The bag was packed the previous night, all the essentials were taken in, I whiled away the hours in the office in the anticipation of a fun filled ride to the Saattal. I met the rest 21 of the CA-ites at the scheduled departure time. There was chaos with regards to the seating due to it being spread across three coaches but was sorted subsequently. Everybody had greeted everybody else and all were geared up. After all the aim of the trip was to get to know each other, understand different side of their life and bond and gel together.
At around 5 in the morning everybody woke everybody else up, Kaathgodam was it, we had arrived. We were all driven to the camp site and everybody was allotted their respective tents and soon we all gathered up for our first activity:
Listening to chirping birds: We were all asked to observe the talking sparrows. Subsequently we had to fathom as to what exactly are they conversing. We had to write it down and share it with the rest. The views were so diverse and varied. Some of the learning is as under:
Ø Since all the views were different, it emphasised we are all different beings with different life views. We have to understand that especially in the context when someone doesn’t agree with us. The mere understanding of the fact will help build our perspective.
Ø We interpret the things the way we are, the mood we are in and since we have different moods at different times we need to understand that as well. Handling mood of ours as well as those around us is a key to balanced relationships.
Ø It gave us a chance to understand and observe something different. How often in our daily schedule do we take a halt and do an act not expected of us? Not often. But we must. Not only will it provide us with a needed break, it will also broaden our thinking.
Ø Also, the more we tried to interpret their talk, the deeper we went inside our own mind. It took us to our dormant but strongly held beliefs.
Yes that was it, the first activity. Well, the thing is before each activity we were told of the rules and at an opportune time Manoj (the instructor) will share the distinctions with us based on our experience of the same.
Next up the gang of 22 was split into two, to take swimming and kayaking up in turns. I was into the team to take swimming first. There were eleven of us to test the water, I mean literally. The thing with water is it can be both exhilarating and dampening. Having geared up with life jackets some of us went straight in, few chose to stay back.
Anush being one of the earliest to dive needs some introduction here:
Anush: It’s been a while since we know each other. We shared a couple of metro rides on our way back home from office and had enough of interaction beyond introduction. But here I got to know a different side of him. Without knowing swimming not only was he the first one to dive, he chose to cross the length of lake. He was at ease and showed no nerves throughout. During the entire trip not only was he at his humorous best, he was also very open to interact and share his side with every member. He still had his mind stuck into his impending exam a couple of weeks away but he was enjoying it all through. Some of the craziest and meanest laughter moments he gave us. Energetic. Enthusiast. Full of life. Focused. A man to have around especially if you need fun and want to enjoy little moments.
Coming back to swimming not only was it about overcoming internal demons of fear, it was also as much about goal setting and internal assessment of strength. As in:
Ø Do I have what it takes to accept the challenge?
Ø How much is that I can accomplish without giving up?
Ø Do I get bogged down or inspired seeing others fail/succeed?
Here I am reminded of Saddam.
Saddam: A quiet and sedate man of varied interests and immense strength. I interacted with him before the trip as well but couldn’t know him that well. All I wanted on this trip was a man who could talk books and movies with me and am glad to have fostered a lasting bond with Saddam sharing our tastes in them. Saddam was there with me in almost every activity and am surprised to say that not once did I find him complain. He took every challenge head on and his approach was solving the issue at hand. It was a treat when he was gazing the stars in the night while deep into the lake, unfazed of the fact that he doesn’t know swimming. A composed individual with stamina and diverse interests, on his way to take up bigger challenges ahead.
But how can you leave Tushar behind?!
Tushar: A ‘Games of Thrones’ crazy, a soccer manic, exuberant and the most hydrophobic of the lot, that’s Tushar for you. The in house DoP, he captured the moments for rest of us. The first thing he asked me once back from the trip was, “Give me all the seasons of ‘House of Cards’, I got to do that, too.” Yes, that’s the craze among the young these days: to do the Seasons! The great at hand he is with painting, he was way ahead than the rest in the painting activity. A keen observer of the human nature, he has a good sense of perceiving them. Courteous. Honest. Docile.
When you talk of observing human nature, you can’t overlook a stand up and that is what Manmeet is.
Manmeet Brar: The man who invented our 23rd companion: Harpal Singh. An artist in making, a good friend, my tent mate. Per our Whats app group, ‘he likes to keep us in his heart’. Can be casual at times but a deeply caring individual. When his team missed the treasure hunt in the night, he along with Anush were the ones who woke up at five and headed for same; shows dedication man. Also, both of them made up for it by altogether skipping an activity (ahem ahem). I mean they decided to give their body some rest. Does a man, who takes it upon himself to make others happy, by going that extra mile, need any more adjectives?
But up next is the man who deserves many of them:
Sunil Arora: During our casual interaction it turned out that we both had applied to the same college in the same batch, that he chose to stay in Delhi for personal and professional reasons is a different thing but it connected us in a way. He was the organiser; throughout observant and attentive without once being interfering. Sharp at sharing distinctions post activity and mild and humble otherwise. We were in the same team in Kayaking and he was instrumental in pushing us to the limits. A true team player and an insightful individual.
