Hari Shanker R

Hari Shanker R

A Happiness Engineer at Automattic.

CATcall – The Journey

Common Admission Test –  arguably,the holy grail of all entrance examinations in India. Any CAT applicant will have to jostle with some five lakh odd applicants to vie for a seat in the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management, which would open doors to six figure salaries, cozy lifestyles and what not! It wasn’t the cozy lifestyle of managers that endeared me to the CAT. I always had the entrepreneurial dream. Owning companies, commanding minions working underneath me, being in control of a full-fledged company – my delusions about the future were always big. A close interaction with an  IIM alumnus of a  senior- at- school boosted my morale and bingo, I was another IIM aspirant! Back then, I was just a wide-eyed twelfth grader, mind you.

It’s been four long years. And I’m taking the holy grail of this exam, tomorrow (December 5th, 2009).

I’m writing CAT at CMR Institute of Management, Kalyana Nagar,  Bangalore, while all my compatriots are writing the exam at centres within the state of Kerala. Paul (The President of Uni-Y) and I had no other option but to opt for Bangalore. The new system of online CAT required us to book slots for test venues and procrastinators that we are, we delayed the booking process and finally got ourselves fixed at the Bangalore slot on fixed December. Paul’s brother, who works in Bangalore, offered us solace and housing. A trip to Bangalore would be fun, we thought, and till now, things are just perfect. 🙂

I booked the ticket to Bangalore in the Bangalore Express (Kochuveli – Bangalore), using IRCTC’s online booking facility. Since even the booking process was procrastinated to the last minute, we had to opt for the costlier ‘Tatkal’, but got our confirmed seats in the said train. Paul had a lab exam on the D-day (December 3rd), and he said he’d come directly from college. Paul’s buddies were to bring his luggage to the station, while he’d directly arrive at the station. Contrary to my normal routine, I was pretty-much punctual that day. By 3.30 PM, I’d reached the Kochuveli station with my cousin who dropped me at the location in his bike. The train, which would leave by 4.05 PM, was already ‘parked’. I started my wait for my fellow-traveler.

Twenty five minutes, no sign of Paul! I panicked, totally. Punctuality is one among Paul’s few weaknesses. Since he was already this late, the chances for him making it on the dot were depressingly-low, I realized. I tried calling him, and after a few harrowing minutes of inactivity, he responded reassuringly that he was on his way. I called up his friends to inquire about the fate of his luggage! Apparently, they didn’t know a clue about the luggage! Now, that was a cause of concern, for, even though I was the one who booked the tickets online, I’d asked Paul to take the print outs of the e-tickets. Which means, if Paul doesn’t arrive, I can’t board the train either!! As I ran to the corridor of the station, I saw a calm-as-usual Paul, riding into the porch of the tiny Kochuveli station with his friend Nithin, bag in hand. 🙂 Yeah, the din of the station had actually caused a communication gap when I called Paul’s friends; I was actually mistaken. 😀

We boarded the train and rested ourselves on our coach – S2. Seats 67 and 68. The coach seemed empty. I checked out the reservation chart, and realized that female presence was, as-always, infinitesimal . 😐 Shrugging, I walked back to my seat and flopped  myself onto the seat. Suddenly, I felt a jolt of pain on my left knee-cap – an excruciating one! I felt my knee cap slip towards the right for a split second; for a moment, I thought all was lost. I was reminded of the knee-cap dislocation I suffered five years back, as a result of which I was left bedridden for  over a month! Before the wave of depression overpowered me, the situation corrected itself. The knee cap relocated automatically to its original position, and I heaved a sigh of relief. My cousin (who’d boarded the compartment to see us off) and Paul, didn’t notice a thing, though. However, ever since, my knee has had this slipping tendency. I really hope it wouldn’t cause me a problem!

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The long winded path! 🙂

Train 'n' talk!

Moving in the train! 😉

The train left the station on the dot, at 4.05 PM. Conversationalists that we were, the two of indulged in totally myriad conversations about totally random topics. What began with Paul’s viva-screw up on that day’s lab exam moved over to jobs, placements, and finally global issues! Despite being conversationalists, we ran out of topics in two hours time, and Paul was soon dozing off, listening to this ‘Best of 90s’ album in his iPod touch. Meanwhile, I tried a hand at reading the rest of ‘Shantaram’, my latest pick from the library, and found myself following Paul’s example. I was woken up by a sleepy Paul, musing how the colour of my orange t-shirt had suddenly turned green – an illusion caused by some weird out-of-the-box dream! By now, it was 8.30 and we had reached Ernakulam. People started trickling in by now, and a few people had populated the compartment. We resumed conversation, and started discussing the intricacies of Photography, only to be joined in by a silent onlooker guy who happened to be a student at a Bangalore film institute. Perennially-curious Paul got some doubts on long-exposure shots cleared. 🙂 We got down at Ernakulam and bought some Parottas and chicken curry for supper. Carrying on with the supper-conversation, we failed to notice our co-passengers hungrily glowering at our window side seat to have food. It took a prompt-but-stern reminder from a young man sitting opposite to us, to return our civic sense to us, as we courteously stepped aside for them. After an hour or two of phone calls, we decided to call it a long night. Paul flopped onto his top-floor berth, as I lay listening to Paul’s iTouch on the lower berth. In the meantime, a young lady and her cute kid assumed positions in the seat opposite to us, filling the compartment. For a while, I watched the cute antics of the kid, pausing music. After calling up my best buddies once more, I slept at around 11:45.

