HIGH ON NMAT!

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Walt Disney

Hello World!

This is your cute and lovely Funky Writer live from Mumbai (yes, its Aamchi Mumbai from Aamcha Pune), and it is going to be my first blogpost from the sapno ka shehar. With entrance exams just around the corner and being bogged down by the plethora of questions my classmates and juniors have on my quest to NMIMS, finally I have decided to address all of them. So folks, here we go!

Autobiographies and biographies are filled with abundant number of success stories, and every candidate wants to relive them, but does anyone think about the failures or hardships involved? People are just curious about the final destination, and not about the journey itself. TBH, it is the journey that matters the most, and if you’ve walked on the right path, you’ll tread on blossoms and not on thorns.

Some of the FAQs are:

  1. What was your score in NMAT? (Tumko to kabhi NMAT main interest tha nahi. Ab score kyun puch raha hai?)
  2. What were the sectional cut offs? (Kabhi kabhi na coaching ki websites check kia karo, acha lagega)
  3. How’s life at NMIMS? (Will answer this in a separate blogpost. Stay tuned!)
  4. What’s the average package that you’re gonna get? (Any fool can make money, but it takes a wise man to save it!)
  5. Is it worth it? (Nope, it is not. I paid 20 lakhs only to do networking.)
  6. Are you a PlaceCommer? (I am with the Literary club. Will this society accept me?)
  7. Yaar tune kaise kia? Tu toh topper hai tere liye to aasaan hoga. Mujhe bhi padha de!

Coming to question 7, bhai, agar itna hi aasaan hota, toh mujhe khud 3 saal nahi lagte isko clear karne ke liye. Ek hi attempt main ho jata!

I know you must have heard it a zillion times, but I’ll reiterate it anyway: Anyone can clear management entrance exams……

…………only if they choose the right exam for themselves!

That’ s right! The problem lies in the fact that we try to ace each and every test that comes our way. But let’s face the truth: not all of us are whizkids and are not capable of scoring  98+ percentile in CAT/XAT/MAT. So being smart helps you out more than working hard does.

Choose the exam that suits your personality, and choose your own method of studying, because one size never fits all of them!

This is India. We don’t get to choose our careers, and you’re talking about choosing an exam!

Well of course you can. The ideal way of clearing a test is to know your strengths and match it to the challenges the exam throws at you. If you don’t know yourself, then seek help. Parents are the best people to elaborate on your personality.

My father made me realise that exams like NMAT and TISSNET make my study a breeze rather than a hailstorm. Solving easy to medium questions gave me confidence, and NMAT is the best platform to provide you that liberty. It has easy to medium level questions to be solved under a competitive timeframe. The sections are easier than CAT, and if you are preparing for CAT, then you can easily clear NMAT, TISSNET and SNAP. The verbal section has good RC that are actually comprehendible and word meanings that you can actually learn. The Quant section too, is easy. It just needs your attention and practice. Logical reasoning is different than what CAT tests now, but is still way easier than that.

https://www.quora.com/How-is-the-NMAT-exam-different-from-the-CAT

OKAY, SO NOW THE QUESTIONS:

What I did?

Practice.

Practice makes a human perfect. I am a monkey though but still XD

Okay, jokes apart, I have been preparing for CAT since Nov 2015, i.e. 6th semester of B.tech. I had started with an aim of clearing CAT 2016 so that immediately after my graduation, I could jump into the management pool. But well, with a 70ish percentile, I went ahead into the sea of IT and Accenture welcomed me into the corporate world.

I did not give up. May 2017 and I landed in one of the Accenture offices at Pune with tons of Java and Oracle training. After the training, I got my first project that had night shifts. But despite of these little troubles, I still continued with my preparation, and this time, I crossed 80 percentile.

80 is nothing in today’s world. People with 100 percentile still don’t convert IIMs! He he.

Right, dude, but you don’t reach a 100 without an 80, do you?

But it was true. I was disappointed. I wasn’t learning much at office, they were converting everything into automation. My job as a manual tester faced a dead end. Though I was improving in my CAT prep, but the rate of improvement was meagre and marginal. At this rate, it would take me 3 more years to get a seat at XIMB! I thought.

I did not know what to do. Surely, there had to be some way out!

There was. Daddy made me realise that each child has his/her own capabilities, and if not CAT, then why not NMAT? Why look at NMAT as if it is a secondary exam to CAT? Why not focus on it wholeheartedly as an individual exam?

And so, NMAT became my CAT. I purchased the NMAT by GMAC book and solved it from cover to cover. I was also a part of the weekend coaching classes at IMS. I took their NMAT test pack and practiced all tests. I solved and resolved all the questions. I treated the book and the IMS site as my Holy Grail.

Not to mention, I scored 210 in NMAT 2018 and today I am here at NMIMS Mumbai in the MBA core program of 19-21. It was a close call: 209 was the cut off! But it doesn’t matter, because our target is to bag a seat, and not top the exam. (Well, that’s a separate luxury not everyone can afford, so, I’ll stick to my original intention of writing this story)

You need to spend an adequate amount of time with your books, study material and the tests. The SIMCATs and the All India Test series are very, very important. Practice and understand where do you lack. During the initial days of preparation, practice all types of questions. Try to understand where and why are you failing to solve. Is it a particular type of question? Or a chapter that is bothering you? Get your doubts cleared, and keep practicing.

THIS IS NOT UPSC. You need not learn everything. During the initial months of preparation, get a knack of everything that is on your plate, but then towards the end, you need to be selective about the greens, grains and the meat. Focus on your strengths, because power shall give you confidence. If you feel energized about certain sections or questions, gulp them down in such a way that you get them right every time. You would feel like studying more and more when you have more correct attempts, and in those moments of absolute energies, focus on your weak areas.

*Could have written an article on TISSNET as well but scored just 72 when the cutoff was 74. (sigh)*

Choose your exam carefully, because this act can save 1 whole year of preparation. And to choose well, you need to be thorough with your syllabus, your concepts and all your exam patterns. Choosing does not mean that you blatantly ignore other exams, it simply means that you shift your attention to one exam specifically, yet keep learning for other tests side by side.

