Saturday, December 24, 2016

It's Almost the End of the Year (Guest Post)

“I have shed my skin so many times.
The graveyards must be full of all the people I used to be”

It’s almost the end of the year. Can you feel it yet?
The tip of my nose goes pink sometimes and my eyebrows are so frozen I can’t even be surprised. Literally. Everyone’s getting their red and shimmer out. Buble’s singing out of every nook and cranny, his fondue voice making you mentally sway as you make your way to yet another get-together. Every house has a Christmas tree outside, its plastic branches decorated with leftover disco balls and little figurines collected by children too young to have memories. Everyone’s slacking just a bit more at work; eating just a bit more dessert, drinking just a bit more wine, feeling just a bit more in love or just a whole lot more alone. It’s almost the end of the year. Can you feel it yet?
It’s nearly time to decide who the new you will be. Walls are coming down and being built everywhere; some more quietly than others. People are talking to people, eager to rewrite beginnings or endings, looking for peace of mind like it was promised. We sit with our bundles of painful memories, not letting them roll out of our eyes and onto our cheeks, ready to learn from them and dispose them off like soiled items, only to realize that we barely even remember the things we never thought we’d forget. As someone famously said, the future is really that forgiving. Can you feel it yet?
There’s suddenly more cookies and rum cake and adipose tissue in life than there is intent. We all have these plan-less goals for ourselves, neatly tucked away in corners of our subservient minds, waiting for a fresh calendar to fix ourselves top down because right now we’re too busy treating our hearts as metaphors. When’s the last time you actually put your hand to your chest and felt your heartbeat? It’s a powerful thing. It makes you so aware of every passing second, so awake to the urgency of accomplishment. You begin to wonder what it was that made you think you had time. Can you feel it yet?
You think back to the times you used to think back to those moments. From another time, another place. It doesn’t make you smile and it doesn’t make you sad. It just makes you look away now. Love left your body, momentarily, yet long enough for you to realize that you need to leave some people behind in this year. We’ve spent too much time decorating our lives with leftover disco balls and little figurines, collected over time in more ways than one, as day by day we grow a bit more envious of those children too young to have memories. Can you feel it yet?
It’s almost the end of the year and you’re praying that by the end of the next you’ll have that job. That waistline. That girl. It’s what you prayed for the last year and the year before last. It’s what you’ll pray for the next year and the year after that. A different job. A smaller waistline. Another girl. Another cliché.
This year, I want to read a bucket list through. I want to really understand the colour purple. I want to cook pad thai and a mean little key lime pie. I want to swim in a new sea. I want to be an art parasite. I want to be everyone I used to be and more. There’s just so much room, now that it’s empty. I want to be the people I wanted to be with, because I always believed in forever.
I wish all of you peace and so much love. I hope you bask in happy vibes and drink mellow dreams and if you must break, I pray his kisses gave you butterflies as they came and strong art as they left.
Zen. 2016.
This piece has been contributed by a friend whose writing inspires me to hone my skills every day. Ayeesha Khanna at Lazy and The Overthinker.
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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Love, Maths aur Dhokha 2

There were a lot of things I wanted to be while growing up. I wanted to be an ice-cream man, the Police, Shahrukh Khan, and an astronaut… And, if I were five years old today, Elon Musk. Which, what-the-heck, I want to be even at the age of twenty-six.

I received a pat on the back when I spoke about ambitious career goals, like Police, maybe. But this one fine day, I mentioned “Chartered Accountant” and the pat on the back turned into a chocolate-in-hand or two. To my CA parents, they no longer had a son to raise, but a Partner. *percussion beat for impact*

To become a CA required academic rigor and training. Mine started while I was in KG-C of Mrs. Marie Chaturvedi’s class at St. Columba’s School. While Mrs. Chaturvedi would be teaching us how to count on our fingers, The Mother had started her off-site curriculum on math tables. It was like the real-life version of Khan Academy, where Khan would bear linkages with all the incorrect stereotypes it has been associated with in the past decade. Third-degree at the Ahujastan Base Camp meant one thappad for every half-mark deduction on a test. Even though my mum never executed it with the kind of religiousness she said she would, the mere fact that you know there is a third-degree which could be unleashed on you can make you pee your pants, or lose your hair (in my case, the latter).

Such was the terror of scoring a ten-on-ten that I remember rushing back home one day, crying inconsolably because I had scored just a six-on-six. On being told that it was just the same as a 10/10, I was confused why the teacher would be so mean as to mess with the children’s heads by giving just a 6/6. It was quite like the fanatic’s version of fighting for a ten-on-ten because another religion somewhere deserved just a six-on-six to satiate his false sense of entitlement.

To become a good CA required one to be good with numbers, and The Maatey would leave no stone unturned to up my math game. It would start with post-dinner, late-night saer when my parents would walk with me in the middle, holding one of my hands on either side. I quite felt a sense of pride when I would see other kids with only one of their hands held by a parent as they walked on the edge of their parents-and-child late-night walking trio. It was only when a few math puzzles were thrown at me that I realized I was more of Dharmendra in Sholay, with both his hands tied up by Gabbar Singh and Sambha. The ‘Kitney Aadmi The’ question would no longer be that simple.

‘If fourteen people went on a trip to Vaishno Devi and only four could fit into an auto-rickshaw from Katra to the Darbar, how many men fit into the last auto-rickshaw in that fleet?’

As a few stray dogs would pass us by during those walks, I wish I had watched Sholay in time to use a reference like, “In kutton ke aage mat poochhna” to get away. But I was not just tied up like Dharmendra but also expected to perform the Basanti dance. Double jeopardy. Or as I call it, Two-CA-Parents.

Other modules of the training curriculum included asking the subject to recite tables from twelve to nineteen while the subject was in second grade. If I could express my feelings as openly as I would want to, I would tell you that I hate the tables of thirteen and seventeen to this age. Maybe Gauri Shinde could make a Dear Zindagi 2 on my life as well.

Among many other things from my childhood, I fondly remember the weekend trips we took to nearby hill-stations and Rishikesh with my cousins. Operations Research and its application became a part of my life since Circa 1999. The objective function to optimize was making the road-trip as enjoyable as possible. The constraints I worked with were whether to travel in my maasi’s car and listen to her latest collection of Bhajan Kirtan Volume 2.0, or have my cousins travel with us and have Maatey-shree throw us googlies like ‘If it takes us 4 hours to get to Haridwar by car and it takes maasi 4.5, for how long should we stop at Cheetal Grand for a plate of pakode so that maasi can catch up in time even if she drives with a twenty-percent increase in speed.’

To this, my cousins and I would respond with silence and The Maternal Supreme would turn around to see all of us sleeping in the back seat. She would turn to my dad and complain about how we’re all ‘chaalu’ and just acting like we’ve dozed off only to get away with answering such ‘fun’ questions. I would hear that and still not budge. If at all, I would just open my mouth a little to add drama to the act. Only till the AC’s direct airflow would parch my lips and I would have to carefully close my mouth to take a big gulp of saliva, hoping father dearest wouldn’t notice the change in the rear view mirror. Such were the risks of breaking the act.

