Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
He kept prodding me for the exact alogorithm, and what formula can be used for ranking ads in the AdWords product. Despite rattling off all the various ways to improve the ranking, I was still getting nowhere since he was looking for that magical formula. And so the "Aha" moment simply never came. Tough luck.
I guess I was also plain unlucky in the fact that I was being interviewed by a person who worked only on AdWords, and therefore, focussed only on it. All my preparation on the wide variety of Google products simply went waste since he didnt seem interested or aware of most other products that I tried to lead him to.
When he concluded with a "Google is looking for generalists who can work on a variety of things. Unlike some other firms that probably hire a specific Product Manager for Pricing Applications (referring to me), we look for people who can work on everything", all I could say was, "Thank You and Goodnight!".
Not the best first interview at ISB. For sure.
If this is a sign of things to come, I better start sounding out my old employer for a possible rehire.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Our first assignment was to write a 55-word story. The word count restriction, at first, sounded ridiculous. But as I started thinking about it, I realized this had to be like a 3 panel comic strip. And Calvin and Hobbes was a classic example of how the most memorable stories are written in the fewest of words.
With some heavy inspiration from Calvin's Spaceman Spiff alter-ego, here's what I conjured:
The great escape
“We are taking you to Planet Kroz as proof that intelligent life exists on Earth,” the alien chief glorked in perfectly accented English, tentacles awkwardly clicking and scrolling through the online “Krozzian–English Translation Manual”. As he moved to close the Explorer window, his cuticular eyes fell on my Blackboard grades.
“Release him,” he screamed.
P.S. The Prof liked it, and even edited it for me. I simply couldn't resist taking a dig at the "universal" corelation between intelligence and grades. But frankly, I am not complaining at all.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
When you start out with your career, it is all about getting into the most reputed MNC. If a college-mate with lesser academic credentials that you got into a better company, with a higher pay, you'll have sleepless nights. Insecurities.
A couple of years later, when you realize that academic credentials have very little to do with who ends up in which company and earns what salary, the angst at being underpaid subsides. The comfort of being part of "the" most famous IT company provides consolation for all the under-achievement.
The next goal is to go to the US, and live there for a few years. When you finally manage to do that, it gives you a new high in your career. You are sitting in the US, and sending mails to all your batch-mates, who had gone past you in terms of salaries and achievements.
"Sup guys, how is our India these days? I am missing it badly, although USA is a pretty neat place to live in"
And then, to your horror, within 5 minutes, you receive 10 replies.
"Hey dude, just arrived eh? Gimme ur number, and i'll call ya. Been in NJ for the past 2 years" types.
Such kill-joys these friends are. And so your years in US are also spent sulking at how everybody else has already achieved everything that you are about to achieve. Insecurities loom large.
Finally, you decided you have had enough, and decide to return to India.Once back, you think of finally getting one up on all those US-based friends.
"Namaste friends, I am back in India now. All those months in Pardes taught me the importance of appreciating my own country. Now I have come back to my home, and am enjoying the warmth and joy that no amount of dollars can buy you in US. Jai Hind" You write.
Within 5 minutes, your mailbox is flooded again.
"Good you are back. Why don't we all meet up this weekend at Vidyarthi Bhavan for dosa?”
Just like that, your thunder is stolen. Yet again.And you are back to your ways of wallowing in self-pity. And insecurities.
After a lot of pondering, you decide to completely severe your links with all your batch-mates from college, to avoid being reminded of your under-achievements. So you decide to hang around mostly with colleagues. Since these guys are in the same boat as you are, there is no fear of being upstaged. Or so you think.
Soon, however, most of the guys that you had branded as "hopeless" due to their lack of charisma and attitude, and had ridiculed as people who will remain "techies" all their lives, manage to find jobs as "Technical Architects", with salaries more than double of what you get. The rest, who you ridiculed for being total "no-brainers" when it came to technology, accept positions as Project Managers and go on to earn pay packets several times more than yours. All of a sudden, you find yourself alone and left behind. Stuck in mediocrity, and complacency. As a jack of all, but master of none. The only thing that stays with you loyally through all these times is your fear of under-achievement.
And then you go do an MBA.
You think a B-school education is the answer to all your woes. And after spending all your hard earned money on that B-school degree, you realize how wrong you were.
After all the rigorous schedules that you go through at the B-school, you realize that you are just as clueless, but a whole lot poorer than before. And you are back to square one.
Insecurities: Driving the lifecycle of a software professional.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Speaking of placements, my initial attempts have been rather disastrous. The un-real application to DB was, in hindsight, totally avoidable, considering I have 6.5 years experience in IT, and absolutely none in finance. Heck, I am not even doing a fin major. But the guy from DB was so convincing in his pre-placement talk that even a staunch non-finance guy like me was blinded into applying. And making a mockery of myself.
Although that didn’t hurt me much, the SAP AG results are a real dampener. If it is any consolation, they had clearly mentioned that they were looking for 3-5 years experience, and anyone with more than that would be considered only if he/she was extremely good, in the areas they were looking. And since I am a total ERP ignoramus, and haven’t worked in Strategy consulting ever, I guess the writing was always there on the wall. But then the eyes will see only what they want to see. So much for wishful thinking, and selective vision.
Much before these jolts brought me down to terra-firma, there was another fiasco during the MAQ recruitment. Although our lunch with the director went pretty well in terms of relationship building, the final pre-placement talk from them left me disillusioned with both the job and the company, and I did a last minute volte-face, and withdrew my application. Considering this was my first application, it surely wasn’t an auspicious sign.
And the stars surely seem to be taking their revenge on me for that.
However, amidst all the disappointments, I did taste some sweet success this term. Some of the results from the 4th term finals came as pleasant surprises, and re-inforced my faith in my exams-cracking ability. How much that will help me in my career is something that can be debated. But nevertheless, it is a feel–good factor, and I plan to savor it.
The other significant success was the PaEV presentations. After our presentation in front of our peers, we received some un-nerving information about competition that we hadn’t bargained for. Not only did that completely catch us unawares, but also seriously dented our enthusiasm about the success of our B-plan. When we were asked to defend our plan in front of VC investors, we were in a tight spot since we knew our plan had lost its USP, thanks to competition that had already done everything that we planned to do. So it was a “back to the drawing board” situation for us. After cracking our heads for hours together, we finally zeroed in a multi-pronged service model that ensured we retained our USP. Although we hadn’t had a lot of time to prepare on the new idea, we decided to go in and face the VC’s wrath, since we had nothing much to lose. But what transpired, once we went in, was pure “magic”. By drawing on our past experiences while making every point in our presentation, we instantly established credibility with the VCs, and at the end of it all, they were all praises for our idea. In fact, they even suggested some new ways to improve our model. The crowning glory was when they commented that if we do a good job on this idea, this could be a multi-million dollar business within 5 years! Now beat that.
So that has been the story so far this term. Exams are once again around the corner, and the emphasis on CGPA, although diminished to a great extent, has once again resurfaced.
And for some personal trivia, I have successfully survived two years of marriage, as of yesterday.
And that, in comparison to all those candidates who have been more successful at the initial placement offers, is no mean achievement!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Note: If some parts seem abrupt, blame it on the 400 word limit.
A COMMENTARY ON “INDIA: DEVELOPMENT AND PARTICIPATION”
When India opened its economy to the world in 1991, it heralded a new era of liberalization, a break-away from the “License Raj” regime that had constrained the growth of the Indian Economy. The liberalization programme opened the doors to International Trade, and resulted in a renewed interest among the International Community in the possibilities of the Indian Economy, with Forbes magazine declaring in 1994 that “India may be the best emerging market of all”.
However, despite creditable growth in its development performance in 1990s, India’s economy never attained the anticipated “spectacular” growth. Although several MNCs entered India in the 1990s, contributing to the boom in economy, the growth did not percolate to all sectors and regions of the country. Although India’s economy has posted an excellent average GDP growth of 6.8% since 1994, it is still behind the East Asian economies.
The central issue, however, is not the overall growth of the economy, but rather, the pattern of this growth. The huge emphasis on highly skilled services sector resulted in this sector growing at an average of 7.7%. However, the primary agricultural sector has not been a part of the overall growth. This lack of participatory growth is responsible for India’s continuing problems of poverty and deprivation of the masses.
In order to achieve participatory growth, policy-makers must focus on social reforms and devise effective methods to implement these at the grass roots. Progress in basic education, health care, social security, land reforms, population control, gender and social equity, etc are essential to ensure participatory growth. The continued lack of basic education (illiteracy rate of over 35%) and inadequate health care facilities are reflections of the ineffectiveness of current policies. Gender discrimination and lack of awareness on population control need to be addressed. Better job opportunities need to be created in the agriculture sector to include rural masses in the economic growth of the country.
