In August 1989, a group of 60 students joined the Osmania University College of Commerce and Business Management (OUCCBM) with all sorts of motives and objectives.
The OUCCBM had recently moved from being one of the many departments in the majestic Arts College building on the Osmania University campus, to a separate building created next to the Law College.
With a new identity and fresh ideas, the OUCCBM burst with energy. The MBA, as a professional course, was catching on those days. Everyone thought the MBA was the route to corporate success (money) and other accompaniments like pin striped suits, flights, cars, money and the good life (not to mention good looking women secretaries etc) which was in sharp contrast to the dowdy government job as an option. (All who had the US option had left or were packing to leave.)
Not many of us knew what business was (except a couple) nor about management, but we hoped to get it right in two years, if not master it. I did not want a Civil Engineering job. The MBA offered me a lifeline, an escape. I thought I could join the corporate world and end up with a life like they show in the ads - a car, house, wife, kids, dog. Somehow I thought that life would pan out that way. I decided to put my heart and soul into this course - something I had not done ever - hoping that all the rest would follow.
The Osmania University campus had been home to me for the past four years. During that period I studied Civil Engineering and played first class cricket apart form doing many things that need not be mentioned here. From my Engineering College class, Sanjay and I joined the class of OUCCBM 91 together.
At the OUCCBM we discovered familiar faces. Sridhar Neelam (now Commissioner Customs, Pune, then keen cricketer and philosopher), was my batch mate from OUCE, from EEE. I met Shobha, introduced to me by Rithu, my junior from the Engineering College who instructed me to take care of her and I have been dutifully doing so ever since (I hope Rithu is listening). I knew Vijay, who played cricket along with me since school days, me representing All Saints and he, Little Flower.
Others from OUCE included Pankaj, Ramana, Arvind, Nishikant and Esther - I knew them all well. Over time I came to know the rest - Sunnie, Bijju, Ramanand, Satish, PV, Sudheer, Sudhir, Sudha, Vinay Soni, Sharath, Vijay Lakshmi, Visa, Hema, Saritha, Annie, Chandra, Kashinath, Sreeramulu, Vinod, Radhakrishna, Radhakishan, Madhu, Ravinder, Sridhar, Devender, Pragati, Prasanna, Ramesh, Venkateshwarlu, Veeraprakash, Venkataswamy, Venkataramana, and the others. Some abandoned ship midway but the rest of us continued till the two years made something of us.
Prof Govardhan Reddy was the Head of the Department, an imposing figure with a deep voice and a strict demeanour. He meant well and was a good sport. He was assisted by a worthy lot of Professors - CS Shyamsunder, Trivikram, Balaji, Hanumantha Rao, Narendranath Menon, Maruthi Ram, Madhusudhan Rao, Shekhar and others. Our academics were in safe hands. It was up to us to make the most of it.
Apart from the sports room and the dingy bars on the outskirts of the campus, the insufferable Liaquat, puny and whiney, provided entertainment and refreshments by establishing a small tea stall - a prescribed 100 yard distance from the college. He stood on the hillock like Samba guarding Gabbar's hideout. His main aim in life was to violate the 100 m line of control and get closer to his market but he was kept in check by the watchful BGR.
CSS's class would begin as early as 830 in the morning which was a fine time to start classes. Daily routines included attending classes and staggering off to Liaquat's territory at first break like addicts. From the tea stall many vanished without a backward glance while others returned to class. Lunch was at Arts College canteen or in homemade dabbas, a visit to the library and sleep (or read), or go off to a movie. Sometimes we indulged in co curricular activities. Once in a while there were exams.
The placement activity brought jobs to Sunnie, Ramanand, Visa (PCL), Sudha, Ramana (BPL), Satish, Pankaj (Signode), Shobha, Saritha (Gandhi Consultants), Shrini, Sudheer and Sanjay (Onida). The rest found jobs on their own or found something else to do.