Enter ninth grade and CBSE slapped my face with trigonometry, geometry and more such Math-ke-haath-mein-Sarthak-Ahuja-ki-puppetry. By then, The Mother was proud to have raised a child who did not need any coaching or supervision to make him study math. Apparently.

I was left to the misery of dealing with finding the degree of an angle in the drawing of a heptapod in an octagon using theta or some such, only to be followed by calculus two years later. The trick of converting math problems into monetary terms and solving, something that my mum had trained me to do over the years, didn’t help anymore. Apparently, you can’t assume the integration symbol to be the one for dollar and run simple arithmetic over it.

Picking commerce in high school over the sciences came as a messiah. I can only imagine what it would be like if I were the age of five today. Apparently, IIT-JEE coaching now begins at the age of seven. Thankfully, with all my fear and consequent hatred for math, the only mathematical challenge I had to deal with at age seven was summing the digits on the number-plate of every car zooming by in less than two seconds. As a horcrux of Shakuntala Devi, I now do arithmetic for a living.

Now just so that all of you engineers who come for an MBA program know, a CA is not a mathematical genius. He is just someone who did not want to prepare for IIT-JEE, who does simple addition, subtraction, division, multiplication on a Casio calculator and then comes up with ways for you to save taxes, run audit assignments and go to knowledge building seminars only because if a man pays Rs. 1100 for attending a seminar, how will he maximize his return if the speaker is boring and there is more than just Dal Makhni in the main course? The only mathematics trick we can offer apart from the Rule of 72 is to think in money terms and units of Dal Makhni. Fine, thank you.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Everyone at ISB Needs a Hug

It’s finally the time of the year at ISB when you can no longer complain about not being hit on. Placement season has hit everyone, and how! If you’d call this pun ‘sad’, I’ll just blame it on the aura of the campus for having rubbed off a little too much on me. As someone who is looking to get back to his business after the session ends in April, I often get to hear people say that my life seems “sorted” and that they’re jealous of how I don’t have to go through this whole grind. While there may be other realities to the seeming appearance of being sorted, I’ll leave that topic for another day. For now, I just want to tell you how I feel as an independent spectator, detached from the placement hullabaloo.

Recruiters have been releasing shortlists left, right and center. A common complaint seems to be that the same bunch has been getting shortlists for multiple companies, like their resumes have some secret sauce that tickles the HR managers’ taste buds. Candidates with over a decade of experience, who thought they had an edge over the inexperienced lot, feel emasculated. The ones with the base minimum two years of experience finally feel a sense of acknowledgment in some form, as roles that focus on lesser experience seem to be more popular. Further, those in the mid-experience age bracket feel like it would’ve been better for them to be on either side but in the middle ground that they find themselves in. And, don’t even get me started about how dejected the Chartered Accountants here feel.

There’s new found respect for people who have multiple calls for interviews. And there are hushed tones for those who remain “shortlist virgins”, as a close friend puts it. Having realized that GPA is not the only factor attracting interview calls, there is a new sense of hierarchy which has now developed, bracketing people as top performers based on the number of interviews they’re scheduled to sit for and their respective belongingness with case-prep groups for the McKinseys and the Parthenons.

But as I see it, everyone who made it to ISB has a wonderful story to tell. They’ve all been star performers all their lives, and there has not been a single resume that I have seen and not been thoroughly impressed with. I’m blamed for being loose with my compliments, but I say this with as much sincerity as I exude when I tell you that I feel like the dumbest person in this lot of 900-odd. Like, I almost just made it by chance and don’t deserve to be here. And I must tell you that if you haven’t received a shortlist yet, it doesn’t make you a lesser mortal than another. I wish with all my heart that all 900 people at ISB get placed on Day-1. If not, then hopefully all do by Day-2. But even if you don’t, I really hope that you won’t let these parameters define your self-worth. It’s a never-ending rat race, and honestly, your success does not depend on how early you get placed.

This may appear like a sermon, and you probably think I can’t empathize, but I say this as someone who has battled self-worth issues almost all his life. I say this as a person whose life revolves around the ritual of giving himself positive reaffirmations in the mirror every morning, lest he breaks down under his own demons of self-doubt. And, it will kill me to know that any of you would have to ever go through such an ordeal.

I see my friends almost devoid of energy, trying to pull themselves through what seems like a never-ending trial called ‘B-school life’. I can sense the glumness in the environment, as I’m sure you can too. It’s a trying time. But can you blame the lid or the container if they can’t seem to match? It’s just not the right fit, at times. And I would just hope that all my friends find the strength to sail through this period while they try to stumble upon the right fit. A lot of people came with the expectation to bag a pay package of above the last year’s declared median annual salary. It may again seem preachy to say this, but don’t measure your worth with the salary package you get. If you’ve ever been through heartbreak, you would know that no matter how fulfilled life may be on every other front, it just takes that one void to make you feel like you’ve earned nothing in life. With this, I wish that you all, more importantly, find a more fulfilling life with your respective present and to-be families.

And please don’t worry about people judging your intelligence, skills or worth based on the monetary compensation you gain right out of ISB. You know that you’re definitely worth much more than an amount any goddamn company in the world will assign to you. And, I promise that you’ll have my highest respect for what you are because I swear to God, I have never, ever, seen a more talented bunch in my life as I have witnessed at ISB.

I can assure you that if you ever feel the need for some external comparison to feel validated, I shall well-deservedly stand beneath you, where I rightfully already am. Wishing you, my friend, all the best for the placement season ahead. I wish you get the job of your choice. And if not, I hope you find the courage to know that there is much more to the definition of success than whatever happens in the next three months.

P.S. Available for celebratory and consolatory hugs during Day-1, and beyond.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Call for Reviewing a Consulting Resume

Placement season has kicked-off at our B-school in its full glory, and our good friend from the on-campus cafe finally fell prey to the FOMO. He's designed a resume for consulting opportunities and would love it if you could help him improve on it with your extremely valuable feedback.

The primary suggestion from his last review was: "You have a lot of meat on your resume, which is not coming out. Also, thoda aur quantify karo!"


Mukhdev Singh, Mukh-e


Harcourt Butler Sr. Secondary Boys’ School
AISSCE - CBSE Examination | Major: Commerce (2012 – 2013)

Elected President – Student Association of Conflict Management, Class of 2013
- Led a team of 15+ handpicked student body representatives to successfully resolve ~32 inter-school conflicts through use of group negotiation tactics such as power of threat and displaying unparalleled physical capabilities
- Decreased conflict resolution time by over 50% through avoidance of third-party interference by assigning 3 neutral venues for on-ground resolution

Mentored 350+ students on biological reproductive functions through graphical representations at breeding grounds for STDs such as public bathrooms, thus contributing to health education and gender sensitization

Provided pro-bono consulting to ~8 small scale entrepreneurs within 2 km radius of the school on expansion of product portfolio from only tobacco products to goods that would meet the changing needs of the ageing target customer segment


ChuChu’s Cafe | Manager – Nocturnal Operations and Client Relationship Management (Apr, 2014 – Present)

Strategy & Operations Management
- Increased carbohydrates retention rate by 2X in 70+ customers through facilitating consistently growing nocturnal sales over a period of 10 months