Some fast facts on NMAT: https://www.imsindia.com/mba-entrance-exam/NMAT/structure.html

How I did?

By more practice!

There is never enough time for oneself when you are a bachelor, a full time employee and an MBA aspirant, all at the same time. To make sure that you have time, you have to make time. You won’t get extra hours from office, rather, overtime shall become a norm for you. (Just wait and watch)

First of all, make a realistic timetable that you’ll religiously adhere to. The timetable should be followed at all costs.

Secondly, check out your style of learning. I love to learn from videos. Someone might love to read from hard bound textbooks. Your style plays a very important role in keeping your mind CAT driven even though your body is too tired to take tests.

Go through this to understand your style: https://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/

Thirdly, stay with people who make you happy, surround yourself with awesome colleagues,  and eat good food that makes you happy, too. For a peace of mind, it is important that you study in an environment that is stress free and makes you feel at home. (This is for the working professionals who do not stay at home. For people who do, parents are more than enough. You’re halfway there, bro!)

I used to wake up early, get dressed up and then study. After reaching office by 8.30 a.m., till 9.30 a.m. I used to go through some word meanings or solve sums at the cafeteria. I tried to ensure that not a single minute of the day goes wasted. During weekends, I had my coaching lectures. So, I kept my weekends for reaching weekly targets.

(You too, can make a target like completing a math exercise every day.)

And, it’s okay to do bad in mock tests, or perform worse than others, because the key to success is consistency and not a high score once in a blue moon. We’re average people and we’ll try our best to move on. We’ll set our own realistic limits and we’ll show the world how it’s done!

Work hard, but party harder! I am a big party person. After a long day at office and mind boggling coaching sessions, the mind tends to get cluttered. So, it is important to give space to recreation as well. (I went out for dinner or movies almost every Saturday night :p)

Finally, my dear juniors, if you do not have a work ex or have a few months of work ex, it’s all right. You can’t have a tailor made personality for MBA. You are what you are and your experience sets you apart from others. Your achievements, hobbies and extracurriculars play an important role in your selection. So, make sure that you are well versed with your deeds. Never forget your passion.  Success shall follow suit!

If you’ve any other queries, shoot on the comments section. I’ll be glad to help. I love you all 😀

Good Luck!

Regards

Debashrita

THIS IS *IT*

“Sir, I am planning to go home this June. I have booked the flight tickets. Kindly grant my leave. It is only for 5 days, my father stays abroad and he’s coming home, and……….”

“But you are new to this project. And you test data prep count is so low.”

“Sir, I’d be able to enhance my efficiency if I get a training session.”

“You are not trying to learn. When other juniors can write queries, then why can’t you? Just think about it. I don’t know anything. If you need to extend, then extend. If you need to have working weekends, then let it be. This is not a training program. You are here on your own, you have to learn it on your own.”

“And I am sorry about your monetary loss but please reschedule your vacation if possible. The project needs you at this moment.”

I wake up with a start. It was already 7.15 a.m and I must catch my bus by 8.

I gaze at the ceiling, calm and white. I stare at it for some time, thinking about my hereabouts in life.

I think about my grandparents, old and lost. Lost to the cold hands of time and death.

I might not say this, but I miss my grandparents. Last Sunday I was at the movie theatre and there was this old man in a white dhoti and kurta walking in front of me, being guided by his little granddaughter. For a moment, I felt like grabbing that man from behind and giving him a big hug. I had this huge temptation, but I decided against the heinous action.

I might get slapped in public for harassing poor old men, I thought. Hey, but one day I’d also get old!

The mere thought of being in my 40s shuddered me.

Imagine me, a 40-year-old single woman with greying hair and a bulging tummy, a wrinkled face and a lonely heart.

Then my thoughts rush towards my parents, about how hardworking they are, how much effort they still put on me so that I can become a successful human being (if ever I am considered as a human). My mother’s face dazzles in front of my eyes. How beautiful she is. There is sweetness even in her anger. There is her pride even in my failure. The image of cooked fish tickles my taste buds and I fall in love with my mom all over again.

My eyes mist. I want a big hug. But I’m 1600 kms away from her, trying to eke out a living in another city.

I still remember the day when I had been to the Office of the Engineers Association at my place. I had my medical counselling scheduled there. It was a long queue and I got a seat in a private medical college. I had my own swag back then. My sensible brain always decided to listen to tons of shitty advices that my surroundings had to belch on my head, and I’d gracefully gulp it all down.

“There is no career if you graduate from a private college. They aren’t doctors, they are quacks! They don’t know anything! Drop a year, and go for a government college!”

Now when I see my friends doing practicals and posting their statuses proudly on Facebook on cadavers and dentures, I feel defeated. I feel cheated by my own soul. I try to run away, but this is, my friend, the love for Biology, that outlasts you even though you try to outrun it.

I wish I had put my head to some better use apart from banging it on walls!

I take my bath in a haste. My hair is unkempt, and my skin dry. I put on my Kurta and rush to the bus stop.

Life at office can be interesting, if you view it that way.

One day, I merrily announced to my girlfriends that I wanted to visit the local zoo. One of them said, “You go to the zoo every day and see so many unique and creepy creatures. Isn’t that enough for you?”

Well, what do they say? Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

I walk towards my seat with a heavy heart and an empty stomach. Migration requests, Bugs, status and security mails. I quickly go through all of them and unread Skype messages, if any. There is this extensive list of Test Case IDs waiting for their Employees, so I pick up the not-so-fortunate ones and start working on them.

I open my SQL Database and lo behold! As usual the system is slow, the workload huge and the time short. I roll my eyes in disgust.

Fast forward one hour. The screen is proudly showing off its flaws, and I am here, trying to comprehend the issue with my limited, disinterested intellect.

“Employer Class Coverage not found”

“Invalid identifier, Error at line 31, column 12”

What the hell is this!

I never shy away from asking help, and so I frantically text and call up everyone on my favourites list of “Skype for Business”. Their response to my distress call is equally chaotic, but anyways, this is corporate life and we manage with whatever we have. We are great managers, I must say, because we work around a puddle even though we need an ocean.

