Sunday, December 31, 2006

The rear view...

Its yet another 31st of December, and time is trying to tick its way into the next year. All newspapers, TV channels, magazines et al are bustling with the flashbacks of the year gone by. On my own turf, I thoroughly enjoyed the year that went by - with a lot of new things, mingled with old. Some of it I want to jot here, as my farewell gesture to 2006.
Reading:
Bookswise, it was a very fruitful year - both in terms of books purchased and books read.I built up a collection of more than a 100 books ( of course I am proud!). I got introduced to some amazing authors like Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Jose Saramago

Favorite reads of the year: Snow, My name is Red, Never Let me go, The Double, The Blind Assassin, Possession, The Pickup
Travel:
This was a great year for travel as well, though of course not as much as last year, when Europe offered a platter to explore. But then, India is no less. I saw the hills, snow, mist, and the spleandour of the sea.I traversed through the backwaters, spent days on a cruise, took a 52 hour train journey and enjoyed a drive through Himachal
Places I visited: Mukhteshwar, Chila, Rishikesh, Trivendrum, Kovalam, Alleppy, Cochin, Lakshadweep, Matheran,Lonavala, Khandala, Tungareshwar, Mahabaleshwar, Goa, Coorg, Simla, Kufri, Naldhera and Fagu. Also visited Bhopal and Cal for the first time.
Movies:
With a lot of free time in the c
ampus as the slower sixth term rolled on, there was enough scope for movie-watching and I watched some really good movies this year.
Favorite movies of the year: CRASH, Dor, The Prestige, Godfather, The Omen, RDB, Walk The Line, Blanc, Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi, Malena

Plays:
This was also an year when I got introduced to the charm of theatre for the first time. I did not watch as many plays as I would have liked to watch, but the ones I watched were quite gripping.
Favorites: The open couple, Mitr, Vagina Monologues

New stuff:
Yes, there were a lot of new happenings in life. Moving out of campus, shifting to Mumbai, Joining JPMorgan, rejoining i2, going to pubs, watching theatre, getting on Orkut, doing a trek through water, etc. Above all, for the first time I saw a brown land turn into white as snow covered it in its beautiful shine. And it was a beautiful moment, not only because it was a pretty site, but also because some of my closest friends stood with me as I saw that happen..
On that note, I wish that beautiful year a goodbye.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

See those stores!


After much deliberation, hue and cry, it seems big retail is finally making headway in India. Despite all the red efforts and Government's flimsy doors made of FDI caps, consumerism has managed to hold its reign and is bringing to the country what many consumers have been asking for years.
I wonder what had kept the Indian players from venturing in this space for such a long time. Of all the places in the world, India can be counted upon to give enough business to value stores, given its abundance of "value-conscious" buyers. Then why do we need foreign money to cash in on a great, almost sureshot business opportunity?
So it is a great relief to see that finally this common sense has alighted on the celebrated groups of our country. After a lot of hush hush activity, Reliance finally unraveled its ambitious plans of taking the country to a new level with 1000 stores in the next 5 years modeled after the most popular player in the field - Walmart. On the side, Walmart, tired of waiting to get regulatory approval for an entry in one of its sourcing destinations, decided to enter via backdoor through an alliance with Bharti - the one enterpreneur who had been quick to nail another blockbuster opportunity in India in telecomm. Since this announcement, ET has daily been giving one news or the other on the upcoming mega-retail, which, combined with the nearing vacation season, gives a touch of festivity to the economic scenario in the country. While the AVBirla is rushing to go the reliance way, existing retails players like pantaloon are breaking out of their complacency of being the only players. Other global players like Lottemart and Tesco (who had been outmaneuvered by Walmart in the Bharti alliance) are still looking at entry strategies into the market and keeping our consultants busy and thriving.
Apart from giving employement to our consultants, these mega retails are also generating scores of other jobs. Every personnel in reliance has become a headhunter scouting for talent. From IT Services to logistics, this sector is driving investments in a lot of arenas. I personally am happy, both as a service provider and as the consumer who is looking forward to all the added avenues for her retail therapy, thankfully at prices affordable for my wallet (Apart from the fact that I will not have to wait for a US trip to buy all the attractive cosmetics and Stationary that Walmart offers! )
So what was Government's aim in putting up those flimsy walls? The largescale benefits to the economy are enough to downplay the effect these stores might have on the mom and pop stores that the Govt is trying to protect. Of course the overcharging bania should be driven out to lead way for a more efficient medium. Besides, the size of the country offers enough scope for different retail formats to coexist. No large chains can reach every corner of the country, and I will still not want to stand in a queue of a large store for buying a loaf of bread. The smaller stores will only need to become more customer-friendly and fair to survive in the race, because the buyers will be weighing the cost savings in going to the large stores against the convinience offered by these players. How can it be unethical to drive a complacent set to reach for better efficiency and service?
Besides, does the Govt think that foreign money is more dangerous in disposing these stores as compared to Indian money which is now being sprung into the sector? The logic of it beats me.
Anyways, irrespective of what the Govt might be thinking, thousands of women in this country are sure waiting with excitement to get more chance to do what they love most - SPLURGE!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Once upon a time there was a partition...

