Sunday, September 10, 2006

The way we get by @ I...

Hmmm… Where do I stand? It’s Sunday morning and I haven’t slept at all. My end-term examinations start in two days and I know squat. My phone fell into a puddle of water and is refusing to switch on. I booked the wrong flight back home and have no idea how to get it changed. In short, I stand… in a deep… enormous… pile of sh*t…

Now, let’s see how I can resolve this. Let’s take the “haven’t slept” bit first. That’s simple; as soon as I finish this I’ll bid all of you fare thee well and go meet the sandman.

Moving onto the subjects, it gets interesting. It’s quite interesting actually, what they teach you here at IIM Indore. I shall attempt to impart my understanding of the subjects to you. Welcome to Term 1 Course Module 101.

Microeconomics is one of the chosen topics that is there in term 1. Quite remarkable actually, how they cram two years of teaching into 24 sessions of 70 minutes each. People who had NO idea what a demand curve was are “supposed” to understand how and why it shifts if we make all the inputs variable and assume a monopolistic competition scenario. Being an economics graduate is bad, but being the ONLY economics graduate in the entire class is SUICIDE. I mean, the assumption goes like “Economics Grad = Brilliant Academician and Scholar in everything related to the field of economics”. The economics graduate is supposed to somehow know it ALL. “No answer from the class???” No problemo senor, we have the economics graduate who will have the answer to something that he read three years ago and has realized that it holds absolutely no application in whatever he did for the three years AFTER he studied it. I mean, it’s of course implied that because he studied economics he shall forever cherish the college notebooks where he made those ever-so-meticulous notes which he OBVIOUSLY studies once every week to stay abreast of the concepts. I think everyone forgets that there is no ceteris paribus in life. Things change… Life goes on… Notebooks are sold to the local kabadiwala for Rs. 23.50.

Then we move on to something that we call MWC here. That’s Managerial Written Communication for the uninitiated. This course prepares us of the rigours of writing a report or drafting an email (basically everything written) in all of 5 minutes. I mean, that’s huge. Which company executive ever gets a time of more than 300 seconds to write a report which is stating an ACTION PLAN for an AIRLINE TAKEOVER? And all this while I used to think that an immense amount of thought goes into the execution and planning of such an event. Silly me. What insights an MBA provides. Real eye-openers.

On similar lines we are taught MOC. That O stands for Oral. If you can’t get the others you probably aren’t getting half the jokes in this post either and should probably go and chat with that girl you met on yahoo chat who is, in all probability a balding guy. MOC is interesting here. I learnt how to say déjà vu and some other French words. Beyond that, I learned little. Oh yes, I learnt that my voice projection sucked. But I already knew that. Ahhh, now I got it, I learnt how to smile at will. How to make the most “genuine” comments and couple it with an equally “genuine” smile. I made a presentation on Live 8. That was fun.

Moving on, we have HBW. Human Behaviour at Work, which has stupendous amounts of research done on it. Every answer is a research finding in this subject. Its almost like all further research findings from this moment on will be based on people who are already biased by the research finding of the earlier researches. Interesting cycle this. I have had “intimate conversations” with the person sitting next to me as a part of this course. I have drawn, in two minutes, what I as a person represent. I have learnt I have more ego and mind states than I need. I finally understand what GLOBE is all about.

MTO, Managerial Theories of Organisation. This is one hell of a subject. I never knew there could so many ways to look at the same thing. I mean, its just an organization. Its not a living breathing entity, or a collection of ideas, or a collation of groups, or a goal satisfying ‘thing’. It’s just an organization. I’d love to have one of the propounders of each of the 2^10000 theories locked up in a room for one day. Probably be a bloodbath in there. Oh and the good part is that, all of these perspectives, are taught by none other than your very own, IIM-Indore students. What credibility they bring to the floor, why would anyone NOT listen to them and NOT sleep during these classes. Ingenious.

