Engi-nearing the End

20th May 2017

A lone standee banner stood next to the deserted canteen on the roof. Although the glass doors leading to the terrace tried their level best to adorn the place with the brightness of the Mumbai summer, the desolate canteen screamed of gloominess. The four of us stood there just reminiscing about our time in college. The staircase leading to the canteen had served as a seating area as well, and had been the place we frequented the most.

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As we walked down the stairs after the last examination of our student life, we were reminded of the memories and experiences spanning over the past five years. Eight storeys replete with our stories. We walked past the labs and recollected the funny memories – writing assignments and the lab experiments on A4 sheets, completing the submissions in the nick of time, messing with the equipment (and annoying the hell out of our professors), and especially the viva sessions which bore great resemblance to stand-up comedy programs for our professors. Life as we know it was coming to an end, and the best way to celebrate it was taking a walk down the memory lane (quite literally).

As we walked down the stairs we saw our classrooms and recounted the craziness those walls have witnessed over the years. From sitting between two classmates (during the first lecture of one of the strictest professors) who had a twenty-minute-long argument about the merits of reading Chetan Bhagat novels, to fun soft skill sessions where we competed as teams trying to build tallest “buildings” with blocks, and working on a derivation for a couple of weeks only to realize that the basic assumptions were flawed (and then disregarding EVERYTHING and repeating the entire effort once again), to the annoying Smith Chart problems that we rarely solved correctly, and finally, presenting in front of external examiners the mess of a research project. It felt like a flashback button playing the best memories getting activated – the internships that lasted for weeks where we learnt to work hard and party harder, the placement sessions (speaking of which – the super competitive group discussions), the feeling of immense relief while signing the spot offer letter confirming my acceptance, and finally, dancing our asses off in our sarees during the farewell. In essence, the college experience had been like a mini-version of life replete with ups, downs and bittersweet memories. Although it was very much different than what I had imagined my college life would be, it was an experience I will treasure forever.

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The end of our eight-storey journey brought us to the library (the heavenly place with infinite charging sockets where silence existed only in theory) and the girls lounge (which also doubled up as the meeting room for all the college events) where I learnt the most important lesson in life – “In the end, gravity gets us all.” The sound of the Dhol grew louder as we proceeded to the exit – the class representatives had organized a celebratory dance at the entrance to commemorate the end of our half-a-decade-long roller coaster ride.

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After dancing our hearts out in the scorching May noon getting our clothes drenched in sweat (and a policeman ordering us to disperse immediately), we clicked photos together for the #OneLastTime. The most memorable one was the class selfie, with the class rep shouting “Okay Class!” for the last time.

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As everyone scattered in different directions, I felt a void and a sense of numbness sink in – life as we know it had come to an end, and that our journeys are going to take us to different destinations. I sat in the rickshaw ride back home I felt empty, and finally FELT what Robert Lynd was trying to communicate in 12th grade – the reality weighed on me, like a hand laid on a top, making an end of the spinning, making an end of the music.

End of an Era… Farewell ’17

19th April 2017

“I’ll be there for you…when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you…like I’ve been there before. I’ll be there for you…coz you’re there for me too” sang the girls. I cheered and sang along with them the title track of F.R.I.E.N.D.S until my eyes almost welled up – although everything was just as it always had been, something had changed. My gaze shifted to my classmates sitting a couple of rows away, who were chatting and cracking jokes as they always did in class. When the band finally stopped playing, I realized that half a decade felt just as long as the snapping of fingers. The fact that the last semester of my university life was coming to an end finally sank in. The farewell celebration that my college organized for my batch was one I wouldn’t forget in a really long time – replete with endearing speech (and a slideshow of the batch’s funniest photos), beatboxing performance by a batchmate, dance tributes, and “shayri” sessions by one of our beloved professors.

The farewell was a collection of humorous incidents. The director of my course found a very interesting solution to the punctuality problems – we were asked to reach the venue by 7.15pm. For those who walked in late (presumably more than half of my batch) the dinner coupons were not distributed. We came up with a memorable solution to that – four of us ended up eating from a plate (“Jhoothe se pyaar aur badh jaata hai”)! The part that I loved the most about the farewell was the dance floor.

