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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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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Taming TAFL

“TAFL – Theory of Automata & Formal Languages, also known as Theory of Computation. This is an important subject. The Head of our Department himself teaches the other part of the subject hence you can gauge it seriousness. Pay attention in the class, understand it here itself and you’ll not need to study for it. Miss one lecture and you won’t understand anything in the succeeding ones. So pay attention in this subject. Maximum people get REMs in this subject and it hampers them in 7th semester during placement and stuff. Moreover, people fail to score in 3rd sessional due to the extra-curricular activities in that period. At times the highest is 12 on 36 in 3rd sessional. So, try to pay attention and score the maximum you can in the first two sessionals.” – The professor cautioned us for the subject as dreaded, infamous and jinxed as EG (Engineering Graphics) in Engineering. I elaborate my stint with TAFL,a dreaded subject in Computer Engineering. Read more to explore the fun!

TAFL – Theory of Automata & Formal Languages, also known as Theory of Computation. This is an important subject. The Head of our Department himself teaches the other part of the subject hence you can gauge it seriousness. Pay attention in the class, understand it here itself and you’ll not need to study for it. Miss one lecture and you won’t understand anything in the succeeding ones. So pay attention in this subject. Maximum people get REMs in this subject and it hampers them in 7th semester during placement and stuff. Moreover, people fail to score in 3rd sessional due to the extra-curricular activities in that period. At times the highest is 12 on 36 in 3rd sessional. So, try to pay attention and score the maximum you can in the first two sessionals.– The professor cautioned us for the subject as dreaded, infamous and jinxed as EG (Engineering Graphics) in Engineering.

As far as academics are concerned, seniors cry wolf for two subjects which are the most difficult (after ofcourse managing a girl) – EG (Engineering Graphics) and TAFL (Theory of Automata & Formal Languages). My seniors too had warned me of this subject, but I didn’t pay much heed to it till it became a mammoth jeopardy in my life. It was 8th, December, 2012 – just when the much anticipated last even semester ON CAMPUS commenced – the 6th semester of B.TECH CE, which had TAFL as a feather in its circlet. 1st January, 2013 – the 1st Celebration of University Foundation Day for DDU was approaching us at a galloping pace. We were gearing up for crushing a World Record. Team Connect was in high spirits and we’d ample of work along with not ONE but TWO issues to make before 25th December – the English issue supplemented by a special Gujarati issue. With this animus, academics was something too beyond the boundaries of the radar to enchant our second mind even! I missed the introductory 2-3 lectures of the subject and that was enough to derail me… Beginning from PMI (Principle of Mathematic Induction) till Regular Expressions and Finite Automata everything went above my head in the class. I just went jotting down the stuff, scribbling little in the notebooks in the classroom (just because I had to) and looked at the PowerPoint slides perplexedly.

1st Amongst the Equals:

A month passed, the first internal exam lashed its attack on 7th Jan, 2013 with TAFL on 11th Jan. I was too drained in the first four papers to retain my reluctant zest for academics in the fifth one. Then I wasn’t even subconsciously conscious of villainous nature of TAFL. I didn’t study the previous night at all and submitted myself to goddess of slumber as early as 11pm (my usual sleeping time is 3-4am). Next day morning I got up and realized I was still virgin (and that was good ofcourse) and TAFL was going to fuck me soon! (Yes, I know that’s a nice way to say ‘I was unprepared’). I boarded the bus. Soon I learnt Gokhale too was sailing in the same boat. He offered me to accompany him at Ghoghari’s room where the latter was going to deliver a CRASH COURSE for TAFL. I agreed for consensual sex with TAFL rather than getting raped by the detested subject (Again, I know that’s a nice way to say I agreed to learn TAFL reluctantly). In some 2 hours from 8.30 to 10.30, I gobbled up a lot of TAFL served by Goghari and the repercussion was indigestion. I wrote some nonsense in paper (except the Pigeonhole principle, which fetched me ONE FULL MARK without any hitch). The nonsense fetched me a deplorable 12 on 36. With this I realized, the 3 internals with TAFL are going to be the worst one’s ever and the 12 on 36 was just the 1st amongst the equals.

