After procrastinating for almost an year, one Saturday morning I woke up and got around to folding and rearranging the scattered bundles of clothes in my wardrobe shelf. There they were… Old faded t-shirts, Shirts with frayed collars, jeans from the college days that don’t fit anymore but waiting in a futile hope that someday I ‘ll be able to get into them again (and be able to get out too ;-)) I philosophized that rummaging through old clothes can be quite akin to looking thru an old photo album. A faded B-School t-shirt, triggered the avalanche of the B-School memories. I couldn’t give it away to the kacchrawallah coz it might dilute the brand equity of my institute. (Once in B-school someone had donated a similar T-shirt to the vada pav guy outside the college and he used to wear it proudly and regularly. I hear that many potential juniors were scared away by the placement prospects of the institute seeing an "alumni" gainfully employed in the Hospitality industry. I also heard that they all then went and joined IIPM where he was probably from ;-))))
As I rummaged further I found a single widowed black glove; a remnant of my first UK trip. And I remembered using it to hold a chilled beer can in chillier weather . I could’ve donated it to Michael Jackson if it was white heheh!! Was smiling to myself at the thought when I saw something else ….And froze!
There it was. Blue with Checks. My dreaded unlucky shirt!
Mumbai, May 2001 Fresh out of B school with dreams of setting the corporate world on fire I’d just joined my first job. And had instead found out that it’s just “a part" of me which was perpetually on fire and that any attempted arson of the corporate world would have to wait a few years…
Most of my Management training was now utilized in doing a Cost-Benefit Analysis on various means of reaching office For example I could take a rick all the way which would work quite expensive on a daily basis, bus-rick-bus routine was cheaper but took a longer time, else could take bus-bus which would be the cheapest option but it was such a pain and take an eternity!
And so reluctantly I thought of resurrecting my partially camouflaged mo’bike (camouflage was due to the dust cover which helped it blend into the surroundings). Were it Cochin my bike would have been the primary logical option for going from point A to B. But not so in in Mumbai…at least not for me.The bike was often the last option to be resorted to unless its for the short distances. Cops were at every turn and my KL registered bike somehow acted like a magnet for them. But that day I thought I’ll risk it.
And that was the first time I put on my Shoppers Stop-fresh new blue check shirt……….
The rain gods were probably waiting for me to get out that they could have me in their crosshairs. I was ambushed by the unseasonal rain which had me drenched in a matter of few seconds. In a few moments the road was left slushy and slippery. Couldn’t see anything thru my glasses anymore and I was debating speeding up to reach office sooner or do the un-macho thing of taking shelter at a shop. A truck in front stopped suddenly so I braked too just avoiding a pothole..
Skidddddddddd…My bike went sliding ! Without any explanation whatsoever! My face hit the divider and my legs got pinned under the bike. I slowly got up dazed and tried to assess the damage. A cut in the side of my mouth and a few painful bruises on my knees and elbows. I counted my teeth and found to my satisfaction that the numbers matched prior data. The bike had its neck turned and was looking at me accusingly at a ghastly angle. And on the blue checks pattern of my shirt there appeared a red streak of blood….
There was a Clinic right there on the side of the road and an attendant was right there to help…He led me into the clinic where I wondered whether they had planted the pothole there as a strategy for Business Development...
A few stitches on my face (a large strip of bandage prompting queries such as………."Hey wot happened to your face? Lovebite eh?Heheheh" and spending a fortune on repairing the bike later I was back at work in a couple of days. It was some time before I got back my shirt tho’…
Mumbai, June 2001: I wore my shirt to office the day it came back from the drycleaners. That was an unforgettable day in my fledging career. The day when the hitherto cordial rapport with my manager soured beyond repair. A mistake in one of the manual processes snowballed into a major issue which kept on getting escalated. And as I learnt; a B-School fresh executive is always a convenient scapegoat. So the Manager blamed it on me . Well, they do say Geminians can’t ever take the blame for anything. And I pointed out the inherent deficiencies of the entire process. Wrong strategy! And I thought that the corporate world wouldn’t be resistant to amazing path-breaking new ideas. Maybe I suggested them at an inopportune moment. When I came out of the conference room discussing the issue I could foresee that my appraisal form was not to be a very pleasant to look at. Of course unlike in the medieval times where differences are sort out by a duel of swords; in the corporate world it is in the confines of conference rooms during the appraisal season.
Soon I saw a scary trend emerging. Something nasty would happen whenever I wore the shirt. Something used to go wrong. This could be no coincidence. My rational mind could never accept a link between those curious incidents and the shirt but fact remained that it was a common factor.
Cochin, December 2001: It was supposed to be a reunion we were all waiting for. Meeting of my once inseparable college gang. "The Archies" (maybe I’ll write more about the characters in another post) Well I hated the name"The Archies"as all the better characters were already taken and I was the not- so- glamorous Dilton. It didn’t help that I sported black-rimmed glasses in those days!
I was on leave for a few days in Cochin. Hadn’t taken my entire wardrobe home and as someone had recently said that the shirt looked good on me I just had to be seen in it.
Somehow this didn’t work out as planned. Big Ethel had relatives along, Betty had not turned up, Jughead contacted Archie and did not exactly give the right information about the meeting place. Only Reggie was mobile-enabled and I was the only Management Graduate with enough professional training to manage the scenario. But one management grad did not suffice. A miscommunication resulted in one of us waiting at a spot for an hour and stormed off after the same. The much awaited re-union turned into a major fiasco……
Delhi, April 2004: The US Embassy! The hallowed portals where an approval stamp would make or break a life. And that’s where I was on the 12th of the month. Technically it was the first day of my new job in India’s Silicon Valley. But the project involving a Process Migration, I was to go to New York and I was there at the Delhi US Embassy for the same.
That morning in Bangalore I had been in a dilemma. Half my stuff had not arrived from my hitherto abode Mumbai and I was to travel by the morning to Delhi for the Visa. I couldn’t find a clean/ironed shirt to wear except for.. u guessed it …a bit faded but still looking good. Mr. Blue-and-White checks.
Now none from my organization ever had an issue with the US Visa. The brand name was considered good enough. I debated wearing a crumpled Tshirt or my unlucky shirt. My rational side took over. ….I buttoned on my blue-n-white..
The Visa officer looked grave
"So you are going to New York for training. How long have you been with this company?"
"Well, uhhh I joined on 12 April "
"That is today !!!! You joined today?? How can you try for a visa when you haven’t worked with this company for even 4 hours?"
Before my shocked eyes he stamped my passport. "Rejected"
" But..uhhhh excuse me, we are to be trained in NY "
"Sorry, I’m not here to negotiate…next please"
Went back and mailed the friends in Yankee land that all plans for the reunion at Miami Beach will have to be shelved for the time being. And for one last time the shirt was laundered, neatly ironed and permanently confined to the dark recesses of my wardrobe……..It never saw the light of day again
Epilogue: I finished restacking the clothes-shelf. Had packed a few shirts and t-shirts still in good condition in a separate polythene cover. Presented it to the guy who washes all the cars in the neighborhood. He looked especially pleased about a certain-blue-checks-shirt among them which looked to be good condition. ….
Wot happened to him? Well as far as I know his business is booming as he does a good job. Nothing particularly seems to bother him
Superstitious? who me? …noway !!