Saturday, December 25, 2010 4 comments

10 Good Books I read in 2010

Merry Christmas everyone. What an eventful year it has been. I guess the special thing about 2010 is that representatives of the 5 most powerful nations in the world have visited India. But I guess this year will also be remembered for all the Corruption Scandals. We also had a few Mega Sporting Events[ FIFA World Cup, CWG and Asian Games], and India has managed to deliver on all fronts.

As for me personally, I have got the first MBA interview call of my life, from IIFT. But that is left for another day.

Lets end this year with a Happy Post:

Am listing down the names of 10 books which I read in 2010, which really impressed me and made me sit up and think.

So here are the names of the books, the author, and the category. In no particular order:

1) India After Gandhi, By Ramachandra Guha- History/Non-Fiction. Deals with the history of India in the year range 1948-2007. Very well written. In one word- Unputdownable.

2) Simply Fly : A Deccan Story, By Captain Gopinath.- Autobiography. Deals with the life history of Captain Gopinath, founder of Deccan Airlines. A Must read for all budding entrepreneurs.

3) A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson- Science. Deals with, erm, everything. Basically a book which tries to explain the mystery of life and planet Earth. Deals with Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy, Mathematics, Paleontology, etc. Has interesting anecdotes on scientists. Written in a layman’s language. Easily one of the best books I have ever read, it’s an award winner[Amongst Top 25 books of the decade]. If you miss this one, you have missed a lot.

4) Serious Men, By Manu Joseph – Fiction. I have not yet finished this novel, but considering that it’s the winner of the Hindu Literary awards 2010, its definitely a must read. It’s a light novel. No complications.

5) Connect the Dots, By Rashmi Bansal- Non-Fiction. Story of 20 entrepreneurs who launched their ventures without possessing an MBA degree. Highly inspiring book.

6) Goal, By E. Goldratt- Management. One of the all time best selling Management novels, Goal is simply a must read for all aspiring managers. Written in such a way that even a school student will understand the principles behind throughput, inventory and operational expenses.

7) Buyology by Martin Lindstrom, -Marketing. This is a superb book which combines the aspect of marketing with psychological behavior of customers.

8) Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell- Non-Fiction. Great book which deals with the question- ‘Why some people are famous and most are ordinary?’

9) Why Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson- Self Help. Tells us on accepting change and moving on in life. More than a million copies in print. Enough said!

10) The Google Story, by David A. Vise- Non-Fiction/Biography. Deals with the rise and rise of the one of the World’s Biggest companies- Google.

Apart from the ones I have mentioned, there are other good books too. Like Gladwells The Tipping Point, What the Dog Saw, Blink. Am currently reading The Discovery of India, by Jawarhal Nehru which is also an interesting read. Next I shall cover The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen, and will continue with the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Jason Bourne series by Eric Van Lustbader, and The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. Lots of reading to do.

Wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year in advance.
Thursday, December 16, 2010 6 comments

Life of an Average Indian Male- Part 3

*Continued From Previous Post

Last we remember, Raj had joined an average I.T. company. He moved into a house as a P.G. The food sucked, and the place was awfully hot. Still, he tried to get used to the new environment. However the workplace had another nasty surprise in store for him.

Raj was unlucky enough to have a demon in disguise of a boss. From the worst day onwards he was treated like a slave, made to work incessantly for 12 hours at a stretch. Even when he finally trudged back to his apartment, he would still have some work left over for the day. The work kept on piling, and Raj was handed one assignment after the other. He scarcely had time to eat, let alone relax or entertain himself. Moreover, he did not get along well with his colleagues. Most were engineers from Tier-3 colleges who did not understand anything about the work or the project they were working on. At max, they could perform Control+C/Control+V jobs. Raj himself found it quite difficult to cope up with an I.T. environment, though at least he knew the basics. However working on a Java environment was tough for him. Still he slogged on, day in and night, without any breaks.

Raj lost track of time. His state became even more disheveled than before. 6 months passed, an year, and then two. There was no scope of any promotion and Raj hardly got an increment in his salary. Perks were few and far in between. But the worst part was the monotonous nature of the job. He had done practically the same thing every day, each week for the past 2 years. And now he was fed up. He desperately wanted a change from this hectic work routine. He couldn’t even remember when he had last gone to watch a movie or taken a day off. Plus all this work was taking a grave toll on his health. The smoking and drinking did not help either, apart from relieving his momentary tensions.

