Aug 31, 2006

Modern day Swayamvars :(

Long, long ago, there was a practise in ancient India called Swayamvar. It has been described many times in our mythology. It is generally about a princess who has attained the eligible age for marriage. A line-up of eligible grooms is lined up. They come dressed up in their best, and vie for the beautiful princess’ hand. Sometimes, the grooms have to demonstrate their eligibility by completing some difficult task. Arjuna, for instance, won Draupadi’s hand by shooting a rotating fish by looking at its reflection in India. Whenever my Patti narrated this story, I always wondered how shooting a fish makes him eligible for being a good husband. Does being a better archer make him a better and more caring, understanding human being? Or was a better archer assumed to be a better protector of his wife? I never got the answer then.

I assumed that since the wise elders couldn’t come up with a fool-proof way to evaluate the grooms, they decided that they might as well have some fun conducting the event… it sure must have been fun seeing one guy after another trying his best to shoot at a fish, while keeping one eye on the beautiful princess, who was gonna decide who was gonna decide the outcome…

Times changed, and roles reversed. In the twenty-first century age of women empowerment, the practise of ‘arranged marriage’ continues… the guy’s family goes to the gal’s place… it is a time for free food in the form of delicious bajji-bonda… the guy’s family asks the gal whether she knows how to cook, how to sing, how to dance and some more inane questions… the poor gal dresses up for the occasion, out to impress her probable suitor… and the mockery continues… I always wondered whether a better cook, a better singer and a better dancer makes for a better human being… and I never got the answer…

I assumed that since today’s wise elders are no wiser than ancient ones, they decided that they might as well have some fun while going about the dreary job of hunting a suitable bakri for their useless chokra… and what can be more fun than free food, being fussed over, and generally feeling superior especially since the other party can’t say anything…

I witnessed a similar form of Swayamvar in my b-school… there were companies coming to look at the potential aspirants… all of us dressed up like any obedient daughter in a traditional Indian family would when the guy’s family comes visiting… all of us practiced our introductions, our strengths, weaknesses and hobbies and interests… and our future plans and career objectives and a host of other things…

I have always wondered why companies are interested in my hobbies and what books I read… does that make me a better employee? Why do they ask us our strengths and weaknesses, when they know perfectly that not one person is going to admit to his/her real weaknesses? Since the company is smart enough to know that people are obviously bluffing, do they actually look for people who can lie with a straight face, and that consistently when cross-questioned? Also, why do they conduct 15 minute shouting matches euphemistically called a GD? Does the loudest guy/gal make the best employee, because he/she can out shout the competition? Why do they want to know what our plans for the next five years are, when year after year, candidates have been known to jump companies within two years of joining? As usual, I never got my answer…

I assumed that today’s HR professionals are the re-incarnation of yesteryears’ wise elders. They know that just about any guy they pick up from a top B-school would perform decently… and it is a very boring process to actually sit through and select the better ones… So, they decide that they might as well have some fun while they are at it… I mean, it must be really amusing to hear perfectly intelligent students pitching their wares like they were at a whore-house. It must be real fun looking at modern day Arjunas trying to sell fish GD while keeping one eye on the pretty HR Draupadi who is gonna decide the outcome...

From shooting the fish, to selling fish in a GD... this entire selection process sounds very fishy to me... and I never get any answers... One day, sometime in the future, I hope to get the answers I need… hey, mebbe that is my plan for the next five years!!!

Aug 26, 2006

Destiny - Thalaiezhuthutha mathamudiyuma???

In the midst of the mad, mad placement process, I started thinking about why companies select me and why companies reject me? I thought and I thought, and then, since I could not figure a way to explain the infinite wisdom of HR people, I put it down to luck.

Destiny or Maktub as Paulo Coelho calls it… How much of your life do you actually control? What aspects of your present, or your future can you actually change? And, if you do not control it, who else does?

Well, I have always been confused by destiny. In my early days, my mom used to tell me, “Do your best, and the rest will follow.” She said God always rewards honest efforts, and the reward may be late, but it will come.

Then, as I grew up, at one time, I used to believe, that I control my life. That the things I do, the decisions I make etc. decide where I will end up in life.

