Friday, October 26, 2007

25 years after College

The year was 1983, just finished the last exam, of the final exams. Now what? Maybe a short vacation, little rest and relaxation after all that "hard" work I put in, to pass the exams. That seemed like a good idea till Mom started pestering to find a job. Do I want to stay in Bhopal?...I don't think so. Back to Mumbai it is on the good ol' Punjab Mail, second class reservation compartment.. all the way till Dadar. Do I have a place to stay? No, can't go back to the hostel, that chapter of my life is over. Shacked up with my cousin for a few weeks.

India won the Cricket World cup, Yes!! the whole country is celebrating. Well, my reserve cash is running out and I am almost about to hit the panic button... there comes opportunity knocking in the form of couple of odd jobs to keep floating and avoid starvation. Still searching for that dream job in a ritzy 5 star hotel. Well, that did not happen. Settled for Captain's job at a 4 Star hotel in South Mumbai.First day of job, nervous as hell, everybody is looking at me funny, seems like the whole world is ganged up against me. I want my Mommy..... Built up enough courage to go back to work the next day, the day after.. weeks.. months, it is not too bad but not the best either. The salary sucks, 12-14 hour work days, unappreciative management, Unionized subordinates and deplorable working conditions. Since I don't really have anything else to do except work ,get drunk after work and sleep, it is OK, life goes on like this for a couple of years.

Fast forward to 1986, frustration is building up due to lack of recognition from Management, crappy salary and everything mentioned above. I make a hasty decision and quit, do a couple of short gigs at Airport hotels in Mumbai. Get back to South Mumbai , this time working for a Premiere Private Club as Restaurant Manager, still long hours, but the remuneration is good, Management is appreciative of my work ethics and treat me with dignity and respect.

September 1988, shock of my life. I am hired as a Flight Attendant for a leading International Airline.... whoa... I had to pinch myself to believe it... repeatedly. Life is awesome for the next 4 years as I travel to different parts of the world. But, I am tired of the monotonous life in 4 years, novelty has worn out.I want to get back to what I know best, I need the challenge and satisfaction of a job well done.

So, Off to North America it is in 1992, the land of milk and honey.The initial enthusiasm died out in a few months when reality set in. Strange land, culture, subtle discrimination, Unfamilar surroundings. It took a few years to get into the groove of things, trying to assimilate into mainstream America, make a career in hospitality and move ahead in life. However, setback after setback lead to disappointment and disillusionment. I still cannot see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnell.Nevertheless, I keep chugging looking for resolutions and alternatives.

The late 90's brought the second wave of "Gold" rush to America,the first one being in late 1800's. This time it is not the precious metal but technology, "dotcom". Not having a clue what it is, but curious to know, I start my academic journey once again, and by the end of the 20th century I am ready for my new career. Employment market is hot, I find an entry level technology position with ease. With the right attitude and aptitude, I am blazing the trail and moving up the ranks reasonable quickly.

Present day, 2006. Here I am 23 years after Catering College, disengaged from Hospitality but remembering with gratitude and reverance, for taking me on this journey of life filling it with excitement,anticipation, rich experience and making me the man that I am today.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cow dung cakes, RamRatan and Airplanes...

In my pre-teen and teen years one of my resposibilities were to take care of our 2 cows and their calves. Feed them,take them out for grazing and bringing them back home at a reasonable ours before milking time were the chores involved. Sounds like fun right.......not!Looking back at it I appreciate my dad making me do all that as I have learnt to love and respect animals. But those days, it cut into my time for other activities :-). Also, there was a cute girl in the 'hood, who was also my classmate, on whom I had the biggest crush. I was so embarrassed when she saw me tending to the cows.

The worst part was collecting the cow dung and making cow dung cakes. These cakes after drying would be used for fuel. I had to do this before going to school, so no matter how much soap you applied, I stank of cow dung!! well..I guess no one noticed
because everybody else stank too of something or the other. Kids from the North Indian families stank of "mustard oil". One way to mask the stink was a lotion called " Boroline". Deodarants were non-existent those days, actually, even now 30 years later,deodarant is not really a commonly used commodity. So, for years, I took care of "Ammini", "nandini", "Aniyathi", "Mani" and "Karambi pashu" ( she was a fiesty one).

That brings me to RamRatan, a punk kid in the 'hood. He came from one of the poorer families in the BHEL N1 quarters( accomodation for labor class employees). He was a sneaky dude who would wait to snag anything that came to hand including Kanndas, guava fruit or mango fruit ( we had these trees in our yard). I would chase him around the block with the choicest words. His whole family would come out and yell at me which would make me retreat like a scared dog. I wonder what Ram Sharif is upto these days? he was my age. Hope he is well.....wherever he is.

As I mentioned before, making the cow dung cakes was my least favorite chore. All dirty with the dung and swatting away vicious flies who are capable of drilling holes into your body, I would look up in the sky and see the long trail of plane fuel of jets flying thousands of feet above me. I would secretly wish I was on one of those jets going to some faraway land where milk and honey flowed, men dressed up in nice suits, hats and boots and ladies in lovely dresses.

To put things into perspective, here I am in a faraway land, reminiscing about wishes that came true.