Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Appy New year folks !

As you are reading this, I'd probably be in the hills of the Himalayas. Watching nature at its best. Or at the slopes of the snow-capped valleys. Or in the plans past a passing pristine river...

Alrite, me on vacation to Shimla/Manali. I guess I wouldn't update my blog for atleast 10 days. I wouldn't be able to check mails either... would be out of the wicked wired world. :)


Any CAT/GD-PI related queries, pls mail Chandoo or Jam. They'll pretty much be in the thick of civilization.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The quest for music, and other trifles

I read somewhere sometime back that music is the fourth basic need of man. Irrespective of whether it’s true or not, music is one thing that I couldn’t live without. I guess it’s the case with many of us who are willingly or unwillingly put up in a room with a multitude of books, a comp, a music system and some newspapers/magazines around. As three out of the four things I’ve listed tend to bore normal humans, and since I am a normal human, I keep falling back to movies and music for entertainment. While I may sound like a big time music buff, in reality I’m not. It all started some 6 years back. That was the time the MP3 revolution in India was at its peak, and there wasn’t much in the name of music. Not the least in the cities where I grew up. English music was only about Michael Jackson or Madonna or Backstreet Boys. Blokes who listened to English music were thought of as public nuisance - a.k.a showoffs. Plus, with the creepy computer speakers I had during those days, rock wasn’t such an appealing thing to listen to. Neither did it appeal to my parents. Slow music was much more clear and soothing.

But then, gone are those old ignorant days. As spurious music and pirated MP3s took an upper hand, I started admiring relatively milder versions of rock. With the supposedly blazing music system I have now (2600 watts quoted - real wattage unknown) I’m starting to like lot more varieties of music. At times, I guess a perfect combination of power and clarity makes any music (even noise!) sound good. That’s happened to me once or twice. Someone suddenly says I’m listening to crap, and I suddenly start to realize the ‘crappiness’ in the music. Wonder whether it’s all in the expectations. Now, of all the music, I like Pink Floyd the most. I’m frequently accused of not opening myself to other music, but then, I’m so infatuated with Floyd that most of the other bands seem to be lacking in something. The other bands are either too much of metal, or very slow moving, or very less music, or shouting top of the voice, or hard on ears, or just plain noise. I’m making a conscious effort to listen and appreciate other bands – I am a big buff of the likes of Metallica, U2, Bryan Adams, Enigma, Led Zep, Queen etc – but in the end, for some intangible reason, I keep falling back to Floyd, and I’m not even able to explain why. Guess some music is made for some people. What a change in an otherwise drab life!

In the meantime, less important things (like end term exams) are going on. Just one more paper left, and we’ll all be free-birds, off to places close to paradise. The papers,barring a few, have been really weird. Some were real tough, and some were… well, I don’t know how they were. We were asked to formulate: a strategy for positioning Suzuki Samurai in the marketing exam, a plan for introducing JIT in an assembly processing unit (in Operations exam), a plan help out a quisling accountant in taking Cost accounting decisions, a future recommendations plan for a company after analyzing 40 tables of statistical data. All the papers more or less required application of the logic, going beyond what’s in the books. Taking two exams per day is getting real tough – considering that some papers like Macroeconomics are so squeezed that a normal 1 year schedule in a regular Business course has been tight fitted in a 4-month timeline. Glad that we just have one exam tomorrow – Finance. Then, for once, it’s freedom at midday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

CAT results out. Now what?

For those who didn't make it, well, there's always a next time. Trust me, there is no such thing as geniuses getting 98/99, and the second rung getting 96/97. Its mostly a matter of luck and sincerity in preparation. I'm stating this as a fact coz after being with 6 months with people who scored between 97.5+ to 99.8s, I'm quite convinced that preparation and luck matters a lot. Better luck next time!

Some myths and facts based on some questions I've been asked:

Myth: Sub 98, I wont get calls.
Reality: There are people in our batch with 97.5 whereabouts, although few and far between. Typically, if your resume is different, you stand a chance.

Myth: Sub 90 in one section, I wont get calls.
Reality: We have 2/3 who have 80 whereabouts in one section. But then, I havent spotted a guy with less than 90 percentile in VA.

Myth: I can't improve CAT scores.
Reality: I've seen people from 68/70 percentiles one year getting 99 percentiles next year, with sincere preparation. Trust me, they weren't prodigies.

Myth: Percentiles matter for converting GD/PIs to final calls.
Reality: It doesn't appear to be so. Percentile effects, if anything, would probably be minimum.

