Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dawn of a decade!

From School to College life,
From the confines of my home to the four walls of an Engg hostel,
From family to batch-mates who became family
From 'Ghar ka khaana' to 'Hostel Mess Experiments',

From reading about them getting ragged to being ragged,
From being the king of my room to sharing my hostel room,
From clean toilets to stinky hostel ones,
From being dependent to becoming independent,
From standing in queues to withdraw money from cashier to ATM lines,
From getting bamboozled with Microprocessors to being attracted towards Marketing,
From being a bachelor of Technology to a master of Business,
From graduation to post graduation,
From a sleepy town to the Capital,
From releasing pressure to being in pressure,
From mismanagement to time management,
From friends to friends who became my lifeline,

From campus life to my first job,

From watching advertising campaigns to creating and executing one,
From consuming brands to working on brand,
From a shy, stammering school boy to a confident corporate guy,
From winning awards for writing to winning big ones for my work,
Last 2 days of a decade full of wonderful journeys.
Raising a toast to the best decade of my life, 2000-2010!

Happy New Year :-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kinginni - The Anklet

*P.S.: This entry has been declared the winner at the 'Moonlit lounge' contest at TWL. Click here for the judge's comments. Presenting the winning short story of the picture based story writing contest held at Writers Lounge. Yeyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!! :D :D*
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This is my entry for a picture based story writing contest held at Writers Lounge. We were required to write a 500 word story on the picture used in the story below. Hope you all like my attempt. Long time since I sat down to write a story. Still rusty rusty :-)

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KINGINNI - The Anklet

When we die, we become stars. Forever shining and up there for people we love most”, Ammalu told her 5 year old girl.

But Amma, you won’t even be able to see or hear me from far up there”, Kinginni frowned.

Molu, you were named Kinginni which in our native tongue means the anklet. The sound of these anklets will inform me. There is always an invisible umbilical cord that connects a mother with her daughter, no matter how far she is”, Ammalu tried reassuring her daughter, wiping away tears which she had so valiantly fought for the past few months.

This conversation was still fresh in Kinginni’s mind though it had taken place two years back. Ammalu had passed away that very year, leaving Kinginni with her maternal grandmother and fisherman brother Velan. For the last two years, like a ritual Kinginni would head to the rocky beach towards the other end of her adopted home on every birthday of hers and converse with the brightest star closest to the moon. The sound made by her anklets would echo all around announcing her arrival. She would open her heart out to this twinkling star and share every single thing that had happened in the last one year. And the star would shine brightly while Kinginni smiled, fade out when she cried, twinkle at her complaints and bathe Kinginni in the cool moonlight when she would yearn for her mothers touch.

Today was her birthday. But things had gone terribly wrong. Kinginni had lost her anklets two days back while playing near the beach. She had spent the last two days crying. The new white frock her uncle gifted her this morning had failed to cheer her up. It had been raining heavily for the past few days and today was no different. As soon as it stopped raining towards the night, Kinginni made a dash to her spot. There was an eerie silence all around and the place sounded unfamiliar today without the echoes of her anklet. With a heavy heart, she glanced towards the sky. She let out a gasp on seeing the sky without a single star. Tears swelled up in her eyes and she rushed back unable to handle the shock.



She ran along the beach with the stream of tears gushing down her cheeks. She felt something prick her legs which made her stop. She had almost dismissed it as a thorn. But the shine of that object made her dig the surface of the sand only to reveal her anklets. Kinginni could not believe it. She thanked the sea for this gift on her birthday and rushed back to the spot, the anklet adorning her leg. The place echoed in rhythm to her pace as she sprinted to the corner. With a smile on her lips, she looked towards the sky in anticipation. And like God’s play, a strong wind blew the black clouds above revealing a bright twinkling star besides the moon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Moment



"Ishitaaaaaaa...Ohhh My goddddd!! You here???...at this hour!! How??” Rahul was rubbing his eyes in amazement.

