CAT/IIFT/XAT Prep – My Journey (Part 1)

After the IIFT results were announced in January this year, I received a barrage of messages on Facebook from shortlisted candidates who wanted me to help them prepare for their interviews – turned out that all of them had read my answers on Quora.  I had extremely mixed feelings about this. At first, I was chuffed that these candidates wanted me to help them out. Later, I started getting a bit annoyed by the sheer number of messages but I’d still try to take out time and help everyone out nonetheless because I could empathize with them. I can still clearly remember how I used to scour through Quora, Facebook and Pagalguy in search of tips and advice of any sort. Somewhere along the way, I thought that writing a blog post about my own preparation for CAT and the ensuing interviews might prove useful to some candidates somewhere along the line. This is that post…


When did you start preparing for MBA entrance examinations?

Sometime in my fifth semester of engineering, I decided that I wanted to do an MBA straight after my undergrad. I joined TIME Trivandrum and started attending their CAT classes on weekends from November 2015 onwards (and wrote CAT/IIFT in December 2016).

I don’t think it is necessary to join coaching classes to prepare for CAT/IIFT/XAT and it can easily be managed on your own. However, I tend to procrastinate very often, and hence, decided that attending classes and having a peer group would serve as motivation.

Why did you decide to join TIME instead of X,Y,Z?

This ad!! Watch it!!

Honestly, it’s because there weren’t any good alternatives in Trivandrum. TIME Trivandrum had also built up a pretty good track record over the past few years. It’s always best to try speaking to your college seniors or other acquaintances who have already attended such classes to gauge how good they are.

Did you do extra reading of any sort to prepare for VA/RC?

Not really. I didn’t really feel the need to do too much extra reading since VA/RC was easily my strongest section.

I tried reading Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis but never managed to finish it because I found it boring and repetitive after a certain point of time. However, I recommend that you try reading it because it’ll help you to start thinking about words in a certain way. You can easily pick up second-hand copies from book stalls in your town. Or order one from Amazon!

I also used to read articles posted on Arts & Letters Daily ( Most of the articles posted there are extremely dense and long-winded, which is exactly why you should make reading them a habit. I strongly believe that if you can read an AL Daily article in one sitting without much effort, CAT RC passages will become a piece of cake for you! For this, you slowly need to build your endurance over time. So, do try and read one article per day – without fail!

It’s also very important to develop an understanding of what is happening in the world around you – and this isn’t just to clear the GK cut-off in the IIFT entrance examinations. This will be useful for all your interviews and group discussions for admissions as well as placements, and will stand you in good stead later on in your careers as well. Apps like InShorts and Knappily can help you get started, but nothing beats reading articles straight from newspapers and magazines. I personally like reading The Hindu, The Economist, The Washington Post and The New Yorker.

Did you attend all the CAT coaching classes at TIME? Did you adopt any strategy with respect to the classes and course material?

I tried being as regular as possible with the weekend coaching classes as well the mock CATs that were scheduled regularly. I made it a point to go over every question that was discussed in class or that came up in an AIMCAT until I was sure that I could attempt it if a similar question ever did come up. I felt that was the least that I could do since I was spending around 8-9 hours every weekend on CAT classes and mocks.

I believe that you ought to spend at least as much time analyzing your mocks as you spend attempting them. Go over the solutions to all the questions because you might find a better way of approaching even the ones that you got right on your own. None of the questions in CAT/IIFT/XAT are that hard per se, but what matters more than anything is speed and accuracy. Technique and practice hence become the most important aspects of your preparation. At one point, I even started playing Sudoku to improve my concentration skills.

I was almost obsessive about my performance in AIMCATs and I even maintained a spreadsheet in which I tracked my performance regularly. It helped me stay on course with my CAT prep, while simultaneously handling my undergrad college life. You can take a look at the sheet by clicking here.