Myth: Order of interview calls reflect relative positions.
Reality: Order of interviews would depend on you CAT registration number. You might end up seeing the same people again and again.

Myth: Entry barriers for freshers would be high.
Reality: Everything depends on the relative application levels. IIMs try to make a balanced batch. But typically, its quite true that freshers need more percentiles for getting calls. I don't see a bias in GD/PI though.

Well, for all those who crossed the 98/99 percentile barrier, congrats. Get ready for the real rat race. Most importantly, brush up your current affairs etc, and read a lot of newspapers. If possible, join some of the coaching institutes to take training (IIMB guys would conduct a GD/PI course in Bangalore) or form some interest groups made of aspirants who got calls. Make sure that you aren't so close to those guys coz that would bring a personal touch, which would make it informal. If you are looking for more information, feel free to mail me (id in the right side panel) or Chandoo or Jam.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Midwinter nightmare...

With the end-terms at arm's length, the schedule looks nightmarish...

December 17 - Full portion Marketing quiz
December 18 -
December 19 - Managment Accounts End term exam
December 20 -
December 21 -
December 22 - Research Methodology project presentation
December 23 - Macroeconomics End term
December 24 - MIS project presentation
December 25 - Marketing End term
December 26 - Operations Mgmt end term and Quantitative techniques end term
December 27 - Research Methodology End term and MIS end term
December 28 - Finance end term
December 29 - [Escape to Shimla... holidays!]

Apart from these, we expect a quiz in Research Methodology, two quizzes in Macroeconomics, a quiz in Finance and another in MIS. All these would be of surprise nature, expect that we've guessed thier arrival. We just don't know their exact dates.

This is probably the toughest stretch in our IIM life yet. The list looks nightmarish coz I'm not very prepared for some subjects like Managment Accounts;Quantitative techniques; Research Methodology etc. Let's see how the whole thing goes.

And... needless to mention, my blogging frequency would definitely take a beating. But I would definitely try to post before the great trip to the 'Heemalayas' begins. :)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Just another funny day in my funny life…

Bam! A door shut somewhere near my room. Bleary eyed, I tried hard to see the alarm. After several vain attempts, I finally succeeded. It was 9.15 am. Classes start by 9.30. “@#$%!” I cursed. First class was Operations Mgmt, and the professor would shut the door by the dot. Such situations make me argue that women should be given more preference in the teaching profession. You could get away going 10 minutes late. I usually have 3 alarms – one alarm, a mobile and a comp alarm. After all the attempts, I didn’t wake up - coz I slept at something like 4 the previous night. I thought perhaps I was cruel to myself… sleeping for just 3/4 hrs is inhuman. But ‘twas no time to ponder about all that crap. I had to take a choice between brushing teeth and breakfast. I decided on doing both – afterall isn’t nick-of-the-time management an art? Call it efficiency or a sloppy job - I brushed the teeth in 2 minutes flat. I ran to the mess and grabbed whatever stuck to my hand. Walking uphill every morning is a real pain in the a$$, and I had to run, multiplexing breakfast along with. Like you see in movies, I entered the class as the door was closing. Only after reaching my seat did I realize the intense pain in the leg… climbing the quasi-hill at break-neck speed isn’t amusing. This isn’t stamina-building you see.

The 1st class: I hadn’t read the case for class discussion. Doesn’t matter coz I had a good track record of both the pre-class readings and the case readings for this particular class. I probably have already had spoke too much… I might just escape from being cold-called. 70 minutes later, I did get away.

The 1st break: A 15 minutes break is bliss; particularly if you are served gratis hot tea. Anything free rocks!

The 2nd class: It was a marketing session, and we had a surprise quiz for 10 minutes. I had read the chapter, but the answer for one question (out of the two) evaded me. Without many options (I just don’t find the need, feel or nerve to copy), I consoled myself saying “Damn the grades! I had studied the chapter anyway. That’s what matters.” 10 minutes into the session, our group had to present a case. I did the ending part of the presentation, and let the group members take most of the questions… I hadn’t had worked enough on that presentation.

