Yours truly Piyal: An Autobiography

Prologue

“HIS picture remains shrouded with mystery,
HIS destiny is unclear,
HE is everlasting,
HE is perpetual,
HE is unshakeable,
HE is…”

 


 

A “Sugar-Free” Introduction…

So who the hell is this guy who seems to be on a mission to cram into your already super-saturated brain a big chunk of info about himself?
Hell, its me – Piyal Mukherjee (Some folks also know me by other names as mentioned in the “Slam Book” section of this website)…

You know that unconventional Cool Guy who seems to be “Different” from the normal run-of-the-mill:
Well, I am HIM on crack!!!

Armed with an artillery of management, computers, marketing, PR (and a bit of writing) skills, a reasonably strong foundation of philosophies / spiritualism and an excellent capacity to love “good” people (while conveniently ignoring the rest of them royally!) – I look forward to make the most out of the role I am playing here in this life!

Ouch!
I know what you are thinking right now…
“This guy seems so arrogant, cocky and full of himself!”
Before you develop such negative prejudices about me, let me share with you one of my philosophies:
I think there are broadly 2 kinds of people in this world (though most of us fall somewhere in the middle i.e. in the grey area between the extremes of black and white in this spectrum I am talking about):

  1. The “Sugar-coated” version – People who will bowl you over and charm your pants off with well-articulated sweet words that will be honey to your ears. Only later perhaps when they are not there, do you start wondering whether the person meant even a single word of what they said!
  2. Next is what I would like to call the “Sugar-free” version – These people would look quite smug, cocky (and full of attitude!) to you in the initial phase. They might say things rather tersely and may even posses an acid tongue (or maybe say nothing much at all!) In your first encounter, you will probably be scared to get too close to them… But later on in life (when all is said and done, all the smoke is cleared, all the dust is settled), you might just find out that there is more to them – They are genuine!

While I am grateful to life to have seen a lot of people on both sides of the spectrum, I personally feel that I am somewhat more of the second category! I prefer to be straight-cut, “Sugar-free” and… genuine most of the times! I don’t want to make friends with every Tom, Dick and Harry around the corner. But every Tom I manage to befriend gradually (with time), I tend to keep for life! Anyways, that was just one thing I wanted to communicate to you so as to make things crystal clear in Stage 1 itself! So let’s move on with the “Sugar-free” stuff…

Coming back to this autobiography, why would you like to know more about me? Quite frankly, I don’t have a clue. Perhaps, you have to hire a sharpshooter to kill me and would like to check out on my habits. On simpler lines, you know me at work/play and keep wondering why this guy acts so strange all the time. Or maybe…I really don’t know what your reason might be! All I can promise you is that there are lessons to be learnt from each and every human being you ever come across (good things to imbibe and perhaps more importantly, not-so-good things to avoid) – and you will probably be a lot richer once you read through the tumultuous chapters of my life (I personally learn a lot from others lives each and every day) – That’s the reason this has been written in the first place!

Anywhichways, good thing (for me) is that since you have already wasted enough time to land up on this page, you might as well go ahead and read a few paragraphs of what is offered here.
I love this quote by the great Rodney Crowell which you might have noticed on the home page of this website:

“I have never gone so wrong as for telling lies to you;
What you have seen is what I have been;
There is nothing that I can hide from you;
You see me better than I can…”

All I am going to say is that I will try to live up to that. I hate pulling the wool over other people’s eyes (no one deserves that and most of them are smart enough to see through it anyways). So, Here we go…
In the next few minutes, you will learn everything about me you may want to know – Right from… to…
FIND OUT!!!

 


 

It all Started as a Show…

I graced this planet in the summer of 1983 in Calcutta (India). I was the first boy in our family this generation and even though I don’t believe in all this boy-girl crap, I understand that my arrival was much celebrated (I guess, the unfortunate people in my family hardly knew what they had got themselves in to 🙂 )
I don’t remember much as a child except being quite stubborn, obstinate and head-strong though I am glad to have grown out of at least some of these flavours in recent times (somewhat!). I was brought up in the friendly ambience of Lake Town in the outskirts of Calcutta (it is called Kolkata now).

Even though many people hate it, one of my most striking memories from childhood is the infamous water-logging of Lake Town in the rainy seasons

Even though many people hate it, one of my most striking memories from childhood is the infamous water-logging of Lake Town in the rainy seasons

 


 

Mamma’s Little Boy

My mother was an esteemed professor in English (a PhD in English as well) at Rammohan College, Calcutta and my entire childhood revolved around her. She was a fair and beautiful woman in her days. I don’t think that I am very good-looking but she was a handsome lady. She was the one who made me who I am today and that’s why it was the most painful moment of my life when she died on May 15, 2001. She had cancer which had spread all over her body and there was not much anybody could do about it. I still remember (and forever will) that always-smiling face which used to give me courage when I felt to be down in the dumps and which was the prime reason behind my having the happiest childhood (though I did not comprehend properly at that time) a boy can ever have, a face that was still smiling even in the last few hours of her life. That was the first time when I seriously prayed to God. I still remember standing in front of a “Kali Mandir” (temple), eyes closed, praying really hard for the first time in my life. But she died all the same.

I imbibed my basic values from her. Like never cut down on your expenditure, only try and increase your income. That’s why I am quite a spendthrift as far as personal interests are concerned (Many people might tell you / think otherwise, but that’s not the true perception – Read Gabbie’s testimonial in the website section if you have your own doubts). Never take any action that has a bad feeling associated with it. That’s why I find it so difficult to harm people knowingly!  My mother taught me how to use sweet expressions when communicating with people, to get the job done without unnecessarily hurting people’s sentiments and without getting into trouble. But most importantly, before leaving this world, she has taught me my present philosophy of life. Her demise has made me realize that nothing is permanent. She has taught me that everything is transient, including herself. So, enjoy what you have this moment, for it can be taken away from you the next. That’s why I don’t give a damn about anything anymore. It is a very badass way of putting it but the whole rationale behind it is that if she could be taken away from me, then everything else can be taken away also. Conversely, if I can live with her absence, I can damn sure live with the absence of anybody or, for that matter, anything else.

I still believe she is there and she looks over me. Otherwise, I would not have had all that I have. Often when I feel depressed, I go to some lonely place where I talk to her and cry. She is a sort of “long-distance phone call” I have to God / The Universe because this talking to her often makes me feel better. Actually, after her demise, I feel much more secure than before in everything that I do because I am sure she is sitting somewhere near God telling Him all the time – “Don’t let anything happen to my son!”

One of my biggest regrets was (read “was” – Thankfully I don’t harbor regrets much anymore) that some people misunderstood my emotions when my mother died. That day, at the hospital, only two of the numerous people were smiling – one was my mother and the other was me. Both knew that they would have to leave the person they loved like no other and both did their best to suppress their emotions so that the other would not feel sad. I don’t know how she managed it but I had always been a champion actor as far as suppressing emotions are concerned. I have this ability to laugh away a crisis outwardly when it is creating thunderstorms in my mind. But a good many people thought that I was more or less unaffected by my mother’s death. Actually, it doesn’t really matter what they think! To all you people: you don’t cry for her anymore, do you? There is only one soul that still cries and cries and cries – that’s me.

“A hundred days had made me older
since the last time that I saw your pretty face

A thousand lights had made me colder
and I don’t think I can look at this the same…”

 


 

Opposite Poles

Should take this opportunity to say a few words about my father. Guess we never got along too well as we are miles apart in terms of ideology. He is the super-disciplined person who lives his life to the rulebook, while I have been the one who has a general disregard for rules (don’t like boundaries of any sort at all, I do!). It is unfortunate that I have often taken this “difference” to an extreme level and fought with him on multiple issues. However in retrospect I realise (like in so many other cases) that he is just “different” and all it calls is for me to be tolerant to what he is (After all, he is right from his point of view and must have thought of my ways as ludicrous – and many of them were, I am sure! 😉 ). I fully empathize with the trauma Baba must have gone through on Ma’s demise and I admire the spirit with which he has carried on in life ever since. I also know that he is one human being with a very big heart – someone who does lots of stuff for charitable organizations under cover and no one ever gets to know about it. Plus I am indebted to Baba as I consider him fully responsible for many things that I have managed to become today, at least career wise (I would have never done an Engineering plus MBA unless he kind of coerced me into it, and might have remained half the human being I am today – at least in terms of exposure!)

We are opposite poles – One of my closest people once said that: “You and your father – you are two extremely powerful forces kept in check by each other’s influence”. Guess nothing could have described us more aptly (By the way, #Respect for the Shakespearean level of analogy)!

Even though a lot still remains unsaid between the two of us, we are doing, thankfully, much better these days with a kind of a mutual understanding on non-interference in each other’s lifestyles. Cheers to that!

