neelwrites/pain,truth’speskycousin/reena’sexplorationchallenge#08/shortstory/fiction/1642words/20/10/2017

week-8

Written for https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-8/

PAIN, TRUTH’S PESKY COUSIN, SETS YOU FREE

By Neel Anil Panicker

Pin drop silence prevailed; all eyes hooked onto the dashing young man at the front, all ears latching onto every single word that was being uttered.

Rachel, sitting in the front rows, closed her eyes and wandered into dreamland.

“It’s all in the eyes, the way we perceive things, look at people.

They are what we chose them to be­­—- our best friends, or worst enemies.”

‘What is it about love that makes you go weak in the knees; leaves you mumbling and fumbling, trembling and stumbling like a gawky ten year old?’

Rachel opened her eyes and gazed into the man in front of her.

No Gucci shoes or Armani suit, Rolex watch or Bond Street tailored clothes?

No Body Shop fragrance oozing out of a six pack six foot tall movie star persona? Not even a deep edgy baritone?

Then what was it that this very ordinary looking thirty something man who taught her class twice a day had that made her go weak on the knees? Made her get up from bed even on days when her body temperatures touched an alarming 104 degrees Celsius, made her attend every single class of his, come rain or shine, even if it meant foregoing her weekends, exarcerbating her already frayed relationships with her roommates and ex-college friends?

She decided to figure out for herself and clasping her hands under the table, she listened to the words of the man, hoping to find a solution to the mystery that was eating into her vitals, keeping her endlessly awake all through the tortuous nights dreaming fantastical visions of her and her Prince Charming.

“Confrontation. That’s what we have come to. We, and that includes every single person on this planet has been pushed to the wall and believes that the only way out is to fight back, retaliate, adopt a confrontationist attitude.

This is the single most reason that we are become distrustful of one another, both on an individual level and on the scale of nations and nationalities.

Look over and you will find manisfestations of this phenomenon—-Nations are fighting each other; nationalities laying claim t supremacy over others, spreading malice, hatred, animosity, and violence all around, falsely, stupidly, or ignorantly claiming themselves to be superior to others, trampling on the pride, ego and rights of others, bringing nations to the heel, hurtling them to the precipice of war and destruction.

It seems everyone is on the warpath, fighting nonexistent battles, battling invisible demons of their creation, causing not just themselves but all around them massive pain and hurt. It is time to change this mindset. It’s time we confront our own inner demons and crush them once and for all so that the truth sets us free. It is time we engage with mankind, with every single person that we meet and encounter on equal terms, with compassion, with empathy, and with love, immense love that comes from the inner wellsprings of our hearts, hearts which must know only to give and share and are full of care. It’s time we change ourselves and thereby change this beautiful world that we inhabit. It’s time we make love, not war.”

Utter silence enveloped the class, not a single human sound or whisper, no shuffling of legs, or even rustling of papers, not even the faint sound of the early morning breeze that snakes in through the open windows.

Rachel, like all others in the classroom were in a deep trance. Never before had someone so captured their collective consciousness like this young man had through his utterings, his words had a power, his thoughts came loaded with a wisdom culled from centuries old sages and were timeless.

Someone from the back rows clapped, a few whistled, and then it was as if the dam had burst__within seconds the whole class had erupted in thunderous applause, their full throated lusty shouts of approbation resounding in the corridors and beyond long after the class had eneded and young man at the centre of attention had made his exit.

For a good fifteen minutes after all the commotion had died down and the class had emptied itself out, Rachel still sat transfixed to her seat, wondering how and when a mere Personality Development Class had managed to usher in so huge a change in her.

How could a person, a young man at that who incidentally also taught Verbal Ability could speak so well, hold such deeply insightful beliefs, have such an evolved world vision.

A lot many such questions assailed her and she, despite racking her mind far and wide, was unable to get concrete answers to them.

But she knew that this person, in the course of a mere 120 minutes, had filled her heart with positivity and an excitement that she hitherto had thought wasn’t possible to achieve.

Here impoverished childhood, her overriding feeling of inferiority had deadened all passion from ever forming in her small heart was what she had thought so far and what she believed to be true until…

Until…the class had changed her and now, she wanted to meet the person responsible for the change.

So thinking, she got up and walked out of the classroom, looking for an opportune moment to meet and confront her new benefactor, the one she knew held answers to the questions that beguiled her mind.

 

A week later…

“Your name is Meena, and you have questions to ask me, right?

How could he? How could he have known all this, wondered Meena as she closed the door behind her and walked towards the empty chair in front of her.

“It’s in your face, in your eyes, in the way you look at me when I take classes.”

What was he, a saint, clairvoyant, a soothsayer, a magician…, He seemed to know exactly what was crossing her mind and bothering her all this time.

Meena decided not to beat around the bush and confronted him headlong.

“How could you be so clever and insightful. How do have all the answers, always, Sir”?

‘Deepak Matrani. That’s my name, Those who know me address me as simply Deepu. I will resolve your dilemma today. Come, have  a look at me. What do you see? A young man, reasonably well dressed, well behaved and cultured, and now as per you clever and insightful as well.

Well, the foundations of what you see today in me was set two decades ago in a small village in Bolangir district of Odisha. Have you heard of Bolangir? It is the district that regularly draws international attention for the dubious distinction of the maximum number of child starvation deaths in the world. Not very long ago, I too would have been a mere statistics, adding my tiny, puny might to that empirical data, yet another number for the world to gape at and shake their heads in shame and disbelief and then, quite impassively move on to the next sob story around the world.

But fate had other plans in store for me. I survived, miraculously grew up sans parents, sans schooling, sans love, sans anything.

One day a lady found me lying unconscious in a roadside ditch, my skeletal frame smeared in human excreta, filth and dirt.

I was twelve when she brought me to her home, ‘Saviours of Humanity’, and that’s where I lived for the next ten years, or so, bathed in love and compassion, lovingly fed and raised by unknown hands and brought back to a life of dignity I had never known before.

The lady who saved me and brought me home that day and gave me an education, blessing me with her love and compassion, is today no more. A couple of years back she was waylaid on the road next to her home, accosted by ribald axe wielding religious bigots, accused of forcible conversions, and brutally hacked to death.

This person, whom I called Mother, was killed, her beautiful life cut short by misanthropes, narrow minded illiterate men whose hearts were filled with only hatred towards humanity.