There needs to be a real commitment to relevant social reforms by policy makers in order to ensure participatory growth. It is important to recognize the complementarity between economic growth and social opportunities. While India has done well in the former respect, it is the continued neglect of the latter that has slowed down India’s overall development. The opportunities that Globalization has ushered into the economy needs to be equally distributed among all sectors to promote holistic human development.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
While I am not doing either of the two, I keep myself entertained watching utterly useless stuff on the telly. Of late, I have become addicted to repeat re-runs of Karan Johar movies. I hate admitting this in a not-so-personal forum, but I have always liked K-Jo movies, right from the KKHH days. Despite everyone else around me criticizing everything about them, I am an unabashed K-Jo and SRK fan. For all my pragmatic pretensions, I do have a penchant for the “larger than life”.
Although I liked KKHH the best, I am equally fond of K3G and KHNH. However, sitting through Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was not half as entertaining as any of his previous movies. The whole concept of the movie defied the “Karan Johar School of Filmmaking”. And that I didn’t like. But after watching Karan and SRK speak about the movie on an NDTV program, I think the concept of the movie wasn’t as flawed as the execution. The one idea from the movie that I found very apt was that it is best to get out an unhappy marriage than to suffer the trauma in the name of commitment.
Although I am a staunch believer in the institution of marriage, I do believe that after a certain point, if a marriage isn’t working, one should just admit that it was a mistake and move on, rather than suffer and make the other person suffer too. Unfortunately, in a society such as ours, the sanctity that the institution of marriage enjoys makes it impossible for most people to recognize the futility of their relationship and walk out of it. In short, the message of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is that marriages, unfortunately, are no longer made in heaven, but they sure can make your life hell.
Digressing from the subject of movies and marriages, I almost forgot to announce my “half MBA” status. Well, not quite. Thanks to some last minute screw-job from the powers-that-be in the Student Council, one of our exams got postponed till Oct 18th, causing a huge outrage and uproar among the unsuspecting students. There has been a tremendous amount of confusion that has prevailed despite long emails from the top-guns for their reasons for postponing the exam. Apparently, as they mentioned, it is in our interests that they requested the exams to be postponed. Surprisingly, a huge majority of students seemed to disagree with this statement. Of course, I am not insinuating anything. And after all, they are all “honorable men”, as Mark Antony would say.
With another 4 days to go before Term 5 begins, we are looking forward to the 2-day trip to Vizag tomorrow. A good day at the beach should help us soak in enough sun to recharge our batteries just in time for the second half of our MBA at the ISB.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Despite the maddening rains, people managed to land up at the small enclosure where the whole event was moved to, along with spouses and kids, to enliven the party. Even the usually shy people were encouraged to go and try and their luck with the mic. There was one kid who bravely attempted Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life”, while someone even tried “Sweet Child of Mine”.
Speaking of bold attempts, GR and I also threw caution to the wind by performing “Cloud #9”. Although we later found out that our voices were almost unheard, it still was an honest attempt. The last time I performed at a Karaoke party was way back in 2003 in Raleigh, NC. Thanks to Brenda, the friendly waitress at our regular snooker bar, I actually managed to go out there and perform “When you say nothing at all” and even get a huge applause from the southerners. Compared to that, this one was rather lame. Shouting and screaming into the mic were never our strengths, and we should have realized that. LOL.
There were prizes up for grabs too at the weekend party. Although our performance surely didn’t deserve any awards, the spouses (mine included) managed to win the runners-up prize for their rendition of “Pehla Nasha”. As long as the prize is in the family………
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
As a kid growing up in pre-liberalization India, my first tryst with Tennis was when I watched Boris Becker defeat Kevin Curran to win Wimbledon 1985. Since then, I have been hooked to the game. Becker’s clumsy yet charismatic tennis had won me, and most of the world, over. The booming serves, the diving volleys, and that characteristic jump across the net to signal his victory – all signature Boris Becker moves that still bring back fond memories of those days. The epic rivalry between Becker and Edberg in the late 80’s and early 90’s was mesmerizing stuff, where Becker’s power and Edberg’s grace took turns winning the title at Wimbledon.
While Becker and Edberg were trading titles, the period also saw the emergence of the Nick Bolletierri generation of American tennis players. Led by the psychedelic Andre Agassi, the Americans threatened to take the tennis world by storm. However, the first of the American Teen Brigade to win a Slam was Michael Chang at Paris, 1989. While Michael huffed and puffed his way to victory in 1989, that remained his only Grand Slam title in his entire career. In 1990, an unknown Greek-American teenager announced his arrival on the big stage by winning the US open. Pete Sampras’ legacy started at the age of 19, and lives on forever.
After winning the US open in 1990, Sampras took a backseat to Agassi at Wimbledon 1992, which till date, is the most remembered championships at Wimbledon, due to the improbable Agassi victory. However, the King was not to be denied for much longer. Starting 1993, Sampras moved into a whole new level of Tennis, and began his dominance of the sport, which lasted almost 9 years. When he finally quit the professional circuit after winning the 2002 US Open title, in a picture-perfect final against Agassi, his millions of fans were left both happy and sad at the same time. Happy because of the emphatic fashion in which he signaled his retirement, by winning the Open. Sad because we’d never get to see the Pistol fire again.
Although my early loyalties were with Boris Becker, Sampras’ excellence and his magnificent all court game was irresistible. Soon, I had shifted camps, and had become an ardent Sampras fan. The signature service with which he finished his opponents off earned him the sobriquet “Pistol Pete”. Till date, the Sampras’ serve is universally acknowledged to be the best and most graceful ever.
Ironically, the first time I held a tennis racquet was just after the epic US Open 2002 final, which turned out to be Sampras’ last match. And due to my obsession with the Sampras serve, I actually pulled off a rather good imitation of the Sampras serve.
Ever since Roger Federer came into his own, Sampras’ record 14 Grand Slams has started to appear increasingly breakable. The kind of all-court dominance that Federer has maintained since 2003 makes it very difficult to bet against him breaking the record. With no credible threat to his dominance, Federer has already amassed 9 Grand Slams despite being only 25! Barring any serious injury, it would take a very brave man to bet against the Fedex breaking every record in the book. Although I am a die-hard Pete Sampras fan by heart, Federer has captured my imagination like no other player has.
If there ever was a perfect way to play tennis, Roger Federer has mastered it!
The Verdict: Although it is impossible to compare two players from different generations, Federer seems a more complete player. But in Pete’s defense, with a serve like his, he didn’t need to play those perfect shots.
Oh, and if you really care, Andre Agassi played his last match at the US Open, losing to a little known B.Becker. Ironic considering Agassi had an almost perfect record against the more popular B.Becker in over 25 matches.
Friday, August 25, 2006
The protagonist in this story is an old friend, who I shall refer to as R. Mister R had shown signs of his greatness at a very early age, and has now gone on to vindicate us with his lofty achievements. This incident that I will recount here, is one such proof of the great man that R would grow up to be.
It happened one evening, about 8 years ago. We were all in our college, most of us being students of Engineering. Being budding engineers with a penchant for Science and all things related to it, yours truly and his good friend D were engrossed in a highly scientific conversation about scientific marvels, and unexplained phenomenon. I was narrating interesting anecdotes about another friend of mine who had claimed in school to have spotted a UFO on his first floor terrace. As shocking as that was to D, he proceeded to narrate another amazing incident that he personally experienced.
During one of the several internal exams that D had to take as part of the Engineering course, D had been to his friend's house on KR Road in South Bangalore, for a group study session. The compulsive smoker that he was, D had come out of the house to steal a quick smoke. He had checked his watch to give himself exactly 5 minutes to get back to studies. The watch had the time as 12:57 AM, on the 3rd of December 1998. And suddenly it happened. A streak of black and orange flashed past him, and before he could fathom what was going on, the streak had disappeared over the horizon onto the other end of KR Road. D was at a loss to explain what it could have been. When he sat down to think about exactly what he saw, he realized that the streak of black and orange had made a sound like that of a purring engine. But that was about all that he could gather of what he had seen.
It finally dawned upon him that he had just witnessed a rare spotting of a URO!
For the uninitiated, URO stands for Unidentified Riding Object, and if the apocalypse-watchers are to be believed, most future alien attacks will be through UROs and not UFOs, due to advancements in rocket science on earth.
D confided that ever since, he had been having sleepless nights. He had been having nightmares of the URO attacking him since he had seen it, and as depicted in most Alien movies, anyone who discovered their existence died an unexplained, untimely death.
