Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to school! Never the same

The June sun was beating down hard, rain had not yet started this year which is very strange for this part of the tropical world. Looking at the ruins of what once stood out majestically in the city center, I was thinking who is to be blamed. The memories of the school just before the summer break came to my mind in a flash. The promises made, the good bye waved, the smiles, the sound of the children shouting, the ever notorious Vincent of 5th ‘A’ playing pranks, children sharing their lunch with each other ,all were missing. Instead what stood was ruins, ruins after a severe battle, battle fought with guns and bombs at a place where the only noise used to be the children shouting amidst the birds chirping in the beautiful setting the school was in. Now silence ruled at the Siddhartha Primary School in North Sri Lanka.

While leaving the school on the evening of April 24, 2009, I had the happiness of meeting with my family on the other side of the country. I could see the smiles on the faces of all the children, who were all going on the much awaited summer vacation. With new hopes of returning to a new class, a higher class when they come back from vacation, the students, like me left the school for the day, not knowing that they will never be back to the same school.

It was during May when intense fight broke out in the country between the warring group and the Govt. The Govt. which got information about terrorists being hidden in this very school and scared of the guerilla warfare used by the warring group decided to do air strikes. May 7th, 2009 was the ill fated date for this school and today June 21st 2009, the usual re-opening date for the school, there is a deafening silence.

But there is no such silence inside my brain. There are umpteen number of question. When children of two different groups can study sitting side by side, why that is the grownups fight over the language? When Vincent from the warring group can be the school topper in Sinhalese, the Govt.’s official language why is there so much noise on which language to be used? Why did the warring group not think even once before taking shelter in a school which was used by their children to build their future and why the Govt. force did not think even for a second before demolishing the only school in the 20 km radius completely? In a land where Buddha and his teachings is a household thing, why is that the grownups have chosen comfortably to ignore the teachings of the great preacher?

Being a Sinhalese teacher in the primary school in an area dominated by the warring group I had this proud feeling of teaching a new language to the children and learning a new culture altogether.

I am thinking what does “Back to school” mean to the students who were studying in this school, will it mean walking through dense forests for 20 kms! Or will they also leave this area forever! Back to school for me is in a different school in a different area teaching the same thing to a different set of students. But “back to school” will never be the same for me, ever!

My Tryst with the "Red" Shirt

I know I have not been blogging here off late. But I am back, this time I am attempting to write short stories. Hope you like them.

Note: The below is completely a work of fiction written solely for the purpose of humour. The views expressed and actions performed are no way endorsed by me. J

It is indeed surprising how the surprises of life come from all unexpected corners and change the life forever. I had never expected a “red shirt” to come to me in such unexpected fashion and change my life forever. For the record, I despise the color red for a shirt.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Was it the noise from inside my head or on the door of hostel room no.490 in the final year hostel in the erstwhile Govt. College in the state? Looking into my wrist watch from the corner of my eye, it read 8.40 AM. I had no mood to go to college at 9 on this morning after the rendezvous with half a bottle of VAT 69 the previous night. I decided to end one of the knocking and opened the door to find my dear friend Venkat at the door.

Venkat: Hey Senthil, Still sleeping man? We have placement at nine, don’t you remember, International Business Solutions (IBS) man, the last of the software companies….

Me: Yea man, I will be there, what time is the written?

Venkat: PPT is at 9, written is at 10, but PPT is………..

I banged the door shut to catch up with my sleep for one more hour. Twenty minutes to reach college is a luxury by my college standards.

At sharp 10 AM, I entered the hall where the written was supposed to be conducted and managed to find a place to sit, but the knocking in my head failed to subsidize.

Guess I had too much yesterday.

The written was a usual affair, I tried my best to concentrate and complete the written. Once done with the written, I sped through the crowd to my way to get rid of the headache. And as was expected, fell asleep.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Damn, who is it now? I looked at the watch, it was close to 1 PM, the usual lunch time and fortunately I could hear only one knock, the one on the door. I opened to see my savior of the day, Venkat standing at the door.