Reminds me of that wonderful song from Terry Jacks (even though I may not be dying right now, at least not as per the current storyline / latest bold predictions 😉 ):

“I was the black sheep of the family…
You tried to teach me right from wrong…,
Too much wine and too much song…
Wonder how we got along”

That’s quite a recent pic of me and Baba at Dosa Plaza near Kalighat Station, Calcutta on Bengali New Year Day

 


 

Stepping into the Glare of the Society Spotlight

When I look back at my childhood, I really do not “like” the kind of character I used to play back then. I had always been a somewhat shy type of guy who lived in an isolated world revolving around himself only. In fact I was quite negative. In retrospect, I see myself being the exact kind of person I kind of detest at the present juncture of my life. It was something like… a guy who fares moderately in academics in school (I did my schooling in the well-acclaimed Calcutta Boys School, by the way, but was never a major character there), does not play any game exceptionally well, has no passions or interests as such (“Yet another guy”, if you will!) – a personality / a role that was kind of stagnating. I guess that is what I hated most about that guy… He was a nothing, a “nobody” and the worst part was that he never wanted to be a “somebody”. I firmly believe today that life is all about moving ahead, learning new stuff, self-enrichment and this guy… He was at a stand-still.

Perhaps it was planned by The Universe / God / Higher Power like that – to teach me (in the hard way, if I might add!) that this was no way to live life, to make me a better person… Anyways, all this called for a change and a metamorphosis was in the calling… and it was to happen soon! The Man from the Dark Side would soon step into the society spotlight, something which he had shunned for years and years.

It is strange to think that Ma passing away which was kind of “End-of-the-World” for me opened up an array of doors for me, doors which I may not have ever explored if she was there to shield and protect me. I was so much dependent on her all along, even for simplest of things. This was one of the most tough, testing as well as learning phases of my life – I started doing things which I had never done before. Again, I guess God / The Universe was teaching me in the hard way how to live life.

This different life which I was experiencing at this point probably triggered my metamorphosis. I decided to change things… I started watching movies, speak out more, make friends (especially those outside my gender… I was from a boys school and was always a bit shy with ladies. Strangely today when I retrospect, since then I think I have always connected better with women than with men 🙂 ). There was a lot of inertia from inside but all I knew was that I had to change if I wanted to survive, if I wanted to live a better life.

Let’s put it this way: This was the time an attitude was formed in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to sprinkle dramatic touches on this article. But this is what precisely happened. From that time forth till today (and probably for evermore), I started visualizing my life less as that of a human being but more as a character playing his role in a movie.

I decided to adopt a brash persona of a sort of silent badass (pardon my insolent usage of words 😉 ) who does not give a damn about what other people say or think of him. Some people say that I have a natural smugness about me (not that I mean it, but it is still there I guess), and I wanted to leverage it (at that age, I guess it was indeed the most exciting option anyways). I said to myself, “You can’t just lead your life like yet another jabroni walking the face of God’s Green Earth; You got to be different from the rest, you got to be unique, you got to be one of a kind”. And that is what I have tried to do ever since. As far as possible, stay out of the ordinary. This variation hypothesis of mine invariably earned me the moniker of an anti-hero who oftentimes speaks against normal conventions, but that’s another story for another time!

One thing that I did during this time was read a lot of self-help books and start visualising myself the way I wanted me to be. Without knowing much about the workings of the Universe (trust me, I hadn’t read books like “The Secret” back then), I felt and imagined things that I wanted to be and even started to (as Stuart Wilde says) “fake it till you make it”. I started imagining (as was advised in one of my reads) life the way I wanted to be. For instance, I wanted to be more comfortable with girls (I was always embarrassingly uneasy with them throughout my adolescent years), so I imagined having close friends from the opposite gender and doing things with them. Another example: I was always afraid of public speaking (I guess most of us are – its is supposed to be the 2nd biggest fear in human beings after dying 😉 ). So I imagined speaking in public and entertaining large audiences. And it was not just imagining it, I really wanted my desires in a healthy way, and while I never did anything drastic, I did grasp opportunities that came my way in these regards with a brave face. Somewhat the Universe made things happen…

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been part of 2 amazing institutions – Institute of Engineering and Management (IEM Kolkata) where I studied computer engineering (among other basic rules of self-confidence) and Institute of Management Technology (IMT Ghaziabad) where I studied marketing (among other very important life philosophies which impacted me profoundly like never before).

To facilitate the flow and give me a kick-start, I was nominated (notice that I did not use the word “elected” 😉 ) as the Class Representative (CR) both in first year and the third year of IEM. While the “designation” never meant much to me, it gave me an excellent opportunity to connect to a whole bunch of people (a good antidote for my shy nature): wonderful people I was sharing the platform with for the next 4 years of my life. I was part of 2 of my favourite classrooms of all time: Y-Section in first year, followed by Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) from year 2 to 4. Over these 4 years, though all the interactions and experiences, I started discovering a person whom I had never known before – that was me!

Even though my “sugar-free” personality (or maybe the fact that I was from a different schooling background from most of the folks there) made some folks a bit averse to me initially, soon I started connecting very well with my new universe of friends like never before. This seems childish to say but there was a time I had more Orkut fans (yes, those were Orkut days!) than any boy (or even girl) in IEM college had. The funny thing is that once people come to know the hard way what kind of person you really are (i.e. after they initially thought you were just an arrogant jerk), they respect you for life. I take lots of pride in saying that IEM gave me a wonderful bouquet of friends and lots of them love me a lot… I am really touched when at times, IEM friends in Orkut/Facebook tell me that they miss me so much – Thanks a lot, guys for giving me so much love! I hold each one of you very close to my heart as well – You might have received my random out-of-the-blue pings once in a while over the years (as do many other subsequent people who are close to me), that’s only because I miss you…

Over time, I had moved out of our beloved Y-Section to Computer Science Stream – a class of 96 strength! You won’t even imagine what an experience of a lifetime it was to be a part of this 96-strong class which never lost an opportunity to give catcalls or applaud teachers at the slightest pretext. Lecturers who were sporting simply loved our class – but it was a nightmare for any teacher who had some kind of attitude/ego problem to teach in such an environment.

The “Y Factor” during Sinusoid 2002

CSE – The 96 strong Dream Stream

There are small things that happen to you… things that you recall and cherish for the rest of your life. I will tell you about one such incident: In 1st year, we were supposed to deliver speeches on topics of our choice in English class. As I mentioned earlier, I was always shy of public speaking (among other things) and really wanted to change things given this opportunity on a platform where people were mostly not aware of my hidden weakness. I picked up an article from a former edition of my school magazine which was all about demeaning women (as compared to men) throughout but having a twist-in-the-tail which turned the tables back on men. I remember the cheers throughout my speech and finally bringing the house down with applause that day as soon as I delivered, what you might call, the take-home line:

“I don’t understand women… But I understand men even less!!!”

I was completely “over” with the crowd for the first time in my blooming life. It was one of the days, I got to realize my exceptional potential to entertain.. and to story tell. Gradually, I began to take note and realized that people generally found my mannerisms, the way I walk, the way I talk to be highly entertaining. I got to hear adjectives about me like “Comic -book Superhero” to “Thee Most Electrifying Joker in IEM”. Hell, I do not take any offence to be called a “joker” as long as what I did made people laugh and squeeze out more fun out of their lives. After all, thats what life is all about!

“The Great One” (as I often self-proclaimed myself and am referred to by very many people till date) was thus born as The Man from the Dark Side stepped into the Glare of the “Society Spotlight”.

I was indeed creating IeMPACT!

“Be not afraid of greatness;
Some are born great;
Some achieve greatness;
And some have greatness thrust upon them”
~ William Shakespeare


I sit and Talk to God… and He just laughs at my plans

sit_and_talk_to_God

It is often seen that the more you swerve to one extreme, something inside you tries to balance things and get you back on the ground.

All of a sudden, I had the inclination to start looking for a deeper meaning of life… a purpose! I read somewhere about making friends with God, the power of prayer & stuff like that – Always wanting to get better than what I was, I decided to try it out. I made it a point to say my prayers in the morning and also take time to pour out my heart to Him at night. I also delved into books on spirituality and metaphysical aspects. All this was an attempt to understand what the hell was going on in my life and its periphery.

