Sunday, June 28, 2009

The lonely road

He walked alone upon the feared road, deserted and discarded,
Toward the forbidden, where the night was black, the day been grey
His footsteps unspeaking, for the sound reached no ear,
His shadow one with the body, 
For even the moon dithered to come near 
The air stagnant except for a wolf's warn
It grew cold, till all warmth was but a memory 
He walked toward hell, he walked to the Satan
He walked without fear, for fear would not stay,
Where hope abandoned
At last he reached his quarry,
In front of him came an abyss

And, into this dark he spoke,
'I come today, to sell my soul

Thus, the Satan was called forth
'Souls are not to be sold, they are fared anew, or taken in a claw, he said
His voice was harsh, though the words, a hiss

'I have made up my mind, and have traveled afar,
Come take my soul, said the man

And so the Satan held his soul, 
'This soul is fair, there is much yet left, why do you wish it to sell?

'I sell, for its cost I can't bear, said the man

'Its not enough to despair,
'Virtue is rare, it is not forfeit at will, replied the Satan

At this the man saddened

'There is a sorrow, tears can't shed
'Some shards of memory, don't lose edge with time
'Few echoes do not fade with distance 
'Such a person sells his virtue, a soul such as mine , cried the man
'Even if I wanted to, there isn't a wealth that would buy
'For with every moral inside, suffering is certain
'Go back to the living, and forgive your soul - said the Satan

At this the man smiled, a smile upon his own, the most painful smile
'What use is the good, if it can't even fetch a dime - cried he

'Think not this way, said the Satan
'Pain alone can burnish a soul
'And only the worthy are given the pain
'Such a soul does not fetch a price
'For its value, is beyond any price

And so the man walked again
Back from the dark and into the light 
Upon him, a new wisdom dawned
He made peace with his pain and embraced hope
The one whose soul won't fetch a price
Priceless was his soul!

 - Sanket


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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Purani Jeans - The Chaos of Engineering.

Its been five years since I graduated from Father Agnels; my Engineering college. Of recently, there have been talks about a reunion, and so it seemed fit that there be an article on our days in Engineering. This post has been a long time coming, but it took a final push from a fellow classmate for me, to overcome my laziness and pen down my thoughts. Its a challenge to write such a piece. Its very easy to write an entire book on the subject, but to be able to condense it all into one post, thats a tricky needle to thread. So here is my attempt, and it is dedicated to the class of '04. I truly hope you like it.

Engineering is a testing experience for every person who graduates from Mumbai University. But I speak of a very specific one when I write about my batch of '04 from Agnels, Vashi. It is easy and indeed very tempting, to narrate the whole experience as horror stories akin to those of Nazi concentration camps. And it is easier to turn the whole thing into a teacher-bashing exercise that my fellow class mates would throughly enjoy. But deep inside, we know, it wouldn't be right. For, not all teachers in my college were bad. And so, I am not going to dwell on that unpleasant topic, except to say this; as I look back now, I have nothing but pure sympathy for the few teachers who relished in torturing us. Surely any person who derives such sadist pleasure in the abuse of power and wrongful punishment of helpless students - must have had a rather traumatic childhood.

My story begins in the fall of 2000. I was as naive and green as the rain soaked trees of sector-9A Vashi. Like most recent 12th pass-outs, I was hyper-excited and nervous that first day approaching my college campus. As I neared the iron gates, I saw a group of students to my left, they were laughing and looked happy, and I relaxed, thinking .... this doesn't seem too bad after all. It turned out those students were in fact not from my college, they were from our neighbor's. The mood inside campus was far less jovial, with gaunt, haggard looking students wearing a perpetual expression of distress. Their fervent glances pleading a silent warning: 'This is not for everyone, leave while you can!!' Call it 'Destiny' but I stuck to the place, and to - what would be - the best and the worst times of my student life!

Once the course has started, and the formalities done, you quickly begin to realize, you are in this on your own, the only friendly people you have in the world - are your class mates. And it fosters an intense, duty-bound sense of loyalty and friendship, one that is unique to the stream of Engineering. In just one month, you learn the unwritten survival law, that says, "You may not like your class mates personally, but you WILL help them in every way you can!" There are very few people you can relate to, once your training has started, your friends from before wonder, where is it that you go to - to come back so exhausted, and your parents do not recognize the frustrated individual returning home.

