The Van Heusen business suit lay on the bed, neat, crisp, both strange and comforting. The dark fabric commanded respect, it evoked a sense of the familiar, a promise for new beginnings. As I ran my fingers across the beautifully tailored threads, a shiver ran through me, my mind raced back to the past year, the weird machinations of fate and hard work that led to this day.
March 2018. I stared blankly at the email. Another rejection from another journal. Anyone familiar with the field of research would tell you, this was the norm, one needs to brace oneself for repeated failures before one could relish that elusive taste of success. That every doctoral candidate goes through a roller coaster ride of unruly emotions that only appear to be overwhelming. That persistence in this field where disappointments are a dime a dozen would certainly pay off in some unfathomable way in an obscure future. The paper was worth over a year of sleepless nights and long hours spent in a dimly lit, dusty laboratory. Placating words by kindred souls did little to mollify me. I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.
I didn’t consider myself depressed. Cursory knowledge gleaned from online sources indicated depressed people consider taking their own lives. I certainly did not entertain thoughts of hara-kiri! I resigned myself to being a sort of perpetually sad soul. I took little to no interest in anything. Conversations wearied me and my work drained me. This pattern of behavior soon trickled into other aspects of my life. Tiniest of things irked me, there were sporadic episodes of breaking down without any trigger. Two months later, my relationship ended. I went into a dark spiral. It felt like the walls were closing in on me and I could see no way to drag myself out of it. A dead-end career and the end of a long-term relationship were all that engulfed my vision board. The lump in my throat simply wouldn’t go away. I lost 5-6 kilograms in a span of weeks. I looked so emaciated that my mom sheepishly wondered out aloud in front of me if I was on drugs!
This deeply defeatist cycle of pessimistic self-pity lasted for a good two months until I decided I was done moping around. I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. I decided to seek counseling. Slowly and steadily, things turned around. The pain wasn’t as excruciating and a turnaround in career seemed possible if only I ventured out of the comfort zone I had built for myself. Over the years, I had listlessly entertained thoughts of a change in career paths. I decided it was now or never. I filled up the CAT form in its last weeks, gathered whatever resources I could and jumped into preparation.
4:44 pm. Jan 23, 2019. I stared into the computer screen. Jaded. The mail congratulated me. I was shortlisted for interview in all the institutes under CAP 2019. Another lump grew in my throat. This time for different reasons. I immediately scoured the internet for the best places to buy a business suit. My very first.
The same evening, I walked into the halls of the elegantly styled Van Heusen showroom at the nearby mall. To an outsider, it was a mundane exercise. To me, it held the promise of a new future, the chance at redemption. I glanced around. A young, pimply faced kid with his mom trying out shirts on his lanky frame. An affluent looking, salt and pepper headed gentleman trying on a fancy suit. A young woman parading her dresses in front of her partner for the umpteenth time as he rolls his eyes and yawns in front of the trial room, her bags firmly ensconced in his hands. Different individuals, different stories, one roof. As the friendly saleswoman walked me through a range of tastefully curated fashionable ensembles, my mind raced back again.
Growing up in a small city, my classmates and I would watch in wonder from our school-bus, as the all-glass building that would house the first Pantaloons in North-East India gradually took shape. We watched and waited to see a one-stop place numerous pieces of clothing under one roof spanning multiple floors. Our gateway to modern life our counterparts in the metro cities were accustomed to. As kids, Pantaloons, without probably anticipating it, became the hangout zone of us teens.
I realize now, that the Aditya Birla Group has been a part of my life without I even realizing it. From watching in childlike wonder, as the trucks unloaded sacks of Ultra Tech cement that would finally build the house we grew up in, to the first taste of adolescent independence at Pantaloons and to buying the first business suit that finally landed me at IIM Ranchi, the ABG conglomerate has been a silent and steadfast friend throughout my life. An economist would rattle out the billions that the ABG conglomerate is worth, the brand value it commands over different sectors, however, it is the association ABG products have with the defining moments of our life that makes it unique. It is what shall hold the test of time.