There was a sense of disbelief in me when I first heard it. In another 5 minutes or so the news had flown by way of text messages to some 10-15 friends and relatives of mine . I was already imagining as to how the occassion would be, what might be the atmosphere, will IFIM be a fort of the NSGs and the Commandos and lastly... will I get an opportunity to meet? Well... if you feel I have got no work to do after dinner but listen to Kishore Kumar ('Jeevan Se Bhari Teri Aankhein....' playing on my lappy right now), then let me clarify that this is how I was lost when our CEO Mr. Swami Krishnan revealed that Dr. Kiran Bedi, India's first woman IPS Officer would make it to our humble campus for the Convocation cermony of our seniors. Dr. Bedi... more than the jail reforms and her ferocious voice for women empowerment, she was known for her Firebrand speeches which would have attracted the wrath of some extra-celestial but extremely corrupt bureaucrats, top-cops and a host of other netas! Well lets get back to the auspicious again!! ;-)
It's now June 24, 2009. Another 3 days to go for my 'Happy-wala Happy Birthday'. But the date holds significance not for that day but it was the day that we at IFIM were waiting for. It was Convocation 2009. The time is 11AM and I am dressed in my newly bought White Shirt (bought it the previous day) from Westside with about half a year old black trousers. Along with that was the college blazer which is Grey in colour. Also the college tie... least I could say is the tie looks well-off for a Saturday night out on Brigade Road (Red FILA shoes, low waist blue jeans, a corduroy sky blue shirt.. Thats the perfect recipie for our college tie) The poor blazer and the glowing tie are perhaps the two things which have been cursed the most by our batch. Yes! Not even Aishwarya Rai was cursed this much by the girls all over when she got married to Abhishek Bachchan! This made those 2 poor speechless creatures (Tie and blazers) gain some space deep down my heart. I love them as much as the Late Raj Kapoor loved his super-duper and biggest FLOPbuster Mera Naam Joker :-)
Me and Parvez are now in the lobby. Bugged. Bored. We come out in search of some fresh air. We find it. Along with that we find our CEO having a chat (chat as in 'chit-chat'. I have no clue about his khaanewaala chat preferences) with Mr. Shankar Rao, GM of the IT Dept. Customary smiles were exchanged by both parties from a distance. The smile on the CEO's face turned wider. Both parties came closer. I say "Sir... Our college tie" (pointing at the tie). He had a hearty laugh. "Doesn't it look like a party wear?" was my next shot in a hurry. There was no way the CEO could have ducked that. He admits with humility. Admits that the college uniform this time 'burnt our hands'. Now its his turn to take a shot at me. He notices my 'semi-formal shoes'. Some advice there on what kind of shoes holds good on what occassion. He was right. That was my 'formal shoe' always, but that morning I wasn't comfortable with it. I knew it was going to be a momentous occassion and I was only 98% formal. A lesson for me. Our discussion goes on. CGPAs are made public. Now the CEO asks who should be the Guest of Honour for our Convocation. Before my mind could move out of IFIM campus and enter various Corporate Boardrooms, Parvez chirps "May be our next door neighbour?". He was referring to Mr. Nandan Nilekani who then was the Board Member of Infosys, whose campus is a stone throw-away from our campus. CEO says "Done!!". Dhan-dhanadan-dhan. We were so glad. I had to sacrifice Mr. Ratan Tata who came a bit late into my mind. Neverthless, Mr. Nilekani was then a good takeaway for us. Now it's anyones guess if Mr. Nilekani would make it next year. He has to distribute ID cards to 1 billion people. From where the dickens will he find time to distribute 180 Conovcation Certificates?? Having been naive to this at that point of time (we don't have an access to the Infy Boardroom or the PMO you see!) we zero in on Mr. Nilekani and disperse.
Now it is round about 11.30AM. We volunteers/escorts are all set after a round of briefing with the in-charge, Prof. Saurav Saha. I found him highly stressed that day. It was a big job on his shoulders of course. He ensured everything was in order. Those guys who came unshaven were sent back. It took a fortune for Mohit to convince Prof. Saha that his beard will not be spotted by the Guests. However, a few other students who had no business that day in the campus and were spotted in their Levis or Live-In were given a gatepass. Mercilessly. No scope for a face saving exercise either. Whip was cracked and cracked hard. Ouch!!!
