Sunday, 21 September 2014

At Home in East ~ Agartala, Tripura : Blog # 192

At Home in East ~ Agartala, Tripura

        Having finished the recruitment process at a college, I was getting ready to leave for home. It was about 7 in the evening. When I saw a message blinking on my cell phone from my colleague and friend, Mr. Pai asking me to call back immediately, I knew I should start packing. I called him up and he said that I need to travel to Agartala the next day morning. To be honest, it took me sometime to place the state on the map. All I knew was that it is in the East.

            The next day, one of the connecting flights got delayed and I had  to stay the night in Calcutta. When the hotel manager gave me the same room that I had stayed in, the last couple of times, I knew that Calcutta was slowly becoming a friend from an acquaintance. On board the flight to Agartala, I couldn’t stop admiring the landscape. There were little water bodies strewn all over amidst lush green patches. The moment I landed, I got a call from a spirited young student, Gangu who was to surprise me time and again over the next two days with his wisdom beyond his age. Enroute the campus, we talked about almost anything and everything under the sun. How Agartala has a large Bengali population to How people tend to think of it as a much smaller city than it actually is to How your phone can go on International roaming due to the Bangladesh border which is about 3 kms away to how sparsely populated the city is!

            The roads and the landscape reminded me so much of my home, Kerala. The similarities were striking. Vast fields, little streams, winding roads in between, cattle roaming about and the tress that lined parts of roads – all of it reminded me of Kerala. The moment I reached the institute(NIT Agartala), I knew I was to stand corrected about many of my stereotypes. To begin with, the infrastructure of the institute was really robust. The college was on an expansion spree to the extent that one of its buildings was turning out to be the largest in the city. What interested me was the fact that local labor wasn’t easily available.  They were few in number and they were mostly interested in Agriculture and fishing. Every home had a small pond in their backyard.

            The next day, I woke up with a start. It was as bright as if it were 10 in the morning, thanks to the proximity to Arunachal Pradesh. It was only 7 o clock and I stepped out to the balcony of the guest house where I stayed in. A spectacular back water view welcomed me. The picture here doesn’t even begin to do justice to its beauty when seen live. What did not quite go as per my expectations was the weather in Agartala. It was quite humid. But I hear it was pouring the days before and the days after I left. May be it was East’s way of making me feel at home. I must say it did make me feel like I were in Chennai of March J.

            Once the drive was over, I retired to the guest house. The placement coordinators joined me for dinner. A bunch of bright young guys – Alam, Nipun, Gaurav and Gangu. Their clarity of how to go about life reminded me of how much in contrast how I was when compared to them. To say I was clueless at that age would be an understatement. I think their sensibility and sensitivity came from the situations that they were brought up in. Gaurav’s father was in BSF due to which he has travelled far and wide. Nipun lives in a joint family and the kind of learning he has had from that ecosystem is tremendous. Alam who comes from a large family with many elder brothers and sisters would have understood the meaning of selflessness from that upbringing. Gangu had his way with words and getting things done which reminded me time and again that this guy like three of his friends is going to do really well in Life.

            Alam and I talked over dinner and he said how happy his family was with his job. His elder brother called from Sharjah and talked for almost an hour and how emotional all of them were. When he said that he wished if his father were there to see this achievement of his, I also had to fight my eyes from getting moist. Then I realized yet again that I was doing a job which had the power to change people’s lives. At the same time, I reminded myself that it was not I who was changing their lives, I am just a miniscule part of it.

            We went on a walk around the campus. It was close to midnight. The night there was so refreshingly different from what I am used to. The silence was strikingly conspicuous. The moonlight was indulgently doing graffiti with the huge trees on the lush lawns. The lake resembled a canvas when it reflected the moon in all its glory. For as far as my eyes could see, it was nature at its best.

            The next day morning, Alam and I started for airport. The number of cars on the road  was countable. It was so relieving to not having to manoeuver through clogged traffic. I badly wanted to take a piece of Agartala with me. We chanced up on an art gallery on the way and I picked up a statuette which looked like a woman at work from that part of our country. When I reached the airport and was about to board, I found myself strangely going to miss  Agartala. In two days, I had grown fond of this place and its people. It is for a reason that they say one cannot help but fall in love with East once you visit that place.  

Arun Babu.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Paradox of a generation, Us! : Blog # 191

Paradox of a generation, Us!

            Having celebrated a birthday at work from early morning till late night, my mind put to me some questions that have been dying for answers over the last year or two. These were questions that I did not listen to or rather did not want to listen to. And happened, the conversation that I had with my friend from work on the way back to guesthouse.

            The conversation we had, gifted me with some relief only to be replaced by the absence of it a while later. I was relieved because I understood the concerns, the doubts and the questions were resonated in his mind as well. The absence of solace came when I realized both of us were aware of what was going right and wrong but we did not want to address them.

            It is with some pride that I say our generation takes work quite seriously. Am I saying the generation before us were not serious about their work? Definitely not! It is because they did, that we have the opportunities we have today. But they were living in a simpler time as far as intrusion of work is concerned. A cell phone wasn’t there which will wake you up from sleep and put you to sleep with a call. An e-mail wasn’t there which will knock on your inbox at will till you answer it. This poses our generation with a challenge as to when and how to switch off the work button.

            Now, coming to the paradox bit! All of us are at our argumentative best when it comes to work-life balance. Our generation wants to live life to its fullest. Having said that, there would have been some instances in all of our lives where our family or friends would have asked us – “Are you the only one in your office?, Why do you bring work home?, When will you stop checking mails/sms-es?”. This shows our inability to keep work at bay. Don’t get me wrong. One should deliver on all of one’s responsibilities at work. But doing that at the cost of one’s life isn’t really worth it.

            Think about this situation. Your phones (official and personal) start ringing. The official call isn’t really critical. But more often than not, you choose to answer the office phone. Since when did we start thinking family/friends can wait? If one continues doing this, we will soon end up not having friends to confide in.One should also realize that success and happiness loses much of its charm if one doesn't have the right people to share it with.

            If one were to compare life to a walk on the beach, work is akin to the waves that keep on washing on to your feet. If you try to dry off the water every single time a wave comes on, you will miss out on the beautiful sunrise of youth, the soothing zephyr of relationships in life, the sand that caresses your feet which is life’s opportunities, the little shells of life’s happenstances that the mighty ocean paves on your path  and the magnificent sunset of life's twilight years too.

Arun Babu