- Reduced lead time of order delivery by 50% through implementation of a pilot program requiring customer and delivery executive to meet at product delivery stations designated at the mid-points of 3 delivery routes

- Saved lives of 260+ poultry members through implementing of a post 3 am customer denial strategy, consequently promoting consumption of vegetarian products and furthering the organization’s green initiative

- Instituted a manual assembly chain capable of handling 5 orders per capita every 10 minutes, thereby saving INR 1 Million in avoided capital investment in mechanized technology

- Changed sugar to mocktail syrup ratio from 0.5:1.5 to 1:1 thereby saving annual direct material costs by INR 0.1 Million

Marketing & Brand Development
- Repackaged existing products as bundled offerings, marketed during sporting events with team-based branding to extract a price premium of 100%

- Improved customer perception of indigenous items such as ‘Rajma Chawal’ by rebranding them as ‘Mexican Chipotle Rice’ with minimal change in ingredients, thereby capturing ~35% of a 5-star competitor’s target customers on each day of implementation

- Designed and executed an ‘Exam Time Breakfast Campaign’ 14 times p.a. to increase breakfast revenues by 3X by capitalizing on customer vulnerabilities

- Offered only 2 games for play while displaying empty boxes of 15+ board games in a locked cabinet, thus increasing youth-appeal of the brand while saving annual costs of INR 0.05 Million

- Improved customer relations by ‘liking’ 100% posts of ~85% customers on social media in line with the personal relationship building mission statement of the organization leading to increased customer loyalty translating into top-line contribution of over INR 2.5 Million p.a. 


- Published Whitepapers: Authored a whitepaper on orders delivered in a day, published in the order manual of the organization, forming the benchmark for accounting across various retail outlets of the company

- Participated in 600+ street plays across 3 cities, creating social awareness about incestuous tendencies among peers, vocalizing them openly to sensitize the local population about this widespread social evil

- Considered best player out of ~1200 males across age groups in the tri-city of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula in a self-conducted primary research that rated participants on charm and ability to engage and influence members of the opposite gender, thus contributing towards gender equity through generating benefits for all genders  


Please remember that this is a humor blog and has no resemblance to any person, living or dead.

Our actual on-campus all-night cafe attendant, Sukh-e, is an absolute sweetheart and possibly the favorite of ~89% people on campus, including those who have their significant others in close proximity for this one year. The remaining 11% are those who don't get out of their rooms and have probably never seen the light of the day. Sukh-e's picture has been used with his permission.

Also, I must add that this man is one of the most loved people on the ISB campus and everyone from the PGP Class of 2016 and 2017 can vouch for the dedication with which he serves us all and performs his duties, always with an endearing smile :)

Sukh-e, count this as your belated birthday gift. We love you! "To the moon and back." Or any other such idiom that girls on my facebook feed or our Operations Director - GSB Core, Co 2017 use on the PGP WhatsApp group to express their love.


Credit must also be given to Anand MS who came up with the idea of working on such a document during a 3 am conversation this morning. This guy is one of the wittiest figs on this campus, along with apartment mate extraordinaire for the year, Aravindh Kamakshinadha. These pseudo-elite TamBrahms, I tell you!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

How to Punctuate Your Expression of Love

Don’t keep that expression of love hanging without punctuation. Without punctuation, it’s open ended – waiting for life to decide the course this companionship will take. Almost as if we hold no control over what might happen of us, the lack of a punctuation mark leaves too much ambiguity. It’s as if you make a statement but lack the courage to commit to it. It’s not a stickler for grammar who commands this, but a pedant of the science of you.

Don’t punctuate your expression of love with a comma. A comma grants you the power to add more recipients to the expression. Exclusivity is probably the emotion’s greatest asset, and I would hate to imagine that you think it’s depreciable. The comma comes as a precursor to the ‘but’. You say you love me, but I can’t take a condition that would dilute the intensity of just those three words. With a ‘but’, it’s never the same.

Don’t punctuate your expression of love with a colon. It’s as if you’ll explain why you do. Don’t love me for my looks or my education or for the way I talk. Love me for the whole of me, unquestioned and unexplained. I wish for it to be a love inexplicable, beyond the realm of logic and reason. Emotions don’t see reason; they just drive all your actions straight. I don’t want to know why you do what you do to me. Don’t explain and put me to shame.

Don’t punctuate your expression of love with a dash. You’re either again trying to explain your emotions, or separating two clauses apart. I would hate for this to be associated with a symbolism for separation. You could hyphenate, yes. But let that be just our names together. And, let others call us with our joint name. Just don’t punctuate your expression of love with a dash. It’s discomforting and out of place.

Don’t punctuate your expression of love with a question mark, for reasons I would hate to explain. Don’t use an exclamation to punctuate it either, for what surprises you now may not be as amusing three days from now. Don’t punctuate your expression of love with an asterisk – like you’re explaining a mistake in the footnote of the biography you will write someday. And, don’t punctuate it with a tilde at all. It’s not an approximation of love that I seek.

Punctuate your expression of love with a period. It’s sure, deterministic, undoubted and unperturbed. Use a full stop and explain no further. Show me that the expression won’t change. I know that a period can be changed to an ellipsis and the course of the future may change. But in this moment, at this time, let the power of those three words remain.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Early Appeal to the MBA Class of '17

ISB is a thrilling place. It’s a new experience. For me, personally, it’s the first time that I’m away from home; away from family.

Right before I came here in April, my friends threw me a farewell party. They asked me what I was looking forward to most in the year ahead. The answer was easy – living away from family for the first time. I was looking forward to being independent, finally living the hostel life, and of course, making two-hundred-and-eighty-five new friends for life.

Well, I have found friends; a few people who genuinely, sincerely care. Friends who have taken care of me while I’ve been sick, held me when I’ve broken down (maybe once, yes, embarrassingly), and those who have laughed at the stupidest of my jokes not because I was funny, but because they knew I was looking for a reaction from them.

If you can relate to this, I would say that you’re extremely, blessed by the Lord, lucky. I’ve been lucky too. But among all of this, we tend to forget how being alone and being lonely are two completely different things. Between all the groups and squads that we see around, there are more people wanting to feel accepted into a family, a gang, a group of friends that they could call their own.

Much against my expectation of the place, I know how many of our peers crave to feel accepted without having to make as much effort as they are making to fit in. I don’t know if it’s about living away from home for the first time or the extreme competitiveness of the place that gets to you, but I myself have had more than a fair number of bouts of loneliness. I would never have admitted it here, had it not been for the number of people I have met in the past three weeks who have confessed of feeling the same, despite their happy exterior and so called “groups” that most others identify them with. I’ve seen people confess this with tears in their eyes, late in the night when no one has been around. I have heard people confess this during their late night walks around the campus. I have witnessed these confessions in the confinement of the quads, with sobs almost suppressed for them to not escape the walls outside of which they hold a happy front.

I would never have admitted to my own vulnerability, had it not been this undertone that so silently spreads across campus, surprisingly unnoticed, but definitely deeply and very personally felt. I don’t know how I have been a witness to so many confessions. I can’t say.