(Subsequent parts will be posted soon! If you have any questions that you’d like to ask me, please do post a comment here)

Further Reading:
Reps. Reps, Reps (Of Dollars and Data)
Why Procrastinators Procrastinate (Wait But Why)


Uber Rides

*Unlock phone. Open Uber app. Set pick-up location. Set destination. Set payment mode. Pick UberPool, Go, XL, etc.*

After this, I usually spend the next few minutes wondering whether or not to call up the Uber driver. Some drivers here in Delhi have this horrible tendency of not moving an inch, until and unless you ring them up. In the end, I decide to muster up the required broken Hindi in my Mallu accent and  I call up the driver.

“Bhaiyya, maine abhi Uber book kiya tha. Aap aa rahe ho naa?”

“Haan ji, sir. Aap kaha par ho?”

* heartbreak *

* searching up the necessary words in Hindi to describe my place in the universe to him *

“Main yahaan Sitaram Bhartiya Hospital ke pass hai hoon!”

* Fuck this! *

“Haan ji, sir. Aa raha hoon…”

I scan the horizon for my cab, fervently hoping that he’ll be able to find his way to my location using (this-marvellous-new-technology-that-Uber-drivers-seem-to-have-trouble-using) GPS without my having to call him up again.

As the cab finally approaches, I put on my best poker face so as to discourage the driver from making conversation. In the event that he does, I try to explain… “Main Kerala se hoon. Mera Hindi utna achcha nahin hain.” 

As he pulls over at the drop-off point, he says, “Five star rating de do, sir.” I oblige, secretly hoping that I don’t get a low rating due to my abysmal conversational skills.



My Hindi is improving fast though. Here’s proof…

What does a homosexual farmer selling wheat by the roadside call out?

“Gay hoon, le lo!”

The Great Bank Note Exchange

It’s not every day that my father gives me a torn Rs. 2000 note and asks me to get it exchanged. In an attempt to be the ideal dutiful son, I agree.

It’s not every day that I walk into a public sector bank branch and ask the lady at the “May I help you?” counter for help. It’s funny how the people sitting at such counters never seem to be in a helpful mood.

It’s not every day that I wait patiently in line, only to be told by the cashier that she can’t exchange torn bank notes. Oddly, what she said seemed to be at odds with what my Google search results were telling me.

It’s not every day that I patiently try to explain RBI guidelines to an impatient middle-aged lady manning the cash counter in a crowded public sector bank branch. Or at least that’s what I tried to do, until she politely asked me to fuck off instead of holding up the queue.

It’s not every day that I ask the “May I help you?” lady if I can meet the bank branch manager. “Oh yes, I insist. I want to meet the manager now.” She gives me an ugly look and storms off, to summon the ever-elusive bank manager.

It’s not every day that Ms. Bank Manager is summoned in the middle of a lazy afternoon by a sweaty, but angry young man. She manages to make that very clear. She refuses to exchange my torn bank notes and proceeds to interrogate me much to the amusement of the other people in the bank:

Bank Manager:
'There seems to be something wrong with this note.
It seems to be fake.'
(holding it up against the light,
in an effort to see Gandhiji better)

Me: .....

Bank Manager: 'Where did you get this note from?'

Me: 'My father got it from an HDFC bank ATM.'

Bank Manager: 'Then why don't you go exchange it
at HDFC Bank? Do you have an account there?'

Me: 'No, I have an Axis Bank account.'

Bank Manager: 'It's not every day that big
private bank customers walk into a humble bank
branch like ours to exchange torn notes'

It’s not everyday that I find myself losing my temper, but I think it’s only natural to do so when someone mocks you in front of an entire bank branch. I try bringing up the RBI guidelines again, in an attempt to enlighten the bank manager, in a scene straight out of those irritating Idea! internet advertisements.

It’s not every day that Ms. Bank Manager has to say ‘No!’ twice before someone gets it. But this was definitely one of those days.

'Ma'am, in that case, may I have your name?'

Bank Manager:
'Why do you need that for?'

'I'll need it for the complaint that I'll be writing
to the RBI. And ma'am, I'm pretty sure that I can
find your name online anyway. Have a nice day!'

