Monday, May 07, 2007

Girl + Friend = Girlfriend ???

"When the world is against you
and everyone is unkind,
There is one who comes
holds you and says – never mind"

Friends – God’s best gift bestowed upon mankind; Friends – they make your lives memorable. Since time and memorial it’s been said and acknowledged by one and all, friendship is one of the most beautiful relationships a man can enter into. A friend is someone in front of whom you can be yourself without any pretence, one in front of whom you can let your guard down. A friend is one who knows all about you and accepts you just the same.
Every few years, ever since my childhood I have been moving from one city to another courtesy my father’s transferable job. This has been a blessing for me, as it has allowed me to meet lots of people, most of whom later became my friends. So, as you must have presumed by now, I have always had a fairly large circle of friends around me. Still, that one friend who stands out among all, shining like the pole star in a sea of glittering stars, has always eluded me, one they call as the best friend.
But, times change and the time came when I joined this local computer training institute, where I met many amazing people. I don’t know how much of computer skills I adopted, but one thing that I know is that there I met two people who were able to fill this blank space among my friends’ list as the best of my buddies. One of them was a guy and the other a girl (let’s just call them as Mr. X and Miss Y, so as not to hurt any feelings and also to maintain anonymity). We used to enjoy together a lot, just the regular things like movies, restaurants, partying etc. The problem started when we went to a local park and Miss Y invited along a couple of female friends of hers. There as fate had it to be, these girls made me aware of Y’s feelings towards me. I felt a conflict of emotions dwelling up inside me, I was excited and happy to know that someone loved me, and at the same time was shocked for not having been able to gauge my best friend’s feelings. I was asked to describe my feelings towards her, but I was very confused at that time and said I would have to think over the matter. It took a couple of months of continuous prodding from those girls before I gave in and agreed to propose to her. To tell you the truth, even then I was not very sure and was very much confused about what my real emotions were towards her. Being friends, we were very close to each other and I really enjoyed her company, still I was not sure whether it was just friendship or something more than that! Even then, I thought it was really wonderful to know that someone likes me and that too whom I know pretty well. So, the proposal and acceptance phase came and went by without any hindrances from either side. We started going out even more, just the two of us now. Everything was just storybook perfect, except one thing, I still was confused. The feeling was not coming from inside, that special feeling of being in love with someone, that sense of belongingness was not there. I know I was giving it an honest try, but even after so many months I was not having this feeling of love and it was as if everything was just superficial from my side. I was not able to generate the same enthusiasm that was evident in her case. So, after carefully analyzing the situation, I felt that I was not doing justice to my best friend and decided to bring an end to all this once and for all. I felt that it was not correct on my part to keep my feelings from her any longer. I gave some crap reason for the break up and she very gracefully accepted it without putting up any qualms about it. Later, from those same friends of hers who had once told me about her feelings, I came to know that she was in a very deep state of depression because of the recent events. I was really sad to hear this about my friend and was also very angry with myself to have caused so much pain to someone who was so very dear to me. But, I felt that looking at the bigger picture what I did was correct as it would later have caused even more pain to her and it was always better to end with pain than pain without end. We weren’t in contact for a long period of time, but time is the biggest healer and we met later and though it’s not the same as before, but we are now in good terms with each other and since then we have both moved on in our lives.
Still, even now at times, I have these guilt pangs about hurting such a good friend of mine. I can’t understand whether I was wrong to accept her proposal when I wasn’t sure about my feelings towards her but on the basis that she loved me! Should I have told her about my feelings straight away at that time? But then again I was very confused about my feelings, as there is a very thin line between your best friend and your partner. Segregating between the two is like performing a sky walk. Whether my decision to break – up so as not to cause more pain to her (atleast that’s what my intensions were) was correct? How do we segregate our feelings in these kind of situations so as to not to end up loosing your loved ones? Why it sometimes is that a person is himself not sure about his emotions, why is it that there come times when I feel that I have discovered a new side of me. It makes me think whether I know myself as well as I think it to be. I can’t help pondering over classical philosophical questions; who am I? What is my true purpose here? Am I what I think myself to be, or is there a hidden side of me which remains unexplored. I turn to philosophy to quench this thirst of my mind and stumble upon tools like JoHari Window etc. which claim to help one understand how much he knows about himself. But, as they say theory is not always the true reflection of practical world, so, my thirst remains as before, the questions still unanswered and I continue with my journey of finding answers if not for all, then atleast to some of them. These unanswered questions render me restless at times, making me ponder over my decisions and also acting as a caution for my future actions…
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Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Low Cost Affair

“Fly to Delhi @ Re 1. Fly to Mumbai @ Re 1. Fly to any destination within the country @ Re 1. Book early to get the early bird advantage.”