You may be wondering why the brash & flamboyant “Great One” was resorting to all this. Thing was that despite all the popularity I had in college, all my friends out there, all the decent grades that I was consistently getting these days in exams; Something was missing… Somewhat, things seemed very fake and shallow. Yes, I had managed to reach out to so many people but somewhere down the line, I could feel the desire to have real, close friends: people I could trust and would be able to open my heart to. I missed the deep connect. There was another thing that kept troubling me: The guy who was so popular and well-liked in college was not exactly the “Real me” – it was “The Great One” entertaining everyone, posing a charming, charismatic personality: it was simply not me. One of my friends had put across this point very aptly in one of our chat conversations on Yahoo Messenger; I will quote a few lines from that conversation for the benefit of the readers (By the way, PM is “you-know-who” and DG is “she-who-must-not-be-named”, as per societal norms and customs… Sounds like the Harry Potter classics , doesn’t it? Let’s leave it like that, to give society the middle finger and look at things from the lighter side 😉 )…

PM: “i find it tough 2 get intimate with pple”
PM: “sounds really really strange but its true”
DG: “i know that 🙂 dont wrry, its not THAT strange”
PM: “inspite of the fact tht i am probably the only guy who talks to all 95 students in class!!!”
DG: “precisely”
PM: “& am quite cool with almost all of them”
PM: “but still sumthing is missing”
PM: “at least i feel tht”
PM: “dont u agree?”
DG: “yes”
DG: “i mean, thats your image doing the talking!! (does a damn good job though), but still… thts not YOU”
DG: “but its fine..i like tht version of u a lot, u knw”
DG: “coz ppl need a laugh these days.. many need it desperately!”
PM: “but its not human”
PM: “& trust me, its tough”
PM: “all the time”
DG: “so then why do u take all the pains to do it?”
DG: “is that ur escape route? i dont think u jst do it for fun”
PM: “thts an interesting thing u said – escape route”
PM: “i guess thts what it is often”
PM: “it makes me feel better at times”
PM: “bcoz it makes me forget other dampening stuff”
DG: “i see”
PM: “thts why i hate leavin coll after 1st half”
PM: “i hate 2 b alone in home”
DG: “but u knw, it doesnt seem like its difficult to u… u make it look so easy! as if u r comfortable with this only”

The above reproduction of my chat conversation sums up perfectly what I have been trying to tell you. Things were going wrong in my life (especially in my head and mind) and… I did not like myself again.
This awesome track by Robbie Williams told my story:

“Come on, hold my hand, I want to contact the living;
Not sure I understand this role I’ve been given;
I sit and talk to God and He just laughs at my plans;
My head speaks a language I don’t understand;
I just want to feel real love…
Because I got so much life running through my veins going through waste;
I don’t want to die but I ain’t too keen on living either;
Before I fall in love, I’m preparing to leave her;
I need to feel real love…
I cannot get enough!!!”

This could not go on… Things had to change: a new version of Piyal Mukherjee was in the calling and… it was time to “Take out the Trash”!

 


 

Its all about the Game… and How you play it

So what was missing? There was “The Great One” having a gala time, but I think there was one thing wrong… He did not know the true meaning of “greatness”.

Come to think about it, 8 out of 10 people suffer from this syndrome, including yours truly! I have often wondered, What is Greatness??? Who is Great? God is Great… Yes, I have heard that; and I think every creation of His is great as well. I have read in many spiritual books, stuff like:

“You are unique, There is no one in the world like you; That’s why you are there in the first place”

I would define “Greatness” in that sense: You become great when you recognize your uniqueness; it is then that you realize you are one-of-a-kind, beyond comparison; that’s when you walk out of the masses; you are not “yet another guy” anymore – you become “Great”! It is when you “unlock your highest potential” (as the SGI Buddhists say) do you become “Great”! It is when you step out of your self-centred nature and move into the other-centred universe where you do bits and pieces of things for the other person just to make him / her smile while expecting nothing at all in return, that is when you feel truly “Great”. Trust me, there is no other way to this.

But it took a whole lot of time, a whole lot of ups and downs, a whole lot of relationships, a whole lot of books / teachers / friends to make me realise the true value of this (In fact I am still on my way to learn this fully). And from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to God / The Universe / higher Power for making me realise the value of this. By and by, I realised that the only way to lead life is to treat it like a game where I am playing the odds to win. Otherwise it just does not work and you end up doing what everyone ends up doing (That last sentence itself isn’t the most exciting one you have ever heard, right? So imagine how drab it might be actually living that). I have lived such drab moments in my life many a times till date, but I am happy that I still have the “spirit” to look forward to the “greatness” and that’s the only fuel that keeps me going, and that’s all which has (by the grace of God) ushered one blessing after another for me over the years, in spite of me not truly acknowledging them for the most part. Some of the key experiences / anecdotes I would like to highlight in this dissertation are mentioned below:

(By the way, I was always a big fan of WWE and like the way the Wikipedia Pages of WWE Superstars are maintained in sections based on dates. Let me follow that format for this as well) 🙂

 

Cracking the CAT || I can, I will… (2005-2006)

How does this one fit into the picture? It does for the simple reason that here was an episode wherein I learnt how to overcome the rote approach and the “underdog” tag to achieve something significantly big at that point of time. Yes, I did crack the CAT and went to B-School “at a time when going to B-School was still considered Cool” (That’s a catchphrase I still deliver, by the way 🙂 ). Here was a situation when I had a plum job at hand through my engineering college (which was tremendous inertia, trust me) and CAT was essentially regarded (at least that time) as the toughest exam in the world. In spite of the fact that many of my friends/teachers in my engineering college thought that I indeed was “cut out for an MBA”, I was not too keen to pursue it. #LazinessInFullSwing

But in the end, I decided to give it a shot, maybe just to please my father who was pretty adamant about it (Thank God he was). Perhaps there was more to it. I read somewhere the other day that people get motivated most when the rewards were high and there is a huge amount of uncertainty involved. CAT satisfied both the criteria – The uncertainty factor was an all-time high: They say that CAT is anybody’s ballgame & trust me, it is! And I won’t talk about rewards – it was humongous (at least then)!

cat

And I will be honest is saying that the competition level scared me like anything. Here was I – a student who likes to take all kinds of short-cuts, preferring “Smart Work” to “Hard Work” (I still do that, by the way & will always continue in such lines…) and there were the others – all extremely diligent and highly-analytical students (I won’t use the term “Intelligent” here because my definition of “Intelligence” is different – I personally define intelligence as someone who honors the skills of his competitors and tries to counter them in his own creative way!).

Coming back to my approach, I knew (even in those early blooming days) that the only way I could beat guys who would surely put in much more effort than me was to put in a calm & systematic approach and keeping my focus on the goal / outcome I wanted to achieve, and not the means. Somehow it worked. There were just too many synchronicities to discount the role of the Universe in pushing me through. I’ll tell you about one or two of them:

  1. A quick fix trick taught to me by one of my teachers, Mr. Vidur Kapur (from Erudite Coaching Centre), which had only 1:3 odds paid off during the written exam earning me as additional 2.66 marks (which is huge in a competitive exam like CAT) in just 10 seconds of calculated gambling with the questions (Confusing? That’s how the subsequent MBA taught me to write) 😉
  2. I was least prepared for my group discussion (GD) and interviews as I simply had not expected to crack CAT that year. In fact, my first impulse when I got the interview letter, from one of the top B-schools IMT Ghaziabad, when I was at home alone was to hide it and not tell anyone about it. The last thing I wanted was to go to a public forum with well-bred (from the best colleges around the world) and well-read (studying economics and all the tough subjects for months and spitting out corporate buzzwords like parmesan on pasta) candidates and make a complete fool out of myself. However somehow I mustered the courage to go for it, maybe just to get practice for next year. Strangely enough I got an abstract topic in the GD: “Every cloud has a silver lining” – a topic where I could at least talk some shit about unlike topics where you had to provide inputs on corporate mergers and acquisitions or economic recessions (Hell, I don’t think I even knew the terms M&A, recessions, etc. I was so ignorant that time because I never used to read papers). Anyhow I had got an SMS (from my friend Shreyartha) a day before my group discussion (GD) which was extremely relevant to the GD topic I obtained at IMT interviews – so I read the SMS out loud which, I still believe, was the “take-home line” of my part in the GD and contributed in my clearing the same (Some of my IMT batchmates still remember that punchline!). It went like this:

    “God gives you answers in 3 ways:

    He says yes and gives you what you want…
    He says no and gives you something better…
    Or He says wait and gives you the best!”
  3. Furthermore, My interview panel was very cool and there was a very light conversation which, for the most part, revolved around my Aquarium Hobby and my fishes (Can you believe it – That’s how an interview for a top-notch B-School happened for me). Anyways, it was a huge boon for someone like me who had almost nil knowledge about current affairs at that point of time. It was imperative for them to ask me about current affairs (and they did so across all other panels), but I really can’t explain why my panel chose not to question me about it – Perhaps God was indeed saying “Yes!” and it was meant to be my day!     🙂

The final miracle occurred when I received the IMT offer-letter some 30-40 days later. I still believe the fact that I decided to take it so coolly and with much humility (unlike many other batchmates who practiced so hard that they started looking down on others as if they had already cracked it) was what that contributed to the miracle.

