les petites histoires

My last potpourri’s comments section is the inspiration to this post. It is long, and you have been warned. :-)

***

11 little stories. Real life paths that a group of bright, dreamy young adults embarked on. Some managed to hold on, some faltered, some moved on. A summary on each and perhaps, lessons learned for all:

Back in the early 90’s, many teens in a certain part, went through a huge dilemma and were forced to decide to choose paths almost 2 years before their predecessors. They were not given the opportunity to have the luxury of dabbling their feet in both physical and life sciences for the earlier established 2 years. None of them could play safe. Each had to decide then which stream they’d decide to pursue for the rest of their life and stick with it. The irony of such a decision would only hit them much later.
Among the rest, this is the story of a group of young adults who went through a particularly fascinating program – new by all counts, supported by the faculties at Berkeley and John Hopkins, they were hand-selected out of numerous applicants. All had scored beyond 96% in their high school boards and slipped in the crack between reservations and grades. Ones whom regular Universities would accept, while they could’nt quite make the cut because of where they were born into. A fault not of their own by any long shot. Making it into this premier organisation’s new school was like an exciting beautiful adventure for them as no one had done this program before, in India, ever. Aspirations, dreams, hopes climbed swiftly as each trimester tumbled into another, and as each novel subject was absorbed, filed and stored. Pride that they were following the footsteps of one of the finer medical institutions both in India, and outside, and waiting eagerly to create a mark of their own once they graduate.

What follows is a then and now scenario:
Then: Final Year of Internship.
Now: 14 years later

KK:
Then: Coming from a Tamil medium, he hated the program. Was completely lost the few semesters and almost dropped out to go back to do a Physics program at a small local college. Hard-working and after an attitude shift, is and was the most sweetest kind helpful person the girls found as a friend. Not the brightest in the group, but he showed genuine interest and concern to patients.
Ambition: get a regular job at the hospital and continue life in the suburbs.
Now: After sticking to a Ph.D program at the institution, he now heads the school he graduated from. Yes, he is the Principal.
Kudos!

VS:

Then: Arrogant, nerd. Snobbish because of his background as the son of doctor parents, he trudged through the program only because he knew he could go back home and settle into his parents cushy practice. Pedantic, and not the least helpful.
Ambition: Join the family practice, maybe go to UK, get some more degrees behind his name.
Now: Went back home, joined a private medical school with his mom’s help, is now practicing Opthalmology in one of the numerous little clinics dotting Mumbai.
But of course!

SD:
Then: Fun, smart intelligent girl. Loved life, music, fun. Hovered in her own space and laidback.
Ambition: Perhaps Australia if there was a scholarship, get a kick-ass job at one of the new multi-nationals setting shop then, and eventually get married after delaying the event as much as possible.
Now: Worked a bit at the hospital, had fun, is now settled into Texan suburbian bliss with a doctor husband and a toddler. An occasional guilt spasm keeps her awake at nights, but nothing that a nap wouldn’t cure the next day.
Fun Indeed!

SK:
Then: Pretty young thing and she knew it. She’d bat her lashes at the new interns and would drink pepsi for lunch, so she could work on her calories for the day. Smart too and would work both her brain and her body to get inside scoops on lectures, diagnoses, the works. Nice at heart if one could look beyond what she strutted.
Ambition: Professional program at USA. Rope a handsome doc. Eventually leave India.
Now: Married to a Tall-dark-Handsome-Mills and Boon-hero-S’pore desi, finished the program at Auckland with her parents as support and has a flourishing practice in NZ. Occasionally sends condescending, damsel-in-distress mails to anyone who is willing to listen.
All encompassing Diva!