The Indian aviation industry has come a long way from the monopoly of Indian Airlines to an oligopoly of a few airlines like Jet Airways, Sahara, and Modi etc. to the current situation where there is a whole gamut of services available to the travelers at nominal prices. During the 1990s if you would have told anyone that it was possible to fly between the metros @ an expense of just a rupee, he would have written off the idea as a thought of an insane mind. But, in less than a decade it has become a reality. Traveling by air has come a long way from being the fancy of the rich to normality for the middle class.
And all this has been possible thanks to a new breed of airline service providers who are ready to provide you their services at dirt cheap prices. These airlines claim to be able to provide such dirt cheap prices by cost cuttings and by providing no frills services to their customers. But the big question still hangs heavy in the air is whether these airlines will be able to stay in business for long! As we all know, one of the pioneers of this low cost, no frills airlines is still struggling to break even after years of service and a whole fleet of aircrafts.
After hearing a lot about these airlines and these attractive air fares, a student like me was also eager to experience it. I had a very interesting conversation with the ticket booking clerk of one such service providers when I asked her to book me to two of its connecting flights for my home town (as there is no direct flight for my home town). I was very much surprised when the clerk advised me to not to book the tickets as the flight was getting delayed every time almost without fail and she assured me that I won’t ever be able to catch my connecting flight. On my insistence, she told me that she won’t guarantee my being able to catch the flight and also that I won’t be able to get my ticket refunded later. I mean, she was trying her best to deter me from buying the tickets. This first experience of mine was not exactly what I was thinking of. So, I dropped my idea and took the good old railway journey to home.
Very recently I again had an opportunity of having a rendezvous with another low cost airline. I had to go to Delhi from my home town due to some personal reasons. I along with my parents got our tickets booked for a hopping flight from Ranchi to Delhi via Patna. After clearance when I reached the security area, I was surprised to see a queue of travelers forming in front of the departures gate (reminds me of the queue we had to stand in, for entering into our school bus). On enquiring, I got an interesting explanation from one of my fellow travelers about the seating arrangements in the aircraft. I was enlightened about the first come first serve basis of seat allotment being observed over there. Not to mention, we also became a part of the queue. On boarding the flight, once again I was reminded of my school bus, where we used to keep our seats by putting handkerchiefs on the seats or one of our friends guarding the seats for rest of us. People fighting just like the good old school days to get the best seats available, with special preference for the window seats (yeah, it’s true, people literally pushing one another to get the prized window seats!!). Well, finally I was also able to ‘capture’ three seats for me and my parents (by capturing I don’t mean booth capturing, even though the process of the two having stark resemblance). I also had prior experiences of Indian Airlines, Sahara etc. I mean the early entrants who provided good service but also charged rates much higher than those quoted above, and let me tell you I couldn’t come to terms with the congested seats being provided in the aircraft. It seemed as if they had crammed in a few extra seats to compensate for the cost.
Finally, after it seemed as an eternity our flight took off. Another interesting observation that I could make out was that many travelers were carrying bottles of water with them (this only increased its resemblance to my school bus). Pretty soon I found out the reason when the air hostess came with their food trolleys, selling water bottles at prices much over the M.R.P. We reached Patna without any more surprises and finally I had started relaxing now that the initial surprises were over. But, I was to discover later that it was but only the tip of the glacier and the real fun was about to begin. I was busy taking in the beautiful scene outside the window (yeah, I was lucky enough to get a window seat, a great feat in itself!). Very soon the captain announced our reaching Delhi in another 15 minutes. Now, the drama began to unfold; in another 5 minutes we had another announcement from the flight captain explaining a delay in the touch down due to heavy traffic at the airport and so we were to keep hovering in the air for another 45 minutes (reminds me of my school bus getting delayed in the traffic!). This announcement only increased the chaos already residing in the aircraft. As it was getting late, we had to buy the food being served in the flight, which under any other circumstances we would have thought twice before buying crediting to the exorbitant prices being charged for them. Soon, there was a shortage of food and beverages, though mercifully we still had a supply of water to rely on. We had not even been able to digest this delay when we were greeted with another announcement explaining we didn’t have a chance to land before another hour of waiting, and as the plane was now low on fuel we were diverted to Lucknow for the time being. At the Lucknow airport we were told not to disembark from the aircraft due to security! reasons and the flight crew trying to amend for the extra expense switched off the A.C. which was turned on after the tempers of the travelers went over the boiling point (more due to rage than due to heat). The only compensating factor was that we were not alone but there were several other carriers stranded like us. Finally, after a total delay of three hours in a one and a half an hour flight we were able to reach Delhi. Thus you see this first experience of a low cost journey wasn’t something one likes to remember and we preferred the railways for our return journey.
But, this journey left a few questions in my mind which I have been pondering over ever since. I have been thinking if the infrastructure of our airline industry is developed enough to tackle this sudden population explosion of aircrafts. With new airlines starting every now and then and expansion in fleets of existing airlines, I am not sure about the future of the aviation industry of our country. The targets of these low cost airlines, as per them, are the 1st, 2nd & 3rd A.C. travelers of the railways. But, with such highly unreliable services I am not sure how much they will be able to succeed in their plans. The future we know not but with the way things are progressing, it ain’t lookin’ no bright!
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Thursday, January 11, 2007

