Friday, November 30, 2012


“Look at straightness of his elbow!” exclaimed Raman, slapping his six year old son on the back. Swami smiled gleefully as the little man on the screen punched another good length ball to the boundary.

Swami was introduced to cricket by his father on a rainy Monday. He did not want to attend school and his mother would hear none of it. Raman, however, reasoned with her.

“Let the child rest. As it is I am not going to office today. I will take care of him”.

Jaya smiled.

“So, what was his score overnight? “She asked.

Raman grinned sheepishly and went out to get the morning paper.

The bond between Raman and his son started because of one man – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. That Monday changed the relationship between them as Sachin (thirty seven not out overnight on a tricky Mumbai wicket) went on to score a memorable century. A bewitched Swami fell into the world of Sachinism and, like millions of Indians, became its permanent occupant. His father was a purist as far as cricket was concerned and regarded Sachin as the most complete batsman. The expansive extolments by his father coupled with the string of breath-taking innings that Sachin played ensured that Swami matched his dad when it came to worshipping Sachin.

As the years passed Cricket and Sachin were the only topics that bound a rather fragile father-son relationship. Even after this mutual interest, the two of them found very few topics on which they were comfortable conversing with each other. Discussion regarding Sachin’s innings or India’s victory would last for hours after which there would be periods of awkward silence before both of them went their respective ways to mind their businesses. Further, College outside hometown and a subsequent job in North India meant that the relationship between Raman and Swami grew even more dysfunctional. Whenever Swami called home and Raman picked up, there would be uneasy pauses before either he asked for mother or Raman passed over the phone to his wife.

Fifteen years went by like this before Swami got an unexpected transfer back to his hometown. This meant that suddenly he was forced to spend more time with Raman. Like Swami, Raman had also changed. His conversations were now limited to Jaya and his need for companionship made him irritable on many occasions. When he got to know that Swami was coming back, he felt a surge of happiness mixed with a small dose of apprehension. What if his son carried the mannerisms he exhibited over the phone into the house? It had been more than ten years since they had had a decent one-on-one talk. When Swami arrived home and smiled at his mother while giving a perfunctory nod at Raman, his fears were confirmed. His son had almost become a stranger to him.

Swami’s views and outlook had changed a lot in the years he had stayed away from home. The same laidback, joke-cracking Raman who he used to look up to was now a source of annoyance to him. He despised the conservative attitude of his father and his insistence on following rules and regulations, even at home. Raman’s constant jibes at Jaya for issues of inconsequence irked him. When Raman tried to impose these rules on him as well, Swami’s attitude towards his father went from bad to worse. He gave a deaf ear to Raman’s pleas and appeals and refused to even look him in the eye.

Swami felt thankful for Sundays as it was a holiday for him and both his parents. This meant that he needn’t be alone with Raman. Saturdays, though, were a nightmare as Jaya went to work while Swami and Raman had holidays. Swami tried to avoid staying home on Saturdays by planning meetings with school friends, colleagues and even cousins. Another significant change in Swami was the fact that cricket had lost its charm on him. Sachin was no more the boy wonder who drew Swami to cricket and made him bunk school and college lectures. He was a tired old man trying his best to leave the cricketing scene with dignity. It had been three years since he had scored a century. Naturally the cricket conversations between Swami and Raman had become almost non-existent.

It was a usual Saturday morning and Swami was getting ready to flee the house as quickly as he could. The TV blared in a volume high enough for the whole apartment to hear, which was typical of Raman whenever he saw TV. Swami felt a bout of irritation creeping into him.