One fine day, as Raj was wondering around the aisle of his office floor, he noticed 2 of his colleagues talking in low tones. He tried to get closer without looking conspicuous. He was a bit surprised to see them solving Mathematical problems in their exercise books. That was clearly not related to the work they were supposed to be doing. It was then that the word MBA struck his ear. Raj gathered his nerves and spoke to the two guys about their current occupation. They admitted that they were preparing for MBA entrance exams during their work hours. Moreover they remarked such a practice was common throughout the country, as many I.T. professionals avoided work to prepare for MBA exams. Raj was suddenly excited. He could feel the old enthusiastic feeling of his pre-college years come back to him. This was what he needed, to rise the corporate ladder, to get a decent salary, a resplendent house, a beautiful girlfriend, maybe even the Honda City he had dreamed of. And the key to achieve his dreams was this simple degree- MBA. Why hadn’t he thought about it earlier?

Without wasting any more time, Raj enrolled for Sunday classes at a local coaching institute. He spared 2-3 hours every Sunday for the classes, and tried to revise the basics of English and Mathematics whenever he could get time. He started slacking off in his work, so that he could concentrate on his work. Mock test season started, and Raj started taking mocks, confident that he would be amongst the best students in the country. However, to his shock, he could only manage a paltry 77 percentile in his first test. Frustration grew and so did Raj’s anger. Now he started ignoring his friends, family. He had only one goal in life- MBA from a top institute. He solved as many problems he could. But try as hard as he might, he could never go above 85 percentile in mocks. ‘Forget it, I will score well in the actual CAT exam,’ Raj consoled himself.

CAT came and went. So did 5 other competitive exams for which Raj appeared. Now came the agonizing wait for the results. Finally, the D-day arrived. 89.37 percentile overall in CAT. Raj felt as if someone had shot an arrow which pierced his heart. How on earth could he have scored so low? 3 of his colleagues had scored above 98 percentile and had resigned from their jobs. Raj was mad with envy. However, he still filled up the forms of a few 2-tier Bschools, and managed to secure admission in an average Bschool, which offered decent placements[according to the prospectus]. Raj was so desperate for a profile change that he did not bother to inquire about the details of the bschool.

Finally, Raj bade his dull I.T. job goodbye. ‘Its time to go back to school,’ he smiled.

Fast forward 2 years into the future.

‘Sales and Trading? What on earth is it?,’ asked Rahul, Raj’s cousin.

‘I have no idea. But the company was paying well, so I opted for it,’ Raj replied.

‘But are you sure it’s the right choice? Will you like the job if you don’t even know what you are supposed to do?’

‘Does not matter. Whatever it is, it will be better than that damn I.T. job, am sure of it.’

Saying this Raj took up his new job.

2 months later.

‘What is all this crap? What on earth am I doing here? All this finance numbers and additional accounts data makes no sense to me at all,’ Raj moaned. ‘Corporate finance? Banking regulations? Its all nonsense to me. Is it so hard to find a job which one may like doing?’

‘But how could this happen to me? MBA was supposed to bring me riches, and unlock the gates of happiness and wealth. Everyone is running after it, so it should be a valuable degree. But I am feeling just as miserable, if not worse in this new job. Just what on earth went wrong?’

Indeed, what went wrong with Raj? Or, to generalize, what is wrong with majority of the Indian youth? How come most of them are not satisfied with their jobs/present situation, even after passing from decent Engineering and MBA colleges? We shall discuss all such pertinent issues in a future post. But now is the time to end Raj’s story. Thank you all for your patience.
Friday, December 3, 2010 1 comments

Life of an Average Indian Male- Part 2

*Continued From Previous Post

So Raj finally begins his much awaited college life- he longs to enter the door into freedom. Now he will be free to do what he wishes. Now he can party whole night long without any restrictions. Now he is free to experiment with smoking, drinking and sex. Now he can freely bunk classes without fear of punishment. And what about studying? That too, subjects on Instrumentation engineering? No ways!

For starters, he isn’t really sure why he is studying instrumentation engineering in the first place. He isn’t even sure why he is in an engineering college. It’s just that most of his friends have chosen engineering, and he just decided to go along with the flow. Raj doesn’t care. He’s entered college, now he is going to have fun and meet beautiful girls. He’s a bit apprehensive about ragging however. Nevertheless he shifts into the hostel and eagerly waits for the first day to begin.

