neelwrites/classact/fiction/sicsentencestories/29/12/2017

SSS A BIT LATE…

This week’s cue is SUSPEND…

A MASTER CLASS

By Neel Anil Panicker

“Listen, dear friend, trust me when I this and am saying this not out of my hat but out of my experience, a great many years of hard won experience.”

‘Do I have a choice? Go ahead, I am all ears’.

 

“So here it is straight off the horse’s mouth: If you want to take a wow class and win friends and influence people then you should suspend all judgement.”
‘Hmm…interesting, in this world there is no dearth of free idea floaters and now that I see you too have joined that ‘Entry By Invitation Only’ club why don’t you enlighten me as to how exactly do I go about this earth shattering path breaking pedagogical strategy that you so elegantly have euphemistically christened as SUSPEND ALL JUDGEMENT?’

“Well, first of all you should keep your eyes and ears open in the class to look around for any and all sorts of non-academic activity and that includes all sorts of shenanigans including coochie cooing into one another’s ears, engaging in near animated discussions about the morals or lack of it of neighbourhood street dogs, and even heatedly analysing threadbare the inverse correlation between the rising levels of global warming and the plunging necklines of Hollywood beauties.”

‘There it is, I got it, a bit paradoxical though it may be. First, I need to keep my eyes and ears open and then close them. A class act indeed’.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #six sentence stories #fiction #short story #237 words

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neelwrites/maya:littlemorethanillusion/fiction/shortstory/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#16/14/12/2017

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Here is a character narrating different episodes from her life. You get an idea of the overall personality. Pick just one sentence from the story, and develop further on that.

why

MAYA: LITTLE MORE THAN ILLUSION

By Neel Anil Panicker

I see the rage in my boss’s eyes and know that is time to quit. Or, more appropriately, that is time for me to be asked to quit.

There he is, sitting opposite me, in that favourite swivel chair of his, the chair, the specific make and colour that I helped him to chose, staring down at me, those limpid blue eyes now a raging red, its pupils trebly enlarged, the nerves threatening any moment to burst out.

I bravely refuse to give in and like a fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread, I lock eyes with him.

I see his head, bald as an eagle’s, the strobe lights streaking in through the translucent windows doodling all over his six foot gym toned frame, the hands, large and hairy, like a grizzly bear’s fiercely clutching onto a palm sized paper weight, furiously rotating it over the oblong sun mica topped teak wood table.

I see a melange of emotions, predominantly distaste, written all over his usually placid face, now a bundle of bumbling emotions.

I see a lot that I haven’t seen in the past six years, the years that I have known him since, the years that I have worked  under him, the years that he has been my boss, also the years that we have been lovers.

I know it is time for me to leave, allow for him to be alone so as to be able to process all that has happened.

I get up and calmly hand over an envelope. It contains my resignation letter addressed to Shiv Kumar Sharma, Director, COACHING TIME, New Delhi from Maya Talreja, General Manager- Planning.

‘I shall see you in the evening’, I say, and walk out of the cabin. I know he’s my man and I know together we’ll battle our way out of this storm too.

***

My name is Maya. Maya Mirchandani. I am a 30-year-old Sindhi, a divorced Gujarati born Sindhi to be precise. I stress on the divorced part because that’s was defined me, at least for the first five years since my marriage with Kunal, a regular parochial wife beating male chauvinist pig fell apart. Wait, fell apart did I say?

Shred to pieces, smashed to smithereens__these would be better descriptors of the hellish times I spent with Kunal whose favourite form of abuse was to strip me naked,   chain me to the window sill, and then beat me black and blue with a steel belt for hours together.

Of course, he did take power breaks in between, replenishing himself with whisky on the rocks and snorting cocaine, just one among many of his addictions.

One night soon after when he and the entire world were in deep slumber, I climbed down the bathroom pipe, walked barefoot upto to the nearest railway station, and took the first available train to my hometown.

My parents, saddled with typical middle class mores thought I had committed a crime  and did everything possible right from weeping and begging to cajoling and threatening to somehow force me to go back to Kunal, to give my marriage yet another try.

But I had resolved that enough was enough and would under no circumstances go back to marriage which I know equated with hell for short of a milder word.