I would want you to know that there are so many people here who may be looking at your group from afar, wishing they had found friends like yours, hoping that maybe one or two terms down, they might find some company in misery. You may not be aware of how most of them feel because they don’t show it. A few others may have already been labelled as people who try too hard and are therefore uncomfortable to be around. Somewhere, behind this whole attempt to build perspective on life and business, we’ve lost the ability to see within people’s hearts, wait and make conversation with someone new and at least get to know them. Maybe they won’t have the courage to tell you how lonely they feel, but may be, for that half an hour, a conversation that you make would be all they need to hold on and keep hope alive for the next eight months to come.

I am admitting to my feelings today not because I need a vent to deal with it, but because I hope this will give courage to people who are trying to deal with it, to admit to it without shame. I also hope this will make the others aware of their duty towards the ISB community, and bring in a little more human touch.

Also, my feelings aside, I would like to thank Ashwin Chandrasekher. I cannot begin to explain how thankful I am to have found this person. He has been my anchor here. I hope everyone on this campus finds a friend like you.

Image Source: Aravind Balagi Prasad

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What it feels like to be a Dumb Child

“He’s the most talkative boy in class, but also really smart, and my favorite.”

It’s difficult being one of the top scorers in class, and lucky. Definitely lucky. To begin with, there’s a high chance that you have parents who really care for your brilliance in academic pursuits, while also stuffing a buffet plate of extra-curricular activities down your throat. And then, there’s the diligence with which you prepare for class tests or exams – mostly out of the fear of not making the parental Shiva open his third eye. For a top scorer, life begins with a fear of meeting expectations, first of the Mata-Pita who believe their child is an incarnation of Vishnu; and then, a few years later, expectations of everyone around, which the protagonist will disguise in the words “expectations from self”.

While this may sound supremely immodest, I have lived my share of being an “intelligent boy” over the years, mostly by accident. All my cousins were asked to be as smart as I was, when the only basis of evaluating smartness was a figure assigned to you by the Board of Secondary Education at a time when you were already bored of secondary education. The sibling would be given a hard time with multiple applications requesting emulation of the elder brother’s behavior of a susheel, adarshvaadi and ten on ten scoring individual. Teachers in school found it easy to nominate students for council positions just like people in the neighborhood found it easy to nominate me as a friend for their children’s social circles. The perks were there, of course, as was a belief in the golden rule that hard work paid off.

The hard work gradually translated to guilt when I grew up and realized that I was doing better at exams by studying on the last day, while a few of my friends put in much more effort, studying for days and still wouldn’t manage to touch a rank worthy of a discussion. The guilt would make me work a little harder, in an attempt to justify to self that I probably deserved the kind of academic “success” I had so far seemed to accidentally achieve. People would come up to me for advice and inspiration, and I would silently thank my parents for having pushed me enough through the years to help develop those mental faculties, while I doled out life advice like it was a batch of fresh, puffy bhature from the local sweet shop on a Sunday morning.

However, the academic façade aside, I would feel like an absolute fool for not having any interest in political happenings around the world, being so non-opinionated about things that seemed to matter in this age and time, sucking monkey balls at Math, and generally, being an over-emotional goofball who was far away from achieving the more important goals in life, like being “street smart”. But I would hold the blanket of academic scores closer, hoping the shroud wouldn’t fall off in a gust of wind and make everyone realize how stupid I really am, and so undeserving of all the things that so happened. The impostor syndrome, clearly, is not a gender specific disorder.

Circa 2016 brought with itself an opportunity to spend a year with some of the country’s best brains at one of India’s top B-schools, also known as a parallel universe so confined in these few self-sustaining acres that the world has literally been crushed to a patch of land that I temporarily call home. With the rigorous curriculum, I feel literally cut off from life outside of this campus, while ironically gaining wider perspective about global business in such confinement.

As one accidental entry among a group of deserving peers, I now find myself scrounging for an opportunity to excel, while the others sprint through academic rigor and performance with such elan. The shroud finally slips and in all honesty, I feel more than judged on a number of occasions.

I constantly seem to live in the anxiety of people judging me on my academic grades, and disregarding all value that any other skill could bring. Even though I know people have better channels to invest their leisure thoughts in, it makes me wonder if this anxiety is what every child goes through who feels he is unable to meet their parents’ expectations of academic outperformance.

I try really hard to grasp concepts requiring high quantitative abilities with as much swiftness as my peers from engineering backgrounds do. I acknowledge how their training in quantitative subjects over the years gives them an edge in this regard, and I should not beat myself about it. But it makes me wonder how much a person’s experiences and learnings over the years contribute to their intellectual placement in the social hierarchy. It clearly does, and it’s sad when I realize that outside of this campus, the world is brutal enough to quickly pass judgment and call someone stupid while completely disregarding the various tangibles and intangibles one may have been blessed with as a matter of pure luck, which may have led to that academic advantage.

Having underperformed on one criterion that is of prime importance at this “school”, the blow to my confidence permeates to other areas of my life. I question my worth in this place. I question my ability to make a difference in anyone’s life. I wonder, and then I, at times, succumb to the more comfortable yet exceedingly difficult to perform activity of letting go. While I find my way through this place and attempt to make my own little space, I wonder how difficult it must be to go through the same outside of this confinement, when the population size is large and thankfully more heterogeneous.

As I feel gratitude for the plethora of opportunities this place provides, I feel more thankful for the learning I will take back in terms of valuing each individual for their strengths beyond parameters of academic performance, monetary growth, social popularity or other such criteria that tend to give us a sense of superiority over others.

As a “dumb child” that the society I currently see would seem to call me, I can assure you that I have tried and I will continue to do so. But I would need the world to encourage me enough so that I find my own criterion to outperform on during my time here on this planet. I would hope you will continue to do so regardless of the size of your planet.

"He's the most talkative guy in class, and also my favorite."

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Serendipity (Guest Post)

My father met my mother at a bus stop.

He had been late that day. He’d gotten late because a pigeon had entered his apartment and he had had to shoo it out before he left. How fate works, he muses, every time he tells us the story. So after a terrible morning, he had left home cursing the Universe, a young adult travelling to get to his first job with sleep on his mind and a calculator in his hand.

At the bus stop he saw an entirely different set of people today, being there himself an hour later than usual. He saw a girl standing with her friend, in a long green skirt and with a flower in her hair. Not a gajra that would hang by a plait the way it did on most Indian women. No, her hair was open and flying all over the place and the flower was pivoted right above her ear. Hibiscus, he says. But mom swears it was a rose. Anyway, it didn’t serve any real purpose except to attract his attention.

“The bus reaches by 10 everyday, I don’t know why it’s so late today!” she whined, half-smiling. It was 10.10 then, dad says. And then, he says, she looked at him and smiled, oblivious to the light emanating from her soul and the little hipster city she single handedly created inside the ventricles of his rural geeky heart. I think he meant he fell in love but it seemed too abrupt a decision, so he decided to go with being poignant.

I’d seen pretty girls smile at me before; he says when we accuse him of being easy to please. He says this was different. How?  We ask.  Oh I don’t know. I just wanted to see her smile again. And again. Forever.