...And for years and generations, we will never cease to center our poems, movies, plays and life around it. Whenever someone will mention the theme India or country - Wham! we will go and perform something that talks about the pain of partition and the ensuing bitterness.
Nobody can deny that it was a very significant event for our country. It did draw lines in many hearts. But what carries those lines through generations is the folklore that passes it around, sings it around - trying to evoke fear, pity, awe, pain and as a result of all this, hatred.
Currently Prithvi is running a festival with a very politically correct, but in my eyes a largely irrelevant theme - "Kala Desh ki seva mein" or Art in the service of nation. Apart from the fact that very few people will enjoy plays based on such a nationalistic theme - the assortment of plays does little to serve the nation. At least two of those plays are based on riots (and therefore linked indirectly to 'The Partition'). Then there are others which are supposed to talk about exchanging values for commercial gains, may be in a socialist bid to remind us that it is a sin to have or earn money. How can such a theme serve a nation which is trying to reach out to the entire world is beyond my understanding. I don't think that this service oriented populace is really giving up values to grow and have respectable lifestyles, then why is this depressing seed of doubt being sown into their minds?
When did nationalism become synonymous with Hindu-Muslim riots? Even though the partition was a part of our independence, how can that single event be the identity of our country which is trying hard to make a place for itself in this world. Is the only way of proving our patriotism is to shed a few tears for the pains that were suffered by so many families once upon a time. Why can we think of only things wrong with our nation when we try to "serve" our country - is there nothing to applaud in it? Are we not seeding further riots when we continue to take pride in performing the latest ones on stage?
I did go to see one of these plays, and more because it was written by Gulzar and that I like theatre, than any obligation I felt towards the nation. I cannot point one single flaw in the play - it was amazing in its direction, acting and technique. And yet, I could not help feeling a little suffocated. As the actors cried over a newspaper that was doused in blood day after day - I wanted to ask them back if they were doing any better than dressing up a blood soaked issue.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Japanese writings

It was only by accident that I discovered and rediscovered Japanese writings. The first Japanese book that I read was Amrita. I picked it up randomly from the collection of my houseowner in Bangalore. She had never got around to reading this book which had been apparently thrust upon her by her granddaughter. The book was by a Japanese woman called Banana Yoshimoto - a name I did not know then and did not remember untill recently. I was immediately captured by the surreal quality of the book. Only a few writers actually delve into surrealism and weave ghosts into a story without actually making it a mystery/thriller writing. And even fewer can create the charm of making surreal a part of definitive reality and make the joint seamless. Amrita was one of those books. However, even though the book stayed with me in some vague recess, I remembered neither the author nor the book's name, untill I saw it in Landmark recently (a place which has rapidly become my favorite for its amazing collection by the way). It was then that I picked up another book by the same author - Asleep. Three stories of different women either having trouble sleeping or enchanted in an endless sleep. This time however, the surrealism was not hanging in the background, but was there in the front - and yet like before, there was no mystery shrouding it. It was taken as naturally a part of life as a broken relationship or something similiar and awfully commonplace.
However, between these two books, there have been a string of other Japanese writings that I have read, and though not all of them have been good, there is a different experience in reading them - as compared to reading a British and American author. On some level, most of these books have a haunting quality - either a past too dearly held, or a present that is almost impossible to deal with.