That broke their dam of patience and I was subjected to another round of torture.

This time it was mental, and especially so by own parents, who feared that a daughter, beautiful and educated as she may be, had no life outside of marriage.

Things deteriorated from bad to worse and then one day, when unable to bear their near non-stop rebukes and emotional blackmails, I packed my bags and left home.

In less than 100 days I had hit road again, the only difference being this I had burnt all my bridges and there was no going back, anywhere whatsoever.

I decided to hit a new town and landed up in Delhi. The first few months were sheer hell, as armed with nothing more than a college degree I walked in and out of countless interviews without any luck.

It went like this for a month or so and soon things reached a point when I had no money to even pay the rent for my single room Paying Guest accommodation.

It was then that the landlord offered me a life a line: He would forfeit my dues if I agreed to sleep with him.

Disgusted I slammed the phone down and was about to smash it to the wall when it began to ring.

I picked it up and was about to hurl my choicest abuses when I heard a woman’s voice, soft though business-like over the phone, “Am I speaking to Miss Maya?”

“Yes, this is Maya”, I somehow managed to mumble.

“Congratulations,” the voice continued, “You have been selected. Please kindly collect your offer letter from Coaching Time”.

A melange of emotions swirled through my mind. One moment I was down and out and the other I was on top of the world. I was over, my ordeal, my quest, my struggle for survival. I had finally bagged a job.

The next day, my heart full of joy, I walked into my new office, and fell straight into the arms of my boss.

Well, it so happened that I had just left the HR Manager’s cabin, clutching in my hand an appointment letter that said my designation was Executive Secretary, Director, Coaching Time.

“Walk straight and turn left. Extreme corner is Kumar Sir’s cabin.”

I did as she had guided me, and found myself standing outside an impressive oak panelled cabin door that sported a gold embellished capital lettered name plate ‘DIRECTOR’.

I was wondering whether to knock or to simply step in, when the door opened all of a sudden and out stumbled a man and almost fell into my arms.  In fact if he hadn’t held himself against the wall, both of us would have come tumbling down like nine pins.

“I…I am sorry. ‘Am in a hurry.” was all he managed to blurt out as we pulled ourselves together.

I looked at him, half fearful, half embarrassed.

Pushing the wrong side of forty, the man had a shock of curly grey hair the sides of which fell over a square face that reeked of a childlike naughtiness.

“Sir, I am Maya…your new secr…”

“Sorry, got to go. Shall meet you in the evening. Make yourself comfortable” was all he said before he vanished down the corridor.

I shrugged off the awkwardness and stepped inside to find the room, a mid sized hall rather, a picture of disarray. Half opened books, files, stationery, even Coke cans were littered all over the place__ on the work table, under the chairs, on the mosaic floor, a few even near the attached washroom.

My womanly instincts came to fore and I set about putting everything in order, even at one point picking up the intercom and requisitioning the House Keeping Department.

And when Mr Kumar walked in through the door in the evening all he did was stand and stare in wonderment at the metamorphosis his cabin had undergone.

He rewarded me with a hesitant half smile.

In turn I extracted a cup of hot Nescafe from the Coffee Machine and placing it on his desk, said, “ Sir, I am Maya, your new Executive Secretary”.

He motioned me to the chair opposite him and apprised me of the tasks at hand.

I was to take care of his appointments, attend all his meetings, take down their minutes, prepare notes, and help him with the general functioning of his office.

The next few months I immersed myself fully in my job, voraciously lapping up each day and new experience as part of my learning curve, ever learning, at times faltering, at times making mistakes but never repeating them.

At the end of six months, I had learnt enough to make myself an indispensable part of the office, befriending one and all, helping all and sundry, ensuring the smooth and efficient running of the organisation.

The wheels of time spun and soon a year passed by and another and  then yet another.

I was happy, at peace with myself, had a job, a great one at that, one that I loved to the hilt, and most importantly was independent in all senses of the term.

By now I was promoted as General Manager-Operations and my salary was ten times over what I had started with.

And then I fell in love. Or, we fell in love. Shiv and I.

It was not one of those Slam, Bam, Thank You Ma’m kind of puerile, lust filled entanglements that you hear of but quite on the contrary, a slow brewing, deep stirring, meaningful heart enriching, life affirming love between two mature fully responsible consenting adults.

