The start of a wonderful journey...

Very stressed for time I am forever trying to force things in my schedule. Even though I started blogging last year, my blog will give you a clear picture of how often I write. I had also registered with IndiBlogger, but till date had never even followed a single event/contest that IndiBlogger frequently holds. I was not aware of the blogger community and how well people are connected here.

Like every other notification which I had received from IndiBlogger, I received the invitation for Zindagi IndiBlogger Meet. Since I was always stressed for time, I used to ignore these interesting invites, events and contests. But, this time it was different. I fail to comprehend why I did this, but I just went ahead and registered for the Zindagi IndiBlogger Meet. However, I was not sure if I would really attend this meet. On weekends, I teach from 9 am to 12 noon. The meet was scheduled to start at 12 noon itself.

Yet, when I got a confirmation call from IndiBlogger team, I said yes. I was really excited about the whole meet. I shifted my lecture from 9 am to 8 am (giving my students a pleasant shock!). Next day, 11:15 am I was done with my lecture and was getting ready for the meet.

At 12:15 am, I was standing outside The Leela Hotel. I entered the venue, registered myself and was directed towards the place where lunch was being served. I went there and stood there still. For a few minutes I was not sure as to what I was supposed to do. In the nervousness, I couldn’t even find where the plates were kept. Yet, I kept my calm, took a plate, filled it with a few dishes and stood at a corner silently. I was eating when an unknown face called me towards her.

This was my first jodey dilon ka moment... And now, this was getting weird. The girl who asked me to join her shared the same name!! My name’s Zeba and hers was Zebaish! She was standing with two of her friends. Yes, we connected!! My first blogger friends!

Figure 1: Can't believe I met them for the first time!:)
After we had our lunch, we were directed to the ballroom. It was beautiful. The arrangements were fantastic. Our host Anoop was funny and cute at the same time. We could connect with our blogger friends in New Delhi directly. It was like skyping with them!

Nihaal and Anoop did a great job in keeping us entertained. We had debates, fights, arguments, etc with our counterparts in New Delhi. I must say, it was fun!!

Shailaja Kejriwal made an entry after sometime. She is a beautiful lady with the most imaginative and creative head. She told us exactly how this concept became a reality. She saw these beautiful Pakistani Serials and she found the connect. She wanted all of us to enjoy the same. Hence, Zindagi!!
Figure 2: Shailaja Kejriwal and Imran Abbas

And then there was an entry of the dashing Imran Abbas. The Pakistani actor was chocolate cute. The girls were already going gaga over him. I was sitting in the front row. So I got a better view. I was happy. There was a screening of some beautiful Pakistani Serials. We all enjoyed the screening. After that, Imran gave an introduction of himself. Later, he was open to answering the questions posed by the audience.

He maintained his poise while answering his questions. He even entertained us with his songs. He tried convincing us that we hail from the same culture(In his words, ‘same mitti’) and we will definitely connect with these serials. In my heart even I believe that it’s the same thing. India and Pakistan were one country. A boundary can never divide a soul. The soul of the people is the same. We are no different from our Pakistani brothers and sisters. I felt nice. It was a genuine feeling. Thank you Zindagi, the Zee TV team, IndiBlogger and Imran Abbas!!

The IndiBloggers also had the privilege to interact with Sultana Siddiqui. She is the czarina of the Pakistani TV industry. She is the only woman in Asia who started or owned a TV channel. It was great interacting with her.
Figure 3: Sultana Siddiqui on the screen, Shailaja Kejriwal and the New Delhi audience

After the question-answer sessions were over, Imran posed with the audience for the pictures.
Figure 4: Imran Abbas with IndiBloggers!

After the photo session was done, we had to break for snacks. I did network with quite a few IndiBloggers. We exchanged numbers and blog addresses. I had real fun ‘connecting’ with so many like-minded people. Not just that, after the break also, we had some games. I managed to win a voucher! It was great. I had a ball of a time…

 Figure 5: Having fun with my new friends!:)

Overall, it was a really well organized amazing event. I am sure it touched all the hearts. We are all looking forward to enjoying these beautiful serials that will be screened on Zindagi Channel. I am feeling rhapsodic about the whole event. And now, I am looking forward to attend all the events that will be held by IndiBlogger!!