Still, she blessed them as life ebbed out of her saying aloud, “Merciful God, forgive them and bless them for they know not what they do. That day I cried a lot but later, slowly the pain ebbed within me and I realized my true calling in life, which is to spread the word of peace and brotherhood, of love and compassion, of living and letting live.

That day I learnt that the only way to combat the forces of evil in this world is by compassion, by having a sympathetic understanding of all human sorrows, by treating every single person one encounters in life with the same sense of equality, dignity, and love  that one expects of oneself from others. This truth set me free, freed me of all pain, and has helped me become a better soul.”

The room fell silent.

For a long time Reena sat there, alone and lost in her world. Finally, she looked at the man seated in front of her, the man who was her teacher, the man who had impressed her enough with his confidence, his humility, and now his compassion.

Slowly, realization dawned on her and she smiled, a full bloom smile that came from deep within the recesses of her fledgling heart and radiated joy and happiness all around her.

“Thank you, Anirban Sir. Thanks to you, today I am able to confront my fears and I by doing so I have become free of all pain. Thanks to your noble thoughts and philosophy my eyes have opened to a new world, a world of infinite possibilities, and like you, one day I too, who has come from a similar impoverished background as yours, will become successful, but more importantly stay grounded and humble always.”

©neelanilpanicker2017 #reena’sexplorationchallenge#8 #shortstory #fiction #selfdiscovery #1642words

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neelwrites/servicebeforeself/fiction/shortstory/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek7/10/10/2017

Take any one belief of yours that has ruled your life, and examine it from the following aspects.

  1 Is it true?

2 Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4 Who would you be without that thought?

SERVICE BEFORE SELF

By Neel Anil Panicker

“Dear friends and colleagues,

I welcome you all to the Annual Board Meeting cum Party of Coaching Time.

Like last year and the previous three years before that, this year too Coaching Time has emerged as the number one coaching institute in the whole of Delhi region. But unlike previous years’ successes this year’s results have been slightly different. Well, before naysayers think otherwise, this year the results have been phenomenal as for the first time in the 25 years since this organization was founded, the Delhi region has outbeaten all other regions handsomely, by a stupendous 30 per cent margin, to emerge as the numero uno by a long mile.

And all credit for this outstanding growth goes to all our valued staff members from the marketing, sales, finance, accounts, planning, and operations departments besides the academic department which includes our most valued faculty without whose sincere and tireless efforts all this would have been next to impossible.

Last but not the least, a ship is only as god as its captain and for that we need to be very thankful that we have at the helm of affairs a man who is synonymous with success, whose dedication and resourcefulness and gung ho attitude towards work and life in general has enabled Coaching Time to garner such love and respect among the students community who are our largest stakeholders.

As a small token of our immense gratitude we now call upon Shri Sai Kumar Swamy to kindly come on stage and accept this award and also share with us his rich and varied experiences in successfully running Coaching Time, a byword in quality coaching. “

Honourable Founder Chairman Sir, my dear friends and colleagues,

First of all I would like to thank all of you for the grand success registered by Coaching Time- Delhi region.

This has been the fifth successive year that we have posted superlative results and this year especially we have outbeaten our previous years’ performances.

Chairman Sir has been too kind to shower such fulsome praise on me but I think that’s part of his nature. I have always known him to be generous with his eulogies, always delivered in that lovely soft uplifting voice of his, a voice and manner which convinced me to heed his advice and take up this noblest of all professions.

I see all around me chests swelled with pride; faces etched with mile long smiles, hands tirelessly clapping away with the announcement of every single award; team spirit and bonhomie at its peak; each one of you jubilantly and lustily cheering the successes of the other.

It pleases me no end to see such camaraderie. It shows that we have in Coaching Time- Delhi Region a very formidable, well strung, highly motivated bunch of super achievers ever ready to take this organization to stratospheric heights.

Now I will take this opportunity to talk about something personal, something, an incident  rather, that opened my eyes to a new reality.

A month ago I was visited by a young man, a youth, barely 22, and quite curiously one of our ex-students.

His name is Shrikant Vashishth. Faculty members and sales colleagues from the Connaught Place centre might remember him, a lean bespectacled shy student who had enrolled himself into the G 8 weekend CAT batch of 2015.

I recalled that he had topped all India CAT B-School entrance test that year.

I surmised that he must have joined any one of top three IIMs of the country and having graduated now, could be here,  simply paying me a courtesy visit.

It was only a few minutes later did I realize how grossly wrong I was.

This young man, around 23, a first class topper and a gold medalist to boot from IIM, Ahmedabad was meeting for a teaching assignment.

Yes, you heard that right! This man, who had over seven placement offers from the crème de la crème multinational companies around the globe, each outbidding the other in offering over ten figure dollar salaries was turning his back to all that and wanted to join as a humble teacher.

Unbelieving my ears and the words that he spoke, I thought of putting him through the grill.

“Shrikant,” I said, “Do you know what you are doing? How could throw away your life like that, turning a blind eye to what is the start of a great, successful career for you”?

He looked at me with calm steady eyes and replied, conviction dripping out of every word that he spoke.

‘Sir, my definition of success is different from yours. When I joined Coaching Time, I was just one of the lakhs of students who take the bus or the train or the car or the bullock cart, selling or mortgaging their farms and lands to arrive in the big city and enroll at a coaching institute that gives them a realistic chance at taking a crack at an examination that could change their lives for the better for ever.

Some of them are successful and see their wishes becoming fulfilled; the majority see their dreams get shattered and trudge back to their small cities or stumble and slumber through life leading mundane existences.

I am lucky that I was among those rare few who succeeded. All this because of my teachers, the talented, hardworking faculty of your institution who helped in every which way to help realize my dream.

There were days when I just couldn’t cope with the fast paced rigours of academic life. Waking up in a strange city, washing clothes, cooking food, taking the Metro to attend back to back six hour classes, and then coming back dead tired but still getting back to self studies shortly.

Add to that the complexities  of certain topics and it would have been easy for me to raise my hands, give it all up in despair, accept defeat and take the night train to Bihar, to my home town in Munger district, to whatever awaited my fate.

It was during such times that the teachers helped me, gauged my changing mood swings and injected me with the much needed injection of hope, positivity and belief.

It was they more than me who believed in my potential to bell the CAT, and it is to them that I owe my success.

It is they who taught me the greatest philosophy that a human being on this planet can live by and that is “Service before Self”. I owe them and the society that nourishes souls like them a huge debt and it is my way of repaying that debt.’