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The hall looked was exactly like a disco – with the strobe lights and the fog machine. I was amazed by the girls – dancing in a saree while wearing high heels is pretty much commendable. It was like a twisted Cinderella story – the DJ stopped playing as soon as the clock struck ten, and about a LOT of 20-somethings walked out dripping in sweat. My classmates enjoyed a nice photo session for the next half-hour at the entrance of the hall. The class photo was the best of them all – in addition to the liveliness and the explosion of colours, it captured beautifully the plethora of our emotions.

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As I walked out of the hall, a number of memories flooded my mind. Five years of sitting through lectures, writing assignments, struggling with practicals and lab sessions, racking our brains hard for the mid-terms and the dreaded final exams seem to have just come to an end. And so have last moment cancellation of lectures, not-so-original presentations, the ingeniously hilarious vivas, the impromptu movies (and that crazy trip to Lonavala). Somewhere between fighting on WhatsApp groups about people going AWOL before presentations and sitting for the final placements, we grew up. We walk out with our heads held high, and an undefinable bond joining us. As one of my close friends rightly pointed out – although this farewell may take us apart, we stubborn rascals will do everything to keep things from falling apart.

The Ahmedabad Wedding – Sangeet

Day 0

Ever since watching ‘Jab We Met’ (and a rather memorable incident about nine years ago) I have been slightly cautious about reaching the railway station on time. This time was no different – I had almost packed up everything and had a couple of hours to reach Mumbai Central for my 11.25pm Duronto Express to Ahmedabad Junction. The occasion of the weekend trip was the wedding of my classmate Apurvi’s brother. Stuffing whatever I could remember in my suitcase I rushed to finish the upma that my mother had served at the table. Although I suggested otherwise, my parents insisted on dropping me at the terminus themselves. My friends Sree and Kriti had reached almost an hour before I did and were already waiting for me in the coach with their parents. We chatted with their parents for a bit before the beginning of the journey. The journey was more of a mini-sleepover for us – we sat chatting about our college experiences, reminiscing the funniest and the lamest moments we have had yet. Our discussion about the kleptomaniac (on whom we based our own fictional version of Dhoom 4 😛 ) and a certain Gujarati classmate whose very name is enough to cause a laugh riot was enough to set the ball rolling. We finally decided to hit the sack at 3.30am, in order to have a little energy left in the morning.

Day 1

As the train slowed down before reaching Ahmedabad station, I was woken up by Kriti. We were warmly greeted by Apurvi and her dad as we alighted. After dragging our bags to the end of the station and packing them in the car. I surprised myself quite a bit – I had packed 2 extra sets of dresses (in case the need arose…) but had conveniently misread the weather report on google and not carried any warm clothes. I was practically shivering – what was I even thinking while wearing a sleeveless top anyway! It was really sweet of Kriti to lend me a shawl – I will never forget how contrastingly nice and warm it felt in comparison to the chilly Ahmedabad mornings. After picking up Apurvi’s brother we headed to Hotel Shrimad at Chandkheda, where we would be staying for the next couple of days. Our friend Krupa had flown in as well and joined us there.

The hotel stay was one of a kind – it was IN a mall! The very check-in process at the hotel was funny – after submitting our ID proofs we were asked to sign in to the register and provide a thumb print (god knows why!) With the luggage placed in the rooms, the five of us chatted a bit before deciding to rest for a while. In the process we (Apurvi included) missed out on the Haldi ceremony (It was only later in the evening that we got to know about the substitution of turmeric with Vicco Turmeric cream. It was certainly the most creative jugaad one could ever come up with!).

The elevators leading to the hotel were one of a kind as well – never before had I heard (or even imagined) of an elevator chiming “Thank You. Visit Again. You’re Welcome” with a slight Gujarati accent. Sree and I ended up taking the elevator almost every single time just for the heck of it. We finally went to Apurvi’s place for a rather late breakfast, and were greeted by her mom. I was left mesmerized by the environment and their hospitality – we practically felt at home. Apurvi’s mom is hands-down one of the coolest moms I have ever met – her knowledge of all the happenings in college is pretty much up-to-date, and I absolutely love her ability to make anybody laugh within seconds of meeting them. We were soon greeted by Anshul (Apurvi’s brother – the groom), who jokingly mentioned that he had heard *just a little* about us. Apurvi showed us around and told us about her childhood memories of her pets as we chatted in the balcony. Apurvi’s cousin Prerna also chatted with us for a while. After a rather awesome breakfast of Chhole Bhature, we headed back to our hotel rooms to freshen up and catch up on our sleep. We faced a rather intriguing event as we returned to our room – although I distinctly remembered switching off all the lights and taking the keys with me, the lights were somehow on. This made Sree and me wonder if there was some ghost lurking around waiting for us to leave.