 

The “Fame Jodi” (2006-2008)

A lot of individuals feel that this chapter should not be mentioned in this dissertation as it may hamper present / future relationships. I am sorry but I don’t dig that at all! I feel that every phase in one’s life has a purpose of its own and lots and lots of stuff to learn from it. I think my association with Dahlia (“she-who-was-conveniently-abbreviated-as-DG-earlier” 😉 ) was one of the most enriching chapters of my life wherein I learned a lot not only about respecting the other person but also got a deep insight into the life of one of the most amazing persons I have known. So here goes the unedited, and slightly cut-out version of the story (to adhere to PG guidelines suitable for general viewing, especially the upper age group who funnily seem to get affected the most 😉 )…

Where to start (and how to end 🙂 )? Quite frankly, I don’t really know because I hardly know how it all started. You see, we were classmates for 4 years in IEM and we hardly used to talk to each other during the first few years. It had then been my policy to consciously stay away from intimate relationships with women. In general, I was the kind of person who used to refrain from trusting other people as much as possible. There was one small, tiny, little principle I always tried to follow: “D.T.A” – “Don’t Trust Anybody”. I know it sounds really hard and stringent but I strongly believe that one of my premium strengths lie in the fact that I don’t rely on others on any important matter – You won’t believe how powerful it makes you feel… The point I am trying to make is that I had always preferred to do important things myself (only unimportant stuff, that I can do without anywhichways, could be shared with others!) – and girls, well… I would think ten times before trusting them even on simplest issues (no disrespect, but that’s how my mind worked back then). However something clicked with this girl.

It was in our last semester in college that we came really close: We chatted for hours in the night and for the first time in my life, I actually started pouring out secrets to someone big time and… she reciprocated (even I really don’t know why)! From my side, at that time, I would say that she was a person who encouraged me to move out of the artificial shell I had put on – she urged me to “BE MYSELF” (With all due respect, I am sure she regretted this a few years down the line! 😉 ). I won’t really go into the details of how things evolved & bloomed (and finally bombed 🙂 ): I reckon this website is not the perfect place to do so, especially given the final outcome.

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However, there are so many things you do wrong when you get into a relationship for the first time, and I am grateful that I had many such learning instances during this phase. The term “Fame Jodi” (meaning “famous pair”) as we were popularly referred to amongst our friends circle, probably stemmed from the Fame cinema hall @ Calcutta where we had made our first public appearance, and also partially because this unlikely pairing  (no one ever got an inkling for 4 years, neither did we!) was one of the most celebrated exclamation points to our good friends at the fag end of our college lives. Things lasted for 2 years before the contract expired and was never renewed. 😉

However, I am happy to declare that we managed to get out without the typical mud-slinging that happens when lead pairs break up, and that the healthy respect we always had for each other still exists, and I hope will always do. And if that was not enough, this relationship introduced me to my super-cool Lil Sis, Tanu whom her “BigB” loves a lot (I think the lovely bond Tanu and I share in spite of not being connected by birth is one of the most special we have experienced). Not to mention the love I received (and still receive) from Dahlia’s wonderful family.

Coming back to the “Fame Jodi”: When you really look at it from where I am now, there is no way I could have done without this phase of my life, and I honestly am proud of it. No matter what anyone says / suggests, I feel that at the end of the day, the “Fame Jodi” set a good example and lived up to its reputation. And I am thankful for that!

“She will promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden;
And then she’ll careless cut you
And laugh while you are bleeding…
But she will bring out the best
And the worst you can be;
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me”

 

Cool dude @ Masti ki Pathshala – IMT Ghaziabad (2006-2008)

“Masti ki Pathshala” basically means “Fun-School” – The phrase is taken from a song in the Indian blockbuster movie “Rang De Basanti” and… the most awesome part of the story is that the lyrics of this song was composed by one Prasun Joshi (a luminary in his own right), an alumni of my B-School viz. IMT Ghaziabad!

It is tough for anyone to actually understand what goes on in a B-School until and unless one gets to experience it himself! Yes, getting a good job with fancy pay-packets and trips to places with fashionable zip-codes seem to come with it. But there is something more… You get to know how to tackle anything in life – whatever comes along!

I have done lots of stuff here at IMT which I never thought I would do, or for that matter, never thought to be humanly possible – I have stayed up all night to complete my presentations (Sleeping at 7 am in the morning when the newspaper-boy is delivering the paper to your room is an experience in itself!), faced ultimate irrational question papers and deadlines, been debarred from Summer Placements because I took a 5-day vacation after months of staying away from home for the first time in my life, learnt how to deliver “Global Gyan” (which is a synonym for Rubbish that sounds logical to the listener) on practically anything under the sun, shared space with luminaries in high-profile conferences and seminars, had ultimate fun in all-night long “Rain-dance” booze parties and much more…

Someone once said that there are at least ten different ways you can spend your day here at IMT – You can play 2-3 games of cricket / basketball / volleyball / tennis / badminton; You can read quite a few books at the library; You can study; You can download and watch movies from the IMT server; And the list goes on and on… (You can also do a few other things in IMT – some of which my website hosting service may not allow me to mention on this page 😉 )
Anywayz, the diversity available is off-the charts!
You can do any damn thing here at IMT – You name it!

I personally have been enriched tenfold from my stay at IMT Ghaziabad and I think that I have come out as a person with better understanding of the world and more importantly a better understanding of different types of human beings – which I feel will be an invaluable value-addition for me and would help me all my life! They say in those PagalGuy forums:

“A lot of work and a lot of play ultimately makes Jack a smart boy”

And IMT Ghaziabad definitely lives up to that!

Me @ IMT

However the journey was never so rosy as it seemed in the beginning or when looked back at the end of it. It is said in philosophy that existence consists of several phases and one needs to go through each of these phases to achieve the true realization of the self.

Notwithstanding all the good things about IMT mentioned above, I soon saw myself losing track during the first few months of the stint itself – I was screwing up my grades and neither was I making any outstanding value-addition to anything else (in fact was struggling a bit in class being a fresher / newbie with not much to offer when compared to other more experienced students). I started wondering if my bold move to jump away from a plum job was a smart one, after all!

Like the previous phase, a dissonance was creeping in to my life. This time however, I guess I was being too much “Self-centred” with the “Being myself” tagline and all… and I was getting alienated from the world! I even started looking down on some sects of people and some practices prevalent in that part of the geography.

Again, I think God / The Universe / Higher Power was teaching me this game of life where one should not push into any extreme. If you read about the teachings of Osho, he says that it is better not to hold any pre-conceived belief inside oneself that “I am like this and this… Never will I deviate from such behaviors”. Life doesn’t function that way! Instead Osho tells you to move ahead in life with a “I don’t know” awareness similar to that of a child to whom the various complexities of the world are yet to be known!

Yes, this was one of my biggest realizations and take-homes from my stay @ IMT. I knew in my heart that I was going in the right direction with my “Being myself” philosophy (that was what life had taught me till now) but I made a big mistake of stopping there instead of carrying forward my philosophy and fine-tuning it to the present context. They say creativity has no finishing line… and neither has our learning process!

Though my first year was quite disastrous in this regard, my second year at IMT was a fine-tuning phase where I started looking at things again with an appreciative eye – Whatever way things went (good or bad), I looked at it with “awe”, not disgust anymore! Things were facilitated by the fact that a wonderful person like Dr. Pranava Prakash or just Doctor as I call him (a perfect friend, philosopher and guide who was elder to me and commanded respect naturally) became my roommate.

Gradually, a group was formed (Saunak, Samrath, Doctor, Arpita and Ridhima were its core members) and we stuck together through the last year at IMT – Once you get a nice group to work with, work becomes so much fun! I guess everyone of us will agree to this having faced such a situation at some point of their lives (I think the managers in companies should take note of this phenomena and put people who gel well together in a team so as to get good results). Speaking of results, our new formed group (considered as minnows by many snobs in the class) started delivering… We gave some high-voltage presentations in class and our grades suddenly sky-rocketed much to the shock of other people who were sceptics at best or looked down on us at worst. There was a trimester when all of us topped the class showing the world “We can, We will, We did!” 🙂

CQ ka Baadshah standing tall with The one and only Father of CQ

That’s Purushottam, Saunak and myself taking a wonderful afternoon break in the IMT lawns

Thats the kind of poster pic (albeit less glossy) you will see in brochures of B-School. We (Arpita, Ridhima and myself) from CQ Foundation also thought of obliging in those lines

Meanwhile, Doctor Pranava (aided with mine and our other very good friend Purushottam’s ideas) propounded the new theory of “Cool Quotient” which benchmarks (not in the typical competitive and uncool way, though) how cool your ideas/perspectives are. Now I can steal the thunder and spill all the beans about CQ right here in my autobiography but I guess I would be doing injustice to Doctor (The Father of CQ) who plans to come out with a book on the same some time in the future. For the time being, I would just tell you that CQ is an abstract lifestyle paradigm which guarantees to change your perspectives towards life and enables you to become what you actually are… something that God wanted you to be and NOT what you are trying desperately to become!

