The Day I Was Called a Thief, Almost!

I’m a proud alumnus of 3 separate Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) campuses in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. 24 years after the first day at Vidyalaya, even today, each JNV has its own special charm and unique influence over my day-to-day life.

 In 1989, at the age of 12, I was selected for the 6th Standard admission at JNV Hondarabalu in Chamarajanagara district, and later in 1992, I was sent on a 2 year Student Exchange Programme to Shyampur near Bhopal. My 7 year stint with the Vidyalaya ended in 1996 when I passed the 12th Standard exams at JNV Galibeedu in Coorg district.

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I, in Red T on top row, with JNV Galibeedu schoolmates and teachers

Between 1989 and 1996, I met some of my best mentors, made lifelong friends and spent 7 finest years of my life on the Vidyalaya campus. Like every alumni, even I have loads of sweet nostalgia and abundant reminiscences from the yesteryears. But today, what I share here is something beyond the normal recollection and personally, it was the worst heartbreaking and yet, most beloved episode from my life at JNV Hondarabalu.

The Day I Was Called a Thief, Almost!

It was 1991 and I was studying in 8th Standard. An early Monday morning, after the usual cleansing rituals, I had just returned to my dormitory. Standing next to my bed, I noticed a slight commotion near Shivaraj’s sleeping area. His bunker style cot was not far-off, and like me, even he was part of the 8th Standard troupe. But due to student-teacher ratio arrangement, we both studied in different Sections and had separate classrooms.

As I watched in astonishment, I saw Shivaraj frantically probing inside his baggage. Sitting next to him, his dear friends Nagendra and Bhaskar spoke in hushed tones. With a natural curiosity, I looked at them with a questioning eye and in reply, Nagendra stared at me with indecision. Clearly, Shivaraj had lost something expensive.

Abruptly, all three of them got up and had a short animated discussion in muffled voices. After a minute, they met their class teacher Mr. Naresh, who shared our dormitory. I looked around and saw similar surprise on the face of every student. They all seemed as clueless as me.

Suddenly, Mr. Naresh called my name and I was startled.

As I stood next to him with a bewildered face, in a gruff tone, he asked if I had seen Shivaraj’s missing 70 rupees. At first, I didn’t understand his words, but the very next second, it dawned on me. In a dormitory filled with students, I was singled-out for an enquiry about the mislaid cash. Clearly, I was doubted for stealing the money!

I had my own list of wrongdoings in JNV, but it all centred on skipping classes by calling sick while I was as healthy as everyone else in the Vidyalaya. Most students used this trick and in a place filled with homesick youngsters, it was an acknowledged activity. But now, with no apparent reason, I was implied as a thief and it was mortifying. I felt wrecked and miserable.

In that dreadful state, I did what any humiliated 14 year old would do – I cried.

It was the worst moment of my life in JNV and as I stood there shedding silent tears, hundred probing eyes of fellow schoolmates looked at me in disbelief. These are the very bunch, some of them dear friends, with whom I had to spend my remaining school life and I felt ashamed at the thought.

After the first accusing question, Mr. Naresh had kept quite. But the longer I stood there, the more I wept.

Sitting quietly on his bed next to Mr. Naresh, my class teacher Mr. Uttam was watching the scene unfold in slow-motion. After witnessing the dreadful event for awhile, out of the blue, he gently gripped my hands and with a tender affection, wrapped me in a consoling hug. It was warm, it was honest and more importantly, it felt fatherly. The unexpected empathy wrenched my heart further and abruptly, I wept aloud.

As minutes passed, in the protective cuddle, I felt secure. Slowly, as shielding his own son, he asked Mr. Naresh not to bother me anymore. He told someone to fetch me a glass of water, and as they ran towards the nearby dining hall, he wiped my tears with his towel.

At that very moment, the deep humiliating horror which had engulfed my heart vanished in a quick flash. Suddenly, I felt alive.