Friends, for a long, long time after he left, I sat there, chained to my seat, my mind battling a million conflicting emotions, a deep knowing pain shooting through my heart, my eyes shell shocked and in limbo, utterly flabbergasted, shocked, and above all shamed.

This young boy, half my age, had shown me the mirror, a mirror that I had consciously strayed away from all these years. He had told me things that I knew were right, so utterly right but had foregone long, long ago in the false pursuit of materialistic power and pelf, success measured in the amount of crispy notes that one had in the bank.

I went back home that night but the uneasy feeling of something terribly gone wrong persisted. In fact the initial sense of discontentment, a vague lingering feeling that something was not quite right had by now grown into full blown depressive despondency.

That night, long after everyone had gone to sleep, ad after an hour of tossing and turning around I finally gave it up and got up and entered my study.

I decided to confront my inner self.

I lit a cigarette, a very rare event for me, and as the first puffs of Benson & Hedges wafted into the air, making concentric circles all around the comfy air-conditioned room, I settled down into my recliner and my mind walked down memory lane.

I remembered my impoverished childhood, my village, my school, the only one that had a roof, I remembered the day I graduated, I remembered my first tryst with big city life, the day I enrolled for CAT coaching in Hyderabad, the initial days and months, my diffidence, my discomfort with all things English; I remembered the times when I felt depressed enough to want to kill myself; I remembered my teachers, the excellent faculty who held my hand and guided me and filled me such strength and belief that I went on to not just cleat the CAT but bag a seat at IIM-Bangalore.

I also remembered the changes that happened thereafter; how I chased money, ran after bigger and bigger offers, sacrificed my principles at the altar of materialism.

Friends, I sat alone well into the night and gradually began to see how far I had strayed from my beliefs.

The one that I had become was not the one who I had started off as.

As one material success after another piled up I was losing out on my inner beliefs, my core principles. I realised  that I had to change, to go back to own real self, discover my elemental belief, a belief nurtured into me by my teachers whose tireless selfless services I had abused to serve my own narrow minded selfish interests.

Friends, in Shrikant, a boy from this organization, I began to see my own mirror image, an image from which I strayed several miles away.

I have decided to look myself in the mirror and live my beliefs. I know that I am nothing, cipher, zilch without my beliefs. I am thankful to Shrikant for showing me the mirror to my thoughts, for bringing me face to face with myself.

I believe God wanted to deliver me a message, a thought; Shrikant was only a medium. It is upto me to retain that thought or transform it. I have decided to do the latter.

I, along with my new partner Shrikant, have decided to build a world class coaching institute that will provide absolutely free coaching for all graduate students in India. Anyone and everyone who believes in the motto “Service before Self” is welcome to join us. Thank You and have a great time “

©neelanilpanciker2017 #servicebeforeself#fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallenge #1710 words

neelwrites/flymehigh/reena’sexplorationchallenge#week6#1884words/10/05/2017

Hosted by the enterprising and ever helpful Reena at

https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-5-2/

What is it that makes you feel powerful? What is that strength which makes your time on this planet worthwhile?

REC 6

FLY ME HIGH UP THE SKY

By Neel Anil Panicker

MONDAY, 12 NOON,

FACULTY ROOM

‘Dammit, I have another class after this. Hate teaching a bunch of stupid students?

‘Bad luck, Arvind. Don’t forget it is idiots such as these who sponsor our salaries, who help make both our ends meet, who…’

‘Know it Rahul and cut the spiel, will you. These good for nothings, when they throw  cash on the table it helps bring us ‘food on the table  What do you say, Animesh?’.

At that instant the bell rang and Animesh thankfully extricated himself from the Faculty Room and strode purposefully down the corridor towards the corner classroom for what was his second class of the day.

Two hours later…

“Animesh, why don’t you check this video. It is the latest on Pappu”.

Animesh looked across at his colleague who was peering into his phone, a top end model IPhone and replied gently, “Thanks Rahul, I have an essay to complete”.

Racuous laughter erupted all around the comfy leather chairs on which snuggled a group of four other FMs, their eyes glued to their phones.

An unmindful Animesh checked his watch, decided he still had fifteen minutes before the start of his next class and opened his laptop.

At that instant a band of students came inside.

He recognised them as students from his just concluded class.

“Sir, we have a problem. Could you tell us the difference between “He came to the class” and “He has come to the class”?

Animesh looked up at the students who were now hovering around him.

Vinay, Prakash, Adil, Deepesh, and Anita. He knew them; their names and faces registered on his heart and mind from day one.

All of them were almost of the same colour, height, weight, and carried the same body language, conveying similar facial expressions. Pretty much indistinguishable much like the group of camera slinging, baggy clad monk like Chinese tourists that he often spotted strolling around Connaught Circus. They all looked the same but unlike the foreigners who were armed with large tourist guide maps and had cheer spread across their milky white visages,  the students who had come to Animesh stood half bent, holding half opened grammar books in their hands, anxiety writ large on their despondent faces, their reed thin bodies covered in pale yellow skin pigmentations__these graduate students, all pushing their twenties and staring into bleak uncertain futures, epitomised tenseness, quite eerily the subject they had severe doubts about.

Even in the cool October month, thick beads of sweat trickled through their pores and ran all over their workman style clothes, abominably pungent odours emanating from their bodies.

He sat them down beside him, and unmindful of the rambunctious sounds all around him and the sly remarks and innuendoes of his colleagues, proceeded to teach them the intricacies of the moving time as captured via the Verb, the ‘action’ Part of Speech, feeling a strange empathy and warmth towards them.

He knew that not very long ago he too was in the same boat, undergoing the same plight as these students were now experiencing, and resolved to help alleviate their sorrow as best as he could do.

***

There are two types of teachers in this world. The ones who are teachers because they have nothing better to do. The other, those who become teachers because they believe this is the best thing to do.

As far as the first category is concerned, I know I may have taken a very extremist view when I say “they have nothing better to do”.

Let me qualify that by saying that “they think they have nothing better to do or worse they want nothing better to do.”

It is this category of teachers who have ‘chanced’ upon the teaching profession

who belittle teachers and teaching, the noblest of all professions in the world.

And because they believe “they have nothing better to do” they inflict their inner negativity, despondency and lackadaisical attitude, allowing it slowly and dangerously percolate into the impressionable minds and hearts of ‘fresh as a daisy’ students who as the aphorism goes learn from their teachers.