And as it happened, for weeks and weeks he’d leave home late and work late just to see my mother at the bus every day. He wouldn’t talk to her or even make eye-contact. He’d just wait for her to smile. And she did, his 50 year old cheeks still blush as he tells us, Every day she’d turn and smile and make my mornings beautiful.

Finally one morning it was raining and my mother’s friend was absent. She saw my father standing under an umbrella and asked if she could share it. It’s not like he offered it or anything, he was so shy, my mother usually likes to join in the story at this point, after a few minutes of blushing and ‘oh-you’ing. That’s when they spoke for the first time, and my father learned that mother would cut morning class every day, and so he asked her to attend it so he could go to work on time. Then onwards, she’d catch the 9 am bus with him every morning.

And he’d buy me a rose everyday for my hair, mum says as if to wrap up the story.

They narrate this so often, I begin to think they are trying to make a point. I finally ask them after one of their routine Sunday morning narrations of how they met, what is it they are trying to tell me?

Wait for someone who’ll put effort into you, says Dad.

Mom smiles and takes me to the kitchen. That’s true, she says, I didn’t even notice him much to begin with, but I’d see his eyes light up when I smiled at him, so I smiled at him. I knew he was getting late. Every day. But once I’d smiled his way he’d stop fidgeting with his pocket pen and checking the time and just sit up straight and beam at nothingness. But even though the effort bit is true, that’s not my intention of telling you the story.

Well what is it? I ask.

She smiles her miracle of a smile at me and says; Never touch anything with half your heart.

This post appeared originally on Ayeesha Khanna's blog here, and has been reproduced with permission. She is one of my favorite bloggers and there's some beautiful writing on her blog: Lazy and the Overthinker

Sunday, June 5, 2016


I don’t really know if preparing for a loss insulates your pain from the loss when it actually occurs. With all the men in my family bald, and my dad holding on to a hairline that receded not over a few inches, I always knew I would grow up to be a bald man. It was difficult to imagine how one loses one’s hair little by little, almost at a pace which shows only in timelines defined by images printed on Kodak paper. And as a school going kid, I never knew how I would deal with it when the inevitable happens. I just knew that it would happen someday. Like all things that you expect would happen in your life – marriage, kids, family, job, responsibilities, baldness.

I remember writing the twelfth grade pre-Board exams, when I ran my fingers through my thick mane and around seven-eight strands of hair fell on the examination sheet. I brushed it off like it was eraser residue. There were bigger issues to take care of, like admissions in University of Delhi. The bigger things seemed sorted less than a couple of months from then, with spring and monsoon and autumn. But my biological functions seemed to have developed a special relationship with autumn, holding on to it like it was its first love, and then showing its love for the season through a representation of it on my head. Imitation is the best form of flattery, it seems.

I lost hair at a pace that was not really visible to others possibly because I was never lucky enough to have someone else take a shower with me. The Dadi understood my pain though. Palms full of almond oil would be massaged onto my head every night. And, sarson ka tel. Then some Amla. Then some Citridora. Olive oil. Chameli. Cooking oil too, maybe. I could never tell.

The Mother had her own set of remedies. Spoons full of almond powder with pepper and sugar. Then I was put on a diet of lauki juice and Baba Ramdev’s nail polish routine with Anulom Vilom, Kapaal Bhaati and a couple of other nasal exercises that made me sound like I could be the brand ambassador for Hawkin’s new silent pressure cookers – the ones that come with whistles that can only hiss. But again, that’s wishful thinking for a balding man.

My parents realized soon after that the only way to calm me down was to take me to a dermatologist. The first and the best thing that the doctor suggested was not to put any more oil on my head. I was prescribed a couple of tablets, a few supplements and Minoxidil. That sweet little potion made by the devil. Minoxidil.

Soon, the Dadi’s daily routine included questioning the doctor’s qualifications because who is stupid enough to not suggest sarson ka tel to cure baldness. The fact that my grandfather is bald and still polishes his pate with sarson ka tel, apparently, speaks wonders about the product’s effectiveness.
Anyhoo, Minoxidil became my messiah. It “arrested” my hair fall in less than fifteen days, just like the little usage manual suggested. The volume of hair on my head had started improving and I could preen like I was Shahrukh Khan of my college campus. Or so I believed.

By the time I was done with my undergrad three years later, my hair had stuck around in its full glory. I have pictures on my facebook profile as proof – the same pictures that people look at and say, “Wow, you used to look so good” – which now brings me to the next part of the story.

I don’t know if I can convey it the way I actually felt it, and I’m probably going to do it at the risk of sounding super vain – Hair loss, for me, has been extremely hard to deal with.

The effect of Minoxidil pretty much wore off by the time I started with my CA articleship training. I could see my hair thinning. I would blame it on the nature of work, the stress of the Goliath exams I had to take, and many-a-time on the occasional break-ups. You know, how your insecurities hit you hardest at the places where it hurts the most?

I was probably the youngest and the first in my set of friends to be going through the terror. They say how men think about coitus every two minutes. For me, that coitus was hair loss – that too not at the right places; if you know what I mean.

I would cry myself to sleep on a lot of days – affected by instances such as a boy on the street asking me to pass the ball, addressing me as “uncle”. There was a time when I was told I looked much younger than my actual age, and then transitioning to the phase in your life when people who meet you for the first time begin to ask you if you’re married, when you’re all of the age of twenty-three is kinda-sorta disturbing to say the least. For a break-up for which I never got an explanation, I would link it to my hair loss and consequent “ugly looks”. It sounds silly, really; but then that’s what our insecurities make us, no? Really, really silly!

I started a treatment with one of the leading trichology centres in the capital. It brought some very visible difference to my hair, and over the years, I seemed to have kind of made peace with the gradual loss. Or so it only seemed.

Enter post-grad. I recently moved away from home to a new town. It’s a town with some very good looking people as I would always openly admit. Well, if you ask me, I’ve never really been attracted to a person on the basis of their looks. Their personality and the kind of conversations they make have always been my weak spot. However, I don’t know why one happens to assume the worst about the others and think of their judgment as skewed. Again, maybe, it’s just the insecurities playing their little game that I think most others would like or dislike me based on how good or bad I look on the scale of physical attractiveness. It is really embarrassing to admit to this at the age of twenty-five – just like it is to admit to a lot of other things that go on in our heads. It’s bloody pathetic how you can’t even admit to these things openly lest you be thought of as a vain idiot, or an insecure little wuss, or too immature for your age, or someone fishing for sympathy guised as compliments to give you some social validation. It’s frikkin’ sad how such social validation even matters as much as it does. Probably as much as wanting to get into a McKinsey right after an MBA because that sounds like the next best thing to add to one’s list of accomplishments.

So while I’m airing my dirty laundry, why not admit to nights when I’ve been mopey and sad AT THE AGE OF FRIKKIN’ TWENTY FIVE, worrying about how I will probably never be loved as much as many others who do not have to deal with this shit. I realize how stupid this is while I write it, and I’ll probably go hide my face under a rock when this goes up on the blog. But again, this blog started as an exercise to expose my vulnerabilities and face my fears, and I must do justice to the whole plan I’ve been following by openly admitting to this and getting it off my chest.

