My first tryst with Sales

I have been hearing from my friends for a long time now that I “sell well” and I can “convince” people well. I’m not sure if that is true or they say it out of their generosity and love for me. But I have heard these opinions about me for so long now that I wanted to sit, ponder and recollect how I began my journey of selling stuff and convincing people.

My first major encounter with sales was in 2012 when we started a newspaper called DDU Connect back in our engineering college. As the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, my role was that of an entrepreneur. We did everything from scratch – forming a team, budgeting, pricing, product development, production, setting up distribution and most importantly marketing and selling it. As we were starting the newspaper on subscription basis and we had no monetary support from the university administration back then, it was vital that we garner good subscription for the newspaper for it to sustain. Cut to the morning of 14th February, 2012. This was the day when we were going to start marketing the newspaper. Until 10.00 AM in the morning I had no idea about how we were going to pitch the newspaper to the university audience. Back then, DDU comprised of at least 50% students who came from vernacular medium schools and reading and specifically reading English content was certainly not their preference. Hence, it was imperative that we created a strong value proposition and a communication that resonated with an average DDUian to receive a decent response.

We had a team meeting in the canteen for about 45 minutes before we made our first pitch to an audience of 90 students in a classroom. I crafted a pitch for the newspaper and made sure it addressed all strata of students at DDU:

  • The simple ones from vernacular medium who lived a non-glamourous life: The newspaper promised them to give “exciting news” about the college and the course fresh out of HoD/Dean/Vice-Chancellor’s office
  • The studious ones: We promised them technical content and a dedicated page for every branch of engineering. The content would be well curated and notches above simple googling and wikipedia-ing
  • The creative ones: Back in 2011/2012 Facebook was relatively new. They had something called NOTES for longer posts. People posted memoirs, poems, blogs etc. in this. We promised them a platform to showcase their creativity
  • The ambitious ones for whom their CV was the reason to live: A place in the DDU Connect team for which they’ll receive a Certificate of Appreciation from authorities which they can add to their CV and better their prospects of job or higher education

Three years later, I learnt the idea above in my B-school in the name of segmentation.

It was now time to create a Value Proposition. I wanted to it be hard, impactful but personal at the same time, the reason being we were selling it to a community (Gujaratis) who had the acumen of making a profit even after purchasing from Sindhis and selling to Marwadis. I introspected and searched for things that a typical DDU student spends his pocket money on. The two major things were mobile recharge and eating Puff (puff is the Gujarati term for a bread patty. Nadiad was famous all over Gujarat for puffs and the most famous outlet Payal Puff sold 40 varieties of Puff. It was the staple diet of people in Nadiad). While making our pitch we told people that they could spend their money (Rs. 120/year) on two things:

  • Mobile recharge: which may last for 15 days without a girlfriend and 7 days with a girlfriend
  • Eating puff: Assuming you have one with cheese spread and garlic sauce, 120 bucks will help you have your meal only thrice

Compare both of these important expenditures vis-a-vis paying 120 for newspaper, you have a chance to earn a name amidst 4000+ university students, have a PoR and a certificate, be updated about the realm you’re living in and of course the refreshment after consuming good technical and non-technical content. This entire idea was later taught to me in the B-School in 2015 in the name of positioning.

And lastly, because it was 14th February, I wanted to make my pitch special. I would end my pitch saying, “Today is 14th Feb. Some may receive proposals while some may not! But today, we assure you everybody is going to get proposed. WE, DDU CONNECT, propose you for your companionship in this journey of creativity and campus awareness, and we hope you say a YES. We’ll wait for your answer at the Subscription Desk on Center Foyer at 1.00 PM”.

The entire pitch above delivered with a conviction, smile and a few jokes on teenage romance and Payal Puff immediately struck a cord with the audience. In most of our initial classroom presentation we had thunderous applause from the class when we ended our pitch. Were these just leads? No! Cut to 1.00 PM on 14th Feb, our subscription desk at Center Foyer was flocked by hundreds of students. I had unknowingly learnt an important lesson in selling and communication that day which I later read in Piyush Pandey’s book (Pandeymonium) released in 2015:

Whatever you say, say it with respect for the audience, say it in a context that the audience can understand, say it spontaneously, say it without fear, say it not to intimidate or frighten, but to delight.

I was so enthralled that evening after receiving the subscription figures that like a little kid I recited my sales pitch in front of my parents that night and they being parents of a little kid, clapped!

Indeed, we had sold well! However, good sales generally goes well beyond a sales pitch. To boost our subscription and be closer to our “customers”, we allied with some popular and influential guys in the hostel, college buses and individual branches. We gave them our subscription forms and asked them to reach as many people as possible in person, outside the classroom and spread the word about Connect. I was taught the same thing in my B-School in 2015 under the title of Influencer Marketing. Indeed, we had marketed well!