These are the unfortunate souls, who after having stumbled in and out of a countless other professions, accidentally bump into the teaching profession, and discover it to be “cool’ and easy” and “laidback”, staying put there for ages, growing thick skins and even thicker work ethics that border on extreme forms of lassitude and nothingness.

So they amble in and out of classrooms, their weary feet dragging their lost souls and deadened minds, sowing seeds of negativity and despondency on one and all.

They are a pain, not only to themselves, but all those who are unfortunate enough to interact with them.

They are here not because of any great love for it, but because they have run out of choices. And as we all know, especially the American electorate who voted a most mismatched person for the most powerful job in the world, any decision that is taken out of compulsion and not of choice is a utterly stupid and downright false one, one that could lead to long term damaging consequences.

On the other end of the spectrum are those types of teachers who have become teachers because truly love the profession, who truly believe in the power of education in transforming lives, and who thereby take it as a very powerful tool, one that needs to be wielded with a lot of responsibility, acumen, sincerity and humility.

They are the ones who sprint in and out of classrooms, energising classrooms and its inhabitants with a searing intensity and vitality as reflected in the manner, style, depth, and deep passion that they bring into their teachings.

They are the true torchbearers of education, the upholders of right moral and intellectual values, and sadly a very rare breed.

Animesh Bhattarya is one such specimen.

A well respected English teacher, he is a senior Verbal Faculty at Coaching First, the number one institution in the country that helps graduate students prepare themselves for cracking the CAT, the Common Admissions Test, the ticket to the IIMs, the best B-schools in the country, and thereon to the most coveted positions in the corporate world.

Almost ten years into the teaching profession, everything about the forty something Animesh Sir,

as his students respectfully address him as, typified his attitude and aptitude towards and for the profession.

***

TWO PM,

LUNCH BREAK

Lunch breaks and Faculty Rooms are a highly combustible combination. There are discussions galore, sweet and sour titbits culled from the world wide web are gingerly extricated, passed around to be polished and refined, dissected and analysed threadbare, served piping hot along with samosas and hot tea.

Often, fireworks exploded.

Politics, religion, economy, education…these were some perennial hot topics, never running out of circulation, always finding eager and new audiences.

“The bastard. He should be sent to Pakistan”… “Bullet trains in a country  where daily train accidents are the norm. What a cruel 1 lakh crore joke on us is this?”…

”God only knows what these assholes were doing in school.” …”Wasting time, what else.”

The last two remarks sent Animesh’s thoughts racing back in time.

He closed his eyes and travelled back to his past, to a childhood steeped in povertqy, a childhood spent sowing seeds in a rich landlord’s fields, until one man’s benevolence saw him getting enrolled in the only school in the entire village, a village so poor that its denizens were deprived of even electricity and potable water, a sad commentary on a country that tomtoms itself as the world’s largest functional democracy. What democracy, what function?

Within the first few days of attending school, Animesh, quite early in life, resolved to lift himself out of the cesspool of poverty. It wasn’t an easy task, though. Besides his parents, who were both farm hands, available for long lease, ever ready to till the soil of the rich, doing backbreaking hard labour from dawn to dusk, he also had to contend with an alien subject English, besides mastering the intricacies of time, speed, and distance, and a host of other subjects.

After passing himself from school with flying colours, he made his way to the big city, Patna, where he commenced a graduate programme in English Literature, his entire tuitions fees waived off in a benevolent gesture from the college authorities keeping in view his poor family background.

It was in college that he became exposed to a wider better informed world. It was here that he came to know that until now he was living the life of a frog in a well,  a closed, deprived lowly existence and that there was a whole big different world out there waiting to be explored and conquered.

And the only way one could ever do that is through English, its mastery is a prerequisite to growth in life.

He began to understood that English was the numero uno language of the classes if not the masses; that it bound the world together, and that it was English alone that was the lingua franca of the international world community.

The next few years he dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the Queen’s language with a fervour and passion that was truly admirable.

Every single free time would see him in the vast college library, poring over books, reading upon an eclectic range of diverse topics; be it philosophy, psuchology, religion, science, management, science fiction…every single genre was not spared…grammar books, thesauru, bi-lingiual dictionaries…name it and he had not only read but imbibed, ingrained, internalised their thoughts, teachings, right down to every single idiom, phrasal verb, comma and full stop.

The end result: the low caste poor child of not so long ago had by the age of twenty one, armed himself with a first class distinction honours degree in English but also become an expert in the English language, both written and spoken, a feat so unique and worthy of acknowledgement that he became the envy and  pride of his teachers who all reaped fulsome praise upon him and wished him the brightest of futures.

***

The class bell rang, putting a break to his thoughts.

Animesh Bhattarya gathered his books and strode sanguinely down the corridor to take his next class of the day.

There was a spring in his steps as supreme confidence emanated from his being.

It origined from the humbling realisation that he, the son of a poor farmer, through sheer hard work and a die-hard perseverance, had turned himself into a very rare breed, a fine exponent of the English language, one among the miniscule five per cent of Indians who could write and speak in perfect English.

It was this humbling thought that made him feel omnipotent, filled his heart and mind with great Herculean power, made him feel immensely worthwhile, and helped him to tackle headlong all of life’s problems.

He vowed to pass on this power to one and all, especially to students whose backgrounds were quite similar to his, who, though they hailed from impoverished households, had a fire in their bellies and big dreams in their hearts.

It was this audience that he craved for and dedicated his life towards.

He felt powerful, he felt worthy. Now he wanted others to feel so.

©neelanilpanicker2011 #fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallengeweeksix#powerful#1884words

neelwrites/lookingbeyondthenumbers/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek5/fiction/catology/shortstory/1627words/28/09/2017

strategies

LOOKING BEYOND THE NUMBERS

By Neel Anil Panicker

TOTAL NUMBER OF QUESTIONS :      34

RIGHT      :                                                   6

WRONG   :                                                   28

Rubbing his eyes in disbelief, Mahesh got up from his chair and began to pace up and down the floor, his fingers tightly clutched inside sweaty palms.

The results of his Diagnostic Test stared him in the face.

It was a timed test that helped the students gauge their current levels and helped them get a better understanding of their strengths  and weaknesses in order to prepare themselves for the final Common Admissions Test (CAT) nine months down the line, a test that would make or mar their professional careers, decide whether they would end up in any any one of the top ten premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) of the country or languish in a lowly job, joining the ever toiling hoi polloi that make up the great Indian workforce.

A slight stirring from the corner bed broke his thoughts.

‘Turn off the damn lights, will you’.

