Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fired before Hired!

This story is about December 1 - the first day of placements of IIT Delhi.

For the first time in the year, I had woken up before 7 am. For the first time in my four years of engineering, I had taken a bath so early. Other than occasional shivers, slight panting and feeble 'I-am-so-cool' feeling, I experienced numbness all over. It was the day of interview. Job interview. My interview with a major consulting company was scheduled at 8 o' clock in the morning. In such a cold weather, it sounded pretty insane, but my arse was willing to go through any torture as long as it promised me enough money to buy bread, butter and a BMW at the end of the day. The company was reputed having many credentials and worldwide standings by which I was completely wooed. Besides, it offered the highest package in the campus - a whopping 19 lacs. So, at 7.00 am sharp, I baffled myself by being completely suited-up, much like Barney, except for the awesomeness. I rushed to the interview room, after having completed three circles of agarbatti in front the miniature Saibaba sculpture in my room praying for success.

Other interviewees, some of them my batch-mates, were waiting already. All of them smelt quite good, most of them, who otherwise wouldn't bathe for weeks, didn't seem to belong to an IIT, but rather a model hunt. Envy greeted me before the interviewer. After ten minutes, I was allotted an interviewer, a Sardarji whose name I don't exactly remember. His seemed quite scary. No, not by the face or voice, but by his serious walk. He advanced towards me as if he was gonna give me a pugaree-butt, making me retrace my steps at first. But soon sense hit me back. If I run away, I'd lose the job. In absolute cold and lull, I tried to make some noise with my newly bought Hush-Puppies and advanced towards him. Soon, a firm hand-shake took place under the shadow of the cloudy sky. Firmer from my side, just to let him know that I was not scared. Or rather let me know that I wasn't.

'Hello, I'm Harsh,' I said, in a crisp and soft voice.

'Hi.' I waited for him to continue, while we advanced towards the slaughter house. He didn't.

'Your good name please,' I asked. Being curious is considered good, isn't it?

'Hmmm.' That was all that he said.

At this point of time, three separate thoughts swayed in my head simultaneously.
1. Either he had not heard my question. Quite possible.
2. He could have forgotten his name. He might be trying to recollect.
3. He didn't like me asking his good name. Stern interviewer, you see?

Okay, so I was lost in my mind and in his 'hmmm', when he opened the door to the torture room. What I saw left me parched. Those three thoughts merged with each other and brought me at my most confused state.

'Harsh, have a seat,' Hmmm said. Let's call him Hmmm, for ease. I was glad to know that he could actually frame sentences.

'Thanks a lot.' I grabbed the opposite chair, which was as cold as ice. With my butts frozen, I felt like a scapegoat in the making. I was wearing cotton trousers for the first time in my college life. I tried to make myself comfortable, but soon his serious face espoused its sadistic course.

'So, you're?' Hmmm shot the trigger straightaway. I was startled.

'I am... I am Harsh Snehanshu, student of Engineering Physics, 4th year...'

'No, no, don't go ahead. I just forgot your name. So Harsh, what do you like?' Hmmm asked.

'Definitely not a creepy Sardar in the chilly morning!' I thought.

'Hmmm...' I said and began thinking in a similar manner to Hmmm. Despite my liking for Hmmm, he didn't seem pleased. I continued, 'I like writing. I like business. And, I like people.'

'What's the order of liking?' He asked.

'The reverse. People, business and writing.' I said. The first big mistake.

'When it's your first choice, then why did it come at last?'

'I saved the best for the last,' I tried to please him with my wit. He didn't know appreciation.

'Hmmm.' He said. I think he liked his name too much. His eyes were deadly.

'Okay, so tell me about this the-witty's-hit dot com that you've mentioned in your resume?' Hmmm asked. He wanted more wit. No problem, I had plenty.

'So, is my start-up, which I co-founded around 6 months ago. It caters to people who are good with one-liners. As a writer, I realized that there was no platform which promotes common-man's basic creativity of crafting quotable one-liners and no way to popularize or gain incentives for the grassroot level of creativity that every common man possesses...In this...'

