Opening up, yet again

I go through these introverted and extroverted phases. I started off as a loner, and then something happened during a class picnic to Coorg in 1997 that changed me, for what I thought was forever. I suddenly started opening up, made new friends, talked more to my existing friends, gave up all my inhibitions and basically had a good time. That phase continued maybe for a year and half, or maybe more, and then I shut down again. In IIT, I started oscillating wildly. At times I’d be aloof and keep to myself, at other times I’d walk across to the coffee shop in front of my hostel, buy myself a cup of cheap Nescafe and sit down, with random people, and talk and talk and talk.

Between five and two years back, I went through an “online extrovert” phase. I’d forever be online. When available, I’d have an average of four GTalk windows open, chatting with different people about random things. The first thing I’d do when I switched on my home computer would be to find people who were online and message them. It was a lot of fun, though the person who ended up being my wife found it weird that I spent most of my time online, chatting (it did help, though, that she would often be one of the people I was chatting with).

Certain “life changes” and redefinition of priorities and some unexplainable stuff meant that I shut down once again around two years back. Ironically this came only a couple of months after I thought I’d truly opened up and gotten rid of my inhibitions. I suddenly had less time to just “be online”. I’d hardly talk to people. GTalk being blocked in office meant that I disappeared off so many radars which were tuned in my direction. I had less time for “frivolous chatting” after work, and one by one I got “out of touch” with all those people I would chat with regularly. Things were quite good otherwise in life so I didn’t exactly bother, I must mention. Among the side effects of this, I think, was that my writing quality suffered. As did my network, of course.

To illustrate, I spent three weeks in New York City in January 2010. Then, I made every attempt to contact friends and acquaintances who lived in that area. And met them for lunches and dinners fairly regularly. I tried counting the number of people I met during that trip, but it was easy to lose count. I had a good time, I must say. In February 2011, I was in New York City yet again. This time, though, I didn’t make any effort to meet anyone, didn’t inform anyone I was in town. I had most of my dinners alone, in a list of restaurants I’d gathered from a few friends. I met one relative, and one friend (this was by chance), and that was it.

Over the last few days I’ve started making a conscious effort to open up again. Once again, whenever someone suggests we meet, I make it a point to go. I’m making an effort to not bail out of social engagements citing “NED”. I met a friend for tea on Friday, another for tea on Saturday, had a long phone chat with yet another on Friday night and met a whole bunch of people I don’t often meet for dinner on Saturday. And I had a lot of fun in all of them! I do hope I can continue with this streak for a while, and also need to figure out how to expand my network. Anyway, the more perceptive of you would have noticed by now that I’m blogging a lot more nowadays.

Barista Update

The Barista at Barton Center on MG Road has suddenly become so much more bearable, as they have turned down the volume of their music to a level such that you can actually have conversation without shouting. On a related note, it seems much easier to find tables there compared to earlier (yesterday we walked in around 6 and found several tables empty; earlier there would be a long wait at that time).

On yet another related note, they seem to have done something about the pricing. It’s friggin’ expensive now (70 bucks for a small cappuccino?) but I think they’ve gotten it right. There is obvious value in the restaurant as shown by the long waiting lines that used to be there earlier, and the restaurant is now simply monetizing that value rather than using artificial means (loud music) to chase people away.

As a former revenue management professional (damn; that sounds so corporate whoreish) I’m happy they are doing what a coffee shop like them is supposed to do – providing excellent environment for long conversations and chilled out afternoons, and actually charging for what it’s worth.

The earlier method was so cheap and country – they were clearly underpriced because of which there was overcrowding and they weren’t able to meet demand and had to use other measures such as playing loud godawful music to keep the crowd rotating.

Two thumbs up to Barista’s new pricing and music policy!


I’m not sure if I’d prepared this as an answer to a potential interview question but if I were asked if there was one part of my life which I’d’ve chosen to live differently, I’d probably pick my four years at IIT Madras. In many respects, it represents some kind of a void in my life. Nothing much of note happened during that. It was during that time that I learnt to put NED. There wasn’t much value added to my life in those four years, either in terms of actual value or even in terms of bullet points. There was not much “growth” in those years.

I did nothing of note in terms of academics (I ended up as class median) and apart from a bit of quizing not much in the lit scene either. I didn’t go out on too many trips, nor did I go out too much. You might be surprised to know that I’ve never in my life watched a movie at a movie hall in Chennai! I went to Besant Nagar beach thrice during my four year stay, and to the Marina Beach once. I played only a peripheral role in organizing Saarang and Shaastra, and that too only in the latter half of my stay there.

On several occasions I’ve asked myself what kept me going through those four years that I consider to be my “dark days”, and the only reasonable answer that I get is “pat”. Pat. Sri Gurunath Patisserie. The coffee shop of IIT. The life and blood of my life at IIT. Perhaps the only thing I really missed about IIT when I moved to IIMB. The venue for much discussion, and fun, and bitchery, and long nights. Open air. Bad chairs. Broken tables. Non-existtent umbrellas. Breeze. Cheap and horrible nescafe. 5 Rupis lemonade. Etecetera.

When bitching about my life at IIT, I usually lay most of the blame on the fact that I was put in a mostly PG hostel. However, one advantage of being in Marnad was that it was right opposite Patisserie, and so it took little effort to go park there. I suppose it was no coincidence that the most prolific Pat-ers (Bhaand, Shamnath and I) were all Narmadites.

It was really simple. All that one had to do when bored was to walk across and go buy yourself a cup of Nescafe for 5 rupis. And park. If you found an interesting gumbal, you would park with them. If not you would park alone, and an interesting enough gumbal would build up around you as time went by. People kept coming and people kept going but the conversation would go on for a while. And some time in the middle, Satcho would materialize and molest Mani, the dog that had been much fattened on the Patisserie leftovers.

It was at the Patisserie that the editors of The Fourth Estate would meet the correspondents and collect ideas for bitchy stories. It was at the Patisserie that plots were hatched to bring down The Fourth Estate and start the rival (shortlived) Total Perspective Vortex. It was at the Patisserie that campus couples announced themselves (though after a while action in this regard moved to “spot” near the girls’ hostel). It was at Patisserie that cheap treats were given and cheap bets were settled.

It was at the Patisserie that I first started making Pertinent Observations, and telling them to people around me. When I didn’t have access to Patisserie any more, I started this blog.

Earlier, when people told me about the crazy things they’d done in their undergrad and all the fun they had, I’d feel bad. I’d feel bad that I’d missed out on something. Now I just ask myself if I’d’ve traded my sessions at the Patisserie for the “fun” things that they’d done. And the answer, usually, is no.