It took awhile for Mahesh to register what he heard. Then, still in a half daze, he pulled his arms out and turned off the switch.

‘No point in disturbing others’. His roommate Arvind had just returned from his night shift.

As Mahesh slid himself under the sheets and closed his eyes, his mind lay awake, playing in a loop the roller coaster happenings of the past few days, each recall exacerbating his already frayed nerves.

Here he was, barely a week into life in the big city, some 1500 kilometers away from home.

The past three days had been particularly tough on him. The first day, after de-boarding at New Delhi Railway Station from a jam packed Jharkhand Express, he had headed straight to Coaching First, the premium coaching centre for CAT that her friends and teachers back home in Sitamarhi had recommended.

For the next couple of hours he had sat and heard out an impassioned extempore from the Front Desk Counsellor, a stentorian heavily bedecked lady with a lipstick smeared powdered face who trotted  out in a rat-tat-tat fashion the advantages of enrolling at Coaching First, her multi-hued long nailed finger tips repeatedly pointedly towards the walls all around her which were plastered with the smiling visages of successful pass outs, and the linear golden ribboned tagline of the institute, ‘Turn to us if you want to turn your dreams into a reality’.

Sufficiently impressed, Mahesh had signed himself for a one year long term course by completing the necessary admission formalities and paid out her fees, a six months’ advance with the remaining to be paid within the next 90 days.

An hour later he was filling up another form, this time at a seven storied box like building whose half peeling faded façade was emblazoned with the legend, PG FOR BOYS ONLY.

He had forked out a three months’ advance of Rs 15,000 and found himself herded inside a near bare cubicle sized room.

“This is your bed,” spat out the landlord, a 65-year-old who walked around with an unusually ramrod straight back as his eyes turned towards a small door sans hinges.

‘That’s the bathroom-cum-toilet. You’re two of you here, as of now.’

After the man had left, it took another hour before Mahesh could make himself comfortable, stacking his clothes in the drawer, piling the first set of books that the institute had handed over on the side table, generally trying to make life as comfortable as could be possible in such alien surroundings__alien room, alien city, alien culture et al.

His mind pole vaulted into the previous day’s events when at exactly ten in the morning he had found himself at Coaching First, seated in a ‘packed like sardines’ classroom, listening, wide eyed, along with around a hundred other students a forty-year-old man’s impassioned speech about the arduous road that lay ahead.

‘Dear students, I welcome you to the class but before I kickstart your CAT class, first things first.

I need to show you the mirror and bring to the fore some harsh truths. 

Nowadays, the road ahead for a student, especially so in India, is an uphill task.

The struggle for them commences right after the Board or Class 12 exams. For it is here that he decides whether he is good enough to get into the IITs, the gateway to the best engineering education in the country rated at times, even above par of some of the best colleges around the world.

But then reality strikes and how. Not many are good enough to sneak past its narrow doors. Of the over ten lakh students who sit for the test every year, a paltry 3000 ultimately bag a seat, and of this too, only the top 100 get into their choice streams.

Almost similar, if not more, is the case with the entry level hassles that go with bagging a prized Medical seat.

Government colleges with their heavily subsidized course fees are a major draw but open its doors very slightly as the intakes are low and the demands staggering.

True, one can pay through one’s nose to bag a seat ‘out of turn’ but then how many of us have the surname ‘Ambani’ tagged to our names?

So what do the Children of Lesser Gods do? Well, nothing but slog through college picking up a ‘regular’ degree in any one of the innumerable ‘standard’ courses and then join the long que outside caching classes that promise the moon and the earth and everything in between to give themselves a realistic chance of grabbing a B- school seat into any one of the premier management schools.

Here too, what exactly are their chances?

Now let me run you through some stark statistics, because like Shakira’s hips, my lips won’t lie when I trot them out.

Total number of 11Ms in the country: 23

Total number of CAT candidates: Four lakhs plus  

Total number of top General Category seats: 100

Per Candidate to seat  Ratio: 4000

Which means the dreams of only one in every 4000 enrolled students get into one or the other top IIMs. The others just fall by the wayside or languish in some lowly paying jobs after passing out of some third rate management school that no recruiter or employer worth their his salt would dream of even touching with a barge pole.

A collective gasp erupted from the students. It was followed by whispers, followed by pin drop silence.

Mahesh, like everybody else, knew how tough it was to crack the CAT and get into the IIMs. But then as he listened attentively from his far right corner bench to the words he felt a massive weight forming in his chest. He shuffled his legs below the table and wringed his hands as a cold wettiness began to form under his faded cotton blue shirt.

The next half an hour were a daze as the man who had earlier introduced himself as one Nihil Rahane, Senior Faculty cum Student In-charge

ran through the class structure and the road map for the days and months to come.

He finally ended his class with the words, his rich baritone voice ricocheting off the classroom walls, “Remember, no pain, no gain. Work hard, burn the midnight oil, and keep the faith__success will surely follow”.

Mahesh woke up in beads of sweat. The words from the introductory class rang in his ears, bombarding his senses with the intensity of a mild temblor.

No pain, no gain. How true. All achievements and accomplishments in this world, have come through hard work; work that entailed turning days into nights and nights into days.

Mahesh’s mind reverberated with visuals of all great men and women and their world changing discoveries and actions. Madam Curie,  Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Tennyson, Keats, Shelly, Hellen Keller, Florence Nightingale, and closer home Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Abdul Kalam…the list went endless.

All illustrious champions and winners who had hacked their way to success, surmounting unimaginable difficulties, overcoming Herculean odds, persevering, persisting, pushing themselves beyond limits, pursuing seemingly super human goals to finally turn initial bitter failures into glittering successes.

Mahesh recalled the words of his ‘guru’, his Class 10 Mathematics teacher.

“Remember Mahi, your namesake the brilliant Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the hugely successful captain of the Indian Cricket team used to say, “It’s not the runs that you score that matters, but when and what stage of the match you score them that really matters, ” adding, “my dear Mahi, don’t let mere numbers and scores bog you down. They are like small pebbles on the vast ocean of life. Wait for the next tide and the fortunes will change, bringing in new pebbles, new scores, completely washing away the earlier ones.

Don’t ever get bogged down by low tides. You are meant for the high seas. Go and meet the waves headlong; new oceans of success await you.

Mahesh sprang up from the bed.

‘Go and meet the oceans of success.’

How true were the words, Mahesh thought to himself.

So what if he hasn’t done well in the Diagnostics. Statistics were like sands on the ocean front. One huge wave hurtling down from the high seas and they vanish without a trace leaving behind a new pattern.