As such we resolved that our love, romance, relationship, affection or whatever one may choose to call it, would in no way interfere with our official duties. We turned increasingly discreet, making sure that not one soul got a whiff of it.

But then as they say such things have a dirty habit of leaking out and soon someone somehow poisoned the ears of the powers that be at the Head Office.

Soon enough Shiv received a terse one line note from the head honchos asking for my scalp.

And that’s where things stand now as I sit in my cabin wondering over the dilemma that stares Shiv, my boss cum lover.

***

The intercom buzzes; I pick up the phone.

“Maya. We’re in this together. I’ve put in my papers. Now, either we swim or sink.

Are you with me?”

“Forever, my sweetheart”.

I kiss him over the phone.

I am happy, elated, over the moon.
I have finally found love.

I have a man, a man who’s man enough to take on the world.

For me, for him, for us.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #fiction #shortstory #CATolgy #BSchool #MBA

#reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#16 #1670words

neelwrites/training/flashfiction/performance/09/12/2017

December 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 7 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

Hosted by https://carrotranch.com/2017/12/07/december-7-flash-fiction-challenge/

TRAINING, IT’S DRAINING

By Neel Anil Panicker

Two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes and still counting. There’s no signs of the torture  ever coming to an end. From his secluded perch in the far right hand corner, I watch with eyes as dead as of a dodo’s at the ‘actors’ and their ‘performances’.

The powers that be had even thought out a name for this form of extreme sadism, grandly christening it as ‘ANNUAL SKILL UPLIFTMENT SESSION’.

My foot! The only skill upliftment was that the hapless trainees had by now learnt how to fall into deep slumber with their eyes split wide open.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #flashfiction #99words #training

neelwrites/darknesstolight/fiction/shortstory/reena’sexplorationhallengeweek#15/06/12/12017

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DARKNESS TO LIGHT

habit

By Neel Anil Panicker

As the Master of Ceremonies (MC) announced the winner of the COACHING TIME Best Faculty Award 2017, thunderous rounds of applause swept through the audience as every single person was up on his or feet, clapping, cheering lustily, quite a few even, especially among the women, shedding more than a tear.

These were no ordinary tears; instead they were tears of joy, tears of supreme happiness and a silent prayer in honour and recognition of the insurmountable spirit displayed by one of their own, one who with her actions had become an inspirational beacon of hope for all.

Daintily adjusting the folds of her exquisitely ornate gold embroidered Kancheevaram silk saree, Dr Lavanya got up from her chair in the corner third row and worked her way towards stage acknowledging the compliments that came her way.

Joining his colleagues and co-workers in expressing their extreme happiness was Mohandas Pai, the Director of ‘Coaching Time’ who too stood up, his hands clapping in chorus with the rapturous crowd.

Amidst thunderous ear deafening applause Sr Lavanya acceded to the request of the MC to speak a few words.

First of all I request you all to kindly sit down. It makes me feel a wee bit awkward to receive so much love and attention from my dear colleagues, well wishers, respectful Director Sir__ all who have known me in the past decade or so to ten years.

If an outsider were to inadvertently gate crash into this evening’s conference, he would assume me to be a hot shot Bollywood celebrity, in town for one or the other charity event.

Speaking of charity, I will say that charity begins at home.

And here I must thank, besides my dear parents, my dear colleagues without whose unstinted support and encouragement I wouldn’t have been here, standing before all of you, holding in my hands this glittering trophy that has my name engraved on it, acknowledging and honouring me with the award for the BEST FACULTY- VERBAL 2017.

And now I must get on with the task at hand, a promise that Pai Sir had extracted from me.

It was a promise that I will tell my story from every single stage, that I will narrate at every opportune moment and occasion the story of my life, that is my life battling cancer.

So here it is, the no holds barred, bare boned story of my life.

My name is Lavanya. I had a surname. But life and circumstances have forced nee enabled me to drop my surname.

I was born a boy, the only child of typical middle class Maharashtrian parents who were both bank employees.

Life was blissful as I grew up into my teens but sometime around when I had crossed seventeen I realised I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.

