Monday, August 18, 2008

Alone against all odds...

I remember reading a quite inspiring story called "Alone against the flames" by a woman called Tracy Aubin. It was one of the "lessons" we had as part of the English subject, I guess either in 11th std or 9-10th. The story was about how a woman met with an accident on a hot afternoon in a deserted location somewhere in Australia, and I think she had a few kids, and how the car caught fire, and she was in unimaginable pain and she managed to get her kids out in time as the car burst into flames, and how she managed to hang on to dear life for a few hours, in desperate pain, until someone just came by.
With all due respect to the courageous lady, her story was an inspiration.

This article is about the courage and determination of one he faced a do-or-die situation to save his face and he faced ignominy and overcame he eventually battled all odds to emerge successfully.
Yes This story is about me and my first corporate party experience...alone.
It all began when my company sent out an invite to the annual company party. Having no prior corporate party experience yet, knowing the associated "procedures", my initial excitement was soon replaced by anxiety. "What would I wear" was one of the questions that popped up in my head, but since I'm not exactly horrendous with my dressing (despite my utter lack of fashion-consciousness), the dressing-associated trepidation subsided. Then, the real thing. It is more or less a practice here for people to attend parties (in general...corporate parties, in particular) with their spouse, boy/girl-friend, a date or at least, a person from the other sex. Since the first three cases are (obviously absolutely) not applicable to me, the only case even remotely applicable (if any) to me happened to be the fourth one. I further understood that to take a girl to a party, neither do you need to have any remotely romantic affiliations to her, nor do you need to be someone well acquainted with her. Let's just say it's enough if you don't feel uncomfortable in her company. (PS: This isn't a bad way to start off, in case you are contemplating "attempting" anything with the girl.) Or if you're the really gregarious free-moving or kadalai type, you just don't need to know the girl at all. But since I think twice before even saying Hi to a girl I know (but don't know well), I basically had to consider girls whom I knew even somewhat decently and did not feel uncomfortable with. But since the girls I know well, am good friends with and talk to quite frequently all happen to be old college classmates from MSEC, none of whom is nearby, I (sadly) could not consider them. The only other old-acquaintance not-uncomfortable candidate was one of my juniors who had come here recently for her Masters, but since I presumed she would not be familiar with the harmlessness of this exercise as also the fact that since she wasn't as close to me as my classmate-girls and since she happens to be another middle-class Brahmin girl from "our background" and since I've had some not-so-good-experiences with her circle, despite the girl being a definitely decent & nice type, besides being a good sport, I didn't want to risk anything. Now, in case you didn't know, my female contacts here in Chicago are zilch, well, almost. There is absolutely one girl I respect at IIT and since she is semma innocent and paavam type (also attested by my
roomie Dhesikan), and since I would definitely feel uncomfortable going with her, despite her good nature, I had to rule her out. The final candidate was this not-very-goody type of girl here (my roomie's occasional part-time daavu, but his strong recommendation too) with whom I have spoken occasionally. She isn't bad looking either, and I have known quite a few guys to have expressed admiring interest in her. Unfortunately, I didn't think it would be fair on my part to ask her since I haven't exactly been appreciative of her, mostly, (I abhor hypocrisy) as also this concept of introducing her to my colleagues. "Hey Whitney, this is my friend, *****." - wasn't a very encouraging prospect. My roomie, though, commented that more than one person would have been appreciative of my "catch", had I taken her. Quite possibly, but this never happened, and it probably was never meant to happen, and I'm thankful it didn't. :P Now there I was.
An interesting aspect here is this process of consideration. My besht friend (1.2) Tejaswi said he was very happy and surprised at my thought process. He apparently thought I being me wouldn't even embark upon such considerations, the conservative fellow that I "was"(:D). I actually feel it hasn't got much (if any) to do with any conservative mind-set, even considering a guy like me. For one, however averse I am to the idea of dating or "going out" with a girl I'm not serious about, this was neither a date nor a "seeing-her" type of thing, if I had taken some girl, that is. This was just a professional assignment and even if I had been able to zero in on a suitable "candidate", I don't think I would have done something which I wouldn't have, before...nor do I think this is an indication of some new-found openness in me. It was pure logic and the situation demanded a "logical" approach [k1 ;)], which, I