The evening turned out to be eventful – Sree, Apurvi and I ended up wearing almost the same shade of pine green for the Sangeet ceremony. The function was arranged at the Sun and Step Club. Apurvi looked stunning in the mini-photoshoot we had before everyone else arrived (our group had been the first to reach there). It was a bit funny, as we had to go outside again so that we could be formally welcomed by the bride’s side. The bride Bharvi looked picture perfect in her navy blue dress.

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The highlight of the evening – the beautiful couple 😀

We all chatted a bit before the event actually began. The Sangeet ceremony was definitely a treat – in addition to the live orchestra, there were a number of dazzling dance performances put together by the relatives of the couple.

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Apurvi’s Mum dancing to Sawaar Loon

Apurvi’s mom stole the show – the grace and finesse with which she danced to the slow and the fast beats, coupled with the choreography, simply blew our minds away. Even now when I listen to the song ‘Sawaar Loon’ I am instantly reminded of her performance.

The rest of the evening was pretty lively – people danced to the Garba tunes that the orchestra played. I shied away from Garba as I couldn’t really match up to the tempo or get the steps right. Krupa really seemed to enjoy the dance though – I guess Garba just runs in her veins. We all took to the dance floor after dinner in the last part of the evening, when Bollywood tunes were being played – that was definitely our turf! The air had suddenly become so charged – more than a hundred people dancing their heart out.

We danced till our legs were sore…we then waited a bit and danced some more. This was one dance event we all thoroughly enjoyed – we must have danced for almost a couple of hours. I kept dancing even though my leg was sprained a bit, and interestingly enough the pain just went away. Sree surprised us with her amazing Bollywood moves – we had no idea she danced so well! The funniest memories of the evening included being almost knocked over by Kriti and Apurvi as they played Phugadi, and dancing to the Marathi song Jhingaat – the expressions on our faces were just phenomenal! We chatted a bit with Apurvi’s mom before we left for our hotel rooms – the Sangeet definitely was a roaring success. We finally retired to our rooms at 12.30am, and drifted to slumberland in a matter of minutes.

Here is the link to the next part – the Shaadi blog post

Highlights of 2016

Well, this year has been full of opportunities and experiences…and quite a few first-times. Here are a few memories that made this year really special –