When, after much hesitation and quite a lot of trepidation, I disclosed my fears to my parents they were devastated. Quite understandably so. I mean who wouldn’t? Their only child, bright and cheerful, a crowd puller, was now telling them, literally out of the blue that he was a she. That their only offspring, that too a son, the much sought after male homosapien, was a daughter.

Barring the initial shock, my mother, as all mothers are wont to, took it in her chin and embraced me. She had a daughter now instead of what she believed earlier to be a son. Just a switch of genders.

But my father was made differently. He felt insulted, cheated, humiliated, his elephantine male ego couldn’t the fathom the idea of fathering a boy who had now cruelly turned into a girl.

He ranted and raved, threw things around, began binge drinking and chain smoking, and when one day my mother suggested that it was time to heed the doctor’s advice and help initiate the medical process that would transform my body from male into female he put his foot down. He simply refused to sign the consent form, refused to put his signature on the medical form without which no hospital or doctor could carry out the medical interventions my body so very urgently needed.

And when my mother questioned him over this reluctance, he slapped her and threw us, both mother and I out of the house, our house that parents had jointly built.

The next day and the week after we stayed at a relative’s place and the months following that we moved into a single room rented accommodation.

The day we moved in was when we received the court notice. My father had filed for divorce.

Our cup of woes filleth over.

I will cut short the horrific days and nights and the several years that followed thereafter, suffice to say it took all of ten years, five ‘eight-hour-long’ surgeries and a ten lakh rupees bank loan to help me transform fully from a boy to girl.

In between my mother worked at the bank, toiled as an independent single mother, bravely fighting the not so veiled barbs and insults and slights of a highly myopic misogynistic society to enable me pick up a graduate degree and a prized MBA thereafter.

She died last year, a happy and contented soul, ever in live with life, ever a fighter, ever positive and left me with her message of peace and love. A true fighter she was and made me one too.

My mother was stronger than I ever could be.

I remember she never ever dropping that smile off her face, never ever saying or feeling one bit of despondency, never ever indulging in self pity or wallowing in the deep bottomless well of despair and negativity.

Friends who have visit my house have seen my bookshelf chock o block with self help books and autobiographies of great men and women.

In one of the walls is a huge white board imprinted with the words, “Trauma is about being stuck. Sometimes a holding pattern becomes habitual, causing tension and ill health. We understand our lives backward, but must live them forward”.

These are the words of the great 20th century Danish philosopher Soren Kiregaard, considered the ‘Father of Existentialism’ on whose works I have done Doctorate.

Thanks to my in depth research into his teachings and philosophies was I able understand the concept of choice that besets every human being and thereby lead myself from pitch black darkness into blinding light.

It was he who helped me move from my earlier stage of dreadful existence to another beautiful stage, an act of will, a leap of choice.

I slowly moved from apathy to sympathetic antipathy to finally antipathetic sympathy.

I realised it’s not the traumas and setbacks that come our way that defeat us, that hold us back, that lead us to failures. I realised that is it is our own mental blocks towards them, our own deep rooted self serving narrow mindsets and attitudes towards these temporary but all so natural mishaps that beset every human being on this planet that we need to smash, come out of, and overcome. And that’s what I did. I smashed and broke through all these artificial walls to carve my own space on this Earth.

And that’s the message that I want give all.

I am no doctor but today I help heal minds, heal human minds caught in a time warp, a vicious self defeating circle of bigotry, obscurantism, patriarchy and gender subjugation.

This beautiful award and recognition will always stay embedded in my heart for ever, for it shows your love and respect for both of us, my mother and me__for my mother Lalitha, and for me, Vanya.

And that, my dear friends and colleagues, is my story, Lavanya’s story, the story of a  girl who was once a boy but will always remain a human being, and strive to be a good one. Thanks You and God bless all of you.”

 

#NEELANILPANCIKER FICTION #SHORT STORY #REENA’S EXPLORATION CHALLENGE#WEEK 15 #1323words

 

neelwrites/swotbversussoar/fiction/shortstory/1431words/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek14/29/11/2017

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NO SWETTING OVER SWOT, SIMPLY SOAR

Here’s the prompt.

