Monday, August 25, 2008

Indian Olympics and Beyond

Ramesh’s Uncle Gopal used to tell him, “We Indians eventually win.” And he would go into chronologically detailed accounts of how every single foreign dynasty to rule India was overthrown; how, though it took two hundred years, even the mighty British could not have their way here.

Everybody’s talking about the Beijing Olympics. Some are busy shouting out about how this is India’s best ever performance in these games: “Three medals, you know? And a gold!!” Others, who are new to the Indian approach to the Olympics, seem stunned and disillusioned, and actually take note of India’s rank on the medals tally.

The year I was born India brought home the Cricket World Cup: so, technically, I’m supposed to have started on a good note about these things. Since then, nothing much has happened (not to suggest that I have had something to do with it). There have been some isolated good performers: Prakash Padukone (Deepika’s father) and his “All England” feat; somebody called Milkha Singh, who probably did something sometime (he never got an Olympic Gold, though); Leander Paes’ uncanny victory over Pete Sampras; Rahul Dravid’s erstwhile awe-inspiring defiance on the batting crease; and the phenomenon we know as Sachin Tendulkar.

I often wonder how these isolated performers must feel, given their aloneness. India, as a nation, is really not used to do doing too well. The recent Booker Prizes and Miss Universe titles actually come as very pleasant surprise. We hardly come across as a nation that takes itself seriously: post-colonial hangover still fogs our consciousness. Indians do well; India rarely does.

So, come 2011 and Delhi shall find itself hosting the Commonwealth Games. Embarrassment is virtually assured. Delhi, however, is benefiting tremendously, in terms of public transport, particularly: the metros and the new buses are quite a spectacle.

Jung would probably say that India lacks the victory archetype: She’s not used to success, and She’s very comfortable with the lack of it.

Would I then live to see an age when things are different? Yeah. Uncle Gopal knows these things.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Achilles' suicide

Filling out the cancellation-of-tickets forms yourself is like a to-be-punished-kid himself being asked to go get the cane from the headmaster's office;

like a suicide-bomber being asked to smile as he presses the button, and for no real cause too;

like Achilles shooting himself in the heel...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Crocodile tears

I cry, tears surprise me;
The hurt is fresh; but seems familiar.
I haven’t broken a limb:
My heart aches.

After a long, long while
Someone threw a rope down my cellar!
“Hurrah!” “Yippee!”
“I’m going to be free!!”
The rope broke as I was climbing.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

(Yet another) Hurt, an OUCH, and the Sun

The bulb throws light on this tear-less face,
The back leans against a wall,
A grimace seems the only affordable exercise.

Who do I run to?
The consumer forum?
A court of law?
My parents?
ha, ha!

It's eight times in a string.
My ancestors were supposed to be exceptionally good, noble people!
:-) , :-)

It hurts, again!
Yet, again!
Had these been physical injuries, I ...

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Dhruv Raj Sharma
20:43 - 21:05.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

And as I walked through the clouds floating...

And as I walked through the clouds floating,
A hand stuck its head up,
And started to reach out for me.
"Common, son. It's time to go!"
"Oh, please! That can't be!
The gardener is still working at it, the beds are not ready!"
"I don't care, son. Spring is here and we should be going!"

And, it calls, and it calls!

But, I don't want to go!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why I bought five.

Why I bought five.

At the Naga stall, at the Annual Shilp Mela, there was this girl assisting her mother ( I presume). Normally, friends and I refer to Nagas (and other North-East Indians) as “Chinks”, going by Dilli lingo. But I wont do that for her. No. This girl was pretty, petite, dainty, and what eyes! Not flashily dressed or anything; just a simple pair of jeans, and a no-show grey sweat shirt. But, the elegance...!

Now, “Chinks” are normally pretty trendy (markedly fashion abreast), and smart; but there are only a limited minority who manage to find and hold the attention of the North Indian male (unless in males you want to count the “Girl is girl” lech). This one would be found very high on this minority list.

She and her mother had a hard-dried-and-painted-flowers stall at the Mela. The flowers were attractive as she, varnished in dry, shiny hues of gold, silver, and often a whole variety of shades. But there was one on them that stood out, just like she from the other Chinks. It was a dry-painted four-petalled crimson, with a deep red stalk and a gold lining at the edges of the (wafer-like) petals.

