Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bangalored - Part 1

It was the summer of 2005. I had just graduated from my engineering college (Jadavpur University, IT Department) and was about to join Infosys along with nearly 30 of my classmates. We were the young turks, full of ourselves at being asked to join work within few weeks of finishing college. After all we were from Jadavpur University, the melting pot of all intellectual activity in the Eastern part of India. We had spent the four years of our college life debating the virtues of communism, Das Kapital and gheraoing the Vice Chancellor of the University, while our less illustrious compatriots studying in other colleges of India had engaged themselves in less cerebral activities like sports, debating, acting etc. Even our last semester examinations had been disrupted by political agitation, with the more conscientious jonota of our batch rebuking the capitalist minority of the batch, the minority who wanted the exams to be completed in time so that they could join their jobs or MBA colleges.

Yet when it came to joining our first jobs at Infosys, all of us without exception towed the line and boarded the train that would take us to Bangalore and then onto Mysore, for our initial training period. Even in Mysore, amongst new joiners from almost every other part of the country, we never broke ranks with our clan. So it was always Bengalis separated from the others, and even within the Bengalis, JU vs Shibpur vs Durgapur. So almost all of us invariably had our own classmates as roommates in the Infosys Hostel; clearly we had not had enough of each other in the last 4 years. I was one of the unlucky few who had as a roommate a guy from Delhi,, a guy could play cricket, tennis, TT and even dance with equal panache; he had reportedly even not joined IIM Khozikhode after getting an admission offer. So much for the northie upstarts. (This guy Shashi, from DCE, is important in the context of this post as well as my life, being one of my few enduring friends who has accepted my general silliness over the years.)

The Infosys Mysore campus is perhaps on the best training facilities in the world having classrooms with Bose speakers et al. and providing facilities for almost extra-curricular activity imaginable like swimming, TT, cricket, badminton, pool etc. But come on, we were Jadavpur, no less; so while guys from other colleges were making full use of the facilities on offer, we were busy cramming the Infosys training material so as to secure an “A” grade in each course and hence top the class.

The training lasted for about 2 months; by that time I had grown a bit distant from the rest of my JU classmates. Shashi’s influence on me was having all the undesired effects; I was more interested in listening to his 4 DCE exploits and playing volleyball than getting the CICS out of running fundu mainframe programs that, guess what, wrote my name and age in COBOL data files. The end of the training program threw up an interesting set of events; a major chunk of the JU batch had got their postings in Bangalore. This naturally upset us; we all wanted postings in the most exciting city in India, Bhubaneshwar (Raghu: please do not take offence) so that we could go home to Calcutta every other weekend. As KJo has said in his seminal work K3G, its all about loving your parents. The postings were announced in the evening and that night was one of the longest non-academic nights in the living memory of most of my classmates. Hectic parlaying went on till the wee hours of the morning as people became desperate to find non-JU people who would be amenable to exchange their Bhubaneswar postings. We had suddenly become very friendly with all the guys from north, the Madrasis and the private college students in the hour of need, our own need i.e. The negotiations and chained exchange of postings (A exchanges with B and then A with C) would have put political spin doctors to shame. In the end quite a few of us got their coveted Bhubaneswar postings while few who didn’t broke down into tears. I also lost out with a Bangalore posting and could not also get a swap; that evening I had probably gone to the Jungle Dhaba in Mysore and after a few beers was dancing to the famous Telegu song “Ante” with my new made non-Bengali and non-JU friends; clearly I had lost it by being a Bengali and dancing to a Madrasi song.

So onward we marched to Bangalore to join our real jobs after the Mysore training period which was more like college than office; me and my classmates had at least treated it like college, doing what we did best, acing exams and never going out of comfort zone to embrace new cultures and interesting people. In Bangalore the first week was spent searching for affordable accommodation. Here also we JU grads were true to our form; with the possible exception of 4 of us, there was no JU guy who was sharing flats with non-JU people. Sadly, I was one of these 4 people. I was actually supposed to share flats with 3 JU guys (Dippy, Abhishake, Haju) and 1 other Bengali guy but that did not work out. I ended up staying again with that brat Shashi and one other JU classmate of mine, Deva. It was the ideal recipe for me to lose all sense of belonging to my clan of Bengali JU grads, but I will dwelve on that in the Part 2 of this post.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Sundance Kids

(Warning: Slightly long and highly exaggerated post)

I was pleasantly surprised that people did not berate my first blog post and this has spurred my on to try further and write another post. Lately lots of authors and movie makers have been narrating their own or others’ (only 3% to 5% though) college life stories. Perhaps college life stories make for fairly interesting reading; in this post I am writing about some of the interesting people and events from my hostel wing during my MBA days.