When D recounted his URO experience, I was completely amazed and stunned at the same time. I was also a wee bit jealous for not having spotted the URO myself, since I didn’t live too far away from KR road myself.
A week had passed since this amazing revelation. I had gone out for dinner at a Dhaba with my group of friends. Since we were poor students then, our parties would almost always be at a dhaba. One such favorite was the Eden Huts dhaba on Kanakapura road. I can’t put a finger on the exact occasion for our partying, but nevertheless, I remember we had a blast that night. After finishing our dinner at the dhaba, we were riding our motorbikes on our way back home.
It was close to midnight, and some of us had driven a lot faster than the others, and so the faster ones, including myself, had decided to stop at one of the pan-shops and wait for the others to join. A and I (as in me) started boasting about the max speed we had touched on that night. A claimed that his Yamaha had easily crossed 100 KMPH, and I, not wanting to be left behind, retorted that my Samurai had also crossed well past 100 KMPH. At this point, the third guy, AS intervened, boasting that he had a Shogun which could easily do a 120 KMPH, leaving A and me with no option but to shut up. Just when AS thought he had won the argument, and the crown for Speed Demon, our dude R dropped the inevitable bombshell.
"Do you guys know I can do a 140 KMPH on my dad's Hero Honda?" R thundered.
"What? Dude, you've got to put a lid on your gasbag. There's no way you can do a 140 in that 4 stroke" A screamed.
"You bet. No way" I agreed.
"Yo R, get a life. Your Hero Honda is a sissy 4 stroke underpowered mileage bike" AS joined in.
There was a long silence. R was visibly unimpressed, and disgusted with his friends for dismissing his claims the way they did. So he decided to let the cat out of the bag.
"Do you know the speedometer on my Hero Honda is calibrated till 140 KMPH? Why do you think they'd take the trouble if the bike couldn’t do that speed?" R reasoned.
"And you, CK, your bike is calibrated only upto 120. So don’t you try to compete with me when it comes to speed" he continued pointing at me.
"And I guess it’s the same with the rest of your bikes as well. Just 120 KMPH. Isn’t it?" R went on, this time admonishing the rest of them as well, for their impudence, and the chiding they had given him.
At this point, A had somewhat recovered from the unexpectedly vitriolic attack, and he tried to counter-attack.
"But R, this is India. How the hell can you expect anyone to believe you did a 140 KMPH on Indian Roads? Do we look like no-brainers to you?" A thundered.
That was our cue. AS and I joined in and began to dismantle R's composure with our jibes and jokes at his overtly far-fetched claim. Not one to be undone, R then adopted the sentimental technique and explained the scenario to us.
"Guys, I can’t force you to believe me, nor am I interested in proving it to you. But just to let you know, that night my mom was very ill, and she needed some medicines urgently. It was well past midnight. 1257 AM in the night, to be precise. My dad gave me the prescription, and asked me to rush and pick up the medicines. At that time in the night, I knew there was only one drug store that stayed open. On KR Road. But even that stayed open only till 1 AM. I had just 3 minutes to rush and get those medicines. I got on my bike, and gave full throttle and within seconds, I was cruising at 140 KMPH. It could be more, but I have no way to know since the speedometer is calibrated only upto 140. And I managed to reach the drug store on time and get those medicines for my mom. If you were to be in my situation, I am sure you'd also probably push your bike to its limits. But maybe not 140 KMPH since your bikes are calibrated only upto 120." R concluded, with a lost-puppy look on his face, as if to add credibility to his story.
"hmm, I guess we were a little too fast to jump to conclusions. We’re really sorry." AS apologized, almost ashamed to have initially disbelieved R's story.
"Yeah dude, you’re right. When you have a family emergency, people do experience miraculous super-human powers" A agreed wholeheartedly.
I was, however, lost in thoughts. The mention of the word miracle had set me thinking. And the fact that this incident occurred on KR Road had really got my mind racing.
"What time did you say this occurred?" I questioned R.
"12:57 in the night" R replied, with an annoyed look on his face since he was expecting an apology from me, and he hadn’t got one yet.
"And was it on the 3rd of December, 1998?" I went on.
"Umm..Dont remember the date exactly. But it must be around the same time. Why do you ask?" R was puzzled.
"And what color is your bike?"
"It's black and orange."
The mystery of the URO had been solved. Just like that!
I stopped at the nearest phone booth, and called my friend D and explained the story to him.
That night, my friend D slept a peaceful sleep. Without nightmares. Finally.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I can't say I am not disappointed. Because I am. But I am not heart-broken. Also, this is a precursor to the various failures that we'll all have to face in our future careers, at some point or the other. It's also a time to evaluate ourselves, and see if we really were as good as we thought. Did some of us go overboard with the "I love social service" tune? Did we tug at their emotional chords when we should have really targeted their rational ones? Should we have concluded with our strengths than go off on a tangent about our value-added service? Did we handle it with the same seriousness that we would have for a real project pitch? Did our lack of relevant field experience make all the difference?
At the end of the day, you are what the world perceives you to be. And in this case, the verdict was "second best".
But hope prevails. We'll be back.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
However, it is this very pressure that is making this joyride so much more fun. The PaEV, if it goes well, sounds like an awfully exciting idea. Especially after listening to Manish Sabharwal (the TeamLease guy) and Sanjeev Bhikchandani (the Naukri founder). The excitement of imagining myself among such esteemed people makes the misery more than worthwhile.
And to complicate my schedules even more, I have also applied for an NGO Project for ELP (Experiential Learning Program). We had our interview today with the Naandi Foundation for their ambitious Community Water Service System. If things actually went as well as we all think it did, then we should have a mammoth project in our hand. One that will take a tremendous amount of commitment, in terms of time and soul. Soul, because this is an NGO project targeted at making treated water available at a very cheap rate to the villagers in various states. Not only will it require us to wear our MBA caps really snug, but will also require us to interact with the rural folks, and sell our idea to them. The real challenge will be to convince them that it pays to pay for clean water.
The results should be out anytime tonight. Although our competition seemed just as competent, the eternal optimist in me refuses to calm down. I strongly believe we gave it our best shot, and each one of us (GR, Niss, Bankim, Megh and I) spoke passionately about everything that we had discussed last night. If we do bag it, we'll be able to sleep with a smile. If we dont, we certainly won't wake up with a frown.
As is my usual style, I can't resist signing off without a word play:
'ELP is just a call away.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
To recount some of his gems in class, today while emphasizing on the importance of a particular formula, he went on to declare “I want you to remember this formula even if I call you in the midnight. Even if you’ve just snorted a whole line of coke”. And then, there are some usual funny-lines. He starts the class asking us “Did you sleep well last night?”, and after the obvious roars of “NO” from us, he dismisses us with a “Great, so that means everything’s normal”.
More than what he says, it’s the way he says it that makes him such a funny man. With a completely innocent look on his face, he says the funniest of things. And he spares no one, not even the lady who comes to take the attendance pictures. Last week, he pounced on her when he caught her taking a picture of him in class. Of course, he feigned total ignorance of the attendance process at ISB, and went on to cheekily admonish her for “taking his picture, maybe for posting on shaadi.com”.
The other subjects this term have been alright. Operations Management is interesting, but rather tough. Management Accounting is starting to get interesting, and Entrepreneurship has been fun, thanks mostly to Prof. Venkat, and his “Venkat’s Laws”.
I think I am going to learn a lot this term. It’s a pity that my grades won’t reflect the learnings.
Life isn’t fair. And B-schools are no different.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Today was a tough day. All the noble knights returned from battle, disappointed and lost. The enemy had simply proven too strong. The morning session (DMOP) was reported to be unusually tough. Although the afternoon session (CSTR) was comparitively pedestrian, most people simply didn't have anything left in their tanks after the early assault.
As for me, I went in with very modest expectations, and came back satisfied. With both the papers. That's not to claim I did well. It's just that I didnt allow myself to be disappointed. That's just a loser's way of saying I am happy with whatever little I get.
Tomorrow is another battle of gigantic proportions. MKDM promises to be an eye-opener, thanks to so many unknown concepts that I will be questioned on in the exam. GLEC is a no-hoper anyways. One look at the sample paper was enough to dissuade me from investing my precious time in studying the text books for GLEC.
The man is an enigma. Nobody understands him.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Without considering the possibility of a total disaster at the exams, I should be 1/4th of an MBA next Tuesday. That's an exciting thought.
Curiously though, I am still just as clueless.
It's prayer time again.
Dear God, remember what Peter Parker said,
"With great power comes great responsibility".
