Growing Up

Why I chose alcohol over music and how I am correcting myself

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While I was growing up we had an EC TV on which we would without fail watch Rangoli every Sunday. Exactly at 7 a.m. my mother would switch on the television so that the whole family can watch Rangoli and enjoy good old Bollywood melodies. Around the same time, my father would start his rant that it wasn’t a program to be aired at 7 am in the morning. His reasoning – it was too early to start drinking and build immunity towards music.

As you may have understood by now, I come from a family divided over music. And as luck would have it, I got more of my father’s genes and less of my mother’s – the love for alcohol explains this better than anything else.

Not that I hate music. I love it. I love the noise patterns music actually is. It is a unique and different noise. The noise patterns vary depending on who the composer was. Beethoven has his own patterns while AR Rahman has his own.

If only I didn’t get more of my father’s genes, I would have probably cultivated music as my addiction. Music is a great addition to have – it is invisible, it doesn’t smell and it doesn’t cost anything. on top of it, wives won’t have any problems if you were addicted to Music.

As of today, thanks to my father’s genes I have a liking for alcohol and sometimes women, sometimes money and sometimes fame. Funny, for these are all the addictions which force grown up men to wear tight pants, grow hair, pierce bodies and form music bands.

It is another thing that they start off with crazy names such as Def Leppard, The The, Mr Mister and !!! (yes, there is a band called !!! and mind you this band can’t be googled about. Give it a shot, if you will).

If I had started a band, it would have been called “Jammin with Jammy”

They say you are born with a sense for music or you aren’t. I intend to beat that – I have already started working on improving my music sense. As of now my favourite is the music played by ICICI Bank when they put me on hold. Second in line is Yanni’s music played at five star hotels – consistently boring, but pregnant with meaning.

One can’t really get a sense of music without learning a music instrument and that’s why after a good amount of research I have identified Piano as the instrument I am going to learn. I know typing so I expect to pick up piano faster. The only difference I noticed was that the keys on a Piano don’t have alphabets or numbers on them. How difficult can it be if you already know typing? Wait till I have learnt it.

If you leave a nice comment, you will be invited to my first performance.

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Growing Up

My criminal career was cut short but here is why I am in crime again

As a seven-year-old boy in 1982, I had taken baby steps towards becoming a career criminal. Back then, if you were a criminal you didn’t have to hide in a high-fenced complex in Pakistan or in an apartment complex in Dubai (did I just give away the hiding place of Dawood?).

Coming back to my criminal story, I had stolen a pink colored, peacock shaped, scented eraser in grade two, but my journey was cut short by lack of guts. Not to mention the beating I got from a lady who knew how to wield the broom – my mother.

Today after slogging for almost 20 years in corporates of various sizes and shapes I wonder where I would have been if I had not given up my career as a criminal.

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Would I still be an individual criminal contributor? Would I be leading a crime business unit? Or would I be leading a large Company of criminals? Obviously not D-Company, for that still has a good, effective CEO in Dawood Ibrahim, but you get the idea.

I started thinking along this lines after a casual discussion with my Argentinean colleague Andres.

First day in Argentina, I asked Andres: “So, how is the crime scene in Argentina?”

“We have very little crime in this country,” Andres replied.

“Is it? Why so?”

“You know, it is against the law.” Andres continued.

This got me by my you-know-what. Wow, crime was against the law? Never occurred to me!

“So, no crime at all?” I reiterated. As you may be aware by now that we Rajans don’t let go so easily.

“Actually, I would be wrong if I said there was no crime,” Andres seemed to be breaking down.

“And what sort of crime are we talking about here?” I poked him.

“The sort that one commits in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. Know them?” Andres gave me a sly smile.

The moment the sentence escaped Andres’s mouth I knew he was referring to the crimes that countries did – in groups and in the name of patriotism. After all, a murder in a war isn’t a murder because it is being done in huge numbers and to patriotic jingoism. This gelled well with my past as well – before I had fully given up the criminal path I had wanted to join the army. If only I had joined, I would have been committing crime in a crowd. But that was not to be as they refused to take me in.

That night as I lay in bed I wondered: If everybody in this World was chasing a fortune and it was also true that behind every great fortune there was a crime then life needed to be re-defined. Before I fell asleep that night between my split-personality and me we agreed that life could be re-defined as “a competition where everybody wants to be the criminal and NOT the victim”.

The next day when I woke up I wanted to be a criminal again. As of now, I am trying to get back into my groove. Plan to start at the criminal equivalent of Summer Intern, which is a pick-pocketer.

I don’t agree with all that bull-crap our elders have taught us that crime doesn’t pay in the long run. The best proof are the children and grand children of famous gangsters such as Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone….who are now living off the riches. Perhaps it is out of context, but let me also tell you that no gangster named after a Mango can ever scare me. Alphonse, my foot!

