Thursday, February 16, 2012

A date with K

P.S (Pre-script): This is going to be long.

I've waited long to write this. Finally the moment of reckoning is here!

Had my date with K today.


10th: 91.4% (CBSE)
12th: 93.4% (CBSE)
Graduation: 84.54%
B.Tech(CSE), School of Information Technology, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.
Work experience: NIL, in final year of B.Tech
CAT'11: 93.17 percentile
Category: General

Extra curricular
: Stand up comedy , Mimicry , quizzing, debating, blogging, author-to-be.

Interview Centre
: Hotel Vikram, Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi, 8 AM slot.

Essay topic
: The key to happiness is not in seeking further success, but in enjoying less.

Attempted it well. Began with my favourite quotation, which was surprisingly apt for the topic. Gave quite a few examples; MS Dhoni, who doesn't enjoy his successes too much; instances from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. Managed to write 4 pages, with at least one and a half laden with quotations. As is the case with them, not all of the quotations were relevant.
Concluded by writing a stanza from Rudyard Kipling's IF, 'if you can dream, and not make dreams your master...'.
Overall, it was decent. However, at places I digressed from the topic, dealing more with big dreams versus small dreams, than not-revelling too much in the success.

Personal Interview:
I was the fifth to be interviewed in Panel 1. There were 5 panels.
Had to get the documents verified before leaving for the interview. Was scolded by the guy doing it, as I showed him the 10th standard marksheet while he was asking for the 12th standard one (silly me).

The interview took place on the second floor.
There were two panelists. Both were in their early 40s (apparently). P1, seated to my left was a keen listener and reader. He spent more than half the time going through my personal data form and certificates. P2 was a Systems/IT guy.
V would denote me.

P1 came outside, called my name and took me in.
Somehow the word 'sirs' has never sounded correct to me, so I wished them separately.

P1 was staring blankly at me, while P2 skimmed through my profile.

P2: So, you're Vikas.
V: Yes sir.
P3: Which coaching Institiute, Tathagat?
V: No sir, not Tathagat.
P3: Then which one, CL or TIME?
V: Neither sir. It's Alchemist, run by IIT+IIM alumni.
P2 (suddenly seeming interested): Oh Alchemist. I see.
P1: We've had a lot of students from this University, of yours. What's the reason.
V: It's one of the best in Delhi (smirking)
P1: Okay, okay. So, what all Industrial projects have you done?
V: Told about the Nokia Stock Inventory Display project.
Asked me to explain what it does, I did.
Also told him about the other project that I did during the same period, a Java Chat Application. Quizzed me on that, asked me what I had learnt from it. I repeated the 'practical implementation of theoretical knowledge bla-bla..'
Then asked me about the other project, 'A Web Crawler'. Explained that it's a miniature search engine bla-bla.
Now comes the bad part

P2: So, if I want to restrict the crawler to perform only internal (on the same site) search, what can I do?
V: Sir I can scan every link, and ensure that the link due to be scanned next must originate or start with the name of the base site.
P2: No, no. This is not true. What if I am searching something on google, and then the result is found in gmail. Your software would not scan that because gmail doesn't start with ''.
V: Sir, gmail is a indirect route to '' (realised that it doesn't start with '' shit)
P2: See, even that doesn't start with google. How will do it now?
V: (Idea!) Sir, yes. You are right. I think I'll scan the entire URL. If it contains the substring 'google', then I'll parse..
Seemed satisfied, but not for long...
P2: Now if there is another phoney website, which has the keyword 'google' in it, your software would lead me to that website? How do I verify if the site is real or phoney?
V: Digital certification sir.
P2: I am a lay man, tell me in my language.
V: (think long and hard) Sorry, I do not know sir..

P2 points to P1, who suddenly wakes up after having gazed at my forms and certificates for almost an eternity...

P1: So, Vikas, tell me something about this novel that you're writing.
V: told.
P1 seemed interested.. asked if it was inspired from a real-life character, I said yes. Smiles all around.
P1: You say you can debate as well, so I want you to give a 1.5 minute speech on the topic 'India should command and not demand a UNSC permanent seat'

I was almost licking my lips! My domain finally...
Spoke for around 1 minute, fairly confidently, with examples and humour interlaced. While I did the taking, P1 was taking notes. (felt honoured, not for long though).

P1: You said China was made a member in 1945, because it was the most populous nation at that time?
He told me it wasn't the case, as Taiwan was the original member, and China became a member much later when it merged with Taiwan.
Plus, somewhere I had mentioned India as a major power in South-East Asia (silly me). He corrected me and asked the name of a few South-East Asian nations. Chagrined, I told the names, and apologised.

Then we had a healthy discussion on whether India's economic reforms since 1991 have had any effect on the society. I said that it had, but the going was slow. He asked for stats, and I said if not anything, then the literacy rate had gone up from 52% to 66% (Oxford School Atlas to the rescue). He rebutted by saying that education is no parameter. In India, people (specially engineers) are graduates, yet unemployed. I contested, saying that if there was one job available, and a person, having the same qualification as I have, gets it ahead of me, then it's my mistake.
Quoted Bill Gates (If you're born poor it isn't your fault, but if you die poor...) Seemed satisfied (phew..)

