January 13, 2013
I love pencils. They are brilliant. A 2B pencil gives the perfect contrast on a white page. And there are varieties depending on whether I want a darker or lighter shade. I have them all at home.
I can undo.
I can sketch for hours together and then just erase the whole thing to create something entirely new to my hearts content. I can write my darkest thoughts in black (or grey) and white and get rid of it as quickly and neatly without wasting precious paper. So is it the eraser that is brilliant. No. The eraser exists because of the pencil.
Is it fickle?
Do I want to change my mind often? Is that why I love the undo function of the pencil? Definitely not. I like the fact that I can explore new things with minimum damage. I can experience variety. And when I change what I wrote or drew, I know that I changed it for a reason. Sometimes I regret it, but mostly I’m happier with the change, happier because of the thought behind the change.
I love pencils. Just the way I love typing on a computer rather than a typewriter. Just the way I love clicking with digital cameras rather than film roll cameras.
I rarely end up exercising the option to change. Maybe it’s time to consciously enjoy the luxury.
July 7, 2010
I attended 5 different interviews for selection to B-Schools after the CAT results were announced. All of them were different and exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed the variety. All I tried to do as a candidate was to be my natural self because I knew that getting out of a B-School successfully was more important and more grueling than getting in. But how do B-Schools make the go/no-go decision on a candidate after just a few minutes of ‘interview’? I was ready to pop this question at any interviewer who’d give me an opportunity, and it happened at the end of my interview for MDI’s PGPM in Bangalore. The interviewers asked me at the end of the session whether I had any questions for them.
I said, “Yes sir. What do you look for in a candidate? You get very little time to asses a person, so it must be very difficult for you…”
One of my interviewers replied, while ticking off on his fingers, “Attitude towards life, social attitude, general aptitude – which we know from you educational background and CAT score, whether they would fit in the MDI culture, how much variety they can add to MDI…”
That’s all fine. But how do they really find out all that about a person? They must make sure they ask the right questions. But we must remember that they are also humans, and may miss out on some excellent candidates at some point!
So the selection process this year conducted by the B-Schools I was shortlisted for, generally consisted of an essay/GD followed by an interview. An exception was the process conducted by SPJIMR, which consisted of two group interviews. Group interviews are interesting because you get to hear other people’s answers and for some, the group environment proves to be more relaxing. But on the other hand, the cons are, that for some, other people’s seemingly excellent answers may sound intimidating, and more importantly, it gives lesser time and lesser scope for projecting your individuality. Some may also argue that the group interview process actually gives a stronger arena to project oneself against the backdrop of several others. On the whole, I think a group interview is an interesting option worth consideration. Most B-School used to conduct group interview decades ago, and shifted to the current system later.
Another process I attended was IIM-B’s essay/PI. It was a quiet a solemn affair. The essay is an interesting change of recent years in the B-School selection process. According to some, institutes started this because of recruiter’s feedback that most of the graduates lack written communication skills. I must say, don’t we do any writing during the two years? So wont those help to improve this particular skill? But nevertheless, this creates a different challenge and change is good at times. During a group discussion, chances of a strong a commanding voice picking up points from the softer spoken is huge. And the noise levels are generally very high, making it extremely difficult for the interviewers to make a selection or judgment. So the essay can convincingly evaluate a candidate’s written skill along with original ideas. But let’s not be too hard on the time tested group discussion process. Some institutes like IIM-L have adopted a hybrid strategy where they made us write an essay and later discuss the same topic. This, I think is a good idea to overcome the flip sides of both essay writing and group discussion while reaping the benefits of both evaluation techniques.
The interviews were essentially similar, all aiming at putting a face to the person presented to them on paper, and clarifying anything about his/her profile that they want to discuss. I was consistently asked about my Carnatic music interests, my Statistics background and my social initiatives. The only exception was IIM-L, which posed an arbitrary interview where I got to talk very less about myself. I heard it had varied levels of ‘randomness’ for most candidates. Such things used to happen when stress interviews were in vogue. But these days, B-Schools genuinely try to ensure that the candidates are relaxed and able to project their true self for consideration.