I try my best to resolve the issues, but sometimes, things don’t fall in the right places. They just dance and jump around the screen, and mostly give me headaches and occasionally, heartaches.

Once again, a tear trickles down my face, but here I am not alone, there is this crowd of developers and testers, furiously banging at their keyboards, their eyes glued to the screens, their right hands at the mouse. No one knows what’s going on, yet everyone has this great spasm of dedication plastered to their faces, waiting for the second last working day of the month.

No one seems to notice. I quickly wipe it off.

Happiness can be found in the darkest of the places, only if you remember to switch on the light. These fireflies are known as friends. These beautiful, yet demonic angels share tablespace with me for lunch every afternoon. We never miss a session and are always updated on the latest jokes and gossips. Ah, what a life 😀

I have this common Indian fantasy of a handsome guy bumping into me and then I, looking at him. There’d be romantic music in the background, with a gentle breeze that would scatter my hairs all over the place, and I’d gracefully tuck them to the back of my ear, my silver dangling earring stuck firmly to it.

I’d kill him with my smile.

The guy would look at me, his mouth open. He’s smile back sheepishly too.

Hundredss of employees and 385 days have passed but this scenario has never ever happened to me.

The clock strikes 6.30 p.m. and I am done for the day. But then my senior tells me to sit down and finish the work.

“We need to submit this by EOD.”

“But it’s already 6.30, I’ll miss my bus.”

I look back at the clock. It is 9.30 p.m. already, and my tummy is growling with hunger. I look forlorn and depressed.

My senior looks back at me. She is a beautiful woman with a pale face and a thin body, her eyes red from all the efforts on the work. A highly dedicated employee. Extends her shift almost every day without expecting any extra perks and never asks for a leave despite of illness.

“Do you know coding?”

I tell her the story of my campus placement. The Cognizant story. This interviewer started on a great note, asking me questions on friction and kinetics. Then he came straight to the point.

“Can you write a program on how to remove all vowels from a string?”

“Sorry Sir, I can’t write programs.”

“Okay then. Thank you very much!”

I ended my story with an air of superiority. “I am from the Mechanical department. We used to bunk our programming classes.”

“Oh, then you know, you should think of another profession. You won’t survive in this industry if you don’t like coding.”

I come back home, tired and confused. I don’t know what is going on.

I close my eyes and count my days to see the oblivion.

EOD.

MAA

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Tum aisi kyun ho maa

Tum aisi kyun ho?

Apni jaan ko jokhim main daal ke

Humko duniya main laati ho.

Raat bhar bina soye

Humko mithi lori gaake sulati ho.

Bhookh lagne se pehle hi

Khana khila deti hai maa,

Rone se pehle hi

Samjha deti hai maa.

Pyaar se sir pe haath pher de to

Dard mit jate hain,

Sine se gale lagati hai toh

Jannatein mil jaati hain.

Yeh jo do akshar aaj sikh payi hu

Yeh maa ne hi sikhaya hai,

Padh likh kar aaj jo kuch bhi ban payi hu

Sab maa ka hi ashirvad hai.

Aaj badi ho gayi hu

Apne pairon par khadi hu

Laga jaise saara aasmaan cheen liya hai maine

To bhool gayi main maa ko.

Par ek din aisa aaya

Jab pankh kate mere

Zameen pe aake dham se giri main

Tab maa ne hi aake sambhala

Na jaane kya jaadu hain uske haathon main

Uska hai yeh andaaz nirala!

Zuban se kuch keh sakti, uske pehle hi

Aankhon ki nami ko padh gayi woh

Aansu tapakne se pehle hi

Gale laga li woh!

Kya bolu maa, aaj phir se

Ek nanhi si jaan ban jaane ka man karta hai

Tumhari aanchal main muh chupane ko jee chahta hai……

Duniya se bahut ladh lia hai maa,

Ab mujhe wapas ghar bula lo

Bachpan ki tarah lori gaake

Phir se mujhe sula do.

THE DYING ARTISTS

This article got published in my school magazine, Abhaas, the annual school magazine of D.A.V. Public School, KalingaNagar, Bhubaneswar.

 

To every parent who was a child once upon a time and to every child who is still a dreamer.

Every morning, while I cross the pavement to go to the bus stop, I see students waiting for their vehicles; the little ones, being accompanied by their parents.

A small trickle comes down my cheeks.

How I wish I could go back to my school again!

Like a clay slowly getting moulded, I have seen myself growing over the years through the very corridors of this institution. I have been shaped and reshaped by my teachers, the torch bearers of my alma matter. My ears are still sensitive to the sweetness of the period bells; while my nasal passage has the potential to jump with excitement to the aroma wafting out of the school canteen! My childhood was awesome.

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But there is just one thing that I’d like to complain about; which most of the adults would shoo away, thinking that this is just a way to shy away from homework and responsibilities:

A career choice apart from Engineering and Medicine!

What a blasphemous suggestion! they might say.

It makes me sad to disclose that we Indians treat Arts students with more contempt than we treat any wrongdoer.

When we are tiny tots, we are given crayons and paper, and are free to draw anything we like. But as we slowly grow up, our color pencils are replaced with lead pencils, that only help us with arithmetic and spellings. Worse still, our pencils are taken away so that our bonded hands can grow accustomed to pens, that never allow us to edit a written word. Slowly, we are taught to make less mistakes and become more responsible. But I remember a quote from ‘The Spiderman’:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

How can we be expected to become more responsible if we are never allowed to explore the paths we like? How can we be expected to excel in swimming when our hearts are flying in the skies? Is it always possible to learn from others’ mistakes while we are never allowed to do anything of our own?  Aren’t successful experiments supposed to be revamps of mistakes as well? How many times have we read in our Science textbooks that Penicillin had been discovered accidentally? Didn’t it take a thousand attempts for Edison to make the perfect light bulb?

I feel sad to see students burdened, not with the competition that the Indian population gladly provides, but with the pressure of parents, peers and of course, the society. *Since everyone after 10th takes up Science, let me take it up as well. Since Engineering is the ”in thing” to be done, my son should prepare for IIT-JEE. *(Spoiler alert: if you don’t get through JEE, your whole life is ruined. Doubt me? Go watch ”3 Idiots”!)