They are past masters at not just falsifying the truth but also are an irritant in the pursuit of one’s avowed goals.

The truth is that he was meant for bigger, greater things in life.

Come hail or shine, he will do all that it takes to outbeat the numbers.

He will, for sure, bell the CAT.
With that resolution firmly embedded into his senses, Mahesh slipped back under the sheets and closed his eyes, awaiting the dawn of a new day, a day of hope and vigour and all things positive.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #CATOLOGY #04 #fiction #reena’sexplorationchallengeweek5  #1634words

neelwrites/

Hosted by the super talented Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-5/

strategies

LOOKING BEYOND THE NUMBERS

By Neel Anil Panicker

TOTAL NUMBER OF QUESTIONS :      34

RIGHT      :                                                   6

WRONG   :                                                   28

Rubbing his eyes in disbelief, Mahesh got up from his chair and began to pace up and down the floor, his fingers tightly clutched inside sweaty palms.

The results of his Diagnostic Test stared him in the face.

It was a timed test that helped the students gauge their current levels and helped them get a better understanding of their strengths  and weaknesses in order to prepare themselves for the final Common Admissions Test (CAT) nine months down the line, a test that would make or mar their professional careers, decide whether they would end up in any any one of the top ten premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) of the country or languish in a lowly job, joining the ever toiling hoi polloi that make up the great Indian workforce.

A slight stirring from the corner bed broke his thoughts.

‘Turn off the damn lights, will you’.

It took awhile for Mahesh to register what he heard. Then, still in a half daze, he pulled his arms out and turned off the switch.

‘No point in disturbing others’. His roommate Arvind had just returned from his night shift.

As Mahesh slid himself under the sheets and closed his eyes, his mind lay awake, playing in a loop the roller coaster happenings of the past few days, each recall exacerbating his already frayed nerves.

Here he was, barely a week into life in the big city, some 1500 kilometers away from home.

The past three days had been particularly tough on him. The first day, after de-boarding at New Delhi Railway Station from a jam packed Jharkhand Express, he had headed straight to Coaching First, the premium coaching centre for CAT that her friends and teachers back home in Sitamarhi had recommended.

For the next couple of hours he had sat and heard out an impassioned extempore from the Front Desk Counsellor, a stentorian heavily bedecked lady with a lipstick smeared powdered face who trotted  out in a rat-tat-tat fashion the advantages of enrolling at Coaching First, her multi-hued long nailed finger tips repeatedly pointedly towards the walls all around her which were plastered with the smiling visages of successful pass outs, and the linear golden ribboned tagline of the institute, ‘Turn to us if you want to turn your dreams into a reality’.

Sufficiently impressed, Mahesh had signed himself for a one year long term course by completing the necessary admission formalities and paid out her fees, a six months’ advance with the remaining to be paid within the next 90 days.

An hour later he was filling up another form, this time at a seven storied box like building whose half peeling faded façade was emblazoned with the legend, PG FOR BOYS ONLY.

He had forked out a three months’ advance of Rs 15,000 and found himself herded inside a near bare cubicle sized room.

“This is your bed,” spat out the landlord, a 65-year-old who walked around with an unusually ramrod straight back as his eyes turned towards a small door sans hinges.

‘That’s the bathroom-cum-toilet. You’re two of you here, as of now.’

After the man had left, it took another hour before Mahesh could make himself comfortable, stacking his clothes in the drawer, piling the first set of books that the institute had handed over on the side table, generally trying to make life as comfortable as could be possible in such alien surroundings__alien room, alien city, alien culture et al.

His mind pole vaulted into the previous day’s events when at exactly ten in the morning he had found himself at Coaching First, seated in a ‘packed like sardines’ classroom, listening, wide eyed, along with around a hundred other students a forty-year-old man’s impassioned speech about the arduous road that lay ahead.

‘Dear students, I welcome you to the class but before I kickstart your CAT class, first things first.

I need to show you the mirror and bring to the fore some harsh truths. 

Nowadays, the road ahead for a student, especially so in India, is an uphill task.

The struggle for them commences right after the Board or Class 12 exams. For it is here that he decides whether he is good enough to get into the IITs, the gateway to the best engineering education in the country rated at times, even above par of some of the best colleges around the world.

But then reality strikes and how. Not many are good enough to sneak past its narrow doors. Of the over ten lakh students who sit for the test every year, a paltry 3000 ultimately bag a seat, and of this too, only the top 100 get into their choice streams.

Almost similar, if not more, is the case with the entry level hassles that go with bagging a prized Medical seat.

Government colleges with their heavily subsidized course fees are a major draw but open its doors very slightly as the intakes are low and the demands staggering.

True, one can pay through one’s nose to bag a seat ‘out of turn’ but then how many of us have the surname ‘Ambani’ tagged to our names?

So what do the Children of Lesser Gods do? Well, nothing but slog through college picking up a ‘regular’ degree in any one of the innumerable ‘standard’ courses and then join the long que outside caching classes that promise the moon and the earth and everything in between to give themselves a realistic chance of grabbing a B- school seat into any one of the premier management schools.

Here too, what exactly are their chances?

Now let me run you through some stark statistics, because like Shakira’s hips, my lips won’t lie when I trot them out.

Total number of 11Ms in the country: 23

Total number of CAT candidates: Four lakhs plus  

Total number of top General Category seats: 100

Per Candidate to seat  Ratio: 4000

Which means the dreams of only one in every 4000 enrolled students get into one or the other top IIMs. The others just fall by the wayside or languish in some lowly paying jobs after passing out of some third rate management school that no recruiter or employer worth their his salt would dream of even touching with a barge pole.

A collective gasp erupted from the students. It was followed by whispers, followed by pin drop silence.

Mahesh, like everybody else, knew how tough it was to crack the CAT and get into the IIMs. But then as he listened attentively from his far right corner bench to the words he felt a massive weight forming in his chest. He shuffled his legs below the table and wringed his hands as a cold wettiness began to form under his faded cotton blue shirt.

The next half an hour were a daze as the man who had earlier introduced himself as one Nihil Rahane, Senior Faculty cum Student In-charge

ran through the class structure and the road map for the days and months to come.

He finally ended his class with the words, his rich baritone voice ricocheting off the classroom walls, “Remember, no pain, no gain. Work hard, burn the midnight oil, and keep the faith__success will surely follow”.