GK:
Then: Quite the cookie, stood first in a couple of subjects state-wide. Extremely fun and lovely person. Always helpful, considerate and nimble with her fingers in the exam room. A little diffident on her looks, and defensive in that regard.
Ambition: Australia. Only kid so wanted a guy who’d let them all live together.
Now: married down to a fellow coz no guy in her community would agree to her single condition. 1 Kid. Last seen braving a smile and thirsting for a challenging conversation.
Could have done so much better

PP:
Then: Came in with a lot of baggage after having lost her dad when she was 7. Always stressed and hyper-active, not many liked her. Focused on achieving independance and respect in a community that didn’t look too kindly to girls who wanted to have a career. Not the brightest in the class, she didn’t care as long as she trudged along fine. Always in a hurry to achieve her next step.
Ambition: Get a steady paying job, assert herself, and hopefully get married to a guy who’d admire and respect her, and have 3 kids. Very specific she was. Loved ’em.
Now: Heads a school in Mumbai, flourishing practice, a google search leads to 5 pages of her name, jets around the world giving lectures and presentations, married to a spineless, strange fellow who does not satisfy her emotionally or physically. She yearns for kids that he refuses. Won’t divorce as it would kill her mom but is emotionally attached to a colleague who cares.
Sad, but you go girl!

DP:
Then: Simple. Had issues with parents. Hugely distracted with all possible distractions a teen could ever succumb to. Got involved with nefarious dudes and went though a bad patch. Not scholarly, smart, or intelligent.
Ambition: Whatever.
Now: Parents got her married to a guy who turned out to be useless and sucked onto her for support. After a year of crap, she divorced him and moved to the middle east, focused on her work, earned enough to put herself through school in Boston. A colleague followed her and after convincing for 3 yrs is now married to her. They both practice together in Georgia. Happy, content and successful.
Awesome stuff!

TN:
Then: Very strange. She had huge emotional issues and would throw a tantrum in a moment’s notice. There were signs of physical abuse, and at times could be seen talking to herself. Pedantic and quite the worrier.
Ambition: Marry and get the hell out of her house.
Now: Established into a large group practice, and has gotten her 2 younger sisters settled. Single. I believe she still talks to herself, but at least she’s not with her parents. Refuses all communications with friends.
Tragic.

SR:
Then: Smart, fun-loving and intelligent. Worked hard occasionally. Had loads of fun along with SD and was quite the favorite with the docs for she made quite the diagnostician. Considered dorky, she had only her wit and the positive attitude in life to compensate for her looks, or rather the lack of it. Rallied forces and spearheaded the whole group to take the GRE, TOEFL, the passports, the applications.
Ambition: USA. The ultimate program.
Now: Whole lot of INS complications led her to travel and stay farther and longer till she finally reached US kids in tow. Couldn’t pursue a full time program she yearned and bagged the I-20’s for. Settles into doing a completely different subject, puts herself through a part-time graduate program, and now works in that alternate field. Still harbors notions of the white coat.
Good, but could’ve done better.

JV:
Then: Focused, responsible, goal-oriented, bright girl. Lived in the hostel, kept to herself, shrewd and not the bit least helpful.
Ambition: USA. Earn Money.
Now: Got lucky by getting married to a software engineer on H1, who also happened to live 2 miles from the school she applied, got in, graduated and is now practicing in Michigan. 2 kids. Happy and content.
No surprise at all, good for her.

KL:
Then: Brilliant of the lot. Exceptionally talented, creative and sharp. Could beat any senior ophthalmologist hollow while doing a differential. Lived in the hostel and got more freedom than she bargained for. Tangled with the wrong crowd, grades dropped massively, didn’t get admission into any of the 13 schools in the US that offer the study.
Ambition: USA.
Now: Settled into marriage with a guy who followed her around all 4 years of school, 2 kids. Her eyes have lost the sparkle. No amount of coaxing, cheering, motivation can get her to act on herself. Has not held a job at all. Little consolation that the marriage seems firm.
Frustrating, and sad.

***

These are real life stories of ones I went to school/undergrad with.

When I judged Chiranjeevi’s daughter [frankly, I couldn’t care for the hoopla and the tabloids] I was being generic on the age and the whole act of it. Sure, it’s anyone’s life and what they do with it is really none of my beeswax, but it’s really hard not to look at the bigger picture and use one’s experience to be able to draw conclusions. To look at someone make a complete ass of themselves and not do a thing about it. Being 19-20-21 years old is a precious span of time in a person’s life. It only makes it even more poignant when some of us are forced to lament on missed opportunities and time in retrospect.  

