Friday, August 25, 2006

Speed Demon : The URO experience

NOTE: In adherence with the Honor Code rules at ISB, the author acknowledges that this post was originally published a year ago on his now defunct blog. The post is being republished as an open acknowledgement of his "Writer's Block".

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

Pipped to the Post

The ELP that I so passionately wrote about in my previous post slipped right out of our hands. We thought we did well, but forgot that the rules of the competition requires us to not only do well, but do better than the competition. When there is only one prize up for grabs, being good is not enough. And the team that pipped us to the post were, I am sure, more deserving than us.

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

ELP is just a call away

As the months have passed, the terms at ISB have started to seem shorter and shorter. Conversely, I have begun to find myself lagging more and more behind schedules due to my acute mismanagement of time, both in and out of class. The added distractions of PaEV and ELP will only make my miseries worse.

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.

Signing off.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Corp Fin"ished

Corporate Finance has been giving me a tough time. However, the blame lies squarely on me, and me alone. Professor BC has been absolutely fantastic, and is probably the only reason I may scrape through the subject this term. His joyous spirit defies his age, and his sense of humor leaves most of the class in guffaws.

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”.

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.