P2: So, what's famous about Indraprastha?
V: Sir... The Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University

'laughter all around'

P2: Something else?
V: Sir, ... Indraprastha Gas Limited, the sole provider of CNG in Delhi
more laughter
P2: Okay, tell me the history of Indraprastha.
V: Told about Kauravas and Pandavas, that Indraprastha used to be 'Khandav forest', it was given to the Pandavas while the Kauravas took Hastinapur. Talked about Arjun burning down the forest with his bow.
P2: What was the name of his bow?
V: Sir Gandiva (They laughed at the name. No wonder why)
P1: So, Vikas, where is your hometown?
V: Sir, Samastipur, Bihar.
P1: Name 4 North-eastern states and their capitals (Bihar se seedha north east )
V: Told all 7
P1: I'm done. Thank you.
P2: Same here. All the best!

Any other comments
: Cool and chilled out panelists, excellent arrangements.

So, ho gaya finally. I think it went along well. No direct question from academics, no current-affairs, no traditional 'why-MBA' type questions!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Things you shouldn't tell her on V-day

1) Burton Albions play Scunthorpe United in the Carling Cup tonight. Who are you putting your money on?
2) Why didn't you bring your friend along? She complements you well.

3) Oh, see that ketchup stain at the side. Seems you haven't washed this dress since last week's party at the club.

4) Yes! We are going for a movie today. Which one? Transformers-V or Predators Versus ET?

5) Oh don't worry about the bill. We'll share it 60-40. 60 mine of course!

6) What Nehru Park? There's a children's park right in front of Anjali's home. What do you mean by 'Anjali who'?

7) Ah! He's my maternal cousin's best friend's younger brother's class mate. He hasn't been to a PVR before. Thought I should bring him along.

8) Did you ask your mother before coming?

9) Nice perfume! Tanisha wears the same one!
What do you mean by 'Tanisha who'?

10) Why did you bring me balloons? I don't turn 22 before October!

11) Look, the balloon isn't entirely oval in shape. It's skewed at one end and elongated at it's opposite.
What 'heart shape'?

12) What mode of transport should we take? The green bus or the yellow bus?

13) Why did I get these? I thought Parle Poppins ARE chocolates!

14) Why not Bournville? I thought you hadn't earned it...

15) Oh these earrings? Thanks! It's family's legacy. My mother wouldn't wear them. She said they needed elephantine earlobes.

16) These sandals would suit you very much! Original Bata office wear. Came free with the Hush Puppies socks that my dad purchased last month.

17) McDonald's? Why not? McPuff or McAloo Tikki?

18) No no! The choco-lava cake wouldn't have any affect on you.

19) Do you have 5 rupees ka change? I need to tip the waiter.

20) Mine aren't stinking. In fact, I am not wearing any socks today!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why The Hindu would never be ahead of our Times

The month gone by witnessed quite a few amazing developments. Amazing, simply because these were unprecedented.
The Hindu, for long, had been seen as the Doordarshan of the print media. The Sultan of the South, barring the little pinprick around Hyderabad made by the Deccan Chronicle, had been the Chris Tavare of the newspapers; classic and copy-book. That was true till about a few months ago when The Times of India, world's largest read English Daily, decided to do an Ala-ud-din Khilji to the South.

I remember the early years of my adolescence spent in the hinterlands of Tamil Nadu. The term Newspaper was synonymous with The Hindu. For long, The Hindu's only real competitor was the Indian Express. But then, the Mahavishnu of Mount Road ensured that Indian Express' default denotation changed to that of a sobriquet for two of the aces of India's rich Tennis legacy; Lee and Hesh. For the few years that I spent there, the Hindu had a tremendous run. From serving as a the paper plate to a hawker's Ring Paranthas and Rasam, to playing the role of a poor man's mat in offices and parks, the thin, black and white parchment was omnipresent. The readership, of course, was outstanding. The monotonous black and white ink failed to dampen the spirits of the average South Indian reader, whose morning tea was incomplete without the news of the inauguration of a new Post Office in Erode, mill workers' strike at Salem and the mass polio vaccination drive at Thirupur. The entire paper, sans complements, thinner than the thinnest notebook of a Physical Education student, was sleek, sturdy and rather convenient to carry; one of the less apparent USPs. The content was mostly newspaper-like. Concise and to the point on the Edit Page and factual, expository and descriptive otherwise. Guest Writers were few, and far between. Paul Krugman, the noted economist and the late Peter Roebuck being the notable exceptions. It was as if the Editor had entire faith on his staff and backed his correspondents to possess and express the insight of the guest writers.

Back then, as a sixth grader, newspapers never amused me too much. Also, it took more than just will and interest to understand what was printed in The Hindu. Back then, Oxford English Dictionary didn't have an online version with which you could automate the search for words. Wouldn't really have mattered much as I didn't have a computer that time. As such, The Hindu was more of an enigma than an apprentice and an aide to me.
Then came Delhi. The journey home from the railway station was a sign of things to come. Every second roadside advertisement hoardings screamed 'Times of India'. Those that didn't and displayed social messages instead, were sponsored by the Times of India.
Next week, the newspaper boy came to our quarters to ask for our preferred choice of Newspaper. 'TOI', I cried, Instinctively.