I have fallen in love with the works of Kazuo Ishiguro whose writings carry this element of Japanese work and thought in them, even though he has spent the longest part of his life away from his country. I specially like "Never let me go" - a book I am still in the middle of. It is a book of memory, of remembering an era past gone. And though you may tire of the plot sometime, its hard to miss the fondness with which the memories are related. And again, there is a fantasy angle to it that holds fast without snapping. The book creates no hype around the fantasy angle - does not even harp on it for once, but lets it go in that careless seamless fashion.

I think I will certainly recommend the two authors above to anyone who likes a reading which can experiment with a different world once in a while, without making it a complete fiction.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Royal tale

It was a story that gripped the heart of entire nation, the way all stories these days do. As the smallest items starts emerging from a remote corner of the country (and may be the world for some) and takes form in our living room, thanks to the unilateral focus of all news channels alike, all of us entertainment starved Television viewers find ourselves engrossed in these forms. And thankful for being part of this participative form of "infotainment", we play our part to perfection by kneeling down in prayers or sending dozens of messages to the news channels alleging our concern for the cause - whatever it may be.
We have seen this fever take the country by storm beginning from the days of 9/11 and spreading through the parliament attacks to Mumbai rains and to the 7/11 blasts. Yet to see the same fervor for the misery of one kid who met the misfortune of falling in a 60 ft deep hole that had been left uncovered in an act of inhuman unconcern, is certainly puzzling. Its puzzling not because its a singled out event affecting only one person - it is puzzling mainly because in our country finding ditches is more natural than finding a straight even path. It is puzzling because many a people do fall in these ditches perhaps everyday and lose limbs if not lives.
But even more than the ditches, it is puzzling because we collectively look away when we see a mishap happen in front of us. We regularly fail to find "eyewitnesses" to any crime. We ignore rapes and we ignore murders and we ignore reservation bills - yet we are singularly absorbed in the rescue operations of a kid living in an epic town. Only beacause the media conviniently chose to play the drama over and over again in our living room and in our minds? Aren't we being hypnotized to chose our concerns and the themes for our prayers?
It is not that it wasn't a commendable task. By all means it was - with its focus, media did indirectly rope in the political and administrative support which would perhaps not have come otherwise and a kid was saved because the entire nation was looking out for him. But if it does possess that power, is it not media's responsibility to make the citizen more concerned for matters that can directly use his/her help? Is it fair to dramatize a misery to mint revenues? Is it right to sell stories on an emotional appeal, disregarding the need for rational information and a well-rounded picture of the world. I find it hard to believe that for 48 hours Prince's plight was the only matter that could have concerned the 1 billion of people inhabiting this nation. And yet, that was the pne news that kept flashing over and over.
Media's independence is a much celebrated virtue in our land, and mercifully our journalists have traditionally made good use of this virtue. But lately, with episodes of this kind, the 24 hour news channels are turning into a day long version of afternoon tabloids, prying into the private miseries of people and leaving the nation largely ignored. It may not be particularly worrying, it does somehow seem to be an unwelcome twist in the story.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Clamping them down