“How much for this one?”, I asked.

“Ten rupees.”, she replied smiling the most angelic smile any girl could smile.

“Ten for one?! That’s too expensive.” Smile or no smile, I care for my wallet!

“You can have this one for five”, she said, mesmerisingly, pointing to a tender-looking off-white, papery flower, with a burnt-brown centre.

“How long will that stay alright?”, I asked guided by the scepticism that the flowers’ apparent fragility filled me with.

“That would depend upon you, how you can handle it.”, she said, in a statement more deep than I think she meant it to be.

I took five of those from her. As I handed her the money, she gave me the balance, in no hurry, as though she was allowing me the time to ponder, “Depends upon how you can handle…”.

“The Mela is on for another two weeks, isn’t it?”, I asked.

She smiled, and nodded.


Friday, November 24, 2006

What do you think Vengsarkar can do?

What do you think Vengsarkar can do?

Sharad Powar, on Friday, disclosed to the press that he had asked Chief Selector, Dilip Vengarsarkar, to fly to South Africa, and "interact" with the Team, and its management.

Raja Mohan (eminent sports journalist) says that Vengsarkar's visit cannot do much to the team's morale, or performance, though he does recall Clive Lloyd's impact on a similarly down Windies squad. Ajay Jadeja seconds the view, insisting that not the Chief selector, but Vengsarkar, the batsman, could help by passing on some valuable advice.

While the nation debates about Mr. Powar's move, which seems to be spurred more by a Parliamentary discussion on the Team's (now regularly) dismal performance, than anything more sincere, the move seems to have a reassuring, satisfying, avenging kind of effect on me (I wouldn't be surprised if others feel it too). It's almost like one's father going to pull up one's brothers for their recent lack of conduct.

There is also a slight filmy tone to this...

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Do you feel sorry for Dravid?

Do you feel sorry for Dravid?

The Sunday tie against Australia was a National frustration. Watching the Indian bowlers provide batting practice to the Aussie batsmen was humiliating. I wish I had the character to quit watching India play international Cricket: but opium addiction is hardly the easiest to shed, is it?

How would you put it? India missed Yuvraj? Do you think Agarkar would have tickled Australia another way? Hah!

I like Agarkar. I’ve been involved in many serious brawls with my father about it. I think the kid has tremendous potential. He beat Waqar Younis to become the fastest to a hundred wickets in ODIs, can hit the ball sweetly and many a mile, and is one of our best in the field. But where is this man when he has to throw in three simple yorkers to contain the Windies in the last over?

What’s wrong with Irfan? Is he burnt out at 22? Huh? Munaf Patel came into the side as one genuine tear away pace bowler? And now he bowls like he’s bowling to his momma’s kitty party friends. Why is Anil Kumble not playing?? Why is the best batting (Indian) side in the world repeatedly struggling to cross a total of 250??

You can go ahead with a plethora of such questions. And though I wish your doing so would help, it just wouldn’t.

A fish is known by the state of it’s head. I don’t feel sorry for Dravid: I feel a deep sense of disappointment, and anger....
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Friday, October 27, 2006



♪…How can I help it if I think it’s funny when you’re mad,
Trying hard not to smile, though I feel bad;
I’m the kinda guy who laughs at a funeral,
Can’t understand that now?
Well, you soon will…♪

That’s the attitude Romeo has on his face, practically, all the time. Before any confusions arise, Romeo is my rabri-coloured-fur-(“champagne gold” doesn’t quite make it), and pink-belly- possessing, vivacious-would-not-be-the-word like, six years old breed-less pup (some would say “dog”: I don’t).

I must confess, I’m struggling at writing this. It is so hard to pick just one thing about him. But, we’ve got to begin somewhere. For instance, Romeo is a essentially a gross misnomer. In the whole glee of finding an angelic pup on the street, no one bothered to do a sex-check (I wonder if this can get us some anti-female-infanticide-promotion points). It was only a month after Romeo had stormed our lives that someone exclaimed, “Romeo?? This girl should be called ‘Juliet’!” We ate little that day.

Romeo remained Romeo. No one had the heart to get all chivalrous and gentle just because he had turned out to have “she” body parts. And so, we brought up Romeo like a tom boy. Actually, I take liberties when I claim we brought up Romeo: he did that pretty much himself.

