Tuesday, April 28, 2009

C 08:08 12 F

Genre: Mumbai

C 08:08 12 F

This glowing sign greets me every morning as I enter the crowded precincts of Malad station. As I make my way to Platform 4 crawling in a sea of humanity on the Foot-Over Bridge, the Firozpur "Bullock Cart" Express invariably passes from below. Making my way through the hordes of office-going ladies occupying the front end of the platform, I reach my pre-designated place. Between the two pillars painted red-and-yellow signifying the First Class coach, there is a point where the digits "74" are marked on the track (I don't know why). This is the exact position that I have assigned myself. The indicator shows it is still five minutes to go. Slowly the crowd keeps on building and all around me I can see familiar faces turning up, all sincerely occupying the same position everyday. Suddenly someone shouts- "Peeche ho jaao!" (Move back!). With a ear-deafening hoot of horn, a Virar-Churchgate Fast local speeds past at merely two feet from where I am standing at the edge of the platform, the hooligans hanging at the door screaming like mad. On the opposite platform, a gentleman popularly known as "Signal Kaka" keeps a lookout for the incoming train. The moment he spots it, he jumps across to our side, thereby signaling the arrival to the hundreds of others waiting eagerly. Suddenly there is frenzy all over the platform. The ones standing behind put an open question that anyone standing in the first row is free to answer- "Naya hai ki juna?" (Is it the new one or old one?). The answer will decide today's strategy. As the train slowly pulls into the platform, the "experts" standing in the first row signal with their hands to the motorman if he is pulling in too slow, too fast or just right. Finally, as the first door of the First Class coach comes near, I blindly jump in alongwith dozens of others, everyone pushing each other into the coach. Instinctively I turn left and deposit myself somewhere in the centre of the long seat meant for eight passengers. Within a few seconds, one after the other, men of all sizes come charging in, completely filling up the entire place. The unlucky ones who do not get a seat are now assigned the job of neatly arranging everyone's bags onto the Luggage Rack above. However, the most unlucky ones are the "oversmart" passengers who board the train from Kandivali yard itself hoping to get a good seat- all of them are first politely asked to vacate the seats, failing which, subjected to choicest abuses, followed by a good thrashing and eventually pushed out of the coach!

As the train picks up speed, the eclectic mix of co-passengers which includes businessmen, traders, stock-brokers, lawyers, doctors (myself being the only student in the "gang") forget their professional duties for an hour and let loose the kid inside them- joking, fighting, pulling each other's legs and once a week even throwing in a treat of delicacies ranging from samosa to jalebi, distributed free to all passengers in the vicinity - making the journey in the super-dense packed crowd a lot more tolerable. As Bandra approaches, following the unwritten rule in existence since years, everyone who had "caught" a seat from Malad gives the seat to the ones standing earlier thereby ensuring everyone gets to sit for atleast half the journey. Finally, at Dadar, I get off alongwith a majority of the crowd in the coach as the train speeds off towards Churchgate.

This has been my daily routine for the past four years. It sounds mechanical, it is executed to clockwork perfection every day yet there is a hidden emotion, a feeling of belongingness, an attachment behind this exercise that makes me teary-eyed as I get off at Dadar today for THE LAST TIME from the 08:08 am Malad-Churchgate 12-Coach Fast.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Faces That Make Me Smile...

Genre: College Life

When I joined VJTI, I was made to believe that this is a place where girls are Endangered Species and you should be lucky to spot one, leave aside making friends with any! But how wrong they were! Today at the end of my four years of VJTI, when I look back, I cannot help but acknowledge the role played by these lovely ladies in making me the person that I am today-

Mona: When I met this girl for the first time, I had never thought we would be friends- and this has been the most classic example of how wrong first impressions can be! Today, for me, Mona is not just a friend; she is much more than that- it would not be an over-statement if I say that today there is probably no girl in my life who understands me, cares for me, stands by me during the tough times and happily obliges to be my partner-in-crime in the good ones better than she does. Beyond the VJTI-connection, today she is an inseparable part of my life- exactly how a Best Friend should be.