Then, I got to see people who were not as fortunate… they seemed to have more problems, less opportunities, greater responsibilities to bear… and, God did not seem to be rewarding their honest efforts… atleast He was not being very punctual about it…

I also saw that they were not controlling their lives… lots of things, which they could not have helped, were pulling them down.

So, now I am confused… is it destiny? Is it self effort?

I’d like to believe it is a combination of both… (typical MBA… sit on the fence!!!).
I mean, remember the old parable about a man stuck in a flood, and praying to God to save him. A bicycle, a jeep, a boat and a helicopter come at different points of time, and offer to pick him up… and he still says, “No, I won’t come with you. God alone will save me”. And, then he dies, and goes to heaven. He angrily asks God, “Why did you not save me? I believed in you all my life.” And God answers, “Who do you think sent the bicycle, the jeep, the boat and the helicopter?”

I like that story. I believe one has to make the effort to get into the bicycles and boats that are available and save his or her own @$$. But then, saying that I will swim across the flood, because I want to be a self made person is plain bull. God gives you a boat, take it and save your strength for something better. Maybe, God wants you to be the next Noah. And being proud that I got into the boat and made it is madness and a bit of arrogance… please recognize the fact that God sent you a boat, and He did not send it to a dozen other people who drowned. Why did He choose to save you out of the dozen is something you can never figure out? It is pointless because now you are safe and alive, and the day He chooses someone else over you, you will not be alive to analyze the reason.

As another story goes, LUCK stands for Location, Understanding, Contacts and Knowledge. You should be in the right place, understand what to do when you see an opportunity, know people who will help you get what you want, and develop enough knowledge so that things go right when you get the chance.

The confusion continues… is it my effort? Or, is everything pre-destined?

As someone said, “Believe in Luck. It helps you to explain the success of your enemies.”
PS: My posts are getting crappier by the day... Hope the Autumns placements get over soon, so that I can blog in peace :)

Aug 18, 2006

Books I'm reading

Recommended reading:

Stories of the kinda companies I wud luv to work for...

Plain Talk - Ken Iverson
Maverick - Ricardo Semler

And, books on the kinda of companies that I might end up working for, simply for the money
Monkey Business - Troob, Rolfe
Liar's Poker - Michael Lewis

Aug 14, 2006

Tryst with Destiny - Fin2 @ SPJIMR

A li'l spoof that was tried 10 days back... posted since tomm is Independence Day... Hope Nehruji forgives me for this...

With the clock striking the midnight hour on 4-5th August, 2006, Fin2 was 'to awake to freedom'. The ‘Con’student Assembly to whom power was to be transferred began its sitting at 11 pm with Shri Kiraat Desaai singing Masti ka Paatshaala. It was a historic and memorable occasion in the life of the ‘Con’student Assembly.

After an address by the President, ‘Siva’harlal Sheru made his now famous Tryst with Destiny speech. He called upon the members to take a solemn pledge to serve Fin2 and its people.

"Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, Fin2 will awake to life and freedom (yeah, we r gonna partyyyyy). A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a batch, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of Fin2 and its people and to the still larger cause of Gassified SPJIMR.

At the dawn of history Fin2 started on its unending quest (of completing the IB assignment), and trackless centuries are filled with its striving and the grandeur of its successes, and its failures. Through good and ill fortune alike it has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave it strength. We end today a period of ill fortune (the project has been submitted) and Fin2 discovers itself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us (Yeah, the autumns are here!!!). Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future ? (No we are not, but Placom2 will not let us rest in peace)

Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sobering body representing the sobering people of SPJIMR. Before the birth of freedom, we have endured all the pains of Group Work and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now (ok, back aches, eye strain, headache to name a few). Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now. That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the One we shall take today (yeah, I promised my mom that I came to SPJIMR to study, and not to look at gals). The service of Fin2 means the service of the millions (Ok, I’m exaggerating, there are only 34) who suffer. It means the ending of poverty (six figure salry!!!) and ignorance (was bliss!!!) and disease (obesity is NOT a disease) and inequality of opportunity. (We were never allowed to do DCP). The ambition of the greatest Prof of our Institute has been to bring forth every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us but as long as there are other group works and assignments, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work and work hard to give reality to our dreams (and we thought we would get 10 lakhs just by clearing CAT). Those dreams are for Fin2, but they are also for the Rest of the Batch, for all the specialisations and students are too closely knit together today for anyone of them to imagine that it can live apart. (yeah, I wish!!)