  • Starting the year with a bang – going to Vikatgad/Peb trek made me push myself and realize that I am a lot stronger than I think
  • Making impromptu plans with my classmates – planning a trip to Lonavala in less than 72 hours – and really enjoying the overnight stay there. The campfire was definitely the highlight of the experience
  • Going to an industrial visit and linking theory with real-life application. It was surely an enriching experience
  • Trying out rollerblading – although I didn’t really continue with it for long, it was kinda enjoyable
  • Visiting the Kalaghoda festival with a friend – it was really inspiring, basically creativity unleashed!
  • Experimenting – especially with my hair. I didn’t know it would turn out to be so different
  • Attending the YouTube Fan Fest and cheering my throat hoarse. The energy of the performers was really infectious – I enjoyed every second of it! Also, Mumbai in the evening has a charm of its own
  • Preparing classroom presentations and working on assignments – I never thought it would be so much memorable. It is so rewarding when all the hours of hard work culminate into something that makes one really proud. Especially the research project – the sense of satisfaction I got after putting weeks of hard work into it was unparalleled
  • I don’t know if this classifies as a trek or just a long walk – but visiting Kanheri caves (and having a nice filling lunch after walking 9.5km) with friends was one of the best memories of the year
  • Going for an internship to a completely different state having zero knowledge about the local language, meeting amazing people and having a great time.
  • Seeing my sister score amazingly in her board exams – scoring more than 97.3%, she really made me grin with pride
  • Planning a last minute impromptu trip to Mysore myself – and finishing an entire novel (Sialkot Saga) during the train ride.
  • Getting my first stipend check – the best feeling in the world!
  • Attending trade shows other interns – they know how to make even the most boring thing fun
  • Renting a car and going for an impromptu trip to Mahabalipuram with a cousin. The lighthouse was certainly the highlight of the trip
  • Going to Marina Beach out of the blue at 10pm with flatmates, and chatting there admiring the cityscape.
  • Watching the sun rise at the Marina Beach with my roommate, attending a part of the evening mass at St. Theresa’s Church with my roommate, and treating my taste buds at the Tuscana Pizzeria and Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory
  • Going to Marine Drive with a bestie at 6.30am, and waiting for a whopping 35 minutes at a very crowded Merwan’s (Grant Road) for the heavenliest Mawa Cake. And then getting drenched in the refreshing Mumbai rains!
  • Exploring the different taste-bud-treats that Chennai has to offer – Zuka, Zaitoon
  • Growing up a bit more – understanding a little more of love and loss, and treasuring every moment and memory
  • Watching movies in different languages other than English or Hindi – Kabali in Tamil without subtitles was an experience in itself.
  • Reaching the highest possible level of homesickness and going to watch Kannada movie screenings – Thithi, Ishtakaaamya, U-Turn and Rangitaranga etc.  😛 And understanding that Kannada cinema has a quite a bit to offer. In addition to that, becoming seriously spontaneous – watching 3 movies in a week – Happy Bhaag Jayegi, Rustom and Mechanic: Resurrection (no points for guessing which one I watched alone 😛 )
  • Going for an impromptu dinner  with my cousin at Murugan Idli Shop and enjoying a HUGE tub of icecream with crazy amount of toppings sitting at the Besant Nagar beach late in the evening, and exploring the different restaurants and making the most of my last week at the PG – Jalpaan, Sandy’s, Subway and Bombaysthaan
  • Coming back to Mumbai and meeting my classmates – sharing our internship experiences and all sorts of crazy stuff over meals, going to impromptu lunches
  • Appearing for final placements while juggling my class tests, assignments, lectures and presentations. I guess I found my greatest learning in this phase – patience and positivity make the biggest changes by helping us enjoy the smallest pleasures in life
  • Seeing my good friends get placed in amazing organizations, and finally getting placed at an amazing company myself. It hurts to see my college journey roll to an end though.
  • Seeing the Government come out with really interesting measures to curb black money – declaring schemes for disclosing undisclosed income, the demonetization of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, and the introduction of new Rs.500 and Rs.2000 notes.
  • Speaking about the demonetization issue – standing for in long queues at the ATMs and ultimately deciding to go cashless
  • Watching really great movies – Inferno, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Arrival to name a few. While some of them seriously wowed me with the graphics, the others really got me thinking. The best part was that all of these movies were impromptu
  • Visiting Bhandardara with my cousins and family. That is one weekend getaway I won’t be forgetting for a while

Getting Placed

Juggling lectures, presentations, class tests and a host of placement processes is one of the biggest challenges faced by final year university students. Being in a batch of 350+ students kicks it up a notch. Although quite a few got offers from the organizations where they interned, majority of the batch was scheduled to appear for placements.

I guess I can safely say that although I didn’t have it easy, I didn’t have it too tough either. Our placement season officially kicked off on 5th October. Being pretty lucky with aptitude tests, I made it to the top 16 of almost every company that came in. Keeping in mind my learnings from the Soft Skill sessions in the previous years, I found cracking most of the group discussions a piece of cake. Personal Interviews were the ones I more-or-less dreaded. I was pretty intimidated by the interviewing panel in my first interview – by the end of 25 minutes I started to wonder what I was doing with my life! Needless to say, I wasn’t really surprised when I didn’t make it past the first round.

The first experience gave rise to an interview-phobia. Even though I had pretty relevant experience, my nerves got the better of me when I was to interview for a credit rating company a couple of days later. I was disappointed to not find my name in the final interview round, as it was one of my dream companies. And this led to the Catch-22 situation repeating itself. The next recruiter to interview me offered a profile that I instantly fell in love with. After a rather interesting group discussion round, followed by the HR interview at their office, I found myself advancing to the personal interview round to be held a few days later. I didn’t make the cut after waiting nearly 8 hours for my interview (I was the last one to be interviewed in a batch of thirteen). Unfortunately the recruiters weren’t as convinced as I was about me being a fit. And this really broke my heart.