After graduation and a placement with an IT company, I thought that my troubles were over. My parents and teachers were proud of me. I was young and financially independent, I thought so, till one day I came across the Facebook profiles of some of the alumnus of our school. They had decided to take on the paths that seemed atrocious to the common man.

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One of my batch mates decided to go with Journalism, and today he is a writer for the Orissa Post.

Another classmate of mine dropped a year for pursuing medicine but sadly could not get through the entrance examination. Not being disheartened, he chose to graduate in Biotechnology and now is a prestigious research scholar of the Khorana Program with the California University.

A friend, who was particularly weak in Science and Math, decided to study Law. Today she is pursuing her post graduation from the National Law University, Odisha.

A junior, who excelled in singing, has now even started his own YouTube channel for his fans. He manages his studies but his love for singing has never taken a backseat.

The most illustrious example would that of be a schoolmate 2 years junior to me. She loved anchoring since childhood, and had featured in many TV shows. Determined, she realised that the world of glamour was her calling, and today she is one of the most sought after models and anchors of our state.

I was dumbstruck and taken aback. I felt sorry for myself, I felt pity. My so called perfect world came down crashing in front of me in seconds, and I have not been able to recover from the trauma ever since. I felt like my whole life has been a lie, and I seem to live on the leftovers that the dramatic two faced civilisation has got used to throw at me now. I felt like burning my mark sheets that seemed to have chained my limbs to a scale that measured success with respect to the financial growth of an individual.

 

I thought about the last time I took out some hours from my rote schedule to pen down a few words. To my dismay, I realised that more than a year had passed and I hadn’t touched my papers and ink. I used to be a part of the school choir group, but I had never taken formal classes. Now I sound like a Mynah with a sore throat. I loved reading, but I had finished my last novel way back in 2016 and teaching was something I couldn’t think of now. I still remember how I had got a call from a private medical college, and since it is the general notion that government colleges are the best, I decided to cross out that option and move on with a B.Tech. I chose Engineering, and I compromised with my life. I spend many nights thinking how my life would have been if I would haven’t paid any heed to what people had said on those days and just gone forward with my dream. Sorry Robert Frost, sorry CBSE, despite of your poem in our English curriculum, The Road not Taken, my fears took over my head and made me succumb to the insecurities of some random people whose opinions were actually baseless and don’t even matter anymore.

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I wish I could go back now and revive my spirituality, my dreams, my aspirations. It was solely my mistake to be blinded with the star gaze that a so called successful career provides. But mind you, my dear friends, that money can buy everything except happiness, and true happiness comes only from the people who love you back and the passions that ignite your heart. I hope that starting from today, each and every one of us shall make an effort to set aside at least a couple of hours for a  favourite constructive hobby like swimming, gardening or dancing and try to make an effort towards that sector so that we won’t repent later.

Education is not about scoring a perfect ninety five, it is about being aware of the choices one can make to ensure a fulfilling life, to help us identify our strengths and weaknesses,  to hold on to the dreams that are ours and only ours, and to explore our hidden potential that can reward us with satisfaction and peace. Learn to protect your dreams, for they hold a shine so bright, even brighter than pearls and diamonds, that people tend to steal them.

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I hope my simple yet sincere voice would reach out to the depths of your young minds and fragile hearts. Let’s make our school famous not only for academics but also for our artistic creations!

Let’s celebrate life, we have only one of it.

All the best for all your upcoming exams. Never neglect your studies!

Thanks and Regards

Debashrita

RAZIA

“The events, characters and firms depicted in this story are fictitious. They do not bear any sort or resemblance to actual persons or professions, living or dead.”

**********************

It’s a foggy morning. It’s September but the sun’s still not visible. Slowly the light rays make their way into the cramped room through the spaces between the iron rods, as rustic as the hues of the golden sun that splashes all its colors at once; dramatic, enchanting yet temporary, lasting till the night sets in and paves way for the uninterrupted darkness.

Razia stared at the ceiling, then her gaze fell at the man sleeping next to her. He was handsome, his fair skin contrasting with her dusky one. Soon, the heat inside gets unbearable, and the man gets up. He puts on his shirt, makes his hair, gets his cellphone and calls up his wife.

“Sorry sweetheart I was stuck up with some urgent work. You know how these IT industries operate. We have foreign clients. Sometimes we need to work overtime and stay back for night shifts. Yeah I’ll be back in an hour.”

“I know what you must have been thinking about me, Razia. A man must be dedicated to his wife. But you know what? I’m in love with you! You surely have something in your eyes that makes me come to you again and again! The comfort you provide is unmatchable! I mean, my wife can never live up to my expectations. You’ve set a benchmark. Will meet you soon!” He left with a wink and a smile.

Razia smiled back. She didn’t respond. How could she know about the relationship between a husband and a wife? Unperturbed, she got up and cleaned her face, smeared with kohl and lipstick, and put on her clothes. It had been a steamy night, like all other nights.

The phrase “I love you” was no more a melody to her ears. Everyday someone or the other used it on her, to soothe her burns, only to cut them up again, just for a few hundreds of rupees per hour. But she has learnt not to complain.

“Listen to what your customers say and don’t be a hassle. This is our business, and we must do it the right way. Sometimes settle down for a bargain. Business is slow- so do as the men say. Don’t let your ego get into your head. It can ruin your career. Utilize your youth before it is lost behind your age. And yes, sell your body, but not your heart. This isn’t a place for weak hearted individuals. Once you’re in, you’re out of the game. Understood?”

Understood.

**********************

Mornings are filled with hustle and bustle in this part of the city. Sometimes Razia goes around the electronics shops, looking at newly ordered gadgets. Goods starting from televisions, microphones and cameras-all glitter through the glasses. She had managed to get enough money saved to buy a smartphone for herself. How she wished she could call her mother and talk to her, at least for once! She might be still alive and languishing somewhere, begging for a livelihood, or she might have died of a disease…who knows?

