A Special Birthday!

I have never been accustomed to having the birthday bashes people often talk about. I’ve certainly seen (and secretly enjoyed) others plan the most special birthday bashes for their own self and their loved ones.

My story is a little (well, quite) different. Let me explain.

At school, as a kid.

For me, my birthday at school used to be bad news for everyone. The date would coincide with the final exams. Either friends would be up mugging things, for that special last minute effort, or be cribbing about the day’s bad performance. Back at home in the evening, mom would make special effort to cheer me up, by organizing a grand sort of party, with all the neighborhood kids getting the ‘invite’, and getting the most finger-lickin’ dishes and sweets that she could possibly whip up.

I’d also get the best of dresses to wear on the very day, (and I’m pretty sure I looked like a million bucks), and be ready and set to party.

With the exams looming up on the head, most of those kids would RSVP negative citing the same reason again.

I hated exams, and I was not too fond of my birthday, either.

At school, as a teenager.

Same story, but a wiser me, and a bunch of rebellious kids as friends. Who cared about the frickin’ exams ? Some of the folks did ! My parents were the ‘cool’ ones . I remember going out to watch ‘lion king’ the night before my 10’th class computer science exams. That was a big deal back then.

I understood, birthday is not great, or bad, it’s just some day maybe special to you.

And valuable friendships, worth their weight in gold, forged.

At college

College was the time when one gets driven to economy mode. This is the time, when one learns the value of money, in the truest sense. Frivolous partying gets totally out of the window.  There were also no exam dates during the day I had  er, “occurred”. :).

We, (3 people born around the same time of the year) used to club together our resources, invite the biggest group of them all, have the fanciest (a relative term here) food served out. The party date could be any weekend, convenient to them all.

The concept of “BirthDay” had so blurred out for me. I think I still subscribe to this feeling. So much so, that I continued to have this kind of a deal, even after college.

The 2 people : I’d like to do this again, can we?

As a young professional.

I like the well wishers, but my birthday would invariably fall on a weekday, and some of the really enthusiastic ones would wake me up at night, in my deep slumber. Despite that, I love them all!

New friends would get a little alarmed when I’d tell them I’ll celebrate the “event” on a coming weekend. I got quips like “Are you anti social?”, “that’s the weirdest thing we’ve heard”. All I’d tell them on my b’day night is … “let me sleep”!

There were parties, on the weekends following my birthday. I love those 🙂, for I had them with people who love me.

This particular (the last) birthday I had ….

The last birthday I had was a real special one. I had recently shifted bases. Friends and family had been left behind, and I expected to get a good night’s sleep that day :).  The way I had always wanted it.

I called no one for cutting cakes with me, nor did I plan a night out of binge eating. Friends, of course knew better than to call me at 12:00 am and holler “Happy Birthday”. Then there are some, who never change. 🙂

Any ways, I was surprised, and the there was a party.Only there were a few other people surprised as well. I went to meet a few college people. I did not mention that it’ll be my birthday, the next day. Actually, I chose to. I still cannot decide whether I did a wise thing, or a wicked act. The real reason is that I quite enjoyed meeting those folks out of the blue, was just engrossed in the conversation and throwing that extra info in there would have just made things awkward. And we split the tab like in college. 🙂

There was a cake, but I only hear of it. Two of my really old friends got it for me, and I hereby publicly admit, that I’m sorry I did not cut it with you. I hope you enjoyed it. We did meet again for dinner the next day, and it was the most delightful of the places to be. Thanks again, the two of you! You’ve been like papa and mama to me. I’m so thankful, we got together, after 10 years.

I did get phone called in the middle of the night! It’s OK, really! Although I might have sounded annoyed on the phone, I thank you! And I got even by calling back very early in the morning. heha

My dad decided to surprise me next morning, and he dropped in for a quick visit. I was shifting to my house in the new city. All hands were welcome. It was so tripping that I felt as though I was never alone.