So finally the big brother has come to this country as well, clamping down on voices that dared to defy its authority or question its administration. That is perhaps a pointer that we have come of age, for didn't Mr. Orwell conceptualize this state of affairs as an order of future? Where every voice is synchronized to speak one language and issue a unilateral opinion, and every time you want to express your views, you have to get them whetted against the overseer's appetite.
So, even though running a little bit risk of annoying the big brother and having this forum taken away from me -I simply can't keep myself from expressing the questions that form in mind everytime I read of the Chinese virtual dictatorship or a 1984. Why? Why does anyone bother with the threat of the voice? Who believes in the mightier pen anyway. That is a dated fantasy of those who write - wasn't it put down by the writer in the first place? The trouble with the pen is that it can easily be erased, or worst still - ignored. Then why does anyone have to take the pains of blocking something that can be ignored. The only purpose the blocking will really serve is perhaps intrigue people and draw attention to a word that could have been lost in anonimity.
And why our country? Haven't we sold ourself on the USP of largest democracy in every forum? Ofcourse one expects democracy to be the most widely played joke in this world, yet the least bit of pretense in the form of "freedom of the press" has been maintained in most democracies. That is perhaps the only thin line marking democracy from authoritarianism. Are we ready to cross that wee-bit of line for no objective?
May be a little unrelated - sometimes I do think that perhaps authoritarianism is what we need as a nation. For a thousand voices with selfish short term interests can take the country nowhere. You need a voice to command and lead it in a direction. But ironically, we continue to be led with the multitude of these voices, and merely are bound to follow the loudest volume. Isn't it a better fate to be led by a single maverick rather than a bunch of jokers running in different directions, if being led is what is in store for us?



Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The bollywood drama

I have heard enough and more people speak of Mumbai with a fondness that I have found difficult to attach to any city - even my favorite delhi. And I cannot stop being puzzled at it now that I am here and experiencing its craziness first hand. What could someone possibly find alluring in a city that carries millions of people who gobble up your sense of identity as you hunt for walking space on the road? Or about a place where traffic deadloacks materialize in ten minutes but take hours to clear up?
And if the normal drama of everyday existence falls short, thousand different events come to rock the city from its mad pace into an even madder one. A week begins with incessant rains that engulf the excuse of roads that the city has, ends on a mindless riot by over-zealous members of a certain party - and leads to the next one into a series of bomb-blasts on its "lifeline" - the metro network.
And with each of this calamity, the city pauses, hesitates, suffers - and gets back on its feet again the next day. All mumbaikars show a brave face to the media or anyone who cares to listen, and dorn an exaggerated shrug of "life goes on.." And the whole world praises the exemplary spirit of Mumbai and its ability to brave all troubles.

Does this city really feel so good and confident? Is the Mumbai spirit really that strong? If it is, why does the smallest shower lead to frantic rush on the roads leading to deadlocks? Why do i see panic written large on the face of every passerby and my colleagues when they hear the news or when the clouds takeover? Why cant the average mumbaikar stop pretending and let the world know that he is as scared and as disturbed as every human elsewhere.
May be the pretense is what keeps the wheels rolling for this place, which an outsider like me finds crazy. May be you need the pretense to hold on to shreds of normalcy and not lose head as you struggle to find a foothold on a rushing train.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Playing up..

I have been wanting to see a play for a long time, but have been putting it off for the sake of eternal laziness - its just too easy to go to a swanky mall and combine a weekly shopping expedition with a movie that is conviniently scheduled. But today, thanks to a chill (and thus boring) day at work and constant insistence of a friend, I finally ended up visiting the famous "Prithvi" theatre to catch an interestingly named play called "The open couple", which quite lived up to its name and managed to both completely engross and entertain the audience.
The whole experience was very artsy - the place was full of people who are the complete anathema of boring engineers who dress in dull unamusing clothes fashioned after the stereotyped western executive . These guys(and lets call them the theatre gang or TGs for future reference) on the other hand, were more relaxed and at ease with their consciously unstyled indian attire, sported with draggy chappals and long unkepmt hair tossed in for effect. At the artsy cafe (which by the way is very cute) designed to match the TG style and make them look more at home in the "ped ki chhaon mein" seating style, the patrons discussed even their shopping bills with the ardent passion that engineers reserve for a highly dramatic quantitative puzzle. Even the waitors at the cafe are trained to cater to a highly developed clientelle, and reserve the right to distribute menus based on how much time is left for yr show.
Well, after a small stint at the cafe, we walked into a nice, homey theatre with a very limited seating capacity. It was so different from all the other huge theatres I have seen before, that it looked immediately inviting - it was smaller even than the classrooms in hell.
The play itself was brilliant - especially the lead actress. It was a theme that Kundera would have loved, but while he would have made it a heavy writing full of every character's endless introspection- the two actors made it a hillarious satire. They moved between engaging conversation, flashbacks and the current story in an almost seamless fashion.
All in all it was good fun - it is refreshing to be amongst the TGs for a while, especially after an ongoing dose of the engineer class - or MBAs who are even more predictible and monotonous. Will look forward to more evenings of plays now...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Indian Outsourcing