Budhwar Peth- a name synonymous with Lord Ganapati, houses three temples out of the five major Ganapati temples located across Pune. Every morning after she took her bath, Razia would go and stand outside one of the temple premises. She never dared to go inside, for the world had labelled her as impure; a creature who has no past and no future, a creature not even worthy of a penny, nothing. Just a creature whose existence was carved up long time ago inside the four walls, who was silenced forever. And God wouldn’t like to see His ill-fated lesser mortals. It would be a disgrace.

The ABC Chowk was the favorite destination of students. Every day she could see scores of children, teens and adults thronging the marketplace as if it were a sweetmeat shop. She could see so many girls carrying schoolbags with them, chatting loudly as they stop to eat Dabeli and Pani Puri. Small girls, with oiled hair neatly tied up into two long ponytails in their red and white Salwar Kameez, looked adorable.

She had the freedom to go into any bookstore she wanted. She could glance over the stories from the Panchatantra and the Aesop Fables. Diagrams from twelfth standard chemistry textbooks. Images of the Universe. She used to get astonished by the photographs of celebrities in glossy magazines. Some were identifiable, from the item songs that they perform; some were not. They looked so gorgeous!

She looked gorgeous too; her kohl rimmed eyes spoke of a feminine aggression; her ruby red lips gave her face a new dimension, already overloaded with powder. Jasmine flowers adorned her long hair and she wore strikingly bright colored saris. Her wrists grooved to the tune of her bangles.

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“Why am I not rich and famous like them? Even I put make up and wear dazzling clothes”, she had asked her Madam one day.

“They work for the entertainment industry; you work to entertain men. They encash their beauty, you encash your build.”

She was infamous; for her identity belonged to the city’s biggest brothel. Never did a single day pass on the roads where she could walk with peace; the men catcalling and making jeers, the women throwing disdainful glances. Mothers could often be overheard warning their kids, “Never go near her, she’s a prostitute!”

Running away was not an option. This was her home, her only identity. She had tried running away a long time back. She doesn’t even remember the dates anymore. The stigma associated with the monotonous humdrum of her polluted life followed her like her shadow.

**********************

It had been a summer night. Razia was a teenager back then, barely 15 years old. She was sleeping beside her parents. Suddenly, she was woken up by a commotion outside. There was this loud sound of firing and gunshots, and before they could understand what was going on, she saw her father being shot in front of her own eyes. They dragged away her petite mother, who didn’t even get a moment to cry over her husband’s corpse.

Razia was confused. Her father’s lifeless body was before her; his calm eyes wide open. It seemed as if he wanted to say her something. The ethnic cleansing of their community was getting violent and deadlier with each passing day, but Razia had never ever thought in the wildest of her dreams that she’d have to lose her parents in such a horrific manner. She ran away to the village mosque nearby, and sat inside, clutching the Quran tightly in her fists. The mosque was a dilapidated structure now, which bore the signs of religious discrimination and hatred.

The next day, she could hear the screams of women and children who had lost their husbands and fathers last night. She was still scared to go out of the mosque, she felt secured inside. “Allah would stop all wrongdoings and punish the goons”. She had full faith on her God.

In the blink of an eye, she saw her Ammi Jaan.

Ammi Jaan looked no longer petite, it seemed as if she was in the possession of some djinn. She had disheveled hair and her clothing torn to pieces. Her face was swollen and her eyes were red. Her body was full of scratch marks and wounds.

“They’ve burnt our house. We have nothing left in this country. Let’s go.”

“Go where, Ammi Jaan?”

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Soon they were busy walking amongst a sea of people who seemed to be knowing where they were going. It was bad, crossing jungles in those same set of clothes and barefoot. The thought of death scared them no more, they had already lost everything back home. The hopes of a new, dignified life at a distant motherland—-

“So is this your story, miss?”, the reporter sipped tea as she made notes.

“Yes.”

“And what is your name again, pardon?”

“Razia. Razia Sultan.”

“Razia Sultan was the—’’

“Was the only female ruler to rule the Delhi Sultanate in your country”, came back the curt reply. “I don’t know why my parents christened me with this name, but I had read about her in school. She had been a brave lady, and had always tried to connect with her subjects. She had protected all kinds of ethnic minorities in her state. Unfortunately, she couldn’t reign for long and was killed. Three burial sites in India claim to hold her dead body remains.”

“You’re literate?”

“Yes. I had to leave my country the year I was in 10th standard.”

“Please continue with your story.”

“Where was I? Ah, yes. My mother was acting strange. She had this grave look on her face and wasn’t crying or talking. She just held my hand firmly and led me through the forest. After walking some miles, I realized that we were fleeing our country. Imagine, leaving your country in this condition—’’

It was a hot sultry afternoon, and the reporter was getting impatient.

“I meant your story. About how you landed up with this Madam here.”

Razia smiled. Her shadow followed her everywhere. Such a wretched luck that she had, the misgivings of her fortune had even robbed her of the status given to a refugee.

“Okay let’s stop it here. How many times do you reporters need to learn about the stories of these women? Do you think the police has the entire day to spend over both of you? Off you go now! I have to go through these official proceedings,” the Police Officer came in and took the chair next to her.

“How long you’ve been in this service?”

“Three years. Maybe four. I don’t remember exactly, Daroga Sahib. During the initial days, they used to hit me because I was always trying to escape from their clutches. I never cooperated with the clients. I used to cry and scream and kick my hands and legs in anger and disappointment. So, Madam and Ashfaq used to beat me hard. Very hard.”

“Ashfaq?”

“The guy who sold me to Madam.”

“We’ve issued a notice to look out for him. He is responsible for a lot of cases like yours. By the way, do you have any medical issues?”

“I don’t know, but I have had abortions quite for a few number of times. I wasn’t taken to any nursing home-Madam used to hit my stomach hard with the heavy sticks like you use.”

“Your medical reports suggest that you’re HIV positive.”

Raziya’s face went expressionless.

“Technically you’re not an Indian citizen, but you have a voter ID card. You are an orphan and you don’t have a family to go back to. Also, you’re infected. We don’t know what to do with you. You’ve to stay under detention for a few days till we find a reprimand home for you. As I said, there are lots of women and children being rescued every month, some have families while some don’t have, and mostly the families don’t want their daughters back. We don’t know where and how to accommodate you all. The NGOs are in constant collaboration with us. Let me see if I can register you with any.”

