Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hotel Centaur. Room 3014.

On our 6th day of the J&K tour we arrived in Srinagar and were put up in a hotel called Centaur. At first look it's massive. It's on the banks of the Dal lake, spread out on a humongous piece of land, nearby the shopping area and an upscale residential area. As we entered the gates I noticed lots of greenery, wild vegetation growing in place of a manicured lawn. About 150 mts into the gate we approached a gigantic building with chipped paint at places and moss growing on walls. We entered a wide lobby stretching end to end and beyond that we saw a magical view of the Dal lake.

Once we got our room keys we all started our trek to find our rooms. Now we had to find our room among 250 rooms. The inside of the hotel was like a maze and when I was walking the halls I felt like I was in a university. There are probably some 10 wings in this hotel. Ma changed my room from near to civilisation to a room in a godforsaken wing. And we were the only 2 guests who were sent there. Room 3014.

Just that morning I was watching a horror movie on tv starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. I didn't register the name. Anyway, that movie had a serial killer hunting a party of teenage kids who were on the island on vacation. That's EXACTLY what I anticipated when I approached room 3014. As it is I was freaked on top of which we weren't able to find the lights in the room. Curtains drawn shut, lights not on, tv not switching on; imagine the looks on my brother's and my faces. For lack of connectivity I started playing on the iPad while my brother left me alone to find the tv technician (yes, my brother's priorities are set in stone). I sat like that for close to an hour. Our luggage hadn't even arrived then and I couldn't leave the room since my brother was gone. For lack of anything to do I started working on my Faceversary blog series. I was completely lost in writing when I heard a door bang. I thought maybe they moved another of my group's family to this wing and I got out to see who it was only to find that mine was the last room in the corridor and the neighbouring room was locked. Ok now I was officially creeped out. But I had enough lessons in psychology and L&D sessions to rationalise the noise. I went back to my room and started thinking of logical reasons for that noise. A little later my brother came back and told me he couldn't find our parents. About 15 mins later a door started banging continuously which went on for a few minutes. For all the pride my brother & I take in belonging to the Kshatriya class we were complete chickens to check out what was happening. Once the banging stopped we walked out to find out which room was the source only to find nothing.

When we went back my brother tightened the cable and we had tv to entertain us. Oh and what were we watching? The Ring. Yeah, good choice right. Our luggage was finally delivered by an old man who could barely walk without dragging his feet. We asked him if there were any guests in the neighbouring rooms; he said no. We asked what were these locked rooms; he said these are old rooms that have some discarded furniture and junk. So the big question was, where was the noise coming from? A couple of hours later we left to go shopping and told Ma that this room was way too far from everyone else's and we weren't comfortable. After we came back from shopping we got the room changed to one that was less creepy (By then I had realised that the whole hotel was creepy). But we still had to go back to get our luggage so the old man came along with us. I asked him if there was any story or history of this place and he started narrating a story that made me grab my luggage and run to my new room.
                   "This hotel was built in the 1930s when the British still ruled. Because of the beauty of Kashmir it attracted lots of Dukes &  Duchess used to stay here when they came to visit. During the freedom struggle a group of Kashmiri freedom fighters mercilessly shot all of them. After a few decades it was reopened only to be used again as a military base during the Kargil war. This hotel has seen many deaths, lots of bloodshed, independence & wars".

So that's how my Srinagar stay was. Have you thought of the story every place has? Just like a human, every object has its own story to tell. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck" -Dalai Lama

When I was in college studying management, I was predicted to be one of the most successful persons in our batch. I certainly was on the way to becoming it. I participated in organizations and events in and outside college and felt superb about it. One day when I was showing my American friend around the city she asked me if my ambition is to work in one of these corporates and I said, "No, I have bigger ambitions". Then I got a highly coveted job with one of the world's best employers and I started working in one of those buildings. 

Inside Raheja Mindspace, Hitech City, Hyderabad
So let’s go back two years. When my final year began and I was enrolling for placements, I took a systematic path to it. I sat with my uncle who’s a career counselor and drew a timeline. He asked “Where do you see yourself at 30?” and I said, “I’m running my own business.” And then back-tracked from there, put down where I see myself at 27 yrs, at 25 yrs, at 23 yrs, and so forth. I took it a little further and told myself where I saw myself at 50 yrs!

Now a year later I was at my first employer. Since our office culture doesn't take very kindly to formal wear I put all those new, tailor-made formal pants and skirts in the back of my cupboard and brought out all my casuals. The first day I entered office I was ready to take on the world. I was ready to be one of the most successful people of my batch. I knew that I studied in an average college and even though I was one of the best students, I was still an average person. The point is, I was average and I knew it. So I gave myself some time to soak in the changes, understand the mentality and get into that groove. It’s human nature to take some time to adapt. And then I made the biggest mistake.

I told myself that I wasn’t as smart as everybody else.

Trust me when I say that it’s the worst mistake one can ever make. Nobody’s words hit you as hard as your own. So because I wasn’t as smart as others I wouldn’t actively participate in discussions, just be a passive observer. The irony is that one of my top five strengths is ‘Command’. Add my personal problems to this and you get a mess.       

Months went by and in December I was dying. My mind was blank. I couldn’t concentrate on work; I couldn’t understand anything. I was dying to just get away and I decided to go to Singapore. My company was kind enough to give me that time off and Singapore changed it all. After ten days in Singapore I said to myself, “I can’t leave like this. I didn’t work hard in college to leave things mid-way. I will go back and I will give myself six months. I have to go a step further in the next six months.” So I came back and threw myself into work. And the three things I’ve lived by since January are a Constantly ticking internal clock, Gain knowledge and expertise and Do. Everyday I would go work with a sense of urgency telling myself that I don’t have much time left. On my calendars at home and work everyday I strike out the date at the end of the day to reinforce the time limitation. I placed a white board next to me, on outlook started noting down what I do everyday, wrote down important points on post-its and sticking them on my monitor. My work became my competition and my escape so much so that there were times I left office only around midnight to come back at 7 am the next morning. And my favorite part was acquiring new skills. Since I came back, coding and excel have become my pet. Figuring out logic became my drug. Soon you will a Facebook app made by me!

I’ve learnt to make my manager my confidant and it’s worked out pretty well. After three months when I asked her if I’ve moved forward since December, she said I’ve had exponential growth J. I went home and cried that evening! Now I have another three months left and a new problem at hand- I don’t know where I want to go after these three months. Ah well, I’ll deal with it as it comes.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunayana Sen