There was a farewell party for us on the first floor - a fine affair. We were told to come in formals and ties and we did. Satish Singh landed up in jeans and chappals, smiling sweetly like an angel with a mouthful of the chicest Hyderabad gaalis.
If we all thought we'd become CEOs after that (actually PV did become one) we did not. But none of us have ended up in
jails either – as far as I know. Some of us used time and energy wisely while some (like me) showed suicidal tendencies in chucking everything up and picking up careers not trained for. But we survived. I wonder if the college had greater
expectations of us. If it did, it never showed.
Most of us made it through these 25 years.
Two much loved friends Sharath and Vijayalakshmi left us a tad early. Both succumbed to ill health - Sharath battled diabetes and kidney issues heroically for two decades with amazing grace and the sweet and beautiful Vijayalakshmi to cancer. But they lived well and left us with fine memories and indelible impressions of being fabulous souls. We carry a part of them within us.
During the two year stint at this college I found a process, and revisited the basics of hard work, of being honest, of backing your strengths
and standing your ground. In retrospect this gave me much of the courage to
take some of the decisions I did. I somehow knew I could back myself to get out of a hole.
After the farewell party we left on our own directions. Thankfully some of us stayed in touch - Sunnie, Shobha, Bijju, Pankaj, Satish, Shrini, Ramana, Vijay, Sanjay, Sudheer, Sharath, Visa are those I remember.
In October 2016, the idea of a silver jubilee meeting germinated. Pankaj proposed the idea.
A Whatsapp group was started. enthusiastic supporters roped in. We met at Minerva Coffee Shop. I attended with Sudheer, Ramana, Bijju and Pankaj. The verdict was Yes - but with subtext.
|Bizz, Bond, Pankaj, Shobhs, Me, Visa, Shrini, Satish, Sudheer, Vinod, Chandra, Ravinder|
Sreeramulu, Vijay, Vijay T, Sunnie, Nishikant,
One thing led to another and we finally got about 21 of us to attend the function on the 17th December. Radhakishan is missing in this iconic picture with the Vice Chancellor of Osmania University, Professor Ramchandram. He arrived late.
The 21 - and what they are up to now
Sunnie (Shankar Narayan), Atlanta, US - Philosopher, martial arts expert, cycling champ, thinker, writer, Super Dad, great sport
Visa (Visalakshi), California - Adventurer, traveller and global citizen,
Vijay T, Bahrain - Chief Risk Officer, Banking
Radhakishan Vootla, Nebraska, Omaha - Principal Engineer, Union Pacific Railroad
Madhu Shakelli, New Jersey - Software
Satish Singh, Owner - Tetrahedron Consulting, Dubai - Marketing research firm Tetrahedron Consulting
Sridhar Pulei, Chennai - Senior Manager, Highway Retailing, HPCL
Ravinder, Solapur - Senior Regional Manager Sales HPCL
Shobha Nargundkar- Hypnotherapist, Radical Forgiveness coach, Counsellor
Nishikanth - Senior Engineer, ONGC
SV Ramana (Bond/Mirchi bajji) - Superintendent, Central Excise, Hyderabad
Bharadwaj (Bijju) - AGM, HDFC, Hyderabad
Pankaj - Boss, Nirmal Enterprises, Hyderabad
Prof. Sreeramulu - OUCCBM, Osmania University
Vijay (Malli) - Superintendent Central Excise, Hyderabad
Chandra - Senior Manager Finance, BDL
Shrinivas A (Shrini) - Global Head, HR Shared Services
Sudheer- GM, Sales, SAARC Region, Great Sports Infra
Vishwa Prasad - Owner Software Company
Vinod - Superintendent, Central Excise,
Harimohan P - Writer, CEO Coach. Speaker, Full time escapist
Those who could/did not make it:
Anil Kumar - Not traced
Arvind Kumar, Hyderabad - Software
Annie, US - Homemaker
Dev, Delhi - Big shot in the Railways
Hema, Sydney - Homemaker
Kashinath, Maryland, USA - SAP Practitioner
Koteshwara Shasstri - Not traced
Krishna - Not traced
Narasimhachary - Not traced
PV, NY, USA - CEO, Open Source Solutions
Pragathi, Hyderabad - SBI
Prasanna Kumar - Not traced