“Thank you very much, Sahib.”

“And while you’re here, you can keep on entertaining us.”

It’s late evening, and the sun has started to descend, throwing its golden hues for the one last time tonight, before paving way again for the victorious, uninterrupted darkness.

**********************

The red light area at Budhwar Peth in Pune is said to be very huge with 4000-plus commercial sex workers. Where is our world heading to?

THE OLD COUPLE

At 2.30 a.m. in the morning, Mommy got a call. She switched on the lights, and sat with her head downcast for a few minutes. Tears were streaming down from her eyes. Then she frantically started moving around the room, arranging stuff, making more calls to daddy.

I woke up in this commotion to realise that Grandpa is no more.

***********

My Grandpa was 90+. He was the tallest in the family: 6 feet, and not a single child from his seven children could grow up to that stature. He was twice the height of Grandma, the domination visible even before we could take a sneak peek into their lives.

Grandpa had been sick since a few months but recently he was making rounds in various hospitals. My parents and his other children were taking turns regularly to be with him. Towards the end, he was at the ICU and the day before he left us, he was already on the ventilator.

The last time I had met Grandpa was a couple of days ago. I remember going to him with Daddy and Nishi. It was pitch dark outside when we reached our uncle’s home. Grandma hugged us tightly.

“Both of you’ve grown up! Nickie, you’re getting darker and thinner. You don’t take care of yourself. Look what have you done to your skin. Nishi seems all right, all sweet and cute like she was since she was a child.”

The three of us held each other and cried. Grandpa was there on the bed, barely able to move; his tummy was swollen and he had a catheter attached. He wasn’t eating anything, and had a bad pain in his lower back.

“See your grand daughters have come. Have a look! Nickie and Nishi have come to meet you!” Grandma said, all excited.

My grandpa was moaning. He took my hands and  made me touch his forehead. Grandma said that he was giving his blessings. He then signalled me to press his back, the pain was getting unbearable.

He asked where my mother was, and why hadn’t she come that day. He ordered daddy to bring her the next time we come to meet him. He was missing everyone and wanted to see his children. I was shocked to see a man like him, lying like that on the bed, desperate and helpless.

Auntie was trying her best to make him eat something, but he won’t budge.

You’d have been shocked as well if you’d have seen him in that condition: Grandpa was thin, yet strong. He could still walk for long distances and could stitch clothes with ease. He was a very active person, always doing something or the other. He had a sharp brain, and remembered everything. In short, he was a self made man who made his own decisions and listened to no one.

Grandpa used to come home when I was a kid, and he used to tell me lots of stories from The Mahabharata, The Ramayana and The Bhagavad Gita. He always told me to pray and believe in God. I could listen to him for hours, the daydreamer I am, and when he used to ask me for a pen I’d hand him over an entire packet.

Grandma used to say me that she had once married man when she was 20 years old, not rich like her family but well to do. Some days later, there was a robbery in her household and that left them with just fields enough to survive, not live and they became poor. Grandpa was living with his parents and siblings and their spouses and children, plus his wife and children, plus the livestock, the pond and the agricultural fields.

It was not enough to sustain such a huge family.

So grandpa worked in the fields and ran small shops to finance his children’s education. He always saw to it. Whenever he used to go out or come back into his mud house, he would spank his children. “Are you studying or sleeping?”

So it had to be like that. I am keeping daddy’s deeds for another day, today’s it about our old folks. There was always a financial crunch back at home and daddy was preparing to become a Chartered Accountant in Howrah, but he always sent him money, however little in amount. He wanted Daddy to become rich and successful, even though it meant sacrificing his own comforts for it.

***********

How do we all remember our grandmothers? Loose skinned, white haired, old ladies who don’t understand a thing that we say, don’t know that you don’t need to put turmeric while preparing Maggi. Pray to God the whole day for our happiness, prosperity and longevity. Don’t know a thing about phones. If they’d know, won’t they learn to make calls themselves? Don’t understand English and yet are proud that we can speak in a tongue not so native, not so close to their hearts and that its taking us apart.

We think that we’re too smart, don’t we?

My grandma must have been beautiful during her youth. She’s got probably more hair on her scalp now then I’d be having in my entire life.

Grandma claims to have seen the Britishers before India’s independence in 1947. I really don’t support the story, but it is funny and interesting to listen to her: her stories of ghosts, ghouls, souls, spirits, werewolves, Gods and Goddesses and what not. She can keep any child captivated with her enthralling style of storytelling. She even says about the big orchards bursting with fruits they had, the large ponds filled with fishes to the brim, their rice fields covering hectares of land and the large vegetable gardens. No matter how hard I try, I can never be as good as her.

I remember Daddy telling us so many times about Grandma going to the bed with an empty stomach, lying to him just because there was no food for her child.

“Today’s my fast, I won’t be eating tonight.”

“But Ma, today’s not a Thursday.”

“You don’t know anything. Now finish off this rice gruel even before it gets more thinner.”

Grandma was working hard, supporting her husband, helping with the housework. She bore her last child while she was working in the rice granary, trying to separate rice grains from the chaff. Just in case, if you think that these old ladies are weak.

Grandpa was ten years older to Grandma; she dutifully abided to her husband till his death. She supported all his decisions, whether right or wrong, knowing that sometimes she’d be judged as a mother, an in law, a sister. But she never paid heed to her reputation, because she was a trustworthy housewife, taking blame for her husband’s faults, listening to the tantrums of her children and filtering them before presenting them in front of Grandpa, and loving her grandchildren unconditionally.

Grandma was with me for a few months when I was born. But when my parents had brought Nishi home, perhaps Grandma was the happiest amongst all of us, because she was entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of me and my sister while my parents were away on work for long hours. Those were the days my mother had just started her own venture, back in the 2000s, it wasn’t easy for a female entrepreneur, a mother, a daughter, a daughter in law. But Grandma is perhaps the sweetest mother in law I’ve ever seen in my life. She loves my mother unconditionally. She took care of the entire household, the cooking. Sometimes she would make my mother’s hair or would put her headache to rest. Or maybe made a cup of tea for her. All of this, while managing little Nishu. Nishi literally lived on her, breathed her, exhaled her, ate on her, spit on her. Grandma bore it all. If she loves my sister so much, I can’t imagine how much she’d have loved her own children throughout her life?