SOAR SLIDE.jpg

 

By Neel Anil Panicker  

Nitin Gokhale looked around him and found that he was the odd one out. Everyone in the large airy hall the size of a 5-star lobby was clad in suits. Cleaned and shaven, hairs gelled, shoes shining brighter than the morning sun, and holding sleek leather bound files in their manicured hands, each one of them radiated brilliance as their eager, sparkling eyes stood affixed on a corner door that for now remained firmly closed.

For a casual observer the scene could be mistaken for the grand finale round of the ‘Mr World’ contest when the door would magically spring open and the judges would walk upto announce the winner of the most prized contest.

Except that this was no beauty contest but a brainy one. The participants who were waiting were no handsome Amazon Gods and gorgeous Greek Goddesses but were all who had trumped the best brains of the country and elsewhere to emerge among the list of the final call getters of the CAT, the prestigious IIMs, the premier management institution of the world, from where in two years time, they would be honing and perfecting their considerable academic skills and business skills to emerge and take their rightful places as czars and czarinas of the diamond crusted corporate world.

 

Should he too have followed suit and worn a suit. Nitin mulled over the question as he looked at his crispy white shirt worn over a pair of black trousers.

No, that was unnecessary, maybe even a little over the top, and had he worn one it would have made him extremely conscious and thereby anxious, which again would have reflected in the way he conducted himself, Nitin reminded himself.

Besides, this made him stand out in the crowd even if it made him the odd one out.

A voice over the microphone interrupted this thoughts; Nitin heard his name being called out.

It was time to step through the door. He got up, creased his trousers, and with confident steps walked towards the door.

At the corner, he saw someone flashing a thumbs up sign.

It was Inder Malhotra, his friend and colleague from Delhi Technical University, his alma mater, and thereafter COACHING TIME, the MBA coaching institute in Delhi that the two had attended for almost a year immediately after completing their graduation.

He smiled back mouthing a ‘thanks’ and stepped in.

Smiling, he walked towards the sole oblong teak lined wood table that stood in the centre of an airy mid-sized room.

“Good morning, Sirs and Madam”, he wished the eminent group of five panelists who were seated across the table.

“Please be seated”, the man, who looked, with his shock of greying curly hair and huge thick oval glasses like Zubin Mehta, the renowned conductor of international symphony.

Gently easing himself into a chair, Nitin sat down, arms firmly folded and clutching single black colour file that contained his resume and a few certificates.

The perfunctory question and round session began as each panel member posed one query after the other, all pretty much the norm and answers to which Nitin though he gave very satisfactorily, judging by the glowing expressions that emanated from the eminent panellists.

Just as he thought the interview was over, a man who looked around sixty and had until now remained silent barring one stock question that he had posed about his school, straightened his tie, a blue silk one with a small red coloured triangular insignia, and asked, “Tell me young man, can you do a SWOT of yourself?”

Nitin had half anticipated this question and was a bit surprised that it had come at the fag end of the around fifteen minute interview, almost as an afterthought.

He cleared is throat and looking at the esteemed panel and then specifically at the gent who had asked, he replied,

“Respected Sirs, this is a standard trope that is trotted out in interview sessions all over the world. It’s as if without this asking about SWOT, no interview can pass muster.

It’s taken on a very holy status, a litmus test to validate or invalidate a candidate’s efficiency or lack of it.

With due respect, I would like to say that it’s time that we junk this acronym and replace it with another.

Nitin caught a few murmured whispers as suddenly the temperature in the room shot up despite the air conditioning.

He heard one of them say,” And what’s that, my friend?”

Ignoring the slight sarcasm laden tone that emanated, Nitin carried on, “ SOAR. This the new acronym that I believe the world should embrace instead of the mindlessly following the centuries old SWOT.

Unmindful of a few raised eyebrows and as many quizzical looks, Nitin continued, his voice dripping with confidence, his words cast in conviction,

“First, let’s see what SWOT means and is meant for.

The S stands for Strengths. It aims to figure out a person or institution’s strengths, our individual strong points. A very legitimate query.

W for weaknesses reveals our lackings, our drawbacks, out chinks in the armour.

O looks at our Opportunities while T points towards the Threats that we may pose.