I firmly believe in getting your act together and focus on what’s essential at each stage in life. Education. I just think once you have that down nailed pat, the rest can take its time and follow suit. At least the ammunition is there if you ever want to use it.

In any case, this post is a tangential thought process that the comments made me go on. It doesn’t of course address the issue I had or some of the readers had nor does it aim to provide answers to society’s and young minds.

Makes for some retrospective thinking. At least it did for me.

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53 thoughts on “les petites histoires

  1. Maybe it’s me…but this was one hell of a heartbreaking post. Has me thinking where I’ll end up 10 years down the line. But it’s oddly comforting to know that there’s still time to make changes. :-|

  2. I know which one is Rads in this :–))

    Nice write up Rads. I realize how smart we are during school, has nothing to do with where we end finally. I mean so many factors come into picture, like your emotional side, luck, etc etc.

  3. SK – True, just that getting good grades and staying enroute should help a bit at least?
    sshhhh, don’t spill now! :D

    Terri: O yes, am in there alright :)

    Prestid: Yes it is. It took me a lot of steel, and 3 days to finish this. Mixed feelings on how the group shaped out.

  4. a very good post.. these were the very thoughts going in my mind since the past couple of weeks.. the outcome of some introspective moments makes us ask: what has one made of him/herself? some of the padhakoo type got love-married, some from the pokiri gang took the arranged-marriage train, toppers dreamt of patenting and creating waves, ended up faking resumes and joining consultants whereas some mediocores stuck to their engg field and are satisfied with the meagre money.. priorities change, circumstances force, outlook varies.. for some ppl, money is the motivating force, for some family, and for some the fad of the day..

    clarification: the above assumptions and generalisations are what the “society” thinks.. nothing wrong in the nerd falling in love etc. etc disclaimer

    PS: thought of sharing this at WP, but I was kicked by the bouncer.

  5. Frankly, even I don’t know what I’m doing right now or what I’ll be doing a couple of years down the line :) Many times, we are forced to do things we don’t like or end up doing it anyway. Heh. It would be difficult for me to judge/try to understand my school/college friend’s life, esp. by just looking at their relationship, education etc. status. I kind of agree with Pavan here and I wouldn’t jump so fast and draw my own conclusions.

  6. I’m often appalled to no end by the parochial view points of Indians who spend their sorry lives attaching such importance to grades and the institutions they attend. Only individuals whose self-respects aren’t intact or whose lives are brimming with incompetence and frustration nose around in the marriages and life patterns of other people. Truly pathetic.

  7. awesome post. Think I’d write a similar post after two more years. I agree that doing the right thing in the right time is very important, esp. bcos tht time wouldn’t come back. I donno if education can help us achieve our dream life, our dream careers or anything we dreamt off, but it certainly makes a person strong enough to face any situation. (Inspired from the dialogue of Happy Days, loved it all the way)

  8. rads:

    longer comment later … but i have [emphasis]got to[/emphasis] say this to someone.

    bpsk:

    re: your post of the other day, not only is rads using the alphabet soup but she is also mixing and matching initials! ;-) (rads, my lips are sealed, my fingers congealed etc etc, but feel free to delete this comment if you don’t like it).

    – s.b.

  9. Mav: :)
    So “happy days” is good eh? :)

    Rohu: I agree. You should stop wasting your time reading such posts too.

    Ruhi: Am not drawing conclusions on how they treat their lives. For all I know they could all be happy doing what they are doing. This is from my shoes. What I, as a 3rd person feel someone is capable of and if they have harnessed it or not.
    Some of them have spoken their minds to me, some don’t have to. It isn’t entirely the complete story.

    Pavan: Remember this saying “Intelligence is not about knowing the right answer at the time but how you behave when you don’t know?” or something to that effect. It’s like that, it’s making the most of what’s dealt with you and making sense of it. For your own self.
    Regretting on a larger scale in retrospect sucks. Ive been there and I wouldn’t want it on anyone. That doesnt mean I am not happy. I am. Quite. :)

  10. god that was moving! i loved this post. i could relate to so much in it.

    the strange thing is, though i’m still young and i have a whole life ahead of me, i can see most of it played out. not the events, but how i’d go through them. i’ll definitely “lament on missed opportunities and time in retrospect.”