I remember while Daddy was leaving for Sikkim, my Grandma cried. She was very disturbed by the fact that her son was going to a state she had no idea about. She cried when he left for Libya, too. She was so confused about what was going on, why her son had got this need to go to a foreign country when he could work here. Poor grandma, how could she ever understand brain drain?

***********

By the time I’m writing this, it has been already 21 hours since grandpa left for God’s home. Grandma’s life whisked away within a second, just like that. Sixty years of togetherness gone within a whiff, just like that. “Till death do us apart”, they say. See, death is here, and has taken away the man of the house. No matter how strong the lady might be or how populous her family might be, no one can replace her husband, her companion for life.

Sometimes I think of death. I feel afraid. I know cowards die thousands of times before their time comes, I might be a coward; I might be imagining myself in a heroic scene being killed for the nation but the next moment I get up and think about what happens after death.

One day, we are all going to close our eyes and are never going to open them. I fear death. Death is like a shadow; it follows us throughout our life till it gets a chance to get inside us and take our souls away and leave behind a lifeless body, a body without its achievements, its history, its future. Just a concoction of  bones and muscles.

Death can be painful. It is painful for the ones who are spared by it. The person dying might undergo a lot of trauma, but the people surrounding him to get a hole in their hearts, that gets filled with time but there’s that mark that says that it has been operated upon. We don’t forget the past, the dead, we just become accustomed to the silence and loneliness associated with it. Because that’s what life teaches us: to accept and move on.

Red bangles and vermillion, her saris all snatched away from her, because it is the norm. What kind of norm is this? To let a widow die under her grief? To make her collapse under depression? To make her realise every minute, every second of her life that her life is over despite of the fact that her heart is still beating, she can count her heartbeat, she can feel her heart that bore seven children and many grandchildren, that heart that she gave to no one save her husband, that heart which was there with her, pumping blood and mixing adrenaline, estrogen and oxytocin in her veins.

Well, who am I to question the authenticity of these customs and rituals? They’re being done since generations, so they must be right, they say. These customs that literally suck the life out of a living human being, why to talk of a dead one?

How ironical is this. White is not the same for Christians and Hindus. One girl starts her life wearing white, while another keeps fasts to stay away from it, because she knows that the color looks good only on a bride’s face. One world and infinite differences.

I must stop here, I can’t go on anymore. I can’t imagine light colors on grandma. She must be looking beautiful in tragedy. She is beautiful.

This society can never be mine.

***********

 

 

HALF GIRLFRIEND

Pages from her diary:

“My soul houses that unfortunate heart that greets rain bearing clouds every season but still receives no water and remains dry and parched, and hence I stopped planting seeds of hope inside, because they’re never gonna bloom.”

”Every now and then, as my world gears up for an evolution, tectonic plates clash and collide, new continents are formed and old ones are dropped, the whole life thriving inside me is massacred in a mass extinction process. But there’s no progression. The lands are still cracked, lifeless and barren. There’s birth of erupting volcanoes, but no signs of flora that reside below the ice capped mountains. My beautiful world is ruined everyday and nothing fruitful comes out of it. This is my earth, my failed planet.”

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***************

Do you know how it feels to be depressed?

Imagine you’ve been imprisoned inside an underground cell. There’s a bustling world above you, alive with its crowd. The people above know the presence of the jail. Sometimes, they might tap the ground to check if there’s still life inside.

There are other cells surrounding you. You can hear the inmates, sometimes happy, sometimes hysterical. You realise that everyone inside might not be sharing your story but the lessons learnt are eerily similar and painful. There is some form of interaction amongst you people through the thick walls of that dungeon.

There is a man sitting outside your cell, the prison guard. He knows that you’re not guilty and you’re just a girl arisen from circumstances. He knows everything. He has the key to your freedom, your happiness and liberation from this suffering.

Some days you explain yourself that he too must be a man of circumstances, must have gone through a lot, maybe more than you’ve gone through. You should forgive him, he’s nice and he’s just doing his duty. It is his greatness that he has bestowed some kindness upon a girl like you, who has been imprisoned for no reason, but still a prisoner is a prisoner, no matter what. The next day you’re angry at him. ”He knows I’m innocent. He can go out of the way and release me! What is my fault? Is it wrong to be different? Is it wrong to take a road not taken? Is it wrong to expect? ”

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On the days when the pain is unbearable, you shout. You cry. You keep begging him to set you free. You keep up the hope. He knows. He knows you more than you can ever know yourself.  He knows that only he can bring you out alive from that cold and dark cell.  He knows your pain, he has been through the same; yet he forbids to open the door. When all the howling gets cynical and crosses his threshold of patience, he starts to walk away.

“Please, I beg you, please let me go. Please let me come to you; I want to see this happy world. I want to build a life of my own. I imagine the wind touching me and the sun kissing me. I want to stay alive in reality. I can’t stay here anymore!”

After sometime you realise that he’s disappeared and you were just shouting into the void. Now it may take days, maybe even years for someone to cross that path again. Till then, you keep up the hope. There’s a grim solace in that silence.

But he might change his mind one day, who knows? Be positive!

He’s never gonna come back.

Leaving girl boy rethink this

***************

She sees him in her daydreams and in the paradise at night.

He and she, both holding hands and walking in the glow of the beautiful sunset, red and orange hues around. She, taking pride in her sindoor and my red inexpensive yet priceless bangles, holding his hands tightly as if it was her birthright to do so; and his herculean arms swinging over her in their ever protectiveness nature. There is no need of an abroad trip, just the walk to the local market is enough for her; I, being fiercely proud of her husband, her honour. She wants to show him off to everyone. Look people, here we are, from different castes and occupations, with different ideals and ideologies, yet we stay together. Who said that true love couldn’t be perfect?

