pencils would break, we would get it cleaned up as best as we could and try to be on our best behavior when Grandma arrived. It never worked as she always knew. I sometimes wonder if she would count the number of Glass pencils in that chandelier before she left and compared when she came back. All the children would line up behind me and I would have to face the punishment meted out.

School was a lot of fun. I was quite restless as a kid, but had been brought up to be obedient as well, and the two conflicting parts of my nature would always land me in some trouble or the other. My teachers would find me mischievous, and my fellow students would call me a teachers pet. I was perennially between a rock and a hard place, and eventually I learnt to find the right balance between being a good student and being a good friend (not surprisingly, both do not always coincide!) My most dreaded experience was the Parents-Teacher meeting day. My mom would usually have to endure an hour of various teachers telling her the same thing, “He’s quite brilliant, he just doesn’t apply himself.” I, on the other hand, was happy to coast along on my wits alone. Looking back, it seems to me that I learnt about a cost-benefit analysis at quite a young age. Studying for 5 months extra for 5% extra didnt look too appetizing to me, so I was happy to just study before the exams and get a good result instead of an outstanding one. This went on until I decided to go to college and straightened out my act, but I am getting ahead of myself.

My friends and batch mates were a great bunch of brilliant kids who didnt want to study too hard either. Sharad, Abhimanyu, Rajkumar, Chetan, Vineet, Avishek, Rohit, Aditya etc were all capable of doing extremely well in studies (like me)… they just werent too concerned with it (like me!) By the way, before you get the wrong impression, we all did relatively well in school and all got into good colleges. By extremely well I mean coming first in class, which took too much time away from the fun things in life. As is the norm with all kids, we all had our nicknames, some that made sense and some that didnt. The above lineup, by the way, is Pangu, Munni, Raju, Ghoda, Barakar, Muri, Lohia and Chullu. Like I said, we were too busy having fun to notice how dumb it all was.

We enjoyed our school life very much, by which I mean we enjoyed each others company a lot. We had to go to school just so we could all hang out together. Some of the things we did were perhaps not in keeping with the decorum of a school, but we were kids and had enough of the screw-it-all attitude of youth to cause trouble tempered with just enough street-smartness to not get caught. We burst chocolate bombs in our school toilet, destroying a urinal in the process. A few of us boys would bunk school after the first period to go play Pool, and come back just before the last period to maintain our attendane. Our whole class bunked school one day, and 50 odd kids went to see a movie since we hadnt planned anything beyond the “Lets-everyone-bunk-school-today” stage. We ended up going to watch, I kid you not, Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai, the debut movie of Tushar Kapoor. Because God works in mysterious ways to thwart the plans of the mischievous and the naughty, the theatre’s projection equipment broke down, leading 50 kids in school dress to camp outside. At 1.30, the primary section of our school got out and the school buses of the area we were in trundled past us, with a few school teachers gazing at our group in astonishment and not a little anger. We were well and truly caught, and our punishment the next day was to stand in the corridor outside our classes. We didnt have to go to class, no studies were conducted, we chilled outside with each other in the corridor and the other kids looked at us with envy, like we were some sort of rebels. I fail to see how it was a punishment as we all had a gala time.

By this time, my parents had pretty much given up on me getting into Xaviers and were prepared for me to attend Bhawanipore college. Xaviers is where the people who come first in class go to, Bhawanipore is where Marwari kids who start working in their family businesses right after school hang their cap. My parents didnt have much hope of me setting my academic scores on fire. I think thats where the determination to do one better than Xaviers took shape inside me. I had always wanted to fly the nest and live independently for a while, to see if I could cope without an emotional security net around me. This was my opportunity to not only get out of the protective shell around me, but also to prove my worth to those around me who perhaps doubted me.

I decided that I would go as far away from home as possible, and US was right at the other side of the planet. If I had to aim at something, I wanted to aim high. I started taking SAT tuitions. I remember my parents thinking in their hearts that it was a fad, and that they thought they were letting me entertain my little fantasy. However, by then I had seen what SAT tested, and my heart had soared. It wasnt about hard work at all, it was about how smart, quick and intelligent you were! These werent questions, these were puzzles! I had always been an inquisitive and curious kid, and this was right up my alley. I am sorry to say that I bunked more SAT tuitions than I attended, and I only seriously studied for the exam the last two weeks before the test. I gave the test on the 2nd of November, 2002, and everyone promptly forgot about it. I had been allowed to indulge my side project, and now it was time to get back to life, seemed to be the general view. This lack of confidence hurt a bit, but then again, I had brought it upon myself due to the lack of applying myself. I am thankful to say I have done well enough after that for this to never be the case again.