Sales, as they say, is a lot about numbers. We were told by the university management that if we manage to get an initial subscription of 600 students, they would take the venture seriously and eventually might even adopt it as the university mouthpiece. A week down, on 21st February, we were sitting on 1200+ subscriptions! 100% growth over base, indeed we had sold well! And such figures at a time when people had NOT SEEN the product they were buying, not even a prototype! We had made sales just based on our pitch. Indeed, we had sold DAMN WELL!

About a month down, on 17th March, 2012 we launched the 1st issue of DDU Connect with a lot of pomp. My university was getting its first newspaper and in a way a first major extra-curricular body.

A few months down, we began our re-subscription drive. We went out all out again with our sales pitch but this time we had partnered with local salons, eateries, xerox centers and book stores of Nadiad to provide discount coupons on subscription. In our pitch, we told people, “The value of discount coupons is more than the money you pay for subscription. Hence, in a way we are paying you to subscribe to the newspaper. You’re getting DDU CONNECT now for FREE! FREE! FREE!” And people smiled and clapped at this again. I was later taught this in my B-School in 2016 under the title of Sales Promotion. My batch mates from Morbi, Keshod, Mehsana, Borsad and other parts of Kheda and Saurashtra were perhaps seeing a student sell so aggressively for the first time. And perhaps that is why, I was called “Chaapawalo” (The newspaper man) and “Salesman” by many in the college. The “Salesman” title conferred upon me by one of my batchmates Chirag Patel stayed with me until today.

Half a decade later, today, DDU Connect stands strong, minting 10000+ copies a month circulating to various colleges in the university, industry and alumni. The venture started by us in 2012 now has its 6th generation handling it. We hadn’t just sold well, we had BUILT BONDS!

Today, I sell adhesives, water, acrylic and glass colours with equal conviction, trying a build a story around every product I sell. And while doing this, I am still BUILDING BONDS!

P.S. The PlaceCom selling experience in my B-School is still a fresh in my heart. Perhaps it will make space on my blog some years down.

 

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Her body, her mind, her choice!

The much lauded recent video of Deepika Padukone directed by Homi Adajania, which I believe intends to promote women empowerment and gender equality, is very good. If it is about gender equality, do the same lines in the video hold true for men? To bring it into perspective, let me write down the corresponding lines for a man, and ladies please tell me if such a man is okay for you to marry?

I am just quoting lines from the video. And will shift the thought to – what if a man said the same lines:

My body, my mind, my choice.

Her body, her mind, her choice.

To wear the clothes I like while my spirit roams naked

I may be unshaved (Those Gillette Razor blades and shaving cream advertisements, where those girls cutely say “Ewww, we don’t like our boyfriend sporting beard. Please be clean shaved when with us atleast”), I may sport long hair, I may have tattoos, I may not wear formals while in a conference or while coming to your home to ask your hand from your parents. – My body, my mind, my choice, RIGHT?

My choice to be a size zero or a size fifty

I won’t hit the gym everyday, I love food, I may have a bulgy belly. Okay right? You wanted a macho man, eh? But you said – My body, my mind, my choice? Oops, I forgot! Video is Indian – Hypocrisy is so much in our genes. When we complain of obese girls not getting guys for marriage, we should know there are obese guys too whom girls reject (and girls rejecting guys is more alright than guys rejecting girls – again according to the video)!

You don’t have a size for my spirit and you’ll never have

But come on, size of my penis does matter? Internet is filled with articles of women leaving men just because he didn’t have a large/long (I didn’t know the correct adjective. Thank god grammar made “/”slash, it came to my rescue 😉 ) enough! And what more? Courts found it to be a valid reason for a divorce!

To use cotton and silk to trap my soul is to believe you can halt the expansion of the universe or capture sunlight in the palm of your hand. Your mind is caged let it free. My body is not, let it be

How profound! Just one question, holds true for men too?

My choice, to marry or not to marry

I remember an idiotic movie called Kya Kehna (The same Anupam Kher, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan and Chandrachur Singh (Yes, there’s an actor by that name 😉 ) shit). The guy is in love with this girl, but doesn’t want to marry. And it became a big deal! Now some 15 years after the movie, we want girls to have choice of not marrying and that becomes – My body, my mind, my choice – Haaye Shabaashe!

To have sex before marriage, to have sex outside marriage to not have sex.

Before Marriage? Outside Marriage ? Not to have Sex? – No comments – Just imagine men doing the three – They do! More than women – but like the way society labels such men? But now Ms. Padukone calls it – My body, my mind, my choice. The burning question (As Chief Justice Arnab puts it) is, just for women?

My choice to love temporarily or last forever

Remember the Kareena Kapoor scene from Jab We Met where she is cursing the jerk who loved her temporarily , “Kutte, Kameena, Tujhe kya laga, tu chod dega mujhe to main roti rahungi. Keede padenge tujhe. Nark ki aang mein jalegi. Teri maa ki….” So now, can Bollywood make a movie like this where the girl is loving temporarily and the guy is cursing her on the phone? But so far in Bollywood, when a girl leaves a guy, our stand has been, “Tumhari khushi mein hi meri khushi hai” Equality boss! Equality bole to? Her body, Her mind, Her choice.