***

Mahesh woke up in beads of sweat. The words from the introductory class rang in his ears, bombarding his senses with the intensity of a mild temblor.

No pain, no gain. How true. All achievements and accomplishments in this world, have come through hard work; work that entailed turning days into nights and nights into days.

Mahesh’s mind reverberated with visuals of all great men and women and their world changing discoveries and actions. Madam Curie,  Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Tennyson, Keats, Shelly, Hellen Keller, Florence Nightingale, and closer home Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Abdul Kalam…the list went endless.

All illustrious champions and winners who had hacked their way to success, surmounting unimaginable difficulties, overcoming Herculean odds, persevering, persisting, pushing themselves beyond limits, pursuing seemingly super human goals to finally turn initial bitter failures into glittering successes.

Mahesh recalled the words of his ‘guru’, his Class 10 Mathematics teacher.

“Remember Mahi, your namesake the brilliant Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the hugely successful captain of the Indian Cricket team used to say, “It’s not the runs that you score that matters, but when and what stage of the match you score them that really matters, ” adding, “my dear Mahi, don’t let mere numbers and scores bog you down. They are like small pebbles on the vast ocean of life. Wait for the next tide and the fortunes will change, bringing in new pebbles, new scores, completely washing away the earlier ones.

Don’t ever get bogged down by low tides. You are meant for the high seas. Go and meet the waves headlong; new oceans of success await you.

Mahesh sprang up from the bed.

‘Go and meet the oceans of success.’

How true were the words, Mahesh thought to himself.

So what if he hadn’t done well in the Diagnostics. Statistics were like sands on the ocean front. One huge wave hurtling down from the high seas and they vanish without a trace leaving behind a new pattern.

They are past masters at not just falsifying the truth but also are an irritant in the pursuit of one’s avowed goals.

The truth is that he was meant for bigger, greater things in life.

Come hail or shine, he will do all that it takes to crack the CAT.

With that resolution firmly embedded into his senses, Mahesh slipped back under the sheets and closed his eyes, awaiting the dawn of a new day, a day of hope and vigour and all things positive.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #CATOLOGY #04 #fiction #reena’sexplorationchallengeweek5  #1627words

neelwrites/firstdayfirstshow/#03shortstory/reena’schallenge/fiction/1576words/catfiles/19/09/2017

Hosted by the ever gracious Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-4/

FIRST DAY, FIRST SHOW BLUES   (SHORT STORY) (GENRE:FICTION)

longing

By Neel Anil Panicker

First Day, First Class, First Hour: Twentyone-year-old Kishore Prasad Mahto wished the Earth below his feet would give way and he be sucked deep into its recesses.

He looked what he was: A person from the heartlands.

Clad in a pale blue workman’s half sleeved shirt, cheap cotton trousers worn out at the edges, thin lips pursed around a scraggy pockmarked face that looked dyed a permanent dirty yellow, and cracked feet half covered in shocking red slippers, the kind that you get in village fairs popularised by the cattle classes.

Cattle class, that’s what he was and that’s what he epitomised.

He was seated all alone in the farthest corner. The desk beside him was empty, so were the ones in front and back.    His segregation from the mainland populace was complete, the lines clearly drawn.

He was an island.

The message, loud and clear: the elite and the hoi poloi were poles apart and there was no meeting ground.

There he sat, his head bent, heart palpitating, hands firmly secured inside his trousers pockets, inwardly crying, cursing the day he decided to forego the cocooned comfort of his small town existence and headed for the big city.

Barely 24 hours into life in Delhi and he felt like a trapped animal, one brutally uplifted from his natural habitat and thrown into an utterly alien jungle, a world where everything was so unlike what he had ever seen, heard, or experienced in his two score years on terra firma.

The city was different, the people looked different, they dressed differently, they spoke differently. Damn’t it, even the water, the air, the sounds, the smells, the tastes…every single thing about Delhi was different.

‘Hey you, who’s your partner’?

The words were a wasp’s sting.

Thirty pairs of eyes turned around and looked in the direction of the pointed finger.

Despite the air conditioner buzzing at 20 degrees centigrade, Kishore found himself sweating like a pig.

‘Say something man, don’t you have a buddy’?

Kishore opened his mouth to answer but words failed him. The words simply refused to make contact with his vocal cords.

‘Ok, you come in last once the others have finished. Now we begin with the first row. So who’s coming”?

Officially termed THE INTRO CLASS, the class was meant to be an icebreaker, some sort of ‘Greet ‘n’ Meet’ event for the newly joinees, mostly fresh graduates, all eager faced and gung ho after enrolling themselves in the  premier coaching institute, THE COACH, in a bid to crack one of the most arduous entrance tests in the entire country, an examination that would open for them the doors of the best management schools of the country, the hallowed IIMs.

The Verbal Faculty, usually a very senior person, had the honour of conducting the Intro Class.

In the two hours that he took, he was expected to hand hold the students and run them through the rigours of the CAT, the class structure, the daily academic regime, the various protocols to be followed for students as far as faculty interactions were concerned, doubt clearing sessions, library usages, book requisitions, workshops et al.

But first things first.

The class was ordered to make pairs. They would then grill each another and then once ready with all the information needed, each person would walk up to the front and introduce his new ‘buddy’.

‘The idea is for you to first know your ‘buddy’ well enough and then ‘sell’ him or her to us, meaning the audience,’ Amit Poddar who was at the helm affairs explained to his pupils.

As each pair walked up and introduced themselves, Kishore watched in amazement that was quickly followed by acute embarrassment. He noticed the sheer confidence with which all of them spoke, the words, all solely in English, trotting out of their lips in a rat tat tat fashion, the vocabulary all Greek to him as they smiled and locked eyes with their fellow students.

Besides their obvious fluency in English, he also noticed their body language, confidently casual, their spick and span mannerisms, their chic and ultra uber overall dressing style, and even the minor details__the shine in their hairs, the gloss in their shoes, the sawg in their walks and talks.

“Now do you need a special invitation”?

The faculty’s voice bore through his ears rudely awakening him from his wayward ruminations.

Despite himself, despite his week knees that refused to budge from his seat, and despite his will, he found himself getting up and inching his way past the rows of chairs, his eyes downcast, careful not to lock horns with his fellow students.

“My name…my name…”

The words once again failed him. He stood there, his legs shaking, his lips trembling, his body shrivelling and shrinking with each passing moment.