If Romeo was to be (more) human, he would probably be this stormy Casanova, who could get any girl he wanted; or, he would be the village Jack, whom everyone would think of when in trouble. In school, he would have been the mind behind ingenious plans of mass bunking; chuckling, he would mock the front benchers, “You… [chuckle, chuckle]… you come here to study?”.

Romeo is one of those blessed souls whose very presence is therapeutic. He hails from a limited edition of individuals who’ve mastered the art of “Live, and make live”, and have done it so beautifully that life seems to be with them. With just a single scratch and “Woof!” (indicating, “Mujhe paneer do!”), he brings you back to life, no matter how profound your deviation. With the world fast getting infested with stinky corporates who work their lives off in the quest for the green paper (and the so-called “good life”), it is the Romeos of the world who lead the way through showing off what life can really be, how without saying anything you can say so much, how without even having to think you can effect change.

Mathew Arnold said, “The more people I meet, the more I love my dog.” With Romeo, you don’t need any such contrasts. I wonder if Tagore had a dog when he was writing “Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high…”?


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Who gets what

Radha has been toiling for months for that overseas admission; Anil (the only heir to Mr. Oberoi’s "empire") doesn’t really need to be studying any more, but is going to Harvard, on a scholarship!

Rajesh ji’s fast declining photo-copying business could expand desirably if he could only save up enough to buy a decent printer (even a second hand one would do for now); Mr. Gupta just bought his seven year-old a Canon PIXMA iP4200 (the second most expensive photo printer in the market: please get back to me if you have even the wildest idea of how the blessed child is going to need it).

And of course, the old filmy story of Mrs. Chopra’s son wasting food at every meal; while hundreds queue up at United Nations food-supply camps across the world.

There are villages in U.P. that receive electricity supply for only a few hours in the week; Uttaranchal has so much electricity, it can leave the street-lights switched on for months together and not bother about anything save the bulb-filament.

While environmentalists struggle to counter the heavy-tree-felling imposed environmental crises, Mr. Laloo Prasad and his team use hundreds of paper packets for hundreds of trains (for thousands of days) to wrap the berth-sheets they provide.

Murphy’s Law No. 57: When you need something, someone else, who you are certain does not require (or merit) it enough, will get it much before you do (and you are sure to get to know about it).

Ok. I desperately need a passport; my admission at UCL is heavily periled without it. Pankaj received his recently, minus any admission abroad, or even the prospect (or ambition) of one in the near future!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dream of the Dolphin

For Agassi’s farewell, one of the news channels was playing “Dream of the Dolphin” (Enigma). And, man, that felt so great! That’s the same track I had chosen (exactly the same length extracted, too) for a grand farewell that I had connivedly* arranged for our BA third years’ batch. It felt great for two reasons:
a). Whoa! So, my music sense is right up there, you know! I think like the bigwigs!!
b). It took me to those days…

…I get a thrill out of taking up challenges on behalf of a large number of people: that’s how I play my mischief. “Get them together, let’s do something! Hey, common, Prashant! Move your lazy bum!” I mean, the great man was so me when he said, “…How dull it is to pause… …To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! / As though to breathe were life.”

And go back ten years, and you’ll find a child knocking his neighbour’s door, asking his mother if he could come out to play with him. “Sonu’s studying right now. You can come back later.” And, if you’re careful, you may also notice a little boy in the school-break, walking in the company of only his tiffin box, lost in a crowd….

Today, when I look back at all the farewells that I have received, I look back with a fair sense of generativity, and a pronounced hunger for more! Even today, I'm isolated: but this time it's for celebration.

Gosh! You never can say what they’ll grow up to be, can you?

*Yeah, I know. That’s how new words come into existence. :-)
It may sound weird, but this I got this (our own) farewell arranged because our teachers would not agree to attending the regular farewell, and I wanted all of them to be there when we were being flagged off.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why doesn’t it matter any more? : )

Why doesn’t it matter any more? : )
To celebrate or curse it, I know not.

...Am I an idiot?
Some would amplify that.
Tears gush in and gush out;
I feel much more these days:
Compassion (just as I say that word
a current goes through me
and tickles my cheeks) is with me
Like never before (almost maudlin I am).

But then, why doesn’t it matter any more?
If I feel more, why do I feel not?

