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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Confessions of an Unfaithful Lover

Love, unlike success, at least in my opinion, does not have a definitive moment. Is it the first sight, or the first touch, or the first sense of ownership or the first feeling of belonging? Can we point at any one moment and say that this moment was when we fell in love? Can we say that I was not in love before so-and-so moment and I was in love after that? No. it’s a gradual process, like growing up. We do not know how much we have grown until we stand against that measuring scale or, in some cases, over the weighing scale.
She came into my life during college. I had just rented a flat with my friends and was trying to celebrate my newfound freedom in every possible way I could think of. The one problem that kept dampening my spirits and messing my shoes was the torturous bus rides to college from my flat. But the day she came into my life, it all changed. I started enjoying the commute, I was among the cool dudes of my class and the envy of most of the other guys. It was known to me from the very beginning that she had once belonged to someone else. She never tried to hide it from me, rather made it a point that I accepted her with her past, which I wholeheartedly did.
She was from Haryana. Had been born and brought up there, even met the first man in her life there. Her moods, her tantrums, her carefree attitude and the wildness- it had Haryana written all over her. Right from the first time I met her, I knew there was something between us. And we got along so well. My friends loved her, came to me so that they could get to spend some time with her. She always treated them well, and made sure that she was there whenever anyone needed her, but never at the cost of my feelings. The two years that I spent in college with her by my side had so many memories.
She saved me once from getting caught in a fight with some local rowdies. Once saved me from coming under a bus because of some crazy mood swings. After my first placement exam where I had done extremely well and was confident of getting the job offer, on our way back, out of sheer childish happiness, I took off my helmet and kissed her right on her face. In the middle of the traffic with a puzzled crowd looking at me, I kissed her and then just zoomed off.  I don’t know what she thought at that point but I felt her smile.
 Whenever I was in trouble, she ensured that I was safe. She ensured that I reached home safely after my drunken parties and late night drives. She made sure that I was on time for college and for my MBA coaching classes and she ensured that I beat all other guys on our bike races on the NH7 on our way back after classes. I, on my part, took her for granted for most of the time and paid attention to her only when she, in her ever so polite ways, could take it no more. I was just too busy building my future and having a good time to acknowledge that she deserved better. Then college got over.
I joined my new job – a very good break for a fresher out of college. Money was no more a constraint and I was really happy to have her by my side since she was the one who got me there. She still was my constant companion and most of my new friends at work saw us together. But sometimes they, and some of my college friends started to jokingly mention that I was too good for her. Everyone was getting new partners and gradually she became the butt of all jokes on me. I tried to defend her and always told them that nothing would ever come between us and I was happy with her just the way she was. But, deep within, something was changing. I wanted to soak up this new life and wanted her to be just as excited about it as I was but she, or rather, “C”, was becoming weaker, older and less enthusiastic about my adventures. I was torn between my aspirations and her growing lack of passion, and this gap was widening every day.
It was at this point that “P” came into my life. She was the new one in town. I was instantly besotted by her full body, those cat eyes and that husky voice. Right from the first time I set my eyes on her, she promised a wild time and showed the potential to deliver. A creature of the night, she was all Bangalore. I was the first man in her life and yes, like “C”, she looked great in red. Very soon I found myself thinking about her all the time – even when I was with “C”. I was setting targets and goals to get her, saving money and making plans to accommodate the expenses that were due once she came into my life and then, one fine evening, I brought “P” home. I knew “C” would be shocked and surprised but I had given up on her long back. To my utter frustration, “C” never reacted. She just resigned herself to her designated spot in our house and stayed there – quietly, never mentioning a word, never asking, never demanding anything from me. I moved on, and moved on fast. “P” was everything that I ever wanted and more. She was wild yet sensible, crazy yet mature and strong yet smooth.
And thus about eighteen months passed. “C” had reduced herself to a carcass. One could barely tell by looking at her that she was the same “C” that once ran, laughed, played and threw tantrums. Much as I was happy with “P”, I knew that I had certain duties towards “C” too. I tried to find a new partner for her but she had just stopped showing any signs of life. I tried to take her to her doctor but he told me that she had no chance of revival and it would be best to just let her go.
“Sirjee aap tension mat lo. Ye to hamara roz ka kaam hai.” With these words, the bulky man and his assistant reassured me that they will take “C” to her rightful place properly. I was feeling terrible but this was something that needed to be done for C’s own good. They dragged her skeletal frame out of the gate of my house and took her into the street, casting a sad shadow of my “C” as she walked under the streetlights, taking a final turn and disappearing forever into the darkness. I broke into tears. “P” was standing in the porch but I paid no attention to her and got inside the house and went straight to sleep.
It has been more than a year since that day and I am very happy with “P”. There have been many stories and memories and P has never ever given me a chance to complain. I have loads of pictures of myself with “P” but it’s funny that I do not have a single picture of “C” with me. I could not afford a camera in those days when she was with me and when I could, I had already brought “P” into my life. But sometimes I wonder if what I did was right. Could I have done it any better? Any differently?
 I hope “C”, wherever she is, is well looked after and taken care of. And I hope she forgives me. “C”, you will always be my first one. And as they say, the first ones are the most special.