Powerful as you are, it's now time for you to discharge your responsibility.
Please get me through these exams. Even if it takes a miracle.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Issues that were, till yesterday, considered taboo are now being openly flaunted. And speculated. This sudden Bohemian attitude has led to mixed reactions among the people here. While some have come to accept and appreciate the frank confessions, others have found it scandalous and completely inappropriate. Nevertheless, rumor mills have been having a field day, with everyone having an opinion on everyone else.
It all started with this guy going open with his alternative orientation. For several conservative people, the revelation suddenly seemed too scandalous. And it triggered a chain reaction, and soon everyone was talking about it. And since gossip mongers usually have the completely uncalled-for tendency to extrapolate, they have been busy speculating about everyone else’s orientation as well. Stereotypes have sprung up overnight, and people have been slotted into these stereotypes. Accordingly, Mr. X is gay and Mr. Y is not.
Incidentally, I was watching this movie “The object of my affection” yesterday on TV, which deals with some similar issues. And I suddenly remembered hearing about this guy in class who approaches people and asks them “Are you gay?” I don’t know his intentions behind this curiosity, and therefore, would not dare to speculate, but so many others have already slotted him into the stereotype for simply being curious. It’s because of this “slotting” that straight people are usually wary of hanging around with gay people.
I too was homophobic, thanks to this incident in Miami when I was accosted by this humongous creature in an elevator, asking for sexual favors. The fact that I had to literally shoo him away left me with a bad impression about all gay people. However, an incident with one of my good friends helped me change my opinion. This friend, engaged and all set to marry, suddenly realized one day that he was gay. It was a tough time for both his fiancée and him to come to terms with this, but they held up really well. For me, the sudden realization that a very good friend of mine was gay felt weird. But gradually, I realized that, despite being gay, he was still the same person that I knew. And that it is ok to have gay people as friends.
Just to set the picture right, I am straight and have absolutely no intention to cross the fence. So if you’re the guy that asks people if they are gay, you better not ask me. The mimic in me feels amused by some of the stereotypical mannerisms that I notice in gay people, but that, in no way, suggests any disrespect towards them.
And I speak “straight” from the heart.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
The first week in the new term has been rather disappointing. After sitting through some truly inspiring lectures from the likes of Stine, Finn, Waterman, Vohra etc last term, the new term is , plainly put, disappointing. Competitive Strategy, which is a key course in all MBA programs, is turning out to be a disaster. While it is understandable that Prof. GV is new to this school, and probably to the profession as well, it still doesn’t do justice to the exorbitant amount of fees that I have paid. While my sympathies are surely with her, I’d definitely not want to sit through a rookie lecturer’s class where valid arguments are brushed under the carpet with a disappointing “I know more than you” attitude.
Decision Models and Optimization is the other subject that I am very disappointed with. Another key subject and another disastrous choice of faculty. The high expectations that were built up after such an amazing faculty for the first term have come crashing down just one week into the second term.
The saving grace, however, has been this brand new world to which we have been given access. A make-believe world where we all start off as tycoons, and can shape our futures with our own actions. No, I haven’t been reading too many of those Harry Potter novels. I’m referring to the MarkStrat World. We submitted our very first decision in the MarkStrat World last night. A decision that, we hope, will hold us in good stead in the times to come.
Moving on to some news from the non-ISB world, the biggest event that the whole world is currently watching is the FIFA World Cup. Despite the rigorous schedules, I continue to catch the soccer action everyday at least for a couple of hours. I’m rooting for the Dutch and the English.
In other news, Mika Singh and Rakhee Sawant went smack at each other, before Rakhee experienced a cultural epiphany, and decided to take Mika to court for violating her Indian-ness.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Finally, the term exams are done and dusted. A mixed bag of sorts, but nevertheless, something that all of us were waiting to end. For all the sleepless nights, it’s redemption time tonight. There’s a party, of course. And for all those unfortunate souls who have to stay back in Hyderabad, it’s an open invitation to drown all your frustrations.
Rejoice, I will. But a little bit of pondering, in retrospect, over the exams.
Financial Accounting, despite the huge volumes, was a good paper, and I think (hope?) I didn’t bungle too much. But what followed was a disaster.
The economics exam was such a mystery that the moment I saw the paper, all I could do was smile. I am blessed with the ability to see humor in tragedy. And this was tragedy at its best. After 2 hours of incessant guessing, I finally walked out without knowing if I had got even one question right. A mystery it was. And remains.
Today, luckily, was a much better performance. Business Statistics was smooth sailing, despite the random guesses for a few questions. Marketing Management was not so smooth sailing, but after weathering the storm yesterday, this didn’t seem like rough weather at all.
Since most people that I know are leaving for their hometowns tonight, I am stranded here for the next two days, thanks to the Leadership Development Program. But come Thursday night, I am going to be off to Bangalore.
Home is where the heart is. And sweetheart too.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Although the end term exams are just around the corner, I have hardly had the time to study anything at all, thanks to the overload of assignments. Just trying to get these assignments done have been taking up all my time, and then some. The omens have also been forecasting a disaster at the exams. How else would one explain the fact that my economics score, which was well above the average, had 4 marks docked off it for no good reason, relegating me to the average scores? To compound my miseries, I made some uncharacteristic blunders in the Accounting and economics assignments, effectively ending all hopes of ending the term on a decent score.
The mid term stats score has been my only source of happiness, for some time now. And hopefully, they won't dock any marks off it.
Next post will, mostly, be after the term exams. Probably a Post Mortem.
The End is Near.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Our very first examination experience at ISB is finally done and dusted. And what a party we had, to celebrate our success (really?). The exams themselves did not offer any cause for celebration for most of us, although their culmination certainly did.
The statistics exam, which most of us were very skeptical about, turned out to be rather manageable. Economics, on the other hand, was an altogether different experience. Most people had extreme reactions to offer as they walked out of the examination hall. The reactions ranged from “What the f*** was that about!” to “Never since the Digital Signal Processing exam in Engineering have I been screwed this badly in an exam”. However, as every rule has to have an exception, there were a select few who came out with a wide smile, with the knowledge of having cracked the paper.
One such enlightened soul, a sure-fire future Dean’s Lister, happens to live next door. The very fact that he actually knew what “Lerner’s Index” was, and was able to solve the problem based on Lerner’s Index, should be ample proof for my prediction about his making it to the Dean’s List. And it certainly won’t hurt to live next door to a Dean’s Lister. There is a distinct probability that some opportunity, originally intended for him, could come knocking on my door, albeit by mistake.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I don’t like to delve on unpleasant experiences for too long. Life moves on, and so did I. To the rocking party that the spouses had organized for us battle-worn veterans. As most parties at ISB go, this too was filled with people, booze and smoke. The spouses had even managed to get a DJ to run the show, and ensure foot-tapping music for the whole long night. My only grievance with the DJ was his obsession with Hindi Remixes and hip-hop numbers, and his reluctance to play any classic rock until after 2 AM.
The party even had the local Hyderabad House Restaurant put up its stalls at the venue, to enable us starved souls to feast on some authentic Hyderabadi Biryani and the works. And for some of us who are sick of paying exorbitant rates for the mediocre food served at the Sarovar Cafeteria, the prices at the food stall came as a pleasant surprise. For a change, food was actually affordable.
While the party continued to rock till the wee hours of the morning, we took off by 2 for our customary inebriated long ride on the deserted Madhapura roads. This time we actually outdid ourselves , treading some really unknown paths, but managed to keep the ride incident free.
Post the ride, we decided to humor ourselves a little more by playing Table Tennis. The fun part was to challenge ourselves to stay in balance despite the overdose of alcohol in our blood. Surprisingly, we held up pretty well, and actually ended up playing a mini-tournament on the spot. When we finally turned ourselves in, it was well past 330 AM.
Another eventful day at ISB. A few disappointments, and a lot of alcohol to drown them in.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
We have had a candidate proclaiming in his election manifesto that he would ensure 24/7 restaurants in each Student Village if he became the Prez. Pity that’s really not my main criteria for voting a GSB Prez in. He also went on to claim that he would ensure ELPs for every student in the batch. While that is a delicious prospect, it doesn’t seem like a very plausible one, considering that ELPs are not just for the school to decide. As a GSB Prez, one can do a lot. But impressing upon the corporate world to offer ELPs to every student might seem a little too far-fetched for even the best Prez.
My advice :”Get real. Don't promise what you can't deliver”.
