Friday, October 23, 2009

Oye, extra pen hai kya?

I was absent mindedly scanning my Facebook home page (in the hope that some chick digged my snaps and would ask me out) when I saw a group-“Oye, Extra pen hai kya?”
Now I am not one of those folks high on nostalgia. My kinda guys don’t think too much about the past; they learn from them and forget it. However, this innocent little line brought back fond memories. Many, many of them.
Ah, school days! No train travel (My school was 5 blocks away. Hmmm, I used the term “blocks”. Why?), no appraisal worries, and certainly no recession woes!
I was always messy. I would come home with the dirtiest of uniforms. I remember, just recently, my friend remarked that she had a stinking suspicion her daughter wiped the school floor with her uniform- it got that dirty! Well, I was those kinds. I had to get messy. Ink blots, food stains, dirt and blood, the whole nine yards. Mum wasn’t too nice when I turned up that way and rightly so. I was a runt, and I admit it.
This had led me to use gel pens early in my schooling. Heck, at least they weren’t as messy as your regular fountain pens. The problem with gel pens was their cost. I wasn’t the stealing kinds, but I sure as hell was the losing kinds. Hence, I was -mostly on exam days- without pens.
I was always asking around for pens. There were some who sniggered at my predicament. There were some who gave me a stone faced lecture on how to be more responsible, in their own supposedly mature way, the way only kids can. But they never leant me one. There were also some who would lie that they didn’t have an extra one on them. They were either preparing for a political career, or were selfish but polite enough to lie, so as not to hurt my feelings. I have no grouse against them all. I must have been worse to them that brought on such behavior.
But then, there were some who slapped their forehead, abused me, and told me”Saala, tera hamesha ka natak hai! Kab sudherega tu?” But they always carried an extra pair, and they always wished me all the best.
They knew I was the kinds; “saala kabhi nahin sudharega”. They always tried to correct me where I was wrong, but they never left my side even when I was. Not surprisingly, after 16 long years, they are still my friends. My best friends. My brothers from different mothers. And I still go to them for favours. And I have never once been sniggered at, shot back at, been lied to. And as for me, what can I do? “Saala main kabhi nahin sudharoonga!”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Enterprising Gujaratis

The first thought that came into my mind when I reached Ahmedabad as a ten year old was, “Dang it’s hot!” Had it been the winters there, it would have been. “Brr, it’s cold!”

After being born and brought up in Mumbai for a good ten years, it was tough for me (and for my parents to convince me) to leave all my friends and shift to Gujarat-a place smaller than my Maharashtra on the map. It took me sometime to get used to the laid back attitude, and the snails pace at which the city moved (Mind you, all of this at Ten.) but I soon came around it. I had 5 playgrounds at my school, a personal bench, Asia’s largest club a stones throw away from our Bungalow (Another luxury one cannot afford at Bombay. Hey, it was Bombay then!), and a tutor for swimming, dances and skating. Those were the good ol’ days. Fond memories.

I am back into the Indian city that never sleeps, and have settled quite nicely into the madness. But I will never forget Amdavad. Not only for the great garbas, and the club facilities, but for the lessons I learnt from the jovial but enterprising Gujaratis. The kin of arguably the greatest businessman the world has ever seen, Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani.

They are sweet people, very accommodating, and very helpful. And they are the most enterprising people I have ever seen. I remember when I was young, I used to pester dad for ‘meetha paan’ every now and then. This particular guy used to make delicious ones, and it was our favorite paan joint. He had started off with a small shop, and now owns quite a few air conditioned shops selling paan all around Ahmedabad. The old blighter has kind of retired, and his sons manage his shops. One is an MBA.

I know of this most recent information as I had recently visited the place, and had fancied the good ol’ paan. Yes, now the yearning for meetha paan has been replaced by the more mature Sadha cousin of its. I was shocked to see the old place swarmed with people. Some in the fancy cars, some with families, and some swiping credit cards! Credit cards at a paan shop?

There are many rags to riches stories everywhere around the world, I’ll be the first one to admit to that, but this is where the enterprising bit comes into picture.

I remember their father doubling up the paan shop as a real estate shop too. He would always inquire about who wanted to buy or sell what. It became kind of like a chain. People who wanted to have a paan got information about the property rates, and people who wanted ‘real’ info of the latest rates had some of the delicious paan.

His children have taken it a step further and have opened a recruitment agency which caters to so many of the big companies. The MD’s and the CEO’s come there for paan, and tell the owners about possible vacancies, which is passed on to their other customers.

I was amazed at such enterprise. And although I couldn’t meet the old guy who started this, I salute him, because many people buy a paan, sell a paan and eat it. But I know a very few who have made it into a business, nay an enterprise which generates so much of money and good will.