Let there be love, peace and happiness everywhere and may the World unite…



Mastek—through the eyes of a trainee.

‘Yippppppeeeeeeee!!! I got selected via campus recruitment!! Mastek, here I come’, read my facebook status as soon as the selected students list was put up on my college notice board. A whole bunch of 23 students were selected from our college alone. I was rhapsodic. College was finally over and I was about to enter my corporate life. ‘Corporate is no college...’’People can no longer be trusted ‘Money matters...’ etc were the warnings and comments given by my family members and friends who had already tasted the cake of corporate life. All these comments failed to unnerve me because I loved taking up new challenges. I was a confident young girl, exceptionally good with my academics and extra-curricular activities as well. I was a teacher, a hobbyist writer, a scrabble player, lead singer in my college band, a dancer, a voracious reader, a gambler (I was heavily into stock market) and an actor.  But, I must say, I was afraid that my corporate life would not be as fulfilling as my college life had been. I feared I would become a desktop pumpkin coding my way to my bank account.  I wanted opportunities to display my talents and get appreciated for the same. But the sceptical comments from everyone around managed to subdue me.

Now let me take you directly to my first day at Mastek. I was standing in a line along with all new trainees waiting to get our visiting licences to enter Mastek premises. We were a bunch of excited youngsters all waiting to experience the big bad corporate world. After we got our visiting id’s we stepped into a different realm. On our first day, we were all busy filling up various forms of all shapes and sizes. Since I am a religious girl, I wanted a place to pray namaaz (Muslims pray namaaz 5 times a day). This is the first time I experienced Mastek culture. Open Atmosphere and Respect for Individual. Everybody, irrespective of what religion they followed, was eager to help me out to find a place to pray namaaz. Some people even introduced me to people who prayed regularly so that I could have company.  The holy month of Ramzan followed after that and I must say our L&D manager was considerate enough during that phase also. I was enraptured. Nobody judged me by the way I dressed or by the religion I followed (I wear a burqa*!!).

The reception of my ideas and the opportunities given to me was prodigious. I was a part of the scrabble workshop and also a part of the organizing team for indoor sports. I won the intra corporate tournament in both the single and double categories and I was appreciated for the organizing work too. I represented Mastek at the inter-corporate Scrabble tournament held by IGATE. I was recognized for bringing laurels to Mastek. I was appreciated for my writing and I was awarded for the same. Here, I came across people who went out of the way in encouraging me to pursue my passion. I was never treated as a fresher. I was treated with respect and was always recognized for my achievements. Sometimes I was lashed for my ebullience too, but that helped in my growth.  My team, other colleagues were always a constant strength in all my endeavours. Thanks to Mastek I can now say to my peers, ‘ I know corporate is no college, I think it’s better’(I get paid too!!:p)..

A small poem in tribute to my amazing journey in Mastek:

Some days, confident, some days I feared,
Some days sad, some days I cheered
Every memory I made, all the memories I shared,
I will keep it near; I will hold it dear,
Once a mastekeer always a mastekeer...

Some days vague, some days were clear
Family was far but colleagues were near,
No regrets are there and there was never a tear,
Now I know for sure, we make magic here
Once a mastekeer always a mastekeer!

**Burqa:  A religious overcoat worn by Muslim women 


TIMES HAVE CHANGED...(For all my fellow trainees at Mastek)

Today as I sit in the Varanasi training room after more than 1 year, I feel nostalgic. Having joined Mastek Ltd on 13-June-2012, I was still in training around July 2012. Now, I sit on the same place and I reminisce about the time I spent exactly a year back. ‘Bunch of monkeys’, that’s what our manager used to call us. Fresh out of college we used to jump about the entire training room having fun and doing antics. There was never peace and quiet time in the room. Out of nowhere a person used to start playing songs on his/her mobile and people used to start singing along. I was a step ahead. I even used to dance. We had whistlers in our batch namely Mandar and Nikhil (they were the best ones). And yeah you can count me in too (A little astonishing since I am a girl!).

