10th May

I just had my mid-term project review today!

I should have known things would be rough when my Guide scheduled the meet at a Barista’s in a 5-star hotel, I should have known it when I saw him ticking off a subordinate when I entered, I should have known it when he ordered some wierd black tea I had never heard of in a coffee shop before (I ordered cappucino, by the way!).

But then, I went with my hopes high, as they always tend to be and always should be, I believe!

The opening exchanges were good and positive till a googly hit me.

…….”I haven’t worked on that yet, sir. But it’s on the agenda.”

“OK, but what about…..?”

“Err, I haven’t looked into that yet, sir.”

Maybe I should start off on my coffee.

“And tell me Arun, what are your findings on….?”

Ouch! The coffee’s hot!

“Iam in the process of collecting data. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

Why does the cappucino taste unusually bitter today?

…….”No sir, I dont have any quantitative proof for that.”

Maybe I should have ordered some whipped cream too.

…….”Sorry sir, I dont know.”

OK, I dont feel like drinking this now.

…….”Err…I didn’t get you, sir.”

Aren’t they supposed to play some kinda music at Barista’s?

…….”Yes sir, I agree! I do need to look into that.”

Are the walls closing in?

An hour later, the final verdict:
“You are doing a good job superficially, Arun, but I expect much more depth in your analysis, otherwise there won’t be too much of a value-add from this project for us.”

“I dont want to sound too harsh, son, but you better pull up your socks and get your ass to work soon!”

But I kinda like my Guide. He’s a solemn, no-nonsense chap who likes to get down to business directly. He’s fair, practical and willing to listen to reason. Pretty much what a trainee wants.



29th April

I met my parents after quite a while today…..well, you know it’s been a while when you hear lines like the following, and you only feel a warm sense of familiarity rather than the regular feeling of irritation.

“Why don’t you take a hair-cut?”

“When was the last time you had a bath?”

“Do you actually go around unshaven like this in college too??”

What would I do without my Mom?


24th April 

“Aapko yahan kaun saa thel adhik bhiktha hai?”

“Kya aap yeh brand aapke dhukan mein rakhthein hain?”

Just a sample from my restricted but oft-used Hindi dialogues the last week here in Bangalore. I love Hindi for its simplicity and its understandability to a layman…you can always somehow manage to decipher what the other chap is trying to tell you. At least that’s the working relationship I’ve built up with the retailers here. I halt any attempt to begin a conversation in Kannada by a pointed question in Hindi …and then we take it from there with a combination of rudimentary English, Hindi and mime.

Consider this episode when I was travelling by bus within the city of Bangalore and I had no clue where to alight. I turned to my neighbour, a chap around my age who seemed to be a daily-wage earner, and my potential source of information.

“Sirsi Circle kab aayega?”

“Aur dho aur stop”, he replied in even more broken Hindi than mine. But this chap was a companionable sort, bless his soul, and he could see I needed help, so he persisted.

“Kahan jaana hain?”

“Timberyard Yard Layout”, I beamed back at him.

He went “Aah!” and I could see him mentally charting out the most optimal route to get there.

“Kannada?”, he ventured hopefully.

I shook my head apologetically.

He smiled, shook his head back at me in a ‘this-is going-to-be-tough’ way, and took in a deep breath.

“Sirsi Circle mein utharo, road cross karo, aur straight jaao! Traffic signal aayega, left lo aur bus-stand! Timberyard Layout ka bus wahan milega!”

This was more than I had expected and I tried to get a few finer points clarified.
“Sirsi Circle aur bus-stand paas hi hai, kya?”

A furrow of confusion crossed his brow before understanding dawned.
“Oh! Monthly pass yaa daily pass?”

Trust me to stumble on the one English word the chap knew!

“Nahin, nahin! Paidhal jaa sakthe hai kya?” But I knew I was being too optimistic here.