He could not get himself to believe that Ishita was here at his place at this unearthly hour. But Ishita had always been like that. Crazy to the core. And this was not the first time that Ishita had climbed up all the way to his room on the first floor. She had earlier surprised him on Valentine’s Day last year. She knew very well that Rahul slept with his balcony door wide open. He could not get himself to sleep without feeling the whiff of fresh air that the open door and windows brought in. He always knew that Ishita was a crazy girl, but her daredevil stunt on last Valentine’s Day had wiped away any iota of doubt he had in his mind. But that was last year. It seemed like ages ago. Things had not worked out the way they wanted to. It was a mutual decision to move on. The fact that Ishita's dad got transferred to Mumbai also didn’t help much.

"Ishitaaa!! Good Lord! I can't believe you are here. I thought we would never meet again. I have been missing you like crazy", Rahul's voice was choking with emotions. He had got over their break up with much difficulty. How could he forget all that suffering he went through just at the sight of his long lost love? He tried to control himself. The twinkle of love in his eyes vanished.

He stared hard at Ishita, "You never even bothered to call me up even once in all these months. I could not because no one here knew of your whereabouts. But at least you could have called me up. I have been pestering your best friend Roop all this while to get your contact details. She was adamant. And here you are.....turning up on my balcony without notice...just like that...and you feel that I will still be waiting for you here with arms wide open? Go away bhondu...sorry...Ishita...I wish not to go through the pains of parting all over again"

Rahul felt that Ishita wanted to say something, but the volley of words from Rahul's side had made her stop in her motions. She just looked at him lovingly and gave him her dimpled smile. He had prayed all these months for this moment. This one fleeting moment which he had thought would never come again in his life. His last wish had been to see her flash her dimples for him, for one last time. The moment that he wished to frame in his mind and take it along with him right to his grave. But life does not always turn out the way you wish it to. When you feel that everything is going fine, it transforms itself into an unknown entity. Rahul felt his heart melt when he saw Ishita turn and walk away. He could not see her depart like that. He tossed around in bed and buried his face in the pillows. He cried his heart out. It had taken every bit of his inner strength to show Ishita the door.

Rahul forced himself back to sleep. He tossed and turned in his bed for almost two hours. He could not get himself to sleep. There was this feeling of guilt within. He woke up with a start. Why had Ishita turned up all of a sudden today? She was here for a reason. She wanted to say something. What could be it? It was then that realization dawned on him. It was 25th Feb today!! Their anniversary! Ishita had remembered. She had come down all the way to patch up. His face lit up. All the hatred that had accumulated over the past many months faded away. He cursed himself for being rude to Ishita. He ran towards the balcony to catch her on her way down. She was nowhere in sight. Rahul rushed to his table and grabbed his bike keys. His phone rang that very instant.

"Hello...Rahul. Hi, Roop here. Hope i did not disturb you at this hour?"

"Rooop...No yaar...have you gone mad?? And i know what you have called for. I knew she would have reached your place by now. Hand over the phone to Ishita...right now...I scolded her a lot yar...Plz hand over!"

"Rahul....It's your anniversary today......right Rahul? Ishita had waited....waited for this day to patch things up with you. I think you should know this. She always missed you..........God! Give me strength to say this.....She is no longer with us Rahul.....She met with an accident on her way to my place. She.......passed away...She....left all of us....a few minutes ago"

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This story was selected by BlogAdda as one of their 5 "Spicy Saturday Picks" of the Indian blogosphere, on Feb 28th.
This is what they had to say on my story at "The Writers Lounge":
Who : Sandeep Balan for Writer’s Lounge
What : The Moment
Spicy : Sandeep in this very well crafted post speaks about a moment which made a difference in the relationship and lives of the people involved, The post is sweet, touching and simply awesome! That is all we would like to say about this ‘Spicy Saturday Pick’!
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rainolism