I apprehend this may be a black harbinger.
But, “Hush up!”, snub I,
For this could also be that self-sufficiency
That I have always desired.

It’s just denial: I think it still matters,
(Certainly not to the older extent)
But, slow-poisoned thus long, I haven’t
The heart to admit it.

I see a glimmer of sunshine:
A possibility that could give me acceptance.
May it work, though, for else,
Escape will be very hard to battle.


Thursday, August 17, 2006


Green. A very wet, very Hopkinsian “glad” green, carpet of foot-long blades, with the back-drop being six hills and three hillocks: silver-grey, with a blue blanket and a mist-scarf. Raise your eyes a bit, and the skies seem to be in celebration; with three big garlic-bread-loaf-shaped clouds (Sreejith or Vidya would know the exact term) converging towards each other, and towards the hills. A steady breeze stroked the happy grass. The sky was overcast: white and grey (a very promising monsoon-sky); and there were rain sprinkles, occasionally. Towards bottom-right was a boisterous, rain-fed, muddy stream: the only rough presence around. But, though “rough” is a hard word I use, the stream was not a disturbance to the beauty of the place. It was, on the contrary, completing the picture: much like what some naughty kids would have done in a family photograph.

Put all of the above in a rectangular frame and you might be able to see what struck me through the 3’X2’ bars-less window of a Shatabdi Express that was bringing me from Bombay to New Delhi. The name of this place, or of the nearest railway station, is Vaitarna. Looked like one of those places that He seems to choose as promotionals for heaven.

17th August, 06.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Shut Chest

Have you ever seen a shut chest?
A chest, shut by weak, half-torn straps;
Straps, striving to keep shut the chest,
Yet threatening, all the time, to lose their integrity.

What good is a shut chest? What can it contain, give out?
Can it receive new things? Can it distribute its old?
No. Such a chest can only be stepped on:
Others can use it to see greater heights,
Its self can see none.

The straps weaken by the day;
Yet their pressure never eases.
Can the chest break free?
Throw open all doors, add meaning to its being?
Explore what it really is, and what it can be?

No. Never! For then the poor straps are ripped apart.
And, after all, they are a part of its being.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What T6 means to me...

My task on the Youreka camp, T6, was to try and study the effects that our camps have on children. I used both quantitative and qualitative methods to do the same. I come back with a lot of information, insight, and interest. The following is a glimpse into what the experience has meant to me.

If there is one thing that I have been telling everyone who shows interest in my experience on Youreka (T6) it’s that I simply have not been happier in the past four years. I had been extremely happy in school; carried a bagful expectations to university, was stifled and dissatisfied; came to Delhi, only to be shocked at the cultural deficit of this wretched place. Then T6 happened.

Ok, I’m writing this “My experience” thing way after when I should have originally done this, so I may not be able to communicate to you the emotions that I experienced, in their original degree. For me, T6 was, let’s see... …, like dipping my face in the Tirthan River. For those of you who’ve done that, you may appreciate that this involves not just that single chilling, thrilling sensation but a lot more: a lot more, to know that your face has gone red and it’s not a blush; a lot more, when you know that you are enjoying it just as much and at the same level as the kid next to you; a lot more, when you delve into those erstwhile unnoticed pockets in your bag of emotions; a lot more that really can hardly be expressed on paper.

When setting out, I was apprehensive and nervous. Apprehensive, because my methodology involved some exercises in self awareness that I was not sure how children would react to. Nervous, because I had forgotten what I was capable of: I was rusting and atrophied. But, come the station and I had changed. I had been regretting that I had not been through that ice-breaking-games literature that I had asked AD for. Within minutes of being in the train I found that none of that was required. We have in a certain slice of Allahabad this quality and habit of instant mixing with strangers: we take hardly any time at all to convert strangers to acquaintances, and acquaintances to friends. Within ten minutes, I discovered that I was travelling with a lot of these Allahabadis. There was so much warmth within that bogie that one could not notice the heat outside.