Now, while I wholly subscribe to S, I strongly believe that the remaining letters have a strongly negative tone. To me it seems as if we are preparing to go to war. It’s as if the world is one big battlefield and full of mad, raging enemies, fire spewing monsters that we need to trounce and slay.

SWOT reads like a very clinical war manual to me, a secret blood letting code, that if it falls in someone’s hands could lead to either world supremacy and dominance along with unbridled power or universal subjugation and eternal stagnation.

It’s advocacy sends an entirely wrong message to the strife torn world that we live in currently, telling to young minds, boys and girls on the cusp of entering into adult hood that it’s okay to find, ferret out others’ weaknesses and exploit them to your advantage, that’s it’s okay to strike without fear and put the fear of the devil into your adversary’s brains simply because you have more strengths and little weaknesses and a whole lot more opportunities to threaten others not as blessed as you are into meek submission and insultful subjugation.  It teaches the world the wrong set of dogmas, a dogma steeped in the binary of right and wrong, strong and weak, and good and bad shall, and will never ever be a panacea to solve the gargantuan problems that stares our beautiful world and help make it a better and more humane place to live in.

Instead, I propose that each of us, as individuals and as collectives, live and breathe and internalise SOAR.

While we turn inwards to understand and identify and hone our STRENGHTS in our respective professions, we don’t look of them as corporate arsenals, deadly AK 47s that we use, misuse and abuse by unleashing it mercilessly on our opponents, colleagues, competitors, Instead, we need to harness out strengths and look at it as aids, as OPPORTUNIES to help our fellow men and women, colleagues, contemporaries, to hand hold them and improve them, to make them better.

This way if we go about setting our goals and ASPIRATIONS keeping in mind the general benefit and welfare of all around us, the day will not be far off when one day we can sit and look back at all that we have achieved__a deep inner satisfaction, an abiding sense of inner fulfilment, a sense of peace and oneness with ourselves and the world and the cosmos. This is our reward, our RESULTS, the ultimate fruit of all our endeavours, the one that leaves us as happy and contended souls, the ultimate purpose of our lives.

And that respected gentlemen is what I intend to strive for, something no B-school can teach me or anyone else for that matter. Thanks.”

Pindrop silence followed thereafter. Then, the man who had posed the question got up and clapped, first slowly and then vigorously. Soon others too were on their feet, their beaming faces and wrinkled eyes revealing unequivocally their acknowledgment the wisdom that emanated from Nitin’s mouth.

That evening when the day long interview session ended each of the eminent went back home with a new vision, a new all embracing humanistic outlook towards life all thanks to a conscientious 21-year-old who had his head and heart screwed in the right places,  who helped them traverse the difficult but highly rewarding journey from SWOT to SOAR.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #shortstory #fiction #CAT #CATology #1431words

neelwrites/It’sCATday/fiction/flash/shorstory/357words/26/11/2017

IT’S ‘CAT’ DAY

By Neel Anil Panicker

Cradled and cocooned. That’s what Vineet felt in winter’s welcoming arms.

He had set the alarm at five and had got up just after the third ring; his mind a step ahead of his body which still was in sleep mode.

Strange how the seasons and our perspectives of it change with time.

As a child and well into his late teens he remembered snuggling up in bed all through the cold Delhi mornings, his mind lost to sweet dreams, sleep induced deep explorations into a distant land of fantasies that was teeming with angels, a never ending fantastical journey into the unknown, a sepia tinged wish filled comatose state of mind, something from which he wished would continue for ever, that he would never ever have to wake up from.

But that was then when dreams were young and life fairly innocent.

Now, especially so in the last couple of years, young Vineet’s dreams had been rudely smashed to smithereens and he had crash landed on terra firma, harshly brought down to earth.

Mercilessly left to confront and brave the everyday vicissitudes that life hands out to students all over the world.

Studies and more rounds of studies, endless hours of poring into copious tomes, juggling multiple subjects, battling and surmounting one gargantuan mathematical theorem over the other, delving and diving deep into one arcane, even esoteric philosophical musing after another, mugging up idioms and phrases and mastering the syntactical intricacies of the eternally perplexing English Grammar___these and other Herculean obstacles ate up his wintry mornings making all those dreamy memories of sleeping through chilly wintry mornings just that__ a long forgotten distant dream.

