Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Finally, ISB calls!

Last night, ISB R2 admits were sent out, and I happened to be one of the privileged few to receive an admit!
Whew! Finally, something went right.

Right now, I am more relieved than happy. Because this means that I am going someplace this year, for sure.

I am yet to receive the results from McCombs and Duke, but the fact that I have one admit already makes the wait a lot easier.
Come to think of it, even if I do get into McCombs, I’d rather prefer ISB to it since McCombs is a big money gamble, and I wont even get a loan from US (due to their stupid co-signer requirements).

So right now, it is only Duke that can make me change my mind about joining ISB.
Obviously Duke-Fuqua is too great an opportunity to miss, if I do get an admit. But again, it’s 4 times as expensive as ISB, and takes twice the time as ISB to earn an MBA degree. US Schools are always a big gamble, but they also pay-off better than non-US schools.

Well, right now, since I haven’t got anything from Duke yet, there is no point in romanticizing the dilemma.
And even if I do manage to get into the beautiful dilemma, a problem of plenty is always better than the other way round!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Jessica Lal Verdict- The Death Of Justice

"Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" is one of the basic tenets of jurisprudence.
In India, we say that with more punch. "Justice Delayed to ensure Justice Denied".
That sums up the Jessica Lal murder trial verdict.

The sheer mockery of the entire justice system in India that this verdict represents has disillusioned the whole nation. A cold-blooded murder, in full view of over 100 people, is finally dismissed for want of eye-witness evidence. And that, after 6 years from the day of the crime.

It is almost customary these days for the rich and powerful to get away with any criminal offence, and the Jessica Lal verdict only adds further proof to the anarchy that has descended on our legal system. The fact that Manu Sharma shot Jessica Lal for refusing him a drink in full view of so many elite people at the party should have made this a prima facie case of murder. An Open and Shut case. However, the rich and powerful very conveniently bought the judicial system, to first delay justice to 6 years giving them enough time to ensure all the witnesses turned "hostile", and then to have a totally incredulous "Not guilty" verdict in their favor.

Some of the key witnesses who turned hostile include famous models and socialites. The cruelest blow was dealt by one spineless rogue called Shayan Munshi. Munshi, an actor in the Bollywood Film Industry, was also serving liquor to the guests, along with Jessica, and was a key eye-witness to the murder. However, he turned hostile and claimed that he was not even at the party on the night of the murder.

When Jessica Lal, herself being a top model, could not get justice, there is little hope for the common man. The incident not only exposes the weak value system in our society where witnesses turn hostile overnight, but also raises some very important questions about our legal system.

The legal system needs to tighten its perjury laws, to ensure witnesses cannot retract their statements with such wanton ease. The current law prohibits the witnesses from signing their statements, and is therefore, an open invitation for witnesses to turn hostile. If the perjury laws were strong enough, witnesses would not find it as convenient to turn hostile due to the repercussions of "lying under oath".

Secondly, verdicts should not rely so heavily on eye-witness evidence, but should also consider circumstantial evidence. In the Jessica Lal murder case, most hostile witnesses either claimed that they were not at the scene of crime, or that they didn’t actually see Manu Sharma fire the bullet at Jessica although they saw him fleeing with his gun. On circumstantial evidence, this would have been enough to nail Manu Sharma, but unfortunately, the system begs for eye-witness.

Further, the great problem for jurisprudence in our country is that although the system is over-reliant on eye-witness evidence, there is no Witness Protection Program to prevent witnesses from being bribed or threatened into turning hostile. In cases when the witness remains defiant, the loopholes in our system makes it fairly easy for the accused to simply eliminate the witness.

The most glaring loophole, however, is the fact that the case dragged on for 6 long years.
When all the eye-witness evidences were available, why wasn’t Manu Sharma tried sooner?
6 years is too long a time for even the bravest of witnesses to stand by his/her statement, in the face of threats and pressure. Add to that the fact that all the accused people were let out on bail, paving way for more foul play. The inability of the police to recover the weapon which was used to fire the mysterious "second" bullet adds more credibility to the conspiracy theory.