My choice, to love a man, a women or both

Here in Gujarat (Humare Narendrabhai ka state) people call gays – Bailo (meaning: tender, weak and non-masculine). Remember the song from DostanaMaa da ladla bigad gaya! (Gay ban gaya to bigad gaya?) I’ve seen coffee shops where chicks mock gays openly! But a girl holding other girl’s hand is still hot! Of course, her body, her mind, her choice!

Remember you’re my choice, I am not your privilege

Dictionary defines privilege as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.” Reservation for women – women empowerment. Alimony/Maintenance after divorce (even if she’s well educated. Remember the Suzzane Khan, Hritik Roshan case? How many crores?) – her right. Talking about choice – We’re no longer in a time where a girl is a man’s choice – (the guy goes down on his knees to be her choice, rightly so! Woman is the most beautiful creation of God bhai – I seriously mean it!). But do not forget, it is her body, her mind, her choice. “Hers”, okay?

The bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, they can be replaced. My love for you cannot. So treasure that.

Ditto Deepika, ditto! Tattoos on my biceps of your name, the ring in my finger can be replaced. My love for you, cannot! But remember, it is her body, her mind, her choice. “Hers”, okay?

My choice to come home when I want. Don’t be upset if I come home at 4 AM. Don’t be fooled if I come at 6 PM

Hindi films “Aji aaj office se jaldi aana”. “He comes late at nights. May be he visits bars, pubs, discos or may be he’s sleeping with some other woman in his office”. OR “He comes so early, probably he works in some shitty public sector job. That’s why they don’t have a good car at home, you see?”

My choice to have your baby or not

Ditto Deepika, Ditto! India surely doesn’t have couples like Mr and Mrs. Underwood of House of Cards. Imagine a woman saying “I think it’s the right time to have a family, have a baby” and a man saying “No, I am not ready for it! I want to earn a couple of millions more?” (He doesn’t love me, he’s all about money and career). It is her body, her mind, her choice. “Hers”, okay?

Also, since man is a woman’s choice and it is her choice to have his baby, then, this holds true for every other woman in the universe? If so, then the same man can be some other woman’s choice and she would want to have his baby? So in such circumstances what should a man do? According to the video, since everything in the universe is her choice, and in fact she herself is the universe (she says in the video ahead), the man should just succumb and allow any woman in the universe to fuck him and have his baby – again this is what video says!

My choice to pick you from 7 billion choices or not. So don’t get cocky!

Ms. Padukone, is the offer valid for men too? Or is it again her body, her mind, her choice?

My pleasure may be your pain, my songs your noise, my order your anarchy

Ms. Padukone, do you really mean it when you say this? Which educated man today doesn’t want the well being and happiness of women in the story. (Nothing changes by their wanting or not wanting it. Everyone has the right to be happy, be it a man or a woman). Who considers her songs a noise? (Taylor Swift is so melodious. But yes Honey Singh is definitely sexist, chauvinist, vulgar and all bad adjectives)

My choice are like my finger prints, they make me unique

Ditto Deepika, Ditto! But what about women judging men on their choice? Or is it again her body, her mind, her choice? Hers only?

I am the tree of the forest, snowflake of the snowfall

Lovely personification! I know it is put to create an effect. I know what Marketing is Mr. Homi Adajania. I wish you kept the cause of women at the centre! How I wish you did that in the video. I will spare this line from my scrutiny. (As if it mattered! 😛  Remember it is her body, her mind, her choice! Hers only. Not his!)

I chose to empathize or to be indifferent. I choose to be different.

Perfect! Will it be okay for the man too?

I am the universe. Infinite in every direction. This is my choice.

“Owww! A man saying he’s the universe? What the hell does he think of himself? Fucking chauvinist, narcissist, patriarch, Hitler, Khap-Panchayat-type jerk”. Remember it is her body, her mind, her choice! Hers only.

With the above interpretation of the video and the conjoined rhetoric “her body, her mind, her choice”, I don’t intend to impede the cause of women empowerment. I’m in for the cause, as much as any empowered woman is! I reckon, women are suffering, especially in an insanely patriarchal society like India! They have acids thrown over them, they are raped, they’re oppressed, they are judged on their dressing and all sort of nonsense. What I want to assume and believe is every educated (academically and socially) man in the country is with the women in their fight to equality and even superiority if I may say so. I whole heartedly agree that it is the feminine gender that does a lot and is often not acknowledged for the same, let alone praises.

 Feminism is good, hardcore feminism is good too. But while advocating equality are we making a room for unfairness? Are we being just and right while pursuing the cause? Women empowerment is a cause that is the need of hour and it needs to be pursued in the most correct way possible.