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The good thing about my decision to become a criminal is that I don’t need any investment or an office space. I can work from home. And I am starting tomorrow.

Growing Up

Tips on how to create your own jokes and make people laugh

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Ever wanted to create your own jokes? The best way to begin is to indulge in the simplest form of humor – ‘deviation from the normal`.

For example: You start telling a joke about an elephant. You say: “There was this he-elephant, and he wanted to get married.”

Your audience is already thinking of a she-elephant as the bride

You say: “And then it falls in love with an ant”

Your audience is suddenly interested. A smile erupts on their faces

You say: “So, the he-elephant carries the ant in his palm and they go meet his parents.”

Your audience is keen to know what will happen next. They know it can`t get worse than the parents not agreeing

You say: “As soon as the he-elephant tells his parents about his love for the ant, they agree for their marriage.”

Your audience is now left wondering. At this point they have the highest level of interest in your joke

You say: “The happy he-elephant walks up to his father and gives a high-five!”

The way you said the last line tells your audience that it`s the punch line and they start thinking…and soon realize that the ant is dead and they start laughing


To be able to tell a good ‘deviation from the normal` joke one has to have strong ‘lateral thinking` which, obviously will also help at solving work and personal problems.

Here is one question to test your lateral thinking prowess –

One fine day, many good-for-nothings start to play cards on the roadside. The money being betted is large and the game is pretty serious. Suddenly one of the men accuses the dealer of cheating. One being accused in front of everybody the dealer brandishes a knife and kills the man. One of the on-lookers calls the police who promptly interview everybody who was playing the cards at the time. In the end, no man was arrested or charged with murder. Why?

Leave your answer as a comment.

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Growing Up

Story of how Maggi noodles brought happiness in my life

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You probably cook Nestle’s Maggi noodles, eat it and forget it. Hardly so in my case. This article is to explain and celebrate the importance of two-minute Maggi noodles in my life (and my sisters’).

I first came to know about Maggi noodles in 1985. Back then I was studying in 4th standard in Seventh Day Adventist school, Kohlapur.

Nestle had introduced Maggi in India in 1983 and by 1985 students with rich parents had started bringing them for lunch. I first tasted it when my best friend brought it for lunch one day. It is a pity I don’t remember the name of this friend who introduced me to Maggi, but then thats where the romance lies. He made me fall in love with Maggi noodles and walked away.

“How do you eat this?” I remember asking.

“Simple. Just hold a strand between your thumb and index finger, keep it high in the air and slide one end inside your mouth.”

We were late for our next class. Lunch had taken up a long while that day – and why not? Each strand had to be separated, held up and slid inside the mouth slowly.

With time, I became an expert at eating noodles. To tell you the truth, when my friend wasn`t looking I would cheat. I would pick up a couple of strands and stuff them into my mouth.

In three months time we had to leave Kholapur in Maharashtra and settle down in Ballygunge Military Camp, Kolkata for the next three years. It was the most harrowing moment for me. I didn`t mind leaving behind my friends, and the four hens I had been rearing in our garden for I knew my father would anyway kill them (and eat them) before we shifted. The four hens, that is.

I was most worried about missing out on Maggi noodles. In Kolkata, will I find a friend who would bring Maggi Noodles for lunch?

Our move to Kolkata coincided with my father buying ECTV – though this TV`s screen was only 15 inches diagonally, the television itself was 40 inches wide. It was so wide that when my cousins visited, we played table tennis` on its top even as the rest of the family watched Doordarshan.

It was on this ECTV that I first saw Nestle`s advertisement for Maggi noodles. When it appeared again, I pulled my mom before the television set and said: “Mom! Look! Maggi Noodles! This is what Vikas Talpade used to bring for lunch.”

OK, there! I remembered his name.

“Ohh…what is it?” my mother asked.

“It is called Maggi noodles and is very tasty. Can we buy it?”

“No baby. That must be costly. We don`t make that much money, yet.” The ‘yet` in her sentence gave me hope.

“But father is always at work. Doesn`t he earn money?”

“Listen, why don’t I make kheer for you? You and your sisters love it, don’t you?” When I close my eyes I can still visualize the expression on my mother’s face at that moment. It was what I today know as please-accept-my-offer-for-I-have-no-other-choice expression. But back then I didn’t understand such expressions.

When I kept staring at her, she continued: “Don’t you think it makes more sense to spend that money on other things? You will anyway end up finishing it in two minutes.”

“But mom, when they say two minutes it is not about eating. It is the cooking time.”