Another friend of mine, came over, and, all in all it was a pleasant birthday. One of the best I’ve had so far.

………………………………….

Now, that I look back, I think some one was out to surprise me, only I’m not talking of someone human.

Bringing on the good times.

Ever since I’ve moved into Malaysian Township, I’ve always wanted to fire up my kitchen and cook me a meal. Overcoming many a hurdles, like procuring a gas stove, obtaining a gas cylinder, I made it to the point where I could manage to make some snacks, breakfast and other absolutely essential things in the first week itself. But never had I cooked a meal. The reason ? Cooking alone is such a drab. Also, to make a meal, one requires small quantities of lots of things. I decided to play “the lazy bum”.

Then came the long weekend. The three day weekend, due to the south Indian new year. The one in which I decided I’ll stay at home and set it up, have the things ready to have my kitchen humming (or I could have gone to Bangalore). By the end of the day two, I had done most of that, and day three seemed like a perfect day to start cooking the meals.

There was an interesting set of developments though during that weekend.

  1. India managed to win the world cup on day one. (Yo… )
  2. My cousin had given birth to a perfectly healthy, and a very cute looking baby boy (Yipee… ) on day two.
  3. Day three was Ugaadi. It’s like a new year in South India.

By the end of day two, I was feeling so upbeat, that I decided that instead of having the kitchen off to a elegant but tame kick off, I’ll have it roar and start with a blast ! I decided to launch it open with a house-warming party which I had been planning around here and there. I invited some friends over.

In the morning, I noticed my in box had been buzzing with activity, and I was expecting a guest count of 10 people. Now the situation was such that I have never cooked for so many people. Also my last cooking adventure was a fiasco, and people wouldn’t touch my creation with a 10 ft. stick, because they feared it might electrocute them. So feeling a bit out of sorts, I decided to face my fears and do it. I could have ordered, but I promised these people I’d cook for them.

And I bit the bullet.

My plan to  the day was that I’d get the house thoroughly cleaned up by the maid, in the morning, after which I’ll get stuff to use, eat and decorate. Well, that day being new year, the maid conveniently decided to take it off (I was not even informed).

Never mind, I thought to myself. It is a big festival. To have the show go on, I decided to do the cleaning myself. Never mind the increase in effort here. There was the point when I realised that water taps had also decided to take a break. When I called the Facilities, I was told that there was some repair work going on near my block. (I was the marked man for the day 😉 ). With no definite time frame to have this work finished, my cleaning plans were thrown off track. I had to improvise, so I used packaged water to mop, and clean my toilets. Talk about vanity !!

After doing all that, I decided to focus on the main task at hand. I had to cook. I had decided to make “butter chicken” (A nice, spicy, rich indian gravy), for those eating non vegetarian, and “Kadhai paneer” (Cottage cheese in capsicum and onion mix) for people who were vegetarians. The ratio of non veg people to veg people got skewed big time to favour vegetarians as the new year was accompanied by some days called “Navratris” (Days of abstinence, Hindu version 🙂 ) .

I went out to get the raw materials. When I got back, I realised I was running late by an hour. Thankfully, to one of the guests, I had specifically told to be on time. I knew for certain the others would be running late, so I wasn’t really panicking. So this person, Mr. R.A shows up bang on time, and I explain to him the state of my current affairs. He was great and kind hearted, and he offered to make some “dal” (pulses), which I had decided that I’ll order. He started, and I must admit, hosting a party is always so much better with a co-host (sigh!).

Cruise mode on

With the presence of a friend (and he knew how to cook!). The things began to happen, thick and fast. We whipped out the gravy for the chicken, and I started to progress towards making the cheese dish, Pretty soon we were from tomatoes and onions to nice smelling puree. Also, exactly then other people decided to show up.

