After waiting for almost an hour outside that imposing room, and with the already investigated coming out with sunken faces and the words, ‘They screwed me, man’, tumbling out of their slipping tongues, it was finally my turn to step into the battlefield.
‘How bad could it possibly be’, I constantly asked myself. I had to see it to believe it. So in I stepped, believing firmly in myself, and with confidence pouring out on my face. Clad in a simple t-shirt and cargo shorts, I didn’t think my wardrobe would affect my encounter much considering I was told about the sit down an hour back.
This room was situated in the pristine premises of Sri Venkateswara College. The ‘torture’ chair was surrounded by a group of three canescent men, which I later came to know included the vice supremo, some office babu and the history head teacher, with condescending looks on their faces and that know-it-all, somewhat old man-like smile; and of course the supremo, who looked quite clueless, but was clearly happy about something, the reason for which laid beyond the scope of my relatively immature mind.
After all, it was just an interview. A few questions shot towards you. You either shoot back, duck for cover or die a martyr. This interview was supposed to judge whether you are good enough to be a part of a cultural exchange program undertaken by DU, in collaboration with an Aussie university.
So a series of questions were shot at me. They wanted to know what my take on Hinduism was, and what made an increasing amount of foreigners to come to India in search of spiritual guidance. I gave a long drawn answer, trying to explain how every individual would like to explore and try new things.
Apparently, they didn’t really appreciate one of my explanations that included the words, ‘the grass always looks greener on the other side’. I think they took serious offence to that phrase and tried all their might to relate it to the assumption that I look down upon my country (WHAT?!). After all, speaking something that they do not wish to hear (or not speaking something that they wish to hear) doesn’t go down well with quite a lot of people.
Several minutes and several questions later, this one gentleman (in a heavy, somewhat incomprehensible South Indian accent), asks me, “Tell us five Indians who have influenced the world”. At least that is what I could figure out. So just to confirm, I repeated, “You want me to name five Indian people who have influenced the world, right?” Suddenly, the clueless head honcho sprung to life in much the same way as a visibly unconscious man suffering from multiple organ failures in one of our movies, springs right into action on being given the ‘shock therapy’ and goes on to save the love of his life from the Mafia hideout. She loudly said, “NO! Tell us five people from the world who have influenced India.”
(*Facepalm* in my head) I looked towards the gentleman who had posed the question. Looking sorry, he clarified, “No, you have to name five Indians who have influenced the world.” The poor woman reached an all time high in cluelessness.
This seemed like an interesting question. So I began with the obvious name that would come to everybody’s mind, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The second name that came to my mind was Mr. Narayan Murthy, Co-founder and ex-Chairman of Infosys, and I was quite confident that the gentleman who asked me this question would be extremely delighted on hearing this name. And quite apparently he was. Thinking hard, the next person I named was Mr. Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro and a well-known philanthropist. These men have made a great name for themselves and their companies internationally, and have helped establish the new wave of Indian MNCs.
But I was now told, that I am only naming people from the IT sector, and chances are that most of the world would not be aware of them, or the work that they have done. Seriously Whattt? This sounded utterly ridiculous to me, so I blasted out, losing a bit of my patience, and telling them, “I am sure that any one who would make the effort of opening the newspaper, would definitely be aware of these people.” They, however, still did not seem to agree with me, so then to give further strength to my argument I added, “If I agree with what you say, in that case we cannot include Sachin Tendulkar in this list either, because only the countries that actually play cricket, which are quite a few, would be aware of his tremendous contribution to the game.”
This was met by a lot of noise, some voices of laughter, some of denial, some blatantly dismissive but there was no concrete statement made by either one of them to counter this argument of mine.
Then suddenly, another gentleman, trying to end the confusion surrounding the previous question and the answers that followed, asked me, “What do you think about dressing?”
“Excuse me? What exactly do you mean by that?” I said, trying to sound as polite as possible, though I knew exactly what he meant.
Trying to clarify, he said, “I mean, should there be dress codes imposed? Do you think that you should be dressed according to the institution or the situation?”
Clearly heating up, I said, “No. I don’t think any kind of a dress code should be imposed upon any individual by any one. We are all old enough to decide for ourselves, and I don’t think such moral policing is required in this modern day world.”
But clearly, he didn’t seem to agree with me. Frankly I would have worn a tuxedo, black tie or even a sherwani if that would have secured me a sane interview. But the babus at the college thought an hour’s notice was good enough for the series of questions. After a long (somewhat heated) argument, everyone in the room thought that they had had enough. And I, honestly, was dying to get out of this room filled with such obnoxious and narrow-minded self proclaimed harbingers of an enlightened generation.
I knew that I had blown any chance of me being a part of the exchange program, but I could proudly step out of the room and fearlessly say, that to an extent, “I screwed them, man!”
Sri Venkateswara College