As he crossed the hallway he caught a glimpse of the TV. Live cricket was going on between India and Australia. He wanted to get across and out of the door quickly, but something held him back. The moment he slowed down, a wicket fell. India was now two down. Sachin Tendulkar walked into the ground. Swami cast a sideways glance at Raman and was surprised to see the familiar glint in his eyes. After all these years, the expectancy had not reduced one bit. He felt somewhat ashamed at his own loss of faith while his sixty year old father’s enthusiasm had not diminished at all. He looked back at the screen as Sachin took guard. The all-too-familiar body language of the champion had not changed. The fuss with the sightscreen, the adjustments in the groin area, the slight nod of the head, they were all intact. There was one difference though. The twinkly eyes had given way to a look of steely determination. He faced the first ball with a decisive forward movement and defended with a full-straight bat. Raman smiled eagerly. Swami knew that the old Raman would have immediately made his trademark comment – “Ah! The forward movement! He looks good today.” There was no comment from his father though. That moment threw open a floodgate of memories for Swami. He felt a pang of guilt at having side-lined the two men who had made sacrifices in their own capacities to nurture the love for cricket in him – Sachin Tendulkar and his father.

He pulled up a chair and sat down. The next ball was just short of good length. Sachin went back and punched it down the ground. The ball raced to the boundary.

Swami looked into his father’s eyes for the first time in many years.

“Look at the straightness of his elbow!” He exclaimed.

And thus began their second innings... 

Friday, November 9, 2012

We know what we did this 'SUMMERS'

Disclaimer: This post is a mixture of truth, exaggeration and utter lies, but in order to preserve the safety of my provisional summer internship offer I am not going to reveal which parts are true, which are exaggerated and which ones are utter lies. So I am giving a disclaimer within a disclaimer: I am not responsible for this disclaimer nor the disclaimer outside this disclaimer and whatever I post cannot be taken at face value.

I was under the impression that business school involved this high-funda lifestyle where people got together for group projects as if they were convening an annual general body meeting, cracked challenging problems like they were born business magnates, germinated path-breaking entrepreneurial ideas and, most importantly, had absolutely no restrictions to venture into girls’ rooms. Three months into B-school, only one of the above myths turned out to be true (you might hazard a guess as to which one, but I am not revealing it). We still mugged, we still procrastinated everything to the last moment, we still felt happy when people around us did badly in a particular quiz or exam and we still tried our best to catch the cute girl’s attention (at least most boys, and maybe, a few girls).

Ultimately, most of us had one goal for getting into a B-school – placements (most of us won’t accept this openly). The summer recruitment, which used to be a two-month exposure for enthusiastic management students, has transformed into a genuine opportunity at high-paying PPO giving jobs. So the tension of summers was in the air at least a month before the actual process started at my school. I tried to go with the group and force some tension into myself, but my efforts were in vain. I had found a cosy little group which had troubles similar to mine and we ended up preparing together for the summers. Now, imagine three to four people, all pretty thick-skinned to worry too much about summers, PPOs and ‘day zero’ shortlists sitting together every night to prepare for the same. Naturally, we ended up discussing one-sided crushes, Sridevi’s hottest songs, which different place to order food from, how our future wives should be and other such topics. Suddenly Day zero of placements arrived. Obviously, we didn't have any shortlists, but were expected to be present in something called the ‘common pool’ so that we would feel ‘part’ of the process. I decided to add a little creativity to being part of the process by wearing a bright pink shirt and an even brighter red tie for this common pool assembly on ‘day zee’, as the ones who got the coveted calls referred to it. Day zee was a breeze for me as I just sat around for most of it, only getting up to congratulate the people who cracked their shortlists. I had a heavy lunch and decided to take a short nap, commonly referred to as ‘SNAP’ by us lazy non-day zee people. I reached my room, divested myself off the layered apparels I was forced to wear and slept like a baby. I was woken by someone urgently asking me to come back to the common pool as some venture capital firm had shortlisted me for an interview. I cursed the firm and its owner using some choicest native abuses as I struggled with my double knot. As I sat waiting in the common pool, I was handed a copy which briefly described what this firm did. There was no reason for this firm to shortlist me based on my resume or profile, so I was still hoping for some placement rep. to come over to me and apologize  saying that there has been some mistake and I was not in the shortlist after all. The placement rep. did come, but only to escort me to my interview room. After an embarrassing forty-five minutes with the founder of this focused Venture firm, I decided to never apply to companies just for the heck of it; otherwise such shocks are bound to occur.