For an instant his mind turned a child of ten and he half turned towards his room to snuggle in under the warm sheets.

It was then that he heard his father’s thick baritone smashing into his ears like an overloaded DTC bus on Delhi’s maddening ‘busier than a bumble bee’ streets_ “Vinu, don’t forget to take your Admit Card. It’s the most important day of your life. It’s CAT day”.

He already started feeling like a mouse.

(c )neelanilpanciker2017 #fiction #flash #shorstory #357words

neelwrites/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#13/fiction/shortstory/23/11/2017

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work backwards.jpg

SOMETHING WORTH LEAVING BEHIND

By Neel Anil Panicker

Professor Preetam looked through the glass door and found the line outside at the bay area had thickened. He glanced at the wall clock above. It was still hovering under three. Another three hours to go and the eager beaver queue of students who had booked an appointment with him was just not showing any signs of letting up.

With a sigh he turned his attention towards the young woman in front of him. He knew her well. A Bachelors of Technology  graduate from one of the umpteen nondescript engineering colleges to have sprouted faster than mushrooms in the Greater Noida belt abutting the National Capital Region that was Delhi.

Rashmi Saxena was anything if not nervous.

Thrusting her opened up computer towards Prof. Preetam, she asked, half hesitantly, full nervously, “ Sir, kindly guide me on how to fill this form”.

Preetam knew what form that was. Over half the queries he had received so far pertained to form filling. Most students wanted help in filling up one or the other B-School forms.

More than help they wanted handholding; they wanted him, Head of Department- Verbal, to literally write down all the answers to the questions the said B-School posed.

She addressed the first question that needed to be filled and submitted, this time by FMS, Delhi, one of the top eight business schools of the country __“what are your extra curricular activities”?

‘Sir, this is what I have written. I require your guidance in answering the next one, “What are your career goals”?

“So, what exactly are your career goals, my dear”?

He watched amusedly as the student opposite him shifted uneasily in her chair; his face losing colour and turning pale, a vision that reminded him of the reaction of the legendary athlete Ben Johnson on being stripped of his Olympic gold for doping in sports.

Preetam pushed his swivel chair slightly back, lifting his shoulders to touch the glass topped walls behind him.

He watched intently at the student who sat across the table from him, at her the fast fading colour of her face, at the nervous fidgeting of her fingers, the slight twitch in her left eyelids.

All signs indicating a loss of confidence in the self.

For a moment he closed his eyes and pondered over the thought that had been niggling him ever since the examination date of the  CAT neared. The questions uppermost in most students’ minds were__ besides the clearing of the premier B-school examination with a high percentile that was good enough for them to bag a seat in one or the other top five or eight IIMs of the country, a virtual ticket to a highly remunerative much sought after corporate career___how to write down the regular everyday questions that propped up in every B-school Admissions Form.

‘What kind of an educational system are we bequeathing our young minds that makes fearful and utterly petrified when it comes to answering regular everyday questions about their lives?

I mean which twenty year old does not indulge in an extra curricular activity? Especially so in todays’ times when one is exposed to a plethora of experiences and interests. Be it the world of books or sports or even cultural activities such as music, dance, debates, elocutions, open mikes speechathons and speakathons, there is almost anything and everything a student of the current age and times can get hooked onto and become if not an expert at but at least take more than a passing interest in.

Pray, what help does a student need in giving a decent, reasonable answer to this question? Does he not possess an extra curricular activity. At least one, if not more, in the two-odd decades that he has graced this planet? Or is this that the only out of course indulgence of the students is to traverse the adrenaline inducing high octane world of online chatting? Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming, Whatsapping, Snap Chatting, Tindering and what have you.

The thought, highly disturbing as it were, set the alarm bells ticking in Preetam’s mind as he pondered over the fallout of all this, the natural corollary to all these nonsensical, mindless activities.

Are we then merely mass producing a generation of straight off the factory mindless robots  who do nothing but eat, drink, and play and at crucial junctures of their lives write a plethora of  mind numbing tests that are conducted to weed out the undesirables and reward the remaining with prized seats and fat cat jobs, thus creating elitist class of youngsters pitch drunk in the heady cocktail of power and pelf that is the natural fall out of academic success?