Venkat: Man, you have cleared the written man, congrats man and your interview is at 7 PM, mine is at 8:30 PM.

Damn, how can that happen, I was only in half of my senses while writing the exam, how could I qualify.

Venkat: The cut off was 20 out of 40 and you just sneaked through with 20 man, how lucky.

I managed to smile at the irony of the situation.

I ran into my closet to find if I had formal clothes for the interview, but could not find any. I had given all of them to dhobi (washerman) as I had not anticipated IBS to come out hunting for people. I called up dhobi on his mobile to find out, it was not reachable.

Damn all the cell phone networks!

As usual, I turned to my savior, my friend Venkat, he had only one shirt, which he needed and hence, he gave me his new red shirt. A “red shirt” for placement is really not a great idea, but from the position I was in, I couldn’t demand for an Einsteinian idea.

I was looked at as if I was from the other planet in the campus that day with my red shirt, cream color pant and black shoes.

Finally, my turn for the interview came. As I entered I found a bespectacled man, who looked as if he was having a stomach problem and a pretty lady with a familiar face in the interview panel. The lady was wearing a black color salwar and had a strand of her hairs falling on her face.

What was I doing?

I recomposed myself, and went in and wished them, Good Evening Madam, Good Evening Sir.

Ladies first.

I got nods from them and was shown a seat to be seated. Handing over my resume to them, I waited for the ordeal. After a brief introduction from them, (The lady’s name was Rashmi) I was asked to introduce myself.

First question from the man: Why are your marks just above average? Managing just about 75%? Though I see, you scored well in the first year.

Actually, the first year into this college, we were put into a jail; second year was August 15thfor us.

Me: In the first year, I studied sincerely, Second year onwards I lost interest in the engineering syllabus, found it to be quite boring and monotonous. I tried doing things which are more creative and challenging.

Rashmi: Oh! Is it? Interesting, what creative things have you been doing? That’s an unexpected bouncer.

Me: Well, I have been researching on the topic I would do project and I have been helping my project guide in his thesis for his PhD.

Was it the question from lady, or the traces of VAT 69 inside me which is doing the magic?

Man: Tell me about your final year project.

After explaining at length about the project for about ten minutes using various animated hand movements, I settled down to look at their reactions. Rashmi seemed interested. The man looked at me as if I had spoken in a language he hardly understood.

Rashmi: Why are you wearing a red shirt for the interview, don’t you think it is not a formal wear?

Venkat, I want to kill you man!

Me: Ma’am I think the real thing you are looking for in people is their skills and the inner personality rather than the outer personality. And I love the color red. I believe it gives me immense confidence, which is more essential for me in this interview rather than appearing in a formal dress.

Now I was sure, it had nothing to do with VAT 69 and it was indeed the lady.

They exchanged glances; I realized the man indeed understood English.

Man: Looks like you are the only one who understood the pre-placement talk. Good.

Wow! I had scored a six of the bouncer.

Man: Final question, why IBS?

Well, because no other software company took me quoting low marks. I goofed up my previous interviews. I don’t want to do all this exercise for another company coming in future and software jobs are the high paid ones, not the core ones.

Me: Sir, IBS is a dream company to many. I believe it has the right platform and it surely will provide the opportunity for a non-computer science background guy to outshine himself and I firmly believe only IBS can satisfy my thirst for the non-monotonous job. I see immense growth in the company and I want to grow with the company.

Again they exchanged glances and I could not believe my eyes. The man smiled. He shook my hands and then Rashmi and I was asked to leave and wait for the results.

As soon as the results were announced and my name featured in the list of candidates selected, I went straight to Venkat, to get the red shirt forever from him.

It cost me two bottles of Chivas Regal and umpteen number of reference in front of the whole world, of me getting job because of his “red shirt”.

I still look at “The red shirt” lying in my closet once in a while to give me the confidence.