Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Asmanjas, noun, means dilemma in Hindi. Quandary for those of you prepping for GRE/CAT/GMAT. And while we’re at it- plenipotentiary, phantasmagoria and pernicious. You’re welcome. So somewhere between the time we coined talent* and tutun tutun, Sajal and I came up with a new usage for Asmanjas- dilemma resulting in an awkward situation. More specifically, what one should do when one happened to meet a gentleman, who let us refer to as Asmanjas Inducing Gent (AIG- not to be confused with the bailout begging, taxpayers’ money sapping, United’s 3 championship season jersey sponsoring insurance agency).
Now AIG was a year senior to us at the Dogs’ own department at dear old R. One fine evening, he what-ho’d along to the Farmhouse to see how his worthy successors were doing. Being a scholar who’d been there and done that, his presence was enough to get the more materially inclined amongst us to throw questions on him about projects, labs and nanoparticles. Yours truly was there during the entire hour when phrases like Zinc Oxide coatings, nano-FETs and FE-SEM were bandied about with ridiculous ease. Participation certificate gained a whole new perspective. In fact, it was this conversation that gave me strength to approach a visiting professor from Sydney to coax him into giving me an internship down under. His look of undisguised contempt after having grilled my fellows on the papers they’d published only to hear me say- “I have an interest in Micro-electronic packaging. I’ve read the Wikipedia article on it” was epic. Anyway, so AIG and I had had this brilliant conversation where we’d not spoken to each other at all but had silently acknowledged each other’s presence. I had no idea what social protocol dictated on the kind of greeting that I was to mete out to him, whenever we crossed paths- which was quite often. Was I supposed to what-ho in the cheeriest of fashions, mutter a respectful hello or go for the Royal Ignore? More often than not, I resorted to play-acting with my phone or hiding behind a pillar to check that he was back in his room and then rushed along. College is truly a difficult time.
With Asmanjas now firmly entrenched in our colloquial dictionaries, I began to look for other situations that could be described such. One of them was specially easy to find- the situation of the 4 figure rank. Aged relatives, chance acquaintances and casual passer-bys would ask- so you’re at IIT? Yes, would be the pat reply, pride writ large on the face. ‘What rank?’ would follow, and the sound of a million deflating balloons could be heard in the background. For by the time one hummed, hawed, coughed, tried to change the subject and eventually started off- two thousand…, the aged relative would have emptied his glass, refilled another and turned around to the other aged relative saying “ladka laayak hai. ITI me padhta hai”. Going to FIITJEE felicitation functions was all the more damning. Along with all the congratulations and ‘you’ve-made-us-proud’s, there would also be the darned tag that displayed your rank. That was a remainder of caste in the contrived meritocracy. That separated the wheat from the chaff, or as Rapu might say, the geeks from the dorks. Trying to smudge off the first or last digit, depending on what rank you felt you could carry off better, was the kind of number-fudging that we would go on to practice, perfect and perform with great aplomb, eventually resulting in one Lehman Brothers that is no more.
Not that the 4 figure rank was all asmanjas. It had its glorious highs too. While the whole world and their brothers-in-law knew what rank the neighbourhood achiever had managed, your rank was yours alone. None of kids cast you malevolent looks for constantly having to endure speeches on how they should emulate that guy and get that rank. And as all of my ilk would concur, choosing your ATM pin was never easier. As our more accomplished batch-mates set about trying to zero-in on the appropriate mathematical constant, we of the 4 figures had our pin posted to us by the JEE. In today’s brand-conscious world, we were the ones who’d got the bargain buy. 4 years, 4 figures- how symbolic. Mark my words, we shall all be cast as masons in Dan Brown’s next novel purely because of this. The best part was B-school, when your top 50/100/500 peers suddenly became your equals as you all started afresh. Aha, we chuckled, what was the point of sweating it out in CS/ Electrical/ Mechanical when you had to read Kotler and Hull eventually. Jai Meta. Jai Civil. We Are The Studs, we would say to each other conspiratorially. That was until the Wall Street bank made an 8-figure offer to the top 50/100/500 guy while we tried to disguise the 4 figures in ‘top 1% amongst x lac students in JEE- 200X’ (‘top 1%’ and ‘JEE’ in bold). B-school is a difficult time too, I tell you.
None of these instances can compare to the many asmanjas-es that the office thrusts upon me, day in day out. The Mulva incident in Seinfeld is far more realistic than I had ever imagined- I have ‘Gym guy’, ‘Car-pool guy’ and ‘Random Guy’ stored on my phone. And its not even been 6 months yet. Office , my dear readers, is the most difficult time of all.
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