When I was around 6 years old I think, the apartment next to mine went up in flames. Not the big, loud flames you always see in the news but never in real life. No, rather the apartment just smouldered, there was a lot of smoke, but little heat, and even less commotion. At that age, the fire was a terrible dissapointment. Of course I went to school and told them how the flames were 10 feet tall, how there were people running around screaming and how the firemen needed my help to rescue 4 helpless babies. But deep in my heart I knew what had happened was as much a towering inferno as Arindam Chauduri is a film director.
But there was one positive outcome. During the post-fire debris cleaning out procedure I was given a half smouldered out encyclopedia. I dont remember which Encyclopedia it was, but I can still, to this day, smell the toasted-old-book scent it had from cover to cover, and the feel of the thick rough pages. It started a few pages before the Harappan civilization and ended a little after atomic energy. I was fascinated. I read and reread the book a hundred times. It was my first big, grown-up book and I loved it. My "Encyclopedia 65" was a thousand times more interesting than the "The Chicken Who Lived In A Pot", and "Brainless Benny and other Bedtime Stories" type things we got in school. (Talk about a chicken who was asking for it...)
Of course it also meant I knew a lot of stuff the other kids in school didn't know or care to. I was a nerd. But I also, for the first time in my life, knew what I wanted to become. When Mrs. Clark told us to write a paragraph on what we wanted to become when we grew up, I wrote without no hesitation, indeed with a flourish, that I wanted to become an archaeologist. Among the astronauts, firemen, doctors, football players and engineers, my archaeologist stood out like a Sunny Deol at a "Tasteful Dancers" convention. The pages of pictures of golden and ivory statues and dusty bearded men with paintbrushes bent over enticing treasures buried in the deserts and valleys had me in a spell. That was my first career crush.
The years passed, I grew up and was soon in a boarding school in a cozy little corner of Kerala run by priests. They were no ordinary priests. These guys played volleyball, composed music, painted wonderful pictures and let loose sermons that made your hair stand on end, and drove you to go out and make the world a better place. One day I woke up and knew I wanted to become a priest. It took me ten minutes to decide that I could live the devout life and embrace celibacy. (I have since vigorously and publicly shed the evil shackles of celibacy. To absolutely no effect.) That was my second calling in life.
That too did pass. I travelled back and forth between Indian and middle eastern shores. The mind wanders far and wide at that age. I wanted to become a professional Video Gamer, an Air Traffic Controller, a Special Forces Operative, briefly wanted to become Mohanlal and then finally mass media led me to my next moment of vocational epiphany.
A chef. I wanted to become a master of the culinary arts. I wanted to bake, broil, flambe, souffle, filet, and devil all kinds of soups and starters and deserts and stuff. In yet another departure from a normal upbringing I spent a LOT of time watching cookery shows. so many shows, at one point I thought I was putting on weight because of it. My favourite show was "Yan Can Cook". Yan was a master of all dishes chinese, but his special skill was in chopping and slicing. He was as smooth as a Lodha with a Birla will, and when it was required, he could chop up a whole basket of tomoatoes in a flash, faster than Mukesh can say "Brotherly Love". I especially loved the part when he whipped up a Chinese thingie and fed it to randomly picked members of the audience. Many nights I spent savoring dreams of fond fettucini, dreamy dimsum and superlative souffle. But then the entire "engineer or doctor or instant removal of name from ration card" happened.
The years flew away and as I graduated from engineering I was overwhelmed by a need to work in manufacturing. In nine months I was overwhelmed by a need to not. As I had mentioned poignantly in a previous post, that job required all the brains of a left elbow. (No offence to any of you in manufacturing and reading this. I do not mean to insult you, only reveal the potential hidden in just one of your many joints.) Then I worked for a B2B portal for a little while. I joined them 7 or 8 minutes after the dotcom industry crashed. It was a not a nice beginning. But I learnt to like the work. Whenever it came up once or twice a month. (The only people who had less work than me was a bunch in Customer Service.) Otherwise I read websites on cooking, archaeology and some very anti-celibacy type things. I got bored after a while and decided to do an MBA due to the sheer monotony. That and the need to nurture the leadership potential and analytical skills I inherently carried. (You never now when a recruiter is reading your blog.) So off I trotted down to Ahmedabad, and spent another two years discovering such important things like inserting headers and footers in word documents, how to say "creating customer value propositions" in public with a straight face, and how to hide large bottles in carry bags to look like study materials.
Its been a long and fascinating journey of self discovery. (And please dont read anything more into that sentence...) And now I sit with an email in my inbox saying I've been offered a job as an Associate Consultant with the inhouse consulting division of one of the country's largest business groups. I guess thats what I want to do in life. And I guess now I will never know if I would have unearthed lost cities, saved a hundred souls or invented an exotic dessert that would take the culinary world by storm. Yet I think I am happy. Lets see what this little journey has in store for me. And through my hours of interviews and preparation and moments of doubt, dissapointment and, ultimately, joy, I was always comforted by the many many wishes I received from all of you reading my blog. I am deeply indebted.
And onto more lighter things, CHAOS (http://www.iima-chaos.com) is happening on campus as we speak. I can hear the soulful melodies of Pt. Chaurasia's magic wafting into my room from across the road. If your down on campus, or will be soon, do drop in a line and I will be happy to take you around. Its a time for much mirth, timepass and loud music. IIMA is the place to be. So if your anywhere near Ahmedabad, drop everything and rush while the party lasts... And thats advice you don't need a consultant to tell you...
God bless all...