So here I am - finally right in the middle of the huge Indian outsourcing story, as I set foot in the backend office of a large & fashionable Investment Banking firm. Like any other outsourced office, the place is buzz with IP phones, conference rooms, and a lot of talk about late hours and long work weeks. And most people seem to be proud to belong here.
So, are we a race that feels proud of 'supporting' businesses? Many people have done analysis on why India is the hot target for most outsourcing. Is it only because we are too many people in this country and are willing to work cheaper? But why have so many of us decided to acquire skills and develop ourselves along the lines where we can 'support' some external businesses? I think a lot of it has to do with our ingrained humility. Perhaps it is the long history of foreign rule that has made us habitual to respond to foreign command (after all, 'request' as they call most assignments, is just a camoflagued order).
In my personal opinion, a job is a job and whatever you do has to fit somewhere.If it fits in an international arena, 10,000 km away from u, so be it. The primary thing is that you and your role be treated at par with the rest of the jig-saw pieces. Also that you have ownership of the task and are not simply given directions to follow. And finally it has to fit your intellectual capability.
As for the skills, I do think selling is not our USP. Collectively, Indians are more comfortable solving a numerical enigma than weave a lucrative speech in front of a corporate audience. Hence we should probably leave the sales to our global counterparts and take from them what we do better. Of course it doesn't mean that we dont gain those skills, but we do not need to treat them at a higher echelon simply because someone has chosen to keep that job to themselves.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More on the reservation...

As I had expected, things have flared up on the reservation front. And I hope that some of the ire reaches the ears of those illiterate and deaf politicians. I have recieved many a mails for signing petitions against the proposal, and even though I am going to sign one, I see very little point in it. In a democracy, petitions hold no more value than a scrape of paper. And I cannot express the amount of anguish and frustration me and thousand others like me feel in a mere one-liner that will be largely ignored in the sea of petitions that reaches the doors of the courts so often.
I have also heard of an IIT Guwahati guy who threatens to immolate himself if the law is passed. Even though it is an exaggerated step and a very dramatic response that should not be encouraged, I wonder if such measures are the only way of confronting disastrous decisions that politicians take riding on the backs of this country that is too scared of reacting violently. Is it fair that our own government takes profit from the fact that we are a peace-loving and adjustng set of people? Does the solution lie in burning yourself up or running away to the pastures of a foreign land and try hard to forget that you belonged to a nation that tried to take everything away from your hands?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Reservations against Reservations