What I am against is: the way in which the video is made. The video majorly (read again: majorly) captures the urban woman. Rather than promoting equality, the video is going absolutely tangent on the cause of women empowerment and in part tends to be unfair to the masculine gender. All what video is doing is just exploiting the cause and emotions related to women empowerment to market vogue – cheap marketing Mr. Adajania! And rightly so, as it is made for Vogue, which means “the prevailing fashion or style at a particular time.” The fashion of the time is : Insanity

P.S. I forgot to caution in the beginning of the post, the content is fatal for people suffering from Offensivitis – the recent plague spread over internet.

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Turning a ‘B’ into a ‘D’: A Year Long Journey

|| December: 2013 While Passing through the lobby at Endeavor, Sarvayogam Center
I saw these banners on the glass panes of classrooms and cubicles. “Congratulations for securing a call from….”, they read. One for each well-known institute. The one titled “Congratulations for securing a call from IIFT” had some 50-60 names. One of the names was “Anish B”. It caught my attention for I too shared my name with the guy who had made it there. I told my friends in the batch, meaning very little of it, – “Boss, next year there’s going be a ‘D’ instead of ‘B’ with this same name in this list”. A few smiled, a few patted my back, for they thought I had said something aspirational while some too Gujarati for the fore-mentioned things just cheered -“Bhai bhai!!!!”

|| Then in December, hardly 2-3 months after joining the classes, I knew little about different entrance exams. I knew little about IIFT too. I didn’t know that out of 50000-60000 brains who appear for the exam only a 1300-1400 are short-listed as the ones who would be lucky to wipe their shit with currency notes once they pass out from the esteemed institute. Still, being a Gujarati at heart, I follow the principle of doing those things which are non-taxable – dreaming big being one of them.

|| July- August 2014
IIFT forms are out. Enthusiastically, just as expected from a DDU pass-out, I am one of the earliest people to fill up the form. Soon, in a few days, I received IIFT’s prospectus by post. I haven’t seen it, even today! My parents though, were very excited to check it out as it was the first prospectus from a B-School. As the show business goes, IIFT has a great prospectus and unlike most of the B-Schools, most of the details in it are true. My parents got charmed by the B-School in no time and lucidly came the statement – “How wonderful it would be if you made it here!”. I was “Yes!”. I made a point to suffix the affirmation with stats and figures of how many people appear for the exam, how many make it there, how tough DI section was in the exam and how I wasn’t sure if I could crack a tough exam like this. I could wrap their enthusiasm to an extent, unwillingly of course.

|| October – November 2014
The mocks were on in full swing! We had written quite a many FLTs and OMCs and I was almost numb to the disappointment that the scores in these brought to me. The first Mock IIFT on 3rd November was different though. I was not even halfway to the cut-off of the paper. Surprisingly, it affected me more than the usual FLTs and OMCs did… After the mock, when we went to McDonald’s for our breakfast, I was unusually upset. I did some ‘sentiyapa’ (sentimental + chutiyapa) too like: putting a WhatsApp status like “Delhi door hai”, sending a couple of messages “Humse na ho payega” to the people who were with me in this journey and the like… Things didn’t get any better till the fifth (last) mock. I did not clear the IIFT-call cut-off in ANY OF THE 5 MOCKS… I was never a stupid optimist. I knew if I hadn’t cleared the cutoff in mocks, I had little chance of doing it in the actual exam…

|| November 2014
It was 22nd November evening, a few hours after CAT. CAT as cheater as it had been always, had managed to stupefy me and made me think that I had done so well that I could manage a call from one of the IIMs (Yes, CAT can get you stupid to this extent!!! It is CAT after all). I was relaxed and in a good frame of mind. I watched a couple of Kapil Sharma videos on YouTube before I slept to get up on the IIFT Exam Day- 23rd November. The paper was a sheer marathon as usual. Quant-DI – my weakest sections more horrible than expected. RC section filthily lengthy – nothing that could work out in my favour. But thanks to CAT, it had made me believe that I had done well the day before and I could afford taking risks in IIFT and I could be my own self… I put in my blood and bones in the two hours in the IIFT paper. After I was done I tried calculating my score with the keys available online (all full of shit!) and hoping to get a number that would fall in range of the cut-off predictions (loose numbers keyed in people drunk on weekends). I was not making it anywhere. Theek hai, I knew I wasn’t that good. I chucked it immediately and got back to routine – calculating how many men could complete X work in how many days.

|| 18th December, 2014. Evening 4.45 PM
IIFT Shortlist is out. I knew I was not going to make it. Still I opened the website to check the names of friends I thought would make it. But, as unfailingly optimistic as we are as human beings, I opened the link to that PDF with my heart beating higher than usual. No sooner did the PDF load, than I hit Ctrl + F on my keyboard to type in my name to find it in the list. BAMMM!!!! I had made it!!!! I had my name!!!! I couldn’t believe it. So I found my IIFT admit card to check my application number with the one written beside my name and the list, and yeah it matched! I had made it! I had made it to the list of 1411 people who were short-listed. First call of the season from – Indian Institute of Foreign Trade….
|| Somewhere in December, 2014 end or first week of January, 2015
Finally, I saw something I had been waiting for subconsciously for a year now! We had a list with the same title “Congratulations for securing a call from IIFT” and YES one of the names in the list read – “Anish D”. The ‘B’ had been replaced with a ‘D’. I finally had a “I had told you so….” moment with my friends….

|| This moment
I don’t know if I am going to make it to the institute, I don’t know if I am going to convert this call to an admission, I may, I may not! But I will keep this picture with me with the rest of my life to show myself in the worst of the times that await me someday in the future that how I chased something I wanted and despite destiny repeatedly denying me, I took it, for it was MINE!!!!