I joined by MBA college in June 2006; you get your rooms allotted in some random manner on the first day itself and with that you get your true identity, the identity of your wing. Maybe I am exaggerating, but what remains with you years after you graduate and happen to meet alumni and juniors from your college, is your hostel and your wing. So I joined my 10/12 batch mates who were going to spend most of the next 2 years in close proximity, not to close though as we had our independent rooms. Every wing has a name and a fairly convoluted story for that name; our wing name was hardly anything congratulatory but for the sake of a bit of decency and propriety (which I hopelessly lacked during my MBA days), let’s just say we were the “Sundance Kids”.

The Sundance Kids were of three types: the muggus, the beech-ka and the really cool guys (yes, it was an all male wing and almost an all male college as well.) There was a 4th type also, the wannabe Sundance-is, people from other wings, who pretty soon recognized the coolest wing on campus and become honorary Sundance Kids.

The muggus, as the name suggests, were by nature muggus. They all were the future Eye-Bankers who were going to save the Indian society from the scourge of blindness, blindness of money, love etc. They would either be found developing the latest asset valuation models or teaching fellow students the mass-low’s hierarchy hours before an exam. Like them or hate them, you could not ignore them as they pushed you down the campus hierarchy of RG.

The beech-ka people were mostly not sure of what they wanted to do. They wanted to get decent marks and then hopefully decent jobs and at the same time they wanted to be viewed as cool and fairly cultured people. I think part of the reason was that this category of people were Bongs who varied from being slightly to extremely overweight. They wanted to project their well-rounded personality, trying to solve game theory problems and hold discourse on Marxism and cubism with equal dexterity.

This brings me to the 3rd category of people, the really cool guys, the studs who actually gave the wing its life-line and sustenance. These people excelled at some thing or the other, be it drinking anyone under the table, or having the smartest lines for any occasion or being public relations champions. They perhaps knew the true calling and purpose of life and were never perturbed by the academic rigors associated with being the malai and in some cases the double malai of the society.

I have been slightly meandering over the last few paragraphs, but it was important to build this distinction among the different types of Sundance Kids. In the remaining portion of this post, I would describe one of the events which brought together all the wingmates across distinctions, caste, religion, race, sex being no bar; well on second thoughts, sex a definite bar.

The most important event of MBA life was definitely the inter-wing footer volley competition that was held in during our 4th term. The competition was held in honor of one of our hostel seniors, whose Yuvi radiations had permanently injured the eyesight of some girls from Jamshedpur; I sincerely hope that some our Eye-Bankers would be able to illuminate the lives of these girls in the future with love and care. Anyway footer volley is a game similar to sepak takraw, but with the ball allowed to bounce, so as to be not too inconvenient for the slightly un-athletic MBA students.

Our wing had a great footer team; it was not much fancied though, primarily due to the size of the important players but we were blessed with natural ability. We had a fairly easy draw and progressed to the semi-finals. But it was not all smooth sailing as the differences between our captain (Mr. C) and our best player (Mr. P) became all to apparent in our last group match. Our captain C was one of those cool guys, who by virtue of his coolness had become the captain of the side, but was far from being our best player. Our best player P was however one of the beech-ka guys, who would generally be absconding while his project-group meetings were being held in his room. P was not a great footer volley player in the conventional way, but he was a great disruptive force. He created paradigm shifts in the way the game was played by questioning some the mores of the game. He transformed the serve from being a Ramesh Krishnan types defensive lob to a Goran-esque attacking weapon, on which free points could be won easily. His influence on the game was like the Fosbury flop in the high-jump and since then his fast dipping serve has become the norm for more divisible batches.

The differences between C and P were simmering as P was hogging all the services of the team. In the last league match that we lost, P was repeatedly missing services and so C stepped in and started serving himself. But C was not too successful with his Ramesh Krishnan lobs and things came to a boil when P was again denied the serve in the next round of services. There was a major altercation between the two, with both addressing each other with the choicest Hindi terms of endearment. We lost the game, but still made it through to the semis, where we were going to face the much vaunted StudFarm, who were so studly that they called themselves studs.

The semi-final began well for us and we won the first set thanks to some enterprising net play from some of our muggus as well as consistent fast serving from P. In the 2nd set also we were leading, but a forced un-strategic time-out was enforced with the ball going out of the arena due to one of P’s rare wayward services. But that moment swung the game away from us. The StudFarm began to win points and the differences between C and P again reared up its ugly head. P was not allowed to serve anymore and things came to such a passé that P was substituted. We lost the 2nd set and then the deciding 3rd set by a huge margin. Towards the end of the game, captain C had become a nervous wreak and was almost making rolling substitutions within points. But being a true leader, he always led from the front and never substituted himself.

The Sundance Kids lost a glorious opportunity to win the inaugural footer volley tournament and thus create history. The final was an intense affair played over 2 days due to rain disruptions. But alas we could not make it to the final and were left to only officiate the match. Nevertheless, it was an important event from my MBA college days and hopefully made for an interesting blog-post.