The entire country knows Manu Sharma killed Jessica Lal, but yet, the man walks free by law.
This incident could have far more dangerous implications since this might be construed as an assurance that people with financial and political clout can flout the law whenever they please and easily get away with it. For a country that is already simmering with anger and discontentment over the various media exposes, ranging from the "Tehelka expose" to the recent "CNN IBN Sting Operation", the Jessica Lal verdict could just be the "Tipping Point".

"Rang De Basanti", the recent blockbuster that was based on corrupt politics finally leading to a social revolution, may not seem so unreal anymore.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Back to Blogspot

Have been inactive on blogspot for an entire year.
I had been posting my ramblings on rediffblogs for the past year. After trying out both blogspot and rediffblogs, I am now convinced this is the best place to be.
I intend to be back on blogspot from now.
A few posts will be copied over from my other blog, over the next few days, due to want of original posting material.

Gastronomic Nightmares

It happened when I was in std 8th. Mom had been transferred to a far off place, and couldnt impress upon her superiors to move her back to Bangalore. Dad had, therefore, inherited the kitchen. Food would mostly be alright, but there were times when Dad would outdo himself, and cook a fantasy dinner that we thought should stay only in fantasies. But since brother and I were kids with a paltry pocket money of Rs.50 per month, which would mostly be spent on the first weekend after receiving it, we had to force ourselves to like everything that Dad cooked. It was only later that I realised that going hungry is a lot less harmful than eating bad food.

One fateful evening, Dad decided to cook something exotic. I dont remember what it was, but it smelled like volcanic ash. And it tasted just as hot. Since we dont hail from Andhra, and we dont even have any remote ancestral links with Andhra Pradesh, the gene for digesing spicy food was never inherited. Not even the recessive variety. But Dad believed in the "All humans are evolved from the same ancestors" theory, and insisted we eat the spicy volcanic ash that he had conveniently branded as food.

Armed with a bucket full of water, sweetened by a generous helping of sugar, Bro and I went through the ordeal. We had to eat till the entire ash was consumed, since my Dad was strictly against wasting food. Brother suggested that we save some of it for later, hoping that would give us sufficient time to dig a big pit in the neighbour's backyard and dump the food so that nobody could find it. However, Dad was quick to see through his plan, and warned us that the food would get hotter when it turns cold. Some oxymoron that. So we cursed and ranted and cried and ate the entire lava , while all the time emptying bucket loads of sweetened water and draining our watery noses with turkey towels (since all our hand kerchiefs were dripping wet).

The next morning, I had to excuse myself atleast thrice during class, to relieve myself in the loo. As luck would have it, it was a Tuesday. And Tuesdays were dry days in Bangalore since there would be no water running in the taps. I dare not explain how I came clean out of my predicament. But I have faint memories of all my fellow students reaching for scented kerchiefs the moment I came back to the class. Someone later told me it was chemistry class, and they were discussing Hydrogen Sulphide.
But I know better than to believe it.

Valentine's Day

P.S. This post was written on Feb 15th, but has been posted on Feb 20th.

It was Valentine's Day yesterday. And I managed to pick up a rose for my wife just before I went home at 930 PM. Luckily for me, she didn’t seem too upset by my late ways. In fact, it appears that she has given up on me.

That was my V-day. But the rest of the country seems to have woken up to love in a really big way.
The V-day festivities begin in early February, and linger on till the end of the month. Barista and Cafe Coffee Day outlets seem to be in a competition to outdo each other in ushering in the spirit of St.Valentine.

Last weekend, the waiter at Barista tried every clichéd trick in his book of marketing to sell my friend and me one of those mushy stuffed teddy toys to gift our girlfriends on Valentine's Day. We put up a brave front, and refused him every single time. But he kept coming back with more and better offers. Due to his insisting, my friend decided to buy it for his girlfriend.

After scanning through the variety of stuffed toys on display, he finally decided to buy the huge cute teddy that adorned the top shelf.

My friend walked up to the waiter and asked him
So you think that huge Teddy would make a perfect Valentine's Day gift?".

