From Father to Son: An Open Letter.

I guess this is as much an open letter to my youngest son, as it is a case of me wanting to write.

There is a time for spoken word (there has been a bit of that), and then sometimes the written word is better (thus far that’s been restricted to WhatsApp). So this open letter or blog post comes at an opportune time.

My youngest is now a college student. His chosen academic, and in all probability career pursuit, Electronics and Telecommunications. But won’t that all depend on how the world around us morphs, transforms or as they are putting it these days, get disruptive, over the next five years?

That’s the duration of his MBATech program, involving three years of Technology and two years of Management, at the end of which he will receive a Bachelor of Technology Degree and a Masters in Business Administration. Something we hope will stand him in good stead to earn a reasonably good livelihood, and enable him to live a life he chooses to lead.

I on the other hand, despite the best counsel, didn’t pursue my Masters, something that didn’t set me back really, but created a handicap of sorts, such that I had to work my ass off to overcome. Therefore, I’ve always been at pains to draw the kids attention to this with a fervent hope that they don’t choose the harder path, the school of hard knocks. Kind, however, will be just that, kids. The oldest boy, a photo journalist, in the middle a daughter pursuing her Masters in Phycology, and then the youngest.

See, he’s a really intelligent kid, and has a high IQ and EQ, but as most kids today, has not leveraged these natural talents to his best advantage. He’s barely studied the way I expected, yet, with some hard work, with good advise and with a degree of luck, has managed to secure admission into a really prestigious school, and within that a good program. Now that he’s in, we trust that he will make the most of this fantastic opportunity.

As I write this, I can’t help recall the great experience of the interaction with the school, both for him and myself, and as is my nature, when I come away with lingering and sometimes even fleeting thoughts, I write.

So our experience with NMIMS, the educational institution, now a deemed University, and the Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering at Sirpur is something that has thus far, amply demonstrated that with some dedication, some planning and attention to detail, coupled with a desire to excel, even Indian educational institutions can raise the bar and be counted amongst world leaders.

The entire process of enrolling for NPAT or the National Placement Admission Test, the administration of the test, the declaration of the results, the merit based admission process, the counselling provided to both parents and students, the payment of fees, the process of allocation of the campus, the student and parent orientation, are all something to boast about. Each step and the entire process were run like clockwork.

One of the trustees, whom we consulted before we decided upon taking up the merit based admission, passionately urged us to consider, taking up the placement at the Sirpur Campus, as the boy missed placement at the Bombay Campus by a few marks. Honestly, I didn’t really take the urging as seriously as I should have, and perhaps this was for the best! Why? Simply because, when we did show up at the Sirpur Campus for the enrolment this past weekend, I was simply delighted by what we saw!

Sirpur then is approximately 380 km from Bombay, and so my elder son, the younger boy and I set off by road on this six-hour journey (well Google said six+ hours) early Saturday morning. We made the trip in approximately five and a half hours, thanks to some skilful (fast but cautious), driving by the older boy, and timing it such that we missed traffic heading out of the City.

As I was telling friends, the University Campus is literally just down the road, in the sense that, once we hit the freeway (15 minutes from our home), we didn’t have to take a singly turn, save the exit ramp that leads into the Campus parking lot and into the driveway.

As is to be expected, the week was spent, by and anxious mother and grandmother, ensuring that he’s all packed, carrying stuff for every possibly eventuality, and almost preparing him for a sting overseas! Mothers! What would we do without them?

As my older son joked when we were unloading the luggage awaiting the student’s room allocation at the hostel, his little brother had the largest suitcase from amongst all the students. The rejoinder from the younger was the he may have had the biggest suitcase, but some boys had four suitcases as opposed to his one! Moot point that.

The final stretch before one hits the exit ramp, is on a bridge over the Tapi River, and lo and behold! The sprawling Campus situated on the banks of the river come into view, small at first, but growing in size as you come closer to the exit.

Not so much as an exit, as a dirt road, crossing some fields, before we enter the parking lot, stop at the barricaded gate, register and get onto the driveway. The sight of the spic and span elegant buildings, the perfectly manicured lawns, the beautiful flora and fauna greet the eyes, and we ask our way to the hostel to report the student’s arrival.

The demeanour of the security staff, the ushers along the way, the coordinators, and the staff doing the registration was exemplary, as was the well-managed process of issuing tokens on a first come first come basis to join the ranks of the other reporting students.