PS: In an earlier post I had written about Ajit Agarkar literally being left out in the cold from the KKR team and reduced to practicing catches on the EM Bypass in Calcutta. Courtesy Rachit, I have put together some random Ajit Agarkar facts in the hope that it awakes our national consciousness and we can do something to get him back his rightful place, i.e. opening the bowling for KKR with fast swinging leg-stump full tosses.

Fact 1: Agarkar doesnt eat ducks; he makes them

Fact 2: Agarkar scores with duck-ettes

Fact 3: What did the fast bowler tell Agarkar after bowling a sharp bouncer to him?

Answer: Just duck it

Fact 4: What did the 10 year old Agarkar say when he realized that he didn't have a pen at the start of an examination?

Answer: Oh duck!

Fact 5: Where did Agarkar learn to bat?

Answer: Edge-bastion, England

Fact 6: What his Agarkar's favourite video game?

Answer: Siting ducks

Fact 7: What did Agarkar's school friends gift him on his birthday?

Answer: Donald duck

Sunday, March 21, 2010

LSD - Review

Well for starters, this is strictly not a film review. I do not have an audience that I need to cater to, so this is more of some of my thoughts and ramblings on the entire experience of watching the movie “LSD” at South City Mall.

This was the first time I was going to watch a movie in Gold Class and I had for company the long legged and lissome Raghu; it truly promised to be a day full of fun and gaiety, in the old sense of the term. We made our way to the cinema hall along the EM Bypass; on the way we were greeted by life-size cut-outs of our beloved KKR heroes: Agarkar for once trying to catch a ball, Shahrukh Khan squatting (as they say, both for life and KKR, shit happens) and Saurav Ganguly leaving a ball outside the off stump (very akin to his blistering innings against Rajasthan Royals where he gave an education on chasing down targets and brought it down to exactly 36 runs needed in the last over). At the hall, much to our dismay Raghu and I had to share a couples’ sofa. Luckily we could shift to single seats a little later.

Finally about the movie; it is perhaps one of the most important Hindi movies in the recent past. I do not use the word good or bad, rather important as I truly think this marks an epoch in contemporary Hindi cinema. It is not only about the use of the handheld camera, which is slightly disconcerting in the beginning but one soon gets used to it. The movie consists of three independent stories that are intertwined with each other in a non-linear storyline. “Non-linear storyline”, yes I had heard the term a lot when Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Kaminey” was released, but frankly I could not understand the reason behind the hype. But this is a movie, which so effectively used the non-linear story line, that one realizes the beauty only in the last scene and is left wondering what happens at the chronological end of events.

The first story (Superhit Pyaar) is of a film school student, Rahul directing a B-grade version of “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” for his diploma and simultaneously falls in love with the heroine of the movie, Shruti. The plot is the typical rich girl, poor guy falling in love but the narration of the story and particularly the gruesome ending is hardly predictable. Some of the wittiest and funniest lines of the movie are in the exchanges between Rahul and his prospective father-in-law who Rahul convinces to play the role of Amrish Puri of DDLJ; the best thing is that the humor is never labored and is totally natural with Hindi gaalis actually used in real life being thrown in for good measure.

The second story (Paap Ki Dukaan) is about betrayal in love and a how a departmental store employee, Rashmi is exploited by a wannabe-MBA type guy, very aptly called Adarsh. Adarsh perhaps falls in to love with Rashmi, but that never stops him from selling the video of their sexual encounter in the store, so as to make a quick buck and pay off the loan sharks chasing him.

The third story (Badnaam Shohurat) is about the world of voyeurism and sting operations taking over mainstream media. A journalist Prabhat is pressurized by his editor to forsake the values and ethics of journalism for the sake of sensationalist news. Prabhat meets Naina, who is struggling to make her name as an item-girl and not too bothered in making compromises to get her big break. They plan a sting operation on a famous pop-singer, Loki Local which goes wrong, with Loki shooting Prabhat, the location of the shooting being the departmental store of the 2nd story.

On the whole, the movie LSD disturbs and provokes you. The movie has its scenes of macabre violence and black comedy, the killing of Rahul and Shruti in the first story and the suicide attempts of Prabhat and Naina in the last story respectively. People will either love it or hate it, but it’s a movie one cannot ignore. Dibakar Banerjee has firmly established himself as on the brightest directors in India, in the hallowed company of Anyrag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj and Shimit Amin. Adi Chopra, please see the movie, not only for the homage it pays you, but also as a lesson in film making.

PS: I was loitering about in the South City mall after watching the movie. I could not help but notice that in the Spencer’s departmental store the Kamasutra condoms were placed just next to GluconD tubs. I was reminded of Strategic Product placement of MarMan-1 and our teacher, whose pet examples in marketing were always about contraceptives.