Today's headlines would have perhaps made many a students accross the country both nervous and full of despair. The reservations in premier Institutes, like central govt offices, is prposed to be increased to 49% from the current 22%! What do you say to a Nation's government that is set on killing one of its most established brands, only to be able to get some populist votes in future elections. For what other logic can lie behind such a discussion in the parliament?
How does giving almost 50% reservation to a section which does not even comprise the same proprtion of society help the cause of a country? In stead of taking progressive steps and aboloshing the current reservation system, whose ineffectiveness in fighting casteism and ill-effects in breeding inefficiencies is obvious to everyone, why is this country trying to retrograde and make the whole nation and its opportunities reserved? Its only recently since the youth of the country has started taking pride in belonging to this nation and the dream of a shining India has begun to take shape. And the premier institutes have been at the helm of this turning tide. Its alumunus has persistently fought to make an Indian niche in the western business world that had been oblivious to our nation's potential for long. and now when we have begun to see the fruits of these efforts, with one stroke the government wants to erode the recognition that has been bestowed upon us.
And who are these people who fight for the reservation? Is it their way of saying that they don't see any possibility of the youth from backward classes ever measuring up to the unreserved classes. Isn't that a discrimination of the highest order, sealing the alienation of the resevred classes with a stone determination? Will the youth ever be amenable to a person who has unrightfully taken away his opportunities without working for them without deserving them?
And which government will have the potential to take off these reservations once they are enforced and commit political suicide? All the educated and uneducated MPs, please reflect on the atrocity that you are considering. The objectives of any such decisions should be for the benefit of the country, not just short term gains to a much smaller section.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Private Equity as the Growth driver for Tomorrow...

Frankly, about three months ago, I had neither heard of the hoopla surrounding Private equity and nor could care less about it. To me, it was another of those jargon terms used by so many of my classmates and the rest of the business world for denoting some sort of investment. However, as is wont for any MBA student, you couldn't stay out of the loop of such buzz words, especially when placements were around the corner and everyone was arming themselves with dollops of gyaan on the business world.
So I started reading about it and was immdiately hooked on to the idea. I had always been interested in Consulting before I joined B schools, as I genuinely believed in the idea of helping businesses do better by monitoring, comparing, strategizing, analysing and optimizing. Even though these terms sound very bookish, I do think that they hold true potential in helping businesses, especially the small ones, evolve. Yet my Consulting summer was a disappointment. I realized that the consultant would always remain distant from his client's problems, and often, the task was limited to preparing a report full of details and jargons where the core of the issue was likely to get lost. That was not what I had in mind. And that was the main reason why I was not even considering Consulting as a career option during the placements.
On the other hand, Private Equity sounded so much like what I had in mind. To genuinely handhold the businesses as they tried to set a domain and grow in it. And whats more, with your money at stake, the issue of distancing also would be resolved. While the consultant has no responsibility or liability of the results of his recommendation, the PE analyst would stand to directly gain or lose from it and hence wouldn't just be more involved, but will also be taken more seriously by the employees. Also, the combnation of money and advice is what India's new entrepreneurs need to get going. Like all Indians, despite all the kickbacks we throw at it, I want to see India being reckoned as a Corporate Force and it is not just the MNCs coming from abroad that can help us achieve that. We need to complement foreign presence with that of our own.
Thats why perhaps, I digress from the philosophy of ChrysCapital's Ashish Dhawan, who has u-turned Indian PE into the concept of PIPE's (Private Investment in Public Enterprises). Don't the publicly listed enterprises already have sufficient funds at their disposal? Their information is publicly available and can be assessed by the investor at large or by the funding houses. They do not need assessment at the private level for raising capital, which small and new companies do. Smart private placing should identify opportunities that others cannot and target those seeds which have the potential to develop into new sprawling businesses rather than simply add a wing to the existing ones.
Of course, it is a matter of opinion, and PE firms are in business of making money. With the dot com losses, there are still many whose risk appetites do not allow them to undertake new/small ventures. And yet risk-taking is what Indians need most, what with our extremely conservative aptitudes towards uncertainty.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Perils of Media and the Placement Boom