'Interesting? You're a writer too...what have you written?' Hmmm developed some interest. His scary eyes turned a bit green.

'I've written a novel, titled "Oops! 'I' fell in love!" which I got published in Aug, 2009. Besides that, my stories have been published in various books of the Chicken Soup for the soul series,' I said, rather proudly.

'Is your novel autobiographical?'

'No, it's fictitious. Autobiographies tend to be boring, you know.' My confidence was sky-rocketing. A day 1 job was on the cards.

'Why are you interested in consulting?' Hmmm asked. He was good at changing topics.

The rocket encountered a sudden drag. 'Hmmm, consulting is a field which would offer me great insight into the field of business and people, which I'm really passionate about. It would give me a chance to....blah blah blah ... tell me to stop licking your boot, you sucker...blah blah blah. Or at least smile. Your serious face is killing me...blah blah.'

He looked convinced. Boot-licking, who doesn't like that - that too at the start of the day?

'You're a writer as well as an entrepreneur. And you're making money as well from both the places. If I'd been at your place, I would have pursued the venture full-time. Why don't you go full-time?'

'I am going to go full-time. I am sitting here just to please my Mom.' I uttered, irritably. The second mistake. That turned out to be quite heavy.

'Thanks for the interview. Great to meet you.'

'Hmmm,' I said, in a contemplative tone. I stood up and said, 'It's the-witty-shit dot com, by the way.' For the first time, his serious face broke into a smile. It reeked of sarcasm. The serious face was much better. I banged the door in frustration before leaving and didn't sit for the subsequent job interviews.

My Mom couldn't have been more pleased. She did not talk to me for a month after December 1. #ConditionSeriousHai

P.S. If this story seems boring, it's autobiographical. If not, then it's fictitious. You know what it is.

Written for Indiblogger's contest #ConditionSeriousHai by Cadbury 5 Star 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ishiguro, please call me home

The first time I read Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go, I couldn't let go of the novel. Its limpid prose weaved a literary world that I had never experienced in my life before. I wanted to meet Ishiguro, to learn from him in person, to write like him someday. Little did I know that his book's influence would soon prod me to follow his footsteps, by aspiring to become a part of the programme that nurtured him as a writer.

I am 24 now, having been writing for over six years. In the past six years, I have published four books. Three of them have been in the genre of light fiction, and the fourth one, a serious fiction. Over the years, my reading has exposed me to many such masters, from Amis to Barnes to Rushdie. The more I read them and about them, the more I understood that honing the craft of writing can best happen in the company of good writers, something that all of them had access to.

Last year, while travelling across India, I attended the Delhi launch of the book Calcutta by the acclaimed writer Amit Chaudhari. Chaudhari mentioned, during his conversation, that he taught prose writing at the Creative Writing programme at the University of East Anglia, the same programme that polished the craft of my favorite writer, Kazuo Ishiguro. I came back home and read about the UEA's school of literature and drama in detail. Reported to be one of the most reputed writing programmes in the world, having renowned faculties and alumni, it sent me into an aspirational frenzy. I wanted to be a part of it.

The entire 2012 and half 2013, I travelled across India with the motive to grow as a writer. It was a conscious step to broaden my experiences of life, to understand which stories are worth telling by discovering India and a little bit of myself. This journey had a life-changing impact on me. It made me realize how little I knew, and gave me the time to read more. Two years later, last December, as I was weaving those strands of my journey into a travel book, I felt a dire need of a mentor, of a circle of writer friends who could critique my writings, give me suggestions to polish it. And there was just one such programme in my mind, the one which bred my idol Ishiguro. For a Japanese writer now living in the UK, Ishiguro is a living testimony to how welcoming Great Britain is in promoting literature, arts and drama. I checked the website of the University of East Anglia. To my surprise there was a fellowship offering for the South Asian writers.

That I have already applied to the Creative Writing programme for writers, the Charles Pick Fellowship, by the University of East Anglia shouldn't come as a surprise to you. Holding my favorite novel Never Let Me Go, expectantly waiting for the results of the programme, I am just wishing: Ishiguro, please call me home.

Written for indiblogger's contest: Knowledge is Great