First day in college- Raj finds out where his classes are held and begins the day on a good note. Some of his school friends are in the same class with him. But there comes the first shock- In a class of 60 students, there are just 5 females. That too, none of them were worth giving a second glance. Whatever happened to the hot girls shown in colleges in the Hindi movies? ‘Hindi movies are all crap,’ he says to himself dejectedly. So he is going to spend 4 years like this? Worse, the teachers are horrible, and he falls into a slumber 30 minutes into the first class itself. He has basic electrical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, English and basic Mechanics in the first semester. Mathematics is all right, but he hates all other subjects from the start. ‘Come on.’ He says to his classmates. ‘Why on earth should an Instrumentation engineer study mechanics and chemistry? And what use is engineering drawing to us? How can such funny symbols help us in any way?’

‘Dude, all engineering students need to do them. Not just you,’ his friend remarks. Raj is disappointed. But he doesn’t know yet that things are going to get worse.

The seniors drop in for a casual visit. Except it isn’t that casual after all. The ragging period stretches on for a month, and Raj is forced to do all sort of nefarious things which he never thought he would have to. Add to that the dull, insipid classes and the rotten hostel food. On top of it, his room is hot as hell, without any ventilation, and there isn’t even a proper playground nearby. ‘What mess have I gotten myself into?’, he exclaims. ‘Is college life supposed to be like this?’ Before long, Raj is fed up. Thankfully, the ragging period gets over after a month. But the vapid classes continue. Raj fails to find any good looking girl in the entire campus. The few decent ones are already committed. And thanks to the 90:10 ratio[male:female], he gives up trying his luck.

‘It’s as if all guys want to get into engineering and all good looking girls want to stay far away from engineering colleges. It’s so unfair’, he moans. Frustrated beyond all control, and fed up of staying single his entire life Raj takes up smoking and drinking in order to get rid of his depression. Soon, he finds both activities quite pleasurable and becomes hooked. He spends the lazy nights smoking on the terrace of his hostel floor and watching pornographic movies on his laptop. Life is finally becoming good. Though the classes and exams remain as intolerable as always.

First sem results are declared and Raj gets a measly 6.34, somehow managing to pass in all subjects[thanks to his newly acquired cheating prowess]. That result shocks his parents, who till now believed that their child was one of the best. Raj also isn’t amused. How come one of the best students in school end up like this? Hadn’t he prepared hard to clear the engineering entrance exams? Then why does he dislike his subjects so much now? Why is it that Thevenin and Norton go over his head? How come power systems and fluid dynamics make him feel suffocated? ‘This isn’t what I wanted to do,’ he remarks finally one fine day, after completing 3 miserable years in his college and scoring a series of 6 points GPA. But engineering is that best career choice there is. All engineers are hard working students and the ones who deserve good jobs.

Disillusioned and disheartened, Raj simply bears the pain. One day, he sees that few of his classmates were taking Computer coaching classes. On further inquiring, he comes to know that they are learning C++, Java, Oracle, Dot Net, and other programming languages. ‘What for? Why does an Instrumentation Engineer needs to learn them?,’ Raj wonders. Then he realizes. Post recession, the ‘Placements’ situation in college has been dismal to say the least. And the few companies which are coming are all from Information Technology[I.T.]. So acquainting oneself with programming skills will surely help one to get an I.T. job. ‘Raj buddy, you should know that people get into engineering just for jobs and nothing else. There is no scope for interest or passion here. We are all misfits here, but we need jobs, which only engineering colleges can provide.’ Initially Raj is a bit skeptical about this. ‘Is that really so? Can only engineering graduates get good jobs? What about people who are interested in History, or Painting, dance, Commerce, Architecture, Microbiology, etc? Is there no scope for them?’ But slowly Raj is convinced that he too must try to get into an I.T. job. He joins the tuition classes along with his friends and tries to learn C, C++ ,DBMS, Java and J2EE. Most of the things go above his head. Not long after, he starts hating the tuition classes as well. But since the placement season is approaching, he goes along with it.

Fast forward to the Fourth Year- the reason why every meritorious student joins an engineering course- the Placements Season arrives. As feared, no core company comes to campus. It’s just a few I.T. companies and that too lowly ranked ones. After struggling through the aptitude tests and interviews, Raj somehow manages to get into an ‘Unheard of’ I.T company. What surprises him is that whatever he had learned during the past 3 years[including the computer classes] was completely laid to waste. The job was related to Software testing, which he hadn’t even heard of earlier. There was just one question ringing in Raj’s head, as he attended the college convocation programme to get his engineering degree- ‘Why on earth did I waste 4 years of my life doing something which I never liked, when I never needed that knowledge to get a job(that too something totally different from my domain)?’

At the moment, Raj did not have the answer. He prepared himself to join the workplace, which was in another city.

*To Be Continued