Towards Life!

Roll Number 14 (Part 1)

Chapter 1: Will I make it?

Not many know that I gave my first interview when I was four years old. However, it is painfully common knowledge that I flunked it! It began one humid afternoon, when I was face to face with the interview board from Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet. If people knew that the HPS (B) guys had supplied copious amounts of fruit juice at the interview and that I had relished and usurped as much juice as I could in the ten minute wait to the interview, I would have been spared from many a resentful glance! When I faced the interview board, however, things weren’t as relishing!

“How many chocolates are these?”

“Nutrine,” I said, staring at the chocolates as if I was seeing them for the first time in my life. I didn’t understand why some body would offer me chocolates to count them! I mean - Numbers are to Count and Chocolates are to Eat! Cumbers are to Nount and Ehocolates are to Cat!

“Can I eat one chocolate?” was all I could say! My parents would later tell me that my face was never more innocent than it was at that instant!

“Yeah, sure. Take all of them!” I guess the interview board understood my logic!

“What color is this?”

“It is color… color… color… I have one brother!”

“Okay, I think that will be all. Thank you, Pavan!”

“Hmm… can I have some fruit juice outside?”

I still don’t know why nobody answered that question!

Four years old. Didn’t clear a written test. Kicked out of an interview. Well…that was my resume, without the bullets… The resume of a four year old, who was trying his best to get into a decent school… with the minimum possible effort!

My parents had given up a lot of hope. I didn’t know if the amount left would be sufficient to deter them from sending me to Big Aunty, the big aunty who coached kids for the HPS – with a Big Stick! Big Aunty with the Big Stick. Aig Bunty with the Sig Btick. I don’t think I need to state it, but - It scared the shit out of me!

The HPS (R) guys didn’t supply any juice at the interview! I felt undernourished. I missed the juice and the other snacks. I had nothing to kill the wait for the interview and my mind was rumbling with “under the table”, “over the table”, “I have one brother”, “My father is a scientist”, fed unendingly by my parents.

Left Ear – Dad. “Under the table”, “Over the table”.

Right Ear – Mom. “I have one brother”, “My father is a scientist”.

It was finally time to go in, and the first thing I did was to clear my head of all the things fed to me since the past two weeks! The “under the…”, “Over the…”, “My father…”, “I have…” were all packed and bundled, and thrown out of the interview room, before I entered it!

The panel gave me a chocolate as soon as I entered. And Boy, was I happy! This was a panel that understood the world my way.

Numbers are to Count and Chocolates are to Eat!
Cumbers are to Nount and Ehocolates are to Cat!

“How many are these?” one of the panel members said, sprinkling some beans on to the table.

“One… Two… Three… Three on this side, and, One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Five on this side” It felt like Einstein-discussing-relativity!

“Very Good. But, How many total?”

“Total…total… Three on this side and Five on this side!”

“Yes, Three plus five is?”

I glanced left, then right, then into the face of every panel member. I didn’t understand these guys any more. In the four year world, three plus five is… three plus five is… three plus five! There is nothing more to it!

“Three plus Five,” I blurted out, confident that there could not be any other answer!

“Okay! How many brothers do you have?”

Hah! Different people had posed this question to me on different occasions, at different times. I could rattle the answer in my sleep… The only problem was, I was awake, and there was no fruit juice!

“I have no sisters!”

“Okay, but how many brothers?”

“I have no sisters. I have one cousin sister”

My father was staring at me in disbelief. I was stuck on a sister. Damn, I have always wanted one, but I guess an interview is not the place where one delves into such revelations!

“Okay, so you don’t have a sister”

“Yes,” I was munching a chocolate.

“What color is this?”

“It is a Blue Colored Triangle”


“Blue… colored triangle?”




Your answers dry up when someone asks the same question four times, in four different tones!

“Okay, Pavan. It was nice meeting you.”

“Thank You, sir,” said my father, relieved. And I think he really meant it.


A letter confirming my selection arrived two weeks after the interview. I was happy because I got the first roll number of my life. Roll Number 14. I didn’t know at that point that I would be “Roll number 14” all through my life!

My selection was a rage in those days. People were surprised, pleasantly, of course. People were angry, at their rejected kids, of course. More than anything, it gave hope to thousands of parents; every parent who looked at his kid and thought, “Now where did this one come from!”, now stopped and thought, "I think he stands a chance!" My parents debated on my selection endlessly. There was no problem with that. The problem is, the debate continues until today!

April 10th - The day I jumped, again!

Sometimes I cannot sleep. Sometimes I shiver uncontrollably. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to stand but, I jump. Sometimes I cannot eat. And Sometimes, I like being “sick”!

I just discovered that prior to and post the results of an important exam, I fall “sick”. The only difference being - I am happy to be “sick” after the results. When I look at the past few days, memories of chanting “A, B or C”, much to the chagrin of fellow believers at temples come flooding back to me. I can laugh at it now, but I realize that the situation could have been disastrous, if the initial results were any indication. I was kicked out of A, K and L (as expected!), and the desperation to see anything other than “Sorry…” was increasing by the minute.