My mom just smiled and went back into the kitchen. I stood there waiting for the advertisement to appear again. I loved the way Maggi’s advertisement was shot – the steam escaping from the yellow bowl in which Maggi noodles was being served made me yearn for it every time I saw it. I swear I even got the aroma each time Maggi’s ad appeared on TV.

First Maggi noddles pack we cooked at home

I must have watched the advertisement at least a hundred thousand times before I bought my first pack of Maggi noodles – sometime in 1994. It was my first scholarship money from school.

With great pride I walked into the house carrying a Maggi Noodles pack. My two sisters, my mother and I spent an hour looking at the Maggi Noodles pack and trying to understand how we should cook it. There were arguments on the approach to be taken, there were agreements on the risks involved. Everybody wanted it to work out fine. After all, it was going to be our first bowl of Maggi made at home.

My father was then posted in Akhnoor, Jammu and wasn’t in the kitchen that day to give his opinion on how the single pack of Maggi noodles should be cooked. Everybody else had a say.

I remember my sister, an athlete at school, saying: “Looks like cooking Maggi noodles is not a marathon but a 100 meters race. If you make a mistake, there is no time to correct it.”

She was right. My mother poured more water than needed and over cooked it. After eating the ten strands that each member got we came to the conclusion that cooking Maggi noodles wasn`t an easy task.

Maggi noodles packs I bought with my first salary

In January 1999, I got my first job – with The New Indian Express. On Feb 5, after withdrawing my first salary and buying a shirt for my father and a saree for my mother, I bought five packs of Maggi Noodles. One each for each family member. After all, it was a day to celebrate.

Once again, we had a conference of sorts where it was decided that this time my elder sister would cook. She did a fairly good job. The Maggi in my bowl wasn’t soggy or too hard – just the right amount of water had been added. My father had retired by now and he also joined us at the dining table. He took a mouthful of Maggi, enjoyed a few seconds of bliss and turned to us and said, “Wow, this Maggi thing tastes good. Why haven’t we had this till now?”

At this my sisters and I looked up at my mother and let out a smile. After all, now we had grown up and understood why she would suggest kheer every time we wanted to buy Maggi. My younger sister came to my mother’s rescue, “I know dad! How did we even miss this?!”

We decided to do this often – a whole family get together with Maggi as the main attraction. For the next few months every time I would walk in with my salary, I would have five packs of Maggi noodles with me.

After a few months of the Maggi ritual, we forgot all about it and got busy with our lives.

Maggi love never dies, it just goes down deeper

Now the innocent yearning for Maggi isn’t there. One doesn’t have the urge to eat Maggi every day. It doesn’t double up as a evening snack any more. But when I see a pack of Maggi, in all its vibrant yellow glory, it starts talking to me. Like a long lost lover you suddenly bump into in the shopping mall.

“Hey, remember the good old days?” the pack of Maggi would ask me.

“Of course, how can I forget the first kiss.”

“You just couldn’t take me off your head,” the pack of Maggi would continue feeling proud.

I would just chuckle, and say “Yes…now when I think about it, it does sounds funny.”

With its pride hurt, the pack of Maggi would reply: “No, it wasn’t funny.

In order to salvage its pride, the pack would continue, “And remember the day you took me home to your mother? I loved it.”

I would smile back. For the memories this conversation has brought back are so strong that I can’t ignore them. I have to feel her warmth yet again, even if for a day. I reach out for the talking Maggi pack and put it in my shopping cart for a one-night stand.

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Nestle started to advertise Maggi 2-minute Noodles during the ‘Hum Log` broadcasts on Doordarshan. Just in case you didn`t know in 1984-85 ‘Hum Log` reached 60 million TV viewers. Nestle`s plan paid off and soon enough the volume of demand for Maggi Noodles increased from none in 1982 to 1,600 tons in 1983. It would go on to become 15,000 tons in 1998. I don`t have the 2008 figures, but I wouldn`t be surprised if it is in the 50,000 tons range. The marketing of Maggi Noodles became a case study on how to market a new product. Taking a cue from Maggi`s success, other companies started thronging Doordarshan for program sponsorship. Thus, advertising rates went up and advertising revenues started pouring in for Doordarshan.

Growing Up

Types of people you see inside elevators/lifts

We all spend at least five minutes everyday traveling the lifts. If you are a lift operator you probably spend more than eight hours inside the lifts….but since we didn’t expect you to understand English and be reading blogs on the internet, this blog post doesn’t cater to your interest. Folks working on 30 plus floors, and those with extremely slow elevators needn’t despair…you might be spending more than five minutes inside lifts but we forgive you and still cater to your interests. Read on.