Now it was time for the Guests to arrive. First one to walk the red carpet was Mrs. Kalpana Padode. Internal Guest. Better half or Mr. Sanjay Padode, Secretary of CDE Society that runs our Institute. Pooja and me hurriedly make it to her. "Welcome Ma'm", this protocol rested on my shoulders. Pooja presented Mrs. Padode a red rose. Mrs. Padode walks in towards the new building where the pooja was going on. Mantra was being chanted by the Pandit with full Bass and Treble. Even his cellphone which rung with an English hit did not hinder his Sanskrit mantra. Highly committed I must say!! BTW, I remember that loud English ringtone from Pandit'ji's cell-phone had sprnkled some laughing gas. I had inhaled it a lot. So had the CEO. That said, we now had our seniors coming. In groups and individually, some with their families. Very familiar faces. Guys mostly in formals. Those disgruntled ones in casuals. It was better than a 'dharna'. Girls were found dipped in Lakme/Emami/L'Oreal/sundry/miscellaneous et al. It was a sight. Old mates get together. Hugs and no kisses was a scene which soon became common. Flashes flashed. Canon/Nikon/Sony/Kodak were all on song. Every pose was shot twice or thrice. Backup perhaps. Afterall, "If Plan A doesn't work, you need to have a Plan B ready" was preached to these blokes and blondes. There was no leakage of the Corporate Gyaan. It was running in the blood :-))
Now it was time for the External Guests' entry. The Guest of Honour, Dr. Kiran Bedi was so big a name that the other Corporate Czars had to remain a low profile that day. They were glad enough as well. A couple of Guests made it and were escorted to their respective designated person. By then it was lunch time. Around 1.30PM. We make it to the lunch section. The hall is jampacked. Seniors, their parents, our team of escorts and volunteers everyone is vying for an inch of space. Our CEO was 100% right when he mentioned a few months back "Food is the most popular topic in India". Even the Father of Global Recession 2008, Mr. George Bush and former US Secretary of State Miss Condolezza Rice had a similar opinion. They went a step shead and said "Indians eat a lot. Hence there is a shortage of food world over". It was a classic case of 'Verbal Diarrhoea'. Coming back to the topic, as usual there was chaos and unhappiness over the quality of the food served. To be honest, it was a pathetic food I ever had at any of the occassions at IFIM. Smiles on faces of our seniors had turned into frown in no time and rightly so. It was their last tryst with the Institute and had better expectations. It was not to be. Very unfortunate. However, 2 years of hostel food had made them more resolute and stern. Such junk was easily digestible. The Gulab Jamun saved face though. That was the only menu which did not attract lawsuites. My next voluntary project is "Reasons for asymmetry between IFIM students' taste buds and IFIM Hostel food taste"
Back to the entrance/lobby. Comes a white Toyota Innova. Tinted glasses. Heart beats at 144 per minute. Rush of blood suddenly. Gets down DR. KIRAN BEDI!!!! Escorted by Parwez and Aashneet. As she climbs the steps, everyones neck turns into that of an ostrich. Reason, to have a closer look. As she comes up, everyone get into one kinda huddle. One "Good afternoon Ma'm" overlapped the other. Dr. Bedi shows first sign of humility. The number of "Good afternoon Ma'm" from our end was equal to the number "Good afternoon" from her end. She would reciprocate the pleasantries coming her way. Canon/Nikon/Kodak are all in a neck-to-neck once again. Out of the 4-5 shots, I get one clear close-up of Dr. Bedi. She is formally welcomed to the Institute with the traditional 'tilak' and 'aarti'. It looked uncharacteristic on a lady who ruled the world of men i.e. the Police Dept. She was escorted to the CEOs chamber. In there waiting for her were the CEO, Board Members of CDE Society, the other Guests as well. These included the CEO of Virgin Mobiles India, a senior most executive from TCS, one from Sasken Communications. Reliance Money CEO had to cancel his presence owing to last minute appointments. Meanwhile, the mood inside CEO's chamber was upbeat. Why not? You have a woman who can literally give you a solution across the table pertaining to all problems India is facing today. Corruption or Moral Policing, Terrorism or Communalism - She has got an instant solution for all. Unfortunately, it is the political will that is missing.
Dr. Bedi is now dressed in a Convocation suit. She poses for the media photographers. I wriggle in somehow and capture Dr. Bedi in the suit. By then it was time for her to address the media in the Boardroom. There were a few from the world of Press, pressing hard to get an early interview. TOI, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, TV9 and me, the unofficial photographer who gained an unofficial entry inside, courtesy to Mr. Shankar Rao. With a minute's casual chats, the formal interview began. I got my cam on and started the coverage. As it all went on, our beloved Swami Uncle barges in to serve Sandwich and Milkshake to Dr. Bedi. Even the fodder-hungry media got their share of snacks to satisfy their hunger. In another 15 minutes it all concluded. Dr. Bedi answered all questions. But my question was still imprisoned in my mind. "We have seen Dr. Bedi as India's first woman IPS Officer, Dr. Bedi as a social worker. Will we see Dr. Bedi as an MP in 2014?" BTW, here is one of the speeches I covered.
