Thursday, April 03, 2014

A for Arjun

My loving and best friend! Yes, I met him on the first day of my MBA and ever since he has been an important and irreplaceable part of my life. In fact, not just me, he has been a constant and subtle support to the lives of our entire management-college gang. We all walked through different stages of our lives and Arjun has walked it with us. We got busy with our routine, momentarily forgot him too, and then whenever time permitted, we reached back to him.. but have always found him 'available'. I fail to understand how he manages to be available to all of us, while also adding incredible value to his own life - may be, some people come in this world to ease the life of others and only they know how to handle that kind of responsibilities.

So, it was June 2, 2008, afternoon when he approached me. He had pinged me once, having read my blog somewhere, so the introduction started on that note. He was impressed with my journalism background, much for his own persistent desire to be a journalist someday. He looked like a 'nice' guy to me, but I did not pay too much heed ;)

Then, being in the same class, we interacted often and all the submerged gyan started pouring out of that little head. Hailing from Palakkad based Tamil family, his flawless Hindi knowledge and neutralized accent was impressive. His narration of different events and amazingly in-depth knowledge of Indian and international politics, religion, society, etc. instantly earned him popularity and appreciation by a group of nerds. In just few months, Arjun, Hemanth, Abhi, Manasi, and I became the bestest of buddies. But Arjun had another group of absolute opposites as well. How he managed to be friends in complete ease with completely opposite personalities is mystery.

During the two years of our MBA, Arjun and I shared uncountable number of evenings together, laughing, giggling, dreaming, debating, discussing, arguing, cussing, appreciating, missing, just sitting, and time-wasting. I had never felt so easy in anyone else's company ever and this stands true even today. Arjun is one person, apart from another best-friend, in whose presence I am totally myself.

A lot of our time in college was invested in cursing how both of us are stuck in this wrong world.. how our parents do not understand our dreams.. how unfair the world is.. the remaining time, we would take part in every single activity happening in the campus, earning us quite a reputation in front of the faculty and management. An ink-pen in his front pocket and Indian Express in his hand, kind of became his style trademarks. Soon, we two became 'very-acquainted' with the director. We were basking in our little glory, which even helped us crack a dream project of our lives - an internship in BJP, in the communication office of its prime ministerial candidate, LK Advani!!!

I still remember the last-day of the first year of our MBA. The entire first year batch of all four management verticals, which counted to over 450 students, was sitting in  the hall, when deputy-director announced that two students from our PGDM batch have been selected by BJP for summer internship - Arjun Narayanan and Namrata Srivastava. The unexpected announcement was followed by huge applause, with both of us hesitantly standing to receive it. We both looked into each others eye with a tinge of disbelief, silently asking - is this really happening. We were any way heroes in the college, but now we had become certified super-heroes. I am sure, he remembers that moment as vividly as I do.

Happily we went to BJP headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road thinking that our lives are going to change forever under the able guidance of Mr. Prakash Javadekar. But, after reaching there we realized its politics, darling. Everyone was too busy in the election humdrum and nobody had time for two dreamy ducklings. We spent the first week realizing that there is no guide or mentor here for us, neither is there any work. We realised that we would have to control our own sailing boat else our high-profile internship is doomed. Then we made a strategy. We decided to meet the communication in-charge of BJP team - Mr. Sudhindra Kulkarni. Again hesitantly, we went to the communication office at 26, Tuglaq Marg. A meeting was happening there and we were told to wait outside. Interestingly, some body else called us inside the meeting, thinking that we are a part of the team and before even we could present our hire-us-please-application, we were sitting in the core communication team of BJP!! There should have been some kind of divine intervention for this to happen.

Soon, after the meeting concluded, we met the IT Cell In-charge of BJP, Mr. Prodyut Bora. With an electrifying personality, he instantly attracted us and we were asked to work under him! Life after this became adventurous and amazing, beyond imagination. Everything was going fine, but we did not still have a place to live in Delhi, due to which, everyday we had to up-down from our college in Greater Noida and all this happened before Metro. Some days, either Arjun or me, emotionally blackmailed one or the other faculty member and got a car for ourselves on the name of a national cause, the other days, we just had to travel through over-crowded city buses. During several journeys to and fro Greater Noida-Delhi, Arjun and I would spend time talking about loads of topics, sometimes so engrossed in our chats that we will forget about the pushing crowd and heavy backpacks. Some days, we will get a vacant seat, I will sit there holding both the backpacks and on few lucky days, we would get two adjacent vacant seats. We will de-stress ourselves through the stories of his Dubai stay, Gandhi dynasty, Kerala and politics, his mother, my mother, my father, our dream lives, our confusion about how to live our dream lives, etc. Each day, irrespective of what time it is, Arjun will leave me safely to the hostel before going back to his place. His presence was a comfort for me and my parents.

