Sitting thousands of miles away in lousy Louisiana, reading blog posts and Google group messages about rocking meets in different cities, I turned various shades of green. Fortunately for me, the folks at Hyderabad decided another meet wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Part I- Identification
Being a veteran Hyderabadi, I guess I’m supposed to be able to navigate to every Paan shop blindfolded, but this part of town is as alien to me as the people I was going to meet. I managed to reach Chocolate Room without incident, and sauntered in confidently as if I knew exactly who I was looking for, which, of course, I did not. A cursory glance at the junta and a stern “sit and order or get your nomadic ass out of here” glare from the waiter later, I walked out and drew a quick mental list of the people I might recognize from FB photos. CG – tick (unless he found a lawn mower to clear his abundant facial vegetation); Arindam- tick; Harshika Sarbajna- half-tick; Madhumita- half-tick; rest- no chance. Minutes later a couple walked in and walked out with a clueless expression that I could instantly identify with- “Probably Harshika”, I thought but preferred not to ask lest her husband interpret my intentions as flirtatious and decide to keep two of my teeth as a souvenir. Thankfully, I happened to hear her say ISB to someone on the phone (an act she later uncharitably called eavesdropping) which I decided must complete the other half of the tick. Thus introduced, Harshika, Clayton, and I plonked on the comfortable couches in the Party Room.
Part II- Familiarization
I imagined, this being my first meet, I would be a little less stuck-up than I was during the interview, but only a little. However, as the junta trooped in (around 15 in all), I warmed up considerably; limited, though, by the air conditioner that refused to warm up a nanodegree above 16 C. The conversation was flowing, as was the bile of the waiter who stood by waiting for our order as we paid scant heed to both him and the menu cards he had placed before us. The conversation was fun, with the highlights being interview experiences, the number of calories in my brownie, the likelihood of CG doing a mujra for us, and Harshika’s curiously spelt surname. (We returned to the surname a few hours later and a few pegs down in CG’s house and came up with some interesting theories) At about 8:30 p.m., we moved to CG’s house for the rest of the evening.
Part III- Intoxication
After spending a few civilized minutes in the living room, we moved to the terrace where the alcohol flowed, the manchurians and tandoori chickens disappeared, and conversations rambled on in 2 groups- the serious and the delirious (of course, the latter group had more subscribers). As the night turned into midnight, we moved down for dinner thus vindicating Arnab, who we thought had absconded with wads of our 100 rupee notes.
Part IV- Is Raat ki Subah Nahin
Dinner done, the goodbyes were coming thick and fast; we were down to a group small enough to fit around the dining table- Harshika, Clayton, Vivek, CG, CG’s Blackberry, Arnab, Shreyans, Hari Chava, Arindam, CG’s buddy Rathore (or Rathod), and I. It was at 2 a.m. that CG initiated something that did not feature in the 8 preceding hours- a serious ISB chat. It was an excellent conversation, in spite of (or because of?) the all-pervading influence of alcohol. We opened more boxes than Pandora would have cared for, and even if our discussions amount to nothing, it was great hearing diverse ideas. The departure of Harshika and Clayton, while dulling the proceedings, enabled CG to give voice to the ‘uck’s he had so diligently censored from his speech till then. When Vivek left at around 4:30, the rest of us realized we should probably get our butts moving too, but they moved only as far as the steps outside the house. Finally, at around 5, Arindam and I realized we had parents waiting at home, who might get a minor scare not seeing us back yet. We bade goodbye to everybody and CG (who by then was comprehensively Old Monked, but was as articulate as ever). As Arindam and I drove back on empty Hyderabad roads, we reflected aloud on an evening well spent. When I reached home, my parents asked me how it went. “Had a great time”, I said, “The group was fantastic”. And that was as true as anything I’ve ever said.