Friday, July 3, 2009


I always thought I was an above average guy. I mean, I never did badly on my tests in school, though I wasn’t really top of the class. My mother always wanted me to be the best student and all that jazz, but I was so lazy (and perhaps not as brilliant as some people) that I never managed to be anything in particular in school, be it the star performer, the sports guy, the hunk, the prankster, or even the geek or the loser. I was just your plain average Ramu.

Come college time and I didn’t give a second thought to my career. I went straight for IIT coaching, and like a majority of the buggers, failed miserably in the attempt. After pretending to be upset for a few hours, I had to get my act together for the AIEEE exam. Otherwise, I would have had to suffer the wrath of my parents and the horrible necessity of travelling every day to college in Mumbai. Somehow, I managed to score something in the exams and I got a seat in a good NIT. Mom happy, practically gleaming with pride that son was off to study in an 'REC'. Dad was something to that effect too. All the aunties in the colony were looking up to me to be a role model or something for their kids (who by the way, were still in school and had no idea what was about to hit them).

I went into the NIT. And reality struck me. I was not at all into engineering. I scored decently on tests, considering I hardly ever studied anything. I roamed around all day, playing football, playing the guitar, having a band, reading books and everything else except engineering. But writing was what I really wanted. Inspired by many friends, I started blogging. Heck, I even became the editor of the Institute magazine. I got placed in a decent company, again, much to the delight of the folks at home. But recession was to snare its deadly paws upon my job.

Left jobless, I was relieved that I at least had the time to think over my choice of career. While nosing around for some interesting jobs, I found one at JAM and got through as a full time writer. Now, the funny part. People can change in an instant. I was now the outcast, the rebel, the ugly duckling of the pack.

Mom: Oh my god! You want to write? Enough. I have had enough. You seem to have lost your mind, going to an NIT. It would have been better if you were here.

Neeche wali aunty (in a typical pitying and downgrading Maya Sarabhai tone): What happened beta? TCS didn’t come for placement? My brother's daughter has got her letter. Even my brother’s cousin has…

Me: No, aunty. IT is not my area of interest. I had a job, but recession, so….

I completed my sentence with the only word she could understand.

Neeche wali aunty: Oh. That is so bad. It’s ok. 

With a smirk on her face, she turns to my mother,"Why doesn’t he go for GRE? My nephew has 'given' GRE and is going to the US.”

Me: I have got a job though, aunty. At JAM. It’s a youth magazine.

Neeche wali aunty: What? You are an engineer, na? What is with this jam wam? Aapka beta to patrakar ban gaya. Beta kuch karo. Nahi to tum peeche reh jaoge.

And I murder the woman. In my mind. The real neechewali aunty leaves with hurried goodbyes.

When we return home, mom is already red with anger. “What is wrong with you? Why didn’t you give GRE? Everybody’s going to the US.” Circa next day, and mom watches a news programme on how the US is cutting down on jobs heavily.

Mom (on watching programme): You give MBA exams beta. Apply to all universities. I won’t let you sit idle.

Me: Fine. MBA it is (though it is one of my preferred options to get into the media). I joined a test series for MBA. Since I had joined full-time, I couldn’t help out with the household chores and the bank trips as much. So mom was cursing me every single minute.

Mom (muttering loud enough so that I could hear): You have turned out to be useless to me. God knows what will happen during my old age. Khana to khila hi dega shayad?

I laughed at the question. Big mistake. Mom sulked for the whole day. When I informed her that I was going to join JAM, she was still hoping that L&T would send its own letter. She showed me the weird astrologer on a Hindi news channel who predicted that my job would change in a few days.

Me: How can that be? I have just joined. I’m not changing anything.

A lesson learnt the hard way. Details shall not be revealed. Avoid spilling out your thoughts as a retort. Things can get bad.

Uncle arrives on the scene after a few days and mom says to him, "This boy has gone astray. Everything is falling apart. He says he wants to write articles. What will I tell the colony people? When they ask for the name of the company, I can’t even tell them."

Uncle: What is this new thing? You can write if you want, but get a job first.