IMG_20150111_123154
21st name in the first column

To the people reading this post – the ones elder to me, I don’t want to prove anything and you’re not reading anything new. Pardon me if I have sounded cocky. To my juniors (in age) reading this – Guys, if I (who’s not great at academics – studious stuff) could make it here, you guys are much better. It’s time Delhi and Kolkata get some more Gujaratis there and it’s time Foreign Trade gets some Gujarati exposure.

Epilogue: I converted IIFT Kolkata on 29th June, 2015

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દીક્ષાંત સમારોહ: એક અનંત પાનખરની પહોર

ખિલવા થી ખરવા ની સફર..

એક મેદાનમાં વાંસના લાકડા પર બનેલો વિશાળ પંડાલ, સવારના ૮ વાગ્યે લગભગ સાવ ખાલી. ખાલીપણું એની વિશાળતાને જાણે હજીય વધારી દે. જોતા જ જોતા ૯ વાગ્યા સુધી આ પંડાલમાં અઢી થી ત્રણ હજારનું માનવમેહરામણ એકઠું થઇ જાય. દીક્ષાંત સમારોહના પારંપરીક પહેરવેશમાં નવજાત એન્જીનીયરો તેમના વાલીયો સાથે આવી એક અનોખા કૌતુક સાથે સ્ટેજ તરફ આંખો ટકાવી બેસી જાય. ડીડીયુના વિદ્યાર્થી તરીકે નહિ પણ ચાર વર્ષ ઘણા એવા લોકોને જોનાર પ્રેક્ષકની દ્રષ્ટિએ જો પંડાલમાં બેઠેલા વિદ્યાર્થીમિત્રોના ચેહરા પરની લાગણીયોનું વર્ણન કરું તો ઘણી અસીમ વ્યાખ્યાઓ પણ ભોંઠી પડી જાય. સાહેબ, અતિશયોક્તિ જરાય નથી કરી રહ્યો. ચાર વર્ષમાં એકાએક જર્નલ-શબમિશન, ઇન્ટરનલ-એક્સટરનલ, વાયવા, નખરાળ પ્રોફેસરોનાં નખરાં અને નડિયાદ-ગામની અનેક પ્રતિકૂળતાઓથી વ્યથિત ચેહરાઓ પર આજે આખરે સંતોષ અને આનંદ છલકાતો દેખાય છે. ઉપરની બે લાઈનને જો સંક્ષિપ્તમાં કહું તો – “હાશ! છુટ્યા…”નો ભાવ! મોટા ભાગનાં લોકોના અંત:કરણમાં હજી એ લાગણીનો સાક્ષાત્કાર નથી થયો હોતો કે અત્યારે જેમની સાથે બેઠા છીએ, જેમની સાથે મસ્તી-ઠઠ્ઠા કરી રહ્યા છીએ, એ લોકો હવે ફરી ક્યારે જોવા મળશે એ તો નિયતિ સ્વયં પણ ખુબ ગણિત પછી જ કહી શકશે. પણ થોડાંક મારા જેવા પણ હોય જે આજુબાજુની દરેક બારીકીને પોતાની આંખ અને પોતાના દિલમાં સમાવી લેવા માંગતા હોય છે, કારણ કે કાલથી “લાઈફ” બદલાઈ જવાની છે.