The accounting course in first term is called MAC. This is one course that I m still zonked about. It seems that everyone but me finds it a snap. What’s even stranger is that as the course moved from the basics to the advanced concepts, it became more lucid to me. So now I am at a juncture where I probably will not know where to put salary expenses in a balance sheet, but can calculate the interest coverage ratio of a company and comment on the feasibility of giving that company a loan. But yes, each one of the MAC classes was a laugh riot owing to the pedagogy of our professor. Brilliant interspersing of humour with teaching.

Then we have CT. Computing Tools. We have had two professors for this. The course starts off with a quiz asking us questions like whether we know that the printer is NOT an input device. Interesting. Then we moved to networking and thereon I was lost. Surprisingly, so were most of the engineers. I merely question the point of knowing that the BUS speed is the real indicator of performance of a PC in my corporate interactions. Unless of course I drop out of college and get a job as a technical advisor in a seedy firm. The second professor was to teach us the basics of MS Office. Everything I knew in excel (which I used to think is a lot) was finished off in the first ten minutes of the first class. Excel is damn cool. Honestly, go out there and learn it. It’s a killer application.

Finally I come to QT. Quantitative Techniques, or Maths for the intellectually challenged. Two professors again, for this. Both of whom had obviously not attended any of the MOC lectures. Warning: Do NOT go these classes if you have not slept well. Their voices are more soothing than a mother’s lullaby. Nothing more to say on that. You can obviously gauge why the description is short. You have to BE awake to know what goes on in class ;-).

Am sleepy now… will go and sleep…

As for my phone, I’ll probably have to go and get it repaired. And the airline tickets, I still really don’t know …

Standard “save-my-ass-just-in-case-line”: All descriptions given above are meant in good humour and should not be taken otherwise.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

An audio buff's guide to Microeconomics

Economics is considered, by many who don’t study it, as an esoteric subject. Well, I’d like them to think again. I have discovered that many of the bands of yesteryears as well as contemporary artists have indirect references to microeconomic theories. Don’t believe me? Read on then. Of course, some basic grounding of microeconomics is an assumption I’ll operate on.

Creed – Higher

"Can you take me higher?
To the place where blind men see
Can you take me higher?
To the place with golden streets"

This obviously is a reference by Scott Strap’s to show his understanding of fundamental microeconomic assumptions. In an indifference curve map, the idea is to reach the highest indifference curve. Scott is obviously trying to put that idea through to the masses. The More Is Better concept.

The Doors – People are strange

"People are strange when youre a stranger
Faces look ugly when youre alone
Women seem wicked when youre unwanted
Streets are uneven when youre down"

Jim Morrison was referring to the fact that even basic assumptions operate on certain premises and that these premises might not hold under certain circumstances. So, Ceteris Paribus is not a realistic assumption. Brilliant observation. Speaks volumes of his in-depth understanding of theoretical observation.

Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the name of

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me

Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me"

One of the most indirect references to monopolistic policies. Monopolies lead to economic inefficient allocation yet they do not correct this because they are driven by profit maximization. These lyrics represent these money-monger’s thought process. Captured with élan and finesse.

Joe Cocker – With a little help from my friends

"Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends"

A cartel is a combination of firms whose objective is to limit the scope of competition, usually through unethical means. Joe Cocker was pro-cartel as can be seen from his blatant promotion of the cartel policies. Shameful. He even goes so far so as to call the cartel representatives, ‘friends’. Well, I guess everybody is entitled to his or her opinion.

The Byrds – Turn Turn Turn

"A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep"

Now the Byrds understood the concept of NPV(Net Present Value) quite thoroughly, they had a firm understanding of an individuals desire to utilize his bundle of goods today or tomorrow depending on his situation. This paragraph was to get this message out to the listeners. To make sure they made an informed choice. I salute you sir. Very noble.

Linkin Park – In the end

"When I tried so hard and got so far
But in the end, it doesn’t even matter...
I had to fall, to loose it all...
But in the end, it doesn’t even matter..."

This band shows an in-depth understanding of profits being short-run in nature only. Eventually, they say, that in the long run economic profits are zero. Linkin Park puts that across beautifully. The third line ‘I had to fall’ indicates precisely the curve movements of the graph through which you reach a point of zero economic profit.

