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Of Maslow, at La Jolla

So, one fine day, Bahadur called me and asked me to scribble something for this year's Continuum. "Fine", I said. After all how much effort does it take to slap something together about a bunch of guys and gals having a great time all around the globe.

As it turns out, dudes and dudettes, plenty. For a month or more now I have been procrastinating (and evading Lambu's calls) - but I have decided not to dally any longer. And thus, today finds me on the beaches of La Jolla, sipping my Vanilla Capuccino - and contemplating the warm muffin - and thinking about my waistline - and like a true geek, typing this out in vi - my laptop does not have MS Word.

So what has happened to the band of 33 who arrived one sultry summer afternoon at Lanka - and dreaded the fate that lay ahead - not as much the four years of studies but the ragging. For a week we absconded to a temple just outside the BHU gate and listened to people tell us of their illustrious "Uncles" and how much dowry can be fetched in Bihar - or their adventure with prohibited intimate garments. And when we got back, we were ragged!! I remember the seniors tell me then - "This too, shall pass". At the moment I was fed up with the daily travails - which for me personally meant faking expertise in palmistry till 3:00 AM and telling ever Tom Dick and Harry the following - - that he shall soon be in the US, - that he shall marry a beautiful girl, and - he shall be a rich dude.

Talk about the loftier ideals in life - noone seemed to care about them - no world peace, no Magsaysay - no feeding the hungry or clothing the nangas. What had the world come to?!

Then I also realized the obvious - everyone had similar ambitions, desires and fears - just to different degrees - We could always count on Murali on doing his assignment a few hours before dawn - and topo it shamelessly. That similarity grew only stronger during the four years that we were together - and methinks, that somehow in those four years we all took something from IT that shall remain with us forever.

We shall always remember with fond Nostalgia the ghats of Banaras. We all shall remember that calm that came over us at the Mandir; remember how one chai and Lownglata at Bihari was a special treat - especially if someone else was paying for it; remember how we grew more and more confident in our abilities to muggofy one night before the exams. Almost everyone got a taste of Pink Floyd and half the lobby bought guitars. We all were, well, comfortable.

There are two courses that I often remember from IT - and neither has anything to do with computers. One was the class on Philosophy and Ethics. For a few hours each week we'd discuss stuff like "what is truth" - and said mishy-mushy stuff inside that class that we'd promptly deny on stepping outside the class. We all took the class because it did not have a text book, and as ANT famously pronounced on the very first day, "Better minds than yours or mine have grappled with these questions; they have not been able to find answers. Thus, in this class, there are no right answers". Yipeee !! What I did take away from the class was that mankind has been searching for answers to the same questions for centuries - and though they do not have any answers, they are that much wiser for having asked the questions in the first place. As ANT said, the answers do not matter - the analysis of the issue does.

The other class was by SKS. It was the Industrial Management course. Perhaps the only thing I remember from the class was the portion on the theory of motivation - specifically, Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I won't bore you with the details (this reading is enough for that). In a nutshell, the dude said that we have a hierarchy of needs and as the needs at one level get fulfilled, we start to long for those at the next. And that keeps us motivated.

Our class has been through an interesting phase. When we passed out, we were feted, and courted and wooed to join this organisation or the other. I remember Sinha and myself deciding not to sit for certain companies "'cos we do not think that they are paying too much for a job that anyone can do". At the moment, we were idealists. We passed out and I remember 5 dudes in baniyans standing on a roof in Sector 14, Gurgaon and talking about stuff similar to the philosophy class a few years earlier. This was a long time ago (actually only a couple of years, but seems like an entirely different era).

Anyhow, much water has flown beneath the bridge, and as I look around me, I see people settling down, getting married, starting a family, deciding to finally come out of graduate school - and in a few cases, continuing with their PhDs. We are all, once again, comfortably ensconced in our idealistic worlds.

Soon, I know that junta shall get restless again, people shall switch careers, try tacky hairdos, seek to find a "higher purpose in life". How do I know that? I know that 'cos I know that we are similar to so many billions that walked before us; that we are so similar to others that walked out of the gates at Lanka - and because we are all driven by the same ambition and passion as we were when we were at BHU.

For that day my friends, good luck. On that day, burn in your passion and desire. Until that day enjoy yourself and keep dropping an occasional email to me - of only to say that you hated this piece - or that you thought my jokes sucked!

-ashutosh