There’s another who claims to ensure that “This year shall not pass”. Time Machine, anyone? Frankly, I found him rather funny. That’s not to say he is bad. It just didn’t seem that he was serious enough. We are looking for a guy who can be the face of ISB for the external world for the next year. A person who can represent the students in front of the faculty, and the school in front of the corporates. This guy, just like the one before him, seemed too rehearsed to be able to hold his own in a real-world negotiation.
My advice : " Show us your real self. Not the acts. We might just like you the way you are".
The third and final candidate seemed like a runaway winner, thanks to the other two shooting themselves in their feet. While I was reasonably impressed with him, I would still attribute it to the lack of charisma among the competition, than his own persona. But the guy knew his manifesto well, had his thoughts well composed without sounding rehearsed, and had the affable quality of being able to laugh at himself. But is he my ideal GSB Prez? Umm, well, maybe, maybe not.
My advice : " Good going. Now let's see some enthusiasm".
But then, it’s way too easy for people to sit back and criticize, and I am obviously guilty of that crime myself. Standing in front of so many people, and trying to sell one’s self in 10 minutes is certainly not easy. To add to their misery, there was a rapid fire round of questions right after their 10 minute speech. It is surely a tough ask for anyone to hold their composure in such a situation, and therefore, despite all my criticism, I still have immense respect for these guys. As one of the guys put it,
“I know there are many people who are much better qualified than I for this position. But the only difference between them and me is that I am standing here, while they are not”.
Hats off dude. You hit the nail bang on its head.
Although my political affiliations are already in place, I am strongly against thrusting my choice, directly or packaged in suggestive propaganda, on others who are still in abeyance over their choice. I trust that everyone here is mature enough to take their own decision, and would not need surrogate propaganda to influence their decisions. (This blog, by the way, does not promote any candidate. Be your own man. Or woman.)
I found it to be particularly distasteful when some students sent out mass mails campaigning for the candidate of their choice, to further their own agenda.
Let’s not corrupt the politics at ISB. We have already lost our country to dirty politics. Let’s at least save our school.
Finally, on a funny note, during the rapid fire round, why did all the candidates mention “Mother Teresa” as their favorite non-political, non-business leader? Been watching too many of those Miss Universe competitions, me thinks. What’s next, “World Peace”?
NOTE: The above post is not meant to ridicule any person. It’s just my way of describing what I saw at the soap box (after editing out the best portions for fear of controversy), and is strictly restricted to my limited interactions with these candidates during the soap box. Also remember, this is MY blog. I am in creative control. Wink.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
A seemingly mundane task of boiling milk turned into a deadly experience yesterday afternoon. After turning the gas stove on, I tried to twist the controlling dial towards the minimum flame position. Just as I did that, the controlling dial came apart, along with its spring and the holding screws. The very next moment, a sudden burst of flames rushed out of the hole exposed by the undone controlling dial, and hit me right in the face.
Instinctively, I rushed away from the kitchen to open the main door, fearing that the fire might spread rapidly. After a few seconds of waiting at the door, I rushed back to the kitchen since the fire had not yet, as of that moment, spread outside of the kitchen. I could see the flames blazing away, starting to consume the wooden cabinets. Luckily, the gas cylinder was still some distance from the fire, allowing me to quickly shut-down the gas- supply from the cylinder, thereby dousing the flames.
Although the fire had been put-off, it took me a while to get over the shock of having a sudden burst of fire straight in my face. For a moment, I had thought this was the end. And if the fire had reached the gas-cylinder, it sure would have been the end. But thankfully, what could have been a disaster was averted.
When I finally managed to regain composure, I saw myself in the mirror, with my hair covered in brown. The burst of flames had charred my hair brown, and left my face totally red. The smell of burnt hair and the burning sensation on my face subsided only after a couple of hours, and a bath.
Interestingly, while all this happened, the fire-alarm in the kitchen did not off. When I tried calling the Emergency Fire Helpdesk, I found it unmanned. Even the facilities helpdesk seemed completely apathetic towards my situation. For the premium price that we pay, at least the minimum emergency services would be expected. The utter inefficiency is really disturbing. I shudder to imagine my wife in the kitchen when that damn fire broke out.
Before I sign off, a special thanks to GR who immediately rushed to help douse the fire, and also used his local language skills to lambast the useless facilities guys here.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Although I turned up late, and remained mostly away from the water games, it wasn’t long before I too was pulled in by GR and gang. And once you’re wet, might as well enjoy it. Everyone seemed to have put their worries and books (not necessarily in that order) behind, and had turned up for a wild time.
Alcohol and smoke seemed to emanate from everywhere, and people, even the usually inhibited ones, decided to indulge in one or both the vices. People getting dunked in the shallow pool, and everyone kicking water into the poor dunked soul was the order of the day. Of course, both the dunked and the dunkers enjoyed the exercise just the same.
As the night progressed, and the effects of the alcohol started to show, the pool became a full-fledged dance floor. People were just about doing every kind of dance that one could think of. I spotted DM doing a modified “Moon-Wade” accompanied by frantic head-banging. Some of the spouses who had turned up to add variety to the party displayed their immense dancing talent, putting us students to shame.
With the way people were enjoying themselves, the party looked like it would go on all the way till morning. Not sure if it did, but I slipped away at sharp 2 AM, to save myself for the next day’s rigorous assignments.
Just before turning in for the night, GR, BS and I did a quick triple-ride on GR’s Yamaha to indulge our inebriated senses one last time. The security guard at the gate was obviously displeased at our audacity to ride triple despite his warning. But a little bit of defiance never hurt anyone. Or so we hoped.
After the quick ride, and another round of warnings and ugly stares from the wretched guard, I finally called it a day. Or night. Whatever.
My take-away from the party last night: Work Hard, Party Harder
Thursday, May 11, 2006
After all the hype and hoopla about how we managed to out-think everyone else, the bubble finally burst when the Prof. showed us in today’s class how simple the whole damn thing was, and how totally wrong we were.
When we first looked at the case, our initial instinct was to tread the conventional, simple path. And if we had, we would have been bang on. But alas, we outsmarted ourselves by thinking that if the solution looked simple, it couldn’t be right. Talk about taking one’s self too seriously. We sure did.
And when we managed to conjure those complicated formulae and those magical numbers, our confidence knew no bounds. Each of us was congratulating the other for masterminding the “perfect solution”. Now when I think of it, I feel stupid.
But that’s the lesson for us. Complicating matters don’t always yield the right results. Simpler solutions might work just fine.
All my group-mates are obviously disappointed at having messed our first marketing assignment up. But a rude awakening right at the beginning is a whole lot better than a jolt in the finals. Now it’s up to us to ensure we learn from this, and make sure our next assignments turn out much better. Here’s a nugget that one of my group-mates gave us, for our future assignments:
Akal + Nakal = Safal.
For those of you who have been following WWE (or WWF if you are from the 1990’s), you must have surely wondered at the monster unveiled on Smackdown a few weeks ago. He goes by the screen name of “The Great Khali”, and is around 7 feet 2, weighing over 400 pounds. On his WWE debut, he manhandled the resident giant Undertaker, who almost looked like a midget jobber in front of the Great Khali.
Now, here’s the interesting bit about the Great Khali. His real name is Dalip Singh, and he is the first Indian citizen to make an impact in the Pro-wrestling world. Dalip was a road construction worker when he was spotted by a senior police officer. Soon, Dalip was in the Police Department, and gradually built his body to match his abnormal height.
He wrestled in Japan for a few years, and is a popular name there.
His debut in WWE is a matter of pride for all the Indian fans of the WWE. We finally have a huge Indian wrestler, from the land of the legendary Dara Singh, making a name on the international stage. Although the likes of Tiger Ali Singh and Tiger Jeet Singh were fairly popular wrestlers of Indian descent, they mostly wrestled in the independent promotions. Their few WWE appearances were mainly as jobbers for the more popular wrestlers. Dalip, on the other hand, is actually being billed by the WWE as the next big thing to dominate wrestling.
However, in the world of pro-wrestling, screen presence and microphone skills are more important than wrestling talent. Unfortunately, Dalip Singh appears rather lacking in those departments. So far, WWE has paired his character with the super-glib Daivari, to take the attention off Dalip’s poor microphone skills. Unless Dalip picks up some English soon, the creative control at WWE will have a hard time scripting his character, and might soon send him back to Ohio Valley Wrestling. Gibberish won't work for too long.
Coming back to Smackdown, Dalip’s character might soon be facing off with the Undertaker at an upcoming Pay-per-view. WWE has been billing the feud with great intensity, and knowing the way WWE wants to make every single extra buck that it can out of a story, I won’t be surprised if they let Dalip win a couple of matches against the Taker, before culminating the feud with a Taker victory at one of the bigger PPVs, like SummerSlam, or even Wrestle Mania 2007, if Dalip can last that long.