I suddenly remembered there was no booze in the house. Since I don’t drink, collect, etc. I’ve once used Vodka to effective use as a cleaning solution :). (Yeah, I clean toilets with packaged water, so this should not come as any surprise !!!) I asked this other friend, MR. RK and Mr. AA to fetch some things and whatever booze for me. They also obliged (I’m so thankful to both of them). Soon we had everything rounded up, and the music playing loud and nice. The atmosphere kept getting better, and we all chatted up nice and easy. These people belong to the same college as me, so we had that bit of common ground.

House full of engineers ! yay!

Endnote

  • My nicely laid out table and make shift coffee table were left unperturbed. The conversation was so engrossing that people did not bother getting up to eat. In the end, I decided to serve them on the floor itself.

    Table laid out, before and after
    Dining table.
  • When the food was eventually dished out and sampled by the connoisseurs :), I got a major thumbs up! So much so, that I affected one of the vegetarian guy to try it out. I’m not going to let the name out here, because we signed a Non Disclosure Agreement. My lips are sealed. Another emphatic embracer of Navratri routine decided to chuck the concept and he went at the chicken big time. :). I think I’ll put the picture of what was there on the serving dishes. It’ll give a better idea.
    Butter chicken
    Saluja ka dhabba - Butter chicken

    Kadhai Paneer - Saluja ka dhabba
  • The dal was made with a technique which I was not aware of till now. Now I am. It was good. End result : that was polished off too! Finally, the ice cream brought over by yet another of the kind hearted guest (Mr. TP), was consumed with as much vigour as one can exhibit.
  • In the end I think, the party went off quite well. We bonded, had a good time, and left happy.

    The king of Good times

 

I had a good time. The house might be nice and ornate otherwise, but with friends and people, it really comes alive. Here’s hoping we have many such events in the coming future. Cheers

 

BTW

A Grand plan.

I’m super excited. That’s probably an understatement to describe how I’m feeling.

It all started with a very vague idea. Back when I was in Delhi and planning to relocate to Hyderabad, a rather adventure freak of a person (referred to from now as Mr. X) suggested “Dude, let me drive your car over till Hyderabad, I’d love it”. I was at that point concerned with loads of other things, so I said “Yea sure”. I guess the inception of this particular idea happened at that very moment.

<Snip to present>

So I’ve been in Hyderabad for almost a month now, and continue to travel around like a tourist (although, I know my way around to a certain extent), and have no vehicle here on me.I like the roads here, nice slopes and great curves (pun to be excused). Traffic at times seems a little daunting (read : office rushes). I’ve seen worse though. Hey I’m from Gurgaon, what do you expect ?

<Snip to past>

There was this other person back in Delhi, (referred to from now on as Mr. T).

X, T and me knew each other from work. We all joined (my earlier company) at the same time, right at the beginning of 2009. Different backgrounds, but strung together by fate. X and I became friends instantly, we would often hang out after work. T had joined right from college, and he seemed smart (and charming). In fact, I did not get a chance to properly interact with T till early 2010. X had left by then, trying out hands at what he loved the most, “designing, conceptualizing, and trying”.  So I knew T, and I knew X, but T and X were unaware of each other’s existence.

So, as destiny had the grand plan, T and I got a chance to work in the same Project, from early on in 2010. He had been with the project ever since, and I was taken in as a mid way replacement for a resource who had decided to quit. T and me were naturally drawn to each other, as we had a few common interests. We loved eating, and had this zeal for technology. We also loved our music, but somehow the tastes in that context were mutually exclusive. Come to think of it, we also had a generation gap ;). Any how, we worked on this staggering project, with a client who was pretty demanding. Net result : we had to up our game, and work as a team. The project was fun, and we had our shares of highs and lows. As a result, I got to know T better. He’s a bright chap, who’s also a good-hearted person. At the time I left the company T and I had an awkward moment. We never said our goodbyes.