Day zee was followed by the group discussion day, where all the marketing and general management companies’ shortlisted people for group discussions and these people got together and did everything but physically and verbally abuse each other. I got the first shortlist that was out and felt pretty pumped up. It was scheduled at 6:30 am, so I was expecting a day packed with group discussions after that.

That was the only shortlist I got; of course I didn’t convert it.

So we trotted on to day zero-point-five (don’t even ask me to explain the logic behind this bizarre numbering). With no shortlists in the vicinity and people around me getting placed left right and centre, a group of us started to see the funny side of things. We realised that we were the ‘paneer’ gang – the group which stood at marriage hall entrances and sprinkled rose water (paneer) on the guests. The only difference was that we were standing in the common pool and showering wishes on the people who got placed. We formed a circle, discussed random topics, waited for the caterers to appear with the morning tiffin, intermediary fruit plates, tea/coffee, afternoon lunch, evening snacks and night dinner. Overall, it was a perfect marriage-hall experience. I got a group discussion shortlist in between my ‘paneer’ commitments. This time, I buttered up the panel by thanking them for giving us this chance to discuss. Apart from that whatever I spoke had tremendous likeness to whatever I excreted in the morning. As you would have guessed by now, I cleared the Group discussion round and got an interview shortlist. The interview went better than I expected and when the HR lady asked if I viewed their firm as a long-term, say twenty year, career option I was pretty certain that they would be extending an offer to me. I came out of the interview room, phone ready in my hand and my home residence number already scrolled and my thumb on the call button. The placement rep. came and informed me that I can go and wait in the common pool for other interviews as the firm was not considering me for further rounds or offer.  I switched off my mobile and went back to the common pool. I resumed my paneer commitments for an hour or so before another PR came to me, stating that a major media firm is calling me for an interview. I trudged along once again, my mind almost blank and my eyes droopy. I remember being asked about brand perception and brand image during the interview and if you ask me even now, I would not be in a position to answer these questions. I do not remember how I answered them during the interview, but the company extended an offer to me.

I entered the common pool with a smile plastered on my face. The ‘paneer’ gang continued its work albeit a touch emotionally, as it had lost one of its members.

The ‘sprinkler’ had become the ‘sprinklee’

Monday, February 20, 2012

IIM-A Interview - Blow-by-blow...literal blows...

19th Feb 2012 - My IIM-A Interview experience...proof of Murphy's Law coming true whenever it has a chance to come true, which is always...which again proves Murphy's Law...

(P1 – Male (Smiling & Friendly); P2 – Female (Very Smiling and Very Friendly))