Crying Wolf:

I’d fetched a skimpy 12 on 36 in TAFL in the first sessional which was lower than the scores in other subjects which usually a 7.someone like me gets. This has raised an alarm for me, I reckoned that TAFL was definitely EG’s kin and I shall begin lamenting for the unwanted blood relation between the two. I started telling everyone about my prejudice for TAFL, how bad it was and how I was struggling with it when I wasn’t actually. I made no efforts to rise from ashes (How heroic a sentence could be, you see!). I created all sort of zilch hype about TAFL and I wanted everyone to abuse the subject just because I didn’t like it. Everyone else in the class seemed comfortable mugging the circles of automata and those a’s, b’s, 0’s and 1’s inside their circumference but I couldn’t do the popular engineering ritual and hence I sinned in the exams. My FB and WhatsApp status would be “I Hate TAFL” and of the kind. Within a month’s time TAFL’s terror reached some hundreds in my contacts to cite the minimum effect of my propaganda to defame TAFL. I cried wolf for a month till 2nd sessionals – the time when most people in my list wished me luck for TAFL’s 2nd sessional.

2nd installment of misery:

After a bad blow from TAFL, I was apparently sincere during the 2nd sessional. I attended ALL the lectures and paid attention in the classroom too (I hope you’ve read the ALL in caps with sufficient emphasis). Not only that, I also practiced a sum or two before the exam week. And I relentlessly went on to fill a longbook just practicing minimizing Finite Automata, converting NFA to DFA and the Pumping Lemma (which I never understood). To show my utter reverence towards the hostility of TAFL, I shifted to Nadiad for a Night – the one before TAFL’s exam so that I don’t waste time in commuting from Nadiad to Ahmedabad. Raichura’s room was auspicious for me as I’d cracked CO (Computer Organization) in 5th semester in a similar fashion.  I practiced and practiced and I looked poised before the exam, but little did I know about loss of tranquility that was just counting 1 hour and 15 minutes. 2nd sessional- easiest paper ever all said, I too felt when the supervisor handed it over. But then, I messed up badly. The post-exam expert discussions that happen outside the class in which laureates of DDU participate with great gusto validating how correct their answers were, declared that I had goofed up badly in an EASY PAPER. The marks were out and I got an even disgraceful 9 on 36 in the 2nd sessional… Now, all the tension REALLY mounted up, the ball was completely my court. I now faced a do or die situation for making up to the SAFE mark in just one last sessional left to avoid REM (backlog/KT as popularly known amongst the engineering ‘afflicted’).

The upsurge:

I was in sheer melancholy then (yeah, an overstatement… just to create the effect). In the first lecture that followed the disaster, I asked MSB Sir, “Sir, I’ve just messed up in the first 2, how easy or difficult is the 3rd one?” He replied, “Well, if you know, we teach simple things like counting, addition, subtraction first and then difficult things like multiplication and division. So, whatever we’ve learnt so far was just basic, third sessional is definitely not easy. See if you can pay attention and work hard.” I understood! Things were not going to be easy! It was a do or die situation, I didn’t have much to lose. I started going to college early. My schedule would start at 10.45, but I would reach the college at 8.30 and read the text. (Astounding, but true!). I also asked some of my friends in IT to help me out with a topic or two. They did! I would study at home too, about the not so easy topics – Turing Machines, Stacks/Pushdown Automata and stuff. I’d lost hope, but I had always been taught to continue swimming even at the lowest depths in the expanse of deepest waters. I did!

I again lodged at Raichura’s room a day before TAFL’s 3rd sessional. My total so far was 21. I need to surge it up to 36- the safe mark (people in college however rumored a 45, but as I was a ‘well-informed’ prisoner of DDU Central Jail, I knew the correct rules and regulations). 15 in the 3rd sessional is what I needed. However, looking at my haunting past (a 12 and a 9), the task seemed pretty daunting. However, I practiced a lot (which implies mugging for the engineering ‘afflicted’). I draw each Turing Machine in the text as many as 8 to 10 times. I practiced each Pushdown Automata equally. By the 10th time, I felt I was actually understanding and could manage making a custom one if dared by the paper setter. And it was 2nd April, 2013 – TAFL’s 3rd sessional, a day before my birthday! I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday eve! I took it positively and poured all my mettle in the paper. And what resulted was a 20 on 36! Yes! I had crossed the safe mark, God signaled “Yes, I want you to pass” and I’d got it then…