Group Work has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one batch that can no longer be split into isolated fragments. To the students of Fin2, whose representatives (we hope) we are, we appeal to join us' with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others (basically, no time for RG-giri). We have to build the noble mansion of free Fin2 where all our fachchas may dwell.

I beg to move, sir, that it be resolved that:

After the last stroke of midnight, all members of the ‘Con’student Assembly present on this
occasion, do take the following pledge:

(1) At this solemn moment, when the people of Fin2, through suffering and sacrifice (and sleepless nights), have secured freedom, I a member of the ‘Con’student Assembly of India, do dedicate myself in all humility to the service of Fin2 and its people to the end that this ancient batch attain its rightful place in the Insti and make her full and willing contribution to the promotion of batch peace and the welfare of student-kind.
(2) Members who are not present on this occasion (basically, the proxy junta) do take the pledge (with such verbal changes as the president may prescribe) at the time they next attend a session of the Assembly (if at all they do)."



Statutory Warning 1: This concept has been blatantly plagiarized without permission from an article by a famous columnist of Bombay Times. My apologies to her, if she comes across this. [I’m sure she won’t, but why take a chance?]. All I can say in my defense is that I was ‘inspired’ by her piece. The title has also been plagiarized from the title of a classic by an even more famous author. My apologies to him too, even though he will not come across this (they don’t have blogspot in heaven).

Statutory Warning 2: I did NOT receive a six figure advance for being ‘inspired’ by somebody’s writing and reproducing it, a la some infamous Harvard graduate…
So, here goes…

On the eve of India’s Independence Day, I reflect on the glorious state of my country.

There are two Indias. We see both of them happily going about their business side by side.

Both Indias do not eat.
One, because they are following some exotic foreign sounding diets which forbade them from consuming more than 300 calories a day. The other, because they would consider themselves lucky if they could find 300 calories of food a day for the entire family.

Both Indias do not drink water.
One, because they quench their thirst with champagne. The other, because the only thing that comes out when they open the tap is a loud hiss of air.

Both Indias do not wear clothes.
One, because the latest Milan Spring Summer Collection mandates that wearing more than three centimeters of cloth makes you ‘uncool’. The other, because their itsy-bitsy rags have taken a VRS after fifteen years of glorious service.

Both Indias do not have a roof over their heads.
One, because sun bathing is supposed to give that ‘perfect tan’ which will make people drool. The other because their roof was demolished in the latest city cleanliness drive.

Both Indias do not sleep on beds.
One, because the latest Yoga fad is to sleep on a custom made ‘Yoga mat’ which relaxes the body through acupressure points. The other, because the only time they see a bed is when they visit the public hospital (and that too, if they give chai-paani to the ward boy)

Both Indias do not go to temples.
One, because they have their own private ‘temple’ built in their bungalow, with a ‘pujari’ on call. The other, because the temple authorities play God and treat them as untouchables and deny them entry into ‘sacred’ places of worship.

Both Indias hate religion.
One because they see themselves as ‘free minds’ and ‘global citizens’ and abhor the discipline required by religion. The other, because their house was burnt, sisters raped and children murdered in the last communal riot.

Both Indias do not go to school.
One, because they hire private tutors to coach their children. The other, because school is a luxury that comes way down in the list of dreams which start with food and water.

Both Indias do not travel by bus.
One, because they have their Porches and Mercs, and would not be caught dead traveling in a bus. The other, because there are no roads in their villages, leave alone buses, and if there were any, they would be caught dead under a bus.

Both Indias worship cricket.
One, in the air conditioned comfort of the Executive Box situated right next to the pavilion. The other, through the window of a TV shop.

Alas, there is a third India...
An India which looks at both these Indias and aspires to become the first, while turning a blind eye to the second. An India, whose idea of patriotism is to watch ‘Rang De Basanti’ in the theatre rather than on a pirated CD. An India full of arm chair critics like yours truly who can find a hundred faults with the ‘system’ but would not move a little finger to sort out things. An India which is interested only in feathering its own nest, and whose lifetime ambition is to become a ‘green card’ holder.