Annie: A little crazy, a little kiddish, but very caring and friendly- that's Annie! A friend since my very early days at VJTI, over the four years, our friendship has only grown stronger by the day. Today, she is one girl whom I can turn to whenever I feel lonely and with whom I can talk about anything under the sun! We have fought, we have quarreled, we have had differences of opinions but at the end of the day, one thing I know for sure- I'm always gonna be there for her 'coz she has been there for me. Always!

Varu: The first girl whom I knew at VJTI, my friendship with this girl has been one helluva roller-coaster ride. From being tagged as my "girlfriend" by some overzealous minds in the first sem to being the girl whom I can confidently confide in, we have come a long way. From the long walks during Ramkumar's Classes to bunking Byju's Classes and spending a long time at the Kapol Niwas bus stop discussing our past, present and future, the four years with her has given me myriad memories which are here to stay for a long time, just like our friendship.

Sari: Met her completely by chance, thanks to the Shimla trip of Wizards, she is one 'senior' who has been a dear friend of mine without throwing any tantrums about her being my "senior"! The days that I have spent with her are surely gonna be memorable- for the crazy things that we have done together! Inspite of having some nasty arguments over tiny matters, inspite of her being out of VJTI, she has not forgotten me and nor will I forget her, or our friendship.

Esha: Another "senior" who looked upon me as a buddy rather than a "junior", she was the one who was instrumental in getting me my first Organiser's duty during Technovanza as well as getting me into the Nirmaan team which eventually led to my appointment as the Nirmaan Editor. Not restricting her interaction to just professional stuff (considering that I was always working under her) she has been a friend who stays in touch even today in spite of her not being at VJTI.

Namrata: The first thing I knew about this girl is that we share our birthday (though not the birth-year)! The next thing I knew was her immense love for cricket- a common passion that has been instrumental in making her the friend that she is today. Smart, intelligent (after all, not everyone gets to go to Microsoft for interns), caring and fun-loving, she is my sms-buddy who always takes the efforts to stay in touch in spite of us hardly meeting each other in person, and this is precisely the reason I am sure our friendship will continue way beyond VJTI.

Natasha: Hard-working, diligent, intelligent and with an impeccable dressing sense, she is probably the chirpiest girl I have met at VJTI. Though she has hardly any time for anything else besides her academic commitments while she is at college, thanks to her well-planned out schedules, she does ensure we regularly meet, so what if it's just for brief chats, and stay in touch and that is what sets her apart from the other girls.

There are a few other girls too who have been an important part of my four years at VJTI, but I shall stop here due to time and space constraints. The contribution of all these girls in making my four years at VJTI memorable and enjoyable is simply phenomenal! Love you all for being with me, for me, forever!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

100 Things I'll Remember about VJTI

Genre: Life

Today was my last working day at VJTI and when I look back at the previous four years, I can't help but think of this. So here wo go -