New Radicals – You only get what you give

"This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget you only get what you give"

Constant returns to scale is an interesting concept. The New Radicals immortalize it in their seminal number ‘you only get what you give’. In one of their research reports they were said to have vehemently opposed both decreasing and increasing returns to scale. I guess economics wasn’t really their cup of tea.

So kids, remember, say no to drugs and yes to music. I am signing off now and leaving you with another set of lyrics which, though, is not an insight into microeconomics but apt nonetheless.
"So long, so long, front foot leads the back one
Go on and it won't be too soon
I'm gone, I'm gone and on to the next one
So long, and I won't be back soon"

-‘So long’ by Guster

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sample This...

Am at home on a lazy Sunday afternoon, with nothing much to do so decided to unload something onto cyberspace... Also have decided to spruce up my posts with a little more "zing", add some pictures perhaps to make it more visually appealing...

Having recently got broadband, I have gone on a downloading spree... Lots of great new stuff on my hard drive these days... Some recommendations coming your way...

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not:
Said to be one of the most awaited debut albums and rightly so. It didn't fail to disappoint. Debuting in January 2006, from the suburbs of Sheffield, England, it shot up the charts faster than you can say 'whatchamacallit'... Refreshingly raw music... Its lends it a very fresh and upbeat feel... 'Like a locomotive express' as one NYT reviewer called it... Personal faves of mine on this album are "I bet you look good on the dancefloor", "from the ritz to the rubble" and "when the sun goes down"...

Placebo - Meds:
Placebo's fifth album release in March 2006 (sixth if you include the compilation of their best singles), doesn't quite live up to the placebo we've come to expect but then with the kind of sound that placebo has, you can't really do much to innovate around it. Still a good listen, more so if you appreciate alternative rock as much as I do. Good listens in this album are "Song to say goodbye"(a very commercial number but works for me nonetheless), "Meds"(featuring a member of 'the kills')... Rest of it turns into a monotonous listen but then thats only because I am quite aware of the placebo sound... Try it out... Oh and by the way, they're Brit...

Lifehouse - Lifehouse : I don't know about you, but it does seem strange to me that the third album by a band is self titled. I mean, thats what debut albums are for... Sheesh!!! This mid 2005 release, is something I'd been wanting to get my hands on for quite a long time and finally I did... Now... The earlier albums by Lifehouse had ALL good songs. I mean, there wasn't even one song that hadn't had a repeat-repeat-repeat on my system. This album, though having some gems like "Better luck next time", "You and me"(VERY VERY GOOD) and "Blind", doesn't seem to have that special something... But then again, I think I'm just nitpicking... A definite check out... Again, before I forget, its a US band...

I guess that is all I have time for right now... Hope you have a wonderful week...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Superman and the Attack of the Concrete Barriers

When I was a little boy, I was fascinated by Superman. I always wanted to see how it would be to fly through the air. To hear the wind rushing by, to feel weightlessness, to be one with the air, to be the man of steel who cannot be harmed and, to return to the ground at will.

On the night of the 14th of April, or more correctly, at exactly 00:43 hrs on the 15th of April, I got to see what it would be like to fly through the air. Minus ‘the man of steel’ and ‘return to the ground at will’ part of course. The fact that it involved a foot and a half high concrete barrier and a totally trashed bike took a little bit out of the moment though.

Now those who are aware of concrete barriers know better than to play ‘chicken’ with them. They are one of the bravest and staunchest objects in the world. More so if they are just over a foot high. So when a bike rushes towards them at breakneck speed around midnight, they put up an unflinching stand. Of course, I know that now, but it took a dislocated toe, dislocated shoulder, umpteen stitches and innumerable bruises for that knowledge to be forever etched in my memory.

I write this, occasionally cringing in pain, but I guess I better write it down while I’m still in the moment.