This is rather crazy. Everyone I have met since I have come home has been asking me about my salary. And once I tell them the figure, I can almost see their minds brooding over how much I fare against those dollar figures floating around the whole space, in each living room, on each morning paper, on every news channel. Its like media's field day - the celebration of the "mega" salaries that the MBA grads are getting. Its not just the humiliation of being compared to a number that bugs me about this hype, it is also a violation of my private space, my private life. My package is something very personal to me and I don't like to discuss it with someone, except perhaps a set of my friends who have gone through a similiar decision making process of weighing profiles, opportunities and packages and know what its all about. And I don't want the probings and advices about which sector I should have gone to, or in which country I should have hunted for my job. I think, even without talking to me personally, media is at a certain level invading my privacy and encouraging this invasion into the lives of so many of us graduates.
And its not just about the packages. Some people figure its their duty to educate us about the huge career opportunities that we are missing out upon. And they take pride in telling us that someone left the same job with a same package, because it was not good enough for them. Sure. I didn't even considering applying for jobs that I didn't think were good enough rather than have the pleaure and pride of leaving them after bagging them. I have made my career choices based on what I want to do, where I want to go and how I want to shape up my own life. and I perfectly know that there are people who will choose a different path. What I don't understand is why anyone else's choices should make me liable to explain my own!
I think the short-term perspectives of so many of my interrogators (and assumed well wishers) has led to this situation. They see this job as a destination, but for the graduating students, it is only part of the journey. At the end of the day, what they do will make a difference and not merely where they go. And irrespective of how much they bag now, they will still have to chalk out a career path and not be lost in that numeric figure. Its only for each individual to decide where to draw the line between the figure and what they want to do and be.

Whiling away time and Friends

I am finally at home - managed to escape the perils of hell successfully and got back here with a degree. Now it feels heaven to live with absolute lack of purpose and while away dollops of time day after day. The only issue that overshadows the bliss is that my joining is too early. Of course I want to start working, but I was really looking forward to a travel break and visit at least sikkim and Ladhak. However, as it turns out, I am going to neither of the two, but in stead planning a Kerala trip clubbed with a 4-day cruise to Lakshadweep. Can't wait to get on the road...
Last few days have been good especially because of reunion with my friends. Rathi turned up from US and it was so comforting to find her the same old self. she hasn't changed even a bit. Spent a lot of time with her and Sheenu in the past 4 days. Even after having a great term at L, I would say there is no comparison to meeting old friends and spending time catching up and gossiping about the remotest acquaintance.
Also had a Consult reunion today, over good coffee and bad food. It was a good outing though, even so I wouldn't recommend the joint.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Convocation

It is finally convo day - the day I had been waiting for since I arrived. I always thought that the place was suffocating and I wanted to get out of here as soon as possible. Over the past few weeks this feeling has been pretty dim. I wont go as far as to say that I have started liking this place, but its not bad. Especially there have been some great times with friends that I owe to this place. But I guess I will stay away from the nostalgic feeling, especially with the bit of alcohol thats still left in my blood and is making me tipsy. Cant believe that I have to face Tuhina's mom like this - I am meeting her for the first time and I dont want her carrying bad impressions of me. And am I glad that my parents are not coming here - they would have immediately pounced upon the tipsiness. Everyone's parents is here - I am feeling slightly weird that mine arent. But I would have felt worse if they had come. Somehow the life I lead in the campus is so different and abstract that I dont want to involve them into this. Its a sort of different life - slightly tangential from a normal life - what with weird waking hours and night-snacking and crazy doses of movies etc - none of this I do at home.

Anyways, I guess I will start dressing up now - it is getting late for convo.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Living on the Ganges