Now after the customary photographs with the pass-outs, Dr. Bedi is in the Auditorium. Accompanying her on stage are the CEO, 3 other Chief Guests, Mr. V B Padode Chairman of CDE Society. The proceedings began with a prayer and the MCs Sarfaraz and Garima making the necessary announcements. Our CEO spoke briefly which was followed by Dr. Bedi's speech. She made an interesting note. She said "You are all tested in various subjects till now. But there are some areas on which you have not yet been tested. Time will test you". Least do I say that she was talking of ethics and values, integrity in business. I tried spotting Dr. Madhumita Chatterjee, who had taken sessions on Business Ethics. What Dr. Bedi spoke was just an extension of what Dr. Chatterjee opined all the time. I have thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Chatterjee's lectures. She was always on the bang. BTW, it was expected that Dr. Bedi will touch on those lines. Afterall, the (A)Satyam scandal was still ripe and fresh in our minds. She also called for more stringent Corporate Laws, failing which we will see Satyams and more of them. Now here is the firebrand quality of her which comes into the forefront. It doesn't matter to her that she is speaking in a BUSINESS School. Or sharing stage with half a dozen Corporate associates. She was upfront and upright. She was 100% right.
Visualise. Dr. Bedi had asked us to visualize what we woould like to become in another 1/3/5/years down the line. The auditorium burst into a roaring laughter when Dr. Bedi said "I never visualized myself stitching buttons on husband's shirt. In fact, I have never stitched one". Dr. Bedi's speech was inspiring and motivating. She had stressed on the women empowerment. There were signs of the same as well. 3 out of 5 Gold Medalists were girls. When this was pointed out by a journalist during the interview, Dr. Bedi had something interesting to say. She says "The girls are excelling because they are hungry for success. Why did Pakistan win the T20 World Cup? Why not Australia or India? Because Pakistan were hungry". How true! Look at the applicability. Reminded me of a Sanskrit verse "Ekam sat, vipra bahuda vadanthi", meaning, "Truth is always one. The learned speak in different ways". The message was clear. We had read about Dr. Bedi's passion towards Tennis. She gave glimpses of the few in her speech. Along with that, the turmoil she had to take clearing her law exams in 1988 amazed me. She had to keep her wireless beside her while writing the exams since there was a communal violence going on at her region. How ironic was that? She had to write law exams when law & order in her region was under threat. Perhaps that was a glimpse of what was going to come!!
The speech was concluded. There was a huge applause on her conclusion. Needless to say that it was all for a gem of a speech we listened. The speakers who followed her admitted that it was tough to speak after a person like Dr. Bedi had completed speaking. It was an universal and undisputable fact. But I have to admit that the speakers who followed Dr. Bedi were equally good. Everyone stressed the need for corporate law reforms, honesty at workplace, integrity to be imbided in us, high degree of sincerity towards our job etc. Dr. Bedi too was appreciatory of the same and acknowledged. I also found her keenly listening to other speakers and noting down some key points. Dates me back to my school days where one of my teachers said "If someone thinks he is wise, then he is foolish. If someone thinks he is foolish, he is wise". Learning can happen from anyone, at any point of time and anywhere. Dr. Bedi was a standing example for humbleness, head on shoulders, positive influence and moreover, a 'Voice of Indian women'. Above all, she still considered herself a learner and not a scholar. She was a 'Walking-Talking Goddess of Ethics'.
In another half an hour the Convocation was over. The National Anthem was sung and we dispursed from the Auditorium. Dr. Bedi had Tea & Snacks at our insistance. I was quick enough to stand behind her and get a snap of mine. Mr. Shankar Rao was kind enough to shoot it from his cellphone. This reminds me that the snap is still with him and I need to get is transferred to mine. Meanwhile, it was time for Dr. Bedi to depart. On the way towards the entrance, there were many a shots once again. Hurriedly. We escorted her to the cab. She thanked us for the hospitality provided (our seniors were still cribbing over the lunch though) and for all the noble gestures that were showered on her. We had thorougly enjoyed her presence. She was stil bubbling with enery at 5.30PM and would have gone discussing with us for another 4 hours or so, hadn't she had any prior appointments and a flight to New Delhi!!
As we saw her off and were getting back to the lobby, the CEO again asks a bunch of students "So whom do you guys want next year?" and this time I am quick enough to say "Ratan Tata". "RNT??? Impossible!" says the CEO thereby promoting a grim on my face. However, we were all thanking him for getting a wonderful personality amongst us for a day. That was THE DAY OF MY LIFE. Thank you Mr. Swami Krishnan and here I come Mr. Shankar Rao to get the most precious snap of my life which is residing in your cellphone. I want it badly and not just satisfied with the autograph of Dr. Bedi! ;-)