ઘડિયાળ આશરે ૯.૩૦ બતાવે ત્યારે “એકેડેમિક પ્રોશેશન” પંડાલમાં પધારે. મોટાભાગનાં વિદ્યાર્થીઓ સમારોહની આ પરંપરાને પેહલી વખત જોઈ રહ્યા હોય છે અને આ વિધિની ભવ્યતાને જોઈ સ્તબ્ધ રહી જાય છે. (જે વાંચકમિત્રો અત્યારે ડીડીયુમાં અભ્યાસ કરી રહ્યા છે એ આ લાગણીને “ફર્સ્ટ પર્સન”માં અનુભવી શકે તે માટે “એકેડેમિક પ્રોશેશન” શું છે એ નથી લખી રહ્યો). વી.સી સાહેબનાં અભીભાષણથી સમારોહની શરૂઆત થાય છે. એમનાં આશિરવચન અને સલાહ સંભાળતી વખતે બે મિનીટ માટે એવું લાગે કે આ દીક્ષાંત પંડાલ નહિ પણ MMH છે અને અવસર દીક્ષાંત સમારોહ નહિ પણ ઓરીએન્ટેશન છે! ડીડીયુમાં તો જીંદગી પૂરો ગોળાકાર બનાવે છે! છેલ્લે, જ્યારે સાહેબ કહે “તમે સૌ આ યુનિવર્સીટીની બહાર પગ મૂકતા જીંદગીનાં અનેક રંગોને જોશો….” ત્યારે જાણે એક ચુંબક વર્તમાનમાં પાછું ખેંચી લાવે એવી ભ્રાંતિ થાય છે! પછી જેઓ શિદ્દતથી ૪ વર્ષ ભણતર વ્યવસ્થાને મહત્તમ માન આપ્યું (ટોપ્પર) હોય એ લોકોને થોડાંક સોનાથી (તાંબા પર સોનેરી રંગેલું ચક્ર – ગોલ્ડ મેડલ) વધાવામાં આવે છે. દરેક ડીપાર્ટમેન્ટનો ટોપ્પર સ્ટેજ પર મેડલ લેવા આવે ત્યારે સૌથી જોરથી હુરિયો (કાઠીયાવાડી શબ્દ) કયું ડીપાર્ટમેન્ટ પાડે એની હોડ લાગે છે! આ બધા વિધિ-વિધાનમાં મસ્તી-ઠઠ્ઠા તો ચાલ્યા જ રાખે. અને ભલે ને આજે છેલ્લો દિવસ હોય, પ્રોફેસરસાહેબો આજે પણ “માઈન્ડ” કરવાની ડયુટી પર! ખાલી આજે “વાયવામાં જોઈ લઈશ”ની ધમકીનો ડર નથી હોતો! જોતાં જ જોતાં બે-અઢી કલાક ક્યાં પસાર થઇ જાય એનું કઈ ભાન નથી રેહતું. ચાર વર્ષ સાથે રહેલા જોગીયો લાગણીથી સર્જાયલા વેક્યુંમમાં બહાર ફેકાઈ દુનિયાનું ગુરુત્વાકર્ષણ અનુભવે છે!

બધા લાગણીથી ભાવવિભોર થઇ ખુરશીમાં જ બેઠા-બેઠા કે જગ્યા પર જ ઉભા રહી ભેટે છે. એક મિનીટ માટે એમ લાગે જાણે જો હું મારા ભાઈબંધને જોસથી વળગી રહીશ તો કદાચ સમય રોકાઈ જાય! કદાચ અમે ડીડીયુમાં ફરી થી રહી જઈએ! આખરે, વર્તમાનની સામે નમતું જોખતાં, લોકો ભાઈબંધ નહિ તો ભાઈબંધીની યાદોને અમર કરીને પોતાના કાળજાને સાંત્વના આપે છે. ફોટા પાડવાની તો જેમ હોડ લાગે, અને કેમ નહિ. કોલેજથી ડિગ્રી જેટલું જ કંઈક મહત્વનું લઇ જતાં હોઈએ (ઈનફેક્ટ વધારે) તો એ મિત્રો સાથેની અમુલ્ય યાદો. અને માણસની રચના જ એવી કરી છે ઈશ્વરે કે એને દુનિયામાં સૌથી પ્રિય જે હોય એને એ પોતાનામાં બંધ કરી લેવા માંગે છે, ભલે એ પૈસો હોય જે મુઠ્ઠીમાં બંધ કરે કે પછી અંગત સાથે ની યાદો જે એ કેમેરામાં કૈદ કરે. ફોટા પડાવ્યા પછી બધા મળતા રેહેવાના વાયદા કરે! (આ કદાચ “3 Idiots” નો સીન લાગે, પણ જ્યારે સ્વયં અનુભવો ત્યારે એ માહૌલની ઊર્મિનો અંદાજ આવે!) મારા કાઠીયાવાડી મિત્રોથી છાસની લત્ત અને ના ને બદલે “માં” બોલવા સિવાય કંઈક સારું શીખ્યો હોઉં તો એ છે – “ચલ ભાઈ મઈડા ત્યારે” બોલવાનું. આ વાક્યમાં એક અજબની સકારાત્મકતા લાગે છે. બોલનાર અને સાંભળનાર બન્નેને ખબર હોય કે આ ફક્ત મનને એક આશ્વાસન છે (મોટા અંશે ખોટું) તો પણ બોલનારો બોલવાનું ભૂલતો નથી અને સંભાળનારા “હા ભાઈ/ભૂરા/કાકા, ચોક્કસ” કહીને એને આવકારે છે.