With a lot of time to kill while we waited for the convocation which has been conviniently scheduled for this Saturday, most of our batch took a short trip in the past 5 days. For our small group - the destination was the white waters of the Ganges. With my love for water, I am surprised I haven't been on a rafting trip before. I think the experience was worth the wait. It was one of my prettiest vacations in a long time.
We started the trip with Rajaji National park and it actually might be a misnomer to call it that - it is just a beautiful piece of forest with a meandering stream of the river crisscrossing through its lands. We hardly sighted any animals except for deers on our open Safari ride through the forest. The weather made the trip not only pleasant but very pretty, and the comfortable huts on the bank of a canal made the stay worthwhile.
After a day's halt, we hit the final destination - Rishikesh. We were totally full of plans (and very exceited) about our adventure break - rafting, paragliding, rappling etc etc. It was a bit of a let-down when we realized that except rafting none of it was happening in this season. So even though we were planning to push the rafting to the next day, we embarked on it immediately. And was it fun! We started from a point called Shivpuri (which means 17 km of rafting), and immediately started hitting the good rapids. Though I must say, I never expected rafting to be work. I mean no one told me that we would have to row the entire stretch ourselves, and that too in gushing water!
Nevertheless, even the rowing bit was good. In the first strong rapid (Roller Coaster), one man in front of me fell down into the roaring water. If there was a frission of fear I felt during the whole trip, it was in that moment. I don't really trust my swimming skills or more importantly (in this case) my navigation skills in such turbulent waters.
The Golf course rapid following the Roller Coaster was even better - it was almost certain that the boat was going to capsize (its not really unexpected during rafting btw). One thing I have to say - the rapids have been really innovatively named - The Wall, Return to Sender, Golf Course, Three Blind Mice...
We also jumped a couple of times into the water - which was freezing cold. It is fun trying to swim in ice-cold water with life jackets on :) But I have never felt the peace that I feel lying flat on the water, gazing at the sky, for all sounds drown into the soft splashes of the water, and all you see is naked nature. And for a moment, life does come to a gratifying halt.
Anyways, after having so much fun, another rafting expedition was compulsary. Even with arms broken with rowing, we were all enthu to go again. So after spending a quiet day walking through Rishikesh (which is not fun untill you hit the German bakery and have delicious food), we went for another round - this time clubbing it with camping which was supposed to be the icing of the cake.
And this was undoubtedly the best icing on cake that I have ever hit on. The sand beach along ganges was awesome! It was a huge stretch of white sand, surrounded by mountains and water and no one but the eight of us and a couple of camp staff. It was almost as if peace was being handed over to us on a platter after two years of madness in a cagey and loud B-school life. We had the most wonderful time by the camp fire, stuffed with really delicious dinner served in the camp. It was almost a full moon night and the camp was lit by nothing more than the moon and a couple of lanterns.
In the morning, we played beach volley, lied down on the beach and read books. It has been the most idyllic vacation I have dreamt of and lived.
The camping was followed by rafting, and this was one of the best stretch of rafting in terms of scenic beauty. It had begun to rain and the clouds were trying to wrap the surrounding hills and make them invisible. For most part, it almost looked like we were in the waters of Emyn Muil of LOTR and would soon see the twin towers!
The rain of course soaked us to the hilt and we couldnt stop shivering for a moment through the whole of the waterpath. But even through the clacking teeth I could but repeat - It is simply awesome. Hope I can return to the soothing sounds of the river as often as I want...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Placements..


Its the day next to the one when placements ended. It was a jubiliant moment for the batch. To complete placements in three slots is an achievment, and perhaps unprecendented here at L. Everyone is relieved and happy. Yet overall the placements left a slightly bitter taste in some mouths. There are many Finance enthusiasts who believe that the process is slightly skewed in the favor of those who can 'globe' endlessly, and therefore puts them at a disadvantage. It is perhaps especially true in our campuses, where GDs and personal HR interviews remain a very prominent mode of selection. Of course the fact remains that hard core finance companies do not even come to the campus except for some who come with minimal packages and little less established brand names. (at least in the global arena).
Sometimes I believe the whole HR systems are designed around promoting very vocal people, even if it is for roles like equity research and/or fund management. May be HRs should be banned from conducting the process and be responsible only for supporting the same (which surprisingly was what happened at IIT). You would like to believe that systems should get more involved and complicated for Management schools, but companies happily let their HR personnels conduct some meaningless useless interviews since they do not understand the business models/functional requirements too well.
And GDs. One would like to beleive that the useful(less)ness of GDs should be apparent to all and sundry except for companies where the role specifically involves aggression. Because in my limited exposures at GDs in this place has only established one fact for me (without Type I or Type II errors), that people who hog the most airtime end up being the ones who get to the interview rounds.
Anyways, I guess perfect processes can never be designed. All we ask is for the placement personnels to be more selective in choosing processes for the roles they are hiring for. And ofcourse it is helpful if they are honest and straightforward.