100 Things I'll always Remember About VJTI

100 Tanks near the main gate
99 Watchman's "I-Card Kuthe Aaheee??" welcome note
98 The grand staircase in the Main Building
97 Equipment from 19th century in BEE Lab
96 Garden outside MLR-6
95 Signing attendance through the window of MLR-6
94 The Long wait for bus # 315 at the bus-stop behind Mech Dept
93 Pehli Mulaqat with Varu thanks to bus number 315
92 Long Drawing lectures in MDH by Patil sir
91 The rush to get the few good drawing boards from the storehouse
90 Deolekar's lectures and vivas
89 Sulbha-Aba ki Prem Kahani, Sem I
88 Playing with paper balls during lectures
87 Working on pre-historic era lathe machines for Workshop
86 Working at the hot furnace for Workshop
85 Waiting for hours outside PAW's office for journal correction
84 First class trip to Lonavala
83 First Valentine Day and the "proposal" in Quad
82 ELR-9- the class at the Top of VJTI
81 ELR-4- the class with inbuilt playing field
80 ELR-6- the class with a View (of the Quad!)
79 Terrace Cricket League
78 Rathod's lectures
77 Rathod's "Stand at the door" punishments
76 Nagpal-Rathod altercation over Tug-of-War
75 The fight to catch First Bench for Daruwala sir's lecture
74 The First Bencher's Association
73 The fight to catch last bench before tutorials
72 Cricket in Five Gardens
71 Football at Hoopers
70 Cricket and Tennis inside ELR-4
69 The Kali Ki Rani sessions
68 Alibag Trip - I (with Wizards)
67 Alibag Trip - II (with Tronix)
66 Karan Nagpal- the businessman who walked into VJTI by mistake
65 The Goa Trip
64 First after-exam party at Ovenfresh
63 Second after-exam party at McDonalds, Phoenix
62 Unpteen parties at Classic
61 Unpteen parties at frankie stall behind Khalsa
60 The Matheran Trip - with the One-Day and Two-Day concept
59 The Mahabaleshwar Trip
58 The Shimla-Manali Trip
57 Cake-cutting in class and the junglee chaos that follows
56 Mission Submission
55 Jeenal and Bhoomi (made our last sems so much less taxing!)
54 The CCs
53 The Wizards
52 The 'Central Gang'
51 The 'efficient' TPO
50 Mr. Gaonkar's "VJTI Rockkksss"
49 Byju's MBA Classes
48 Bhandardhara Trip
47 Corridor outside ELR-5 / Comps Dept.
46 Dumb-Charades in class
45 Holi celebrations
44 Traditional Day 2007, 2008 and 2009
43 Incessant photo-sessions every day
42 Mass Lunch in the corridor behind canteen
41 Bird-watching in the Quad
40 Akshat's obsession with NP becoming an issue of national interest
39 The Quiz Club
38 Vatsa's Handwriting analysis and the comprehensive Database
37 Technovanza
36 Pratibimb
35 Enthusia
34 DJ Nites with the rope in the Quad
33 Navratri celebrations without the rope in the Quad
32 Nirmaan and the long process of making it
31 Watching cricket matches in Communications Lab
30 Copying assignments from files uploaded on Orkut
29 Co-operative efforts of writing tutorials
28 The Co-op Store inside the campus
27 Hour-long deliberations on "where to go" at the end of exams
26 The walk from Matunga station and the long wait at the Highway
25 The frequent visits to Ruia ka juice-wala
24 "Aamchi Aai, Tumchi Aai, Veermata Jijabai!"
23 Marksheets on A4-size black & white printouts
22 The CPI/SPI Grading System that nobody has yet understood
21 Dr. Narayankhedkar and his (in)famous Innova
20 Asking the Watchman and Security Officer to pose for photos!
19 Placements that gave me Wipro VLSI
18 Mhatre and Nirmal
17 Aarti Xerox
16 Library
15 Dr. Daruwala's 'Seminar Day' for Microprocessors
14 Watching 'Gunda' inside MUP Lab
13 Parties inside MUP Lab despite RDD's "Mouse aaega" concerns
12 Late-nights at MUP Lab
11 Writing 'Reco Letters ' for myself on behalf of profs
10 Pravin, Atul, Akshay, Vignesh - the 'Common Source'
9 Accounts Section
8 The process of getting a Railway Concession
7 Exam Department
6 The 47-Day Struggle to get Transcripts
5 The air-conditioned MUP Lab
4 Prof. Chandle as the Best Project Guide
3 The White Dog of VJTI
2 The Canteen
1 The Quad

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Genre: Entertainment

What is common between the following scenes from popular Hindi flicks-

* Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaaenge- Shahrukh Khan and Anupam Kher are returning home in a train. Amrish Puri holds back Kajol from boarding but finally relents and Shahrukh pulls Kajol into the running train.

* Kuch Kuch Hota Hai- Kajol boards a train but Shahrukh Khan pleads her not to go. However, she sticks to her decision and Shahrukh ends up just getting her red 'dupatta'.

* Khakee- Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan bash up a bunch of bad guys (and end up getting beaten themselves too) onboard a running train as it slowly pulls out of a village station.

* Guru- Abhishek Bachchan gets ready to board a train to Bombay from his village railway station and at the last minute decides to take his wife, Aishwaria Rai along.

* Mohabbatein- Jimmy Shergill waits all night on a bench on a desolate railway station looking at 'the bride'- Preeti Jhangiani living on the other side of tracks.