As the students watched and Mr Poddar waited, his hands on his waist, Kishore felt like a small caged animal brought to a village circus, the kind he had been to a million times a as child; and the   students like his village folk, unruly and out to have fun, all gathered around him, laughing, deriding, cracking jokes, making fun, throwing barbs, a few even hurling invectives, throwing small pebbles, maybe a few peanuts as well.

An agonising three minutes passed in pin drop silence. It was longest three minutes of his life. Soon followed the sounds, albeit first muted, then slightly loud, and finally rambunctious,  as if the flood gates of patience had broken free.

The students were laughing, barely concealing their voyeuristic delight at discovering among a buffoon, an unkept shaggy, shabby, scraggy young person, one so out of tune with the modern world, one of a kind they thought had long gone extinct, as dead as a dodo.

In fact a voice from the back said exactly that, a bit loud and clear__’You dodo’.

The word bounced all over the four walls of the classroom, furiously ricocheting off them to finally escape through the open door to spread its message through the long corridors that led to other rooms and to be heard by others in the three storied building located in the heart of Delhi that housed the premier coaching institute of the country whose tagline, splashed prominently across billboards and newspaper pages read, ‘We make your dreams come true’.

Kishore felt like he had come under a ten tonne truck, his head crushed into tiny little pieces,  his heart smashed to pulp, his body hammered to pulp, his ego, self respect a lifeless mass of rotten flesh waiting to be trampled upon mercilessly by a million stomping feet.

He fell on the floor landing crashing head long on to the hard wooden bench in front of him.

His humiliation was complete.

When he woke up he found himself in his rented room, lying on the floor, a bedsheet wrapped around his frail body.

His head still felt slightly heavy and it took a while for his eyes to adjust to the dark. He dragged himself to the window and drew aide the dirty lungi that someone had loosely  fastened onto the grills, an improvised curtain to keep the sun and the sand, the dirt and the wind at bay.

His mind now clear, the events of the previous day came alive again, the laughter, the mockery, the derision, the sarcasm, the barbs…and then the fall.

All played out in ultra slow motion, unspooling in graphic details his loathsome humiliation.

He didn’t waste a second more to make his decision: He would leave the class, leave the coaching, leave the city; he would drop his plans to clear CAT, abandon his dreams to become an MBA; he would head home to his village, to the warmth and comfort of his people, his village, back to living the life he loved and had led all his wondrous life.

So determined Kishore got up and put on his shirt. He would go to the railway station to buy himself a ticket to Bihar.

It was then that he heard a faint sound.   His phone was ringing.

challenge 4 prompt

Nonplussed, he dipped his fingers inside his shirt pocket and extricated the instrument.

The caller ID read Mahto Sir.

It was his school headmaster, his guru, the man who taught him for the first sixteen years of his life, the person who had discovered the spark in him when he was a mere four year old and since then held his hand, guiding, teaching, inspiring, exhorting him to do better and better, to elevate his lot and aim for the skies.

Standing there, all alone in his room and staring into the phone, Kishore recalled the very last words that Mahto Sir had said before he boarded the train.

‘Remember Kishore, my boy, the world is your oyster. Go forth and clasp it with both hands. Nothing is impossible in this world. Failures are but the stepping stones of success. Whatever you earnestly wish for, is your goal in life. Step ahead and stop not until you fulfil it.”

Overwhelmed, Kishore picked up the phone. Instantly, the voice of his guru came alive over several thousand miles, “My blood is alive with many voices that tell me I am made of longing.”

That instant Kishore resolved that he would conquer the beast that was English, and more importantly rest not until he avenged his humiliation.

Clearing the CAT and entering the top B-school of the country would be a befitting reply.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #shortstory #fiction #theCATfiles #1576words

 

neelwrites/fiction/examinatiions/CAT/08/12/2016

When someone let the CAT out of the bag
By Neel Anil Panicker
Examinations are a load or a breeze. That’s depending on which side of the academic scale you tilt.
For a serious student of life such as yours truly, it means a welcome release after months of burning the proverbial midnight oil, lying awake through days and nights coding, uncoding, and then decoding a near endless array of bewildering permutations and combinations, hoping to get bat through as many of the trickier than tricky bouncers (read questions!) that the head honchos that govern the test aim to throw at you at speeds that would put to shame the fastest of bowlers of world cricket.
And so it was the other day when I found myself inching into a rather expansive second floor examination hall located quite ironically in a mid-sized mall in a godforsaken back of beyond location some 50 kilometres away from sweet home.
The jostling continued but this time the shoulders gave way for cubicles as I found myself staring at a computer screen that steadfastly refused to wink back at me.
Humour was not its forte, I guessed.
I craned my neck left and right and saw only eyes, all eager and expectant. The future of the country, smilingly ready to put their collective heads on the chopping block.
And then the screen sprang to life, whispering start.
The race had begun and the Usain Bolts of the world began to run.
Thereafter, it was non-stop bombardment as question after question popped out of the funny looking screen made even smaller by the enclosed lines within which played out the jumbled, contorted and even twisted world of sweat inducing near unsolvable questions.
Finally, after a tortuous (and might I add torturous) three hour ordeal that I would wish the best of my enemies), the ordeal ended as I bid goodbye to the last of the questions.
The reverse troop down started and I joined the teeming mass of IIM aspirants on the outside, their facial expressions and bodily contractions and contortions conveying the entire gamut of human emotions ranging from the downright crestfallen to the supremely elated.
I looked around just in time to find my friend Harish, ambling towards me, his face squeezed in like a three-day-old mashed potato.
“Guess what, the paper has been leaked”
The words hit me like a ten tonne brick.
I blinked and stared into his face__ a sorry mash of fallen hopes. The mock test all India topper was understandably crestfallen.
A whirlpool of myriad images began to badger my mind.
Sheer darkness enveloped all over me.
The collateral damage to my CAT preparations over the past eight months had been immense.
A quick mental calculation brought out the losses:
Total man hours spent studying: 1800 (averaged over the past one year)
Girl friends left: Fifteen (Eight at the preparatory stages, two at base camp, seven at second stage, and three at the summit__well, almost)
Parties missed: twelve (including five outstation trips, with one to that land of utopia, Goa)
A flurry of noises brought me back to terra firma.
“Aree, bach gaye yaar”, shouted out a bunch of students.
They seem to have just managed to survive . Tomorrow is just another day.
I let out a smile.
Hopefully, next time around, they will be better prepared.
And, hopefully, there will be no more leaks.
As for me, I am going for a leak, right now.

(A first person account of an IIM aspirant)
(c)neelanilpanicker2016#fiction