Bank Manager:
'Wait a minute! If you have valid ID proof, you
can exchange your bank note here. No need for any
complaint business!'

Like I said… It’s not every day that my father gives me a torn Rs. 2000 note and asks me to get it exchanged.


The funny thing about memories is that they tend to fade away until you’re often left with little more than a feeling. Feelings stay with you forever, especially regret.
Being a quizzer, I’ve come to enjoy the glorious uncertainty that comes with hazarding a guess while you’re on the buzzer. I’ve experienced both the elation that comes with getting it right as well as the dejection that accompanies a wrong answer.
Ask any quizzer and they’ll tell you that the worst feeling is when you think know the answer to a question. You can feel it coming. It’s right at the tip of your tongue. You start explaining the answer. The quiz-master starts nodding his head, because you’re going in the right direction but then you see dismay on his face. You were unable to give him the answer that he was looking for. As much as he wants to award you points, he can’t because there are other people waiting with the correct answer.
I can still recollect the feeling of helplessness that engulfed me when my parents asked me who she was. They say that mothers know everything about you. If so, I wouldn’t have been asked this question at all. It was a sitter, way too easy. And the worst part was that I wasn’t prepared for this question. Deep down inside, I knew the answer though. I tried my best to put it into words but couldn’t do so properly. In the end, all that I managed to say was that I needed to talk to her, and that it was extremely important for me to do so. Unfortunately that wasn’t the answer that my parents were looking for.
Almost five years have passed since, and I don’t think I can answer that question any better now. I just hope that they don’t throw the same question at me again.

What The Book Exchange Brought About…

I received a bucket-load of messages on Facebook in response to one of my recent blog posts, The Facebook Book Exchange Scam. Through today’s post, I want to share what happened after a girl named Liz from Kochi messaged me. Here’s what she had to say, “First of all, I appreciate your concern. It was really kind of you to share this with everyone rather than keeping it to yourself. And to answer your concern, yes, maybe someone may get left out without any book. For all I know, it could be me but instead of taking it in a negative sense, why can’t you try and look at it positively? Maybe some random stranger will be getting the most advantage out of this chain, but apart from your little loss, it is only books that they are receiving. Therefore even if someone is lucky enough to get the most of it, it doesn’t cause any harm. Instead it causes only good. Remember you’re spreading an infinite amount of knowledge. You are gifting a book that will probably brighten the life of a stranger. I’d say that it is probably one of the best ways to start the new year. And in your post, you say that it is better to gift a book to your friend instead but kindly tell me how many of us would have normally gift a book to a friend? You have decided not to participate in this chain, which is completely your decision and I respect that, but I think it’s okay if we sometimes choose a path which is not so ideal to make someone happy. If we start reacting to each and every flaw that you come across then there will be no real existence for any of us. We live in completely imperfect world filled with imperfect people. So I request you to please focus on the bright and positive aspect of this activity. And I’ll admit that in my Facebook post I should have written that you ‘may’ receive 36 books.”

After reading her message, I was kind of shell-shocked for a myriad of reasons. For instance, I couldn’t believe that someone would actually take the time and effort to compose such a long, heartfelt message to a random stranger like me. I was also quite unsure as to how to respond to her but I guess it was the cynic in me who finally replied, “Since you’re happy enough sending a book to a random stranger and spreading knowledge, would you send me a book for Christmas even if you knew that I wasn’t going to send one back?” I was fervently hoping that she would say ‘No’ but she actually said that she would be more than happy to do exactly that.

For those of you who know me personally (and for the few of you who know me through this blog), you might already know that I’m extremely cynical at times. According to Wikipedia, ‘A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in the human species or people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a cynic perceives as vain, unobtainable, or ultimately meaningless and therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. A common misapplication of this attitude involves its attribution to individuals who emote well-thought-out expressions of skepticism.‘ By such a definition, I really don’t know whether to call myself a cynic or a skeptic. All I know is that while optimists and pessimists might argue that a glass is half-full or half-empty, I’m the kind of person who thinks that it’s better to just chuck the glass altogether and drink straight from the bottle!