Another interesting thing I encountered in two of my interviews (IIM-I and SPJIMR) was a psychometric test. It is very interesting to answer one, and a scientific way to understand the candidate’s moral/emotional temperament. But it is nothing that a shrewd mind cannot fool, especially when everything is on paper and one can refer back to what one answered earlier.
MDI’s selection process was good old time tested GD/PI. The topic was pretty general and everyone in the group got to talk. The group tried to make it a fairly well-behaved and involved discussion and was ready to listen to others. The interviewers were very attentive during the discussion and asked some candidates about the points they had made. The interview was a very interactive and open one. I got to talk about myself with ease, and was even asked in the end (as I mentioned before) to ask anything I might want to ask them. This process is time tested. And apparently it worked well for me. It was one of the most energised processes I attended.
A possible improvement would be to include an essay. But if all the interview panels are patient enough to listen carefully, that may not be essential. Another possible change would be to include a group task and note each candidate’s group attitude. Group dynamics can be also assessed through a group interview integrated with a group task – this may be combined with a GD/Essay process as well and followed up by the Personal Interview. Asking the candidates for a statement of purpose is also a time-tested process followed by most international B-schools. It would provide a ground for questions during the interview as well.
I am finally here at MDI, and am hoping to write about life here and after!
June 28, 2010
A near perfect outline of the India Peninsula, made by the sea waves pushing in the sea weed remains, in Udupi’s Malpe beach.
March 2, 2010
November 30, 2009
बरसात में भीगी ये धरती के नए रंग देखो
जादू हैं फैला ज़रा नदियों की हँसी सुनो
बिन तेरे माँ हम कैसे जियें
तेरी गोद में हम चैन से रहें
आजा माँ दिन भर ख़ुशी बरसाने
कोमल हैं तू घनघोर भी तू
बूँद बनके हाथों में नाचे भी तू
आंधी हैं आती जब तुम नाराज़ होती हो माँ
हँसती हो जब हम वर्षिणी गाते हैं माँ
तेरे आँसू प्यास बुझाते
बीजों में भी जीवन लाते
प्यारी जल माता तुम अमृत हो जीवन की जननी
बूँद के गुण से धरती सुन्दर और समृद्ध बन जाती
ममता तेरी, तेरा प्यार
शब्दों के हैं ये पार
सुर भी हो लय भी हो
हम हैं फ़िदा तुझपे माँ
The above lyrics is the outcome of a venture by my friend Rahul and myself to pen Hindi lyrics for a tune composed by an acquaintance, Maruthi Nambi. He had the theme ‘Mother Rain’ in mind, and we complied. It has not yet been sung and mixed into a song – will upload that as soon as it is done.
All rights reserved for the lyrics. Rekha Narayanaswamy©
October 21, 2009
I am about to delve into fiery deep waters. Fiery, literally. There are numerous off-shoots worthy of discussion in this subject, a multi-sided coin it is. And definitely not black and white. I do not know what to call it, but it is violently disturbing.
Inside the country: India-Bharat divide
Four Indians made it to the Forbes list of 10 wealthiest CEOs in the world, while half of the Indian population is striving for a day’s meal. Recently, Corporate Affairs minister Salman Khurshid talked about CEOs taking “vulgar” salaries. Every Indian dreams of being the rich CEO – but what then? How would they give back to the society? Today, many rich Indians are arrogant and vulgar. The ‘god given’ poverty no longer keeps the poor from violent responses against perceived inequalities. Naxal attacks and Maoist insurgencies can be seen as a fight for rights that the increasingly family-hand-down-politician driven Indian democratic system has failed to provide. Indian elitism is based on power and money rather than on talent. Every door towards upward mobility is closed down for the poor. The policy makers sit in air-conditioned rooms discussing jargon-laden solutions for stopping the insurgency and for inclusive growth. Home minister P. Chidambaram on his fight-to-finish confrontation of the Naxals argues that they should abjure violence, and asks them to join the democratic process. The violence is just the symptom. The gaping India-Bharat divide is the disease.