Well, this was not the only fun we had. We had our 'antakshiri' sessions and our eating sessions too. Girls, namely Meenu, Vyoma, Leena,etc used to open their lunch boxes and we all used to swoop on the delicious eateries that they used to bring. We used to check again and again if the training room had any cameras (just so that we never got caught doing so much ‘masti’). Our soft skills sessions were exemplary. We realized later we should not divulge too many details of our mad fun to the trainer! Apart from this, for me, training period also revives the memory of my best friend. Well, her name is Zeba too. Well, just as the name matches, our personality and thinking matched too. But she was a step ahead of me.  She knew how to steal hearts. She used to make gulab-jamuns for the entire batch and now that Ramadhan is going on I also remember the iftar party we hosted last year thanks to my bf ZEBA!!

Our batch was naive and frivolous. We never used to take anything seriously (apart from a few). The tension of evaluation also could never take away our ‘masti’. We didn't know about corporate ethics and to think of it now I am glad we didn't  We enjoyed the 3 months of our training period without the burden of behaving in a particular way, eating, talking etc etc in a particular manner. Corporate politics was not known to us and coming on Saturdays was still fun. That was the only time during the entire period at Mastek I felt I was paid appropriately for the job I did! I feel ghastly underpaid now.

I decided to pen this down because the silence in the very same room is getting hard to bear. Although I have had phenomenal growth and Mastek has really been kind to me, I still feel the best duration of my stay at Mastek was the L&D period. I made some good relations and I also made some bad ones. I connected awesomely with a few and the others I hardly knew. I know Mandar, I irritated you ‘hadh bahar’ and Nikhil, I don’t think you will ever have such an annoying partner ever in your life. Vyoma I loved your 'khakras and fafda’s' and the rest ,I enjoyed all our endless banters.

Manish was one of the best trainers anyone could ever have and Joel, Ha ha!! I still remember his 'dhamkis'!!. The carrom period, I doubt anyone of us can forget. I know I played the worst but Manali came close next.  Our customized cakes were awesome (Gotta thank Dukhande for that). And yeah Ruman, our Admin, my activa ride is still pending!! Vinod Muda, our java specialist, I loved your TekTalk presentation and I am glad you are doing so well.  Since I just lost contact I am not sure as to how all of you are doing. I know every one of you are ‘killer’ busy with work and are doing awesomely well too. I doubt if everyone even has the time to go through my random thoughts. Therefore, I am not stretching it too much. But I must add, our ‘couple-making’ sessions were too funny! Mandar was the scapegoat (getting paired with girls as well as boys). Now, times have changed drastically, the same room which never experienced solitude has pin drop silence.  No one I used to know is around me any longer.  Although I am not complaining, I will always cherish the memories and the time I spent with all of you guys!!

Why did you have to go?

It is difficult to comprehend the silence,
I am unable to jump the fence,
Hidden feelings are hard to show,
My friend, why did you have to go?

I know it was not meant forever,
Our endless banters and palaver,
No debts are there, nothing you owe,
My friend, why did you have to go?

In the zest for money and career, we leave the people behind,
We fast pace our lives and run away, we just forget to rewind,
Remember we are always there, when you are high and when you are low,
My friend, why did you have to go?