Well apart from the obvious fact that all of them involve trains and a station, the common thread binding them all is - Apta.

This quaint little railway station just outside Panvel has probably featured in more Hindi movies and ad films than any other single location in India. Apart from the ones mentioned above, Apta has also been featured in Slumdog Millionaire (O...Saaya!), HDFC Standard Life ('Na sir jhuka hai kabhi...') and God knows how many other lesser known movies, TV serials and ads.

What makes Apta so popular among film-makers? We (me and four of my crazy friends) decide to explore it ourselves and end up spending one hot sweaty day at the most desolate railway station I have ever seen in my life- not a single passenger around, no roof to provide respite from the blazing sun, no foodstall, no mineral water or colddrinks available and to add to it, no village nearby too! But it seems it was destined to make this outing as filmy as possible. So here we go- from the deserted station, cut to a beautiful river where we spend an hour cooling off at what would have been a perfect setting for a romantic song (sadly, there was no heroine with us!). Not willing to make the 2-kilometer walk in the blazing sun, we hail an autorickshaw which already has three passengers in it and the driver asks all five of us to squeeze in, making it one unforgettable ride with nine men in an autorickshaw! Back to the station, we turn to the solitary hand-pump on the platform to quench our thirsts. An hour later, as we sit tired and hungry, to our good luck, Netravathi Express is made to halt for Matsyagandha Express to cross. We jump at this opportunity and ask the Pantry Car of Nethravathi to give us some food! But kahani me twist- even they have run out of all food stock and we have to be satisfied with one bottle each of Bisleri and Mirinda! Thankfully the evening passenger arrives bang on time to take us back home- a Happy Ending in true Hindi movie style!

Deja Vu??
Looks familiar??
In 'Mohabbatein', Karan (Jimmy Shergill) waits on this bench for Kiran (Preeti Jhangiani). A few years later in 2009, another Karan waits at the very same spot...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Now Vote?

Genre: Current Affairs

The Great Indian Election Tamasha has already begun- the usual party-jumping, mud-slinging, mock arrests, fake asset declarations, accusations and counter-accusations are all up and going. In the midst of it all, last week I came to know that after two unsuccessful attempts, finally my name now appears on the Electoral Roll (my Election ID has not yet come even after three applications but that's a different issue altogether) and so now I am officially eligible to play my part in electing the uneducated tainted money-hungry criminals to the Parliament.

Thanks to the aggresive campaigning by Jaago Re and others, this time around a lot of youngsters, myself included, have been made to believe that Every Single Vote Counts. But does it really? The ground reality seems different.

Take the case of last elections- a few days before the polls, the candidate of the nationally renowned "secular" party came to my building asking for votes. I, who had just turned 18 then, trying to be a concerned citizen, asked him- "Sir, what is your educational qualification?" Even before I could complete my question, he and his associates literally pounced upon me with "Bachche, bahut bolta hai re. Vote nahi dena hai toh mat dena. Hamre paas XXX (name of local slum) ke bahut votes hai!" and left. After this incident, not just my family, nobody from my building voted for him in the elections. The result- what was expected- he made his way happily to the Assembly riding on the votes of his "fixed" votebank. Did our votes matter to him?

This year around, the situation is not too different. The votebanks are getting ready. My housemaid who lives in the nearby slums announced last week that she has been offered Rs 2000 by "some politician" for voting for him. She, being illiterate, doesn't know the name or party of the candidate in question. All she knows is that she is getting Rs 2000 for pressing a particular button on a machine.

Leaving votebanks aside, if I look at the big picture, the situation is still far from ideal. The Congress has openly mentioned in its Election Manifesto that if they win, they will enforce Reservations for Muslims in Higher Education and Private Sector jobs (and yet call themselves "secular" party!). BJP-Shiv Sena is no better. The candidate from my area- Mr. Ram Naik has already declared that "if the slums are removed to make way for the Metro, I will make another Singur in Mumbai!" Pitching for MNS whose sole agenda is dividing Mumbaikars on Marathi-North Indian lines does not even arise. In this case, even if I want to cast my oh-so-valuable vote, whom do I vote for?

There is probably only one way out: 49-O.
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