What was JAM, I asked? A job which paid me to write. Uncle says nothing else. He has given up on me, calling me arrogant (which I do accept as one of my shortcomings) and adamant.

Me (smiling, to Mom): Anyways, you think I have gone nuts. Might as well tell them that I have flunked and am still waiting to complete college.

I narrowly avoided the utensil flung at my face.

As the D-day drew near, mom softened (as all mothers do).

Mom: How much are they paying you?

Me: Ten thousand, for now.

Mom: That’s it? Neeche wali aunty’s beti is in TCS and they are paying her more than 20. Why don’t you join a company, whose name I can at least take proudly in front of others?

Mom was getting more and more irrational as the days passed. I tried the subtle humour approach.

Me: Good for her. Nice package, na? Plus, she doesn’t have any expenses, because the bus picks her up from the gate.

Wrong again. I was not helping my case at all with my ill-timed jokes. I tried citing examples of people from my college who had ventured into creative fields. Mom ignores them completely, dismissing them and labelling them as ‘cracked’.

After first day on the job, we went to buy some clothes for my younger brother. Mom puts in a sly taunt, "Next time, anna will pay for your clothes. His paycheck is due next month, isn’t it?” I agree. Even if it is less compared to my engineering counterparts, I’ll gladly spend the whole of it on my family. 

Mom: Do they have an office? And employees?

Me: No, amma. We work in a makeshift shed powered by a line stolen from light poles. And employees? Are you kidding me? I am the sole guy working there. We sit and chat like girls and write at whim.

I avoid another missile launched at me. I have to avoid getting confrontational.

Mom: How come you wear jeans at your office?
Me (seriously, for a change): They are very flexible. They don’t care what I wear as long as I get my work done. Good, na? (expectantly waiting for a positive answer)

Mom: God save me from this weird company. How can they let people wear jeans at an office. An office means you wear full shirts and cotton trousers and...

I left the house in a hurry as I had to catch my train to work.

PS: Mom has slowly gotten used to the fact that I now work at JAM. Of course, I’m still preparing for my MBA. And she still hopes that L & T sends the goddamned letter.


Neeraj said...

Well, I suppose this isn't one bit different from the story at my house. Its a sad state of affairs,our society. Our parents care a lot about society and what 'they' have to say.

Sometimes I wonder whether (in the exuberance of youth) going against people is the right way to go (actually its not so much going against anyone than doing what you want to but thats how it gets classified) because there may come a time when we might look up to our society to help us out and you know what they will do then.

Still, I say ditch the society and the hypocritical, money minded, 2 faced aunts and uncles like those. 'What company name will I tell the people?'...what a load of BS. You have just echoed my thoughts completely.

Btw, is that aunty story true?

Janani said...

Society, it is. The "neechewali aunty" exists in every Goddamn building. There should be a club named after them.
An engineer's life has become so cliched. After graduation, you take up MS or MBA or a job at one of these so-called 'big' companies. I mean, you have no say at all. And if you try to think about doing something else, you are looked down upon, especially for guys like you, NIT and IIT products.
Well, all we can do is plug in our mobile or ipod earphones all the time and not worry.

SSD said...

The fact that she asked me about TCS and also the GRE stuff is true. The aunty is more of an amalgamation of all aunts, relatives.

The peeche reh jaoge is true, though not said in front of my mom.

Estranged Strangely said...

Abey fuck that, do what you want. Ask the neeche waali aunty to castrate her son, since she's already cut off his proverbial balls to dream.

The Ice Man said...

At the outset I'd like to say the journalism bug has truly bitten you since you have taken freedom of expression to the next level by revealing all this. All I can say is, "I feel you man". It's a fine border between acting conformist and pursuing what you always wanted to be. It's the social stigma that prevails in our nation... the cliched... engineers and doctors are the only white-collar jobs. Respect for labour hasn't made any space in people's attitude unlike in the west. Independence is what people still struggle with in today's day and age even after 60 odd years of our nation's independence... but one must also take care not to upset people (close ones... not the proverbial aunty's) since when certain times arrive we need their support. Just remember one thing they tell you everything from their own experiences and supposedly for your own good.
Take it or leave it is a philosophy that can be adopted at such times.
So I guess the choice ain't so simple... trust in your own ability and hope for the best

Vasavadatta said...