Doctor even goes to the extent of saying that “There are only 2 kinds of people in this world: Cool and Fool”. Sounds “fool”ish, doesn’t it? Well, even though the entire thing was a harmless hostel-room joke on our part, if you come to think about it, you’ll find some amount of truth in it!

I often smile at the pointlessness of some people as they run in all kinds of “rat-races” in life – even I have done so at certain instances & still do it at times out of social obligations and pressures (trying to get out of that mode as it does not really serve me well). But don’t you think life would be so much better if we all were more “Cool” about things and let things take it course i.e. go with the flow… After all, what do all these material things matter at the end of the day? What would you do with crores of the green stuff rotting safely in your bank account or maybe owning 10 house you do not even use? Why not spend some more time with your family / friends / relatives? Why not spend time on the finer things of life like music, nature, relationships?

A lot of people have little idea how great it feels to sit alone in evening/night looking at the stars, a lot of people don’t know how nice it feels when you sit in front of a water-body with some loved one or maybe all alone… Enjoyment is not just about superficially partying every other night and gulping pegs of whiskey (though CQ Framework does not forbid that either 😉 ):
It is about FEELing Life and all that it offers…
And in that respect, I think I enjoy myself a lot!
It is just a thought from me – Think about it!

Coming back to IMT, as I was mentioning, things really looked up for me in second year. I loved being part of CQ Foundation, which you must have guessed was the name of our new group! In CQ Foundation, you could choose what title you wanted for yourself. Doctor was the Chairman, Samrat was the Head of Sales, Arpita was the CEO (non-executive, whatever that means! 😉 ). I was the CIO due to my IT inclinations and, of course, a member of the board, and also The Executive Vice President of Talent Relations (“Talent” meant something else in CQ Foundation, which is of course beyond the scope of this dissertation 😉 ).

As I already mentioned, my grades improved big-time (There was this 4th trimester or something when the CQ guys and gals topped our class!), I made more and more friends in IMT and more importantly, started enjoying spending time with them! To put an extra topping on the pizza, Purushottam came back after his one-year break (due to a spine injury) and his rigorous two-month training at Las Vegas (Thats an inside joke!) – Once again, the three core members of CQ Foundation (Doctor, Purushottam and myself) were together and we spent so much wonderful time at our new room, C-11 (better known by the rest of IMT as “CQ Global Headquarters”) dancing to the tunes of crazy songs like “Papi Chulo” or maybe listening to the more serious Bhagwat Geetha recitations by Doctor (which was so famous that it drew people from all over the campus to our room).

What a wonderful time I spent at IMT! So many wonderful friends, so many lovely moments, my job at Satyam (it was really big for me that time), and what not! (I won’t go into the details of placements because every other website focused on only that aspect of a B-School.. So lets Screw it!)

At the end of the day, I’ll care to repeat that I have learnt more during these two years than probably any other phase in my life. It was enriching and fun at the same time! “Masti ki Paathshala” (Fun-school) had indeed lived up to its name!

 

Personal Downturn (2008)

The funny thing in life is that the moment you think things are falling into some sort of framework and you start planning how your life is going to become in the next 1,2 or 3 years – BANG! Something or the other happens and spills water on your rosy plans.

Here I was thinking how cool life can become with all the CQ lessons I had gathered sitting in IMT and the “Game Theory” I was applying in life, but little did I know that God had planned to put me in a real crisis situation soon enough to put my learning into test!

The much-celebrated Fame Jodi started showing signs of strain from somewhere around the mid of 2007. It was all hunky-dory for the rest of the world but we gradually began to realize that things were not working out as it was supposed to be. We had reached the impossible situation when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. We split up in July 2008 (soon after the 2 year contract expired and was never renewed, in case I have not mentioned this before) 😉

To top it all, I was all alone in Chennai for my new job at Satyam at a place where I hardly knew anyone at that point of time. And as a last nail in the coffin, my first company where I worked (the famed Satyam Computer Services) crashed in January, 2009. Here was the million dollar dream getting flushed down the drain.

 

Riding the Tiger in top Gear… A Damn Good Time Down South (2008-2010)

Dampening stuff? Don’t be… As one of my favourite RJs (Jimmy Tangree) so often says, life is like a bar graph, so if it is down at the moment, do not worry, it is bound to come up sometime. And that’s what happens and happened with me every time.

“Anything that doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger…”

I was blessed with the most amazing and cool group of friends in Chennai and Bangalore during this period of time one can ever imagine, and we started living life in top gear. I spent almost 3 years in South India and can’t be thankful enough for the fun and “masti” that came to my life during this timeframe. My friends – Poulomi, Kakoli, Chiru, Sugandh, Aditya, Puneet, Priyesh, Vatsu, Tatha, Bayen Da, Nandini, Aritra, Subhankar, Shubhi, Latika… so many of them – giving me the time of my life. I also started riding my new Unicorn bike (I used to call her “Fiona”) across the wonderful seaside stretches to Mahabalipuram / Pondicherry and all over the place.

Ramalinga Raju from Satyam had written in his infamous resignation letter (the one that caused the biggest scam crash-down of a company in the history of India) the following lyrical lines:

“It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”

CHN Fun 2 CHN Fun CHN Fun 3 Picture 261 D3

All of us down there were indeed riding the tiger, in top gear. It was as if it did not matter what life had in store for us going forward. We were there only to make the most of it. I still remember a crazy weekend when we were all put on a bench (basically means out of any productive work in an IT company, and to some extent, out of favour too!) and instead of feeling sad about it, we went for a holiday to Pondicherry.

Another one was the night of the day Satyam first crashed and everyone thought our jobs / careers had gone for a toss – We partied till late that night celebrating the birthday of a dear friend. Of course, my other roommates thought we were in a state of shock to demonstrate that kind of behavior but that’s a different story! 😉

I spent the time mostly staying in Chennai and Bangalore (where I used to spend every other weekend) working with Cognizant after Satyam went the wrong way. No matter what people had told me about South India and its so-called “sad life”, I was in a different universe altogether, having never been too averse to being there unlike many others who do so. I think the biggest lesson in life is never to be too judgmental and prejudiced after hearing perceptions of others – After all, you create your universe as you go along. And I think I did just that!

Of course things would not have been the same without wonderful people like (1.) the 1st Seaward Road Chennai Gang (you can see most of them in the above pictures and also in the photo gallery) and the House No. 149 Bangalore Gang  (including network members like Aritra and Tanu) who taught me how to play, (2.) super-duper highly respected managers like Ritesh in Satyam and Subra in Cognizant who taught me how to work and take baby steps into the corporate world and (3.) someone like Latika who taught me a bit of both.

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Superstars at High Tea... or should I say, Coffee at Indiranagar Bangalore

I think a special mention needs to be made about my former teammate and good friend, Latika, as I do not think anyone has stood beside me and pushed me ahead in my spiritual enrichment journey like she has. She was my “senior” (so-called) in Satyam and we started interacting when she had been sitting nPhoto0237_resizedext to me in office for quite a while during the course of a project… and I have irritated her to her wits end each and every day spilling water on her coffee, calling her my sidekick / P.A and so on – Still she was cool enough to stay on. Thank God she did as she has become one of my best friends ever since. We both had our own daemons to overcome over the years, and have been a perfect foil to help each other out in a very unique way. A hardcore follower of SGI Buddhism and a solid foundation of spiritual goodness, I am grateful to her for being introduced to many aspects of life I have learnt over the years (even though I never associated myself with any religious doctrines, and even made fun of her beliefs all along the way – in good faith – oftentimes just to irritate her). Drawing parallels to what The Joker once told The Batman in the “Dark Knight” movie: She would never complain or move away from me due to a misplaced sense of self-righteousness; And I would never stop irritating her because she is just too much fun! 🙂 I guess we are destined to to this forever…

 

The Calcutta Chronicles (2010-2013)

Kolkata 1Enough of giving credit to the characters for now (though I do not think one can ever thank them enough): Let’s get back to the story. 🙂 In spite of all the fun I was having in the Southern parts of India, there was this part of me which wanted to come back to Calcutta (or Kolkata) again. I mean, here was the place where I was born and grown up (but had never got a chance to look at the place from a more mature perspective) and had all my family. So when an opportunity came through for me to get a transfer there, I eagerly grabbed it (in spite of warnings from folks about the slow corporate life there and the politics accompanying it). So in the autumn of 2010, I bade goodbye to the wonderful people I was with in Chennai / Bangalore (I still remember some of my friends crying when I left… Thank you so much for missing me like that, I miss you guys too… forever!) and made my way back to Kolkata.

