Monthly Archives: February 2009

Old School Ties

A love story between two disparate colleagues

Sheila woke up with a sense of panic. She had forgotten to set the alarm for the third day in a row. Oh God, there would be hell to pay at work. Sachin was probably having a coronary by now. Just the thought of him brought a grimace to her face. Sachin. Erstwhile classmate. Once the world’s biggest nerd and her bete-noire at work.

Sheila recalled the first time they’d met five years ago. She had bumped into him near their college entrance and knocked him off his feet. When she tried to pull him up, he’d glared at her. Unperturbed by his “touch-me-not” attitude she had tried to draw him out. She soon gave up. On the last day of college he had approached her hesitantly. “Sheila, here’s my address. I’m going to my native village and then head towards Delhi. I’m taking up a job with an MNC there.” He had given her a hopeful smile. She took the note from him with a preoccupied air thinking about her job interview the next day.

On his first day at work she had literally ambushed him at the cafeteria. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me – you look so different. When did you move back to Mumbai?” She could barely recognize him. Gone were the glasses that had given him an owlish appearance in college. The crumpled shirts and well-oiled hair that had the girls running a mile away. Mr. Nerd looked like a movie star now. Well-tailored slacks, pinstriped shirt and cropped hair. Even the spectacles had been replaced by contacts. She rattled on for a few minutes before she realized that he hadn’t spoken a word. He stood there staring at her with a frozen expression on his face.  “I didn’t know you were working here..l” he blurted and started drumming his fingers on the table. ‘He still hasn’t given up this habit since college’ thought Sheila. “We’re going to be working together on this project, let’s get started!” he said abruptly.

Two months in the project, she had come to know his little quirks. He was obsessed with cleanliness and was always tidying up after her. He had a habit of meticulously making notes during every presentation. He chose his words carefully whenever he spoke. Sheila was his antithesis and knew she grated on his nerves. She often caught that flicker of annoyance on his face when she made a mess on the table or leaped into the discussion at supersonic speed. The others were used to her ways but Sachem’s mood was getting blacker. “Did you guys have a fall-out in college?” Her colleague Rohini was curious. Sheila shook her head. “No, I don’t know why he’s on my case all the time!”

Yesterday was the last straw. Their client had convened a meeting at 9 am and she hadn’t made it on time. But she had given a spirited  presentation and the client had walked away with a non-committal expression. Sachin had blown his top. “Sheila, we’re going to lose this account, thanks to you! Why are you never on time? How long can you get away with such a shoddy attitude?” There was a grim silence that followed. The others murmured and slinked out. Sheila felt miserable. Tears were welling in her eyes and she couldn’t look up.  He just slammed the files on the table and walked off.

As she reached the office late, she dreaded going inside and confronting her nemesis. Her buoyant nature had simply disappeared with this project. “I’m going to quit now, can’t take this anymore!’ she muttered. When she walked into her cubicle, all her colleagues were busy at their terminals. Suddenly there was a shout from the far end of the room.

“Yeah! We got the contract! Congrats, Sheila – you did it!”

Sheila blinked. Was this some sort of joke? She thought she’d blown it yesterday.

“Mr. Jagmohan was so impressed with your ideas, he’s decided to go ahead with the proposal. It’s in the bag now!” Rohini was grinning.

While others came around to congratulate her, her eyes darted across the corridor. Where was he? There was no sign of Sachin the rest of the day. When she was packing up her things and getting ready to leave she sensed someone standing behind her.

“Ahem! Sheila, can I talk to you?” Sachin was looking at her warily. “I’ve here to apologize for screaming at you. And congratulations for winning the contract for us!”

“Thanks, Sachin. I know I’m impulsive by nature and say the first thing that comes to my head. I’ll really try to change, I want to..”

“Oh, no. Don’t change. Ever. I won’t love you any less…”

“Whaaat? Did you say love?” She almost screamed.

He chuckled and looked sheepish for a few seconds. “Sheila, I’ve always been the dull guy in the group whereas you’re the real thing!”

“But Sachin, don’t you know opposites attract?”

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Music festival – NMKRV Jayanagar Bangalore

Every spring Shri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira, one of the premier sabhas of the city, organizes a music festival at the NMKRV festival in Jayanagar for a week. Some of the top artistes of Carnatic music perform to a packed audience. This week the inaugural concert was kick-started with a vocal concert by the popular duo, Ranjani-Gayatri. A brief introductory speech by the organizer and artiste, and the concert began with none of the fanfare or fuss normally seen on inaugural concerts. Some of my friends had stayed home fearing that the concert would start late with long drawn out speeches!
Ranjani-Gayatri’s concert was a neat presentation. Beginning with Kalyani varnam (vanajakshi)and a brisk Sarasiruha (Nattai – Swati Tirunal), a scintillating Durbar alapana by Ranjani (Ramabhi rama – Tyagaraja), and the evergreen favourite Tiruvadi charanam (Kambodhi – Gopalakrishnan Bharti) were the highlights. Their manodharma reached great heights with the kambodhi alapana and the neraval “‘adutthu vandha ennai thaLLalaagadhu hara hara endru sonnaalum podhaadho”. The thani avarthanam by percussionists Cheluvaraju (mridangam) and Sukanya Ramgopal (ghatam) was a class act and got a deservedly rousing ovation. RTP was in Shubhapantuvarali. I left as soon as the pallavi began, strains of Shubhapantuvarali echoing in my head. The crowd was overflowing and the aisles were blocked.
The second day had Sanjay Subramanium present a lively concert with several emotive pieces such as Raga sudharasa (Andholika), Ariyaaro (Mukhari – Arunachala Kavi), Evvare Ramayya (Gangeyabhooshani) and a rarely heard Tyagaraja kriti Sive pahimam in Kalyani. During the raga alapana he sang a few phrases omitting some notes thereby sounding a bit different (all within the boundaries of the scale). The RTP in Kirvani was outstanding and took the concert to commendable heights. The violinist Nagai Muralidharan complemented Sanjay’s energetic style throughout the concert. The percussionists Neyveli Venkatesh and Trichy Murali gave a spirited thani. I did feel that their mic volume was slightly high. Perhaps the fact that I was right in front of the stage made a difference.
The third day saw one of Bangalore’s finest, Neela Ramgopal take the stage at the same venue. Beginning with Ritigowla varnam, the fast paced Samayamide in Kedaram (Patnam Subramanium Iyer) had the audience tapping their feet. The chittaswarams were very lively. Mami’s brisk rendition of the kriti and neatly executed kalpana swaras set the tempo for the concert. A beautiful alapana of Abheri followed and reminded me of Musiri and his contemporaries (another era). One hardly gets to hear Abheri in today’s concerts. Gangeyabhooshani alapana was a pleasant surprise. Vivaadhi ragas are rarely heard in concerts today, especially raga alapana. This was followed by a Purandaradasa kriti. For the main piece, she took up Mamava karunamaya (Shanmukhapriya – Swati Tirunal).
A note about the concerts themselves. They begin on time. The acoustics are wonderful. If people are unable to find a seat, and there are empty rows in the front for VIPs, the organizers open the side doors upfront after the concert is well underway and allow the latecomers to sit down. Little things go a long way. Kudos to the organizers for making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience for carnatic rasikas in Bangalore’s southern belt.