In one corner of the country, little children who work all day for their daily bread turn up for night classes and copy alphabets into their slate with extreme serenity and concentration. It is the will to open the closed doors of prosperity. In another corner, children enjoy fun fanfare merriment shopping refreshments balloons fire-crackers and throw away rupee notes like scraps of paper. It is the shining India of modernity.
It is amazing how affluent urbane socialites think that the poor do not mind living like that. That they are so used to it that they do not wish to change. When the rich look for more luxuries, why do they feel that the poor wouldn’t want a healthy livelihood? The India-Bharat divide is not just in the economy, it is also evident in the minds of some of the rich as they shun the sight of the dirty lives in the slums but do nothing to make it a better sight. I have heard of stories that when the slum dwellers were given good accommodation, they gave it out for rent and returned to their slums. Well, just a big house wont help. They should also have enough earnings, and for that they might need training and education. The problem is deep rooted, but needs to be solved nevertheless. It is not a day’s work that can bear fruit overnight.
There is nothing that a small group of concerned citizens cannot change. That is probably what the Naxals believe too. There is no counter force of non-violent concerned citizens that is strong enough to overpower them. It should have been the government elected by the people. But who remembers the idea of India?
Outside the country: Terror and the Pakistani
Butchery is not a pleasant task for a vast majority of people; and that of human beings is far from pleasing. It traumatises and troubles the mind. But when one hates something so much that nothing else matters, then one’s thoughts become torpid. If one thinks that an end is to be reached irrespective of the means, then the senses become comfortably numb. It can be a call for attention, a reminder of one’s existence and needs, out of sheer hatred… I am no one to provide an exhaustive list of reasons. But what matters is that these attacks of terror have happened for ages, and continue unabated – India is not among the least affected. She faces external terrorist infiltrations in Kashmir, from Pakistan.
Our neighbour Pakistan, is one of the countries tagged as terror factories. Lets take a moment to think of what the common man in these countries might feel. By common man I mean the people who feel against terrorist violence as much as we do, the people who want to be seen as friends of the world, the people who, for no fault of theirs, suffer the terror and bear the world branding them as the source, the people whose voices are drowned by the guns and the bombs, the people who want to lead a peaceful life, the people who do not want their children to grow up hearing the sounds of blasts and cries, the people who may not even have seen a terrorist but have been victimised by them, the people whose relatives might be one of our neighbours, the people who were once Hindustanis our brothers and sisters, the people who suffer all that we suffer and more. They would want to see the end of this ruthless bloodshed much more than we do. They would also want to clear their names and walk free and fair. They would want to be friends and visit us and spread happiness. Mango-man (aam-admi) in India and Pakistan may want the same and be the same. I am not saying all of us see Pakistanis as terror-crazy psychopaths, but some do. Political talks are leading us nowhere, lets at least not hold every Pakistani to blame. Let us treat everyone with courtesy. Unity is strength, let us work together. Let us seek peace.
There is nothing that a small group of concerned citizens cannot change. That is probably what the terrorists believe too. There is no counter force of non-violent concerned citizens that is strong enough to overpower them. It should have been the government elected by the people. But who remembers the idea of India?
October 18, 2009
Deepavali was a quiet and bright affair this year. We have always celebrated with some sweets and diyas – and, once upon a time, fire crackers too. This year, though I had half a mind to buy some colourful crackers, I gave it up for the environment. The home made gulab jamuns have now become a regular! Yummy! We still have some left. All festivals are about food aren’t they? We assign special high calorie sweets and savories for each festival. We don’t make them otherwise, nevertheless we love eating them for the festival. 😉
Deepavali, as I know it, has never had much importance where I come from. Generally people in the south celebrate it with lesser grandeur than in other parts of the country. The main reason for that, especially in Kerala, could be that most of the customs of Deepavali are observed during another festival – Vishu. Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, and Vishu are the two main Hindu festivals of the state. Apart from that Christmas and Ramzan are also celebrated in style. I remember that during my childhood my household used to be the only one in the neighbourhood celebrating Deepavali. I used to wonder why fellow Hindus, at the least, don’t enjoy this fun festival. Slowly I have seen a few more families taking interest as more people from various parts of the country being to settle here.