Kayaking: At the hindsight, this Kayaking is about co-ordination, communication, chemistry and being realistic about the goal. But once in the water, the adrenaline takes over. The Kayak can be very frustrating, especially when you want to move it towards the right and it turns towards the left. It tests your patience and skills and despite your best efforts it can still be the same rigid thing. Sudeepta was the best among the lot in Kayaking and was single handily responsible to take his team through. There was some good, neat rivalry and it indeed was a unique exercise in establishing proper co-ordination and communication among the team members. It was liberating in a way when you see even a non-swimmer like Sarwar excel in it without much fuzz.
Did I just mention Sudeepta?
Sudeepta: He’s the newest crop from my alma mater. We discussed the new campus, faculty, placements and general happenings in our institute. He shared his passion for wealth management and how his summer project on same landed him at the CA. He’s a part of the extremely well performing Hyderabad team and it reflects in his general dealings. All through the various activities his focus was always on the job at hand. A humble being, an intelligent professional.
And when we talk of Sarwar, not only did he excel in Kayaking, he also accomplishes so much otherwise.
Sarwar: He is from my CARE team, one of the oldest workhorses around. He’s down to earth, a family man, a team player. A man to take on the responsibilities, he was the first one to align the rest towards the various activities. A bit of a hydrophobic but always the one to concentrate on the things at hand. He had decided not to drink but thanks to Shibin, he was made to. I mean he took it for coke when indeed it was the disguised solution. And imagine that too very early in the morning. But overall a man to have around.
And something on Shibin:
Shibin: Yes we all know him by his drinking escapades. But there is a different side to the man. He has some of the clearest fundamentals in life. Oftentimes we overlook so much that is to be offered by an individual especially in the wake of his drinking habits. Take for instance, his love for Khaleesi ( a damsel in the popular series Games of Thrones) and his unflinching interest in Sunny Leone. Jokes apart, it was indeed a treat to see him dive into the water from that elevated tree. He confessedly loves being inside the water. He was the life of the group. We shared the same tent and he made it the epicentre for the rest to drop by in, for both liquor as well for fun. Yes he likes to be noticed, as per the instructor. But who doesn’t?
Blindfolding Exercise: All of us were paired up, with two members in each team with each one to be blindfolded on the way up in turns. The blindfolded one had to listen the story shared by the other. Some of the distinctions learned are as under:
Ø Trust is the most important thing in a team. When you invest in trust-building, you can reap the lasting rewards. Once you trust your partner for certain things you can focus your attention on other, more pressing issues. This way it not only saves time, it also improves efficiency. Trust works both ways: it has to be invested into, it has to be earned of.
Ø When we were listening, we realized how much, we, as humans, want our stories to be heard of. So paying attention to whims of our fellow team mates is desirable. Making someone feel valued is the least we could do in our daily affairs.
Blindfolding reminds me of Kamal, my partner there:
Kamalkant: Since he had to speak first, he shared his experience of being in Gurgaon, his life in general. He’s from a village in Orissa and visits it as and when time permits. His has a big home there and he discussed the challenges his parents face and how he makes up for that. The first thing he told me when I was blindfolded was “Trust me and I’ll take you there without any difficulty”. A caring individual and a man probably facing the more arduous challenge in life: to manage his affairs in the village while still do his duty at CA. He’s doing it efficiently and must be appreciated for that.
And appreciation connects me to Siddhant:
Siddhant: Born in Ambala and brought up in India, that’s his bio. A natural leader, focussed with sight always on goal. During one of the interactions he quipped, “You are hardly 22 and if you don’t work hard now, when will you”. Tells a lot about his approach in life. Always up for challenge, he has a unique sense for dealing the issue at hand. One to lead from the front, a gem in the making.
Talking of gems another gem is here, Naval Kishore.
Naval: Humane. Humble. Hydrophobic. Happy. A relaxed individual, a great cook. He took his own sweet time but made the sweetest of an Aaloo curry in that lunch making activity. Never once to interfere more than the necessary, he takes life in his stride. It was great to see his childish effervescence during that stone pelting competition in the lake.
I take this time to introduce one of the quietest dudes on the trip:
Amit: Amit and I had quite a few activities together. He is reticent and slightly reserved. On the conference day we visited a mall together and there I could see his excited side. Always the one to offer his helping hand whenever required. One of the interesting moments was when he chose to do the dishes after lunch when rest of us were a bit hesitant in that. It was a perfect example of dignity of work, something all of us can learn from.
All of us has a lot to learn from Suneel Kumar, too.
