One Winter to the Next…
It’s a cool, calm evening in office as I save my work and close my MacBook, trying to figure out if I’ve done enough for the day. This is a daily exercise, the introspection of my own worthiness, of whether I’m doing justice to the role that I’m supposed to be doing. Some days are really good, I think “Yay, that was a good day.” Some days I’m like, “WTF, I barely got anything done today.” I’m a Libra, and true to the balances that rule me, I oscillate between states of mind, moods and choices, for that perfect state of equilibrium, a Libra’s perennial search.
I wake up in the morning sometimes and am totally astonished that I’m working, and that I’m not a kid anymore. I totally freak out when it hits me sometimes that I’m an MBA. It seems as if it was just yesterday that I was going to school in Pondicherry. How did I ever do all this? All my life I’ve rarely been worried about anything, I’m one of those guys who don’t give a damn what grades they get, what amount of trouble they get into, or anything at all, really, but I’ve always been petrified of being responsible for something. But here I’m, in charge of something, and my team trusts me to do the job. Believe me, that’s the only motivation that really works.
Boss drops me back halfway in his car, and my friend picks me up on his bike at the end, but I have to navigate a stretch of the way in a dreadful machine called a share auto. I hate the ride, but I love the view. This is the Old Mahabalipuram Road, now quite affectionately (and stylishly) called the OMR, and this, is the Chennai IT corridor. It isn’t a very pretty place. But then I don’t think that was ever the idea. What it is, is imposing, and huge, and strangely desolate.
Every IT/ITES firm that you can name is here. From the behemoths of India’s software revolution, TCS, CTS, Wipro and Infosys, to the foreign players like ebay, Paypal to the HCLs and the Aspires and the Syntels, everyone is here. There would be at least a hundred thousand people (easily) who call huge structures on this road their office. I find it all a bit overwhelming, so I find my space in the little bubble that my ipod gives me.
The buses just keep coming in the mornings, they never seem to stop, and there’s the general contagious feeling that whatever you are supposed to be doing, you have to do it fast. It has been raining a bit since I came here, and almost everyone I know here has told me that they’ve been surprised by this. I’m not. Rain follows me around. It’s as if I’m a magnet. Its one of the few things in life that I’ve always been sure about, that the rain is my friend.
The winter’s coming. Well, winter on south India’s east coast is not much of a winter, but there will be some time when it gets really cold. I treasure those moments. I don’t know why, but I do. I’m truly me when its cold, or when its raining, or when I’m sitting in my room with no power and listening to the raindrops falling outside.
I remember last winter, even though I don’t really want to. Easily the worst period of my life, it feels strange when I look back at it. It feels like a movie playing out in front of my eyes, something that I can watch, but am not really a part of. Last winter changed me in more ways than one, and while some are changes you can see, there are changes even I don’t seem to realize until pointed out.
I cut myself off from everyone last month. I quit, switched off my phone, forgot about the internet and went back home, just as Dad and Mom were done renovating the house.
It took me a week to do up my new room. I brought out all my books, accumulated over my years and years of reading. They’ve been languishing in Dad’s old Air Force service boxes for years. They all have their own place now. The new bookshelf I had made for my room wasn’t nearly enough for all my books, so I had to have still more glass cases built. My room now looks like an old library, but that’s how I always wanted it to look like. It isn’t Neil Gaiman’s beautiful room of books, but its mine, and I’m head over heels in love with it.
I also brought out all my favorite photos, from school, engineering and from my unforgettable days at business school, they have a special corner of the wall to themselves.
There’s a photo of five people on the lawn outside our canteen at Amrita, huge smiles on our faces, which is bang in the middle of them all. Together, that’s what we called that album. We all broke apart, in a way that we could never have imagined. But again, that picture captured what we had then, as only a photograph can. It’s a moment I’ll hold in my heart forever. And maybe after that too.
I discovered a collection of old poems in the trove of hardcovers that I had in one of my boxes. I read them all on a cold, clammy , rained out night, in the light of my table lamp, and one of them stayed with me since.
Written in 1941 by Russian poet and playwright Konstantin Simonov when he was on the battlefront during World War 2, the poem implores the girl he loved, Valentina Serova, to wait for him. He says that he would come back alive, not because of luck, not because of fate, but because of the very fact that she would be waiting for him through it all. It’s a timeless celebration of love, and it’s called, quite aptly, “Wait for Me.”
Wait for Me – by Konstantin Simonov
Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.
Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!
Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that would not wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply – you knew how to wait –
No one else but you.