All the same, the manner in which I replied to Liz made me feel bad at first. It was only on the afternoon of December 30, 2015 that I started to feel downright horrible about it. That is when I received a package from Liz via post. It contained a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara. In it, she’d written a quote by Che, ‘If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.’ I was absolutely shattered on receiving Liz’s package. There are a lot of questions that I need to ask myself (for instance, where does all this cynicism stem from?) and I am pretty sure that finding the answers to them won’t be easy.

Have you noticed all those memes that say ‘Faith in humanity restored’? Liz, I think that’s what you’ve done to a certain extent. Thank you for that. I really don’t know what else to say at this point of time. I still strongly feel that the book exchange is not a great idea but at the same time, I’ve decided to change my outlook towards life. Maybe tone down the cynicism a little bit… I’ll try to, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride…


I first saw her on the opening day of school in seventh standard. Do you know that feeling when you feel like talking to someone the very first time you see them? That’s exactly what I felt as she walked into class that day. As always, she was late and you could see her go red as the teacher scowled at her. She meekly walked into class and took her seat somewhere behind me. During the English period, our teacher asked us to read the poem ‘Daffodils’ and try to make sense of it. As luck would have it, she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘pensive’. She tapped my shoulder and asked me if I happened to know the meaning. Coincidentally I didn’t know the meaning either but I was never one to shy away from a challenge, nor the kind who admitted to not knowing something. She was looking at me expectantly and I simply had to give an answer. With an easy swagger that came out of knowing that nobody in class had a dictionary, I assured her that pensive meant solemn. I knew it was something close enough and that was all that mattered then, I guess.

You know how there is this certain point when someone goes from being a friend to a FRIEND? Sometimes the change happens so slowly that it is almost imperceptible but sometimes you just know when it happens. In our case, it happened one afternoon during the Biology period. Our teacher used to ask us to bring our workbooks once in a while and she’d go absolutely ballistic if anyone happened to forget. As luck would have it, I just couldn’t seem to find my workbook in my bag. I know what you’re thinking right now but honestly, I’m not as forgetful or absent-minded as Nikhil would like you to believe. I remember becoming extremely flustered as I went through the contents of my bag over and over again because I remembered seeing the book in there that morning. Nikhil seemed to notice that something was amiss and smirked. I could almost imagine him grinning while Anitha teacher scolded me and chucked me out of the class. Seeing that I was close to tears, he simply pushed his Biology workbook towards me… ‘Take it. I don’t mind getting kicked out of class. I’m used to it anyway.’ I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why he’d actually do something like that for me…

Sounds like a pakka movie at this point, na? Actually I just didn’t give two fucks about getting into trouble because I was so used to it by then. What difference would standing outside class one more time make? And besides, I knew that she needed that book way more than me. When you know that someone else wants something much more than you do, it’s so much easier to make that sacrifice for them. But in the end, she did find her workbook and neither of us got chucked out of class…

Dilwale: Movie Review

WARNING: Contains Spoilers.

There are these movies that you watch only because one of your friends calls you up and says, ‘Let’s go watch that film. Heard it’s really bad. I wanna see how bad it can get. Trust me, we’ll have fun.’ Dilwale is definitely that kind of movie. And it doesn’t disappoint. Not one bit. What else can you possibly expect from a Rohit Shetty film? After all, this is the same guy who directed all three Golmaal films. And Singam. And Chennai Express. And Singam Returns.  And from the way he’s going, it won’t be long before Singam Returns! Again!!

Dilwale is extremely predictable. There’s your usual dose of seemingly harmless gunshots, cringe inducing action sequences and shout-outs to old Bollywood films. Shah Rukh Khan is named *you guessed it right* Raj yet again. Because naam toh suna hoga! In case you were wondering, SRK has played a character named Raj in 8 films. And he’s played a character named Rahul 8 times. And towards the end of the film, you find out that he was adopted. But wait, didn’t they already do that in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? Ah, who cares anyways?