Rains are here again! When it rains in Mumbai, it pours. A hell lot of technological advances has created a lot of alternate 'things to do' in this season, apart from the obvious 'getting drenched'. Social media featuring prominently amongst them.
  • Facebookers to the rescue of meteoro'logical' department (Category: Social Media) I can't remember the last time we saw 'logic' in the department's predictions. Today, the number of friends you have on social media platform helps you plan. For those who got drenched on their way to office, how many times do you have to be reminded to check the status updates of your friends before making plans! If there are status updates remotely close to 'I got drenched', 'stuck in a jam at Andheri', 'Milan subway is clogged', 'Just walked through knee deep waters to reach office' etc., then you know what to expect. So look out for the update. If your friends consider themselves even remotely 'cool', you can bank on them to update their status via mobile of his/her herculean task of beating the rains at their own game. 'Sharing' is your ticket to social acceptance.
  • Facebookers to the rescue of News Channels (Category: Social Media) It's considered hip to be the first to update 'It's raining.' The fact that you are not blind to see it yourself does not matter because your friends had the grey cells to identify that it is actually water coming down from the clouds above. And like Archemedes, they emphatically updated their status message with this discovery to stake their claim of being the most clued on. Life is a race brother, and Facebook is the Olympics. An optional 'I love rains. Don't you?' is a good conversation starter.
  • The Kite Runner (Category: Things 'to do' in office) Buy a car, dude. And wish for the rains to come down heavily. And then pray for the source of your attention to leave office when it is raining the heaviest. There are a lot of kites without strings flying around, especially in this season. Glances will turn into smiles, then to conversations and finally to the coffee table, if you are willing to offer a ride back home. Mumbai rains, Mumbai traffic and Mumbai's auto/taxi drivers combine to make a dangerous concoction and you can play the antidote! Rains can bring out the gold digger in you. Time to get working!
  • The age old adage (Category: Lifestyle) Come rains, and it's 'Late to Office, Early to home' for Mumbaikars. Who says Pub's defined the term 'happy hours'?

Enjoy the rains!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ragpicker

I dedicate this short story to Stephen Anthony, my brother from the blogworld and The Solitary Writer. This short story is for the 200th post on your blog which you had honoured me with, Ste. Hope you like my attempt at fiction :-)
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Mornings without my toast sandwich at Durga's was unimaginable. Like a daily ritual, lured by the taste of Babubhai's sandwiches, which has a tendency to linger on your tongue well after its consumed, I would end up daily at this roadside joint for my bite. Today is no different. Here I am, biting into my toast sandwich. Savouring the melting butter and crunchy bread in my mouth. I look around me. Everyone is in a tearing hurry. Motorbikes zig zag their way through the traffic while irritated drivers shout at the ones in front sticking their heads out of their vehicles, egging them to move. The chirping of birds gets lost in the constant honks of motor vehicles. Its mayhem everywhere. Curses and abuses flow around like it were running out of fashion. A Parsi looking guy is concerned about the scratch the speeding motorbike just left on his brand new car. His abuses get lost in another set of honks from the vehicles behind him. Two Muslim women take advantage of the halt and cross the road along with their children. They walk past me shaking their heads and cursing the rising traffic related problems of this city. I see a young man get out of his rickshaw stuck in the jam and making his way to the front with files clutched tightly in his hands. All set for the interview, I think. I can feel the tension writ large on his face. He hardly notices the beggar who pleads him for alms, but folds his hands and seeks blessings from the temple at the corner while still finding his way out of this jungle of vehicles. Pleading for Divine intervention. Strange how our prayers are so dependent on each other. For beggar, it would have been like answer to his prayers if the young guy would have dropped a couple of nickels in his bowl. And the young chap desires divine help to impress the person he is going to meet, so that he drops the job offer in his bowl. In this sea of vehicles and irritated audience, there is hardly anyone who has a smile on his face. I see tense faces, angry ones, irritated bunch and the vocal lot.