So anyway, rewinding a bit, I was cruising home around midnight and since I was already late and the roads were deserted, I decided to break Mach 2. Bad idea though, because out of nowhere appeared these stone barriers on the right side of the road. The right side of the road had been cordoned off for some construction work Now, I am one for foresight, but there was no way I could have ever thought that they would put stone barriers across half the damn road and those too barely a foot high. I mean, what I am supposed to do, feel my ‘spidey senses’ tingling and slow down? So I banged head on into this stone barrier and if I remember correctly, executed something very close to an inward three-and-a-half somersault on the three meter springboard in the tuck position, which incidentally is the most difficult dive in Olympic diving. The flipside was that I did not have enough time to enjoy the moment as I fell headfirst onto the ground skidding well over ten feet before coming to a halt. People say that their whole life flashes before their eyes whenever there is an instant like this. I was blank, except for the instantaneous elation of the dive execution of course. Now, I got up slowly and realised that I was bleeding profusely from my left foot. I hobbled onto a stone barrier and lay down. I was totally dazed and confused and in extreme pain. Now heres where it got scary, I couldn’t feel my legs after about two minutes. I took of my shoes and noticed that my toe was dislocated and I tried to feel it but wonders of wonders, my left arm could hardly be outstretched, it was dislocated too. ‘Okay’, I said to myself ‘calm down’, which is when I noticed that I could see the bone on the side of my right leg. That was the last straw, I did something I have not done in over fifteen years, I started weeping in pain. Yes, I know, ‘Ha Ha’, but it had to do more with the pain and shock rather than anything else. I called my mom who freaked out more than I did. By this time I was surrounded by a PCR van, an ambulance and some traffic policeman who very conveniently stood around for some time shaking their heads and acting busy. There was this gentleman who stopped by and offered to wait with me for some time till my mother came. He even offered to look for my wallet which incidentally was found some twenty metres away. I do not know how I managed to tear the 500 rupee note inside it. It was in shreds. My mom came soon after that along with some very kind people and I was carried into the car by the gentleman who had offered to wait with me.

Now, I don’t really like hospitals, I have nothing against them per se, they are an essential part of any society, but I am not too fond of them. I was wheeled into RR Hospital, near Subroto Park at around 01:45hrs. It is there that I encountered the person who I shall henceforth refer to as the Doctor out of Hell (DOOH). Now the DOOH, was understandably pretty miffed to be awoken from his slumber from what he perceived to be, and I quote ‘bas itni si chot?’ (translation : ‘wtf? Is this what you morons got me out of bed for, a dislocated toe and shoulder and some bruises? Are you out of your friggin’ mind, I have a life too you know, I have to sleep, I have to work long hours too. I need my bloody sleep). So, then I moved on to the customary X-Rays. The shoulder dislocation was very minor but the toe, well the toe was a different story altogether. Ever heard the nursery rhyme, ‘this little piggy went to town…’ and so on and so forth? Well, my little piggy decided to take a trip around the world, it was dislocated to the extent that I couldn’t perceive possible. It was a miracle it wasn’t broken. Then, I went back to the DOOH, who relocated my shoulder after administering me with some local anaesthetic. This, I must admit was relatively painless. No biggie, I thought. Of course that was only until he took out a needle the size of the grand canyon and said with a smirk that it was time to stitch me up. Now, although he again administered the local anaesthetic but all the while he was comforting with gentle words like ‘the anaesthetic might not work at all’ and soothing statements like ‘you can scream if you want’. Now because the DOOH did not want to be disturbed again for a similar scenario, he decided to get his deputys in and explained to them at a painstakingly slow speed how a wound like mine would have to be stitched. So he used to make one stitch and then slowly explain how the needle he was using was ‘clinically correct’ and why the number of stitches should generally be an even number. When, THAT was finally over, I just wanted my toe to be thrust back in place. Alas, ‘twas not to be. The DOOH said that it would be better if I came over tomorrow for the toe dislocation. I thought to myself, ‘of course, DOOH, it would obviously be @#$@#%@ better for you’. So, I arrived home around a half past four in the morning and I slept like a rock, rather more like a concrete barrier.

Next morning, wasn’t too eventful so I’ll just tell you that I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and my toe was snapped back in place. Also, I discovered tonal frequencies I never knew I was capable of executing. I think almost half the hospital could hear my screams.