  11. s.b. – first time I’ve been *led* into a comment. :-) Anyhow, far be it from me to shirk a responsibility:

    Helping Rads out, the motley crew:
    Karthik Kumaresan
    Vijay Swaminathan
    Shyamala Diwakar (Nickname: the Bau-rani)
    Shylaja Krishnamoorty (spelt with one ‘y’ and two ‘oo’s, mind you, not an ‘ai’ and a ‘u’. Nickname: Shy Keech)
    Gomathi Kandaswamy
    Priya Parashuram
    Diana Paul (hey, we’ve got to mix this up some ;-))
    Tapasya Nataraj
    Senthamizhselvi Ramanathan (aka Selvi Rams)
    Jyothi Venkatachellum
    Kavita Loganathan

    Whew, I can see why she used initials!

    Rads- thanks for letting us know what to get you for your birthday.

    BPSK

  12. rads:

    only two boys out of ten*? is that selective sampling (as in, those are the ones you are aware of) or representative sampling?

    rohu fish:

    ever read a stoy by erich segal the class? this here is a real-life version, more or less.

    reflecting on achievements (or lack thereof) of oneself and one’s classmates cannot, and should not, be (mis)construed as a) lack of self-respect, b) frustration, or c) nosiness (or should it be noseyness?? i wonder!)

    it is ironic that you should complain of indian parochialism on this post when you can apparently tolerate neither a 90+% black ambience (beaumont) nor a 90+% white one (springfield)!

    and last, but not the least, reading blogs is nothing short of nosiness (or noseyness), especially semi-(auto)biographical ones. and commenting on them, a bigger waste of time than reading them.

    rads:

    heck, i’ve “wasted” enough time on the comments section without even getting back at the original post. tomorrow … will come**! ;-)

    – s.b.

    *: you cannot “convert” to a boy, so i have left you out ;-)

    **: a slight twist to one of my favourite novels.

  13. [ever read a stoy by erich segal the class? this here is a real-life version, more or less.]

    No I haven’t read a “stoy” by Erich Segal or by anyone else for that matter. But then I’m sure you’d want to include the canon of bestsellers comprising Grisham, Archer, Follet, Crichton, Danielle Steele, Dan Brown etc., As for the books I read or have read, it’d take you the rest of your sordid life to have one of your cronies read any on my list out for you while turning the corners of a thicker-than-your-skull lexicon.

    [reflecting on achievements (or lack thereof) of oneself and one’s classmates cannot, and should not, be (mis)construed as a) lack of self-respect, b) frustration, or c) nosiness (or should it be noseyness?? i wonder!)]

    Keep wondering. Meanwhile, you might want to note the italicized benevolent adjectives and verbs used at the end of each “Kyonki saans bhi kabhi bahu thi …” style paragraph. Not very complementary, don’t you think?

    [it is ironic that you should complain of indian parochialism on this post when you can apparently tolerate neither a 90+% black ambience (beaumont) nor a 90+% white one (springfield)!]
    Aah, your astuteness is only second to that of Dubya’s advisers who interpret the peace in Iraq for him. Feel free to quote me on where I couldn’t tolerate the majority of African American people in Beaumont. And if it would soothe your broken desi heart a bit, I would’ve felt as bad if Springfield were populated by as many Indians as whites.

    [and last, but not the least, reading blogs is nothing short of nosiness ]
    Least and the last, not if it is a public blog.

  14. Funny to see Australia was the ambition of quite a few people ! Geographically speaking it makes sense I guess… For French it’s usually London ;-)

    I can’t really look back yet since I’m 24, but I can tell we took different path from high school. We almost all ended up abroad though.

  15. rohu fish:

    “Keep wondering. Meanwhile, you might want to note the italicized benevolent adjectives and verbs used at the end of each “Kyonki saans bhi kabhi bahu thi …” style paragraph. Not very complementary, don’t you think?”

    i thought the italicized parts complement each paragraph pretty well, thank you very much. i say potato, you say potatoe – let’s agree to disagree.