The waiter smiled.
"Sir, I can assure you that you will receive VIP Treatment from madam on V-day if you give her this gift".

My friend was convinced. He asked the waiter to wrap the gift in mushy colors and lace befitting the Valentine's Day spirit. Just when he was about to pay up, he noticed another small, little teddy thrown away in a corner.

"How much for that little teddy?" he asked.

"Sir, that one's been discarded since it is too dirty. But if you like it, I will give it to you as a free compliment" the waiter offered.

"Great. Wrap that one too, and stick a message saying 'To my dear wife'. I don't want her feeling left out on Valentine's Day"

My friend must have had a blast yesterday. I called him at home last night, but his wife told me he hadn’t yet come back from work. I asked her if she got the Big Teddy or the small one.
She just said
"You mean there was a Big Teddy? That b@#$*#".

I am yet to hear from him about how his Valentine's Day went.
But I am sure he had a Blast.

McCombs Interview

Finally, I’m done with all the B-school interviews. For this year.

The telephonic interview with the McCombs School was a cakewalk. But all my interviews so far have all been cakewalks. Or so I thought till the results came out.

And there's no reason to believe this one might be any different. So I'm trying to stay grounded and not let my hopes soar too high. I'm bracing myself up for more failures, and am already chalking out plans for the B Schools that I should apply to next year.

Anyways, here's a gist of the interview. The guy called me at sharp 1130 PM, as scheduled. Because the first time he called, the line had seemed so muffled, when he called the second time, I started the conversation trying to check if the line was clear, and if there were any disturbance etc. In the process, I missed the pleasantries, and didn’t even ask him how he was doing.

Next, I addressed him by his first name, and then sought his permission to do so. That could be a minus or a plus, depending on whether you're an optimist or a pessimist. I'm an optimist, and I would like to believe that by getting rid of the formality proactively, I was making a point about my networking skills.

Some of the key questions:
1. Why do you want to do an MBA now, and why McCombs?
Clichéd, and oft-exploited. Did a convincing job.

2. What do you want to do post-MBA?
Another expected one. Told him clearly that I intend to stay put in IT, and take up higher roles involving organizational management, rather than just a micro-level project management role that I currently do. Also told him about my entrepreneurial intentions.

3. Questions about my co-curriculars, sports, cricket, and about the charity activities that I had mentioned in my resume. He specifically asked me about each charity activity that I had mentioned, and I described them in lurid detail, and he seemed impressed (I hope).

4. How long have I been in the US, where, why etc.

5. One instance from my professional life where I have turned around a project with my leadership skill.

6. Have I worked in a team environment, and my view on teamwork?
I waxed eloquent on this one, since I have been leading teams for 3 years now.

7. Why a US B-school, and why not Western Europe or any other place? Is it because I work for an American company?
I told him about the education standards in US being the best in the whole world, with some of the best institutions operating out of the country. And I want to associate myself with the best and hence US.

Then there were some questions from my side about the loan options at McCombs, and why they don’t have a facility for loan without co-signor requirements. Also, asked about study groups, Venture Fellows at McCombs, Job opportunities on campus etc.

Finally, we exchanged thank you's and he wished me the best, irrespective of "whether I come to McCombs or join some other B-School".
That last statement left me bewildered.

Results will be out in 2 weeks time, but funnily though, I am neither overjoyed with optimism, nor sulking in pessimism. The UNC fiasco has sobered me down so much that now, I don’t take myself too seriously, and would rather let others judge me.

Foolish Optimism has made way for a more Pragmatic self-assessment.

ISB Interview

I had my R2 interview for ISB on Jan 27th, Friday at The Oberoi, Bangalore.
The 50 word essay was too short, and my topic was "LIFE". Managed to write a small satirical essay, although I didn’t bother too much about the word count.

My interview was scheduled to start at 3 PM, and I was called in on the dot. There were 4 people on the panel, a senior lady and a middle aged man, probably from Adcom, and two fairly young guys (probably alums). I wished them as I entered, but the panel didn’t seem too friendly. I never caught them smiling throughout the entire time.