I recently shaved off all the hair on my head. It may have looked like this one moment of craziness to those who witnessed it in person. To anyone who asked, I mentioned that I did it because I just felt crazy and it was such a spontaneous action. You say these things because they now go with the image you project – a man with a shaved head. A man with a shaved head is either a Buddhist monk (which I clearly am not), or some really crazy brother of Raghu Ram from MTV Roadies, who will do all these crazy things and not give a rat’s ass about social approval.

But again, I shaved my head for a reason which is probably the most common reason for people to shave their heads for – hair loss. And while it makes me feel extremely liberated, with not a care for what my hair looks like, it also makes me feel weird thinking that I no longer look like the simple CA that I am. I will probably have to build some muscle now and show my fist to people when I meet them, jokingly acting like I will punch their face. Living up to an image, again. So to avoid all of that non-sense and to really not give a rat’s ass about social approval (as all bald men are expected not to), here was the story of why I shaved my head.

It’ll probably take some amount of getting used to – for my family, my friends, my clients and above all, myself. I’ll have to give it enough time to not be surprised by what I look like in the mirror. I’ll have to get used to being called Taklu, Ganju Patel, Rakesh Roshan and the like – all funny names, really. But then again, I’ll probably live in the hope that someday, someone might call me a Dwayne Johnson. Or better still, Sarthak Ahuja.

Picture and Head Shave Credits: Ashwin Chandrasekher

Monday, May 16, 2016

Seven Demands (Guest Post)

Yeh lo friend. So, I'm a feminist. Yes, I know, the big scary F word. I carry it like a badge of honor and rub it in people's faces as often as I can. 

I was sitting with a friend one day, and suddenly, he asks me, "Harnidh, what sort of relationship do you want to be in?"

Now I never thought of relationships as a checklist, you know? Like you go to, select 'hmm, tall, funny, should not think it's hilarious when he asks me to make him a sandwich, should be capable of a pun battle at least once a week...haan yeh chalega.'

So I thought, and I thought, and I thought, and came up with an answer. 

Much to his horror, it was, 'A feminist relationship.' He looked so scared when I said it, almost like I was asking for a society, you know, marked by the domination of one sex by the other *ahem*. His eyes went wide, and he asked me in a sombre, hushed tone. 

"Yeh...feminist girlfriend...kaisi hoti hai?"

Now, I'm a poet. Soliloquies dene ka bada shauk hai mujhe. I stood up, and struck a Mark Antony type pose, and said, well, these are my seven demands as a feminist girlfriend. 

One. I will demand more of the relationship than most people will.

Two. I will demand time. I will demand emotions. I will demand honesty. I will demand bitter, long-bottled tears, and the nightmares that six year old you feared. I will demand wonderment, and I will demand learning. 

Three. My relationship will never be the center of my universe. My universe is vast, and it encompasses pain, grief, and anger. Whoever dates me will learn to empathize, to care. It'll be about learning that we share a universe, and it's made of forgiveness, and second chances.  

Four. I demand you dance with me. I demand that you dance with me as a equal, I demand you don't lead, but stay in step with me as I stumble, and giggle, and sometimes fall wayside. I demand that you try to learn how to let go of all the expectations that hold you up like a marionette, and find your limbs falling free, slightly atrophied. And we will learn how to use them again. I promise we will. 

By now, I was in a full flow, arms flying everywhere, and the poor fellow was cowering near the room's corner, probably cursing the fact that he bothered asking me this. 

Five. I will never be a comparison, or an anomaly, or an outlier on the statistical scale, and putting down another woman will never make me feel special. It just makes me afraid. 

Six. I will demand kindness-

At this point, he broke my train of thought. "Tu demand toh kar rahi hai, but what would you give in return?"

I paused. Hmm. What does a feminist give in return? What does a woman so caught up in vagaries of oppression and representation have to give in terms of love and affection?

I sat on the floor, next to him, and put forth my final demand.

Seven. I demand you demand of me. I demand you ask of me love, and passion, and compassion, and care. I ask of you to require me as I require you every day, everywhere, I demand that you expect of me all that I expect of you, but most importantly, I demand that you remember, that I love you too. 

I felt rather overwhelmed by my own words, so I looked at him with big, soulful eyes, expecting us to have a 'moment'. 

He looked back at me and said, "Bhai, complicated maamla hai."

I laughed. "Why?"

"I mean, I'm not a feminist, and I want that too, you know?"

I smirked a little. 

"Or, well, are you?"


Harnidh is a policy student with a poetry problem. Her first poetry collection, The Inability of Words, is named so because for all that she's written, she hasn't found the words she needs. Her work can be found on 

(She's also 10/10 rishta ready)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ceteris Paribus

My curves are upward sloping,
Directly proportional to the price.
The quantity of love that I supply,
Has a coefficient of one, not thrice.

I could say it’s price inelastic,
You’ll get as much as you always have.
I could lie through my teeth and flutter my lids,
And act like your season’s flav.

But I’ll be honest as honest can be,
And respect the opportunity cost of your time.
You may think we’re both complements.
Burst your bubble, will this rhyme.

The competition in this marketplace,
Is perfect with strong form efficiency.
While you may think you hold a monopoly,
The entry barriers are open, as is the vacancy.

The marginal utility of what we shared,
Has diminished to quadrant three.
The equilibrium in our chemistry,
I no longer can see!

The indifference curve that you have plot,
May be invisible to your own eyes.
But I’ve had enough of your time-rationing,
So here’s your pareto optimum in disguise.

The cross-income elasticity of my love,
Has been under the wraps for a while.
The consumer surplus that I wished to save,
Has been found across the Nile.

Your costs have all just sunk,
The capacity stagnates like a blot.
What used to be a candlestick,
Is now an untailed boxplot.

My preference for a differentiated product,
May be termed as Game Theory No. 2.
Only if the beloved “ceteris paribus”,
Could apply to our “love you’s” too.

Image Source:

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Can You Dream It?

Can you feel the wind in your dream? Can you feel it traversing through the thickness of your hair, slightly brushing through your scalp? Can you feel it fill your shirt up from the bottom and leave it from the neck, grazing through your torso? I know you can’t see it. The wind cannot be seen. Maybe, you see the leaves flying with it or the storm with its chaos. But have you felt the dust pinch your eyes while you brave through a storm when you’re fast asleep? Or have you never cared to notice?

Can you hear the birds in your dream? Can you hear a cricket chirp as your mind walks through a dreamy forest? Or do you hear only the people who call out your name and speak with you in your dream; the voices bereft of any background music? Maybe, you think you do. But are you sure the conversations in your dream are not telepathic; where you understand what is being said without it being really said in words audible but through images with facial expressions? Or have you never cared to notice?

Can you taste the food in your dream? Can you taste the sourness of lemon juice behind your teeth; the tanginess that makes your mouth water? Can you taste the roughage a java plum leaves on the roof of your mouth or the little shreds of its peel that are hard to fish around with just a swift swoop of your tongue? Or do you just see yourself sprinkling salt on a paper cone in which you hold it? Maybe, you think you’ve never dreamed of it to know if you really do or not. Or have you never cared to notice?

