Two States stealing ideas from my life

Don’t ask my why I’m reading a Chetan Bhagat book. Anyway a while back I was reading the first few pages of “Two States” when I started screaming and my eyes nearly popped out. Here in these pages was an incident that was straight out of my life at IIMB (the book is set in IIMA, btw). The first thing I did, after I screamed of course, was to check the date of publication. 2009. 5 years after that incident had taken place in my life. There is a small chance it might have actually been based on me.

So in the book, the microeconomics professor is explaining utility functions and indifference curves. And he calls upon an economics graduate from Delhi University to explain the concept to the class. The student tries to give a qualitative explanation but no one understands. That is where the similarity ends. In the book, the professor ends up writing some greek alphabets on the board while the student (female) bursts into tears at the end of the class, humiliated. And the hero goes on to console her and all such.

So as I mentioned, this event closely mirrors something that happened to me. First term of B-school, check. Microeconomics, check. Indifference curves, check. Economics grad from DU asked to explain, check. Student giving qualitative explanation, check. Class not understanding head or tail of it, check.

In our class, though, something different happened. The hero had no intentions of waiting till the end of the class and consoling the DU Eco-grad (in this case, male). Up pops his arm, and he screams  “saar, saar, saar”. When the saar doesn’t respond he shouts “saar I can explain this in English”. The DU Eco-grad is at the blackboard repeating his line, which he had probably mugged up, which enabled him to top university.

Saar finally gives hero a chance to go to the blackboard. Hero puts on collar mic. Looks at the curves on the blackboard and carefully marks off points, which he decides to professorially name as A, A’ (pronounced A prime) and A” (A double prime). Class starts giving up. Hero adds more points. B and B prime. Class gives up further. Then A and A’ move to B and B’. Something probably makes sense. Soon the proof is obvious to most of the class (mostly engineers). Hero hasn’t completed the proof yet when he hears a loud thumping of desks. Math wins. It is unknown if the DU Eco-grad cried at the end of class.

My apologies if I’ve told this story earlier on this blog, but I’m not one to let go of a bragging opportunity. And I still think it was that incident in my class, Section C of IIMB, on the twenty second of July 2004 that inspired the similar scene in Bhagat’s book. No, that’s not the part I’m bragging about.

Wagah Border

Ok this post is approximately one month late. Truth is that I’d thought this up almost a month back – in fact more than a month back, as I got my ass roasted by the hot concrete galleries while waiting for the flag-down ceremony to begin at the Wagah Border. My mind had then gone back to the old IITM chant “start the f***ing show”, but given that I couldn’t actually utter those words, I’d thought up this blog post instead. I had constructed each and every sentence of how I was going to write this. It was a maze of thoughts. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten most of it until I’d gotten back to Delhi two days later – which was when I had access to the net.

I attempted to write this post back when I was in Delhi, but couldn’t get beyond a paragraph. What I had written would never measure up to what I’d constructed in my head on that day at the Wagah, and I kept scrapping it. But then, there’s a story to be told, so I think it’s time I tell the story, “in my own words”.

Ok so now that I’ve gotten beyond two paragraphs, the rest of this should flow, hopefully. It was a hot and crowded afternoon. There were three stalls, and one had been kept closed. People were piled into the other two stalls – one for ladies and one for men. It was as hot as a Punjabi summer afternoon could get. The concrete benches were all heated up, and there were the military men who were exhorting people to sit down and get their asses roasted.

And there was the master of ceremonies. One man in plain clothes with a mic. Periodically he’d surface and shout slogans, which the over-enthusiastic crowd would complete. He would drag young women out of their stands and make them run around the place with the National Flag, which they enthusiastically did. He would wave his hands as if his repressed dream was to be a band conductor, and people would tone up or tone down their cheers.

And the people! It was incredible. I had never known that the Indian mango man could be so enthusiastic. There seemed to be something special in the air as everyone shouted and cheered, and danced and swung, as the patriotic songs blared and the master of ceremonies waved his hands around. People seemed to be remembering their mis-spent youths and trying to re-live it in the name of patriotism. It was like going back to one of those wonderful inter-school cul-fests. The kind of enthu seen at the Wagah Border would put the Saarang Pro-shows to shame.

Sadly, it had no effect on me. I stood by myself, in one corner, bored, and observing the people. Maybe it was a good thing that I was bored, since I managed to get my thoughts in order – though I was to subsequently forget them. Music was blaring, people were shouting, but it didn’t seem to make any sense to me. We were there to witness a military parade, which I thought was a fairly solemn occasion. And here you had people who were “letting go” like nobody’s business. Maybe I’ve become too cynical. Maybe a certain libertarian-leaning group that I’m part of is having too much of an influence on me.

I was a reluctant visitor to the border. I didn’t want to go. The reason I was at Amritsar was to see the Golden Temple and thulp the food that I’d heard so much about. Wagah wasn’t part of my plans. My mother, however, had other ideas. For some reason, she had happened to really enjoy the border parade when she had visited there six years back along with my father. And she wanted me to “experience this experience”. While we were driving back, however, she admitted that the show wasn’t as spectacular as it was six years ago.

In the beginning of the post, I had mentioned ot you that I’d wanted to chant an IITM chant. Once the “show” started, another favourite IITM chant came to my head. “STOP the f***ing show”. It was drab and boring. Say what you want, but I somehow don’t find the idea of a bunch of armymen marching and performing drills exciting. And it can be consumed in small doses only. To their credit, the show at Wagah wasn’t too long – it lasted only for about half an hour or so.

However, given the conditions (crowd, weather, etc.) it didn’t turn out to be a pleasant experience. The idea of going to the border to watch the ceremonies was so not worth it. Only a couple of days earlier, I had read about the Hillsborough tragedy, and given the way the crowd was pushing and jostling and continued to pour in after the stands were full brought up thoughts of an encore. At one point, I even left  my prized spot in one of the stands in order to go to the relative safety of the ground outside the stands. I only went back in after they opened the third stand (which had been closed till half an hour before the show) and could find a relatively peaceful spot to stand there.

I don’t think I’ve documented all that I’d thought of when I stood there in that relatively peaceful spot in that third stand. I’ll probably make a separate post out of all that if I do manage to remember it sometime.