Babubhai places my tea on the table. I take a sip and marvel at the fact that how conveniently we have forgotten to smile. There are seemingly a million forces at work to wipe off that smile from your face. All that matters is how to cling on to the next rope from the one that you are hanging from presently. All I see around is childhood lost. Innocence raped. Conscience murdered.

I glance at my watch. Its 9:00 am. Time to move. I gulp the remnants of my cup and head to clear my dues. I let out a small shriek at the new set of honks from the background. That's when I notice the little ragpicker behind this bread stall, combing through the garbage and sorting out stuff. In that moment, to me his garbage bag looks like the route to salvation for all the discarded articles within his sight. Those who go into his back are in with a chance for a better tomorrow while the others retire to their destiny. The ragpicker goes about his business and moves his hands through the garbage like an expert. His hands have been trained to sift wheat from the chaff. He has been thrown in front of life to face its brutalities and survive, while his peers are parroting their way through Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. Strange are the ways of nature.

My thoughts are interrupted with a sudden change of expression on the face of the ragpicker. He seems to have come across something significant for him to let go off his bag and get completely involved with the catch. At a closer glance, I recognize the wrapping. A bar of chocolate. As the ragpicker unwraps his find, I can see a beam of happiness in that smile of his. The smile of contentment. Unwary and uncaring of what lies ahead in the day. Just enjoying this moment of bliss. Living in the moment. I smile having witnessed this scene. I silently wish how better off we would be if we could start living and enjoying the moment while it lasts instead of worrying about what lies ahead. I silently wish for some sanity in this seemingly insane world. I silently wish for the lost childhood in each one of us. I silently wish for a better tomorrow.

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*Pic courtesy : Sandwich wallah - Novin

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Classroom

It felt great coming back to college after 15 years. Nothing had changed. The same old classrooms, same old corridors, same old stairways winding upwards and that same old welcoming breeze. I felt immune to the chill of Delhi winters from the moment I stepped into the School of Management. Guess it's something that places you feel secure in does to you. You feel that invisible, securing presence around you. I walked straight towards my classroom, to unlock all the memories that I had fought back for 15 long years.



The entrance to the classrooms had been freshly painted with a coat of cream colour. It looked seemingly wet. It arrested my impulse to push open the doors and soak in the feeling of being present in the room that had shaped me. To unlock all the memories the room held. I could pay a fortune to shout, "Present Sir", when the professors would call out "Nisha Nayak". 15 years of climbing the corporate ladder had given me all the comforts I could have asked for when I started off. I was happily married with two kids. I had the most caring husband I could have asked for. And I loved him, atleast tried my best to. However hard I would try, I could never love someone as much as I had loved Nishant. This was the classroom where we had spent countless hours discussing about everything under the sun. He was the craziest and funniest person I had ever known. If only I could have told him that I loved him, then maybe things would have been different today. But maybe he didn't love me. Atleast he would have told me so if he did, despite him being the most shy guy on planet when it came to matters of love. Wasn't that what I loved about him most? The way he would blush when you tried teasing him. Atleast I should have tried getting out his feelings for me. Wasn't I waiting for a mere "Do You?" from his side to succumb? Or was it just the figment of my imagination? I would never know. He was as friendly with other girls as he was with me. Neither was I among the prettiest, nor the smartest to even dream of a "Yes" from his side. So why would I have bothered asking him out? Aren't boys supposed to do that? Things are so much easier for today's generation with emails & mobile texts & what not! Ask me how difficult it was to bring pen to paper. The little notes I used to leave for Nishant in the secret compartment of our desk, the existence of which only we two knew, and waiting for his replies were the only thing I looked forward to. How I wished one of those notes would contain an "I Love You" scribbled somewhere in between those lines. Till the very day he left before us at the end of the course for a family emergency, I had waited and prayed for him to express his feelings. I was such a fool in believing that Nishant loved me. But I knew I did, because I have never felt anything as pure and as strong as my feelings towards him till this date. Not even towards my husband for 10 years. My every morning used to start with him by my side in the classroom and end with him waving me goodbye. I had learnt to live without him. Last 15 years I had shut his memories away. Till this very day when this classroom brought back all those moments back.