I’m someone who loves puns. I love coming up with really lame ones. One of the reasons I love Eminem is because of his puns. There comes a point when you have to learn to say NO to all good things, even puns. (Read: Diminishing Marginal Utility) Dilwale comfortably manages to overshoot that point. By an entire light year. And yes, it is a unit of distance.  For instance, ‘Raj bhaiyya, Veer was going fast. That doesn’t mean you have to become furious.’ In case you somehow manage to miss that reference to F&F, they subtly reinforce it through the fact that half the movie takes place in a garage. If you ever pay a visit to SRK’s garage in the movie, have no fear because gaadi par Raj raj karega.

Kriti Sanon plays a character called Ishita, fondly called Ishu. And somehow everyone seems to have an issue with Ishu.  There are a few moments of startling clarity like when Johnny Lever’s character Mani (if I remember correctly) wonders out loud whether you present somebody with a gift or you gift a present?

If anyone was wondering where the wreckage of MH370 was, you’ll be astonished to learn that the crew of Dilwale managed to find it in Iceland and even included it in the Gerua song sequence. The song-writing reaches a whole different plane altogether at times like when ‘Tera jalwa dekha toh dil huaa Milkha’ in Manma Emotion Jaage. What did Milkha Singh ever do to you, huh? There’s also this sequence where SRK is upside down in his car and Kajol asks him if his duniya palat gayi… Strictly rhetorical question, of course. Right after that, Kajol breaks the fourth wall by looking straight into the camera and asks quite seriously, ‘Kaisi lagi meri acting. World class, no?’. Again, strictly rhetorical but nobody in the theater seemed to get that. Everybody took her too seriously and started screaming, ‘Nooooo!’


Watch Dilwale only if you appreciate bad puns. And for an opportunity to see Johnny Lever in action once more.

The Facebook Book Exchange Scam

As is my wont during the exam season, I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed when I noticed numerous posts which said: ‘There’s a book exchange chain going on. I need six people of any age to participate in it. All you have to do is send one book and you will receive 36 in return. Let me know if you’re interested and I will PM you the information.’

As someone who loves reading, the entire scheme piqued my interest. But at the same time, it seemed way too good to be true. So I did what any sane person in such a situation would do, I carried out a Google search. Always remember, when in doubt, Google!

After a little googling, I found out that schemes of this sort are called pyramid schemes. I’ll try to illustrate how a pyramid scheme works. Let’s assume that you convince 6 of your friends to participate in the book exchange. For this to work, each of them will have to refer 6 friends. So 6 friends*6 referrals make 36 people. It is these 36 people who send you books. So far, so good. But now if all six of your friends are to receive their 36 books, 216 people would have to be involved in the next level of the pyramid. The number of people involved in each level of the pyramid keeps increasing since we’re dealing with a geometric progression.

1… 6… 36… 216… 1296… 7776… 46,656… 279,936… 1,679,616… 10,077,696… 60,466,176… 362,797,056… 2,176,782,336… 13,060,694,016

Try going fourteen levels deep and you’ll have already surpassed the entire human population on earth. But usually such pyramid schemes fizzle out long before they hit such numbers. One reason is that at some point, your circle of friends is going to overlap and get saturated. The second reason being that your scheme will quite simply run out of people who are interested in participating. At this point you might be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal? Even if I get just one book in return for the book that I send out, I’ll be happy.’ Let us take the best case scenario where you receive 36 books since you’re lucky enough to be on one of the first few levels of the pyramid. However at the end of the day, the people you refer could be the ones losing out. Stop and think for a moment. In reality, aren’t you cheating the people below you on the pyramid? The people who might end up receiving absolutely nothing at all? I don’t see how you people can raise the argument that this is harmless fun when you’re basically misleading people into participating in this chain by saying ‘buy one book, get 36 books in return.’