Towards the end of this particular project (I think, at the beginning of last quarter of 2010), X decided that he’d had enough of independent working, and once you get used to a steady income every month, the period of draughts seem worse as compared to withdrawal symptoms of cocaine addiction. He came back to the organisation he had left, albeit in a different role. He called up, and we met immediately. X and T got to meet each other and realise how different they are. There was a mutual feeling of “detest” (yeah that’s a very apt word). Circumstances ensued to tolerate each other a little more, and they did give each other a fair chance. Consequently, they got friends with each other.

<Snip to present>

So, I called T one fine day, and started to whine to him about missing my mobility, i.e my car back in Delhi. He understood my predicament, and said he’d be keen to drive my car on this road trip. He was a little apprehensive though. X was always interested. He’s done a few in the past, but this one would be his biggest one yet.

It’s going to be X, T, C on a road trip. A rather grand road trip, from Delhi to Hyderabad.

So ….. What do you want to be ?

This is one of those perennial questions, whose answer is ever so changing. When I was a kid, I was asked, countless number of times …. “What would I want to be when I grow up”

Answers, at different points in time, varied from actor, zoo keeper, astronaut, police cop (yes it’s true), mathematician, and so on.

Post school, the same question would pop up in more subtle variations such as “child …. what are the future plans ?” . Looked as though people decided to make it their business, to know what kind of profession I aspired to be in.  Well, I was kind of clear, of what I wanted to become, pretty early in my life, but I got egged here. Thanks to a lot of unsolicited advice. On the lines of… “Why don’t you do MBA?”, “Do further studies … you’ll get a more paying job”.

Anyways, as the universe was conspiring to somehow get me to reveal my plans, my lack of interest in such discussions pushed people off my conversation group, and I was in the bliss full period, where I had assumed I was past the “pesky questions”.

I was so wrong, and the question has sprung forward, from a person I hardly know. Then again, it’s vital he knows. He represents the management of my current employer, or perhaps serves as an interface to the management. I suppose, as a part of implementation of a certain process in the organization I work in, I was assigned a certain role. He casually, after a meeting asked me, if I enjoyed this particular role, or would I rather do a certain other well-defined role here.

This was thought-provoking.

The currently assigned role required me to take certain decisions, and collaborate with my team, plan for weekly release of deliverable to the client, and so on. As a part of the package, I was also required to check the health of team, which I was not too comfortable doing. It did not result in an outburst from me, because the team I was assigned to work with, was sufficiently autonomous. People are talented, responsible, and sufficiently driven. I absolutely cherish the time I spend with them (imp. not with the project, but with this group of people).

However, I also understand that with the nature of work I do, this seemingly goody good fabric of harmony might be shredded apart as and when the employer feels necessary.

The other alternate path would require me to pursue a path of technical island, and explore safe landing spot for others, actively engaged in working for a project. For those who aren’t technical vocabulary challenged … an architect. Let me point it out here, that while I would want to be doing the first role for certain aspects of work and durations of time, I also would define me to be the second option in certain points of times.

So I suppose the career paths for me do not bifurcate into directions A and B. I need to find my trail in the middle. A thing or two I’ve realized after observing myself work  (the introspection in solitude 🙂 syndrome) are as follows:

  • I like to work with a certain amount of ownership of the project. If I get uprooted too often from one project to another (as a technical architect would), I’d probably be driven insane. I mean, this way, I’d be providing a move on to many things, but hardly seeing anything to the end. I guess belonging is something I crave for.
  • I do not aspire to check work of others and drive other people to work. I like it best when people are smart to work with, and encourage mutual discussions, and active role play in division of work. More like collaboration.
  • I like to solve problems. Simple ones, or one that have that aura of mystery around them. I guess it all boils down to my belief …. “Everything happens for a reason”.

Anyways, I suppose whatever I say now will be a snapshot in time, and should be interpreted as that. I’m sure no one wakes up one day and says “I’m gonna be a <so and so> person in an organization.