Here are the different types of people you will find inside lifts:

The Operator
This is generally a man, and the moment he steps inside the lift he has only one question for everybody inside the lift: “Which floor?” He is the type that gets upset if you have already pressed the button. Throughout the journey, he will stand next to the buttons. If you give him a chair to sit inside the lift he wouldn’t really mind. He is also the guy who presses the >< and <> buttons to close or open the lift whenever necessary.

The Evaluator
Both a man or a woman can be an evaluator. This person runs an eye over everybody in the lift. Once the first glance is cast, he or she then starts focusing on individuals and starts marking them eye to toe. There are various parameters on which such people evaluate you – which company you could be working in, single or married, how much you could earning, how much does that shiny shoe cost etc.

The Starer
This is mostly a man. His job is to stare at anybody who enters the lift. A stare back doesn’t discourage this guy. The fact that the stare is going to last only 30+ seconds helps. Mind you, he doesn’t just stare at women….men also end up being his target. These are mostly men like me – going thro’ a midlife crisis and trying to make contact with any of life form.

The Perfume Woman
In most office lifts this character is a rarity. How often do you share a lift with a girl, who is washed head-to-toe in perfume? This person is usually wearing heels, dark, tight trousers with light colored shirt, has a scarf around her neck and is holding a file or a diary against her bosom (not to mention the branded, big handbag or laptop hanging from her shoulder). She steps into the lift with a few clicks of her heels, and sets the adrenalin rush amongst the men inside. If you see a man missing the second floor in spite of pressing the second floor button of the lift…there are very high chances that there is a perfume woman inside the lift.

The back-to-the-door person
This can either be a man or a woman and is most likely to be 40+ in age. For some odd reason, they stand with their back to the door till they reach their destination floor – opening or closing of the lift doesn’t help in changing their orientation. Someday I am going to ask a back-to-the-door person to write the alphabet ‘B’ and see if he/she write it as ‘8’…just to be sure they aren’t dyslexic.

The Evader
This is an interesting character that becomes a part of our lift life very often. They avoid all eye contact when inside the lift. If you notice, they will take out their handkerchief and play with it, then stare at the fan or AC vent on top, then look at the buttons, stare at the floor indicator at the top of the lift etc. They will do anything to avoid eye contact with you – even looking at their own shoes.

The Mobile Manager
This can both be a man or a woman. For some odd reason, they always get emails when they are in the lift. And when they don’t have emails to read, they would snap out the mobiles from their pockets and send out a few SMSes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are just some sms forwards. Most often, the mobile that’s involved here is a smartphone – a Blackberry, an iPhone, an HTC or a high end Nokia device.

The Handler
This is almost always a man. He takes it upon himself to trigger the lift door’s sensitivity by placing his hand next to the door till everybody isn’t inside completely or hasn’t gone out completely. He is the fatherly figure to every lift traveler. There is no specific age group for this character – they range from 16 year old boys to 50 year old men.

Any other characters you can think of?

Growing Up

Doing for my daughter what my father did for me

Today we bought half of the total Amar Chitra Katha books ever printed for my three and a half year old daughter. To tell you the truth, I wanted to buy it and when my wife found the Rs 5000 mark a little high….I had to start firing from my daughter’s shoulders.

Not a bad bargain, though. For every one hour I spend with the Amar Chitra Katha comics…I need to spend 30 minutes reading them for Rhea. That’s not difficult because my daughter is a dedicated listener. Just in case you didn’t know….she already has 137 story books – more than what I had when I started working.

Rekha and I have a strategy. We plan to make Rhea the most well read person in our family by the time she turns 10. That should be easy, for the current most read person in our whole, extended family has only read 700 odd fiction & non-fiction books….and that’s me. If I were to include my school & college books the count could go up marginally.

Initially, my father wasn’t a book-friendly person…so till I was eight years old I hadn’t read anything other than my school books. The first time we had ever gone to a book stall was when we went to the park we frequented, and somebody had set up a few book stalls. We roamed around for a while, and when I pestered my father he grudgingly bought me Swami Vivekananda’s book titled Raja Yoga only because it was subsidized and could be bought for only Rs 3. Mind you, back then I was only 9 years old…..and I was being bought Swami Vivekananda’s book titled Raja Yoga.

I wouldn’t have managed to read so many books if my father hadn’t changed mid-way. I want to do for Rhea, what my father did for me.

In the mid 80s my father was posted in Sikkim and couldn’t take his family along (or maybe he was fooling my mom….its too late to delve into it now) and thus he got us a rented accommodation in Chennai in 1985 and asked us to stay there till his 2 years tenure at Sikkim got over. He enrolled me and my sisters at CRPF Kendriya Vidhyalaya, Avadi and went back to Sikkim.

My father came back in three months – on a 10-day break – to see if we had settled down. We had indeed settled down well but there was one small issue: The evenings were boring because our father wasn’t there.