Radhakrishna, Hyderabad - Professor, Marketing Management, NMIMS
Ramanand, Dubai -
Ramesh, Belfast, Ireland - Software
Sanjay, Hyderabad - Own business
Sarita, Hospet - Homemaker
Sridhar N, Pune - Commissioner, Service Tax
Sudha Swaroop, Cochin - Indianoil
Sudhir K, Hyderabad - Director, Learning and OD. GVK Bio
Venkataramana- Not traced
Vinay Soni, Nizamabad - Own business
(to the best of my knowledge which is not much - please correct me if I got it wrong)
D Day - December 17, 2016
On D Day Shobha, Sunnie and I went together at 1130. Nishikanth was there and so were Shrini and Ramana, Bijju came in next. Visa. Pankaj, a while later. Sudheer, Ravinder, Sridhar, Vinod, Vijay T, Chandra came in. Sreeramulu was busy organising many surprises for us, Satish came. Vijay came with the t shirts while we were at the chai joint.
|Welcome to the jungle|
Radhakishan said he would join us late. Sridhar Pulei came. Vishwa. We wore the reunion t shirts, changing into them right there (the more shameless ones among us) near the chai shop, sipped chai like in the old days (Liaquat is long dead, some smooth talking usurper has taken his place), took pictures and ended up inside the hall.
Shrini prepared a lovely AV of our old days with pictures etc and a power point that had the old Memories and the new reality - 25 years down. Most of our colleagues could be tracked down.
Shrini's AV and the Star Wars ppt were the highlights of the morning pretty much just as his energetic compering of the show was.
|Favorite Prof HR|
|Intense discussions - I am not paying!|
|HR again - hasn't aged a bit|
|Vijay's found something interesting|
|Bizz and Visa find something funny at Najma's expense|
|Wishing Prof. Shekhar, Principa, OUCCBM|
|Shrini, MC par excellence, getting the show going|
|Chandra, Sreeramulu, Sridhar Pulei, Vinod walking in style|
The students of the present day batch put up a show for us - music, dance. Our Professors were low in attendance - Shekhar, Hanumantha Rao, AVS, Narendranath Menon, Chandrika were present.
|Guard of honor|
Shrini and Sreeramulu got the show off to a rousing start.
The Vice Chancellor Prof S. Ramachandram graced the occasion which was a pleasant surprise.
|Meeting the Vice Chancellor Mr. Ramachandram|
|Pankaj holding forth|
I spoke. On relevant themes - Cruelty and Survival,
|Najma being felicitated by Satish - with too much gratitude for someone who never visited the library|
|HR being felicitated by Sridhar|
|Narendranath Menon in his inimitable style|
Prof Narendranath Menon spoke in his inimitable manner and HR spoke warmly of the occasion.
|HR speaking |
|Vice Chancellor Mr. Ramchandram speaking|
Chandrika madam told me happily that her son was a huge fan of Golconda High School. The felicitation program for the Professors got underway.
|Giving Ms. Chandrika a copy of 'The Men Within'|
I gifted the Profs a copy of my earlier books. One copy for the library to Najma, who used to be 25 years younger then (we were too).
Some more pictures and we went out to have a fine lunch. Most of us went inside the college once again to see the classrooms, the sports rooms. Finally it was time to say bye to the college and head to Leonia resort.
At Leonia Resort
At Leonia we checked into the place, ate some snacks and tea, checked into our rooms and came in to the designated hall by 730 dressed in our party clothes.
|Vijay, Sreeramulu and Sunnie at Leonia|
There was a karaoke singer Richard, who sang well. fine drink and great company to catch up on.
|Chandra, Me, Nishi, Ravinder and Sudheer|
We hopped table to table, checking old pals and catching up. Chandra stole up to the mike and started singing.
|Me, Vijay, Satish, Bijju and Sudheer|
Then the usual suspects sang. I sang a song (I'd sung 'Aise na majhe tum dekho' at NAARM 25 years ago and sang the same one again).
|Me singing helped along by the fabulously talented Richard|
Satish sang one (he also sang the same song he had sung then 'Nadiya se Dariya').