Let’s take the math a little further and assume that our chain propagates quite successfully and our pyramid becomes 8 layers deep, which is reasonable considering how the post has spread on Facebook, and let us assume that all the people in the first 6 layers of the pyramid receive their books while those in the seventh and eighth layers do not receive any. This assumption is valid since people who receive books receive them from those two layers below them on the pyramid.
Number of people in the first 6 levels=1+6+36+216+1296+7776=9295
Number of people in levels 7 and 8=326,592
Percentage of people in the first 8 levels who get books=2.86%
Percentage of people in the first 8 levels who do not get any books=97.14%

Do you still feel comfortable sharing a post that basically cheats 97.14% of the people participating in it? Do you still think that this is harmless fun? And don’t forget that we assumed that everyone in the first 6 layers gets at least one book. The actual figures are definitely going to be worse. The percentage of people left empty-handed remains pretty much the same even if you assume that the chain is even more succesful and extends to more levels. Don’t believe me? Do the math!

The fact that books are involved seems to lower everybody’s guard.  Would you feel as inclined to participate in an exchange program like this if someone said, ‘Send Rs. 500 today to the bank account mentioned and you’ll soon get Rs. 18000 via bank transfer very soon.’ Now it sounds like a proper scam, doesn’t it? So if you’re into reading and all you want to do is spread the joy of reading, why don’t you just surprise one of your friends with a book? At least you can be sure that they are pretty likely to return the favour somewhere down the line.

A similar model, that takes advantage of a geometric progression, called Ghost to Ghost hookup is used in the Three Investigators series of novels. Whenever the Three Investigators (Jupiter, Peter and Bob) need any sort of  information, each of them calls up five friends and ask for what they need. If their friends can’t pitch in with info, they’re each asked to call up five of their friends and pass on the message. Pretty soon, all the kids in Rocky Beach are on the lookout and it’s inevitable that the Three Investigators will get their hands on the info that they need sooner or later.

At the end of the day, if anything seems too good to be true, it probably is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pyramid scheme that promises you insane returns for a small investment or a Nigerian princess stuck in the UK who needs money to get back home, you should watch out for the Internet is dark and full of terrors. And if anybody actually does get 36 books through this chain, I’ll eat my hat. Not that I even have one…

You might want to share this post with friends and family who might fall victim to this scam. And you might also be interested in knowing that pyramid schemes and related Ponzi schemes are illegal in India as well as numerous other countries. (Read this)

In case you’re planning on buying books online, click here to view the best deals offered by Amazon.

Wordly Matters

Having done my schooling in Trivandrum, I grew up speaking Manglish, a mixture of Malayalam and English. At school, my classmates and I invariably ended up giving all our English teachers a really hard time.  I remember how exasperated my high school English teacher, Mrs. Sheila Thomas,  would get if she came across a sentence like ‘The car is black in colour‘ while correcting our answer papers. I can still picture her screaming, “Isn’t it obvious that black is a colour, then why do you keep writing like this?”

Our physics teacher in eleventh grade, Narayanankutty sir, used to announce in class, “The last date for submitting your physics records is tomorrow.” And somebody in class would hopefully ask, “Tomorrow itself, sir?” At this point, Nakku sir (as he was fondly called) would chuckle to himself and say, “When I say tomorrow, I mean tomorrow. I don’t need to add the itself.” He had countless other Nakkuisms such as “You think entrance exams are tough? Wait till you get to college, then you’ll understand that the exit is harder than the entrance.” Another was, “As your Physics teacher, I cannot teach you what to do in the lab. Rather, I can only teach you what NOT to do. The rest is up to you.” Damn. I miss his classes and his weirdness.

When it comes to writing in English,  less is often more. To illustrate this, my father used to tell me a story when I was younger. A newspaper editor walks up to a fishmonger who has put up a sign that says ‘FRESH FISH SOLD HERE’ and says that the sign is extremely redundant. He goes on to explain,  ‘Isn’t it obvious that you’re selling fish here? So you can remove the HERE. And since it’s obvious that you’re not going to give away the fish for free, you might as well remove the SOLD.  Nobody would buy fish that’s rotten, so you can remove the FRESH as well. As for the FISH, you can take that down as well. It can be smelt from half a mile away.’ Wonderful story, ain’t it? It’s a perfect example of how we should not be obsessed with ‘wordly’ matters. Let’s be a little stingy from now on.