My father spent time thinking and then approached me: “Rajan, you like making stories, right?”

“Yes, father.” Sometimes my father would state the obvious.

“Yes I remember your very first story…about a Jeep that had no driver but ran over dog shit….and then drove on the grass to remove the dog shit from the tires.”

*Guys, its true…apparently this was the first story I narrated when I was four years old. My mother still narrates it to our relatives & friends.

“Yes, father….but why think of that now. I am 10 years old now…and have better stories to tell.”

“Wouldn’t you want to know the stories others are trying to tell?”

“Sure pa…but how do I do that?” I was curious now. He had caught my attention.

The same evening we walked to a rental library in Ambattur, Chennai and I got my first library membership card. I know you won’t believe it but my membership card number was 786. Yes, 786! Wish I had it now to scan it and prove it to you guys.

The deal was simple…I could borrow a book for a fortnight, and if I returned it in a fortnight I would be charged Rs 2. If I returned it within the week, I would be charged Rs 1. And we could rent a maximum of 3 books at the same time.

Once we were out of the library, my father held my hand and said: “Rajan, you should read as many books as possible. Ok?”

“Sure pa.”

“And one more thing….you should try and read exactly five books in a month.”

“Why pa?”

My father didn’t answer my question and we walked back home. I kept wondering why I had to read exactly five books in a month.

I also tried to ask him why he had changed…why was he now willing to spend money on books. But he brushed me aside saying he would explain when I could understand.

After his casual leave was over, my father left for Sikkim.

After a few days when I started for the library, my mother reminded me: “Rajan, remember the five books rule.”

“Sure I would. But why should I read exactly five books every month?”

My mother smiled. But behind the smile there was an expression which I was too young to understand. Even as I wondered if I had asked the wrong question, my mother answered: “That’s because your library budget is Rs 10. Your father can afford to send us Rs 1500, out of which we can afford to earmark Rs 10 for your library.”

I didn’t say anything. Back in those days ten-year-olds were smart enough to understand money. My mother continued: “That’s why, if you read anything less than five books in a month…you are under-utilizing what we think we owe you. And if you read more than five books…we can’t afford it.”

From that day, I devised my strategy to read as many books as possible by giving away the minimum amount of money. Here is what I did:

  • I visited the library almost everyday, and learnt the art of finishing individual Amar Chitra Katha comics in 10 minutes flat. That’s at least 25 books in as many days.
  • I would borrow two books every week and finish them both within seven days

This way, I was able to complete at least 25+8 books = 33 books….and instead of paying Rs 66 at the end of the month we were paying only Rs 8. I was saving my parents Rs 2 every month.

Mind you, back then CRPF Kendriya Vidhyalaya, Avadi, Chennai allowed only children in classes nine and above to borrow books – others only got to read during the library period.

When we shifted to Kendriya Vidhyala, Ballugunge, Kolkata….two miracles happened for me. First…the school allowed students of eight standard to borrow books and second, I got a study desk of my own which made reading books easy.

By now I was always seen with a book. If at all, an individual has taken a book inside an Indian lavatory, it ought to be me. Let me assure you that reading a book inside an Indian lavatory is like balancing on a rope – hold the tap with one hand, and hold the book with another. You had to turn the pages in 1/3 of a second – just the time it takes to lose your balance when you are not holding the tap.

When in class eight, I moved out from Franklin W Dixon’s Hardy Boys series and Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series to Alister Maclean’s books like Force 10 From Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Fear is the Key etc. Not to mention authors like Douglas Reeman (an amazing Naval story teller. He wrote looks like A Prayer for the Ship, Send a Gunboat, The Last Raider etc), CS Forrester (another Naval warfare story teller with books titled Hornblower in the West Indies, Hunting the Bismarck and The Man in the Yellow Raft) and Jack Higgins’ (I liked him for his outlandish plots in books like The Eagle has Landed, The Savage Day etc).

*Maybe I read too much of the Naval story tellers, and that’s why when asked to choose between the Naval, Army or Air Force wing of NCC in College….I chose Naval Wing. Not knowing that being in the Naval Wing of NCC meant washing your uniform every week.

Over the years my preferences in books have kept on changing, and now I only read humor books. My favourite authors of today are Bill Cosby, Sue Townsend, Erma Bombeck, PG Wodehouse, Dave Barry etc. Now-a-days, I spend at least 2-3 days – reading reviews – and deciding if I need to buy a particular book. I also don’t read as much as I would like because my work, wife and daughter keep me busy. But as soon as I finish reading a good book, I thank my father for introducing me to the concept of reading.


It was 2005 – one year after Rekha and I got married – my father was diagnosed with Oesophagal cancer. A dangerous disease if it happens to somebody you love…and a black hole if it happens to somebody you don’t personally know.