The interview went on for a full 30 minutes, and they had to end it since we were running out of time. The questions were as below:
1) Tell us why you have stuck to the same company for more than 5 years?
2) What kind of complex situations have you faced at work, and how have you solved them?
3) Would your current company want to hire you after your MBA, and why?
4) A few more questions about some of the awards and achievements on my resume.
5) What is it about you that separates you from the rest of the IT applicants?
(Since I mentioned about my blog, and my creative writing habits, they asked me a few more questions about my writings etc)
6) Since I had mentioned about sports in my resume, there were a few questions on soccer.
7)I was asked some specific questions about one of the projects I had worked on, and one of them even asked me if I knew the price of a Single Instance WebSphere Application Server (since I am from IBM).
8) I was given a chance to ask any questions to them.
9) Midway during my questions, I was interrupted since they were running out of time. One of the guys started asking me about some project management situations, and how I would handle various people related situations. Actually grilled me with cross questions.
That was the last question. I wished them and left.
Thought I did pretty well, but could have done much better. A mixed bag.
Now keeping my fingers crossed.

Insecurities of a Software Professional

The life of a software professional is full of insecurities.

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 decide you have had enough, and 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 fallibilities with the English Language, 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.

My Hallowed Nation

As a citizen of the world's largest democracy, I should be a proud man.
But alas, I am anything but that!

59 years since India became an Independent country, and there is still no sign of growth and freedom that one would expect in a democratic country. The Constitution of India proudly proclaims the country to be a "Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic republic". However, today, the country is anything but what the constitution proclaims.

With the way India has handled Kashmir, Sovereignty is a complete misnomer, especially when it comes to the Kashmir province. By conceding a part of Kashmir to Pakistan, the Government of India clearly made mockery of the sovereignty of India over the entire Kashmir. What is more appalling than this act of cowardice is the fact that even present day Governments are trying to bargain with the Line of Control as the official India-Pak border. And if that was not insulting enough, our rogue neighbor has rebuked even that offer, and is fighting for complete control of Kashmir.

The myth about Indian Socialism was busted long ago, and the concept is not even relevant in the capitalistic India of today. Distribution of wealth is equal only among corrupt politicians and rich industrialists.

Secularism is the most abused word in Indian politics. A country that boasts of its secular credentials does not even have a uniform civil code. Despite tall claims of "No discrimination based on caste, creed, religion or sex", discrimination is so rampant that it has become a law in itself. How else do you justify the law which allows Muslims to take 4 wives because their religion allows it? Because of the minority appeasement politics that has been India's bane for the past 60 years, Muslim laws have been seamlessly integrated into our social system, thereby making religious discrimination a law in itself. If that isn't enough, the country is plagued by the outrageous concept of reservations based on caste and religion.
How then, can we call ourselves secular when the law of the land itself promotes such rampant religious discrimination?
To allow people to practise their religion is one thing. But to permit the religion to dictate the law is another thing altogether. Shouldn’t a secular government always ensure that the "State" and the "Church" are completely independent of each other?
Going by the current law, tomorrow, if I float a religion which permits rape, murder and other heinous crimes, will the law of the land spare me and my followers from legal persecution, in the name of religious freedom? They should, considering that I am only following my religion, however heinous it may be.

Finally, the Indian Democracy is also a big farce considering the government is not at all for the people. When votes are manipulated through threats and booth capturing, the government may not even be by the people. And with the kind of thugs and gang-lords who run the government, I am would be surprised if these politicians are from among the people. To add further credibility to my suspicions, the fact that our ruling party is headed by a foreigner is a sure indication that the government is not from the people.

With such a farcical system of governance, it should come as no surprise that when a television channel recently conducted a sting operation to catch the corrupt politicians accepting bribes from undercover journalists, the political parties, instead of reprimanding these tainted ministers, started accusing the media of improper and irresponsible journalism. Here is a masterpiece among some of the reactions from the top politicians of this hallowed nation.
"A person who is giving bribe is a bigger criminal than a person who is accepting the bribe. So let us arrest the journalists who offered these bribes".

Hallowed, we certainly are!