As far as I was concerned, the campus was to be my home. It was my social life, it was my academic, it was the place to study and it was the place for fun. In the middle of our chaos, I found a harmony. It was here that I learnt how to speak in front of a crowd and not flinch. It was here that I leant, how to prioritize and make decisions real-time. It was here, that I laid the foundational concepts of my career. It was here, that I learned to endure stress beyond my limits. And it was in this period that I enjoyed my most untroubled sleep.

There is a distinct quality to Engineers; given any situation, they immediately come to realize what is doable and what is not, they make calls without second guess and they handle events as the situation unfolds. It comes to them naturally. Any person can evaluate and take practical measures, except, Engineers do not feel guilty about the compromises they make. It instills a defiant confidence that remains with you for the rest of your life. And, it has saved me many many times.

At a research meeting, when my professor wanted a paper completed - he gathered my lab mates for a meeting and asked "How much time do you guys need?" My American counterparts answered - two weeks, I simply asked "When is it due??" I did not know how much time would I need, but it was the Agnel-instilled confidence that said - It doesn't matter how much time you need - All that matters is how much time you have!

It is hard to encapsulate the essence of my college and the experience I had, mainly because it doesn't lie in academic transcripts or the courses I studied. It doesn't lie in the concepts I absorbed or the ones I didn't. It is amorphous yet potent. It lies in endless cups of hot coffee over the front steps. It lies in the jokes we wrote and the chits we passed - while we sat day-dreaming and distracted in classes of theory. It lies in the time we spent sitting on stairs, 'bird-watching'. It lies in the distinct sound of that dot-matrix printer on the first floor, which was to us, nothing short of beautiful music. It lies in the intoxicating smell of kerosene and xerox copies. It lies in the suffocating air of notes-littered hallways, as we waited our turn for a viva. It lies in the euphoria of watching all required signatures on our submission sheet. It lies in painful aches and cuts from the workshop of first year - to the carpal tunnel from excessive coding. It lies in our convoluted sense of humor and in our tacit arrogance screaming ... "Yes, we did!"

It is the sum of all parts, greater than the entirety.

It is in the enduring qualities I learnt from my class mates. Every single one of whom - taught me something. They were my team, and I was theirs. Our victories were sweeter because we rejoiced together and our sorrows less painful because we suffered together. They were the support and they were the hope, they were the gems and they were the jewels. They formed the identity of my class, and in some way will always remain a part of me.

The class of '04 and the paragons of my memories! With a salute to all, I offer you these. Come, share a glimpse of my class room, the people who formed me....

Some are not so obvious, they are the silent geniuses like Unmesh Kulkarni.

Some are tall, athletic and capable like Sushant Kadam.

Some are whimsical, albeit pervert in their brilliance, like our very own Ajit.

Some are beautiful, compassionate, generous and have it all, like the beloved Sushma.

Some are the heart of a crowd wherever they go, unmistakably Manavi.

Some are fiery and feisty in everything they did, like Roshan and Nadeem.

Some are flamboyant and larger than life, like Maulik.

Some wont say a lot, but perform proudly, like Amol Gawli.

Some are painfully virtuous, like Tushar.

Some have kept me company and made me smile, Pritam and Priyata.

Some are always up to something, like Sandeep Kaul.

Some you just can't miss, like Divya and Richa.

Some are incredibly talented, like Kripa.

Some are touchingly simple, like Apoorva and Harshada.

And some, will give you a run for your money, like Pankaj.

That is Engineering, these are the people, the paragons of my memories and the best parts of me!

- 100026 (Sanket)

- Sanket


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Thursday, June 11, 2009

How Long ?

How long will winter last for the young seed
As it dies alive, its spring denied

How long will the storm rage for the bird on edge
Waiting, for its wings to fly

How long should the capers halt before they lose step
As the child grows up and the boy dies

How long should the strings bear stretch
Their tunes mute, craving a master's hand

How long do the corks stay shut, as the wine waits
For a celebration to come by

How long should the secrets search a ear
Before they lose scent, And their mystery spoils

How long do the eyes fight sleep, their lust longing a touch
And desire succumbs to its own cries

How long do the lips hold shut, And silence the screams
Before they forget how to smile

How long should a heart seek love
Before it fills itself with ungiving sand

How long will the winter last, for the frosted seed
Why was its spring denied ??