As the election campaign gained heat, we two got loads of tasks to work on. Working on press releases, websites, social media pages, creating slogans, attending meetings with senior BJP Leaders and listening to them with awe became a kind of routine. Then the team decided to go for campaigning for Mr. Advani. We went campaigning in Delhi and several cities in Uttarakhand. wearing T-shirts designed with party symbol, we would leave the office early and come only late in evenings everyday. Every day used to be so exhausting, yet so fulfilling. Both of us loved every second of it. Then it was decided to leave for Uttaranchal, starting from Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Roorkee, etc. All in all, I guess, it was a four day tour. Meeting different saints and political leaders, introducing ourselves several times in a day, going into totally backward areas of the cities and explaining BJP manifesto - this was all so much fun.

Then came the evening of Haridwar. After campaigning during the day, it was decided that the team will attend Ganga Aarti in evening. Coming from BJP, we were all provided the prominent places to sit on the wooden benches kept very close to the ghat. The scene was overwhelming. A lot of people were seeing this for the first time. The sheer beauty of that religious ceremony kept us dumb-stuck. We even did not care to click pictures, I am sure, just like me, Arjun too was continuously thanking lord for giving a chance to be there with that team.

After the internship got over in the month of May, we two went to our respective homes for a short while and rejoined colleges only to face a large group of curious and enthusiastic classmates, eager to listen our stories. Arjun, with his superb story-telling skills became an overnight star ;)

The remaining and the last year of MBA was fun, except of a necessary evil called placement. Recession is not a very good time to complete your college, we were worried about our placements; and again we found solace in each others company. Arjun and I both knew, this job is not that which will decide our course in life but then we knew we have to crack it. Thankfully, before it could become really a trouble in our lives, we all got jobs!!! Arjun resumed his routine of visiting and trying everything possible in Delhi. He was the reason, we went to see several places in Delhi.

And then one fine day, our college ended and with extremely heavy hearts we took on our respective 'real' lives. Often the promises of staying in touch made at this juncture, die their natural deaths when the promise-makers get caught in the vicious routine cycles. Same happened with most of us, except Arjun. He would religiously call us, SMS all of us the birth and anniversary dates of other people. Three years after college were really tiring and demanding, while I remembered him almost everyday, somehow taking time to call him and talk at length felt like so impossible! Arjun will call me, some days I would pick up his call and finish up the conversation quickly, on most days, not pick it up at all, thinking that I will call him later, which hardly ever happened.

Meanwhile, this calm simple man kept moving on with his life and its simple pleasures. Pleasures like meeting new people, making them feel important, enjoying just everyone's company, reading wonderful books with admirable diligence, visiting new places, writing wonderful literature, and trying to keep his friendships alive with his moronic ex-classmates. In between he changed jobs and joined an MNC, only to know that even this job is not for him. This time even I shouted on him for making abrupt career choices. But then for few people, their passion makes the way for them. One night, I dreamed that Arjun has changed a job! I called him up later to share it with him and he informed me that he has actually changed his job to The Times of India as a journalist. This was a bloody good surprise, we knew what it meant for him and we were deeply happy for him to finally get what he so wanted; though at less than half of the salary he was receiving in his corporate job!

I have not seen him so satisfied with his life, as I do after his joining TOI. He gets to interview celebrities, write about arts, culture, cinema, and society; of course, amidst loads of other crap which no one wants to do. But then, journalism is what where his soul has always been!

I am no foreseer, but I am very sure of one thing - a person, so patient, polite, passionate, and pleasing like him is destined to for something huge. I can sense that in his writings and I know that someday I would see him talking about his experiences in some television talk-show with a stature of celebrity. We often joke about that. But everyone who has known Arjun close enough and has seen his work long enough, knows this. The hours of night-conversations, the recital of old stories from religious epics, playing flute, singing ragas; and when nothing, just listening to my kahani, there will never be a shortage of topics for us to munch on. We love debating. In fact, debating brings the best out of each other.

Arjun is hugely more to all four of us, than a friend. He is a brother, an agony aunt, a patient listener, a punching bag, a philosopher and guide, a movie and music buff and a soul mate to all of us. Someday, he will get married and a pretty lady will come into his life and rule over his heart. While, the whole world will be glad on this proposition, somehow, we four get deeply hurt by it, because he has become so much for us that sharing him with just anyone seems like too much of pain.

Love you bro!! May God Bless you :)