Although I am a huge Undertaker fan, I’d like The Great Khali to win just this one time against Taker. More importantly, however, I’d like the Great Khali to win over the audience, for that’s the only way to get a contract out of Vince McMahon.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
I do realize that variety is the spice of life, and of late, this blog is devoid of variety. This blog started out as a place for my ramblings about life in general, and ideally, it should remain that way. However, since these days, and for the next 12 months, I may not be having much of a life outside of the hallowed campus of ISB, it has become increasingly difficult to write about anything else.
Although we do have parties on weekends, they are mostly within the campus. There are people who go out to the city to sample life outside ISB. However, I haven’t made it out of the campus too many times. For one, going to a pub/disco is outrageously expensive when you don’t have an income, and even more so, when you have the specter of a huge loan hovering around your head. Secondly, being a married man, there is very little incentive to go to the pubs for me apart from getting to hear some good music. So I’d much rather get a crate of beer and guzzle in the peaceful confines of my home away from home here.
On the family front, wifey left for Bangalore last weekend, throwing me at the mercy of Sarovar Cafeteria. Food at the café is mostly alright, but not something that I would pay to eat everyday. Luckily for me, it’s only for two weeks, after which I should again be able to relish home food, carefully prepared by Rach in exact accordance with her recipe book.
Till she gets back, however, the onus on keeping the house in shape rests with me. And that includes the odd cooking assignments that I have to take up, followed by long cleaning sessions. These, coupled with the marketing and economics assignments, have kept me on my toes most of the time.
To my good fortune, my study group-mates are such intelligent and diligent creatures that they had the entire economics assignment done even before we met up to discuss it.
Although the guilt-factor has started to kick-in, I hope to make it up to them soon.
Friday, May 05, 2006
All the hype built around the CP factor has finally come unstuck. Apparently irritated by the over-exuberance of students in one of the sections, the professor finally let the cat out of the bag. Excessive CP is unnecessary since it does not affect grades too much. The CP grades for everyone lies there and thereabouts, and excessive CP does not translate to a huge difference in grades.
Now, that comes as a huge relief for some of us who are not very aggressive when it comes to cutting the prof’s lecture to pop an arbit question.
Putting it in an economist’s jargon, the CP elasticity of Grades is very LOW.
Addendum: Apparently CP does matter, and more so during the electives. Since this info came from an alum, there is no doubting it. But atleast, it isn't as bad as the hype built around it.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Everybody is busy prepping for the next lecture, and hoping to make that one special point that none of the previous sections did, to score that most-wanted Class Participation point. There are some who come to class bubbling with enthusiasm, having listed down pages and pages of points to make during class, while there are others who seem worried about someone else making that special point that they had so carefully conjured the previous night. In short, the first term has very clearly spelled out the trend for the coming year.
And CP (I shall refer to Class Participation simply as CP from hereon, to ensure some letters on my keyboard don’t suffer irreparable damage) is a legal tool at ISB that empowers everyone to step on others’ feet to climb up the ladder. As one of my friends very candidly admitted, every single brownie point that you earn by way of CP could decide if you make that shortlist at McKinsey and Co.
CP is certainly a very innovative grading concept at ISB.
The other innovative grading concept at ISB is the Study Group concept. Students are randomly (or so they would like you to believe) aggregated into study groups of 5-6, and are then thrown the incentive to work well in tandem to garner those group assignment points. Needless to say, these points may also determine your fate when those consulting companies come looking.
Interestingly however, the two novelties in grading at ISB, at times, contradict each other.
When a study group analyzes a case scheduled to be discussed in the next day’s class, they share each other’s ideas and points. Next day, during the class, there is a very good chance that your group-mate could pull a fast one on you, and grab that CP point by making a point which was originally yours. Of course, it could also happen the other way round.
In either case, the third novelty at ISB, the Honor Code remains intact and un-violated.
This looming prospect of stealing each other’s CP points might actually deter people from indulging in healthy exchange of ideas in study groups.
Synergy be damned, CP rules.
An interesting situation, for sure. As we progress through the term, the ramifications of the controversial CP grading will start becoming apparent.
Till such time, I love my study group.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Frankly, not much, although the actual answer would require a lot of application of the Bayes’ Theorem for revised probability.
Well, this is basically how our probability cases have been. The question in the case seems pretty simple, but the answer turns out to be usually bizarre. And so far, I haven’t had too much luck in comprehending the complicated probability cases. To make things worse, I bumped into a fellow-student who rattled off all the answers even before I could blink. Apparently, the subject is not too tough. It’s just my brains that are too inadequate to handle them.
The funny thing though, is that all these problems are part of the pre-term course, which is an optional course. In fact, the school expects the students to have at least the basic knowledge of these concepts to be able to dabble in more complicated problems during the core terms.
Somehow, I am already feeling overwhelmed by the high expectations that ISB has of its students. Is there a chance for normal (read as not specially gifted) guys like me to survive the ISB regimen?
Well, if 400 others can, then so can I. That’s my magic mantra.
The Herd Mentality.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
However, since most of us have studied only in India, and our education system does not quite encourage study groups, it remains to be seen if we manage to really use the group to our advantages. Also, since some of us, including myself, have never done a case-analysis, the need to work in a group is all the more essential.
Luckily, diversity will never be a problem within this group, since we have 3 IT guys, 1 Automobile engineer, a CA, and a marketing UG from Wharton (!!!). Hopefully, there will be a good exchange of knowledge between the engineers and the non-engineers.
Although we have been clearly told that we have to work with our study groups, whether we like it or not, it remains to be seen how these groups are going to work together. These are early days, and hopefully, D2 should come through in flying colors. Just like every other group.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
If I were a more serious and even slightly credible writer, I could even have called my condition “Writer’s Block”.
Coming back to the point about censored blogs, the very spirit of blogging lies in the fact that you write what you chose. If I had to write based on topics that someone else chooses or approves, and also adhere to certain guidelines on the content and structure, then I would have become a scribe instead.
Blogging, for me, is strictly personal, and is totally in my own creative control. Maybe, I could write an article or two for the ISB blogs as a guest columnist, if there is such a provision.
That’s not to say I am not a party animal. I am, and quite a wild one at that. However, last night, I preferred to start and finish my party well before midnight. A couple of beers, in the confines of my studio, with a friend for company, over intellectually stimulating conversation summed up my party last night. At the end of it all, I was not much for another wild time at the section party, and decided to give it the slip.
But for all my section mates who turned out in their best party manners, and even braved the dunking sessions, “Go D Go!”.
And if you’re still down with hangover, my silent prayers are with your “D-Partied” soul.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
The first week at ISB has been a mixed bag of sorts. When I came in here, I had lofty expectations of what this school can do to my career. Consulting and I-Banks were where I was hoping to head right after ISB. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I even harbored hopes of becoming the next crorepati from ISB.
One week down the line, I have been cut down to size by the innumerable gyan sessions that our alums conducted ever so enthusiastically for us. There were lots of gyan that were given away, but the biggest takeaway, for me, has been the realization, in no unclear terms, that career shifts don’t happen that easily in a one-year MBA program. McKinsey and the likes will shortlist only the top 30 students, while I-Banks rarely ever look outside of the pool of people with prior experience in finance. I don’t expect to make it to the top 30, and I have no prior experience in finance.
Guess that leaves me with the only obvious option. IT. Which is where I came from, throwing away a decent package and several lucrative opportunities. The irony, as revealed by the alum who conducted the session for the IT club, is that 75% of IT placements offer salaries lower than the school’s average of around 12 L INR. Now compare that to the 12 L plus salary that I could easily have commanded and got if I continued being a techie. Also consider the fact that I would not have a monstrous 15 Lac loan hanging heavy on my head.
Suddenly, I almost feel foolish for throwing it all away to chase a dream. The B-school dream.
The only comforting thought, as someone put
“ The value of a B-school education is not just financial”.
Sour grapes, as most of my ex-colleagues with bulging pockets must be thinking, with wicked smiles pasted all over their faces.
However, the school has been absolutely forthright about what to expect and what not to expect. Miracles rarely happen within a year. Hopefully, in the long run, I will realize the true value of an MBA at the ISB.
Till such time, and atleast for the next one year, it's going to be a stressful time.
Monday, March 27, 2006
"You really think your car would still be where you left it, after last night's storm?"
"Well, it survived because the storm was in a hurry to go to the top. Pity the barn was almost razed" Kelly said.
"What barn?" Bob was surprised.