On the 25th of November, the results came out of my SAT exam. I received 1550/1600, with 99 percentiles in both English and Maths, and a 99+ percentile of the combined score. The reactions were extraordinary, especially my fathers. When I told him, he was speechless for a second. His face was the picture of bewilderment for a second, as if processing completely unexpected information. Then came surprise, then happiness, and finally pride. That was a pretty good feeling. Everyone’s reactions ranged from incredulousness to astonishment in various intensities. At that point, I remember thinking that while there were a lot of people who expected me to do well, there were only two people who had expected me to exceed all expectations. Those were my grandmother, in whose eyes I could do no wrong, and my sister, who knew how boneheaded I was and thus knew that I would not let an opportunity I actually cared about pass. I still remember her hugging me with joy (she knew how badly i wanted to get out of Kolkata and do something on my own) and then saying matter of factly, “Humko to pata hi tha tum kuch chhupa rustam wala kaam karega. (I knew you would do something that no one would expect)” My grandmother cared not a whit about the score. My grandfather was asking me details of what 99+ percentile means (it means I was ahead of 99+ percent of other test givers) and while I was telling him, my grandma cut us off by saying “Eeko matlab baki sabse aage hai aapno chhoro” (It means our boy is ahead of all other boys), pride dripping from her every word.

Of course, a score like that meant that suddenly, my going for college in the US had gone from a distant fantasy to a foregone conclusion. The only question remaining now was how high could I aim? For ivy league universities, I had to give SAT II exams, which consisted of three subjects. People studied for months for this exam, whereas I decided in December to give it in January. Like I said, no one expected me to do so well, so I had not entertained the notion of giving higher level exams. I ended up getting 95+ percentiles in each subject, and a combined percentile of 99+ again. I had already scheduled my TOEFL for 30th January, and since it was computerized, I got my results immediately. I had been unable to study properly for it since I had suddenly had to shift my attention to SAT II exams, which were quite tough, but still received 297/300. The percentile was 99+ again.

To my family, this was getting way out of hand. This string of results were unexpected and beyond the pale, and it seemed to me that for my family it must have been like a desert receiving an unexpected thunder shower, followed by another the next day, and another, and so on for a month. Suddenly, within three months, I had demolished any doubt about my capabilities and was well on my way to academic success. I had already been accepted into NYU in the first round itself. I found out at a later date that I had gotten into Wharton and Carnegie Mellon as well, but by then I had already sent my acceptance to NYU. I have never found cause to regret my decision later on.

While all this was going on in the prepare-for-college front, I was chilling in school. I had gone to a couple of school trips and had been, perhaps, a little rowdy. In fact, to go back a little, in Class 11 my school used to appoint prefects. I had been told by my class teacher that I would be one of them, but the day came and went and my name wasnt called out. The next time I met the teacher, a couple of my friends asked him what had happened regarding my prefect nomination? He said a teacher had blocked it and apologetically replied “tor reputation ektu theek nei” (your reputation is not so good.) My mischief making had come back to bite me in the ass!

But yeah, back to the school trips. My School refused to give me my Class 12 report card along with other students. When I enquired, I was told that my report card would be given to me personally by my Principal. I trudged up to the Principals office, knowing full well that it would not be as easy as me waltzing in and the Principal just handing the Report card over to me. I was met with a stern faced dude who was sorting some papers. I asked him about my report card. He looked over to his left at a cabinet. I could make out a paper that had been pasted there, and the name on top of the paper, in bold block letters, was PIYUSH DHOOT. Oh dear.