In the end, it was upto the tried-and-tested method of Dumb Charades. My index and middle fingers did a fancy trot for my friend to get the point. He nodded vigorously and showed me his open palm with fingers pointed outwards. “Paanch minute”, followed by an impersonation of an army trooper in a parade. Yup, I could walk, apparently!

It’s amazing how these kind of interactions bring out a sense of companionship among strangers. Ever noticed how people tend to relax in another’s company when they are both confronted by something both of them are not good at,….and they both know it too? For this one reason alone, Iam glad that my Hindi is what it is right now!


17th April 

Walk, talk, talk….
Eat ,talk, laugh….
Sit, chat, discuss, contemplate….
Window-shop, talk, joke….
Walk, talk, talk….

The sheer arbitrariness of it all, the comfort level, the loss of all sense of time…
Simple ingredients to make up one of the best evenings I’ve spent in recent times…

Thanks, Seema!

Bombay -> Hyderabad -> Bangalore

13th April

Iam pretty much a novice when it comes to air travel. Iam the kind who still gets a thrill during take-offs, and I still prefer the window seat whenever possible. So it was quite an eventful day for me today, with not one, but two flights in a single day.

I got to fly the good times with Kingfisher both ways. My company has good taste. So does Vijay Mallya, I must say. I loved the personal TV set each person gets, especially when Yana Gupta comes on explaining to us the proper way to use seat-belts. I quite liked the meal they provided, especially the Goan custard something-something for dessert. And of course, the air-hostesses….sigh!…the difference in…umm, quality across airlines is striking! Pretty and dressed in red, they give the TV sets a good run for their money. The colour red is supposed to induce hunger, they say…

My second air-trip today was a night flight, which I realised was a first for me. Have you ever marvelled at the night city-lights seen from a plane? The Bangalore skyline had me captivated while we were coming in to land. You need to be at an optimum height to capture the magic. They dont blink, they dont move, they dont form patterns…like some sparkles scattered randomly in the inky darkness, you can get lost in them. Your eagle-eye perspective makes it all so removed from reality, like inanimate but beautiful gems, when they’re actually lights from homes and streets where people are carrying on with their lives just a few kilometres below you.

I don’t know which was the more beautiful sight today..the Bangalore skyline or the Kingfisher air-hostesses…tough call!


13th April

It’s been four days in Bombay for me, and as I say goodbye to the City of Dreams, a few random thoughts float around.

Chennai does not have the worst weather in the country, Mumbai does! Some cities just get a bad name…

It’s nice to see the Nehru cap actually being used as a practical head-gear. So far, the only places I had seen them were on TV or during patriotic plays.

I love the Mumbai locals!…well, atleast for 4 days, it’s an experience worth having. In fact. I think this much-hyped ‘spirit of Mumbai’ has its roots in its local trains. When you are lost in that sea of humanity on the Dadar station and you get jostled and rattled for space, it isn’t only your body that gets crushed in the process, but also your ego. When you realise your destination is decided by which way the crowd pushes you and that you have no control, you understand that you have to hone your survival instincts to fight against the tide. At the same time, you realise that you can’t make it without your fellow passenger’s help, and so you co-operate. It’s a beautiful exercise in developing one’s individualistic and collective streaks at the same time!

The local train is the best mode of transport for a woman. Often is the time I’ve been squeezed between a wire mesh and a huge, sweaty paan-chewing chap, only to see on the other side of the Great Divide, a couple of women in the empty women’s compartment calmly having their lunch.

The Gateway of India isn’t half as impressive as it looks in the pictures.

The people are helpful and good. Case in point is the wonderful family I stayed with. So what if they’re Mangalorean? I like to think it’s partly due to the Mumbai spirit!


9th April

CPD, IBG, TSO, TSE, RSM, NCO,…..they never end!

I’ve just had my induction, and I’ve been flooded with an avalanche of three-letter acronyms (TLAs). You have to give them credit for trying to make the process as less intimidating and as friendly as possible, but for a company which prides itself on having a directory called ‘MAD’ (I’ll leave the deciphering to you), I guess this was always coming.