"Old Rupert's barn. That's where I spent last night, and that’s how I survived the storm. The old man's a nice guy, although you wouldn’t know by looking at him" Kelly smiled.
"I have driven by this road several times, and I don’t remember seeing any barn. Are you sure?" he asked.
"Of course, but I have to ask Rupert about Joe's garage. There is no such place" she continued.
"Joe's Garage? That’s where my dad used to work. But how do you know about it?" he was surprised.
"I went looking for Joe's Garage off the first exit, and couldn’t find anything. Just an old house. And the old lady doesn’t even talk" Kelly complained.
"That's Joe's wife Martha. She used to be a nice lady, but now, she's so old that she hardly understands anything. After Joe's death, she closed the Garage and it is now just a small little house" Bob explained
"Oh, so Rupert wasn’t lying. But when did the garage close?" Kelly asked
"Right after Joe died. About 14 years ago" Bob answered.
"14 years? I wonder why Rupert didn’t know that" she was surprised.
"We'll ask your old Rupert when we get there. How much longer?" Bob was growing impatient.
"Almost there. I think I can spot the car" Kelly screamed.
"But shouldn’t there be a barn right about somewhere around here, as you have been claiming?" Bob asked, with a smirk on his face.
"Oh, but it is, right here, on that mound..." and she turned around towards the empty space where the barn had been the previous night.
"I don’t see anything there. Is that where you survived the whole of last night?" Bob quizzed.
Kelly was in a shock.She had spent the whole night at the barn, and now, there was no sign of the structure!
"How can it be? I swear there was a barn here last night. And now it’s gone. And what happened to Rupert? Where did he disappear?" Kelly turned to Bob in disbelief.
Bob's face had turned pale. There was an unusual quiver in his voice.
"What did you say Rupert's last name was?"
"Jones, I think. The family photograph that Rupert had framed had "Jones Family" written in bold" Kelly remembered.
Bob was sweating profusely, and a strange fear was written all over his face.
"There was a series of twisters that hit this town 17 years ago. Several houses and families perished to the storm. I had read that one of the families that got washed away included one Rupert Jones, who lived on a barn up the mound"
Kelly looked one last time at the barn that never was, as she got into the tow-truck. She knew her life had changed forever since then. A dead man had come back only to save her. She felt a strange sense of security. That someone up there cared for her. A lot of things had happened in her life, but this one incident put everything in perspective.
A dead man, who she had no connection to, had crossed the dimensions of death, to save her.
Although it raised a lot of questions in her head, she had a strange feeling of calmness.
Of someone assured with the knowledge of life. And beyond.
When a trucker finally stopped to offer her a ride till the nearest Auto Service center, Kelly realized how tired she was when she gulped down an entire bottle of Gatorade to the amazement of the kind trucker.
"How did a girl like you end up on that weird road leading to the old mound?" he questioned her.
"I am looking for a mechanic to fix my car. Could you drop me till Joe's Garage, by the next exit?" Kelly pleaded.
"I could, if there was any garage there. I don’t think there is any garage for the next 4 exits" he said.
"Oh, I am told there is. So if you could drop me off at the next exit, I will find my way" Kelly suggested.
"Alright, I will help you find the place if there is one where you say it should be" he agreed.
As the truck got off the exit, Kelly could spot only a small old house a few yards from the road. She got off the truck, and walked to the house. She spotted an old woman, in her 80s, sitting on the porch reading her bible. Kelly walked up to her, and introduced herself
"Hello, I am looking for Joe's Garage. Could you direct me to it?”
The old lady looked up for a moment, but went back to reading her bible the next moment.
Kelly tried talking to the lady, but to no avail. Finally, Kelly gave up, and walked back to the truck.
"Guess you’re right. There is no garage here"
"Let me take you to the Jiffy Lube at the fourth exit. They should be able to send a mechanic to fix your car" the trucker insisted.
"Thanks, I really appreciate your help".
The storm had passed, but had left a wreck in its place. The whole cabin had been ransacked, and furniture thrown everywhere. She could see that the little cabin had put up a fight against the might of the storm, but had finally given in. The storm had reduced the place to a few standing walls, amidst a wooden wreck of debris. The roof had been mostly uprooted, and there were gaping holes in the few walls that had survived the storm.
Rupert slowly managed to get up, and walk up to see the damage to his house. Unusually, his face did not betray any emotion. He seemed least bothered about the fact that his house had been wrecked.
"This doesn’t look good Rupert. This place is gonna take a while to be restored. Maybe you should live in the town till the barn is rebuilt" Kelly tried to comfort him.
"Don’t worry about me. I have friends around here. I will manage. What's more important is that you are fine" Rupert said.
Kelly knew from the look on Rupert's face that there was no point in trying to make him change his mind.
Dawn was about to break. Kelly walked down the mound to see if her car had still stood its ground after the previous night's storm. Luckily for her, she had parked the car at the lowest point below the mound, a little away from the cabin. The storm had ascended too fast, and had therefore, miraculously missed the car.
"If I start early, I could still make it on time for that meeting" she figured.
Rupert was visibly tired after all the intense activity, and his old frame looked rather pale.
"Well, since I am alive, and all my bones are in place, I think I should start early, and go to the town to find a mechanic " Kelly said.
Rupert just nodded his head, with a wry smile on his face, which failed to betray his frail state.
"Joe's Lubes is just off the first exit on the Highway, when you get on it. And it's open all night".
"Thanks Rupert, I am really grateful to you. And I didn’t mean to be, although I came across as rather rude" Kelly said, ashamed at her preconceived perceptions about the character of an old man who had saved her from a certain death.
"Looks like the floodgates to heaven have opened", quipped Kelly in reply.
"Did you say heaven?" he asked with a wicked grin.
"Huh?" shrugged Kelly, almost disinterested and lost in her thoughts.
It had been a long day for her. She had driven the whole day to get back to Albany, from Orlando. Her best friend Kate had finally fallen in love, and had decided to marry Steven Bloom, the suave Television anchor on Fox. The wedding was a grand affair at Steve's private ranch in Orlando. She was still reeling from the late night partying that followed the lavish wedding. Steve had just been confirmed for a reality Horror show, and had therefore based his party on the same theme. Dressing up like a Witch had been Kelly's favorite Halloween pastime, and she had enjoyed all the scares that she attracted at the party for her act.
The only complaint had been that she had had very little sleep since she had to start at 6 AM in order to be able to make it to NY in time for Tuesday's meeting at work.
"This place is getting eerie" she mumbled incoherently.
"Shouldn’t that be my line?" Rupert grinned sheepishly, pointing at Kelly's mascara smudged eyes.
Kelly cursed herself for not being careful enough to remove the Halloween makeup. She had overslept due to all that alcohol, and had not had enough time for a decent shower. The wiry, permed hair and the dark mascara had looked funny in the morning. Not anymore, thought Kelly.
Kelly had been fortunate to have found shelter at Rupert's barn. Her 1986 Oldsmobile had died on her right in the middle of a desolate jungle. She had strayed off the Highway on a shorter road that allowed her to skip the Toll gates. And as luck would have it, her car had broken down right in the middle of nowhere. Rupert had seen her blinking lights, and had walked down to her from his barn up the hillock.
His lean frame looked weathered, yet his eyes had a distant sparkle of a man who had once seen a lot of joy. His face and hair were unkempt, but still left him attractive in a weird way. Beneath his rough exterior, his eyes seemed to betray his soft self. Kelly had almost immediately agreed to his offer of shelter in the wild.
Rupert had looked down the bonnet, and had pronounced the car "Impossible to fix". Kelly knew better than to believe him, but she knew that her Olds had run beyond its norm, and she had been pushing her luck. But nothing that a mechanic in Albany can’t fix, she thought.
Rupert's barn was a huge cabin like structure built on top of a mound, just behind the peak, such that it would be completely hidden from the road. The dense vegetation also added to the anonymity of the place. Rupert must like his privacy, she thought.
Dinner was a badly cooked barbecue, which he claimed to be his game. Kelly hated the food, and therefore, seemed disinterested in discussing about his hunting habits. Must be a rabbit, she thought.
As the rain started to pour, the barn became very cold. Kelly was trying to keep herself warm by moving closer to the barbecue flames which were fighting a lost cause against the calamitous winds. Rupert had disappeared into his dungeon, right after dinner, and had not re-emerged for the next two hours.
When he finally came out, he had a coat of fox fur which he offered to Kelly.
“This should keep you warm" he mumbled, and then disappeared into his dungeon.
Kelly tried to sleep, but had weird nightmares every time she sank into slumber.