Can you smell the scent of your mother’s washed hair while you lay your head in her lap, only unaware that your head lies on a bag of fluff in the physical world instead? Can you smell the pages of a book that lies shut in the attic, a place you could only dare to climb into while you were away from the consciousness of your physical reality? Maybe, you can see a drop of wetness in your mother’s mane or the yellowness in the pages ancient. But can you smell them? Or have you never cared to notice?

Most importantly, can you see the colors in your dream? Or is what you see a movie of flickering images black and white? Can you recall the answer with crystal clarity; sure that it wouldn’t change? Or would you only vouch for the fact that you can watch your dreams run by you so quick that you can only tell that you saw them, but are not sure if you felt, heard, tasted or smelt them all the same.

Now would you call the blind blessed, for they can live their dreams as reality, not confined to the offerings of the sense of sight? They can feel the presence of company in their dreams; can hear the footsteps by which they know. They can taste the food in their dreams, for how else would they know? They can smell the place they seem to travel to while fast asleep; and the answer to whether the dreams are black or colored is crystal clear too. Now would you claim that they don’t see as much as you do?

Image Source:

Monday, March 14, 2016


Tea comes from a plantation, plucked and tossed to add weight on a lady in her forties. It rests in the basket, bouncing only as much to create room for a little more, till the arched back turns it over for it to be spread out and dried. But not Chai. Chai is picked as a twin leaf, like personifying the bond it hopes to develop between two souls, as if its very existence depends on the joint between the two leaves, without which it would be nothing but an ingredient for a beverage, not the essence.

Tea dries itself in granules brown, vacuum packed for freshness – ironic as that may be. It gets boxed and labeled with names imperial and fonts serif, to be bought off a shelf and identified by flavor that seems more appealing to the aural senses than it does to the being it intends to soothe. But not Chai. Chai has no care for the clothing you provide. It feels warmth in the cup of a palm that slightly twists and lets it free fall in a pot of simmering water – free from the shackles of a teabag or a classification that men dressed in white may provide. It lives through its fall and livens all that it touches, like Midas – though just as selfless as the mother whose palm it was blessed to touch.

Tea soaks itself in a pot of water, away from the milk and sugar that care for separate enclosures and questions of one spoon or two. It dresses up in a platter with saucers, biscuits and pretentiousness – with an objective to be present at the discussion of the weather. But not Chai. Chai whirlpools in the water with fervor; making milk a part of its dance. It never asks for the portions of sugar, just offers with the smile that it knows. It finds itself in tumblers, leaving circles on the newspapers it accompanies. It doesn’t speak of a flavor named after a color, but lets its color speak for itself. It brings flavors from your grandmother’s kitchen and blessings for a healthy throat. It doesn’t stop at the talk of the weather, but lives through times of care, laughter and liberation.

Tea accompanies time bought at a workplace, being an accessory to the transactions it witnesses. It follows a routine from nine-to-nine, adhering to the requirement of its presence in a meeting, with biscuits untouched and ignored. But not Chai. Chai is a culture passed on to family. It is an art, the cup of joy, a necessity. It understands the midnight oil and the sunrise, through snores, hymns and chirps galore. It permeates relations and builds more through fritters in accompaniment. It brings hope to a morning and calm to dusk. It lets a raindrop dive into itself like a blessing from the sky. It accepts all that it sees with open arms. While tea witnesses, Chai understands.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bhagwanji Da Ghar

Little Karanveer saw his bebey resting on the hospital bed, with a web of plastic tubes bypassing her nostrils and injecting a liquid down her forearms. As he waited for her to open her eyes and narrate him a story, she feebly touched his face. “Bas ik vaari Karan da vyaah vekhna si jaun tohn pehle, par rabb nu je manzoor.

Bebey, story”, Karan demanded excitedly.

Puttar, life is a story. One grows up working his whole life; serving his children, taking care of the family. And the happily-ever-after is when one goes to Bhagwan ji de ghar… Now it is also my time to go to Bhagwan ji de ghar.

“I also want to go to Bhagwan ji de ghar.

“Not now, puttar. You have a long life ahead of you. You have to study hard, get good marks and become a doctor.”

“But when I come to Bhagwanji de ghar, will you meet me there and tell stories?”

Haanji, bete ji”, and she breathed her last.

Seventy three years later, Dr. Karanveer Singh Dhillon walked himself into Bhagwan ji de ghar. He found his wife, Gurpreet, waiting there.

Kinna miss kitta tennu, Gurpreetey! Ik saal vi ni ruka geya je tu mennu chhad ke gayi si.

Both Dr. Singh and his lady lived in a beautiful house in Bhagwanji Ville. They had a bungalow in a thousand square yards, the kind that they had always wanted to buy in Panchkula. They would wake up in the morning and sip chaa with rusk in their garden. They would eat Mrs. Singh’s special chicken for lunch and do paath in the evenings. Dr. Singh would then take their German Shepherd, Tony, for a jog to the garden while Mrs. Singh would get together with her friends from the kitty. The couple lived alone and was happy to be doing so. Bhagwan ji da ghar had been all that they ever wanted. Moreover, they could choose to look the age they wished for, and it remained so for as long as they wanted.

The couple looked thirty and felt twenty-five. They would wear their Ray Bans and hop to the market daily, visiting the Gurudware on their way back. It was the ideal life. They had the energy and looks of youth, the values and ideals of the elderly, and not a care for worldly responsibilities because everything that they wished for was at their beck and call at Bhagwanji de ghar.

The couple visited Mrs. Singh’s in-laws in the pind and then her parents in an adjoining town. The parents would rush to the kitchen and look at least twenty years elder to their children whenever they would hear news of their children coming to pay them a visit. After all, they wanted their children to still look at them with respect and treat them as their elders.

“Papa ji, bebey kitthe ne? Onna da koi number noomber jiss te gall kar sakaan? I’m thinking onha-nu vi mil aavan kissi velle”. Evidently, Dr. Singh was a family man, who was raised very well by his parents. He remembered the time when his grandmother was alive and would love him so much. He wanted to pay her a visit and listen to a few of her stories. He was also excited to introduce her to Gurpreet. After all, bebey’s last wish was to attend Karan’s wedding.

Back home from the pind, Karan dialed his bebey’s number.

“Hello! Who is this?”

“Bebey, twaada Karan bol ra haan. Paeri pauna.”

“Excuse me; do I know you?”

Bebey, I’m Karan, your grandson, remember? I was eight years old when you left us for Bhagwan ji da ghar.

“Oh! You mean you’re Parminder’s son?”

“Haanji, bebey! Paeri pauna. Hor kidaan? Sunaai theek tarah dena hun twaanu?”

Jeetey raho, bete. Y’know, I’m in a meeting right now, can you call me post 7 pm tonight? That’ll be a great time to hear what you got.”

“Sure ji, sure”, and Karan hung up.

“Hey, how is bebey”, asked Gurpreet.

“She sounded a little odd. Nothing like I remember her to be. Anyway, she seemed busy. I have to call her after seven tonight.”

And when Karan called her again that evening and expressed his intent to visit her soon, bebey told him that she was going to be travelling with Jazzy B on his music tour, and that they should catch up a week after her return.