My confidence had started to dwindle as the time and pressure to get placed increased. A few more companies (including a Big-4 accounting firm) had come and gone, and my hunt for a specific profile only made things worse. At this juncture I was convinced that I was not getting anywhere, and even started thinking of a couple of start-up ideas. I was humbled by my parents’ response to them – they agreed to back me if I wanted to proceed with it. At this point, the fact that SOMEONE believed in me made me feel optimistic. By the time the next company came in, I was more hopeful. I really wanted to be there – it offered everything that I looked forward to. I guess my luck again worked against me, as I couldn’t make it to the interview owing to prior commitments and health issues.

After a couple of insurance companies, a popular telecommunications company came in next. Being a telecom major myself and being offered my dream profile, I couldn’t be happier. The process however was a challenge in itself. Frustrated and dejected on being rejected so many times, I decided to give it everything I had. After 4 rounds of psychometric-aptitude test, I found myself selected for the GD process. I did fairly well and found myself in the final Personal Interview round. Although a part of my mind was in panic mode in the beginning, the personal interview was something I ended up enjoying – it tested my presence of mind, logic and mathematical skills. Although I did get a couple of answers wrong, I asked decent questions and made the panel laugh at times (The fact that the panel was pretty relaxed worked to my advantage). At the end of a long four hours of wait I found myself smiling with a spot offer letter in my hand on 10th November 2016.

I consider myself pretty lucky – at the end of nearly a month-long roller-coaster ride, I managed to find a profile of my liking in an awesome organization. During the course of this short journey I learnt quite a few things – the first one being the unconditional unending support and love of my parents. Their optimism and faith not only kept me going, but also reminded me that true joy lies in the smallest of things around us. I started to enjoy the small things around me – relishing hot chapattis with subzi that mom made, listening to the AIR news and the adverts in the car with my dad, splitting lunch with one of my besties, and occasional conversations with my best friends and cousins. Looking back, I guess enjoying the otherwise mundane tasks changed my perspective…and ultimately got me my placement. Well, my second learning is kinda cliche – a dialogue from Om Shanti Om that gives me hope when I feel everything is going south – “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!” If things aren’t working the way you want them to, maybe it just isn’t your day yet. Be patient and wait – everything ultimately works out.

Here are ten pointers that I have picked up while appearing for the college placement processes. I hope these help out someday.

  1. Practise for aptitude tests – speed and efficiency are the key-words during aptis. Solve puzzles that force your brain to think hard while keeping your cool – solving Sudoku puzzles helps.
  2. Be well dressed and well groomed. It definitely is a confidence booster 😀
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  3. CV – Knowing the profile and the skill-sets the recruiters are looking out for would be of great help. Rather than presenting a general CV, it would work wonders if the CV is tailored for the company and has the profile-specific-keywords.
  4. That being said, know your CV inside-out – you should be able to explain every single syllable written in there. Don’t fake stuff on the CV – there is a high probability that the bluff will be called in the personal interview(s). Carry multiple copies of your CV (4-5 should suffice).
  5. Identify and know the core values of the company you are interviewing for – and ensure that the values they are looking for match with yours. Think of examples beforehand that will help you substantiate.
  6. Even though it may not appear so at first, the recruiters want you to do your best – after all they came to hire you right?
  7. Interviews can be stressful situations. It is OKAY to be nervous. Don’t let the nervousness control you though – smiling, deep breathing exercises, and power poses before the interview help greatly in calming the nerves. Make sure you have eaten before the interview – hunger can also add to the nervousness.

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    Power Pose

  8. Listen to questions carefully before you take a shot at them. It is okay to think for a short while – maybe even a minute or two, if the questions are tough. Be patient.
  9. Smile during the interview – it not only shows your confidence, but also the ability to keep a smiling face even in tough situations. If the interviewing panel is cool and relaxed (aka chilled out), you can crack some jokes and lighten up the mood. Try steering the interview to the topics you know about and can speak with confidence.
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  10. Be it something related to the profile or the career growth prospects, make sure you ask questions (a couple of them should suffice – don’t ask too many either!). Just ensure that you don’t ask anything about how you have performed in the interview.

Cheers!

P.S: As I wrote this, I could visualize my bestie expressionlessly looking at me and saying in a Professor Snape-like voice “I told you so.”