You had your dreams and things worked out,
I was always confident, I never did doubt,
Happiness ahead and I am glad to know,
My friend that is why I let you go…


Nigel Richards—An enigma

“Do I talk a lot?” I asked, amused by my own palaver. “Not at all, you have a very pleasant voice”, said the reticent Nigel Richards. I was enraptured by his aura. Well, if you are incognizant of the world Scrabble champion Nigel Richards, I am not surprised. The world’s most popular word game has hardly any cognizance in India. It is lamentable but it is true. Yet, I am not incriminating anyone for this. Cricket is the only recognized sport here. The Indian soccer, basketball, hockey etc teams are obscure. Therefore, it is obvious that Indians are not aware about scrabble or its players.
But for me, Scrabble meant passion. So, Nigel Richards was a paragon to me. What flummoxed me was not Nigel the world scrabble champion, but Nigel the person he was. The enigma was a normal human after all. Just a little more focused than many and a little less complicated. He said he was a normal school boy and had just been through high school. He had not studied in any university. He was fiercely independent and left home when he was 18 years old. He worked on security system which includes monitoring cctv cameras and people moving in and out of the organization. Till he was 28 years of age he had not seen a scrabble board. He had a strong mathematical mind but he was not good with words. His mother introduced him to the game and told him "Nigel, since you are not good with words you won't do good in this game but this will keep you occupied!” Yes, these were the exact words said to the world champion Scrabble Player! However this did not deter him. In fact, it increased his keenness in the game. He started pursuing it on national level and then he moved on to the international level. He won many titles and eventually he left his job in New Zealand. He moved to Malaysia when he was offered a job by some Malaysian scrabble enthusiast and has been staying there for the past 13 years.

Nigel Richards

Nigel Richards and me.
Apart from scrabble he loves bicycle riding and rides for 120 km every day. He says that it keeps him fit. He doesn't drink alcohol, smoke, party and is a vegetarian. He is so humble and down to earth that he wears the same t-shirt almost everywhere. The only emotion (irritation) he ever displays is when media mobs him and asks for interviews. When you look at him you would never be able to say if he won or lost. He is the best in the world for what he does and yet the simplicity in him leaves you mesmerized. I got an opportunity to interact with him on 20th January 2013. I was in Bangalore representing my organization, Mastek, at the inter-corporate Scrabble tournament organized by IGATE Global Solutions. After emerging the best team in Mumbai, we went to Bangalore for the finals. There was an international tournament going on as well. Nigel Richards was a part of the international league. The world champion won his title yet again!
Nigel chatted with me for quite some time, he gave me tips, showed me the area of my improvements and a lot of other stuff. But more than the game he plays, the person Nigel Richards left me awed. A true persona of how a human should be. He pursued his passion, did what he wanted and was always focused. He was outrageously modest and honest about his life experiences. He was mobbed everywhere during the event and yet he never acted as if he were a celebrity. After collecting the grand prize, Nigel Richards just slipped away without any trace. I was left there, wondering when I will get another chance to meet him again.

People don't know him much since scrabble is not a very popular sport (especially in India), but people who do know him have a lot of Nigel stories to tell. ‘Nigel Richards has photographic memory’, ‘He is a loner’, ‘He is painfully reticent’, ‘He does not talk with anyone’, ‘He is an ENIGMA’, etc etc. I don’t know what made the reticent Nigel open up to me and talk so freely. Whatever it may be, he managed to influence and charm me. I learnt that if you follow your passion passionately you will definitely excel.  Even after achieving success you must keep your head firmly on your shoulders. Modesty should always be a key aspect of your personality. I learnt a great deal that day. I so wanted to keep in contact with him, but he was nowhere to be found. Not on the internet, not on social media and not even on phone (He keeps a very simple phone called 'dabba' in our local terms)! And here I am, eagerly awaiting the next tournament to meet him again! Thanks to him, next time he meets me, I will be a better player and definitely a better and focused individual too!