In the next few years, I tried to rediscover the city and the people where I had grown up. In the city of joy (as Calcutta is referred to), they say there is always some festivity or occasion going on at all times of the year that keeps the Bengalis (or “Bongs” as many people refer to them) hooked on to, and I started enjoying every bit of it.

Kolkata gave me that strange experience when you suddenly feel your universal support system shift when you move locations. I was surrounded by a wonderful bunch of friends in office and otherwise over the 3 years… associations and friendships I would treasure for life. I have always been drawn to individuals who are tagged as “underdogs” – and I bonded with such folks excellently (I think they are the true “Superstars” who overcome all odds to become champions).

However, at the same time, there was this set of interesting characters which came into my life that I had never tackled before. Mostly at work, I met quite a few smug, self-satisfied folks with very limited thinking (closed minds) who made life difficult for me and many others. People had always warned me of such happenings when you work in Kolkata, but here I was experiencing it first-hand. Personally, I detest bullies of any kind (I do not approve of authority shoved down your throat – I think it is a trademark characteristic of insecure people and have never seen true winners display this trait), and somehow I could not come into terms with such folks.

I was also not happy to see many talented and deserving young folks getting into the same mold as dictated by these bullies, and I was sad to see that the trend seemed like it would continue for life. Here we had people who were self-satisfied with their “designations” and “hierarchies” but wonder how that mattered so much to them when others working for them hardly respected them and often made fun of them behind their backs.

I still remember one evening I was riding home from office on my bike (my new bike in Kolkata, which was also a  Unicorn by birth, was called “Alice” by the way). There was this roundabout where I had to pull in, as I waited for the signal to turn green, I glanced around me and saw a big car and on the wheel was one of these smug folks from work. Here was a guy who is always bragging stuff at work, the proverbial know-it-all, put-you-down bully for younger folks, but when I looked at him and smiled (customarily, not to be rude to anyone), the man stared through me with a blank face (he was totally lost in some world and couldn’t even see me). I looked at his eyes and saw a melancholy expression the likes of which I had never ever seen before. It was the saddest expression I had ever noticed on the face of a human being. I realised that evening that some of these people are probably the saddest around, and no wonder they vent out their frustrations on others around them. I quickly went from a place of detest to that of understanding, of empathy, of sympathy.

Anyways, with all this happening – soon I realised that this was lowering my frequency overall and making me attract more of such circumstances (you will realise what I am talking about if you care to re-read the previous paragraphs – it is so much full of negativity). I was on a downward spiral, giving too much focus to this, and I had to break out of it ASAP.

I think I did well to change my focus during the latter half of 2012 running into 2013. I started focusing on what I wanted in my work life – the kind of people I wanted to work with (met many such wonderful people in Kolkata as well)… and most importantly started ignoring (in terms of releasing focus on) these smug  folks and their actions. It was like “let them be the way they are”, I do not picture myself becoming one of them, and let me focus on what I want to be / do instead.

And somehow it worked – Yes, I may have had appeared to some folks to be showing “attitude” (that was in my DNA any-which-ways – Talk about Taurean Pride 🙂 ) but I think my feet were firmly on the ground, and I was interacting perfectly with the people I wanted to associate with. And things started breaking in. I started getting good colleagues, wonderful times in office and beyond, awards & accolades… and what not.

Overall, a look back: Kolkata treated me well and I do not really have many complaints (though most people would think so career-wise). I think this stint taught me an important lesson on how to choose the things in life that you love, while conveniently ignoring the rest. I once met a renowned speaker who had told me people you do not like / who make life difficult for you are even more important as they teach you resurface & overcome some negative aspect of your own self… and make you stronger in the long run: I believe that!

I also spend amazing times with friends and family in the city, made some great trips to Thailand, Darjeeling, Puri, Digha, Assam and even Nepal. On a lighter note, I even got an opportunity to participate in a Fashion Show at an office event where I played a Punjabi Sardarji wearing a pagdi / turban (participating in a Fashion Show was a dream from school days, and it worked out… like every dream does, it seems, at the end of the day). A big thank you to one and all for making this stint so very memorable.

 

The Comic Book Love Affair (2011-present)

“And When Love Comes Your Way
You’ll Know It’s Here To Stay
You’ll Steal The Chance Cause You’re The Thief Of Hearts Again
You’ll Win With Just A Glance Walk Away With Your Romance
There’s No More There’s No Backin’ Out Now”

There was one more important “mention” (someone may be livid at the word just used 🙂 ) during my stint in Kolkata. Here is where love came my way again as I kicked off a pretty cool love affair with the amazingly bold, bubbly and beautiful Sushmita. While she was my junior in college back in IEM days, I had never noticed her (she might say that it was the other way around 😉 ) until we crossed paths again in Cognizant (Talk about some office romance!)

We had a pretty decent run from then – some amazing times in Kolkata, wonderful trips to Egypt / Dubai / Europe and very many in and around India. Even got married, for God’s sakes! 😉 I think I’ll not go into too many details about ourselves in this website (anyways we are all over Facebook I reckon) – You should respect me being eloquent in its brevity. 🙂

However, I will spare a moment to talk specifically about this important “mention” here – Sushmita. There is something about this girl that endears her to one and all (including ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages). I am quite in awe with the admiration she commands from all quarters. Perhaps its a concoction of her smile (by the way, the name “Sushmita” means beautiful smile… quite thoughtful to name her that, I must say), her bubbly personality, the apparent conviction / wisdom / practicality  about all matters and a simple heart that does the trick. I am not quite sure, but all I know is that she was the perfect addition to my life and made me evolve over the past few years to an altogether different level – be it physically, emotionally and to a certain extent spiritually (whether she believes it or not).

I also feel she is one of the most intelligent persons I know (and the best part is that she doesn’t know it at all). Someone who can solve any problem with utmost ease (she has been absolute go-to person for everything since we met). I think I owe my development of a nice taste towards aesthetics from her  be it at home / manners / dressing sense. Quite a superstar who, if she chooses to let go of the shackles that hold her back and fly, has the rare qualities to rule the world – is my very humble opinion about Sushmita. And I am lucky to be associated with her as her partner.

 

We sometimes wonder why we got paired in the first place, being so different to each other. But then, it has been a great ride of co-existing with an extremely contrasting character who leaves an indelible mark in both our lives. They say some stories are “copy-book” perfect, this one is definitely not and it is full of anomalies, drama and contrasts. No matter what it is, it has been a colorful experience to be part of this “comic-book” love affair  I am privileged with (hope she is privileged as well 🙂 ).

 

Lovin’ London (2014-present)

Let’s face it – London is a dream city to live in. Yes, it is expensive – but come on, it is one of the Alpha Plus Plus cities in the world (if I may use such an expression), probably the most well-known even among the most indifferent people on earth. So it was dream opportunity for me when I got a chance to be in London for an “onsite” assignment, as they call them in IT companies.

Going underground @ Newbury Park London Central Line Tube Station… MIND THE GAP please!

I found this quote outside a pub in London… Found it quite apt

It has been a dream run for me ever since: I rate this as one of the biggest blessings in life where I have the chance to interact with on a daily basis people from around the world like never before. Yes, this place is more cosmopolitan than anyone can think of.

The best part I like about this city is that it allows you to be yourself – Here you can work around with a pink goatie and an orange tuft of hair without having anyone looking around, leave alone staring at you. Talk about high CQ!

Ever since being here, I have tried to make sure that I make the most of it by taking every opportunity to mingle with the people here and visiting new places. I have had some classic encounters with the locals here, small experiences (maybe as simple as a 3 hour journey together) which have profound impact on your outlook to life. I got to travel to amazing places like Wales, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and France. I got to watch theatres, a live WWE Raw show (a boyhood dream come true), cricket matches at Lords, the Wimbledon, street food festivals and what not. I also got the opportunity to make a few dream Euro Trips where I got to experience the amazing diversities across regions here.

“Written in the stars, a million miles away…”: This was a boyhood dream come true… Watching WWE RAW Live in O2 London

And to top it all, I got reunited with my long lost family in London (Sounds filmy doesn’t it? But that’s what exactly happened). It was good to meet my uncle and aunt who had migrated to UK many moons back and also my cousin sister, Rini – who is one of the most amazing person and has become one of my best friends in London. Whenever you are stranded alone in a far away land, there is no better antidote than a bit of family, and I feel blessed in this regard.