Both Rekha and I were working in Chennai and we spent every weekend in Madurai, to help out my mother who was almost single-handedly helping my father fight the dreaded disease.

On one such weekend, after spending the Saturday night at the Apollo Hospital with my ailing father….I started to leave for home. For no reason, I turned towards my father and said: “Father, do you want me to get something from home? I will be back by 12 noon.”

My father thought for a while and said: “Bring me the best book you have read. I feel like reading something today.”

At 12 noon, when I gave him the tattered, old Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga book, he took it and kept staring at the ceiling for a while and then turned away to hide his tears. But he didn’t succeed.

We sat there holding hands and not saying anything. I didn’t try to hide my tears for I wanted him to know that he had bought the best book I had ever read.

One month later, as I sat next to him he breathed his last. The good part is, the seed he had sowed is now a tree…and some day his life just might be a book.

PS: Rhea loves Amar Chitra Katha…the two of us spent an hour today with the story of Karna.

Growing Up

They didn’t give me any credit for 3 Idiots

When Chetan Bhagat (this is how you spell the guy…right?) was crying fowl over credits…or the lack of it in 3 Idiots…I thought he was being a kid. Today I saw 3 idiots and I am very upset. I waited till all the credits had rolled and the guard asked me to leave….but “Our special thanks to Mr Jamshed V Rajan” never rolled out.

Here is why I expected thanks from Aamir and his company.


When I couldn`t even open my eyes, I was named Jamshed V Rajan. When I could barely say ‘ichh cdeam` I was sent to kindergarten. When I couldn`t even tie my laces I was in class 1. And by the time I hadn`t even started liking girls, I was in the tenth standard (I was kind of a late starter).

The moment I stepped into Class Ten, World War 3 broke out in my house. My father wanted me to join the Indian Army and serve the nation but my mother wanted me to become a doctor and open up a once-a-week clinic in our village called Maangudi (Maan = Deer. Gudi = Abode).

When in 10th standard, Tom Clancy and Franklin W Dixon (who wrote Hardy Boys) were my role models and becoming a doctor or an Army man wasn`t in my plan. But my parents had plans laid out for me.

Mother: Why do you want my son to become an Army man like you? Aren`t you satisfied with what you have done to yourself?

Father: Why? What wrong did I do? And why should he become a doctor…to mint money? If patriotic people like us don`t send their kids to Army, who will?

Mother: I want him to do good for the people in our village. If he becomes an Armyman, at the most he will take a 60 day long leave and give the village`s watch man a break. But if he becomes a doctor, he can treat them every week.

Father: Do you understand watchmen and Armymen aren`t the same.

Mother: Well, if we Indians are one big family…can`t I say India is one big house. That makes the Armymen, security gaurds at the entrance. What say?

Father: If we fight….our son might end up doing something else. Why don`t we reach a compromise….how about pushing him to join Armed Forces Medical College? He can be a doctor and an Armyman too?

Mother: What about the weekly clinics at our village?

Father: He can settle down in our village after retirement and start a clinic. What say?

Mother: Deal.

Father: Deal. No more discussions. AFMC it is.

The next day, I was enrolled in Brilliant Tutorials` 2-year Medical Coaching Program. Over the next two years I received a lot of communication (including study material) from them. Wake me up from my grave 50 years later and I will still be able to recite their address: 12, Masilamani Street, T. Nagar, Chennai 600 017.

I gave it my best but failed Armed Forces Medical College Entrance exam and also the All India Pre-Medical & Pre-Dental Exam.

Gosh…wasn`t I even good enough to pull teeth? Since I was responsible for the weekly cleaning of the toilet bowl….I believed I could have made a natural dentist. Ignore the stink, close your eyes to avoid the stark visuals and get on with the task at hand…I could do that easily.

Surprisingly, my parents didn`t mind my failing the exam much. They asked if I was comfortable enrolling in Brilliant Tutorials` 1-year Medical Coaching Program and try the AFMC next year.

“Hmm…I don`t know if that`s such a good idea. I have got BA Economics & BA English in an Arts college….I would rather go ahead and study.”

My father didn`t seem happy with the thought but he didn`t show it. He said: “You have still got fifty years ahead of you and wasting one year shouldn`t be that big a problem.” My mother nodded.

Convincing me to do nothing is easy. So I stayed at home and study materials started coming in from 12, Masilamani Street, T. Nagar, Chennai 600 017.

One year later, nothing much had changed. I failed AFMC again – this year they only need 12 students to complete the batch. But as luck would have it, I passed the All India PMPD Exam and got a seat in Stanley Medical College in Chennai – an old Medical College with a chequered history. Check their history here.