Scrabble-- My Passion

Papa!! ‘PERMUTE’ is not a word!! I shouted. I challenge! I took hold of the Oxford dictionary lying next to me and started scanning its pages for the word. Lo and Behold!! There it stood with clear letters: ‘Permute—change the order or arrangement of’. Sad faced, I looked at my father. My father gave me a sly smile. He had gained 61 points for that word in the game of scrabble we were playing. For a six year old, he was a very tough player. But I took it in my stride and smiled back. That day, I had not lost a challenge; I had won a new word for my ever increasing vocabulary. I used to learn new words and even use it in my day to day conversations. At 7, I used to tease my friends with, ‘Hey, you are looking preposterous today!’ The response was equally amazing. They used to thank me for my obnoxious comment. I laugh when I think of it even today. No doubt, people used to call me ‘Miss Oxford’ at school. I used to enjoy it when my essays were praised and I loved all the attention showered on me for my creative writing. My audiences were swayed by the way I wrote. The inception for all this was my beloved game ‘Scrabble’.
The game of scrabble was introduced to me by my father. When my father was in Saudi Arabia working for ARAMCO he used to play with international players. He started playing 30 years ago and when he came back to India he had no one to play with. Unfortunately, scrabble is still not a recognized sport in India. But my father loved the game. He taught Mom how to play and started playing with her. I was around 4 years old when I saw them playing together. I also had an interest in the game. Eventually I started playing too. At 6 years I could calculate the scores and play fairly well. This game not only increased my vocabulary, it also developed my mathematical skills. It made my brain sharp as it is a strategic word game. Now, for those who have still not heard about scrabble, let me introduce the game to you. Scrabble consists of a board, 4 racks and a bag of letter tiles. Minimum 2 people have to play the game and a maximum of four people can participate on one board. You have to remove seven letters from the bag randomly without seeing, and place it on your rack. You have to make sure that your opponent is not able to view your tiles. Every letter has a face value. For eg; A,E,I,O,U have a face value of 1 point. Z, Q have a face value of 10, X, J =8 and so on…

Me at Bayer national scrabble championship.
You have to make valid words from the rack in front of you and place it on the scrabble board. The scrabble board has ‘double letter’,’ double word’, ’triple letter’, ‘triple word’ cells which fetch you extra points. If you place a ‘Z’ on a ‘double letter’ cell you would get 20 points. Once a word is played, the opponent has to join the placed word and make valid words. The game starts from the middle cell. The game involves a lot of strategies. A ‘BINGO’, i.e., a seven letter word gives you a bonus of 50 points. This is how my journey for my passion had commenced.
Me with Phaneesh Murthy at the felicitation ceremony of inter-corporate scrabble tourney. 
With my opponent at Bayer national scrabble championship.
I loved the game of scrabble and continued playing the game till I was in my high school. One day I told my dad, ‘I want to be a professional scrabble player.’ My father laughed at me. He said, apart from cricket, no sport is recognized in our country. Constant discouragement veered me away from the game. I was lost. I wanted to represent my country at the international league one day. But I knew I could not earn my bread and butter this way. Scrabble is a game of luck too. 30% depends on the tiles you draw from the bag on which you have no control.  For 4 long years I did not touch the game. I forgot all the intricacies of the game. It did not matter anymore. Although somewhere deep down I still wanted to play and be the best at it. I just wanted some opportunity. I just wanted a reason to start playing again. After four years this wish finally became a reality…

One fine day, My College HR called me to her cabin. I went to her cabin and she showed me a circular. It said IGATE Global Solutions Inter-collegiate scrabble competition. I could not believe my eyes. I was not even sure as to why Vandana Ma’am had chosen me out of 2000+ students for representing my college at this event. She looked at me and said, ‘Zeba, since you are pretty good at English, do you think you could go and play this game?’ I was staring at her incredulously. I could not speak. The feeling was overwhelming. I had finally got the chance I was waiting for. I asked her when it was. She said day after tomorrow. I was a little taken aback. I told her she should have informed me earlier. She said, she was not sure if anyone knew this game so she did not put it on the notice board. Last year she had ignored the circular. I could not believe it! She had not even bothered to post it since she thought nobody would participate. I was sad but now equally ecstatic about the chance I had grabbed. I said I’ll give it a shot even though I knew I had no time to prepare. To top it, I had to arrange a partner too and this was a very tough task. People were seriously not aware about the world’s most popular word game. Finally I took an incognizant partner and went for the tournament. I was surprised. The turnout was good and some of the players were really proficient since they had participated last year too. Yet, I emerged as the top two best teams there. But due to some ugly circumstances I could not go to Bangalore for the finals. I knew if I had to participate next year, it had to be through corporate.

