The probability of meeting someone like Arvind Saraf is staggeringly low. To give you an idea of how rarefied such encounters are, let me linger momentarily on the statistics. Those who are familiar with the preposterously challenging academic filters that sieve the admitted from the Asian chaff – the gaokao in China, the suneung or CSAT in Korea, and the IIT-JEE in India – can guess what I am alluding to.
In early Feb 2020, who could have imagined a café conversation between Anshuman and me would soon acquire the otherworldly glow of an irretrievable past? At the hip Terra Bites in Koramangala, a drum near the window displayed a message scrawled with a black marker: “We Are Open.” Even in the fourth phase of the nation’s lockdown, that sign feels as tantalizingly invisible and wickedly beckoning as Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station (from which Harry Potter and his wizard friends depart to Hogwarts).