Financially I was the poorest among my classmates, but I had that air invincibility, I had more control over my life than they had over theirs. I never felt alone even when I was alone because confidence is the greatest friend. In my opinion confidence is the most appealing quality in a human being. However when you are that confident, you attract enemies as well. There were certain guys who considered me as their enemy. I see admirable traits even in someone who has a radically different opinion than mine, so I don’t believe in considering someone as my enemy. However when someone treats you as an enemy it just means that you have stood up against someone for something in your life. I stood up against one particular person who wanted to control the office of the students union for his personal gain. He controlled a coterie of juniors who were willing to do anything for him. In a way he was my alter ego, with supreme confidence, excellent networking and social skills. I don’t want to name him, so let us just call him as Mr. X.
Rajesh, who provided me a place to stay initially, along with another senior, Jayaprasad, asked me to get involved in the college elections for the student’s union. They wanted to take on Mr. X, with my support. Mr. X had a group of ardent followers, they were fanatically following him, that they swore an oath not to attend any classes until their mission was achieved. However, I had no time to get involved with the elections. I had bigger worries like arranging money for the semester fee and so on. I was reluctant, but could not say no to Rajesh. I took the plunge and we started devising strategies to get the votes.
Mr. X was uber confident about the victory of their side, and had promised to shave his head of if I could beat his side in the election. That was the spark I needed, I was thrown an open challenge. I have never shied away from a challenge; but sadly, even my close friends were on the other side. Rajith was our undisputed choice, he was smart, ambitious, charismatic and affluent. He was the only one who had a car and the financial clout to pull in the sponsors for the cultural events. I was interested in becoming an office bearer, but I knew my limitations, I did not have the financial muscle or the time needed to do such a job. However, I knew my strengths too, I can pull in a crowd, organize an event at short notice and had the ability to convince people. I took it upon myself to mobilize the support. I went to the hostels, spoke with my juniors, formed a very cohesive core team. We pulled in all those who were offended by the acts of our opponents.
Very soon I realized that many students who joined us were pretty timid and did so only to counter the aggressive ways of our opponents. Our opponents could stoop to any level, they even threatened and bullied those who supported us. In fact, one of my dearest friends went to my girlfriend and threatened her that I would face dire consequences if I continued to work against them in the elections. The entire act just increased my resolve, and I was not afraid of those threats. They could do nothing worse than what I had already experienced in my life. However they had the political clout, One of them was the son of a leader of the ruling party. With such kind of political clout it was not possible for our supporters to continue supporting us explicitly.
I changed the strategy and asked a few guys to act as trojan horses. Our college is like a representative democracy, the students of a class would elect their representative and the representatives would then elect the office bearers. Our trojan horses pretty soon earned the confidence of our opponents to such an extent that our opponents nominated them for the class representative elections. Rajith and I witnessed most of the class elections, and in one particular class they nominated one of our trojans for the class election. Our trojan won the class election and our opponents celebrated wildly and danced in front of us, however Rajith and I laughed our lungs out. That act threw them off balance, however they could not understand the reason behind our act.
On the morning of the elections, we took all the class representatives who supported us (including our trojans), to a restaurant in Beasant Nagar. Mr. X and his gang had only a few representatives, they were searching for our trojans. They also complained to our faculty about the missing representatives, citing us as the reason for their disappearance. Right at the moment of voting, we brought all our representatives back. When the faculties inquired them about the disappearing act, as we had rehearsed before, all said in unison that they went out for a treat. The opponent camp was devastated, with some guys even crying. The underdogs won against all the odds. Rajith became the President of our student’s union and our supporters took up other positions. I won a personal challenge, and Mr. X true to his word tonsured his head. Irrespective of our differences I have always respected him for his ability to organize and lead people.
Like my school elections, this too taught me a great number of lessons. I always felt that misfortune followed me, but I understood that fortune favors the prepared mind and we could create our own luck when we plan things meticulously.
We conducted one of the best cultural events of our college history. With hindsight it looks silly, but whenever an opportunity presented itself we rubbed it in their face. What started of as an election campaign became a part of my life. The juniors who supported me became my brothers and my life long friends. Jefferson, Jagadheesan, Selva, Nagaraj, Thangaprakash, Ramaswamy, Raju, C. Ram Kumar and few others were like my blood brothers. I just wanted them to be successful in their life as well. Today some of them are fathers with kids, some of them are diplomats, some of them are top level managers but to me they are still my little brothers. Given an opportunity I would just hold their hands and walk with them in the beaches of Beasant Nagar. I am indebted to them, Jagatheesan would ask me every night if I had my dinner (he knew I skipped dinner regularly due to financial constraints) and would take me to a hotel, Jefferson took me to his home during the vacation, where I spend the entire vacation eating his mother’s food served with affection. Thangaprakash spent countless days with me talking everything from cricket to life. Ram Kumar used to fight with me for silly reasons just like a little brother. Raju, wept when I asked him to give me a farewell message in my slam book. Ramaswamy probably spent more time with me than with his parents, he joined me when I quit my job and started a company. Unlike other significant people in my life, they not just influenced my life, they are an integral part of my life.
We played football in the beaches at 2 am, Lied down in the middle of a state highway during mid night, spread rumors, teased everyone in the hostel, explored the city, conducted events and ate together. I can go on and on about those beautiful days, to put it in simpler terms we were family.
A full year after the 2001 bombing of WTC, the economic scenario of India was pretty bad and the jobs offered by the IT Companies in India shrunk to a minimum. Ours was the most coveted university in Tamil Nadu after IIT, Chennai, but placement scenario in our college was pretty bad at that time. I was sure of getting a job, but I wanted to contribute more, I was chosen as the placement and training representative during that year, but things were not easy. I was also unable to arrange the money for my semester fee.
More about my life, job interviews, semester fee and placements in the next chapter.