That was Delhi. In Chennai, a few months ago, the Times of India launched, what was to be the crusade for the Final Frontier, the South. With it came a flurry of frenzy marketing gimmicks right out of the star marked page of the Delhi Times Booklet of Advertising. A crusade against an establishment and its establisher.
The onslaught continued. For weeks. For months. Blows were delivered, most of them were below the belt. The kingdom though, took everything in its stride. But then, the reins changed hands. The new leadership refused to take things lying down. The counter-attack began.

Studs (read unknown actors) were found and asked elementary common-sensical questions like the name of the Home Minister of the country. Deathly silence followed. Then came a barrage of questions like the pet name of a famous Bollywood actor, the actress famous for her size zero, and the gender of India's de facto first couple's newborn baby. Sure enough, the studs answered these correctly. Sure enough, these studs were the ones who read the most read newspaper whose name was, of course, beeped out, but with the added adjective 'most read' leaving nothing to imagination. This was succeeded by a succession of snapshots gleefully declaring that The Hindu 'also had pages 1,2,4,5,6 and 7', spread 'sense, and not sensationalism', featured 'current affairs that go beyond Bollywood affairs' and finally, hold your breath, focused more on 'government malfunctions than wardrobe malfunctions'. In this way, Vidya Balan of the South finally had her Dirty Picture moment! The Doordarshan had finally turned (it) on.

As a seasoned Times of India reader, I found the campaign really amusing and at at times, really amazing. The points raised were apt. The Hindu had hit where it hurt. And hurt, it did. I reconsidered my commitment and loyalty towards the newspaper that had grown me up yet grown up with me, at least for the last eight years. Every bit of accusation levelled against the Times was true. I had to make a decision. A fraction of second was all it took for me to decide.
I couldn't live without The Times of India. And I wouldn't.
I didn't.
TOI is hashish. First you like it, then you love it, then you get used to it. It's Shawshank.

Yes, it has advertisements-disguised-as-articles on the front page. Yes, it has weekly columnists like Chetan Bhagat. Yes, it carries full page ads of Arindam Chaudhary. Yes, it even contains expert opinion of 'are-you-ready' Ravi Shastri.
But, eventually, it presents to us what we desire. Perhaps calling it Delhi Mirror wouldn't be wrong.
We ask for it, TOI shows it. It is shoddy journalism, no doubt. But isn't that what we are? Shoddy?
Yes. Chetan Bhagat, despite his numerous shortcomings as a writer, is still India's best selling English novelist. He might not know everything about the Babri Masjid demolition, say, but just seeing his name, his famous name, beneath an article on the Edit Page, one gets tempted to read what he's written. Thus, the average Indian reader becomes aware of the issue, forms his opinion, and spreads the information. I am sure, the same article published by a staff correspondent at The Hindu wouldn't generate such an interest. Even if it does, it wouldn't have such a response. The Hindu, I reiterate, isn't for the average Indian reader.
Yes. Arindam Chaudhary, despite his repulsive personality, the disgusting smile and the senseless titles that he's given to his books, is ought to be treated as an icon of sorts, self-proclaimed or otherwise. Moreover, the average Indian is swayed by vividness, the sheer magnitude of the size of the paper carrying the ad. I am sure, the same ad, if published in The Hindu, wouldn't attract so many eyeballs. Even if it does, it wouldn't have such a response. The Hindu, I reiterate, isn't for the average Indian reader.
Yes. Ravi Shastri, whose voice is a nuisance for the eardrums, and his writing may not be a purists delight. The Hindu knows it. That is why Shastri doesn't write for The Hindu. For if he does, no one would read him. Those who read The Hindu, do not want to read Shastri. But then again, Shastri anchors every big (or small) cricketing event, clearly stating how popular he is to the average Indian. That is why, The Hindu, I reiterate, isn't for the average Indian reader.

Add to it the fact that Times of India is more colourful, cheaper, and has more pages. If not anything else, at least it outweighs The Hindu, sometimes literally, usually metaphorically.

And finally, TOI has been the pioneer of Corporate Social Responsibility in the print media. It has spearheaded numerous campaigns like Teach For India, Play for India, Love over Country, Aman Ki Aasha among others. The means may be wrong, or rather unconventional. The motto, at least a part of it, isn't wrong.

From a pure Business point of view, TOI has created a mini revolution in the field of print advertising. In India, one of the few countries in which the newspaper circulation is on an upward spiral, this mini revolution has shown the way for the organisations to have a mass appeal yet be profitable and dynamic; adjectives thought to be mutually exclusive till sometime back.

And this makes me feel that despite its shortcomings and despite the pithy campaign followed by a worthy rival, the The Old Lady of Boribunder would continue to consolidate its position at the summit. Whether it would conquer the final frontier, is debatable and as such, very difficult to predict.
For the time being at least, the Mahavishnu of Mount Road can live in peace in its own little Shangri-la, well aware that things won't be quiet for long.

With stats and inputs from