Sridhar sang beautifully (Hansini). Sudheeer did too. Biju and Visa also did. But Radhakishan stole the show with his thunderous renditions of Telugu, Hindi and even a Tamil song. Fantastic.
|The singing sensation - Radhakishan Vootla belting em out|
|Selfie time - Bijju and Pankaj|
Radha told me he could sing 200 songs off hand, that he had sung in a band and had learned the rudiments of classical singing from his father. We clapped and clapped. The party went on and on.
|A sombre moment for Visa, Shobha and Sunnie - probably watching me singing |
At some point every one danced as as expected - thankfully I was away while this activity was going - and returned when it was almost done. Nishikanth was revelation on the floor with his nifty moves, Vijay did an obscene number,
|Sreeramulu, Radha, Sridhar and Vinod|
Ramana shook a few body parts, some fat and flubber was in action on other bodies, and everyone shook a leg - almost. Satish seized the mike and started off with his old and familiar expletives - an act that seemed to have settled him - he was unusually quiet all morning with a cough.
|Vijay and Radha|
After addressing us all fondly with his choicest gaalis, he proceeded to sing a couple of songs, completing them heroically even though his voice was giving up and cough was interrupting his singing.But just the effort was beautiful. He is not the sort to give up.
By now the spirits were high.
For a full two hours or more after that, Vijay held centre stage and made us all laugh and laugh and laugh. We finally ended the party at 2 in the morning after a nice cup of coffee. By the time we hit the sack it was 3. My roomie was Vijay and he slept off in a jiffy after we discussed some selection related incidents which are always good to make you go comatose.
|Breakfast in Leonia - Bijju, Satish, Pankaj, Me and Sunnie|
In the morning we went for a walk - Pankaj, Sunnie, Biju, Ramana, me and Vijay - and later joined the others for breakfast. A couple of our pals had to leave early - Sreeramulu had to organise viva voce for 1000 students that day so he had to go. The rest of us were to congregate in one of the rooms for some beer before lunch. Meanwhile Shobha, Vijay and I snuck out and played a few games of table tennis where I found I was hopelessly short of reflexes.
|Sridhar, Vijay, Visa, Ravinder, Shobha, Nishi, Vishwa, Vinod and Radha|
As we sat with our beers, some 17 of us, the question - 'What was the best thing that happened to you in the past 25 ears after college?' was asked. Interestingly many of us spoke of the birth of our children as the best thing that happened in all 25 years - in fact the first 5 or 6 certainly - sons, daughters. S spoke about how he learned a lot from his sons and how he would one day write a book on all that they had taught him, I confessed that Anjali was the best thing that happened to me, P said his building up his business, being elected President of Round table, securing the Secunderabad Club membership were big, B said the joy of a daughter was his highlight and how she has him wrapped around her finger, V said the birth of his children was by far the best moment of his 25 years yet.
And then, SD said he survived a near death incident and almost drowned last year and he was thankful to be alive. The mood got considerably intense from then on.
|Morning walkers - Ravinder, Nishi, Vijay, Radha, Vishwa, Vinod, Sridhar |
N spoke honestly about overcoming a deep fear psychosis of heights, closed spaces, while working in a dangerous job and told a beautiful tale honestly and bravely. SP spoke of a horrific car accident he survived when his car flew off the highway and landed in a pond and he somehow survived that. M recalled how he tried to run away from muggers and was hit by a car as he ran - a horrific scene witnessed by his one year old from the window, SK spoke nonchalantly about the horrific incident when his nursery going daughter was attacked by a knife wielding assailant. VT spoke of how he struggled to come to terms with his success. VP spoke about his tough time in being away from his family when he went to the US - he missed his little child mostly, VJ spoke about her children. Shobha spoke about how I was the biggest thing that happened in her life and and I chuffed to hear that - Wow. R spoke of how he understood money was not everything and how he realised there was more to life. SA spoke about his childhood when he felt no one took him seriously and how he got back with a vengeance for that with aggression and took the corporate ladder by storm, V who spoke of how he had a quiet life with little drama but how the ill health of his young daughter caused deep worry.