Let me be frank here….one of the reasons I tried hard to get into a medical college even though I wanted to do creative writing for a living, was because of what T Arun told me.

He said: “Girls in Medical Colleges know everything about sex. So they aren`t scared to have a little fun on the side.”

I would have brushed it aside, but the naughty smile on his face made me ask him. “What kind of fun-on-the-side are you talking about?”

That`s when Siddharth shared with me what he called ‘Siddharth`s Know-all Do-all Theory`. According to this theory, girls aren`t as adventurous as boys when it comes to pre-marital sex because they aren`t sure of the physical, biological and mental consequences of sex. If they were fully aware of everything (as a medical girl student is expected to be) they will throw caution to the winds and start behaving like boys (or men).

I loved his theory and asked him: “Are you sure? Coz I hate the bleach, formalin and cold steel smell that one gets in the hospital. If at all I join a medical college, it will be because of my increased chances.”

“Kill me if you don`t get laid within the first month,” he assured me.

The day before I was to leave for Chennai to join Stanley Medical College, my mother called me and said: “Son, promise me after you get out of the college you will go to our village and serve the people?”

I assured her.

Before my mother and I could part ways, my father saw us. He waited till my mother was away and told me: “By the way, there is a parallel entry for doctors in the Army. They obviously can`t do with just 12 doctors from AFMC every year. Let us discuss once you get your medical degree.”

I assured him.

Two months in the medical college, I called up Siddharth to tell him that his Know-all Do-all theory wasn`t working. He assured me that Chennai girls being conservative might take a while.

When he asked me if there were any Punjabi or Gujarati girls in my batch, I reminded him that I was short and dark and there was no chance in hell to land a Punjabi or a Gujarati girl….even if they were not as conservative. He didn`t take the topic further.

By the eighth month I had started hating the place. I couldn`t live with pain & death all around me. I looked around for distractions but there were none.

That`s when I met Rohit….our colleges` watch man`s son. His father was always comparing him to the medical students he watched over and this young boy of 17 was completely broken.

After we had known each other for 2 months, we decided to run away to some peace.

Thank God I didn`t jump from the Stanley Medical College building for I would have surely died (I wasn`t in a movie, remember?).

Rohit was from Gujarat and we decided to run away to a small village in Nadiad district. To cut the long story short….we stayed in a village hut. For the next three months the open fields were my toilet room and the handpump 250 meters away was my bathroom. I worked as a munshi (accountant) in a brick kiln and Rohit made bricks in the same kiln. We lived peacefully till I exhausted my Rs 2000.

When my money ran out, I called my parents. This time around, they were happy to just have me back. They didn`t want me to join the Army or become a Doctor.

Three days later, my father was in Nadiad and we went back to Madurai together. Rohit decided to stay back because his father was still upset with him.

I went on to study BA Economics at The American College and successfully managed to stop my parents from forcing me to do an MBA. I didn`t go on to become a successful writer as I had wanted…but I do have a blog where readers sometimes leave encouraging comments.


Now tell me…don`t I deserve a credit at the end of 3 Idiots? Did it have to be an Engineering College? Isn`t a Medical College good enough?

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Growing Up

Fame, Faith and failure

This post isn`t funny because I have been spending all of my time between and my daughter Rhea. Without that creative time slot to think and plan a blog post…coming up with a funny piece is difficult. So here goes an autobiographical piece.

This article is about Fame, Faith & Failure…the three things that keeps any man going.

Two years back, when I went to Madurai, the city where I grew up, I bumped into a friend whom I used to play cricket with when I was in school & college.

Mani, the all-rounder I was scared to ball to…and frightened to face is today a bus conductor and works for Rs 6300. Here is what happened.

“Aren`t you Rajan?”

That`s how he knew me…Rajan. Jammy, the fancier name caught on later. There was no way, I was going to recognize him…he had become a man. A man hardened by fate, deeds & hard luck. A face, I wouldn`t recognize.

“Heyyyy…..hmmm….hmmm…how are you?” I just couldn`t place him. But being the good guy out of the two, he was more forthright.

“Looks like you didn`t recognize me. Remember me? Mani? The fast bowler?”

“Ohh shucks! Mani…it is you?”

“How have you been, Rajan. You are working with Indian Express aren`t you?” I could see that Mani wanted to hug me….but I didn`t. He was oily and smelled of bidis. I could see his khaki shirt was wet with sweat and salt formation where the sweat had dried, stood out like Google Maps. Though, I did think that his eyes were moist.

I didn`t tell Mani that I was with Indian Express ten years back, and had changed seven jobs since then. He kept on asking questions.