[All the names of persons are changed to protect their identity. Even today, 22 years after the incident, I still don’t know the reason for wrongfully indicting me for the missing cash, and I like it to stay that way forever]

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Dream Debuts! (Part 1)

Let me make it very clear at the very beginning – this is not about Shahrukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan or Katrina Kaif. Not even close. And for the record, Katrina’s debut in Boom was a celluloid disaster!

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The Boom & Bust Trio!

Instead, this is about the people, events or things that once had a starry launch and in the years that followed, they relentlessly pioneered to become the primary motive for our every act. In simple words, this is about the dream debuts of the past that are accepted necessities of our present life.

Here are three such dream debuts, which personally influence and rule MY everyday existence!

Google Original, Famous and Essential!

On a clear sunny day in September 1997, while registering a domain for their futuristic search engine, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Stanford misspell Googol as Google to seed a dotcom business venture with almost zero capital, nonexistent office space and a quirky brand name.

However, today as I write this, Google is traded on NASDAQ for $1011 a share, has over 70 offices in 40 countries and offers a cluster of innovative products for global internet business industry. Google has numerous products that rule their respective genre including search engine, email client, video sharing platform, mobile operating system, web browser, maps and satellite imagery etc.

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The Google Gang!

Personally, Google is my window into, well… everything – it’s my intellectual guide, entertainment aide and communication hub. Professionally, as my work involves SEO at its core element, I can’t imagine a life without Google and its array of by-products – search tools, communication tools and advertising services.

Today Google, a one brand with multiple products, is everything that’s called a World Wide Web!

Allah-Rakha Rahman | Ella Pughazhum Iraivanukke!

It took over 2 years, 5 prestigious awards and close to 10 movies before I realized the existence of a phenomenon called AR Rahman, and when I did, it was literally a life changing experience. I had never heard such weird, and yet, addictive music. The song was Mukkala Mukkablala and the place – my residential school in Coorg.

I still remember the settings – it was a cloudy afternoon and I was walking towards our dormitory after eating a hungry lunch when someone, may be Manjunath, thrust me a walkman. He thought the song was good. Even after million replays in 19 years, I still feel calling Mukkalla Mukkabala as being ‘good’ was such an understatement. The song was phenomenal and immediately, I was hooked to ARR.

Soon, I started to collect his albums, sorted my favourite tracks and built a huge compilation. As I went about searching ARR’s music, I bought few, borrowed some and downloaded the most. Slowly as his fame grew, so did my collection and today, I have most of his tracks in every language that he cared to compose.

Personally, his compositions are my companions of solitude. When I feel low, his soothing tunes help enliven my mood. When I work countless hours with repetitive writing, his songs play in background so I don’t get fed up with monotony. But most importantly, while searching for ARR’s work, I was introduced to his contemporary global music composers, thus igniting new interest!

Chetan Bhagat | The Indian Bookwala!

Thanks to Chetan Bhagat, today, India is once again hooked to books – may be not into serious intellectual sort, but at least, we are back to reading novels. Yes, in the time of senseless television, endless internet and hollow work hours, he rekindled our desire for books.

Before Five Point Someone was released in 2004, Chetan Bhagat’s first novel, Indian publishing industry was slowly fading into oblivion. To survive the onslaught of television and internet, it depended on very limited audience – textbooks and guides, intellectuals and habitual readers. Even during tough times, there were contemporary writes with great skills, but unfortunately, each day the number of readers kept plummeting to new low.

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3 Idiots & A Charming Neha!

All this changed the day Five Point Someone hit the stands. This was possible because Five Point Someone was crisp, easy on reading and most importantly, it captivated every age and gender. Right away, contemporary critics called it ‘fast food literature’ and ‘Bollywood on paper’. But we lapped it up with lust, thus giving birth to hoards of similar books and authors.

Personally, Five Point Someone is what dragged me back to bookstore. This was the book that revived my interest in general reading. And most importantly, Chetan Bhagat is the reason I installed Adobe Digital Editions in my laptop to read few pages before I sleep every night!

More of such dream debuts are left out from this list, which I plan to cover in future parts. The idea is to keep them simple, short and interesting. So, expect more!