Photo Credits – Internet!

Unleashing Creativity: Start-Ups

What does one get after throwing together a huge population of enthusiastic youth, a tinge of cost-effectiveness and a dash of entrepreneurial attitude in a blender? Well, the answer is creativity. “Start-up” has been the trend since 2015. Well, the whole thing really took off with the introduction of the web series called TVF Pitchers (“Tu beer hai” had even become the conversation opener for one of my cousins!). With the Government initiatives like “Start Up India, Stand Up India” the start-up environment did get a real boost. Here are a few of the experiences I have had with start-ups in the past few days (Some of them really crazy, the others not-so-much; but each of them kinda memorable).

 

Going chronologically, the first one on my list is Frools. This start-up supplies fruits depending on the family size on a subscription basis, six days a week. The coolest part about it is the element of surprise – we have no clue about which fruits would be delivered.

I would look forward to opening of the paper bag every evening and checking out the fruits of the day. It could be something local like bananas or sweetlimes, or something seasonal like mulberries and strawberries, or something completely exotic such as dragonfruits, mangosteen and rambutans. In some cases, when we wouldn’t know when a certain fruit would ripen, there would be some sticker attached to the bag, which would help us out (as in case of avocados). He has now diversified to supply tender coconuts and vegetables as well. He even gives recipes for the not-so-commonly-available vegetables… Cool isn’t it?

 

The next one on the list is Born Adventurer. This start-up is the brainchild of adrenaline junkie nature lovers who believe in redefining their limits with every adventure. My experience with them, a daylong trek to Vikatgad and back, was bittersweet. Although we had our moments, the trek was a wonderful learning experience. Ignoring the aching muscles and pushing myself to complete the trek made me realize that we are capable of achieving so much more than we think – all we need is the will to walk and a can-do attitude. The best part is that we feel so much at ease in the lap of nature, and the view from the top is totally worth every ounce of pain one goes through.  A special thanks to everyone who made the trip an experience to remember.

 

Well, there are quite a few things that makes the next one really special, the one on the top of the list being passion and enthusiasm. For a special occasion we decided to trust the Zomato ratings for Mexican cuisine and not go to the regular restaurants for dinner. Looking at the ratings for The Fusion Kitchen (TFK) at Borivali West, we were intrigued to give it a shot. And I had absolutely no clue how enjoyable the evening would turn out to be. The place is barely 5 months old and already has a rating of 4.5 out of 5!

Although the place is a little cozy, the ambience kicks everything up a notch. With really cool art on the wall, amazing music and a refreshingly creative take on the food, TFK lives up to its name. The love and passion for food they share shone in the way they interacted. Well, the best “jugaadu” part that I loved was the menu – although so simple, it was plain genius. I was pleasantly surprised by the “Paneer Tikka Laced with Dark Rum”: it was something I couldn’t have imagined, and the smoky flavour really kicked it up a notch! My favourite part of the evening had to be “The Flowerpot Surprise.” It looked just like a flower in a pot, and I was left truly amazed after he told us that the “mud” was edible. This one is really worth a try. I am surely going there again soon.

 

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Juugaad.in is a food-based start-up – the USP being that it serves late night food. Although I have not tried this one yet, I am truly a fan of the marketing ideas the guy has employed. It might classify as annoying to some (and vandalism maybe?), it successfully managed to grab some eyeballs. Apart from circulating the usual pamphlets, this guy has spray-painted the contact details on QUITE A FEW places. The most interesting one being on the doors of a dilapidated Maruti 800 car! The car just stood out among the numerous others parked nearby. This guy just gave a new twist to marketing altogether!

 

Flicbox is one of the start-ups that really makes people with a sweet tooth smile (and makes me grin :D). Applying the idea of discovery commerce or d-commerce, this gem brings imported and gourmet chocolates to one’s doorstep at VERY competitive rates (yup… a fraction of what you would be otherwise paying in malls and airports). In addition to that, on Flicbox Thursdays, one can get chocolates such as Hershey’s for upto 1/6th of the market rates! Well, soon they plan to expand the product line to chocolates for the health conscious too. Although the shipping is currently limited to Mumbai, I hope that they spread their sweetness to other cities as well soon.