think I did. My besht friend (1.1) Kesh nods his head.After an intense round of considerations, I was back at square one, probably a couple of squares behind. Faced with the prospective ignominy of having to go alone, I started considering less advisable, nevertheless face-saving options like going with a guy. The options were more, in this case, but for some reason, I ended up asking Aswin (another roomie) who refused point blank, citing the normal reason most guys would state - that he thought it wouldn't be nice for a guy to accompany another - which, I felt, was a myth. Nevertheless, I wasn't keen on forcing anybody and since it was quite late, I didn't ask anyone else. On the last day of work before the D-Day, I asked my manager how pathetic my situation was, and if I could take a guy with me. He was quite cool about it and said I could bring along anybody I wanted. When I asked him about the opposite-sex thingy, he said it was a general habit here to bring someone from the opposite sex, but by no means was it a rule or a norm. Plus, he added something that was absolutely totally unthinkable to me-he said it would be fine even if I came alone.
It is often a tiny spark of inspiration and help that has often led to the most memorable of triumphs and victories for mankind.
I don't know if my boss' suggestion of going alone also being a possibility was that tiny spark of light which acted as a guiding light to me in my solo battle, but I know I will definitely look back to his words years from now, when I recount to Keshav's grand-kids (since it is the only sure event...Tejaswi's marriage seems a partly sure event with equal probability for both sub-events, though declining towards the negative...and mine seems almost a sure event...on the other side [=(]) fondly of this memorable battle of mine, 40 years from now. Emboldened, re-energized and ready-to-face-the-battle, I prepared to enter the arena on the historic August 16, 2008 (yes, a day after our Independence Day, my day of glory arrived).
"They are great souls who have well and truly conquered the demons of self-doubt" - this was sooo true in my case! A couple of minutes before actually entering the event, I just had to speak to Tejas - out of despair or anxiety or helplessness, I dont know. Still, Tejaswi, being my ever-faithful Surya, instilled further belief in me and gave me that last-minute push (which only a true friend can) along with self-confidence that I could do it. Thanks Teja! On I went. I was dressed in Black and Black, which I was told, was an official party dress. My company founder (An ultimate stud guy, both in looks and smartness and wonder...just 39 years old and a 11-year old company founded by him and billions) was at the entrance to welcome me. Anxiously, I shook hands with him, alone. The first few moments were actually pretty awkward. Like Dravid having to face a barrage of bouncers from Shoaib Akhtar. The next were quite unnerving. Like Dravid having to face McGrath in his second over. And then I grew in confidence. Grabbing a glass of cranberry juice, I was looking around for some decent company when I met my fellow new-hire, Ray and his wife. We started chatting up pretty casually, and as time passed, I was more assured. Yes, most of the people who came there were opposite-sex pairs, but still, for some reason, I was feeling better. Gradually, though, I did see people walk in with their friend, a model-like colleague of mine came with her mom (Mom, I assume). Still, most of my new-hire colleagues had managed to find someone to come with, from the opposite sex, even if they were single. But by now, I was ready to take on the world. Like Dravid feels when he has driven Brett Lee straight back past him with the straightest of bats, for a stunningly exquisite boundary, and completes the follow through and holds the bat in position for the cameras. The evening progressed, and I spoke to quite a few of my colleagues, and ate some fruits, apart from drinking more cranberry juice and another less innocent juice. The band played, I felt on top of the world. Interestingly, my desi colleague, Chaitra, had come with her husband, and she knew of my plight. But to my total surprise, her husband told me that they were discussing earlier in the day about getting me someone to accompany me (one of Chaitra's friends), but, they too had to cross out all the candidates and finally thought I was better off alone. (Sucks actually, how much ever I try not to be obvious and easy to understand, I just end up being this shockingly open and easy-to-read book). Kudos to them, though :D!
But yeah, there I was, at the end of the party, victorious, gallant and successful. Success is sweet, let me tell you.
And to all ye single guys out there (Girls...I will not address because I dont exactly know the plight of a "single" girl), never lose hope. You may have lost the battle, but you would have won the war.
My first ever corporate party experience. What a bummer, don't you think?