Is academic success measured in terms of how one fares in a highly competitive pressure cooker type test prep environment where the person or persons, a miniscule among the lakhs and lakhs of aspirants are declared winners merely due to the fact that they were able to answer better than others a limited number of  questions in a limited amount of time?

And then, once a student is able to clear this first hurdle, then is he also rated on his ability to answer, both in writing and speech, a set standard spiel of questions thrown to him an alien panel of  condescendingly high brow intellects. Mr Know Alls who take sadistic pleasure in asking such questions as what’s so special about you; why should we admit you; give three good qualities that you possess and five bad ones that you are trying to overcome? More to follow like what are your career goals, whare do you see yourself five/ten/fifteen/twenty year from you and what’s the best thing that’s happened to you to what’s the worst things that’s ever happened to you?

These and more such stupefying questions assailed Preetam as he worked his way around the battleground of queries laid out in each admissions form that students brought to his table with unfailing regularity all through the day, the entire past fortnight.

At the end of the day, a very bemused, utterly confused, and supremely  nonplussed Preetam pulled himself from his chair, steped out of his cabin, and left the gates of Coaching Time, the premier B-School entrance coaching institute of the country where was teaching as a senior Verbal Faculty for the past roughly one decade.

On the metro ride back home, seated a in corner chair, with ample time on his hands, his thoughts turned inwards, towards resolving a dilemma that was troubling him for a long, long time.

A dilemma over the whether all the effort, energy, and time that went into preparing a student into clearing one or the other mindless examination was worth it or not? Whether what he had been doing all these years__lecturing, mentoring, teaching, advising, educating innumerable students__was it all worth it, commendable, something to be proud of, something that he could leave behind as his legacy?
Legacy? The word hit him like a ten tonne brick. His mind went back to its dictionary meaning. Legacy, a noun; an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.

Synonyms: bequest, inheritance, heritage, bestowal, benefaction, gift, heirloom, a handover.

The last one struck him, a handover. He thought about its metaphorical implications. What legacy did he wish to bequeath to the world? To his students? Merely receive words of high praise, an endless stream of Thank Yous, may be a box of sweets from the those who have successfully cracked the CAT;  a felicitation ceremony perhaps, he holding a bouquet of flowers and mouthing words of gratitude as speaker after speaker come on stage and hosannas extolling his excellent virtues and the Director and the top management publicly thanking him for the yeoman services rendered by him.

Yeoman service? What a joke? What service had he rendered so far that merited recognition?  That he would be remembered by, that he done so as to leave behind a legacy, a lifetime of  values that the students and youngsters could pick up and follow and make it their life purpose?

That he had taught for over four decades innumerable number of students on the art of cracking competitive examinations, the umpteen tricks and strategies, the quick fire answers to seemingly impossible questions during Groups Discussions  and Personal Interviews, the entire rigmarole that went into fibbing and fooling a lackadaisical examination system that made mindless robots out of young impressionable minds, that though could help master them the rote/parrot method of  solving the endless intractable range of questions  the helped clear bookish exams but sadly failed to help young men and women pass the all important examinations of their lives__ that is the examination of life, an examination so exacting that no coaching institute, no college, and no university could ever even dream about preparing their students for.

As such thoughts churned in Preetam’s mind it slowly began to take shape into one concrete realization. That evening before the metro dropped him at his station and much before he had stepped into his home, he, for the first time in his entire academic career came to the horrific conclusion that he had miserably failed in leaving behind a legacy, a timeless, age transcending bestowal that he could leave behind for his students, for the youth, for those on whose shoulders rested the burden and thereby the responsibility of turning not just the countries of their births and origins but also wherever they chose to serve.

Later that night as the thought hit him hard and he had thought long over it he came to a decision: he would beginning the following morning devote himself to only one task_ working towards the creation of an enduring legacy, not by way of providing academic counselling and classroom assistance to scores of score and percentile seekers but by enabling them to become better souls, better human beings, men and women with their hearts in their right places, global conscientious citizens who believe, live and breathe the dictum__ service before self.

With that ennobling thought Professor Preetam went to bed and slept a peaceful sleep, the first time in many, many years.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#13 #short story #fiction #CAT #CATology#1685 words