“Can you believe it? Bebey is going for a Jazzy B music tour!”

“Who is Jazzy B?”

“Don’t you remember, that weird fellow who sang ‘Jinne Mera Dil Luteya’, I think sometime in the late ‘90s when we were still in school?”

Suno ji, I’ve always judged your taste in music. It’s only been in the last few years of our marriage that you gave up on that old music from Harbhajan Mann and started listening to shabad. How do you think I would even know someone with a name like Jazzy B? The only one of these crazies I can remember is this fellow called Honey, you remember? Honey Singh, was he?”

Paagyawan, Honey Singh had a song with Jazzy B too. Wait, let me show it to you on Google.”

And Dr. Singh swiftly took out his iPad to show his lady the wonderful songs from his childhood, which he would learn by heart and sing in the name of ‘rap’ to impress Mrs. Singh.

“Guess I shouldn’t blame you for your bad taste in music then. It probably runs in your genes”, Gurpreet remarked. “But what boggles me is that Jazzy B must’ve been famous when bebey was no more. I think you got a wrong number and someone’s messing with you.”

The week went by with the Singh’s holidaying in a part of Bhagwanji da ghar that looked like Canada, and another watching movies, eating food and generally making merry. Finally, two weeks later, Dr. Singh decided to give bebey a call again.

“Hello, bebey? Paeri pauna ji, Karan this side.”

“Oh. Hi, Karan. Yeah, tell me. How’ve you been?”

“I’m very well, ji. It’s been so long I had almost forgotten what you sound like! Seventy three years, to be precise. Did you know, I became a doctor and got married to this beautiful lady called Gurpreet. Our son became a doctor too, and is a surgeon in the States. I wanted to see you with my wife. Where do you live? When can we meet you?”

“Hey. Um, I’m at 920, Godville. Why don’t you see me Friday night for dinner? We’ll order in.”

“Okay, Friday night then.”

“And, uh, just don’t call me ‘bebey’ in front of anyone, okay? I mean, it’s totes cool between you and me, but I’m kinda uncomfortable being addressed like that with people around. I hope you won’t mind.”

“Uh, beeji or dadi then?”

“People know me as GK. That’s short for Gurbaksh Kaur. So, I hope we’re clear on that… Okay, cool. See you Friday. Ciao”, and she hung up.

“Gurpreetey! We have dinner at bebey’s on Friday. And remember not to call her bebey or beeji. She’s known as GK.”

As Friday approached, the couple got dressed in the best of their clothes and reached house number 920, Godville, only to find a note on the front door that read: Hey, Karan. I’m sorry, but I had an urgent appointment with the doctor, so had to rush. Nothing to worry; I’ll call you. Love, GK.

“Appointment with the doctor? In Bhagwan ji da ghar? Does she think we’re stupid? No one needs a doctor at Bhagwan ji da ghar. You’ve been chilling at home with that board hanging outside our house that reads ‘Dr. Karanvir Singh Dhillon’. Have you ever seen anyone walk in for any medical emergency ever?” Gurpreet sounded really upset.

“Ah, well. Let’s forget it. I’ll speak to Papaji about this on our next trip to the pind. Let’s just head to the Sector 17 market. We’ll have some good food; come”, Karan smiled.

“Hey, look. There’s a Yo Yo Honey Singh concert here”, Karan exclaimed in joy en route to the market.

“Dr. Singh! You haven’t grown a single day since twenty-five.”

“Well, I’m still young at heart. You’re to blame. You switched from ghyo to olive oil in your cooking long ago.” And Dr. Singh planted a kiss each on his lady’s young cheeks before he parked the car and rushed to the concert enclosure.

*Pehli baat toh yeh, jo tu tik-tok tik-tok chalti hai*

*Yaar tera super star, desi kalakaar*

*Kudiye ni tere brown rang ne, munde patted ni saare mere town de*

“Wow, this is awesome. After so many years!” Dr. Singh was as elated as elated could be. He stood right there, not a budge, even when Honey Singh was closing the concert with his thank you speech.

“Thank you all for coming tonight. Godville’s a great audience. Love performing here every single time. Saare fans nu dher saara pyaar. Lots of thanks to my lady, and the star performer at all of my shows. Please give a big round of applause for the diva – GK.”

“Did I hear that right?” Karan asked Gurpreet as a lady walked on stage, throwing flying kisses at the audience.

“He said ‘GK’, right?” exclaimed Gurpreet, and the couple stared at the stage flabbergasted.

Haaye, rabb! I need to speak with bebey”, and Karan ran towards the backstage, where he found GK entering the green room.


GK looked in the direction of the sound and immediately ran inside the room, embarrassed. Karan stood there banging the door.

GK came out while still tying the belt on her robe with one hand, and gently placed the other hand on Karan’s chest.

“Listen, sweetheart. You’re Karan, right?”

“Yes! And bebey, what are you even…”

“Shh. Listen, boy. I want you to meet your grandfather first”, and she ushered him inside the room.

“Honey, baby, see who’s here to meet us.”

“Karan”, Dr. Singh introduced himself as he extended his hand to greet Honey Singh.

“Ishyoboy Yo Yo Honey”, the super star said and pulled Karan in a half embrace – the kind that you expect macho Punjabi super stars to do.

“Karan, this is your grandfather, Mr. Honey Singh. And Honey, this is Parminder’s son, Karan. You didn’t live long enough to see him”, GK explained.

“But my grandfather’s name was Ghanshyam Singh”, Karan tried to explain.

“I know, baby. Ghanshyam was later born as Honey before he came here. I learnt about it only when I came to Godville looking for him, and then was told that I had to wait another sixty years to see him as he was serving another lifetime on Earth. He’s on probation and has been ordered another lifetime to serve before he becomes eligible for moksha.”

“Isn’t that sick, bro”, Honey remarked at Karan.

GK continued, “And while he’s here for this little while, I want to be with him and make the best of my time with him. I’ve waited long enough and it was difficult for me to explain the whole thing to you… I hope you know that I love you, but I’m really not in the mood for bebey time for the next three years while your dadaji is still here. I hope you’ll understand?”

“Yes, bebey. Sure. Can I touch your feet at least?”

“Just quickly do it before anyone else enters.”

Gurpreet seemed worried waiting for Karan in the car, and asked immediately on his return, “Hey, are you okay? How was it? Did you meet bebey?”

“Haha. No no. Apparently, GK is a very popular name in this part of Godville. Lots of GK’s in town. This lady had nothing to do with our family. As for bebey, we’ll have to wait to hear from her. She has my number. I think I’ll let her call when she wants to see me. That’s all we can do.”

The couple hugged and Karan pushed the accelerator to drive back home. He switched on the radio and Brown Rang played on the stereo. He hummed along with a huge smile on his face, and a whirlwind of thoughts in his head, “Yo Yo Honey Singh is my dadaji. That’s frikkin’ awesome man! Sach kaha hai, bhagwan ke ghar der hai, par andher nahi.


I took inspration about the idea of a trip to heaven from BJ Novak's book on short stories called One More Thing. You must read the book. It's kinda crazy. Makes you feel he was high when he wrote it.

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