But, I’m bloody proud of my country!!!

Aug 9, 2006

Vadhyars - Tamil priests

If you are not a TamBrahm, you might not appreciate the following post. For it is about the unique species, the Tamil priest, popularly called ‘Vadhyar’. Some senior ones call themselves ‘Dikshitars’, and I have always wondered when do you graduate from a mere ‘vadhyar’ to a ‘Dikshitar’?

It is very easy to identify a vadhyar, even from afar. He wears a veshti to work. He generally has a generous ‘kudumi’, not to be mistaken for the latest hair style though. His belly has to be protruding by several inches, and the size of his belly is one sure indicator of how many years he has been in business. All that ‘saddhi sappadu’ after every poojai has to show up someplace, right? He generally has two to three junior vadhyars clinging to him, doing their internships to learn the ropes of this tricky business of making sensible people pay through their nose for an activity best described as ‘lighting a small fire at home and pouring 100% good quality ghee into it’. Of course, he chants some mumbo-jumbo in Sanskrit while doing this, and unless there are some real old people around who have an ear for these things, he can get away with chanting the latest Rahman number in a typical ‘swaha-ha’ tone. Some vadhyars actually do, but then who cares?

If there was one symbol to denote the confluence of modernity and tradition in India, especially South India, it is the Vadhyar.

He tots around the latest Nokia camera phone, but has ‘Suprabhatam’ as the ring tone. If he has an iPod, rest assured that it will be playing the latest bhajan. He can deliver Vedic verses with perfect pronunciation (and a Himesh type nasal twang), but secretly listens to Indi Pop as well. Some of the younger ones even listen to Metallica. He wears a simple white veshti while coming to do pooja, but can buy an Armani if he wishes to. He is still not contaminated by the ‘love’ of money, and even today, accepts dakshinai only on a plate (with vethalai pakku, pazham etc., as accompaniments), and not by hand. Of course, he has a family to support, so his ‘fees’ (dakshinai) has gone up by a rate far higher than inflation. He sends his children to the most modern, hi-fi convent school in town, but also packs them off to the Veda patshaala in the nearby temple. He travels by a TVS moped, even though he has enough dough to buy four Mercs. As he gets older, he travels by rickshaw, and ask the ‘clients’ to pay for it.

There are a lot of perks attached. You get free lip smacking food as part of your job, and you get it first, even before the ‘clients’ have it. You get good money, all in cash, and thus virtually tax free (for all their vedic virtues, very few vadhyars are spiritual enough to actually declare income and pay tax). Beautiful girls fall at your feet to seek your blessings, and you can get away with a snide comment too, if said in the right tone. Some families are so attached to their family vadhyars, that when they migrate abroad, their vadhyar also gets an all expenses paid, on-site posting to USA, UK and exotic places.

Truly, the vadhyar is an inseparable part of a TamBrahm’s life. He is there when you are born. He is there when you have your first ‘meal’, other than mother’s milk. He is there for your ‘kadhu-kutthal’, thereby indicating what he is going to do to you for the rest of your life. He is there when for your first ‘mottai’, again an indication of what lies ahead. He is there when you have your upanayanam, and gives you what is called ‘Brahmaupadesham’. He is of course an integral part of your wedding, and hogs more limelight than the bride and the groom combined. Damn it, he even decides when you get to first ‘do it’ with your wife. (No, your ‘mood’ or your wife’s ‘mood’ doesn’t count; what counts is the alignment of some obscure stars in some planetary orbit!!!). He is there when you buy a new house, start a new business or even get a new job. When your child is born, the cycle repeats itself. He is there on your sixtieth and eightieth birthday, if you mange to survive that long.

And at last, when your Maker calls you for an appointment, he is there to guide your way with the auspicious Vedic chants. But, if you think you are done with him after you are gone, you are mistaken. He is there to perform the rites for your first and every subsequent ‘devasam’.

In short, he rules your life long before you are conceived, and long after you are deceived, oops deceased.