Trivandrum is too rude, dude!!

When I joined CET a couple of years ago, I was surprised to hear most of my batch mates from outside the city complain about the rudeness of people in Trivandrum. Having grown up in the city myself, I never thought there was much truth in what they said. I used to think to myself that maybe it was because they were new in town and weren’t accustomed to the ways and manners of people here. I thought it was only a matter of time before they too would learn to love this quiet little city, that I call home.

However, over the past one year, I’ve come to agree with those batch mates of mine to a certain extent. It all started off when I went to Kozhikode to attend Tathva (NIT-C’s intercollegiate tech fest). I boarded a bus from the city’s main bus stand. I was suspicious at first because the conductor of the private bus that I boarded didn’t give me a ticket. He simply pocketed my money and moved on. Seeing that I was bewildered and an outsider to boot, a random passsenger on the bus reassured me saying that you didn’t get tickets on private buses there. Later, as the bus got more and more crowded, I was in for a pleasant shock. The conductor sidled up to me and said, ‘Lesham mumbilottu neengavo?’, which translates to ‘Could you please move forward a bit?’ I tried to dismiss his politness as a one-off incident, but I’ve come to conclude that bus conductors in Calicut tend to be insanely nice. I’ve had similar experiences in Thrissur too. Back home in Trivandrum, bus conductors just tend to holler at you, ‘Mumbilottu neengada!‘ (‘You! Move to the front!’) If you’re lucky enough to catch them in a good mood, you’d hear, ‘Neengikke! Neengikke! Mumbilottu neengu!‘ (‘Move! Move! Move to the front!’)

And no, bus conductors in Trivandrum aren’t just rude when it comes to crowd control on a bus. If you’re naive enough to not have the exact change for your ticket, you could face reactions ranging from, ‘Chilarayilaatheyaanu ivanokke busil kerunathu!‘ to a cold stare conveying utter disbelief, akin to how you might react if a complete stranger nudges you on a bus and asks if you’d be willing to donate your right kidney to them.

Auto drivers in Trivandrum are usually no better. They seem unwilling to go short distances, long distances, into the city, to the suburbs, to the outskirts and pretty much anywhere at all during the night or if it’s raining. If you’re lucky enough to convince an auto driver to go somewhere in the general vicinity of your destination, the fare is magically rounded off to the nearest multiple of ten. At least it saves you the bother of carrying around coins. When I went to Bombay to attend Mood Indigo last year, I was awed by how auto drivers there only charge you the exact fare as shown on the meter. No more, no less! (as Henry the penguin from Oswald would say)

What irks me the most in Trivandrum however is the way in which migrant construction workers from states like Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Orissa are treated. Considering their numbers, it’s amazing how they’re almost invisible. They quietly go about their jobs, sincerely and diligently. As a result, the term ‘Bengali’ is used to refer to people who work their assess off, in CET parlance. Being unable to read the bus sign boards, which are mostly in Malayalam and because people at the bus simply refuse to help them out, these labourers unwittingly end up on the wrong bus quite often. And once they’re on the wrong bus, they’re at the mercy of the irate conductor, who more often than not, belittles and ridicules them to entertain the other passengers. They are repeatedly subjected to insults of this sort at shops and eateries too.

And this behaviour isn’t directed only at migrant labourers, all outsiders seem to be at the receiving end of our intolerance. And all this, in the capital city of a state that takes pride in being the most literate in India. The way things are going here, it won’t be long before we have our very own equivalent of the MNS or Shiv Sena. Considering that we’re a city dependent on outsiders, ranging from the migrant labourers who are building Technopark to the software engineers working at Technopark, the least we could do is to show everyone a little respect and be slightly less rude. What do you say?