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The Mukherjee Cousins in London

Many people come to foreign lands and search for people of their own land, but I strongly recommend you never do that. Because there’s so much to learn from the folks here, so much to imbibe… more so than you can ever imagine.

I respect those who come out over here to earn the extra bucks but I think I would rather invest those bucks in getting more experiences and end up a richer man in terms of thoughts and outlook. I have done well work-wise here as well, which I believe automatically flows in a place / culture you are happy in, and I am thankful to the Universe for that.

I hope that I can carry on the momentum and the hunger to learn / imbibe the best of these folks each and every day. At the same time, I feel it is super-important not to forget who you are, your rich roots that you bring to the table and keep your head real high (Remember that amazing speech by Akshay Kumar in the movie “Namastey London”?) – After all, there is a lot that folks here have to learn from us as well. Its this exchange / amalgamation of thoughts / ideas / philosophies that makes this so very exciting.

On an Ice Flyer atop Mt. Titlis, Switzerland

Enjoying a glass of beer (though I do not like beer much) in front of the legendary Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

There is so much to learn from individuals around the world... E.g. This trek across Surrey involved folks from UK, India, Pakistan, Columbia, Spain and where not

There is so much to learn from individuals around the world… E.g. This trek across Surrey involved folks from UK, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Columbia, Spain and where not, and some of them become friends for life 🙂

I once met an old drunken Irishman on a bus coach from London to Manchester. This guy, Tony, had never been to school but had worked across 10 countries during his time. He even claimed to hold 3 nationality passports to his name. He told me something very valuable that I will remember for life. He said “Travelling is the best education, big fella… I have never been to school but have traveled across countries. You travel with a nut-case like me for 2 hours and you learn more than 2 years in school. So F..K school and travel!”

Touché!

 


 Interlude

“Every story has a beginning…
Every star has an evolution…
And Every champion reinvents himself…
Always Primed, Ready to Strike,
Reborn with each challenge…

Reborn with a Vengeance”
– Unknown


Love will show the way, Love will save the day…

You might be saying all this is fine… but what’s next? It is strange to think that today when I sit down in front of my computer system to connect the dots backwards, everything that has happened, everything I have mentioned in the previous chapters (the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly) seem to have had a place of its own. I think that’s what life is all about.

William Shakespeare had once mentioned in his play “As you like it”:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts”

I think there are few verses that sum up life so perfectly. Come to think about it, it is indeed a role we are all playing. I was reading a very interesting book the other day where it said that you get to say different things about yourself during different points of your life. E.g. If I would apply this on myself, I could go on and say , “I am a student in IMT Ghaziabad” during my B-School days, “I am an employee of Cognizant” while working, “I am the son of Prof. Chandrika Mukherjee” during childhood, “I am the boyfriend of Sushmita” when I am in love, “I am pretty shy with women” when I was in school, or for that matter “I am a Cool guy who likes to take on life in a flamboyant manner” today; In essence, the second part of the sentence is always variable. It is the “I am” that is always constant. I feel that “I am” is the core of our being, the true self.

I choose to believe that we, as the “roles” we play, are nothing more than adventures of the “I” (stealing a phrase from Tania Kotsos’s book “The Adventures of I”). And as the actor “I am” focuses on what it wants the role to manifest, and it happens with zero effort.  More often than not, however, we get into the “character-mode” instead of that of the “actor”, wherein what we want does not come into being, or rather we start focusing on what we “think” the “character” wants and obsess with the same. Or simply the “character” blurs the “actor” so much that the “actor” starts focusing on what it does not want… and it always manifests (Call it Law of Attraction or something else, it always does). Sounds confusing – Maybe its very simple after all… too simple for a complex language to describe. But some of you may have felt from the heart what I meant up there!

I have seen during all my personal experiences in life that every time I have wanted something (“from the heart” as the movies say) from a point of view of calm, cool yet humbly confident surrender to something bigger than me, miracles have worked out (#StayHungryStayHumble). It is then when it felt like the Universe at large had my back and made all the good things happen with zero effort.

That’s why I prefer not to buy into things too much anymore – Sometimes we get too judgmental about things like appearance, apparel, etiquette… but they do not seem to matter much in the longer run. E.g. I once got a hair job done as I was losing them due to a disease – I think it looks good on me and contributes well to the evolution of the role I play. I do not really prefer talking about it as this I feel is quite inconsequential to the bigger picture of life, and the kind of person I am. I find it quite strange when people at times focus more on these appearance / apparel / etiquette pretexts rather than holistic aspects of a person / situation (trust me, it is much more fruitful to converse on more interesting and deeper topics than these).

Also many people in life seems to cling on to possessions – be it wealth, relationships, beliefs… They love to put labels on you like “husband” at home, “senior manager” at work, “head” of the family, “leader” of a religious group, “follower” of a religion, so on and so forth. I feel that all these labels limit the creativity of the self and does more harm than good to the world. Somehow life has always showed me that all things are transient. I have seen this time and time again – be it from the passing away of Ma, my moving away from rigid beliefs I had held some years back, the non-temporary nature of relationships I tried to cling on to, everything.

There are people who feel I am off-the-track (or simply nuts) with such rebellious thought processes – they try to coax me into the “normal” rote of life. They expect certain behaviours from me. It is perfectly okay, I choose to believe, to conform to these expectations at times (as long as you enjoy it) to give more credence to the “role” but I do not think that having them as the focus moves us ahead in our journey much. I think these societal labels are nothing but “conditional love”. It is like saying “I love you because you are my husband, if you had chosen someone else, I would not have even bothered whether you were dead or alive tomorrow” or may be saying that “I will give you a big cubicle to sit in office if you are the senior manager or above” or something as ridiculous as “You will only attain Nirvana if you follow so and so religion”… Sounds sickening, right? It is… Though society still buys into it, I do not think this is the essence of “love”.

I think the “love” most of us understand (or “love” to understand 😉 ) is very different from the love talked about in ancient classic texts, by great teachers, avatars from time unknown till date. The love they talk about is what you want with your heart… something that gives you bliss, happiness… something that is coded into our DNAs so strongly that we get this sickening feeling every day we not practice it (Look at our sad lives all around). It is the pure feeling you get when you look into the eyes of a puppy… It is the pure essence of joy you get when you follow your passion: do what you love, and love what you do…

I was walking down the banks of The Thames river in London one evening some time back, and I heard a lady singer Susana Silva playing the guitar and singing a beautiful song in her wonderful voice. I think if you read the lyrics (it is a song from Desree), it gives you a bit to think about. So I’ll leave it at that:

Listen as your day unfolds, challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears, stand up and be counted
Don’t be ashamed to cry

You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Herald what your mother said
Reading the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Some may have more cash than you
Others take a different view, my oh my

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

DSC06399


We are such stuff as dreams are made of…

We are having too much of Shakespeare quotes, aren’t we? Eitherways, I would not want to bore you with another long chapter of gyan. As I had mentioned in one of the previous chapters (you probably have quietly skipped it because it was too long 😉 I did a few skips myself during proof-reading), I believe that dreams are an integral part of the journey of the self, and is, the essence of realisation of our every objective.

I had put together this small infographic (stealing a term wrongly from one of the recent corporate buzzwords) for an office exercise where I had to depict some of my broader dreams pictorially. And think this can be a good break from all the text you have been hurled at…

Picture1

I feel if we do not have strong, focused dreams that give us goose bumps (both excites and scares us a bit… but thrills either ways), we do not make much progress in our journeys. And I have a feeling, or rather I have seen that all dreams which are truly rooted in the heart, come true sooner or later.

The only dreams I do not see come true are ones in which we obsess too much on it (losing the “stillness” of our mind & not enjoying the present moment), or we are not really sure what we want, or maybe waver to other desires somewhere down the line, thereby losing the laser sharp focus needed to make things happen (Its like placing an order in a restaurant and changing it every 5 minutes for 10 times before we are thrown out and have to eat dinner at some run-of-the-mill till).

Of course, this has to be complemented by bold, radical action as I think this is the biggest signal back from you that you indeed believe your dream and want it from the heart. Jim Carey had put it very aptly in the Oprah Winfrey show when he talked about how he spent some time every evening in a park (long before he was such a famous actor) dreaming / visualising others congratulating him on his success. However he worked hard towards this himself. I remember him saying something like this in his characteristic charmingly funny way “Its not like visualise and then go have a sandwich!” 🙂

For instance: Coming back to the “Cracking the CAT” chapter in my life I had mentioned earlier, I feel that I took action in my own cool-headed way (around 30-60 minutes of practice each day in the morning) and that indeed gave a signal to the universe that I really wanted to do this… and made it happen. Furthermore I also feel , it is important to feel worthy to myself that “Yes! I deserve this!” to actually manifest that outcome. I once read this wonderful quote about dreams:

“The greatest achievement in life is to have the ability to create the world around you, so that it matches the dreams in your mind.”
~ Mike Dillard

I think this one makes a lot of sense. I also feel another important fuel to dreams is gratitude. Most of us take what we have for granted and are in no way thankful for what we already have. I have not seen the universe be very kind to this behaviour (from personal experience). Rather it works wonderfully the other way around. Prophet Muhammad had said that gratitude for the abundance you’ve received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue. I have seen that every time I operate with a humble attitude of gratitude, the Universe always seems to have my back, and only makes good things happen.

