Not long back, there was this period when thinking of slavery in exchange of 2 cups of free coffee was enough to make it a virtue; a time when even a pink tissue/toilet paper would make one insecure; the time when you slept with a crucifix underneath your pillow to ward off all nightmares of your HR manager and the only time when you thought that the Pakistan Cricket Board with it's changing captains and board members was functioning normally. Yes, 2008 it was and recession had even become an excuse for constipation.
We had just graduated out of college, my close friend Pradeep Chandra and I. We couldn't make the cut when it came to placements as we believed that placements gave room for complacency to creep in and as a result it made one overlook the immense gift of being synergetic with dissatisfaction. Ok...we sucked. But that didn't hinder us from trying. So, right after the completion of our exams, we created a resume from the already existing ones with Pradeep and I having the same qualifications, hobbies and once, the same Father. With almost 30 copies of a sheet which contained nothing but tabular, personal information of random individuals from the internet, their likes and dislikes and why would they be an asset to a company, we moved.
Like every other citizen of Navi Mumbai we surged ahead with lots of hope and heavy breakfast every morning, commuting in the local train among some protracting perverts with sleazy looks on their faces and facing the wrath of people in the form of abrupt gas emissions. We approached companies that ranged right from 10 storey edifices to those with shutters and common toilets. There were times when we approached a company and were shooed away by gatekeepers giving us a whiff of what Tushar Kapoor's life would have been without Ekta Kapoor. During this period we were good when it came to identifying a company as an IT company, they had lastnames...either soft or tech. SULA SOFT, SUBA soft, SABA SOFT, People SOFT, ULTRA SOFT, REALLY SOFT, etc. But cracking the aptitude was like finding a window seat in a Virar local...it just wasn't happening. There were times when we would blindly push the glass door and ask the receptionist what the name of the company was. Pradeep once confessed that the number of rejections he faced had overwhelmingly surpassed the number girls he only gawked at.
With increasing number of rejections, expiring seasonal ticket passes, no girlfriend woes, girlfriend woes and varying prices and tastes of Samosa Pav everywhere, we sat absorbed in our own blue funk. To make matters worse, Pradeep's Father retired from his job due to unforeseeable circumstances and my Father decided to have a massive heart attack. I had taken a break from wandering in the wilderness with a resume dressed up like a sales man to be there with my Father who was recommended a bypass surgery. Meanwhile Pradeep was still on the lookout. He would call me and give me reasons as to why this time just like every other time he failed the aptitude tests. Times were tough for both of us as we had to transcend or at least take places of men who have been our heroes all the while.
Days went by, I was still enjoying the hospital food, Pradeep was setting high standards for future rejectees. Just then we got a call from a company named Geometric Solutions. They had openings for hapless wanderers or freshers. I didn't want to miss out on this oppurtunity but my Dad's surgery was scheduled on the same day. My eldest sister asked me to give the aptitude a good shot as she would be around at the time of the surgery.
I finally met Pradeep after a long gap. We could see the agony of this lingering tyranny on each others faces. I could clearly read "MY FATHER RETIRED" on his forehead whereas he read "ASIAN HEART INSTITUTE HAS THE BEST CAFETERIA", written on my cheeks.
We finally entered the company, looking at prospects of becoming those stiff necked shaven mavens with aberrant behaviour. Surrounded by glass doors, fire extinguishers every 2 feet, the spotless floors reflecting us, a receptionist wearing a fake smile and loads of foundation...we were already awestruck. We were then taken to one of their training rooms and the distribution of the aptitude test papers was about to start. Pradeep and I knew how big this was for the two of us; this was our only chance to give it back to those stereotypes who believed Campus Placement rejectees are prospective BPO employees. The paper distribution had just started. Pradeep looked at me. I could see sparks in his eyes. I looked back at him. I knew what was coming. Pradeep, with his eyes glued into mine said..."Dude, Samosa Pav is only worth 5 bucks here." I was right.
We got our papers and within the stipulated 60 minutes, we completed our test. We had to wait for about 20 minutes at the reception before being called by one of their Senior employees. We gathered into the same room where our tests were conducted. They started calling out names. "Vishal Sahani, Ravindra Shanbag,"...both of us now hoping to hear our names as well. "Jagannath Nadar, Rohan Tawade,"...Pradeep was getting restless and in his attempt to break through this unnerving period, he said, "Chal Samosa Pav khaake aate hain" (Let's have a Samosa Pav and come back). "Shekhar Shinde...Rohit Nair". I jolted on my seat, slapped my chest and went "BHENC..." then I abruptly stopped as I spotted a girl going "Sheee". Pradeep's name wasn't called out. With a smile on his face, he patted my back and congratulated me, just then the co-ordinator asked us to follow him.
As we moved out of that room, I noticed the name plates with designation mentioned on each door - I looked towards the left - "General Manager", towards the right - "HR - Manager", left - "Head of Operations", right - "Ladies", left - "Gents". These names shone under the luminescent yellow light. They were uniform in their appearance. As we moved forward, my aspirations were marching towards having my own door with a name plate shining under that luminescent yellow light but, just then, I saw another door with text in bold Green colour font saying "EXIT". Before I could turn back, look at the co-ordinator in disbelief, he nonchalantly said - "Thank you for coming."
I couldn't fathom this unjust treatment towards us challenged mortals. Before I could sit back, think, sulk, cry, squeal, thump my chest and tell that shameless Vishal Sahani to have some self respect and stop laughing, I got a call from my sister and she broke the news of my Father's surgery being a success. I gave my melodrama a miss.
P.S: These were testing times for Pradeep and myself but probably one of the finest times I had with my closest friend. We eventually started our career with a start up (which had a door and a shutter). And as far as Pradeep's tryst with Geometric Solutions is concerned, it was very brief as he got kicked out in the second round. I was happy.