It was a surprisingly frank, deep and intense two hours where everyone pushed honesty to the edge of the line, showed how vulnerable they could be, shared life in all its glorious colours and uncertainties so easily. We listened, awestruck at the experiences our friends and colleagues had gone through, at their courage and their honesty, glad that they did find the strength to survive enemies on the inside and the outside. There were times when we could not handle the intensity and spoke garrulously, nervously, times when we listened with dropped jaws, times when we could hear a pin drop.
|Shrini arrives - good sport|
If there was one thing we understood, it was that there is something in life that balances out one thing or another and beneath the seemingly quiet surface there lies an explosive story in all us. And what stories - and how well told. If Nishikant had us with his terrific story telling, Ramana kept us spell bound in a silence that's rarely experienced in such a raucous group. For two hours the room rang true and honest and somehow connected us deeper than we could have imagined, When the spell broke, emotion, intensity, fun and leg pulling included, it was pretty simply the highlight of the two days for me. Superb stuff. We could have gone on for the rest of the day.
In retrospect, that room was like a secure womb, and took us back to a period in time and space in our lives that felt so secure. Life today, is not, as we deal with the uncertainty of what the final lap will unveil for all our efforts. But for that special space to come out the way it did in those to hours was beautiful. It was great to hold hands, and feel the support.
I carry new memories of my mates.
Bijju still brings the calming presence as always, and you know that things will be taken care of when he is around, keeping the peace with his wisecracks and good humour, holding the fort with his long reach and impeccable personal equations with everyone. The twinkle never left his eye. Will always be a pleasure to know him and to count him on your group of friends.
Chandra doing a great job in BDL and enjoying himself with the mike while cracking many jokes in the sidelines, Eyes that were assured and confident. I was very impressed with what he had done with his career and his energy, his singing.
Madhu, in his elegant, diffident and measured manner, almost like he was trying to come to grips with this whole affair, with life. Eyes that were kind, wondrous. A seeker, a student of life and someone who has far more to him than he reveals one feels.
Nishi and his enthusiasm, his superb dancing but mostly his sharing of his story will always remain, his eyes honest, searching and open. I wold love to talk to him about his journey some more. Again a warmth that precedes his presence, lovely soul, probably the bravest of all.
Pankaj who ensured a good time was had by all - showed tremendous organising ability in bringing it all together and pulling it of despite little support - the Karaoke, booze, place and everything else - determined to have a good time and to make sure everyone else does too.
Radha's singing cannot be forgotten ever and he tore the stage up, but there's that brooding light in his soul which I am sure he will wash away soon with his songs. Again a deep, intense persona and he simply expressed himself in a manner that was as much a revelation to us as an assurance to him. Keep that part going Radha. And thank you for a great time. I am now listening to that Tamil song you sang.
Ramana for baring his soul and sharing his innermost thoughts and vulnerabilities and trusting us with it, for finding his own truth and being comfortable with it. Again, a contentment of having made his peace shone in his eyes. He always walked to his own beat, still does and I love him for that.
Ravinder, self assured, enthusiastic, smiling and mingling easily, came all the way from Solapur. He seemed to have made peace with the journey too. Again, impressed with his clarity -'I am coming' - he announced and there he was.
Satish, mellowed down but only by the slightest bit - by the years, his girth and experience surely - but hosts as fiery a soul as ever, with a kindlier light in his eyes this time. He seemed tinged with an awareness, wondering it seems, at how life eludes prediction.