The 3rd class: It was a real monotonous session. My neighbor started singing some esoteric jazz note. I didn’t make an effort to stop him fearing that he’d start singing it non-stop. While I was kind of going crazy, one of my neighbors was cold-called. I was kind of jolted thinking that I was the one being called. Fortunately, as luck would have it, it wasn’t me. I decided to concentrate on the class. I also took a vain resolution to study and concentrate in all the classes. You know, it was a kind of resolution that you’d take everyday and let it go once that 10 minute phase passes… that was probably the hundredth time I took that kind of a resolution. The classes are generally of 70 minutes duration, and this class looked like transcending the length of the Ice Age. Finally, after what looked like a year in absolution, it ended. It was 1.30 pm.

The obvious: Once we were out of the class, as lady luck would evade, I saw a long queue in front of the notice board. I knew what was in store. I asked what, and someone told me about the long-awaited Macroeconomics quiz in the afternoon. Duh! Afternoon just got bungled. Sometimes, life in a B-school sucks.

Lunch: I initially thought I’d skip the boring, lack-of-variety lunch, but decided to have something. Ulcer is one thing that I can’t afford to have now. I ate the fast food kind of items in the menu and left to my room… it was 1.45. The quiz was at 3.00. I roughly had about an hour to brush up.

Quiz: Economics quizzes have always been ok types for me. Other subjects would have been a different story. I had studied the portion earlier, and the one hour brush up worked quite well. Had a comfortable feeling at the end of the quiz coz of two reasons: 1) the quiz got over, and 2) I *thought* I did well. You know, the feeling is more important than the real performance… it’s all about satisfaction in the end.

Post-quiz: There was a Section A vs. B cricket match going on as part of the games week. My section ‘A’ had to win coz we had a bad track record. We went well initially, but bungled in the end. All in the game! I grabbed the Business Today from my friend and read it for something like 2 hours – cover to cover, including advertisements. You could learn a lot about marketing from advertisements… or so I believed. I then grabbed a sleep of two hours before the dinner.

The stroll: I and Chandoo have this habit of walking down and up the hill after the dinner. The weather is real cold – like 12 degrees - and the bend, the city-view etc from the winding roads inside the hilltop campus makes walking a really pleasant experience. I then decided to wash my clothes since it was like 3 weeks since I last did that. As I was drowned in some thought, my friend jolted me: “What the @#@$ are doing watching the washing machine”. I said “I like watching the swirling waters”. He looked at me like watching an alien. He must’ve thought I’m weird. And I probably am.

I then managed to study something for the next days’ classes, some other esoteric assignment and preparation, and made it to the mess at 1 in the night. It’s kind of become a routine to spend some half an hour there... little did I realize what I did later – probably some newspapers, some music, some movie review and stuff - it was 4.00 in the night. I decided to crash off for the day, and marked the alarm at 7.00 in the morning, knowing real well that I wouldn’t make it. It’s going to be yet another day…

P.S: All of these probably wouldn’t have taken place the same day, but the sequence is close … recorded as far as I remember things. And, I wouldn’t bet on my memory.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The rotten state of Indian cinema

Scores of articles have been written about the degradation in quality and variety of Indian movies. Hundreds of critics have condemned the characters and roles played by heroes in some of the recent movies. Still, nothing seems to be changing. The same old love story, girl either rich or good in studies, guy either poor or a rogue, opposition from family, initial apprehension on the part of the girl, the volte-face of the hero and the ‘becoming’ of a good guy, hero and heroine running and singing among trees and valleys ranging from Thar desert to Switzerland, and finally everything ending well. It’s so ridiculously boring! With hundreds of directors exploiting each and every possible love-angle, nothing seems to be new in any of the recent movies, except for a few new faces among heroines. Mind you, hero never loses form or charm - atleast not for 10 odd years.

All such love centric cinema-making in a society where love is considered taboo, and arranged marriage is the norm! Come to think of it, it’s all very weird, and all too farcical. Even in the western societies where marriages are made by the brides and grooms and not by their parents, cinema is not at all love centric. Ofcourse, there are romance movies, some of them stressing on the jolly-go, laissez faire attitude towards life, and some of them really casual. But on the most part, English movies, in general, have some feel-good element, or tangible learning points that our Indian movies are grossly lacking. I’m not going to argue whether our culture and societal orientation is good or bad. My only complaint is about the love-centric, lack-of-variety Indian movies, with us living in a love-bashing society. Ofcourse, there is an odd classic here and there – like ‘Roja’ by Mani Rathnam, or the ‘Kaakka kaakka’. But such classics come once in a blue moon. Isn’t all this really ironical?