The wait wasn’t too long, and formalities such as room allocation, issue of the student ID, and explanation of the way things will work were so well-managed, that I came away so impressed. Registration with the on campus laundry service, familiarization with the facilities, and the meal tokens for the day (for the accompanying parents/guardians), was a pleasant surprise!

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We make our way up to his room, and walk into a sprawling room with four beds (not cramped), huge floor to ceiling sliding windows, a study table for each boy, a wardrobe, and plenty of storage. You want to know more, they even have help to change their bed sheets and pillow covers each week. gimme a break, he’s there to fend for himself, or have we just sent him to some luxury resort? While I’m complaining about the lap of luxury he’s landed up in, may as well lay it all out…..they even have people to collect and deliver their laundry? Unbelievable!

We arrived at around 10.15 am and were all sorted by 12 noon, and being lunchtime made our way to the mess for a lovely meal. The mess itself, immaculately maintained, clean, and well laid out.

Post lunch we figured our way to the Gym and ventured into a sprawling facility with all the state of the art equipment once could imagine! Did I not mention the tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, football grounds, table tennis tables, and every possible sports facility one could dream of?

Here are the grandparents and the poor mother thinking that their poor little boy, first time living away from home, will have to fend for himself, and what do we find? Nothing short of facilities putting a luxury resort to shame! I hope they don’t read this, but for all you know the boy isn’t going to come home too often!

The rules of engagement then. Quite strict, compulsory attendance, allocated times for sports, gym, laundry service, regulated home visits, the works. Even uniform T Shirts, and blazers compulsory on certain days.

Let’s flip this over now. The young fells is living in the lap of luxury, and his brother and I are put up in this dive (if you can even call it that), dump of a place in the nearby town of Sirpur.

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We depart in the afternoon, leaving him to explore and come back late evening, eat a meal together and then leave him to stay at the hostel that night. We did ask him if he’s staying with us, but he chose (wisely) to stay back and get into the groove of things.

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Spend an uncomfortable night at the dump, called Hotel Sudarshan. Hotel? What frigging Hotel? It’s a dive for cryin’ out loud! Anyway, its been pre paid and not much we can do about that now, so we suck it up.

We go back the next morning, latish, and this fella is up all early, showered, eaten breakfast, and we hang with him for a bit, and seeking that he’s gearing up to play some basketball, we leave him to his own devices, and we decide to go drive to the nearby Wildlife Reserve at Yawal. We have left too late and it’s almost dark, so we turn back, mission not accomplished, save for the lovely drive deep into the countryside, stopping for some “chai” and freshly fried banana chips.

Head back to the “resort”, hook up with the kid, get dinner and head back to our own “resort” for the night. The next day, Monday, is the orientation, and this we are back, the plan being to attend the orientation and head back to Bombay immediately after.

In the main building we discover yet another dining facility where you can order up some cool stuff. The kids attended the orientation in the plush auditorium, and the parents/guardians watched a life feed in the main building lobby on a giant screen. Again, run like clockwork, short and sweet, and once that was done, got him his text books, took lunch and we had to leave.

I’m an emotional guy, but can pretty much keep it under control, but as I hugged him and kissed him, could not hold back the tears. As much as he aggravates my on occasion, I’m really going to miss the kid. My voice chokes as I tell him to do his best and make the most of this fantastic opportunity, and not wanting him to get emotional, turn away. I walk a few steps, and I and the older brother both turn around once more to wave goodbye, and he’s doing the same as well.

So, the kid is at school, a new phase of his life, away from home, away from all things familiar, away from family, away from friends, new friends to be made, a life ahead of him. A life for him to shape the way he wants it.

As parents we have done all that we can, it’s now up to him. As a friend, I’ve done all I can, and it’s now his time. All I can do is, hope, pray and advise him, via this open letter or blog.

I miss you son, you have all my blessings and all my support. The sky is your limit. Make me proud, make me hold my head up high. I am your father, yes, but above all else, I am your friend. Good luck kid, god bless! May The Sweet Lord Nrsimha guide you and protect you always.

Now for the upside. 380 km, carpet roads, amazing climbs, fantastic long downhill stretches for miles, I am going to be on my bicycle soon, headed your way one of these weekends. Cool dad or am I a cool dad!

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