P.S. – In case the reader is still wondering, “C” refers to Bajaj Caliber 135cc – the bike I had in college, and “P” is Bajaj Pulsar 150cc– my current bike.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Uncut Diamond

A newspaper report today said that there are over a billion undernourished people in the world. This means that roughly every sixth human being on this planet does not have enough to eat. And about a third of these people are from India. India – where there are more than 500 million mobile phone connections. Combining these two pieces of information we can roughly say that one in every five Indians is likely to be having a mobile phone, though he may not be able to afford two square meals a day. This country, just like its people, is a painful juxtaposition of many such contradictions.
I spent yesterday evening at a five-star heritage hotel sipping some fine scotch in a beautiful garden listening to a famous singer sing some sufi songs about the oneness of God and the bliss of complete surrender. There was also a whole family begging for its next meal at the traffic signal outside the hotel. I live in a city which is called the Silicon Valley of India. I come from a state which is among the least developed in the country where most of the kids never get to appear for their high school exams. The India that shines is visible to all. It is talked about in newspapers, written about in books and shown in movies. This India is truly shining. It has a fire that gives it its glow. We all see the glow, we all talk about the fire but when it comes to the fuel that powers this fire, we are reluctant to acknowledge - almost dismissive and embarrassed to admit its existence. This fuel is what provides India (the shining one), with its manpower in the form of skilled and unskilled labor to write computer software as well as to harvest potatoes, with its farmers and masons to cultivate fields and build IT parks and domestic helps for its too-busy-to-clean-their-own-home executives and housewives.
There is a huge geographic distance between these two Indias. And the distance between their developmental statuses is, well, of years and decades though it could as well be of light-years except for the fact that they both exist on the same planet. So, as they said in the opening sequence of Star Wars, “In a galaxy far, far away”, there exists another India. An India where you can still see Rajdoot motorcycles, discover what a real gulab-jamun tastes like, where women can look devastatingly beautiful in a simple salwar-kameez and where there are countless love stories that started and ended without the couple ever so much as holding each other’s hands. This is the India that lives in the small-towns. This is the lesser India that was failed by its richer brothers. This is the India that was denied what it rightfully deserved but was too humble to demand – an acknowledgement.
Among other things that the government and the electorate – and by electorate I mean the people who actually vote - has refused to see in this India, is the amazing growth opportunity. They saw the muck. They knew it’s a pain to clean it, but they failed to see what lay hidden under it. The business opportunities in each and every sector, the market for cheaper technologies and availability of resources are just too exciting for anyone to ignore, provided they take a first look. These markets are just opening up now and anyone who has the foresight to tap into this movement is bound to reap benefits way beyond one’s wildest imaginations. This India does not need philanthropists or their charity. It does not need Smart Alecs who borrow twenty thousand rupees from their dads, open a company in their garage with a bunch of friends and soon become millionaires through some smart internet idea and viral marketing. It needs real visionaries. It needs people who have the vision to see beyond the obvious problems, the belly to take strong challenges and bring about a mass movement. And it is more than willing to lap it all up. The resident youth of this India is just waiting for one such movement. Unlike the youth in their parents’ times which saw the fall from being the cultural and intellectual heart of India to  being referred to as the “sandaas” (cesspool) of India so suddenly that they simply did not know what to do, this youth has seen the difference all his life. He has lived his whole life bearing the insult, beatings, prejudices and ruthless jokes and now he has had enough. He needs the same amount of recognition that the rest of his generation get because, time and again, he has proved that given the right opportunities, he is just as capable as anyone else. It is about time that the society looked at the small-town India as the new India - the diamond that is still uncut - and saw that it’s in its own interest to develop it – for India to really shine.