    – s.b.

  16. Terri: I have a feeling both of us are the same. Or maybe not… :\

    Baph: Yes, my point exactly!

    BPSK: Dude, that was dangerously close to the real ones :P
    So what you getting for my birthday? :)

    sb: lol, yes, 2 boys. Yes. Just 2 boys. :)

    Rohu: Feel free to interpret whatever, I don’t see the necessity to explain myself or my statements, especially not to someone who has already set notions in his head.

    zhu: Australia had just 3 Unis that offered this program. News was that it was easier getting a visa out East than to the West. Which proved true too.

    sb: Time to read the post now :)

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  18. A fair tale. My bro is about to graduate from college, and I was telling him this:- if he has any quirky ambitions (become a photographer, drummer, lead guitarist, tatoo artist etc), now is the time to do it. Not two years after he’s worked in TCS/Wipro/what have you.

    Coz the hard truth is, things simply become solidified after you graduate. It’s just the way things are.

  19. rads:

    i agree. grading time! ;-)

    “Karthik Kumaresan”: a (could’ve earned more elsewhere, but he has the stability that many lack)
    “Vijay Swaminathan”: c (par for the course – his fate will likely shared by the 15-year-old who recently did that operation)
    “Shyamala Diwakar (Nickname: the Bau-rani)”: b (australia and us – meridians apart, but at least she is contented!)
    “Shylaja Krishnamoorty (spelt with one ‘y’ and two ‘oo’s, mind you, not an ‘ai’ and a ‘u’. Nickname: Shy Keech)”: c (i hate divas)
    “Gomathi Kandaswamy”: d (i agree)
    “Priya Parashuram”: d (grade might change depending on whether love marriage or arranged marriage!)
    “Diana Paul (hey, we’ve got to mix this up some ;-))”: a (who was the one that needed convincing?)
    “Tapasya Nataraj”: b minus (looks like she is her own friend)
    “Senthamizhselvi Ramanathan (aka Selvi Rams)”: b (honest, definitely could’ve done better but at least she is where she wanted to be)
    “Jyothi Venkatachellum”: a (what was lucky about that? in the 90s that i saw here, doctor-software engineer was *the* match, right above doctor-doctor and se-se. and we say we are getting away from casteism?)
    “Kavita Loganathan”: b (surpried, eh? at least from what you say, she is firm on her marriage and is an sahm. her case is like the dude who pulls an all-nighter the day before the final exam to pass the course)

    – s.b.

  20. Rads isnt there a teeny-weeny chance you might get into trouble for this post? Have you tried googling their name and checking if your blog is picked up.

    Anyway I am planning to do a similiar post!

  21. S.b

    Methinks, one should not grade what other people have/have not achieved, because, they did the best they could do based on priorities, opportunities, luck and options available to them to make decisions.

  22. Ok: lol, Of course there’s a chance I could be discovered, not by google searches though. :)
    The initials are not necessarily true.

    sb: Please tell me you are kidding me grading folks! If not, I donno what to say.

    Pilgrim: Gosh! :P

    KC: Yes, you do :) At least 2.

    Cyd: Yes, they solidify, they so do. :|

    All: The point I was trying to make is to make the most of what life hands you. Sure tons of events/situations play a role and not always you can steer yourself, but to NOT do anything about the situation you are in is being irresponsible. There are a few who don’t and that’s my sore point.
    Definitely what works for the goose does not work for the gander.

    And yes, I didn’t imgaine the ambitions, we were a small group and there were heated arguments, talks and debates on what each would accomplish after graduation. Nothing is a figment of my imagination in this post. Apart from the initials that is…

  23. all- re. grading – we should be like one of those grade schools where ‘Everybody’s a winner! ‘A’s for everyone!’

    terri- do you at least like your character’s name? ;-)

    BPSK

  24. BPSK, I don’t get the nickname. Did you mean bahu-rani? And thank you for not calling me Senthamizhselvi or another mouthful.

    OK, I share your nagging suspicion.

  25. @ Rohu Fish:

    There’s nothing worse than someone who’s jobless enough to comment on something s/he’s not fond of, all the while complaining how much s/he hates that which they’re commenting on. Eh.