Now, I am recovering, slowly but surely. So my advice to you is to drive safe and never dare or double dare a stone barrier. They take the phrase ‘strong silent types’ to a new level. I would like to mention that my good friends Sumeshwer, Pulkit and Harshit were there that night with me before the accident and they came to the hospital post the accident as well. Good people all of them. Glad you were there guys. Goodnight and Godspeed.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Of bread and butter

I work in Market Research. Crazy timings, impossible deadlines, pressure cooker presentations, suicidal dreams, assassination attempts on the boss, contacting Iran for a spare nuke… I love it. But seriously, Market Research is good stuff. The industry exposure here is amazing. More so because you don't only specialise in one particular industry but rather you work across teams and across sectors. I have personally worked in projects for FMCG, Consumer Durables, Automotives, Lubricants and Banking sectors, and that too all within a year. Brilliant learning I tell you.

But apart from the learning and the exposure, another reason why I have stuck on with this job despite getting offers which would have paid me more than twice as much is because I can do almost anything here and get away with it. I mean, I get my job done on time, well, way ahead of time actually and my clients love my presentations and findings. As far as I am concerned, I feel that my duty is done and done well. Now, I started pushing it by coming to office an hour late everyday. Well, a mans gotta get his eight hours of sleep ain’t he? When that was conveniently ignored, I notched it a level higher, I stopped wearing formals. Honestly, I have nothing against a crisp pair of trousers and a nice ironed shirt along with a wonderful striped tie with a Windsor knot around your neck but the lure of Levis is just too much. So henceforth, we had yours truly coming in wearing sneakers and jeans along with a t-shirt. I planned on wearing a baseball cap once but thought better of it. A few eyebrows were raised but then they got lost in the crowd somewhere. My HR head came up with a masterplan, or so he thought, to get me back to the olden ways. He decided to tax each non-formal (or is it informal?) item of clothing by ten rupees. So in effect, I had to pay thirty rupees everyday for my jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Not that I had any problem with that but I decided to make life a little tougher for him. I used to get the money in the lowest denominations I could find. So, he used to get thirty one rupee coins or if I got lucky, sixty fifty paisa coins. Eventually, even he gave way. By this time, I was on a roll. I used to ask my boss about the deadlines for a project and then disappear from the office. There was this one time when a proposal had to go to the client by seven in the evening and I got to know this by noon. Realising that I had seven hours to do a one hour job I went AWOL, strolling in casually by six thirty in the evening, finally sending off the proposal by seven. And this is how it has grown to be now. Though I should mention that my efficiency has grown manifold. Which is a win-win situation if I ever saw one.

Now for the moral of this story – sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we feel that the going is good and we don’t try to change. Tiger Woods said “No matter how good you get, you can always get better, and that's the exciting part”. Works at many levels for me at least. I don’t understand the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ concept in life. Life is about constant improvement and learning. For lack of a better example, look at cellphones, ten years back it was perfectly normal to not own one, and now, the fact that you do not own this quintessential device is looked upon with more amazement than if you had three eyes or something. The point is you do not know what you are missing until you get it. If you get it purely by chance, then you my friend, are a very lucky person, but usually in life we miss a lot of chances to get it. So, take that shot, if it misses then good, no problem, learn to accept it with grace, but if you don’t take it then you are already accepting defeat. The exhilaration is when it hits. And even when it hits there can be numerous things. Perhaps there would be a whimper of an impact and things would hardly get affected but, just maybe, it produces a gargantuan ‘big-bang’ like explosion and your entire life goes through a paradigm shift. You see and realise things you never knew possible. Isn’t that worth taking the shot for?............. One of my closest friends in office just said goodbye to me. Today was his last day in office. Perhaps, he will find happiness in his job, maybe he will find his calling in life and probably this is best for him. But, he will never know until he goes for it. Kudos to your spirit my friend, don’t ever change. I am reflecting now, and probably this moment will pass. Twenty years from now it wouldn’t even be a distant speck in my memory. This realisation can be used in more ways than one. Think about it. You spot this girl in a crowded bar. She is with a couple of her girl friends. You look at her and catch her glance every now and then. Just looking at her makes you weak in the knees. Is she your soulmate? You wonder. Then, this guy comes over to her and starts talking to her. Your heart sinks, you can almost hear it shattering on the floor. NOW, this moment is what separates the men from the boys. Do you go up to her and ask her if she would like to dance? A drink perhaps? This event in isolation is not important at all. Twenty years down the line you would not wonder why she said no when you walked up to her. But what you would remember is why you didn’t walk up to her.