But coming back to the face-wetting thing, I think I realized why I had been so happy in school and not thereafter. I know now that children mean a lot to me, particularly in a large number, particularly the middle school age-group. I had had a lot of exposure to these in school, as head boy. There is just so much energy here, with these kids (we never talked numbers, but joules!). They were exploring themselves for the first time, I for the second. The glee in our eyes was the unifying factor. I had had these lovely moments of exploration when I was their age: I wanted to help them see, feel, and experience these the best that I could facilitate.
If there’s one thing that I would put my finger on as my best experience on T6, it will probably be the minutes that I spent conducting the Public Speaking minor. This is something that I have always enjoyed doing, and it was special. I did not know what I was doing (it was hardly structured), I was picking up strings from their words and bringing them to come to the “gold-spot” and speak for two minutes. It was mad, yet there was method in it. Some would speak for two, some three, some half a minute; some had to be bound and gagged to their benches. But all spoke. Not even a single kid (from the two groups that I had with me) could stay away from the gold-spot. That to me was an achievement, an accomplishment, a reason to keep my smile alive for weeks.

Yes, I can’t stop smiling. It’s crazy, but I’m in love. That group of kids has mesmerised me. This, too, had happened to me in school. I’m so glad that I have been able to taste it again.

The young shirk-worker

18th May

My third day at iDiscoveri. [I must take you back into that cabin before we proceed to Day 3.] Well, after the monumental stir up I had begun to feel important enough to take some liberties. So, I got Mr. Rajpal to allow me some:

a. To have the privilege of exercising my discretion in coming to office. My point was that I might need to spend more time in libraries than on my office desk.

b. To get myself membership with the American Information Resource Center, and to get iDiscoveri to pay for it.

c. To accompany the iDiscoveri team that was to leave for teacher recruitment programme the next day to Nainital.

Though, as I mentioned that I was feeling important enough to demand these things, I was relieved on not getting a "No" to any of the above propositions.
Now, since the time my placement had been finalised with iDiscoveri, I had been nurturing a dream project. A project that would transform the activities of iDiscoveri and expand their horizons five-fold. But my CEO had just roped me in to his own dream project, and all my day dreaming was being proclaimed as idling. I must pat myself on the back for having had the kind of presence of mind under those challenging moments (when my voice, complexion, and courage had decided to leave me) to actually fall back upon some kind of reserve energy back-up and voice something. In a quivering voice I told Mr. Rajpal that if he didn't mind I had my own proposal to share, and asked him if this was the best time to share it. It is a personal observation that, unless it's a problem that commands clinical attention, authoritative men are generally seen to suddenly acquire a noticeable degree of patience when their subjects decide to find their voices. I must assure you though that Mr. Rajpal is really far from the monstrous image that my statements seem to paint of him: but, as I had earlier expressed, I had not very often been so cowed down. And Psychology has screamed its throat hoarse pointing out to the altered state of perceptiveness that people under such adverse circumstances enter. So, it was really nice to be heard out nicely. In fact, Mr. Rajpal expressed that he was glad that I was beginning to come up with my own ideas about expansion. However, before I could see myself become the hero that I had been seeing myself become all the while when I was planning this stuff, I was made to understand that it was not feasible this year. Mr. Rajpal made it clear that the only way I could convince him of the need to do it this year would probably involve going on a fast unto death.

I left the cabin….

The next day, iDiscoveri missed me. I had got the lease I wanted: my leash had been extended in length, only so that I could hang myself from a higher pedestal. You must understand that though studies do manage to grip my fascination at times, I am quintessentially not a bookworm (without the euphemism, read "Many would readily nominate me for the President of the National Association of Passive Aggressors to Academics"). And here I was, standing in the queue for membership with the American Information Resource Center, as a first step towards the mountain I had been asked to climb.

While leaving for the American… …Centre (which I decide to hereafter address as AC), I had been consoled by my rocket-diminishing optimism that places as elite and posh as the AC are generally frequented by some of the most promising girls that one can ever hope to see. "Yes", I said, "of course, where else?". During the seven-odd hours that I spent there, I must assure you, I did manage to catch a glimpse of textual material between my gazing for better sights. But remember, God does have sadistic tendencies. After I returned from the AC, I spent a little over two hours trying to find a logical argument to convince the AC authorities that they need to exercise some kind of a stringent screening procedure before admitting females into those august premises.

But, those glimpses of textual material yielded me the references of 67 books, 18 journals, and 8 CD ROM's that AC could supply me with, pertaining to my research. As, I'm certain you will agree, for a man with not the best kind of focus, that is a mighty impressive piece of work. Huh?

Friday, June 23, 2006

First taste of office...

17th May

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.