In a way I agree with the Ice Man chap. A job is a job is a job. The dignity of labor is what we Indians need to learn asap.

When you're doing what you want to do, when you are where you want to be, nothng else matters, really. Irrespective of what job you have, there would be many dying to be in your shoes.

The neechewali-aunty's daughter will mostly earn easy money in an air-conditioned office while the rest of us slog it out in a printing press/laboratory/car factory. The same chick will be the first to get married and will quit her cushy job to "bring up the kids". There are scores like her. Don't you bother.

navs said...

haha...i had such a good time reading this, beacz its so close to my story...and i know how it feels.
Im happy u are boldly doing wat u are passionate about. U must know that ur little story inspired me...

Pratham Dev said...

dost ,,, this is not the first time i loved ur blog .. but after this i really think u r on the right path with an apt job .. keep it up .. ur blog entertain me @ work :) keep it up

IcE MaiDeN said...

hey thr... i hav no idea who u are exactly... i was at wrk ryt now, n i saw ur url as my frnds gtalk status.. :P :D so as coding is makin my head spin as of now, i decided to giv it a visit. ..

amazing writeup. must say u gt a flair fr writing, so i guess it s a good thng ur wrking at JAM. :)

will be back later to read more of ur escapades at VNIT.

P.S: I m Prathamesh's n Ugams junior college frnd incase ur wondering who passed me d link :)

anand said...

abe woh neechewali aunty ko kabhi poochna ki tcs mein kya kaam hota hai pata bhi hai kya?(boss aur customers ko chaatne ke alawa :P)aur usko bolna rabindranath tagore bhi ek writer tha jiska gana poora desh gata hai!!!

SSD said...

@Neeraj You have turned really, really serious. What's with the change?

@Janani Welcome to blaag. Pls do go through other random stuff

@Kana Good you got out of engineering real fast

@Pranav You still haven't told me about your choice

@YTV I see you not returning to India

@navs I'm sorry I can't place you. Are you from JAM, VNIT or JK?

@Dukki Thankoos. Keep reading for more stuff

@Ice Maiden You are Anita I think. Thanks for the feedback. DO read through the rest of the blog if you liked it.

@Dedhia Neeche wali aunty ki beti is busy being on the bench. And aunty is always available or advice.

Neechewali aunty is more of a phenomenon than a person, methinks.

Pallavi said...

wat a pity people think like tat! bt there isnt much u can do about these neeche wali aunties. It isnt an unconventional job at all. R there no writers in d country? Anyway, u totally totally rock as a writer. No matter what u do in the future, do not stop writing. u'll go a long long way! Cheers

Digant Trivedi said...

d aunt story is true.. i feel the force.. lol.. and also the disturbance in it.. hahahaha.. go get em dater..

AvinashChopde said...

I can copy the first 17 lines and begin my story. For me, the 'neechewali aunti' role is played by 'professor uncles'!

A soft skills and language trainer job at some MBA coaching institute here, isnt quite appreciated by our techie geniuses at VNIT!

I must admit though, that now, I am happy TML ditched me. Otherwise it would've been difficult to stay out of the 'herd'. It dawned late, but brighter than ever! :) said...

I just happened to see ur url today on gtalk and then read most of ur posts for 90 min straight.. Truly mesmerising.. I had felt a slight jealousy the moment I had heard u got into writing.. how multi-talented.. earlier I thought that was just a stop-gap arrangement while waiting for L&T.. good that ur work is more like a hobby to u.. do tell the Part 2 of the story.. I mean what happened when L&T did send the joining..

From ur posts, I got to know about Bali becoming a CEO.. although his parents helped him and everything and although he is into a profession (liquor) which I seriously hate.. I do admire his guts and spirit..

some ppl I have got as batchmates which r bound to be famous soon

apologies for imperfect grammar.. good luck for ur future as CEO of JAM magazine :)