“Are you married?”
“Where is the girl from?”
“Is she pretty? Huh? Huh?
“Love marriage or arranged marriage?”
“Have any kids?”
“Boy or a girl?”
“Started going to school?”

He was genuine. I was the faker of the two. I answered in mono syllables. I didn`t ask him about his family, friends, job…nothing.

After getting bored of my mono syllables, he started looking at me up and down.

“You must be a rich man now. Aren`t you?”

“Well, not really. I don`t run my own business…I still wait for my monthly salary on the first of every month.”

Back in my town, asking somebody for their salary is an accepted norm. There is nothing to hide, especially if you are friends. And what I was dreading happened.

“That`s ok. I recently got a hike after completing two years and my salary now is Rs 6300. How much is yours?”

I could have been honest with him. But something inside didn`t allow me. I didn`t tell him that I was with Yahoo – one of the top Internet companies – and to make it worse, I cut down my package and said: “Well, my salary is double that.”

“I told you, didn`t I? You are rich. For me to get Rs 15,000 every month, I will have to work for another ten years.”

Mani was immediately on another subject. He told me that he met most of our cricketing friends at least once a week – they all boarded his bus and bought tickets from him. He also told me that some of our cricketing friends were richer now and HAD their own bikes.

“So, what do you do when you meet our cricket friends?” I asked Mani.

“Well, remember Rajesh…that sloppy fielder? He called me home last weekend…and introduced me to his parents as the best fast bowler he has ever faced.”

“Wow…thats nice.”

“Yeah. And remember, Suresh…that left hand bastman? He met me one day in the bus and we got talking. Now, I teach his young cousin brother the fine art of bowling….and Suresh pays me Rs 200 every month. I didn`t accept it at first….but you know Suresh…he always has it his way.”

“Wow…thats nice too.”

The people Mani was referring to had been an integral part of my life twelve years back and now I didn`t even know them…leave alone caring. Some shop keepers, some LIC agents, some sales executives….Mani, sure was famous among them.

“We talk about you…you know. I keep telling my wife that you are with a newspaper and we won`t have any trouble in finding a good school for our children, when we can afford to take them out of the Government School.”

“Hmm….” I didn`t commit anything to him and changed the subject. “So, how long will you be working as a conductor?”

“I have it clearly charted out. Two more years as a conductor. By then the small property that I have will be worth at least 2 lakhs…I will buy a second hand, white Ambassador car and become a Tourist Taxi driver.”

“Good money there?”

“Yeah. And once I understand the Taxi business, I will appoint a driver to drive my Ambassador as a Tourist Taxi…and I will get a good Gujarati family and drive their family car.”

At this point, he smiled…and added: “Double income, you see.”

Mani threw his beedi down on the ground and ordered the shop keeper for a Halls candy. Then he turned towards me and asked: “One for you?”

He wouldn`t let me pay for my cigarette too. After finishing with the shop keeper, he said he wanted to visit my home and see Rekha and Rhea and have a word with them.

I don`t know why…I lied to him that they weren`t home. He was very disappointed. I had just turned down the guy, I once wanted to impress. Back then, he was my hero…and I wanted him to be my best friend….so that he would take me in his team when the cricket teams were divided every day at 4.30 p.m., so that he would ask me to open the innings if I were in his team. How time changes.

I saw him returning the Halls candy and getting his fifty paisa back.

“Why what happened?” I asked.

“I didn`t want to be smelling of beedi, while meeting my sister-in-law…that`s your wife. Now, I don`t need it.”

Not for a moment did Mani suspect that I could be lying.

“So, what is your mobile number. I will give you missed calls…I can`t spend money in calling STD….you understand that….don`t you? You will have to call me back.”

After taking down my number, he gave me a missed call and asked me to save his number. I didn`t.

After parting ways and promising to be in touch in future, I started walking back home.

For Mani it was a monumental meeting with a friend from the happiest times of his life, and for me it was another update on Twitter, Orkut & Facebook: “Just met an old friend…”

Funny, meeting Mani didn`t even give me the excitement that I get when I see ‘1 Friend Request` message on Facebook or ibibo. Requests from people, I don`t know. From people I don`t share any memory with.

Two days later, when I was back in Gurgaon I realized….Mani had all going for him. He might only be drawing Rs 7300 but he definitely has been a more successful person than I have been.

Class stays, they say…once an all rounder, always an all rounder. Maybe, that`s why when we had met….I was scared to face him.

Since this incident two years back, I have made seven trips to Madurai and during my stay there…. every day at the same time I go to that shop for a smoke. I always hope to see Mani, so that I invite him home and introduce to Rekha & Rhea as the best bowler I have faced and the best batsman I have bowled to. But, I haven`t yet been given a second chance.

Maybe, the second hand, white Ambassador is keeping him busy.