She kept herself busy thinking about the great time she had had at the wedding. But somehow, there was always an uncomfortable feeling that she was being watched all the time.
She found an old radio on the corner table, and decided that it would keep her company till morning.
"Anything to keep me awake in this weird house" she uttered to herself.
The newsreader on radio was announcing that the storm had worsened and a blizzard was heading south. There were warnings issued for people to take refuge in concrete, blizzard-proof structures. The announcement on radio worsened Kelly's fears since the barn did not look to be the safest place to be in, when the blizzard came visiting. She spent the next few minutes praying hard when Rupert re-emerged from the dungeon with a worried look on his face.
"You know the twister is headed our way" he spoke, almost startling a half-asleep Kelly.
"Maybe you should help me carry the food stuff down into the cellar, rather than just sit there and give me those looks" he continued, with an irritated shrug.
Within the next 10 minutes, Kelly and Rupert managed to stock the cellar up with food, warm clothes, and water. The radio predicted the twister to hit the jungle in another 20 minutes.
"This should last us for a couple of days, although am not sure if we would last till then" Rupert joked, pouring himself a glass of wine. Kelly noticed that the cellar had several bottles of wine stored.
"At least something good about this place" she consoled herself, while pouring herself some wine too.
The next 30 minutes were spent in silent anticipation of the twister. At 3:20 AM in the night, Kelly could feel a sudden stillness in the air. She knew right away that they were just seconds away from the twister.
And then it arrived.
The whole house began to shake due to the sheer force of the twister. Kelly could hear the thumping noise of the furniture being dashed against the floor of the house, from beneath in the basement. Everything above seemed to have been thrown about by the mad rage of the twister. Kelly and Rupert hung on to the iron hoops along the walls of the cellar, chanting silent prayers to allay their fears. The next few minutes seemed like an eternity, with the ravaging storm growing seemingly stronger in its pursuit of destruction, with every passing minute.
And then it all suddenly stopped. The madness. The rage.
"She's gone, and we’re still alive" Rupert sighed in relief.
"Thank God the dungeon held up against the brute force" Kelly mumbled.
She was, grudgingly, grateful to Rupert for saving her from an almost certain death.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
There was a strange sense of loss even as I was filling in the Separation Form. Having started my career as a junior software engineer, I graduated through the ranks to finally end up where I did. The journey, despite all the shortcomings and the denied opportunities, had its good moments. So many experiences. So many memories. So many changes that my life went through while I was part of this organization.
Surely, IBM will remain very close to my heart.
It wasn't the perfect organization to work for. But then no organization is perfect. The fact that I didn’t ever seriously think about quitting in the past 6 and half years is proof that there was something innately good about working for this organization.
For all the good things about this place, there is one big aspect where this organization is a big letdown. And I am not even talking about salaries here. The moment I told them I cannot be persuaded to stay back, there was a sudden chill in their attitude. Although I asked to be relieved only end of this month, or early next month, the direction from the management was very clear.
They insisted that I wind up my act at the soonest, and leave. Not just that, they are going to adjust my balance leaves against the notice period that I will not be serving. Sad, considering that although I was willing to serve at least most part of the notice period, the organization has forced me out by end of next week.
Anyways, I can't complain too much since this is strictly business. And they must have several such people to get rid off, and therefore, cannot afford an emotional farewell to every employee who resigns.
At least now, I won’t have the slightest guilt in not naming IBM as one of the companies that I would want to work for post-MBA.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The mother and the wife.
It's amazing how easy it is to take them for granted, just because they don't mind.
Or even if they did, it doesn't matter since they will still continue to love us anyways.
It's funny how we know that we take them for granted, and yet don't do anything to change it.
But Men, being intelligent species, realized that sooner than later, it was inevitable that women would rebel. There was only so much that they would take, and once that limit was crossed, they would make life miserable for their men.
At this point, a genius among the male species spoke.
"How about setting aside one day in a year to appreciate the women of this world? That way they will also feel special, even if it's for only one day in a year".
Men being men, a few of them had apprehensions.
"That leaves us with only 364 days of bossing around in a year. Aren't you asking too much from us? Being magnanimous is one thing, but this is plain sacrifice"
The genius pacified the detractors again.
"Considering that there will be leap years, we will still have 365 days of domination once in 4 years. And if you want the bigger joys, you will have to be prepared for a few sacrifices, however tough it may be".
Finally, after a lot of convincing, all the men agreed to celebrate the women of the world on one day each year.
Today is that day.
Happy International Women's Day.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Greg Chappell's unprovoked statements against Saurav Ganguly re-ignited what most of us Cricket-lovers thought was dead and buried. Just like Saurav Ganguly himself was, in the words of Kiran More, who clearly mentioned that Saurav will not be considered for selection in future irrespective of his domestic performances.
Greg Chappell, in conversation with The Guardian, went on to talk about how important being the captain was to Saurav's life and finances. The not-so-clever use of the word "finances" triggered a whole new wave of outrage not only from the usual Saurav fans, but also from the Saurav bashers. Greg Chappell, through such unwarranted accusations, is proving himself to be the master of under-handed attacks. Remember, Greg Chappell was the captain who instructed his brother Trevor to bowl under-arm in an ODI against New Zealand some 25 years back. And we sure seem to be witnessing history repeat itself.
What this whole incident did was to infuse new life into Saurav Ganguly's chances of making it back into the team. Till a few days ago, everyone except Bengalis and die-hard Saurav fans had forgotten about Saurav in the wake of Team India's recent successes in Pakistan. Yuvraj Singh, the man whose inevitable inclusion in the team led to Saurav's exit, had played in such breath-taking fashion that people started asking "Saurav who?” But with Chappell's ill-timed, ill-witted statements, Saurav may just have won his cap back.
As if Chappell's foolishness was not adequate, Kiran More, the chairman of selectors, issued another inciting statement when he said that Saurav will not be considered for selection even if he performs extremely well in the domestic matches. That statement, in principle, amounts to an open admission of a completely undemocratic selection procedure. Any person, whatever his age is, if he is playing well, should be considered for selection. Please note that "Playing Well" includes all the aspects of cricket such as fielding and training too. If Saurav Ganguly can prove to be a good cricketer again, there is no reason why Mr. More should prevent him from returning to the squad.
Between Mr. More's lack of political correctness and Chappell's reluctance to get over his hatred for Saurav, the one man who has benefited the most is Saurav Ganguly himself. As a cricket fan, I would love to see Saurav earn his place back in the team, and return to the glorious form that he once displayed. However, I would not like him to be a part of the team for anything less than his best form. Unfortunately, due to the current sympathy wave that looks to be emerging in Saurav's favor, he might just be back in the team, albeit not on merit.
In a nation that runs more on emotion than on reason, the biggest loser, if that happens, could be our beloved Team India.
A family of 5 is driving back to Bangalore from Tirupathi, in their new car. A young man, all of 24 years, is behind the wheel, driving along the highway as he has so many times in the past. His uncle had bought a new car, and had planned to visit Tirupathi over the weekend with wife and twin daughters. Since he was known to be a very good driver, his uncle asked him to accompany them to the sacred shrine.
On the way back, about 10 kms from Kolar towards Bangalore, he is driving through a series of treacherous curves on the highway. To avoid the muddy lane, he steers the car just a wee bit to the right, almost to the center of the road. An oncoming tanker appears out of the blind curve. Before he realizes, it's all over.
A head-on collision so strong that it split the Santro into two halves. His uncle died on the spot with his skull busted open. He suffered internal bleeding, with ruptured testicles, and finally succumbed on way to the hospital. The 3 women in the backseat are seriously injured, and are being treated even as I write this.
The sight of a motionless 24 year old cousin, seemingly at complete peace with himself, was horrific. As I bent down to place the rice grains at his mouth, as per Hindu tradition, I saw his face from up close, almost without any visible injuries.
Visions of a 9 year old kid pleading with me to teach him to ride a bicycle flashed before me. It seemed like only yesterday that the two of us were at the annual fair at Ragigudda, trying to shoot balloons with an air-rifle, and attempting to carefully aim and throw the metal ring over that elusive box of Parle-G biscuits.
So many memories played in front of my misty eyes that I couldn’t conceal the smile on my face.
And then when all the mist cleared, I was again staring at reality.
A still, lifeless body being carried into the funeral van. For the last ride.
May God give your parents the strength to handle the enormousness of your loss, and the will to live on with your memories.
They say if you are genuinely missed by at least a few people after you die, then you have had a good life. Going by that measurement, you've had a truly great life.
Wherever you are, I know you will still continue to make a difference to everyone around you.
In life. And in death.