The amazing thing about India is that we do not have to go outside the country for cultural exchange, there is so much to learn from each other here! Deepavali, also called Diwali, is itself an example of varied culture. When I visited Delhi during Deepavali two years back, I discovered that the customs and beliefs behind the festival are much different there. Deepavali is celebrated in the name of Goddesess Durga and Lakshmi, Lord Krishna, and Lord Rama according to various mythical beliefs in various communities across India. In all this, the true spirit of India is still alight. This festival is about lights and sweets everywhere in the country. Unity in diversity it is.
We lit some nice little diyas at home for our part. The evening breeze played spoilt sport all along and it was with great difficulty that we got the lamps to stay lighted for the photos. It was fun and the fruits of the effort are right here below.
October 10, 2009
It was a normal day. I was browsing through the news headlines lined up in my Google Reader subscription of various newspapers when I was struck on the face by “Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize”. I read that again, and again, confirmed the source of the headline, googled it twice to be sure, ran to the TV to watch the live news channels… Basically I was shocked. Barack Obama? The ‘new’ US President? Nobel Peace Prize? Was I missing something? When in doubt Google it. So I read up as much about Mr. Obama as I could and found no indication of any substantially peaceful cause that he had worked towards peacefully. Instead I stumbled upon the ever growing criticism of his current agenda which includes ramping up of the army in Afghanistan. War is a shade off the mark from peace, dont you think?
Alright, maybe I was missing out on my understanding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Wikipedia to the rescue, along with other official Nobel Prize sites. The Peace prize is granted to, in Alfred Nobel’s words, “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses”. Does that read Barack Obama?? I also discovered that the Peace prize, unlike the other Nobel Prize categories which are awarded in retrospect for achievements in the past decade of two, is awarded for achievements in the recent years. I had heard of previous controversies regarding past peace prize recepients. This is not the first to spur widespread disapproval. I thought I could find an answer if I read up more on the works of atleast some of the other 204 nominees (2009 Peace Prize had a record 205 nominations) who Mr. Obama had apparently outperformed. I discovered to my dismay that the nominations will not be revealed for the next 50 years. I do have a mind to check back after 5 decades though – the situation is as baffling as that to me!
So what has Mr. Obama done in recent years? He became the President of the US of A. Some of his speeches reflect an interest in solving global crises. His most good will generating speech was the one at Cairo where he quoted from the Kuran and appealed to the Muslim world. America is raging two wars in the very same Muslim world. One in Iraq which should supposedly be ending soon, but US troops are still at large there. And the second in Afghanistan. Where his own agenda seeks to send more troops to a war raged to devastate a country supposedly filled with terrorists – a war spurred by damages caused to one’s own infrastructure while many nations including India have suffered heavily at the hands of terrorism and the world kept quiet (of course words were spoken against it – shall we give them all Nobel Prizes?) – what are the facts that weighed enough against this policy to outright nullify and even outweigh its negative ramifications on world peace? Well, if all this war waging doesn’t qualify you for a Nobel Peace Prize, I don’t know what does! I suppose Mahatma Gandhi was not awarded one because he followed the path of non-violence all his life.
The Nobel committee is formed by the political representatives of Norway. The Peace Prize is a question of personal views of the committee of five who may or may not have biased opinion, but shouldn’t there be factual evidence of action towards peace to back one’s notion? Mr. Obama has hardly had time to act and make a difference, being less than a year into his Presidency. Has the committee taken Mr. Obama at face value, going by his speeches and the general inter-cultural appeal of an African-American US president? His foreign policy has seen a rise in the number of people viewing the US favorably in countries around the world (a 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Pew Global Attitudes Project). Much of the European world is lionised for bringing the United States closer to multi-lateralism and streamlining the views of the US with that of the mainstream global thinking on climate change. But at home the President is facing the criticism of a nation sparking fire over a host of issues from government spending to health care to the Afghan war. There is it… We’r back to ‘war’. And it still is far from peace.
What is peace, I wonder? Have they changed the meaning?