Every day I try to look at the world thinking that I could never ever be in the same place again, this could be my last one – I may never get to meet these people / have these experiences again. Whenever I think of that, my feet get grounded and I become extremely thankful of all that I have. It took a whole lot more than myself to get me to experience all the lovely things I have, and I should be utterly grateful for that.

Indeed, I have been lucky and the universe has had my back so many times – be it at work or play. The new animated movie Cinderalla told us that that the biggest secret in life is to “have courage and be kind”. I just try and do that, I mean that is what my mother taught me as well. She taught me to be kind to people, to make friends wherever I go, whatever I do… and have the faith. Whenever I have done that with humility and gratitude in my heart, life has worked wonders. And whenever I have not, life has definitely slipped out of control.

There is something very surreal about this world which I feel (wonder if some of you feel it as well). It often seems to me that people, places, events, circumstances all seem to be responding to my thoughts / feelings and providing messages to me all the time… and maybe, just maybe all I need to do is to listen to the signals attentively instead of the chatter in my head on my appraisals /  family planning / getting to the laundry before it closes!

Surreal World“Kabhi mujhe lage ki jaise,
Saara hi ye jahaan hai jaadu…
Jo hai bhi aur nahi bhi hai ye,
Fiza, Ghata, Hawa, Baharein
Mujhe kare ishaare ye…”

(Sometimes I feel that
the whole world is a work of magic,
which is there and not even there,
these wind, clouds, air, and springs…
They signal to me…)

Maybe the true reality is an inside-out job and not the outside-in approach which we all take. As mentioned in the earlier chapters – I have seen things work out perfectly (often much better than what we had dreamed of) when we actually know what we want, maintain the focus on it in a dedicated manner, imagine the outcome and be happy about it without obsessing on the same.

I once heard a very wonderful and famous teacher refer to it as the “Theory of Calm Being” as opposed to the “Theory of Frantic Living”. I think it makes a lot of sense and that’s what the CQ Framework is all about. Call it prayer to God, assistance from the higher self, self-belief… whatever – trust me, it works.

Speaking of CQ, I think it is important for us to “feel” life instead of just living it. The quality of life exponentially increases when we do so. I remember an instance when on a particular Saturday in Calcutta I was feeling, down, disoriented and restless since morning for some reason. In spite of that, I tried rushing through my chores like going to the bank for some work, collecting stuff from the laundry and so on. And wherever I went, things were never working out. The laundry stuff quite rudely told me that it will take another week no matter what the original delivery date was. The bank was totally crowded and I had to wait for around 45 minutes before being curtly informed that I would need additional papers to proceed with what I was trying to do. I felt frustrated to a very high extent at that point of time.

I had to meet a friend on the other part of the city but it felt sickening – the kind of feeling you get when nothing in the day would work out. So instead of going ahead with meeting the friend, I decided to take  a break and head home. I was on my bike riding home when suddenly a realisation came to me how drab and lifeless my behavior was since morning… It was like just doing things for the sake of it.

I suddenly decided to “feel” it instead and change the outlook. With nothing to anchor my thoughts, I suddenly focused on the mild thumping sound of my bike engine as I rode on the streets. Believe it – In a few moments I felt better. I could suddenly see great moments coming back to me when I used to ride my bike across highways, long rides where I had heard the same thumping sound of the engine. And I started looking around – Could notice people all around me doing their stuff on the roads. It all seemed so fascinating all of a sudden.

I could feel the autumn Calcutta sun touching my skin and it felt so good (not the typical heat you tend to feel). I stopped at a small but favorite eatery on the street where I parked my bike and had an amazing lunch. When I returned home, I was on a high. I called up my friend and apologised and she seemed perfectly okay to postpone the plan till evening with a bunch of other friends joining in as well. It was all working out… Needless to say, we all met up in the evening and had a wonderful time.

Point I am trying to make is that it all changed for the better just because of that small shift in mindset I planted when I started to “feel” life and what was there. I think many of us (including yours truly) miss out on this aspect for the most part of our days. Trust me, when we start “feel”ing life and look at it from the CQ perspective, not only is a lot of sting taken away from a difficult situation but also we get into this unstoppable “flow” state of our “true self” where only good things can flow in.

Energy“Maine yehi socha hai aksar,
Tu bhi main bhi sabhi hain sheeshe…
Khud hi ko hum sabhi mein dekhen,
Nahi hoon main hoon main to phir bhi…
Sahi galat tumhara main…
Mujhe paana paana hai khud ko…”

(I have often thought to myself,
that you, me, all of us are mirrors,
we see only ourselves in all,
I am not there still I am…
Right, wrong, yours me,
I have to get… get my own self…)

My roommate Dr. Pranava used to say to me during IMT times that it is we that stop enjoying what we have and instead stand in the way of “Uparwala Uncle” (God) to work out miracles in our lives, through constant cribbing, complaining and obsessing with rigid expectations on how life should be. He used to wisely point out that unless we get out of the way, God cannot operate any miracles in our lives… Try it some time the other way around and see how it works!

I also choose to believe that it makes more sense to try and be a little mad (and not-too-serious) about things… push things to an altogether different dimension, think out-of-the-way instead of practicing the normal rut-thinking ritual. I somehow find it more interesting than the rote-living preached and practiced by society which rather chains the birds inside us instead of letting them fly, leave alone soar.

“Madness is just like gravity;
All it needs is a little push…”
~ The Joker

That’s it, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls (I still think I am a boy at heart… do not really finding the “grown up” concept advocated by society to be very inspiring). I think I will stop here (“Gosh finally!!!” you must be saying to yourself right now). This is Piyal signing off from this edition of my autobiography (Keep dropping in once in a while… Our lives / thoughts / ideologies are all transient after all… Never know what you might read here 3 years down the line – Never know if we will be around next time and if so, in what avatar 😉 ). Have the faith and do something good – At the end of the day, it makes you feel really good about yourself, trust me! As they say: “What goes around will definitely come around!” (Trust me, it does 🙂 )

Keep Learning / Evolving in Life – I always try to do. Every time I think I am finally acting really cool all the time, something or the other happens to kick my arse and put me back in of place of humility… makes me surrender to the Universe / God / True self… but at the end of the movie makes something good come out of it!

Take Good Care of yourself and Keep Smiling (and Bless me too 🙂 ),

With lots and lots of love,
Yours truly,
Piyal

 


 

Epilogue

“HE says HE can hear them out there. Scores of freakin’, fanatical friends – the best damn friends in the world! They are cheering HIM, chanting HIS precious name over and over again – with so much fire that the entire building is shaking. We are at the centre of a quake here, and HE is the reason why. HE is ready – poised, primed, primped and pumped – to bring the house down like it has never been done before. Right now, everyone wants a piece of HIM and why not? There has never been anyone like HIM and there never will be again! With HIS 6 by 1 physique, fancy apparel and piercing gaze, HE walks down the roadway, walking as only HE can walk. At this moment, HIS intensity is second to none. With one mission in mind and one aim in action – HE proceeds to face the People or the “Peeps” (as HE calls them with lots and lots and lots of love) – HE knows that HE has got them wrapped inside HIS fist!!!”

What the hell is this – some kind of drama? No, no, no, no – you got it wrong! Its a dream – a dream that he has seen so many times – a dream that has been only partially realized but still has a long, l..o..n..g way to reach its acme. Perhaps, it never completely will – he doesn’t know but he still tends to indulge in these fantasies because he has heard the following:

“The world does not cheer the timid, the meek,
those who are content with their 15 minutes of fame…
The world applauds the dreamers, the adventurers,
those who dare to soar above horizons…
For only those who are bold enough to chase dreams
are the ones who catch them…”

“Does HE really care whether you cheer HIM in all HIS endeavors? Hell no – HE does not ! HE never has and never will ask for the adulation of the People. But HE knows that at least a fraction of the People will appreciate the fact that HE goes out every day with a single, solitary intention and that is to do what HE does best (simply better than anybody else): Give and take love at an altogether different level!
HE is a Show-stopper, HE is Electrifying,
HE is…”

– Written by Piyal Mukherjee
(Last updated in April, 2016)

“A tramp I am, and a tramp I shall be, wild and free, until death comes unto me, Amen.”
– PM, 2010 AD

 

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