ભેગું થયેલું હજારોનું માનવમેહેરામણ બપોરના બે વાગતા સુધીમાં અશ્રુઓ સાથે વહી જાય છે. વિચાર એ આવે છે કે નિયતિનો સંયોગ તો જુવો એક માંને એનો દીકરો ચાર વર્ષ પછી પાછો મળે છે અને ડીડીયુની ભૂમિ-રૂપિ બીજીમાં અપાર સંભારણા અને લાગણીથી પોશેલાં અનેક દીકરા-દીકરીઓને એક સાથે વિદા કરે છે. નડિયાદને ભલે કેટલીય ગાળ દઈએ, પણ આ ભૂમિની સહનશક્તિને તો સલામ આપવી પડે. પાનખર પછી તો વૃક્ષ પણ સુનું દેખાય છે, જાણે વિરહમાં ઓતપ્રોત થઇ ગયું હોય, પણ આપડા કોલેજની જમીન, એની પાનખર તો એક જ દિવસે ઉમટી પડે છે, એના તો હજારો પાંદડા એક જ દિવસે ખરી રહ્યા છે. એને તો આપણને શૂન્ય-દિવસ થી જોયેલા છે – MMHમાં બેસતા, લેબ-ક્લાસરૂમ શોધતા, પેહલી વખત કેન્ટીનમાં જતાં, થાકેલા હારેલા કૉલેજથી મેદાનમાં થઇ હોસ્ટેલ પહોંચતા, પેહલી વાર બંક મારી રાજહંસ જતાં, કરચરલ વીકમાં ગાર્ડનમાં બેસી ટોળામાં અનેક ઘોષ્ટિઓ કરતાં અને બીજી અનેક સંવેદનાઓમાં આ ભૂમિમાં બરાબરની ભાગીદાર રહી છે. એની સંવેદના વિશે આપણે કોઈ દિવસે વિચાર્યું? અને આ પાનખર તો અનંત છે, હજારો વિદા થયેલા પાછા ફરી ક્યારે આવશે કે કેમ? કે પછી અમદાવાદ-બરોડા-સુરતમાં બસ નડિયાદને ગાળ આપતા રહી જશે. પણ સાહેબ, છોરું કછોરું થાય પણ માવતર કમાવતર ક્યારેય નથી થતું.

હમણા જ ઓગસ્ટ મહિનામાં ગ્રેજ્યુએશન પછી પેહલી વાર હું કોલેજમાં ગયો. ચકડોળ જેવો નાનો અમસ્તો ગેટ ફરાવી અંદર ઘૂસતા જ જાણે કોલેજની જમીને એ મને એની બાથમાં લઇ લીધો હોય એમ લાગ્યું. એક ટીપું તો સાહેબ મેં પણ પાડ્યું! એક બાજુંથી સેન્ટર ફોયોર તો બીજી બાજુંથી કેન્ટીન રાડ પાડીને બોલાવતાં હોય એવો ભાસ થયો.

સેન્ટર ફોયોર: “અલ્યા યાદ છે અહિયાં તો ડેસ્ક મૂકી કેટલીય ઇવેન્ટનાં registration કર્યા છે, કેટલાય પોસ્ટર મારે થામ્બ્લે લગાડ્યા ‘તા”.

કેન્ટીન: “અલ્યા, પેહલાં અહિયાં જો. મારી અંદર બેસીને કેટલીય જર્નલ લખી છે, એક્ઝામ પેહલા અહિયાં જ તો બેસી વાંચતો ‘તો! કેટલાય મિત્રોની બર્થડે પર એમને અહિયાં જ તો કેકથી રંગ્યા ‘તા અને મારો ફ્લોર બગડ્યો તો, એ ભૂલી ગયો શું?”

આવી ઘણીય ભ્રાંતિમાં ખોવાયેલો હું ગુલાબી બિલ્ડીંગની વાયે આગળ વધ્યો. ડોકું ઝુકાવીને ચાલતો ‘તો, ક્યાંક રેતીમાં કસેક ચાર વર્ષમાં પડેલું મારું જ એકાદ પગલું દેખાઈ જાય! ના જડ્યું તો આજનાં તો જમીન પર છપાઈ જાય… એટલા માં વરસાદ તૂટી પડ્યો! સાહેબ, કુદરત પણ ખરી ચાર્ટર્ડ એકોઉંનટંટ છે, ખરો હિસાબ રાખે છે. આપડે ભૂલી જઈએ કે આપડો સમય આ ભૂમિ સાથે ચાર વર્ષનો જ છે, એ પછી નહિ આપડે કે આપડા પગલાં અહિયાં રહે છે. વરસાદે મારાં પગ-નિશાન ધોઈ ફરી યાદ અપાવી દીધું – “ચાર વર્ષ પૂરા! હવે તો ભાઈ ALUMNI કેહવાઓ!” ૯ મે, ૨૦૧૪ના રોજ શરૂ થયેલી પાનખર આજીવન રેહશે. હવે દુરથી બસ ડીડીયુમાં જુનિયરોની ઝાકળ જોઈ થોડોક આનંદ અનુભવું છું!

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I’ll be back…

This traces way back to Aug 2012.

In a conversation with Manish Sir and PC Sir at Endeavour.

