The campus was full of students dressed in the graduation robes surrounded by their family and friends. Shivam arrived on the campus a little early than the scheduled time.
He was invited as one of the three guests to give an inspiring speech to the proud IIM-A graduates. He was visiting his Alma Mater after more than twenty years and it still looked the same. The legacy and the pride of the institute sparkled from its brick walls.
Millions of memories of this magnificent campus passed by his mind just in a fraction of a second. Shivam was accompanied by the Dean, Mr. Sampath Narayan, to the stage. As they were talking, the second guest of the evening appeared. Shivam looked at this guest as Mr. Narayan rushed towards her to greet her. He could not believe his eyes. Is it really her? Is it Kajal?
Kajal and Mr. Narayan walked towards Shivam on the stage and Mr. Narayan introduced them to each other. Shivam interrupted him and said- 'Of course, so glad to see you here Kajal.'
Glad to see you too. - She said. She did not look surprised at all. Shivam wondered why. Maybe she read the names of the guests on the invitation card that IIM sent, unlike Shivam. He just confirmed the date and time from the card and put it away.
So you have already met before. - Mr. Narayan figured.
Yes, we were only one batch apart. She was my junior.- Shivam told Mr. Narayan but was looking at Kajal.
Before they could continue their short rendezvous, the third guest of the event, the State Education minister, arrived at the campus. She was supposedly the most important guest. Mr. Narayan and everyone else got alarmed and welcomed the minister on stage. For a political leader, she was quite on time for the event. Shivam did not get a chance to talk to Kajal during this time. He was still quite surprised that Kajal was here. In a normal situation, Shivam would have wondered why they invited this college dropout Education Minister for this event, but his mind only had thoughts of Kajal.
After everyone took their seats on the stage, the convocation officially began.
Shivam was completely phased out during the first part of the convocation when the Diplomas were given out to the graduates by the Education Minister. Shivam's mind took him back to his past. Kajal was a big part of his IIM days and he used to love her. He thought about the last time he saw her on his convocation day. It was his last day on the campus. He was going to drive back home with his parents that same day.
After the convocation was finished, Kajal had walked up to Shivam, where he was standing with his parents, and said to him- Congratulations Shivam! Very happy for you.
Shivam had introduced Kajal to his parents. Kajal had left after a small formal talk with his parents. That was the last time he saw her. He called her that night after reaching home.
'Why did you leave Shivam? I feel the whole campus is haunting me without you.'- She had said, with a lot of sadness in her voice. Shivam was more practical than her and focused on his start-up after coming back home. He kept in touch with her via phone and emails for sometime but gradually they lost touch.
He wondered what Kajal had been doing all these years. Shivam read about her wedding in the IIM newsletter a couple of years after they lost touch. He used to read news and articles about her once in a while. She had been the COO of a Fortune 500 company and made it to the list of 100 Most Influential People on Time magazine. Shivam never looked at her as someone who could do all this when they were in a relationship. Maybe because he was attracted towards her innocence, not intelligence.
He always saw Kajal as a cute pretty girl at that time. After they started dating, they never talked about classes or any education related things, because the time spent with each other, was the only time they got to escape from all the classes and projects. Kajal was crazy about Shivam. She had let herself fall for him even though he had told her in the beginning that he would marry the girl his parents choose for him.
Their long walks to Iskon Temple in the evening, their dinner dates at Honest Restaurant, their table tennis games on the campus, their long drives on S.G. Highway on Shivam's bike, all of them flashed in front of Shivam's eyes. He was surprised how much he could recall even though he had a bad memory. Kajal used to be very easy going back then, never demanding or needy. She didn't get mad at him when he used to forget her birthdays. Kajal's birthday fell on March 14 and Shivam would always wish her on March 15, no matter how hard he tried to remember. After he finished college, he had called Kajal to wish her birthday and she had said with her sweet voice - 'Thank you. It means a lot to me.'
Shivam had asked- 'So what are your plans for today?'
'No plans for today since I celebrated it yesterday.' - Kajal had said with a little mystery in her voice.
'Why yesterday?.....wait a minute, did I do it again? - Shivam had realized he had called a day later again.
'You sure did.' - Kajal had said softly, without any anger in her voice.
'Oh man, I was very sure I got it right this time.' - Shivam had felt a little guilty.
"It's okay. Even if it is a wrong date, I'm glad you can at least remember the wrong one. Besides, you can call me on any random date of the year to wish me happy birthday and it would still mean a lot to me." - Kajal had said lovingly.
'And today, that Kajal is running a Fortune 500 company, and is known for her excellence in Six Sigma philosophy, not allowing even one variation in a million opportunities. She is notorious for being a perfectionist.' - Shivam wondered how come she never expected such perfection from him, he never also saw her leadership skills when they were in a relationship. Shivam was always in charge and always made all the decisions about their relationship. There wasn't any conscious effort made by either of them to take the charge or to give the charge. It happened naturally and both of them were comfortable with it.
Shivam came back to the present when he heard Kajal's name announced by the host. He had missed the entire Diploma Awarding Ceremony and the Education Minister's speech because of the rushing of all the memories of Kajal.
'Thank God the minister left without quizzing me about her speech.'- Shivam recalled his IIM lectures.
Shivam saw Kajal get up and walked towards the microphone.
'She looks intimidating but still beautiful. - Shivam made a subtle observation.
Kajal started talking in a slow, relaxed pace, making a strong eye contact with her audience. Shivam and everyone present at the event, turned their ears to her.
''Good morning everyone, I am honored to be among all of you today. Congratulations to all the students who received their prestigious Diploma today. It is thrilling to see these bright people, who are ready to change the world, about to change the world, just a day away from starting to change the world.
This institute has the legacy of many decades of creating the best business professionals in the nation. Occasionally, I read in the newspapers that an IIM graduate got a 1 Crore rupees a year salary offer, 1.5 crore, 2 crore and so on, and I have seen people awe over it. I would really like to know how you, the IIM graduates, feel about that. Do you feel proud or does it offend you? Are you comfortable with people putting your worth on display in front of the world? It sounds like an auction to me.