The last one is the simplest of the lot, and really got me thinking. At a very rare occasion of an early morning walk near an IT park, I came across a guy – no more than 20 (I guess) selling idlis and wadas. The people there prepare the food early in the morning, bring it in steel containers, and serve it to the people on their way to work at a really reasonable price. Summing it up: home-cooked warm food and reasonable price – a win-win for everybody! An entrepreneurship is not always about making a big splash and big money – it’s more about observing a lacuna, filling it creatively, adding some value in the process, and bringing a smile to someone’s face.

Chennai Chronicles: The Wedding

Day 0

I couldn’t be more excited to attend my eldest cousin brother Nandan’s wedding. The wedding was something I had been eagerly waiting for – meeting my relatives has always something I look forward to. And the best part – the wedding is another occasion to get all dolled up and have fun.

My 15-hour journey to my hometown began from Koyambedu bus station. After worrying about missing out on my bus and going crazy hurrying, I finally was relieved to reach the bus station before time. The next mini-adventure was to find out where exactly the KSRTC bus would arrive (Koyambedu is a HUGE place, something like Majestic bus station in Bengaluru). The bus was luckily not crowded and I got a couple of seats to myself. The scenery on the way was beautiful – a perfect evening over the lush green fields.

The evening sky was just heavenly, with the moon being the showstopper, painting everything with its soothing soft light. We saw Kannada movie Gajakesari to kill time on the bus (the music was pretty catchy, although I didn’t particularly enjoy the movie), and I spent the remainder of the evening chatting with my friends and cousins.

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I was ecstatic to find out that PV Sindhu had made it to the Singles Finals of Women’s Badminton at 2016 Rio Olympics. I was too excited for the weekend – I had to literally force myself to sleep so that I had enough energy for the power packed day ahead.

Day 1

I was received by my mom with the biggest grin at the bus stop. We travelled back home in the same rickshaw she came in, and were greeted by my maternal grandma as we entered. The fun began as the cousins awoke one by one. It really felt great meeting them all after a year, and the festivity of the occasion only added to the fun. My cousin Nitya (Nandan’s sis) had spent a better part of the week putting together a dance performance for the occasion along with my younger cousin brother Tanay, and they had done a pretty good job at that. I helped out in mixing the song track for the performance – a mix of Disco Deewane (Student of the Year movie) and Dil Dhadakne Do (title track of the movie by the same name). Tailoring the song according to the dance took some time, but the track came out decently (especially considering the little time we had). After a little bit of last-moment-shopping, we assisted with the preparations for the wedding.

After a lot of debating and designing, we came up with the posters for marking the cars ferrying us back and forth to the wedding venue. We did a fairly decent job – the posters were liked by everyone (Nandan even put it as his WhatsApp profile pic!). A few other cousins (Aditya, Samarth and Likhita) joined us in the evening. The mehendi artist did a wonderful job painting the hands of the ladies in the house, and I was more than excited getting my hands covered in henna after a very long time.

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The presence of Nitya and Nandan’s cousins – Sreelekha and Bhagya added a lot to the fun element. By night, the house was completely transformed – strings of lights adorned the front façade, while the colourful rangoli at the entrance welcomed the guests. It sure did feel magical!

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The highlight of the evening was seeing PV Sindhu clench the silver medal at 2016 Rio Olympics. We awaited with bated breath her match against Carolina Marin of Spain. Every point Sindhu scored against Marin was celebrated with cheers loud enough to be heard half a kilometre away! Although we were disheartened that she didn’t get the gold, the fact that she clinched a silver only fuelled the festive mood (gave us one more reason to celebrate!).

The six of us – Nitya, Likhita, Aditya, Tanay, Samarth and I decided to stay over at our uncle and aunt’s place for the night. Nitya and Tanay managed to rope in the remaining four of us to dance after the Varapooja ceremony. What intended to be an hour of chitchat at most, turned out to be hours of practicing for the dance. We invited our cousin Vikku and his wife Jaahnavi to help us out. It was pretty much a laugh riot – everyone seemed to forget their own moves but remember others’! Tanay and Nitya would begin with Disco Deewane, and would be joined by the others for Dil Dhadakne Do.

We ended up adding a stanza of the “Huttidare Kannada Nadalli Huttabeku” song from Beladingala movie to the end of our track, to which the guy gang would be dancing. We finally slept at 4am after playing a bunch of card games for almost an hour.