It is past 9 pm. It’s getting late and she’s running home. He opens the door and she literally jumps on him. He gives the most reassuring hugs in the whole world after her parents, and she’s so grateful to God that she found him! They talk about our day. She’s chirping like a morning bird, constant, too excited to stop. He reaches for her hand. They are so comforting. She puts her head on her shoulders and doze off.

It’s been a bad day at office and she has got this splitting headache. She’s home and she’s getting mad over little things, being stupid and irrational. It’s been a tiring day for him as well. Going through wards filled with ill patients and checking on them for sixteen hours is not a joke. Yet he says nothing, just goes to her and listens to her ramblings, caresses her hair and says, “It’s okay.” Then there’s again that silence, so soothing, so known and so warm. She hugs him tight and his shirt is wet with angry tears.

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He’s a shy person, always buried in his own work, yet makes time for his loved ones. He never reverts back, he’s such a patient listener. He’s got such innocent eyes that you can almost see through them what lies inside: honesty and a never give up attitude. He’s a self built man, rather adamant, but that’s the best part about him: once he takes a decision, it is final as if it were a bill passed by the Parliament of India. He laughs when you laugh, cries when you cry. He takes time to explain you stuff that always escapes your little brain. It is always so cute when he asks you questions; you feel like a celebrity and transform into the Professor mode instantly. He accepts his flaws gracefully and tries to learn. He checks your pulse and counts the bones of your fingers.

Oh, the perks of marrying a doctor!

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He never fails to remind her that no matter what, she needs to work hard and prove myself, because education comes first. And makes me realise that there’d be moments when you’d feel like running away but you’ve to come back because the world sees your performance, not your perseverance. He’s the pole to her climber.

He is romantic, but he doesn’t like to show it off. He doesn’t post pictures of *we are such a happy couple* on Instagram, or doesn’t go live on Facebook. Like all men, he doesn’t understand what is going on in your mind and sometimes his ego takes over his soul but nevertheless he is still cute, he accepts his mistakes even though they are yours and he makes peace with you and sleeps on your lap like a newborn.

Sometimes he lies to her just to make her angry or jealous. A handsome man that he is, she is constantly under this threat that someone who’s better than her might come and steal him away. Because loneliness is a human’s biggest fear. She can stay without food, but not without him.

She doesn’t  know what love is, maybe it is this: a hectic life with him by her side, to pick her up when she falls down, to listen to her blabbering which isn’t equivalent to the worth of 2 cents as if they’re holy sermons from the Bible, to guide her when she’s lost, to be her light when it’s dark.

She doesn’t know what love is. She doesn’t  know what commitment is. She wishes she knew.

***************

No sooner than she wakes up and tries to distinguish between the fragments of her unconscious memories and the original ones, reality sets in. She realises that there’s no happy go lucky life, it is an everyday fight. To pursue him, to persuade him for giving her the seven vows. It is not an obligation, it is a necessity. But for him, it seems as if she’s playing around with his family honour. He feels sorry for her and she feels sorry for him. His hands are tied up. Hers are in no better condition, but at least she’s trying to open the chains, the chains this society has brandished them with. The chains that were supposed to bring communal harmony have now become the noose of their necks. He’s afraid of the scars the jute ropes would leave on his wrists, however he fails to look deep into the scars he’s busy carving on her  mind and heart, unknowingly and unintentionally.

There’s a war raging inside her, for her, against her. One part of her soul screaming to get away from this isolation and live the final moments as if they’re gonna stay with them forever, the other part calming her down and settle down for self respect that she has been avoiding since long, to forgive and forget, to restart her life. One part of her brain telling her to stay updated on all the recent advancements of his life and that of the Constitution, to gather enough facts and prove him what you’re asking for is not wrong, what you’re asking for is your right and there’s no dishonour in it, no shame. The other part of her brain telling her to focus her energies on better things, because he won’t understand, you’ve been doing this since last year I guess.

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She doesn’t remember their first meet. He had seen her in the bus, while she was trying to focus on her biology notes. Those were the days she was planning to run away from Engineering to Medical Sciences. He told her later: “Everyone made fun of you and laughed behind your back for doing so.” She had first approached him, because she used to be an expert in starting conversations. And very soon they became close friends. She had thought that it was the end after he had left for his new medical college but as fate would have it, he returned back to her university after a year.

She still walks through his corridors, trying to feel his presence in his absence, leaving her space, trying to understand his world and hers, trying to entangle them, to mix their planets. The hospital feels like her temple, she being the only devotee, and he residing in the sanctum sanctorum of her heart. She walks aimlessly through his campus, sometimes bumping into security guards who sternly warn her not to go inside because it is not allowed for civilians. If only they knew that she was a patient. It then dawns upon her that there are more lines that separate them, more parallel than intersecting. The more she tries to make their bloods an emulsion, the more strongly they turn out to be immiscible. The word caste churns her stomach and makes her blood boil.

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There is affection, but there are no promises. There is fun, but there’s no happily ever after. Everything is so hush hush, as if they’ve committed a crime and they need to wash their hands off in silence. He gets suspicious when she’s with other guys. She starts getting trust issues when there’s no text from him. She’s always in this fear that he’s getting ready to take off, irrespective of her efforts to keep him close to the ground.

He says, she’s more than his best friend and less than his girlfriend. She has importance, but no identity in his life. He loves her deeply, but then she’s just another woman. She’s talkative, loud and funny. She gives weird advices and laughs for no reason, behaves like a madman. She walks around acting like a man, it’s her swag. So people feel that this girl is everyone’s pockets, and that she can be used, she won’t mind because, you know. But they forget that even she has got feelings. She dreams of everything a girl sets her eyes upon, innocent and small wishes in life. She doesn’t dream of burdening others, she dreams of setting up things on my forte and giving him surprises. And all these dreams just stay back in her heart as dreams.

The final verdict from his court of justice has been delivered yet again.

“Your Honour, you’ve again rejected my plea. You’ve yet again proved that the background of a person is more important than her character. I object Your Honour, I object. All my hard work in finding and submitting evidences and examples to you have failed. Your Honour, if you must punish me, then give me the death sentence. Don’t imprison my life inside the walls of the splendour of your goodness and affection for me.”

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The court has been adjourned till the next session.

“Maybe, just maybe, next time, I’ll get justice.”