I was sent to the Principals office. She told me that I would not be given my report card, and that I would have to call my parents and it would be given only to them. I asked her that I would bring my parents, but what should I tell them when they ask why it had been withheld? She said that my report card was being withheld due to “Severe indiscipline during the school trip.” To this day I do not know why I was singled out. I had never portrayed myself as some sort of a leader of the group, and there had never been any incriminating evidence against me (I need to stop watching cop shows!). I went home and told my parents. They asked me if I had done anything seriously wrong. They said ‘seriously’ because they were pretty sure I would have done something a little wrong, just like they were sure I would never do something seriously wrong. I said no, nothing serious had taken place. Hearing that, they declined to go to the school and let me know that since I had done nothing wrong, I should go and state my case. The trouble is, they didnt know what my case was, but I did, and I knew I wouldnt get a proper hearing. To get around that, I shot off an email to NYU. The reply was in my inbox the next day.

I spent the next week outside the principals office. She finally tired of me and told me that no college would accept me without a final Report Card. I played my trump card and earnestly informed her that I had enquired with NYU and my file with them was complete. After my scores, they didnt need any other documentation, and that my college admission was secure, whether I received my report card or not. She didnt say anything for a minute, busily dealing with the pile of documents on her desk, then curtly told me to collect it tomorrow from the stern faced dude outside. I walked out, walked in the next day, collected the report card, walked out again and decided to not walk in again until things improved. I have so far more or less managed to do that and have not returned to my school.

My Board Exams of 12th were a formality as I was already admitted at NYU and all I had to do was not fail. Here is my routine during that period.

12 PM – Get up. Shower. Read Newspapers. Kill time.
2 PM – Have lunch. Study for an hour or so.
4 PM – Take out the car and start picking up friends.
8 PM – Drop the friends off back to their place.
9 PM – Dinner.
10 PM – Pretend to study while reading something else.
1 AM – Play video games after making sure everyone else had slept.
4 AM – Go to sleep.

I have no doubt I was the cause of at least a 3-4% decrease in many of my friends Board Results!

My parents threw a going away party to celebrate my acceptance into NYU. All my relatives from across India came and I am thankful to them for coming and giving me their blessings. Many people shot video messages for me which were played during the Party on a big screen. I took along a CD of those with me and they gave me great solace whenever I felt lonely later on. My father, in his typical fashion, stole the show by reminding me again and again with just two words – “Akele Aana.” (come back alone!). My friends were there in full force and I had a great time with them. I was also extremely happy to see so many of my teachers who had come to wish me the best for my future. It was humbling to be so loved, and also inspiring in a way to have so many people celebrate my successes.

Soon, it was time to head out for college. Throughout the flight, I wondered how the next phase of my life would be. I found out very soon. As the lyrics of Summer of 69 go… those were the best days of my life.

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I have left out many, MANY things from this small recollection. The time I got stuck outside the fire escape of the 26th floor of a hotel, gingerly walked down and was greeted by the fire department as someone had called them after seeing me on the fire escape. The time when I came closest to death in an accident on the sand dunes of Rajasthan after leaving a Religious function. The fun-filled Europe trip I took with my grandparents just before the Football World Cup of 98 in France. My life changing trip to Maldives with my parents. And of course, girls, simply cuz there isnt much to say.

Next part of the recollection will deal with my college years.

A small performance for my Saale Sahab!

I’m in Jaipur for my brother-in-law Punya’s wedding, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. Its a very well planned and fun filled wedding, and one of the activities that has added a special color to the proceedings is www.punyarutika.com, especially the dares and its responses.

Punya gave various dares to his friends and family to complete, record and then upload to the above website. The dares ranged from putting atta (flour) in a balloon and then bursting it by biting it with your teeth, to doing the reverse escalator, to going to McDonalds and ordering in Bhojpuri! Needless to say, such outlandish dares have spawned creative dare responses, and they have been a lot of fun to follow.

My particular dare was to redub any Hindi movie scene. Basically, I was supposed to choose a scene on youtube, mute it, and provide my own version of the conversation. I decided to move things up a notch. After all, its my little brother in law, and if I dont go all out effort-wise for his wedding, whats the point?

A little background – My Saale Sahab’s name is Punya, Anu (or Anubhav) is another Saala of mine who is getting married after 6 months, and Krishna is Shradha’s own brother. The following takes place 6 months from now, just before Anubhav’s wedding, and 6 months after Punya’s. Thats all the information you need!

However, instead of dubbing a scene on youtube, I decided to… Why dont you guys check it out yourself?