- Sanket


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Sunday, June 07, 2009

The First Journey Home

A close friend of mine left for India today. Its his first trip since he came as a student into the United States, and it has taken him three years. It reminded me of my own, first journey home, and so this post is written as a dedication to my friend, and in the hope of capturing that magic which grips and enthralls the international student upon his virgin flight home.

[Image used in accordance to Terms and Conditions per]

The first voyage, is, in every possible way, a surreal experience and for the most part while its happening, you feel as though you are some place else. The reality is so intense that initially your mind refuses to accept it. Superstitions arise where logic ruled before - and you begin to wonder, Is it possible to ruin your happiness just by thinking about it ? Are you really tempting fate?? This is especially true if you haven't gone home for more than two years and if you have never stayed away from home before. There is a price you pay - when you leave to pursue a career abroad, a sacrifice you make. And its enormity cannot and is not, initially comprehended.

The moment you land, you realize that you have left everyone you knew, you are thousands of miles away, that even a simple phone call has suddenly become complicated. That you are in a continent whose culture and customs, smells and tastes, cost and currency, weather and warmth, and even time is as different from your home as it possibly can be. As you stand at the revolving carousel, hoping your luggage isn't lost, it dawns upon you - that against all instinct, you really did pack your life into suitcases and left the familiar - and you begin to seriously question your sanity. A sickening anxiety starts to grow in you, its shape: undefined, its origins: unknown and its length: uncertain.

After wonders of the first-world have worn off their fascination, after the charm of novelty has become stale in growing stress, the reality of your world sinks into your bones and its parameters stabilize. As you become busy with studies and are sheared beyond normal, as you juggle between a job and academics, between expense and incessant search for fund, you become pragmatic about your ability and even the thoughts of your country become too expensive to afford.

There is a price you pay, a sacrifice you make, and its magnitude cannot be read - at the time you make it.

Only after you have spent days and months and years in longing - Only after you have budgeted your phone calls and timed your cravings - Only after you have post dated your tears and hung by a memory, do you come to understand what was asked of you. You do know beforehand, that you are going to miss home. But you do not know that you will miss your best friend's wedding, or your sister's birthdays, movies and music releases or new trains and roadways. You do not conceive that the place you were born and raised in - will move on without you. That the mangoes of summer would bloom and crackers of Diwali would sound - with or without you.

And on some days, some horrible days, news comes that your city was bombed. That Mumbai is on fire, and you can not be there to help. That your loved ones, friends and family, the places you are from, rock, stone and buildings are left vulnerable - and there is nothing you have done, nor can you do, to protect them. How can someone deprive you of the right to defend everything you love and are made of ?? And you realize that - that someone is you - and you marvel at your selfishness and loathe every breath you undeservingly take. You realize you can drown without water and be suffocated even as you live.

But adversity builds character and sacrifice renders reward - and this does hold true, on some magical evening the forces of nature submit, and circumstances relent. The constellations in the sky are aligned just right, and you find that the miracle of miracles, you actually have enough savings to buy a ticket home. And so you make the purchase, eager yet defiant, and you count. Count the months and moments, the nights and minutes and days after painful days and everything inbetween. And you cross your calendar, you cross your fingers, you find a friend - and cross his fingers - and you wait.

And so I did, and I waited on the flight home, willing it to fly faster, land earlier and travel safer than it was supposed to. And on a December night, I heard the most melodious voice - that my plane was going to land. And I fastened my seat belt and pressed my face to the window, and on my cue, the clouds parted to reveal my India beneath - magnificent and majestic. And in that hour of the night, I beheld my city like the lover who turns to bride and through the moist of my eyes I saw those shimmering lights and braced my heart - for the Mumbai I missed, every single night. I surrendered tear after saved tear - and with the friction of those tires on home soil, I earned that - which was rightfully mine.

Home sweet home, you can travel the farthest corners and revel in riches beyond, yet there is no place - absolutely no place that can compare to your home. The first journey back - its special - its magical - its beautiful and its spectacular. It is worthy of the price you paid - of the sacrifice you made. It is afterall home sweet home.
- Sanket


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