Sunnie intrigued, observant and participative, swinging the narrative this way to that, again a quizzical look in his eyes at how life has unfolded and continues to perhaps, always the student. A look of having aged faster than he should have, he is the youngest of the lot, a look that makes him in some way more mysterious, like he knows more than he reveals, which he does.
Shobha, mellowed down too from that uncontrollable, energetic girl she was then, with the sharpest wit that just left the best in the business searching for a reply, a bemused look at the goings on, softened by life's vicissitudes. Again, one of those students, who stepped off the treadmill.
Shrini, professional to the core, delivered his show without a hitch before going off to the hospital - where Aparna was admitted - and I was so impressed with that. Superb presentation. That childlike enthusiasm, eagerness and competitiveness comes across in his eyes as much as it did then. Again, one of those you can rely on. If he says yes, its done. Not many do.
Sridhar Pulei, self assured, at ease with himself and the world, a kinder look in his eyes, revealing a sense of adventure in everything whether driving from Chandigarh to Chennai or eating gulab jamun with curds. Interesting is the word. He is the kind of a person who will surprise you I am sure - such is his groundedness, awareness and curiosity.
Sreeramulu and his focussed eyes and measured methods at putting the college first, its amazing what he did with his career, If there was an award for the most growth in the face of limitations he'd win it hands down in my book. What impressed me most was the way he handled the college front, taking the function to a new level all by himself - involving students, rangoli, dance, music, the big coup of inviting the Vice Chancellor, press, pictures, Professors. Keep an eye on him - he will go far.
Sudheer, again looking at peace with himself, calm and smiling as always, knows himself well. His eyes reflect an understanding of the world as it is. Again someone who did wonders with his career, always upping the game when he wants. Someone who is very grounded, knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. Those smiling eyes remain.
Vijay (Malli) for his fabulous two hour spell when he kept us laughing non stop, being almost exactly as he was then, mischief in his eyes, spring in his step. He loves a good time, is dependable, fills in the empty spaces so easily without anyone noticing and pushes the bus forward. Straightforward, forthright and paces himself beautifully, stepping up and down as the situation warrants. Incredible sensitivity. Again brings far more to the table than he shows - wonderful to have him on your side.
Vijay, coming down from Bahrain just for the reunion. Well done Vijay. Eyes that show a vulnerability easily, which needs courage. Again I felt there was so much that Vijay could have shared if we had more time. He was just getting started with some honest and powerful insights. Again someone who knows, not someone who indulges in mere talk.
Vinod who has changed little, with a trust in his eye, a confidence in his manner. Eyes that are open, present. An intelligent mind, sensitive and happy to be in his space.
Vishwa, quiet, with a quiet sadness in his eyes which I hope will go away soon, simply because he's such a fine guy. A sensitive soul, deep and intense - we sat for long at Sharath's funeral - and he told me how he remembered the time he spent with Sharath after the MBA days. Deeply loyal, good solid stuff. Glad you came V.
Visa, fiesty as ever and engaging in verbal duels with Satish as always. never one to back down now speak her mind. And most importantly, enjoys the moment. Time seemed to have stood still as far as Visa is concerned. Eyes that are confident, kind, that know their place in the world.
(An observation - only the last page in Memories made it fully - Vinod, Visa and Vishwa - good for you guys).
Annie was with all of us throughout with constant updates on Whatsapp.
That is the deal as I know it, understand it.
It was an intense experience that woke me up - not just for memories and fun - but for the insights, the intensity and honesty. Something deeper. Interesting. Someone proposed, maybe we could meet again in 5 years again. meanwhile we could stay connected. Vijay (Bahrain) has already connected with me on Linkedin and Facebook and I'd like to do the same with the rest.
I wonder how it would have been if all the others had come. It would have been a riot!
In the end, it's a lonely journey. But its easier to have someone who has no agenda to hold hands, to feel supported. For enabling just that, this reunion was a brilliant initiative. Well done all - and hoping to see you all share your thoughts in the comments.