Day 2

Setting an alarm for 7am and snoozing it till 7.30, I woke up. Nitya woke up half an hour later. After a quick bath we went back home to attend the day replete with functions. The morning was pretty bright and nice, and the house looked much more splendid than the night before.

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Dad joined us there and I couldn’t be more delighted to see him. In addition to the pujas and the photo sessions, we spent our time playing with the youngest members of the family – my young cousin Advik, and my niece Sai Keerthana.

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It barely took us any time to bond and have fun, and it was really heartening to see the kids run around with all their infectious energy, excitement and enthusiasm.

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The actual fun began late in the afternoon. Well, as my sister-in-law and her side of the family is not from Karnataka, everything had to be translated to Hindi. This is where Aditya came to the rescue! Dressed to the nines and catching up with cousins and relatives over refreshments and snacks was fun. The craziest part of the evening was the dance we had prepared. Although I had carried the pen drive having the song with me, I had anticipated (and even kinda hoped) that our dance would be cancelled. Needless to say, my hopes were dashed as my cousin plugged the drive into the sound system. Fortunately for us, everything went pretty smoothly…well, until the last part of Dil Dhadakne Do song, where all the six of us somehow managed to forget our steps at the same time! Needless to say, all the elders were smiling and pretty happy with the fact that we actually managed to put up something decent in such a short time. Nandan, on the other hand, found it pretty hard to stop laughing. I guess we should try our hand at stand-up comedy next time.

We all went back home to change clothes for the reception. Dressed in our best and with widest grins on our faces, we went to the venue again. The best part of the evening certainly was spending time with the cousins – cracking jokes, chatting and capturing the memory with photographs and selfies. We shamelessly got an insane number of photos clicked with Nandan and athige (sis-in-law) Sayali. It was one of the most special moments that I treasure the most. I loved spending time with my maternal grandma – she introduced me to one of her old friends. Her smile really brightened my day up.

Although we had dinner pretty late we enjoyed every bit of it. I just loved the curd-rice and ended up enjoying multiple servings. I enjoyed the desserts the most, especially the mango and butterscotch ice-creams and the rabdi. Being tired and sleepy I barely took any time to fall asleep once I got home.

Day 3

I woke up with contrasting emotions in the morning – delight on seeing my brother’s wedding and the numerous ceremonies attached to it, and for getting an occasion to get all dolled up again; and sadness as I would have to leave in the afternoon, and because three days had just zoomed by without me really realizing. Keerthana, chirpy and jumpy as ever, managed to cheer me up with her million-watt-smile. It was interesting to see her bond with me in such a short time. It really felt great when she insisted to sit on my lap during the short journey to the wedding venue.

Having a hurried breakfast with the cousins and relatives (we reached kinda late and the ceremonies were about to begin) we rushed back to the hall. I relished the masala dosas and the vada. I really missed my sister – the fun would have elevated to another level had she been able to attend. The “funnest” part of the day was witnessing different ceremonies such as Kashi Yatra, naming ceremony of the kids, and Nitya got the opportunity to name the future-children of Nandan and athige.

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After a hurried lunch my parents and I left for home to pick up my belongings for my return journey. I really didn’t want to leave, and my cousins had been teasing me about missing out on the trip to Jog Falls (it had been on my wish list on a while)…not that they actually went there. Unfortunately for me, I had forgotten to take my cell phone along, and was unsure about the timings of the bus to Chennai. I had assumed it to be 2.30pm, but it actually had been 2.15pm. The starting point of the journey wasn’t my hometown, and hence the caretaker of the bus ended up calling me every 20 seconds inquiring where exactly I was and how long it would take me to reach the stop, and each call turned out to be angrier than the previous. We luckily managed to reach the bus stop before the bus left.

It was only after settling down in my seat and reaching the next town that I realized I had forgotten to take my suitcase along. That was the most bizarre thing I could imagine – spending a good 20 minutes packing my suitcase and then forgetting to carry it along! As my parents would be leaving for Mumbai late in the evening, I requested them to take it with them. I chose to rest a little and catch up on some much needed sleep I ultimately ended up sleeping for the next 13 hours straight, only to be woken up by the conductor at Koyambedu at 5am. The wedding had been memorable in every way.