The Committee perhaps hopes that having received the Peace Prize Obama will now rise above earlier expectations. Having started nothing solid toward peace except for a few speeches and agenda notes not yet acted upon, I fail to see how he comes to be a Nobel laureate for Peace. The Prize has been awarded to a man who can do much from his position of responsibility to live up to the name given to him. Two wars are awaiting verdict – will peace be his way? A lot of complication has been passed down to his hands, I’d say it is as much if his policies don’t create more trouble. The world waits for justification.
There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. – A.J. Muste
October 2, 2009
They say the next world war will be over water. Hydrogen two parts, oxygen one part – it contains a third element, an element of magical sustenance, indefinable, indisputably vital.
The elixir of mortality keeps us alive till we die.
When I am thirsty, I never wait for the glass – I drink straight from the jug. The glass is there for those who can’t handle the jug.
Filthy water cannot be washed. Beware.
July 27, 2009
First fill your own house with the fragrance of love…Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,First remove the darkness of sin from your heart…Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen…Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden…Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins,First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you.
Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God,
First fill your own house with the fragrance of love…
Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart…
Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,
First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen…
Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden…
Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins,
First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you.
– Rabindranath Tagore
A few days back I visited Don Bosco Senha Bhavan, an orphanage run by Don Bosco group for the Corporation of Cochin. It is in Palluruthy, off mainland Kochi and calls for a 45 minute bike ride from my home right across the city and later through potholed roads. I was supposed to visit Fr. Kuriakose with whom I had earlier communicated with over e-mail and phone. Being unfamiliar with the place, I had to ask a few people on the roads for directions. I managed to reach on time and Father was eagerly awaiting my arrival. He was a kind middle-aged man, continuously sought after by various people. He gave me a briefing of almost everything that I had already read from their website, and more of the actual running of the place. He was quite pleased to have young minds wishing to be of help to the needy.
He showed me around the 30 year old building which was in quite a good condition except for the inevitable mosquitoes. The facility was for boys above 16 years of age, pursuing their higher secondary school to college level education. There was a 12th standard class in session, with a full strength of 70 girls and boys, which we sought not to disturb. The institution takes in students (residents and outside students) who just scrape through their exams and have no hopes of making it through higher education (or even getting an admission elsewhere) and helps them focus on life skills or build a knowledge base that will help them pursue a career of their choice.
After having seen around the place, he offered me and a few other guests tea and snacks over some introductions and conversation. Don Bosco has a separate facility for rescued street children (boys) half a kilometer down the same road (called Sneha Bhavan). They operate a help line and rescue operations to help children on the streets, railway stations and bus stands, forced into beggary, abandoned or subjected to child labour. Girls are housed at a separate facility a little way off. Fr. Kuriakose proposed that I visit Sneha Bhavan before I return for the day.
This proved to be a much more interesting visit because, apart from meeting Fr. Sunny who was the head of the place, I also met a few kids who claimed to suffer from stomach-head-leg-hand pains, and over that fever-cough-cold to escape school and enjoy a lazy day in bed. 🙂 I met young Michael as I entered and he showed me to his dear Fr. Sunny’s office. I asked Michael why he was not in school. He told me that he was ‘Tamil’ and can’t go to ‘Malayalam schools’. After a brief discussion with Fr. Sunny about the various possible ways in which I can be involved, I was given over to another one of the charming lads to show me around. Excited about the new friend he was about to make (me!), he took me around to their study room, games room, dormitories, kitchen, playground. He even showed me the fish in their well! Jabbering continuously in fluent Malayalam, he took me back to their study room to show off his various possessions and the beautiful drawings made by many of his friends. Then off he ran to get a group photograph taken last year and named each of the 30 odd students in the photograph stating where they were originally from. Finally he pointed to himself standing in the middle and said “Ithu njan, Jharkhandeennu” (This is me, from Jharkhand).
Finally I got a bite of reality! This small boy of 6th standard who speaks the most fluent of Kochi style Malayalam, who was happily showing me around his home, with dreams and hopes not different from my own, showing off his friend’s talents more than his own, had a home far away in a village in Jharkhand. And then he proclaimed that from last year he was ‘in English medium’ because Father said he could learn languages fast.
I have visited and worked with institutions for the disabled – they all had a family to take care of them, someone to show a tinge more love than the cruel world. But this was my first real visit to an orphanage, and the pain still rises in pangs.
“Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden…”