My second day at iDiscoveri. If I said yesterday’s first half was uninteresting, today was out-and-out frustrating. Initially (for the first hour and a half), I remained silent. My mentor, the Director of iDiscoveri – Gaurav Saklanie – was preoccupied with some work. He had assured me that the CEO would be meeting me today. You must consider that that was for me a very exciting proposition: after yesterday’s no-event, no-excitement let down. But a promise is in itself not enough for gratification: I hope it was. I waited, and waited, and waited. The morning sky changed shades, lunch happened, and even the tea-before-tea was served, but still no call from the CEO.
But, as I guess most people realise by my age, God is the ultimate sadist. The body’s natural defence against disappointment is self-pity. After disappointment has had its fun for some time, the body unleashes this wonderful defence, so that one can at least enjoy one of the most excellent sources and forms of sympathy. However, having borne my disappointment all day, just when I was beginning to seriously feel sorry for myself, I was asked to proceed to the CEO’s cabin.
You must realise, here, that a man is likely to be at his best when he is feeling good about himself. Certainly not when he has been feeling sorry. I had been in a state of preparation since morning. But, having seen the sun go up and start coming down, I was tired, and my spirits were lower than I would have liked. I’m telling you all of this because what followed within that cabin is likely to stay in my mind for a considerable part of my life.
Mr. Rajpal (my CEO), Gaurav (the aforesaid Director), and Saurabh (the saving grace of yesterday) were all there, to discuss my work at iDiscoveri. For the first time, in a long while, I had been given such attention: very flattering, I thought. If this was sugar, what followed was an enormous rich, double-layered chocolate truffle, topped with freshly whipped crème, and lined with hot chocolate sauce.
In an outrightly matter-of-fact fashion, I was told, "Mr. Dhruuv (my CEO, generally, puts in an extra u while uttering that beautiful sound), I have some work for you. You shall be doing two projects for us. The first shall be a work of secondary research, and the second shall be primary research. I hope you can appreciate the difference between the two?"
I don’t think I did, then, but I timidly nodded and allowed some air to escape my lips, which resembled a "yes".
"Good." Your first assignment is to, WITHIN THE NEXT 100 DAYS, become one of the world’s greatest authorities on ALL the work that has been done, in the USA, within the areas of LEARNING and CHILD DEVELOPMENT during the past 20 YEARS. So, lose your night’s sleep or gain it, read books, or search the net, do what you will, but by the end of next week give me a written abstract of what you are going to present in your research.
As I later got an opportunity to communicate to him, I can’t remember when I had last felt so intimidated. Within five minutes I had lost three shades of my complexion, lost almost all of my voice, to say nothing about courage.
"You shall be presenting a paper on this research in a national conference that shall be happening in July, in Ladakh. I shall be meeting you only once a week, for one hour. You must realise that I don’t always get to spend that much time with my children every week, so be aware of the kind of respect you are getting from me. Now, it is up to you to make or break that time that we spend together."
All this while, I had been noticing that Mr. Rajpal has an inherently humorous way of speaking. He would, on and off drop, in statements like, "I may not have all the answers in the universe, though you may very often believe so." But the problem lay in the fact that he said everything with such a straight face, that one didn’t feel encouraged to express one’s appreciation of the humour. But even that could have been endured. What was really causing me to choke was that Gaurav and Saurabh, sitting next to me, were laughing away without the inhibitions. God save all from such situations!
He continued relentlessly, "Your second project is to carry out an empirical research, using both qualitative and quantitative methods, to determine what pains the parents of school children across Delhi. Your sample size shall be 300 pairs of parents, from different localities of Delhi. Your study should be able to reveal sex-differences within the sample, children’s age-graded norms, and the differences in the reactions of public school and government school children. Dhruuv, if you do this work nicely, we shall propel you to the international scene, and get you very positive attention. However, if you do not respond to the challenge you’ve been given, you may not even be around for the whole of 14 months. Any questions?"
What happened after that was less funny, so it doesn’t get space here. But I had an inexpressibly peculiar experience. I was shaken, but not disintegrated; I was segregated, but not alone; I was stepping into the world, with the spotlight on me, the button in my hand.