The induction in itself was quite cool. The ambience (5 star hotel by the sea) was great, food was edible, fellow interns seemed like nice folk and the PPTs were entertaining enough to keep me awake…at least till the afternoon session. I wonder how far removed my work is going to be from this kind of environment….

I’ll soon find out!

Jamshedpur -> Bombay

5th April

Brao is an excellent chap!

His love for being Just-In-Time is something to be admired. Deming himself would have been proud. Consider our latest train journey from Jampot to Bombay. The train was scheduled to leave at 11:45 PM, and here we were in our hostel rooms at 11:25 PM, watching Mr. JIT gaze helplessly at all his yet-to-be-packed stuff. It didn’t help that he had to pick this opportune moment to fall prey to the viles of liquor too, though I like to think it atleast kept him in good humour. With the help of some indispensable friends, we finally managed to make it to an auto.

By the time we got to the station, I was making alternate plans to reach Bombay, but I needn’t have worried. We got there at 11:50 and the train didn’t arrive till 11:55. Trust the Indian Railways, trust IST! At least that’s what Mr. JIT’s knowing smile seemed to suggest, but I refused to acknowledge it.

Our sojourn in the station was only a short one. As the train rolled in, we knew we had only five minutes to make it to our compartment. A 100 metre dash basically, but with a 100 kg of luggage to be factored in. Maybe it was because of that, maybe it was because of my grumpy mood, but I thought I saw an AS chart plastered on a compartment when it actually was an A chart. Having hauled all our luggage in, we realised our mistake, but it was too late. The train had started moving.

Nothing much to be bothered about, you might think. Just walk through the train till you find the place where you belong. Easier said than done, when the next compartment happens to be the unreserved section and the connecting door had been firmly locked. We had never been hit so badly by class distinctions. But I was at peace with the world. We had made it to the train in one piece and on time, and we were moving towards Bombay. Every other issue was inconsequential.

3 AM was the next halt, and our first chance to return to our rightful seats. Half asleep, we ran (optimistically, considering all our luggage) along the platform searching for AS1. Horror of horrors, we realised it was at the other end of the train. It was with a sense of deja vu that we boarded another compartment where we didn’t belong, as the train started chugging again. We weren’t even surprised to see our path inside the train barred once more, this time by a locked pantry.
So there we were, two wannabe managers, who couldn’t get to the station on time and couldn’t find the right compartment till 5 in the morning. We spent the entire night standing next to the toilet, enduring suspicious glances from passengers who came to answer nature’s call and explaining our predicament to understanding ticket checkers.
But inspite of it all, the night was fun. Leaning out of an open door of a moving train in the dead of night is always an exhillarating feeling. Chatting with Mr. JIT, laughing at each other, pulling each other’s legs, talking randomly about summers, about XL, about people, the night didn’t seem long at all.

Like I said, Brao is an excellent chap!

Is it all about the job in the end?…those months of preparing for the entrance exams, those endless periods of keeping yourself awake through torturous classes, those months..err..days..err..hours of preparing for the end-semesters…the most tangible result of all these is the job you end up with. And just to make sure we make a better choice, we even get a test-drive at it! At least that’s how I see the summers project at any b-school.

I have no clue what’s going to happen in the next two months. And that might actually be the reason for this blog. A means to understand new (hopefully good) experiences, a diary to preserve memories for posterity and an added incentive to keep my eyes and ears open.

About the nitty-gritties, I’ll be into a get-down-and-dirty sales role, identifying growth opportunities for “The Healthy Oil” (THO) in Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore. A lot of other cities are on the radar too, and that’s something I am looking forward to…..and err, the dates and places at the beginning of each post indicate the time of post-origin, not necessarily post-penning down!

Am I a salesman?…I dont know. Am i travelling?…I most definitely am!