Suneel: He was a sport throughout. He gave the rest of us the freedom to laugh sometimes even at his own expense and that’s no mean feat. He was all the time testing his physical limits; be it in swimming or while scaling the mountain up. It was awesome when he enacted Sunny Leone during dumb charade. Almost always the first one to start an activity and in finishing it too. Despite being of medium built, he’s an energy powerhouse.
Treasure Hunt: All twenty two of us were divided in three team and given a map to chase the elusive treasure of a flag. We stumbled, we argued, we freaked out, yet the intent was to go at it all the time. There were moments of doubt, excitement and anticipation as to what all is on offer. But few of the lessons there were:
Ø When you are near the goal and have to make that critical decision, you have to, with a detached mind-set, evaluate all the alternatives and arrive at a choice and then back that choice to the hilt.
Ø It’s important to manage your resources well, including the human ones, in pursuit of the objective.
Ø A cohesive well-knit unit will always outperform its rival.
Treasure reminds me some of the hidden ones:
Lokpati: A selfie crazy, a kayaking pro, the disciplined. During one of the interactions he shared his experience of being in Delhi for years now. He’s originally from Gorakhpur and has worked his way through to sustain himself in a city like Delhi. Generally reserved but the one to take the matter at hand seriously. A balanced individual, a punctual one.
Satish: He is so attentive and mindful so as to carry Bidis in case the cigarettes fall short. I have special place for people like them in my heart. I mean everyone downplays us smokers. Good at drawing, better in water and awesome in life. Always with a smiling face. A family man with an unusual sense of humour. And mind you, he never smokes inside his car and neither lets you too.
Hrushikesh and Ashutosh: All three of us were together in having lunch at the local house. I hadn’t interacted much with them until then. Hrushikesh shared how he left a job as there was nothing much to do. ‘I want to work my way up by slogging at this point in my life’ he evinced. An individual with a large and kind heart. It was a pleasant surprise when he simultaneously offered his gratitude towards the hosts along with Ashutosh and me. Ashutosh, too was taking keen interest in knowing how the life works in Mountain, source of their livelihood, their family et al. He taught photography to the kids at that house. A likeable individual, a good fellow.
Lunch making: The task was to decide your own menu, acquire the required resources but get the lunch ready by 1 PM at the latest. Again the team were same as in the treasure hunt. Some of the lessons learnt are as:
Ø The variety in your menu is directly proportional to the standards you set for yourself. It’s not some law but an arrived consensus.
Ø Also, if you go for a lesser menu(goal) and make up for it by being totally amazing at it, is not a bad thing either. (Ask anyone who tasted Naval’s potato dish)
Ø If you are happy achieving lower than the benchmarked, probably you are doing it wrong.
Ø Timelines can be pain in the whole scheme of planning but efficient resource management is handy to deal with it.
And when you talk of lunch you can’t keep Rupam away.
Rupam: “I am a Punjabi from Amritsar so get ready for that extra ghee in the meal”. She took a lead in lunch making and was always at the forefront of activities. During the treasure hunt she was a bit worked up but never let it disrupt the hunting. She’s quite handy at painting too. A good swimmer, a level headed individual. When Suneel was hungry and asked for something to be eaten, she offered him an Alpenliebe. It was the deadpan moment of the trip. But overall a good resource manager.
Night Swimming: I would not like to look at it in terms of learning. It was in plain English; an Experience. Star gazing in quiet, dark night in slightly chilly water was it all about. No less no more. And that makes it special.
Being special takes me to Neha.
Neha: “I didn’t expect it to be a smooth ride and had an idea how it was going to be, so I came prepared.” She shared this on our way to night swimming after two days of intense physical activities. An adventurer, quite a sport and determined individual. Always to offer help whenever required. A good soul. And she has a sense of humor too. And yes never once bossy.
Collaborative Painting: We were given a brief about developing it. Everyone had to chip in and it had to look like one integrated work. Again there were three teams. There were timelines and there were rules. And as usual there were lessons:
Ø Ethics is the basic and fundamental thing that is to be adhered to. Rules aren’t for the sake of it. They not only have to be followed by, they have to be kept in mind all the time.
Ø Also, even if there are rules, there is still scope for innovation and creativity. And the use of creativity and innovation separates good teams from greats.
Ø You can’t be different just for the sake of it, there has to be substance behind it.
Ø If you are the leading performer in your team, your job is to pass the buck and not hide the team’s shortcomings. Pass the knowledge and reap the dividends is the way to go.
And now the last two members Neeraj and Sachin:
Neeraj: He captured moments for us. Neeraj chose to stay away from water as did many others during swimming but was in to his own when he chose to Kayak. Always the one to mind his own business. He had some issues with Treasure Hunt but so did rest of us. He was always there when it came to share the experience and learning post an activity.
Sachin: First thing first. He didn’t mind rum. This is with people from Bombay, they don’t mind rum. Sachin made it clear on the whats app that he’s missing us and those moments. A passionate individual, my occasional smoke partner. Observant. Expressive. Upbeat.
So that was it, my Saattal experience.