I feel I should write shorter posts. But then we don’t always feel what we do, or rather, more importantly, do what we feel.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

And so it begins...

Welcome, I hope you enjoy your stay as much as I am assuming I would like to welcome you here.

Why does one blog? Being a late rider on the blogwagon does make me think about what purpose putting ones thoughts and views for all and sundry to see, serves. But it might, and thats what makes it all worthwhile in the end. I love getting into things which I do not have a very clear idea about. Blogging I believe is one of them.

If you've read this far, I am assuming you do not possess the attention span of a two year old and are willing to read what I have to say. Lots actually and if I understand correctly, I shall be telling you all about the way I think and operate over time. I have several notions ranging from harnessing the power of the mob to giving a lecture on quantum physics. Why you ask? Purely because I believe they would be experiences that would teach me the most. The reason that adversity builds character is not because it is a difficult time but rather due to the fact that it is an event that people do not experience very often. So one should try to experience things that he has not experienced in the past. A man's attitude is shaped by his mental make up. You are only as good as you think you are. With varied experiences in your kitty you can take on the world.

As an example, in my IIM Calcutta(Kolkata) Interview, there was this group of around ten people who realised that they were to be in the same group in the group discussion and the interviews. After the customary round of introductions, they tried to size each other up with each trying to implicitly put forward their achievements in life and why it makes them the Alpha Male. Nothing out of the ordinary, I was sitting across the room in front of them with my own group and was witnessing this with a grin on my face. Then a short, lanky, unassuming guy tried to enter the conversation. Unsuccessful the first time, he persisted and then started talking about the fact that he had written the lyrics of a pop song which was played by some band on MTV. The effect was instantaneous, everybody shut up because this was something that they had no idea about. Not undermining the significance of the achievement but there were people there who were IIT toppers, Delhi University Toppers, national level sportsmen, distinguished orators and other exceptional talents but no one who had written the lyrics of a pop song. It was almost comical, the way that one varied experience led to new found respect for the unassuming lyricist. I could almost see his chest expanding, his chin up and a twinkle in his eyes from the effect his lyric writing mention had. He had done something no other man or woman in the room had and he had learnt something from it that no one else in that room had. This made him feel that he was the better person. His mental makeup swinged from one end to the other. He was a tiger now. The world was his playground.

So my advice to you is that its makes great sense to not take the oft tread path. Do something unique. Welcome adversity, it will help you later in life in ways that you never thought possible. Of course, this in no way belittles the achievements you already have. The core of this entire argument is that it is easier for humans to find a sense of achievement from an event, the lesser the number of people who have achieved the same. It is for the same reason that people like to read books that very few others have or listen to music that is unheard of by most people. It gives them the 'elitist' tag, or so they think. So it is important that you know the right reason for doing it.

I was just reminded of a scene from 'Garden State' where Natalie Portman is talking to Zach Braff and she says that whenever she feels ordinary, she does something so unique that it possibly couldn't have been done before. She then proceeds to stand up while twisting her face and tries to rotate her body in a strange way that gives one the impression that shes a malfunctioning android. To top it up, she adds these wacky sounds which go something like "Blah Blah Blah Blaaaeee". Its bloody funny. But the concept is so true, you have to think you are and you are. She felt unique, it was her way of feeling special. We all have our different ways of feeling special and we should use them. The only common link is that these ways all involve doing things that we think are special because not too many people can claim to have done them and that they give us something that we know someone else couldn't have possibly got until that person went through the same experience.

I think I should wind up now. This was more random than I though it would be but, what the heck. And always remember, adversity rocks and its the little things in life that matter.