On the day of reckoning – April 10th – a sultry Sunday afternoon, the anxious eyes of my mother and me on the computer, the words, “You have been selected for admission to PGP (2005-2007 batch), IIMBsplashed on to the screen… and suddenly on my life! Everything else, the spacious room, the ceiling, the colors, the world outside… everything, everything became non-existent. And for some absurd reason (animal instinct!) I, I started jumping! There was a two-legs-in-the-air jump, a one-leg-in-air, one-leg-on-ground jump, a both-legs-on-ground, hands-swinging-wildly jump, and many more. Anyone practicing for the Olympics High Jump would have been embarrassed by the variety and the heights of my jumps. I don’t remember how many, and I do feel silly for that shameless display of happiness, but well… every son gets at least one chance to make his parents proud, and I just had mine!

Boy Meets Girl

Sometimes, you don't have anything to do; anyone to share; and then you notice a couple - a cute couple. You make up a story, a story that has been told many times before; you narrate it again, because you wish the ending were different!

For five and a half years, I have tried everything I know to make my relationship with m work. But, finally, it’s apparent that there is nothing to be done. It is finally, actually, over.

When my marriage ended years ago, it was a maelstrom of emotions. Anger. Desperation. Sadness. Pain. But, I survived – stronger than before, and with very few scars, and, remarkably, I think, an amazing lack of bitterness.

During the five and a half years there were times when we were on the verge of ending things, and one of us would say, “but it would be such a waste of a great story.” it was a joke, of sorts. A way to break the tension, or defuse the situation, or just stop the “serious” conversation so we didn’t have to talk about ending things any more.

The “story” was a reference to the story of how we met. It is one of those questions that is always asked of couples, “So, how did you guys meet?” and, we had such a great answer for that one. We “met cute” as they say in Hollywood. A scenario reminiscent of sappy little romantic movies. Years of near misses, and, eventually, a hit.

And so, for the last time, I will tell the story of how we met.

About nine years ago, I worked for TCS, and my office was in the rotunda of the beautiful capitol building. Having an office in such an amazing setting had one major drawback – no onsite parking. So, capitol employees had to park at a remote lot and ride a shuttle bus that dropped employees at various office buildings in the complex.

I saw him occasionally on the bus. A tall, blonde guy. I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in real-life. I would catch myself actually staring at him – but never working up the courage to speak. My mood was markedly different on the days I saw him on the bus – I had a huge smile plastered on my face when I waltzed into the office on those days. It became a joke in my office – “oh, she saw the guy on the bus!”

He came to be known as “bus guy” in my office. I sustained significant ribbing.

Eventually, I noticed his car, which happened to have a license plate with three letters on it. Aha! in addition to giving me a clue each day as to whether or not he’d already caught an earlier shuttle, this gave me a lead as to bus guy’s true identity – his initials! Using the state employee telephone directory, I learned bus guy’s name, where he worked, even his office phone number! But, true to form, I did nothing. The extent of my efforts was to look for his car in the morning to see if he had already taken the shuttle. If I didn’t see it, I would wait, hoping he’d arrive and I could take the shuttle with him.

I eventually left TCS, without ever speaking to him. Several years passed. I had a new career. A boyfriend.

One day, as I walked through my office, I noticed a familiar-looking man sitting in our lobby. Unable to place his face, I asked a co-worker, “whose guy is that in the lobby?”

One of my friends answered, “Oh, that’s my friend, m. we’re having lunch today.”

“He looks really familiar to me, but I just can’t place him,” I answered.

“Well, maybe you can figure it out tonight – he’s going out for drinks with all of us after work,” she said on her way out the door.

That evening, after several drinks, it dawned on me: it was bus guy! How could I not have recognized him – my dream guy!

As I made my way to the bar for another round, I found myself standing beside him. He turned to look at me and said, “you know, you look really familiar to me.”

“Oh,” I said, “I know where you know me from. You work at the capitol. You drive a black Honda city with your initials on the license plate.”

Although I am sure that it wasn’t the case, it seemed that everything ground to a screeching halt at that moment. I am sure there wasn’t a sound in the bar.

He stared at me.

“um, excuse me. I have to go.” and I grabbed my drink and high-tailed it to the other side of the bar.

Words like “stalker” and “restraining order” bounced through my mind as I drowned my embarrassment in my glass.

“Smooth move, ex-lax,” the seventh-graders in my head taunted.

I made my way to the bar for yet another drink. When I turned, I found myself face to face with him again.

“Listen,” he started. “About what you said a little while ago. um, there’s something I should probably say….”

“Oh, god,” I stammered. “Listen, you probably think I am some sort of nutcase…”

“Actually,” he interrupted, “what I was going to say is…well, I was just wondering if you still drive that white Maruti?”

He smiled.

And then, there was no sound in the bar again.

As time passed, we learned of our long-running series of near misses; that we were “this close” to meeting each other about a dozen different times. That we were at the same parties, or the same concerts, or we knew the same people.

And, so it began. I always thought it was destiny -- that “hit” after all those near misses; that we were supposed to meet and end up together.

Now, five a half years later, I look back and wonder…what if it was the misses that were destiny.