Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Inspiration Bubble

I've owed this post to a dear friend of mine for a very long time. A year and a half, to be precise. And I'm really glad that I'm finally in a position that I can pay my dues. So, Nikhil Patel, I hope you're reading, because you're the only reason I'm putting this one up. It's not going to be as funny as you might have once wanted it, but it's going to be as honest.

First up, why I decided to title this post thus. I think every story that involves a long protracted struggle seems somewhat like a bubble full of inspiration. The more severe the struggle grows and the harder the times get, the more the bubble expands, getting filled up with more inspiration. Thereafter, if you win, the story goes on to inspire many people, regardless of whether you ever intended to do so. If you lose, the bubble bursts. I titled this post and left it without text at a time when I felt like my bubble would burst.

A year and a half ago, I began to apply for a second Masters degree in the US. Everything was in the right place, the grades, the extra-curriculars, the research work; the whole drill. And when the first rejection hit me in the face two months later, I found myself so startled that I stood in my bathroom opening and shutting the door for about half a minute trying think what was wrong with it. It was about two days after that that NP first said the wise words, "first rejection pe ek post toh banta hai par". Back then it was decided that when I do get a decent admit, I'll write a post, panning Princeton (which sent me that first rejection). That didn't happen last year. Not one to forget to collect his dues, NP has time and again reminded me of my obligation. Ironically, I got in everywhere I wanted to get into, but no one gave me any funding. Not one to forget dues owed to him, NP has periodically reminded me of my obligation. So I decided to stay back last year, get some research done in the meantime and give this whole thing another shot. And what a great year it was. I probably had more fun than the rest of my years put together in this one year that I spent at home. So when it came around to applying again, I was confident I wasn't going to land up in the same situation as last year. Even if I did, I would have no regrets. And sure enough, as if to test my reaction, I landed up in pretty much the same situation.

It started off well. By March-end I had three admission calls and a waitlist at MIT (which I thought was quite something by itself). By April-end though, I was staring at a blank wall. With no funding from anywhere, I had nowhere to go, and the waitlist was my only hope. A week later, arrived an email with those dreaded words "Thank you for your interest" sitting right on top. That was how my rejection letter from MIT started- probably the most the inspiration bubble had grown in a day's time and perhaps also the closest it got to bursting. Two days later, I got an interview call for a scholarship. Turns out that in the middle of all this I'd taken a shot in the dark. I'd applied for a scholarship whose eligibility criteria had apparently ruled me out. I'd still taken a shot, what with wanting to throw the kitchen sink this time. By the time this interview call came, I had already gone up and down the mood ladder about a zillion times. But I decided to hold off on being a wreck for a short while and two rounds of interviews later, I now find myself at the receiving end of a a full scholarship to study at Stanford! It all went right down the wire, but it's a very hard-fought victory at the end of the day. The bubble shall live.

Right now, it's all relief and gratitude. To my family and all of my friends who've been with me through all of it, to those who've missed classes and dragged themselves in the blazing heat to the nearest tavern in times of need, to those who have encouraged me on long walks where I had no idea where I was going; a very big thank you! The greatest happiness for me lies in the fact that when I come across someone who thinks their bubble will pop, I can look them in the eye and tell them to stay at it, because it's only gathering more inspiration for those who'll look for it later.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bradley Cooper Goes Forth: The Justice Friends

If you care to read past the incidental concurrence in the names of posts in the Bradley Cooper series with Blackadder seasons (find posts here:I, II, III), I'd like you to begin to ask yourself, if you've ever wondered how your favourite superheroes stay buff. Unless you're thinking of Pieman, the logical conclusion would be that your comic book hero also goes to a gym of his own. How do I know that? Because in my pursuit of dimension change, I have run into no less than five great superheroes at my gym. So if you dare cause me any trouble, I'll call one of these five Justice Friends into service:

1. The Bored-to-Death Sardarji Meditator (BDSM, for short): Laugh not, at BDSM. Through the transcendental powers that he has gained through constant meditation at the gym, he knows every time you secretly snigger at the obvious sexual connotation to his name. And he's not happy about it. So watch out when he comes to deliver that can of whoop ass (delivered gently, of course). So you might wonder how he gained his superpower. As it turns out, BDSM was once (or always) really bored in gym. He took forever to complete one set of exercises then traveled the ends of the gym for many kalpas to follow. Later, when he awoke to weight training, everyone around him knew that enlightenment had been attained. As he slowly, yet with great steadfastness lifted the five kilos, his eyes closed, his breath deepened and his face acquired the most peaceful expression men had ever seen. He then proceeded to repeat the process a few more times before he travelled the ends of the gym once more, to let all know of his enlightenment.

2. The Constipator: "Constipator" is a misnomer, really. For The Constipator does not use his evil eye to constipate people. When he comes into gym in his cool "Eminem Slim Shady" t-shirt, everyone stops what they're doing to watch him do what he does best. The Constipator proceeds to lift weights way beyond his limit. While doing so, his face acquires an expression that tells others of the exploding of his insides from the effort. His teeth clench, his eyes pop out and his body trembles. It is that expression that earned him that feared name. It is that expression which makes me repeat the same phrase to myself every time I see him- "Mat kar bhai, mar jayega" (succinctly translated in English to dude...stop, or you'll die). The Constipator has just one weakness- his arrogance. For if you're concerned about him busting his lower back while lifting enormous weights and suggest he wears a belt, he shrugs off your advice and continues to exercise his superpowers.

3. The Underwear-er: The Underwear-er has great observational skills. In fact, he perfected his superpower after years of observing scores of Indian men who think that boxers are a good excuse for shorts. So he turns up at gym in boxers, making a perfect display of his thighs. That is also the key to his superpower- the fact that you absolutely have to look away when he's exercising. If you can't look at him, you can't hurt him.

4. The Unsolicited Advisor: Re-incarnation is his game. This guy has avatars running amok all around the city. In lines at the bank, in the bus, at the post office, even at your neighbourhood store. The Unsolicited Advisor heart goes out to all those people that he feels are lifting weights too puny for them or those that he deems exercising incorrectly. He promptly comes over to you and repeats that great catchphrase he has used so often- "You need to prektiss more!" which he follows with "lift heavier weights! I have seen guys much lighter than me lift much heavier weights!". The greatest superpower that this guy has, is the ability to inspire. You stay around him long enough, and you'll become exactly like him.

5. Count Gruntula: He's great friends with Maria Sharapova. Perhaps they're even an ideal match, but for the looks department. She grunts at 110 decibels whether it's a smash from the base-line or a deft touch from the net, he grunts at the same volume whether he's lifting three kilos or fifty. You may not see Count Gruntula (where there is light), but rest assured he'll make his presence felt from that dark corner where he is grunting away to glory.

Just as I finish writing this, I shudder with fear. I realize that BDSM has figured that I'm posting this. They must be heading my way right now.

The doorbell just rang.