paulsleep

Paul sleeping on the train! 😛

I woke up at around 6 AM to watch an unusually-demure Paul, indulging himself in silent musings – it was quite a sight! He resumed being himself, when he saw me wake up and we went about performing the morning duties. I had to lend toothpaste to Paul, who forgot to take  his toiletries. We corresponded with Paul’s brother Koshy chettan, who asked us to get down at the KR Puram railway station in Bangalore, instead of the Bangalore Central Station. By now, we’d passed the Karnataka border. My phone got switched off due to excessive usage, and I had to rely on the train’s charging unit to get it charged. But even that seemed futile. All of a sudden, I couldn’t make calls! I had more than 350 rupees balance, but still, no call would connect. Messages weren’t even being delivered. Another flabbergasting moment! Despite many attempts at switching my mobile off and on, calls simply refused to connect!! 😐 Thankfully, I was receiving messages, which kinda softened my plight. I tried to reassure myself by enjoying the Karnataka scenary, standing by the door adjacent to the charging unit.

blorr

We got down at KR Puram by 8.05. Indian Railways decided to make the train punctual for a change, it seems. 😉 My knee problem kept resurfacing occasionally as the two of us trudged towards the exit of the station, clutching our heavy bags. We rested ourselves by the ticket reservation block of the station – that lay by the road. Paul’s brother said he’d pick us up in a jiffy, while we waited. I feasted my eyes on the Bangalore city. The first thing that caught my eyes was the traffic. The city is TOO congested! Beside the KRPuram station, there’s a newly built flyover, and we could see the choc-a-bloc traffic slogging along. The city hadn’t changed a lot from my previous visit four years back. True, there were bigger buildings, and the traffic just got ten times as chaotic – but the ‘Metro spirit’ and the hectic lifestyle was still intact. Typical to any Indian city, we could see cows walk by in idyllic peace, carefully dodging the deranged city cars and volvo buses – even they had gotten themselves adapted to the city. Adapt or perish!

joined bus

Koshy chettan made quite an entrance in his dazzling Karizma. Long hair, unshaven face, he was the ‘cool’ Bangalore techie, a handsomer version of his talented brother. Koshy chettan’s friend Nithin chettan had also come along to pick the two of us up. After a quick trip through the congested Bangalore roads, we reached the apartment that would be our home for the coming three days. The apartment was new and modern, but lacked furniture. Four chairs, a couple of tables, and a plethora of electronic and electrical appliances including four laptops, a pc, iPods, Television, Home-theatre and everything you’d ever need. To top it all, the place was fully WiFi! Heaven! \m/ The apartment was home to Koshy chettan, Nithin chettan and five other techies – all of them working in companies from Samsung to IBM. The average salary here was a cool forty grand. I couldn’t help but wide-eyedly adore all of ’em. As we reached, the techies were in various stages of wakefulness and readying-up for office. Some hadn’t yet woken up, due to some  heavy duty ‘night outs’! 😛 All of them knew Paul from descriptions by his endearing brother. I got myself acquainted with them, and bade them goodbye as they left for work one by one (bearing a kilo each of axe on their torsos! 😛 ).

Day 1 at Bangalore was mostly about sleep. Yeah, we had the entire day to while away. We watched a couple of movies on TV, surfed the net for a while, and got a good day’s sleep at the crammed up mattresses in the three bedroom flat. The chilly, and comfortable Bangalore weather only added to our moods and appetite. Breakfast and Lunch were from Kerala hotels in the vicinity. The food was very relishing and refreshing. I ran into Nikhil Narayanan during lunch, which was a pleasant surprise in itself! I’ve known Nikhil (Quizzer-AWESOME blogger- വന്‍ സംഭവം) from BlogCamp – he works as a consultant in HP, at a TechnoCity nearby. Nikhil looked all haggard (probably from overworking) – even he seemed happy to meet me. Since he had other engagements to take care of, I got his number and bade him goodbye.

Meanwhile, a disastrous incident happened at home. There’s this cousin of mine living with us – the a$$hole stole numbers of female friends from my phone and stalked many of them up, introducing himself as my friend! It took a quick heads up from my sis to enlighten me about the situation, and I did necessary damage control, including reporting the matter to my parents. Though the issue was solved, it remained a splinter in my mind, only to devolve itself into a nagging headache as I woke up at 4.30 PM that day. Soon, claustrophobia seeped in and I felt suffocated sitting in the apartment. It took a lot of reassuring words from friends to cheer me up again. Finally, steadying myself up, I went out with Paul’s brother and room-mates for dinner at another Kerala restaurant. I got back home, fully satiated by the food. After an hour or so of small-talking with the techies, Paul and I hit the sack.

And if you failed to notice – It was the CAT eve and we hadn’t even bothered to open our books once!! 😐

To be continued…

P.S.

Could’ve written it in a single post, but as you can already see, this has become too long! 😛 Stay tuned. 🙂

viewfromtrain

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