Last nail in TAFL’s coffin:

If you’re famished and you’ve to dream, then why dream of salt and dry bread? Why not imagine a soft, buttered bread with a hundred year old wine? I’d crossed the safe mark in sessional exams. My total counted a 41. We’ve a 60 mark paper in external exam, you evade a dual with the subject on a 24. We’d reading parole of 15 days before the FINAL EXAMS. The destiny had favored me by putting a holiday in the timetable before TAFL’s exam. Abiding by each year’s traits I made a lot of plans to study in these 15 days and again abiding by the traits I studied NOTHING. All I did in these 15 days was – practicing to convert a NFA to DFA (just a small part of 9-chapters long TAFL syllabus). Once again, owing to my blatancy towards academics, I appeared in exams condomless (unprepared sounds too clichéd to use it here…). I appeared for the first 4 exams (which included a horrible paper of Computer Networks) with great gusto. Then came TAFL! I’d decided, I would not leave any stone unturned. I followed the buttered bread and wine analogy too religiously and aimed for a 60 on 60. Prepared with similar zest. I wrote everything in the notebook and practiced. I went on and on for 2 days. I did all the things I had evaded in the sessional exams. I went on writing stuff again and again in those 2 days before TAFL’s exam. I was frustrated, but I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to remove my frustration out! I didn’t want the frustration to reflect in the paper as it would harm my ownself. Instead I decided to settle scores with TAFL while practicing only. During the 3rd or 4th revision in the book, I started writing “Last Nail in TAFL’s Coffin” on each page before starting the topic. Below is are a few pics: (I had preserved the notebook for this very day, when I would want to shout to the world that I’d tamed TAFL)




Raichura drove me to Santram Deri a day before the exam. I’d a lot of faith in that place tracing back to my experience with CO where the shrine had worked miracle for me. I prayed again to help me swim the pacific. The D-Day finally arrived- 21st April, 2013 – TAFL’s external exam. My heart pumped a lot before appearing for the exam. The supervisor handed over the question paper. My eyes scanned it for some familiar and favorable things. Before beginning I calculated if I could manage to pass and the initial calculation returned POSITIVE. I started scribbling. And there I saw a question of converting a NFA to DFA in the end of Section-1. It seemed quite simple apparently, seemed to be one which found a place in the paper so that morons like me could sail through easily. I guided it to the end and proceeded with Section-2 which seemed tougher. I attempted the max I could. If bluffing can fetch you marks, why shy away?

I finished the paper in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I started parsing it again for searching any marks which I had left unpicked. Every time I parsed, the NFA-DFA question was inviting unusual attention from me. I checked it multiple times but found no errors in what I had already written. It was 2 hours 50 minutes, just 10 minutes before paper collection and I was again with the NFA-DFA question and I realized that I had left a common state ungrouped which was so evident from the question itself! I immediately redrew it! I had passed the acid test, upon confirmation from a professor I found that the question was purposely tricked and what I did was correct! I jumped in joy then! All what I was waiting then for was RESULTS!

Yay! I finally TAMED TAFL

24th May, 2013 – the Result Day. All around me knew I was dreading TAFL the most! But the unexpected happened! The result showed the highest in my score in TAFL – A 43 on 60! I shouted a loud – “Yes TAFL! I did it! A subject in which I managed to score a bare 41 in 3 sessional exams, was now MINE with a 43 on 60 in just one single exam for which I had to prepare full curriculum. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was a happy ending. I felt like a hero who had defeated the villain in the end! Hardwork is secondary, I’d a lot of prayers from my parents, the high court, my friends and just so many living and non-living entities that did the impossible for me. I had finally overcome TAFL’s Terror (Purvil had suggested this as the title of blog post. I’d have been glad to put it had I flunked. But no, I fucked TAFL!)

TAFL is no more a trepidation to me today! Yes, I hate it as much as I did before. I’m in 7th semester of engineering today. We’ve a subject – Language Processor with not few but many elements of TAFL in it. But no, I am not scared. I’ve swum in the floods, dark clouds don’t petrify me any more.

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