For all these years, Tamil cinema world (Kollywood) was producing the maximum number of movies in the country (even exceeding Bollywood). The success rate of Tamil movies was also significantly higher. But of late, thanks to some cheap stake, third rated movies, Kollywood is shifting towards a totally filthy direction. Scolding parents, losing self-respect, speaking in a cheap language, all assortments of bad habits etc characterize the contemporary movies. I recently watched such a movie called 7G Rainbow Colony. The movie was a supposed hit, and the director was credited for attracting masses. But honestly, I was appalled watching the so-called psychotic hero and his attitude towards life for the most part. I can’t imagine the kind of impact these movies will have on the gullible adolescent youth, particularly in the middle and lower-middle class segment who seem to be the predominant audience for such movies. Sure, the director knows to make money – but at the terrible cost of deifying a psychotic in front of vulnerable youth. This movie isn’t an exception. A row of such movies with all sorts of psychotic flavors have been released, with most of them being successful. The scene is no different in Bollywood, where ‘showing flesh’ seems to be the driving factor.

Although I’ve almost stopped watching Indian movies because of all these reasons (the primary one being the sheer lack of variety and thought), I pray that such trends change and good, positive movies with a lot more variety and fun come by.

Friday, December 03, 2004

A journey into the past…

I now know what the expression “Living life king size” exactly means. Today, a group of us went to a place called “Mandu”, 2 hours from Indore, Madhya Pradesh. I didn't expect much out of the place since all the planning was done in a matter of two days, and I was initially apprehensive of my participation due to a sponsorship work. All this added to the real fun and learning we got, apart from relieving us from the near-sadistic work schedule that’s haunting (or rather, rotting) all of us.

I got so fascinated by the place that I researched a lot about the place soon after I returned. I’m only recording some very fascinating and absorbing mythological stories about which no material is on the web.

A glimpse of the place: Mandu, the place where the historic fort is located, is in Central India, at an elevation where the Malwa plateau starts. The place is of historical significance, and is one of the semi-shattered monuments recognized and protected by the Archaeological Society of India. The fort was originally built in the 14th century, and has been of strategic importance to all the Indian kings due to its location. It is located in a plateau where the plains from the South end and the hills of the North start, with the Narmada valley in the vicinity. And it was initially built by the King of Bhopal, but was later taken over by the Mughals. The architecture is predominantly Indian, but there are traces of Roman, Chinese and Afghan architecture.

The starting point was the ‘Jama Mosque’ where our guide, citing the differentiating factors between mosques and Hindu monuments, went on to prove that the monument wasn’t exactly a mosque. Especially interesting was the acoustic design of the monument. Since the kings addressed audience en masse from the monument, it was designed with special dome structures aimed at amplifying and carrying even casual whispers to long distances. Many such structures were also visible at even intervals of about 170 meters to propagate messages for as long as 50 Kms within a span of 5 minutes, primarily using echo techniques. Below is a snap of the Mahal…

The other story was about a dancer Roopmati for whom a high elevation monument was built. The monument enabled a high-altitude view of the sacred Narmada River, apart from serving as an army watch tower for guarding miles of surrounding plains. Akbar, the great Mughal king, apparently came to Mandu to take Roopmati along with him, thereby forcing her to commit suicide by swallowing a diamond…

We then went to monuments that saw one of the first usages of aqueducts and siphon systems in the world. Many of the monuments had facilities like sauna, hot springs, and even sprinklers… all using basic physics principles to function.

Next was the interesting story about the underground chambers of queens. The chambers had two floors beneath the ground, and the entrance was through a casual looking ‘well’. In the case of emergencies, the well, which normally had very less water in it, used to be filled with water, after hiding the Queens in the underground chambers. The only entry to the chambers was through the well. For gaining access, one had to dive into the well, and then access the gates in the waters below to further gain entry to the upper chambers where the queens were camped.

A snap as we gaze into the waters of the clandestine well…

Next in line was the ‘Ship Mahal’ - a structure that was completely unobtrusive from the outset, but later showed the magnitude as we entered its gamut. Huge structures made of red marbles from Rajasthan gave the fort a majestic look. With two flanking artificial lakes and many pools that were aesthetically designed (shape of lotus etc), the forts were breathtaking.

A picture is worth a thousand words…

I’ve uploaded a lot of pictures in http://photos.yahoo.com/meetgovar

<>The start... (Urs truly, Sudhir, Senthil, Srickant, Nirmal, Chandoo, Jam, Arun, Krishnan)

In all, it was a terrific journey back into history. After witnessing the engineering prowess and wisdom our forefathers exhibited, I’m truly spellbound.