“Mission Friendship”

Last semester of MBA program; last few months left with friends; tension of getting placed in a good company with a princely package and loads of perks and perquisites; excitement of entering the corporate world in a matter of few months; all this excitement in the air and here I am standing at the tapir outside our college campus, hanging out with my friends, when it all starts suddenly …
As usual a caravan of cars are passing by with such speed that it reminds me a few lines of an old poem which I had read during my school days:
“One second it’s here
In a wink of an eye it’s gone”
On the other side of the jungle of these machines, I see something, which attracts my eyes, the instant I see it. Oh! It’s as if a beautiful girl has materialized from nowhere, reminding me of the Greek goddesses. Wow! I can’t believe my eyes, seems to be too good to be true, a lovely innocent face, wrapped around with a pink dupatta, trying in vain to keep the dirt being blown around by those mechanical beasts, away from that sweet face of hers. She’s trying to cross the road and come to our side, but her attempts are to no avail. Suddenly she finds a gap amidst the continuous trail and uses it to come to my side of the road. My feet are glued to the ground at the sight of such a striking beauty; I couldn’t have imagined even in my wildest of dreams, such a beauty could exist, who was so sweet and gentle. Her subtle beauty made an instant impression on my mind and I was surprised to find that she was a part of my own batch. I couldn’t imagine how could I have missed her since the past three semesters, but then again, couldn’t blame myself considering the colossal batch strength.
But now that I had laid my eyes on her, I was determined to make friends with her and kept this task at the top of the “Things to do” list for this last semester. I had just over three months time to accomplish this Herculean task. But, as they say, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve that.” So, to my utter joy, I found out that we had two subjects in common. I took it as an omen and started working towards my goal. My first dialog with her was during one of those classes, when due to some reason the class had been cancelled. We exchanged our names and soon I added her on my Orkut friends’ list (long live google!). Now I started communicating with her via Orkut. But, the real world seemed to be pretty tough in comparison. Being in the same lecture wasn’t of much help, and my being a backbencher and her being the sincere type didn’t help either. To let you in with the irony of it all, let me share the day of her birthday; thanks to Orkut once again, I was able to know her birthday and, decided to wish her today, and to make this day a success. But then again, it’s easier said than done, I scrapped her the birthday wish and as my luck would have it, she was sitting right behind me, Orkutting. Soon got a reply from her side. Just try to imagine this situation, two people sitting back to back and still communicating via the net. This really shows the edge the virtual world has over reality. I felt so awkward and when I turned after finally deciding to wish her in person, to my utter dismay, I found her surrounded by her friends. Whenever I see her, I find myself completely speechless. Until now I used to think of myself as a very open person, who could easily make friends, but I am unable to understand what’s so different in this case. The way I feel when I see her can be understood to be very similar to what has been described in this beautiful gazal of my favorite singer, Jagjit singh:
“Jab saamne tum aa jaate ho,
kya jaaniye kya ho jaata hai,
chaaha tha yeh kahenge,
socha tha woh kahenge,
aaye jo saamne to kuch bhi na keh sake,
bas dekha kiye unhein hum”
So, this day also went through the drain without any progress. After a few weeks again, I got a chance to make contact. We had a test in one of he common subjects. I, along with my roommate and one of my friends went and sat behind her, with me sitting just behind her and both my friends on my either side. But, as luck would have it, there were two sets of questions, with her and both my friends getting the same set and only me being the odd one out. So, here I was sitting with my head in my hands and both of my friends discussing the questions happily with her. I wouldn’t like to dwell on the mocking that I had to face from them after the class was over.
So, here was another opportunity squandered by. I could go on narrating many more similar incidents, but with the same result, for ex. Just a few days back, this friend of mine told me that she was there with him in one subject, which I had not taken. I was determined to make the most use of this information. I agreed to attend this class with him, as the professor of that subject is a very lenient person. I was too happy to go along with my friend to his class. But then again, after reaching the class, I thought it very unlikely of him to be helping me instead of making it harder for me to succeed. I decided to check the validity of this info. And checked out the attendance register, which confirmed my suspicion. She was not a part of that class, cursing him under my breath; I stormed out of the class without giving any reaction time to the professor.
Now, let’s review the current status; tension of placement is over; all my friends are well placed; she is also placed in a leading company; less than a month left before this final semester comes to an end. I am determined to succeed and thus plan to make optimum use of these few precious days left with me. We have an “Ethnic Day” celebration on the 13th of this month, and I plan to use it to my utmost advantage. But then, no one knows what future has in store, also looking at the past results of my efforts, I m not very optimistic. Still, I am determined to give it a try, so that later I don’t have any regrets on my part. I hope you will pray for my success. Keep watching this space for my further progress. Especially, you sure would like to know what happened on the 13th, won’t you?
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InsurTech 2.0

The Life Insurance industry is going through a disruption, as we see a lot of tech giants getting converging in the Insurtech space. This...