  26. terri: What the heck, lemme join in too. Though Ive met sb, I mean, BPSK and he could very well be the same. I mean, really who knows anything these days…

    Ok: You talking to me or Terri?

    BPSk: You’d make a good prof. Nice!

  27. LOL, I have been accused of being prickly before, but I am no porcupine.

    Terri – re. the nickname – I spent a couple of years in Madurai which has a huge Saurashtrian population. I had a lot of them as friends, and their nickname used to be ‘bau’. Diwakar’s a typical Saurashtrian name. Hence ‘bau-rani’.

    ok – no classmates, these two were probably still in grade school when I was finishing up. :-)

    BPSK

  28. terri:

    nap all you want, as long as you don’t snap!

    btw, if you crib hard enough to the prof, the grades will be upgraded (ha ha).

    texan, eh? just when i had moved you from il to az?

    ok:

    a 100% vegetarian, i could never be bpsk! ;-)

    – s.b.

  29. That was an awesome post. I guess I will have to wait for another 5-6 years to write such a post.

    Its a little scary to see how easily one could have screwed things up. But what I don’t understand is how is education a solution to it. Of course we have been fed that by our parents which we blissfully believed without any questions. Yes, it might offer a certain guaranteed livelihood. It might prevent you from getting screwed up because you were too busy studying. But is that the solution the problem? The question is why did they make those choices that they did in the first place.

    I know the intentions of this post was not to provide with answers to society’s or to the young minds but just a thought :)

  30. s.b., snap? Moi? You must have me confused with one of the characters above.
    BTW, thought of you as I touched down in Chicago few weeks ago. No sun, drafty airport and none of the brown faces made any eye contact, except for the Malayali cashier who read my name off the credit card and dispensed with all political correctness by asking me about my “native place.” Didn’t even give me a discount or throw a free muffin in. Tcha!

  31. Very interesting post. I like the point you are making. We plan a lot when we are that age but things may not follow our plans. What’s interesting is, things finally worked out in their own way for all of them!

  32. tdna: I guess it did work out. Question is – are they happy? :)

    madhu: lol :)

    leo: yes, it’s way too easy to mess up. Question is, how many get up, dust off and do well after that. That to me is a true sign of being successful..

    sb: You believe too easy you know :P

  33. rads:

    “Question is – are they happy?”

    ok, notwithstanding the fact that happiness is or could be transient, this question i doubt if any of us can really answer. and even with happiness, there is only so much one can control – the external factors play a huge part too. remember my point on the stud’s blog about my friend?

    on the other hand, is your take based on:

    a) how happy they are;
    b) how happy you think they are, or
    c) how happy you would’ve been had you been dealt with the cards each of them was (and ended up where each of them has).

    my “grading” was based on “c)”

    btw, what was “You believe too easy you know” in reference to? i am gullible, will swallow hook, line, and sinker, but will not, repeat will not, get a hint (even if you were to sell it for free with the florida everglades). ;-)

    terri:

    “s.b., snap? Moi?”

    just to ensure we are on the same page here – i meant snap as in getting a nervous break down (what we used to refer to as an ‘nbd’ or a ‘naabad’). in other words, better to sleep on it rather than get overly frustrated at what you have not achieved. no, this does not mean “stop trying; become a kumbhakarna!” ;-)

    – s.b.

  34. Awesome ! I had forgotten all variables of time and space while I was reading this post ! :) It was like my whole life was running in fast-forward ! Am a bit in the cross roads where I need to decide on stuff like these.. !

    A nice perspective I have to say ! I can probably decide how my “Now” and “Then” should read.. and then work towards it ! ;)

    An excellent post !

    Am kinda curious which one ur ? :( any hints /clues ??

  35. Pingback: Nominations So Far…(Updated 06/Oct…still more to come) « Visceral Observations

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  37. Howdy!

    WORDPRESS says that our two blogs (at least our most recent posts) are related, so I came by to check you out–I hope you enjoy my slant on the topic (even if we are not in total agreement). Please stop by my blog and let me know what you think: Jesus + Compassion.

    God bless you!

    Cd

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