 I was not sure which company I would join or I would still get an opportunity to play professionally. I left the thoughts of scrabble. But destiny had other plans. I joined Mastek and I was spotted by the people who had represented Mastek in the inter-corporate scrabble tourney. My exuberance started all over again. The Scrabble Workshop initiative that the HR team had planned was headed by me. I took the session on the game and enlightened the enthusiastic people who had come to learn the game. I was a part of the organization team who organized indoor sports too. I was also the winner in the intra-corporate scrabble tournament in the singles as well as doubles category. The runner-up lagged behind by more than 350+ points. I was the declared champion of scrabble in Mastek which automatically made me the representative of Mastek in the inter-corporate scrabble tournament held by IGATE. 

I was enraptured. I was a good player but I had lost practice. I was not aware of the international format too.  I played the game with Oxford dictionary all my life. The scrabble dictionary was also a new concept for me. But all this did not deter my spirits. I had to team up with the runner-up to represent Mastek at the inter-corporate level. My partner was a novice, so I knew I had to teach him and also coach myself on the international format. I had the task of going through the inconceivable huge list of scrabble words (Scrabble word-list consists of words which are not English too, for eg aia, aua, qin, bhai , etc are some valid words allowed in scrabble) too. I prepared myself and went ahead. Mastek emerged the best team in Mumbai and qualified for the finals that were going to be held in Bangalore. I was rhapsodic. We had won an all paid trip to Bangalore and the opportunity to meet the world class players. I could not contain my fervor. I am not sure when I had been so felicitous. I fell in love with my organization. I was glad of my decision to join Mastek of all the organizations. Mastek had given me more than I had bargained for. My dying passion was revived. I was being appreciated for playing the game. People came in and lent me hands of support and words of encouragement. Sometimes, I was lashed for my ebullience too. But they were incognizant of how much all this meant to me. I ignored the skepticism and concentrated on the positivity.

It did change my life. The Bangalore experience was worth the entire wait. I met the world champion Nigel Richards. What an amazing personality he was. He blew me away with his aura. I had the best conversation with him. Since I will be writing an entire article on him, I am not stretching this one any longer. I am thankful for the opportunity I got to all the people at Mastek who supported me and appreciated me. I did win the third position in the finals, battling 87+ corporate teams who had participated.  I narrowly missed the first position thanks to some of our negligence and unawareness of the international format. We were still the team with the highest wins and we were leading till the last round. A margin format dropped us to the third position. The corporate which secured the second position had already lost to us with a margin of over 70 points. So, even though I was happy for my achievement I was a little sad for having lost the first position after almost winning the tournament. The world champion witnessed my game and told me that I can play internationally after grooming myself a little more. Now, I had finally procured the reason for keeping my passion alive. Even though I know I cannot make scrabble my career due to lack of cognizance regarding the game, I can still play the game in collimate with my professional life. If I continue with this with determined efforts and concentrated focus, the day seems not far when I will be sitting opposite Nigel Richards representing India internationally!! 

The broken doll...

I wept when I read the news today,
She was outside her house, busy with her play,
An uncle she knew offered her a toy,
She never knew that now she will never find joy...

Hands held high and eyes filled with hope,
She did not even know the meaning of grope,
She was inside the room waiting for some fun,
But she was mistaken, coz there was none…

He took her in his arms and undressed her naked,
She shouted for help but her cries were stifled,
She was molested and raped and bloodied she lay,
She was just a 5 year old, they say…

This gave me goose-bumps and raised my hair,
The brutality was more than she could bear,
Bruised and strangled, he left her there,
She was completely broken, beyond repair…

The question is raised to all this time,
What are we doing to stop this crime?
No respite is seen in all this sorrow,
I dread to see the plight of tomorrow……