I could not control myself and swinged open the doors. The smell of wood and chalk filled my nostrils. I glanced at my watch. 7:30 am. There was still time before students of the current batch would start trickling in. I was scheduled to give a guest lecture at 9 am. I stood at the centre and ran my eyes through the semi circle arrangement of seats. They hadn't changed the furniture. Just a fresh coat of polish had left the old benches shining like new. My row was the fourth from the start. I saw there were two Nisha's in this batch and their nameplates were in place where me and Nishant used to sit. I walked towards those seats, minus the spring in my steps back in college days when the mere thought of sitting besides Nishant would send my pulse racing. I sat on my seat and looked around to visualise my other batchmates around me. Did I even notice who all sat where back then? My mind used to be so preoccupied with Nishant that it did not have the faintest clue about the surroundings. Questions came crashing again to my mind. Why did he have to leave like this without a single word? Why hadn't he left his number with any of his friends or on the official records? Why had he not come to me before leaving? He couldn't even wait to bid me goodbye. Even if he didn't love me the way I used to, we were friends enough for him to say those parting words to me. For me, the relation with this classroom ended the day Kaveri told me that Nishant had to leave for his home all of a sudden. It didn't make much of a difference because our final exams were over and after a week more of formalities and paperwork, we were all headed to our homes & careers. I had not stepped into this classroom since then. Someone had sucked the life out of this classroom. Till this very moment, I had done pretty well to resist a place I simply loved being in. I settled in my seat which was a routine for me 15 years back. I looked at my desk and ran my hands on it. On impulse, my hands reached out for the bottom of the desk to slide out the small shaft of wood. Then as if acting on a mind of its own, the fingers reached out for a small box shaped wooden box open at the sides from under the shaft. Our little secret box. Where me and Nishant used to leave small notes for each other. I pulled it out. Seemed like no one had discovered this place post our times. I placed the box at the desk. For a moment I couldn't beleive my eyes. There was a note tucked in there. With trembling hands I pulled out the yellow note and opened it.


"Dearest Nisha. I have always loved you. I don't know if you do love me as well. I don't have the guts to ask you out and face rejection. A lot has happened in the last 24 hours. My stepmother has filed for a divorce from Dad for reasons I don't know and Dad has suffered a major stroke an hour back. I have to immediately leave for home. I have not told anyone anything about this personal mess up of my family. But before leaving, I just wanted to confess my love and not live with the feeling that I never tried. I know you will check this secret cabinet for sure tomorrow morning when you attend classes, like we do as a ritual every day. And If you love me as well, please call me at my home #022-34332. No regrets if you don't, because you have taught me what falling in love with someone is. You have taught me there are reasons apart from breakfast to look forward to in a new day when you retire to bed. You have taught me the wonders a smile of a loved one can do on you. And every day of the last two years, I have lived every moment just to see that smile on you. You bring sunshine into my dark life every morning with your note in our secret compartment. Just wanted you to know. I love you. Nishant"

A few drops blotted few words on the note. Drops of my bleeding heart.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alumni Ki Kahaani, Unki Zubaani - Blogisode 1

The world is crazy. Managers crazier! So how can the students turned "so called" managers who passed out of the hallowed portals (*Conditions apply) of the School of management be any different? The yeM Bee yAe team tracks down some well known alumnus from the School of Management and presents in a 2 min capsule their struggles with this crazy world. How have these guys managed to survive the system? How have they managed to tackle the pressures of life? What is their secret ingredient?

This whole new reality blog series puts these alumnus under the microscope of humour and shares their secret of success with the mortals.

Recruit 1: Nal-jyoti Kumar (Batch XIV)

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And the juggernaut rolls......