“Beta, tumhare so far tests mein marks acche hai, book reviews likhte ho, editorials likhte ho, fir bhi kyun CAT preparations discontinue karna chahte ho?” (It was just 2 months since I had joined…)

“Sir, cope up nahi ho pa raha DDIT ke saath. Every month a sessional aur mere extra curricular affairs se time nahi mil paa raha. I will come back next year.”, I said with hopes.

“Seriously? Next year placements aa jayenge. Aur DDIT mein to TCS, Infosys wagera aati hai. Tu pakka placement mein baith ke job le lega.”, he said

“Sir, trust me. Main waapis aaunga!”, I said with shivering voice and a scantily wet eyes.

/* September 2013 */

Orientation Lecture of I23 Batch at Endeavour: “Sir, I am Anish Desai. I was in H07 last year. I couldn’t continue to due my schedule. Hence, I took a batch transfer. I told you I’ll be back and here I am.”

“Okay! Nice. So have placements begun in your college?”, he asked, a little intrigued.

“Yes Sir. TCS just recruited 59 people from our college. I didn’t sit for placement and I am not going to sit for other companies as well.”

“Commitment is good. Respect!”, he said with a smile.

/* Mid May 2014 */ (Introspection and discourse with my innerself)

I saw FB posts of my friends placed at various good companies who had just got their joining letters. Some going West, some in South. Some posting their pics in formals, some at their work desk. I felt nice.

Whenever people would ask me about my placement, I would just say “I didn’t sit for placements.” Every time I replied this, a sceptical me asked “Had I sat for placements, would I have made it?” – a question that reverberated within the ventricle of my heart almost every night and I slept unanswered to my conscience.

/* June 2014 */ (Endeavour Mock Placement Drill)

On a random Sunday in June, PC Sir addressed a seminar on Resume Building, GD and PI. That noon, I told myself, “Boss, if I make it here, I would no longer have to dodge WHAT IF question that haunts me every night.”

/*Sat – 21st June */ -> Aptitude Test and Group Discussion.

As usual, I barely managed to reach on time for the aptitude test. I hate “How many men will take how many days to shit out this much” type of tests – one of the reasons for not sitting for Tech placements. I reluctantly appeared for the test, almost sure of not making it to the Group Discussion. To my surprise, I did! Nice! 800+ people appeared for APTI, approx 400 moved to Group Discussion.

12 People in a group for Group Discussion. All 12 had tips from PC Sir’s seminar that we attended previous Sunday. A tough moderator as well. He seemed more serious than the most serious girl in my class (people in CE 2014 C Division know whom I am referring to). Moreover, the guy just next to me had taken PC Sir’s light advice too seriously. Dude draws an oval table on his paper, makes twelve dots around it and even before GD starts he starts marking a cross on the dots! (He crossed the one representing me too! Pretty encouraging) I initiated the GD unopposed (I was so surprised by not being pounced at simultaneously by others that I spoke introducing address at Vajpayee’s speed). Luck had favoured me as we had a topic from the political arena, that too on BJP! “Boss, faavi gaya”,I thought. But then, since BJP is Modi and Modi is BJP today, whole GD was driven off track. Tried hard to save it, but then people who knew less about internal matters and organizational structure of BJP thought it would be best to kill the GD and let the whole ship sink. I thought it did!

GD results were out, 12 out of 60 (and a total of 76 out of 400 who appeared for GD) were selected and I was elated contributing to the 4th multiple of 3.

/* Sunday – 22nd June */ Personal Interview.

Experienced a Personal Interview in front of a panel for the first time in life.

My interview started without a “Tell us about yourself” question. I was devastated as this question was the best opportunity to guide the interview in your comfortable zones. A series of questions about WordPress, its updates, SEO, Google’s updates, etc. constituted the first phase of the interview. Tech had been my forte and working for 5 years with all these jazz  had sort of fortified me to answer any questions.

The second phase had questions on Media, Politics and Journalism- the three things I had mentioned as my hobbies. I was more than overjoyed to take questions on these. I talked about Rajdeep, Arnab, Shekhar Gupta – famous EICs whom I follow quite closely. I also had an opportunity to curse shit  like TOI, Hindustan Times what people call newspapers! I gave highly opinionated replies garnered by facts and incidents dated accurately. What more do you need to take the interviewers by an awe? 😉

After a 20 minute interview, Technical and Non-Tech combined I got a really good feedback which pointed at some flaws in my answers as well. I was again unsure if I would make it.

/* Monday, 23rd June 10.30 PM */

A friend informs me “You got selected!”

When I read this sentence on my phone, I lost a part of myself. One that bothered me with a WHAT IF question every night. I now know, if I can GET SELECTED in a process comprising an Aptitude Test with a reasonably good difficulty level, a group discussion with a strict moderator and a Personal Interview taken by a distinguished panel, then I would have definitely made it for any damn company had I sat for placement the previous year!

I am in my senses, I am not overconfident. I know it was just a PLAY. The real battle begins in October – November 2014 and there’s still a lot to work on to make it to a good B-School. And I shall! God forbid if I don’t, Main Waapis Aaunga!

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