P1 – Have a seat Jagannath
Me – Good evening Sir! Good evening Ma’am!
Both: Good Evening
P2 – So Jagannath, Tell me something very interesting about yourself…
[Though about starting with hometown and talking abt germany internship]
Me – I am from Chennai and…
P2 (interrupting me) – And why do you think that is interesting? Ok, what is the population of Chennai?
Me – 45 Lakhs
P2 – So you are one among 45 Lakhs. Why should that be interesting?
Me – In the context of the present interview group, I could see that I am the only one from Chennai here, rest all being from Mumbai or Pune, So I thought you might find the diversity I brought to this process in that way as interesting…
[Nod and slight laughter from P2]
P2 – Ok. Continue…
[Spoke about German internship]
P2 – Where all did you go in Germany?
[Told a few places like Dusseldorf, Cologne]
P2 – Ok. Germany was actually in disarray after WW-II. But now they seem to controlling the sinking Eurozone economy. So why do you think they are in that position?
Me – Countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal borrowed a lot of money and went on a spending spree without controlling their revenue. The main reason for the huge debt is also that these countries failed to control the labour wages, which have risen by more than 40%. Germany on the other hand, have absolute control over labour wages, have a very minimal trade deficit and are export oriented. Thus they seem to be the saviours of the Euro zone crisis right now
P1 – Ok Jagannath. You work as a Sales Engineer in Sain-Gobain. Tell us something about the product you handle and competition
[Talked quite well about it. This went on for about ten mins, with P1 asking me market shares, innovations in product and new developments in the market. I answered quite well and was getting very comfortable and relaxed]
P1 – Ok, good. Now I am giving you three options. Choose one of them so that I can ask questions in that option – Differentiation, Geometry, Statistics…
[Mind voice – Enna vecchu onnum comedy keemedy pannalayae >
[P1 gives some list of numbers and tells me to find mean median and mode. I do it. Then comes the Aapu]
P1 – So tell me, if I plot these values, would I get a smooth curve?
Me – With some corrections and adjustments we might get a smooth curve sir.
P1 – What will its shape be?
Me – Bell curve Sir
P1 [giving paper and pencil] - ok. Plot it and show…
[I take it and draw the axes and just start marking the points when he interrupts]
P1 – what you are doing, even a school student will do. Ok, tell me, if I make the mean, median and mode to coincide for these values, will the curve be closer in resemblance to the bell curve or farther?
Me – I am not sure about that sir…
P1 – Just hazard a guess…
Me – I think it will be closer to the bell curve…
P1 – You shouldn’t have chosen statistics. You are not comfortable in it…
Me – Actually I am not comfortable with any of the three topics sir. But comparatively I thought I can handle statistics better…
P1 – Why is that? You graduated in 2009 only. You should have studied all this in your engineering…
[I give a sheepish grin]
P1 – Ok. Choose among the other two now…
[I felt a little like VadiveluIvan evlo adichaalum thangaraan…remba nallavan…]
Me – Differentiation Sir.
[P1 gives some equation and asks me to find maxima and minima. I do some derivative crap and come up with some answer. The he asks me to plot the graph for the equation. I do…and lo behold! Both maxima and minima tending to infinity…]
P1 – So what do you think?
Me – Yes sir. I got confused. Both are tending to infinity…
[P2, all this while is browsing my file and interrupts now]
P2 – Jagannath. You have done this course called HR Skills in your second, fourth and fifth semester…so what skills that you learnt you are using in your current job?
Me – I learnt effective communication skills which have been of immense help in my present job…
P2 interrupts me – Leave aside communication skills. Tell me some HR Skills that you are using…
[I am completely nonplussed, basically because I don’t even remember what they taught in that stupid 1 credit course]
P2 – Ok. Do you remember anything you learnt in this course?
Me – We were basically taught effective communication, interview mannerisms and how to attend an interview…
P2 – So what are these mannerisms?
[I told about the posture, hand position and stuff…]
P2 – Do you agree with all this that they taught?
Me – I have found it to be the most relaxed way to sit in an interview, so I agree with them…
P2 – What is this Mullaperiyar?
Me – It was a dam built in the Tn-Kerala Border ma’am…
P2 – When was it built?
[I got reminded of some history spot quiz…]
Me – 1888…
P2 – Are you sure?
Me – Not entirely, but I am sure it is somewhere in the 1880s to 1890s…
P2 – So what is the issue with it.
Me – Kerala’s issue is that it is built mostly of limestone which is dissolvable in water, and also the dam is very weak and susceptible to seismic disturbances…
P2 – Oh. Only dissolution is the problem?
Me – no Ma’am. Even the seismic withstanding capability…
P2 – Have any tremors occurred recently?
Me – According to reports, there were mild tremors even in October 2011…
P2 – So have Kerala built any dam downstream to this dam
Me – Yes
P2 – How many?
Me – Only one
P2 – Sure?
Me – Yes
P2 – What is its name?
Me – I don’t remember Ma’am…
P2 – So what is TN’s contention on the issue…
Me – TN gets about 140 cu. Units of water from the dam which serves for irrigation and farming purposes in the water starved Madurai, Theni, Dindigul belt. If as per Kerala’s argument, this dam is destroyed and a new dam be built downstream, then the water flow to these districts will drastically reduce which will effect a serious water scarcity for these districts…
P2 – Ok, Jagannath. Thank you…
P1 – Thank you Jagannath. Have a toffee…
[Mind voice: Adhu onnu dhaan korachal…]