Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reflections in a Puddle of Vodka

When I was going through all the junk I brought back from the campus where I got a diploma in the abstract globe that is called management, I came across a sheet of paper on which I had scribbled some gibberish that I realized was written in a drunken fit on one of the many days I was lost to the spirits. I have reproduced the same in near-verbatim (“near” because I have chosen to leave out the more colourful adjectives, and have replaced some of the nouns with “relevant people”). One of the happiest moments I had on campus was when one of the professors noted that I wasn’t the “IIM type”…I forget the context. I also realized that the exclusion I felt from the general junta is manifest in the third person narrative I had written in.
Smiles plastered on their faces. Firm handshakes. Flat hi-fi’s. Hugs for the ladies. Furtive glances, with tinges of lust, at the more beautiful ones. Constellations of friends revolving in the space of life. But are they friends, or just friendly people? These are the people who speak of “RG” as if it is a joke, but practice it religiously. These are the people who take an oath of ethics and don’t flinch when they see their friends and “leaders” happily transgress them. Everybody is a fucking hypocrite. They know what visage to wear with whom and they always carry their wardrobe of masks wherever they go. And everybody is supposed to trust these poltus and look up to them as leaders and pay them tons of money to take care of everything.
The biggest lesson anyone learns here is how to recognize the relevant toes in the crowded bus that is this life, and how not to step on them, while trampling on the not-so-relevant ones. What a shame it is that the same people who are supposed to uphold everything ethical and good are the bane of it. One can’t help but wonder if this is a reflection of the real society. Is the human sentiment hurtling towards a black hole of practiced ignorance? Is what is transpiring in this institution, which is supposed to be the “factory of future leaders”, an indication of what is to come?
Everybody changes here. It is not the system or the place. It is the people. Even the not-so-bad characters automatically transform into spineless, ass-licking automatons posing as someone who can tell an expert that they know the stuff better than them. And these experts keep buying the lies of the hypocrites. It is always about your CGPA, which is about how well lubricated you keep the relevant peoples’ behinds, while trampling on the others you smile at and dance with.
Can one make a leader? Can character be taught? Can’t the corp-kanths see that they are only adding fire to this inferno by paying obscene salaries that the sly-kanths don’t deserve, thus hurtling the whole system into a vicious cycle? Is this blindness contagious? We go from one framework to another, one stereotype to another. Why can’t one hear anyone shouting out about this pakeshed ajjjjuuuufffffff-ness?
And in all this confusion, those who come here continue to become what they shouldn’t be. They are told that nothing is black and white, and they are told to be gray. It is understood that they should lead many lives. It is understood that none of these lives would be like anything in the Panchatantras. Yet, children who loved the Panchatantra stories become idiots who detest them because they are so removed from the reality. They hate themselves for loving to be idealists who wanted to transform the world into a better place for everyone they loved. Instead, they become realists who create the image that they can transform the world for the idealist who still dream, or for the corp fat-cats who want more jingle in the pockets. So, these children begin to live many lives that end in cul-de-sacs.
What if we live only once and our ancestors were more prophets than mystics? So, when they were talking of the janumas, were they predicting that all of us will go through many roles and live as many people in one lifetime? Doesn’t that make death nirvana? I am afraid that I will end up on the spaceship that left in the Hitchhikers. I don’t fit in here. I’m not panicking. I can live with that. The problem is that others can’t…they are trying to turn me into their reflections, when they themselves are reflections. I yearn for my nirvana.

PS: Second year was much better :)

PPS: I have included some pics of the campus because other than a select few people, that was the best thing about the place, and I had to show something positive, right?


Tarun R said...

My aren't we bitter.

ASO said...

You know I was :)

Arvind Krishna said...

Suffering has historically produced good writing.

I am sorry you had to go through it. If there is any consolation, at the end of it you still have your soul and I still have respect for you.

sush said...

not for the records..but deffo one of the best writings i ve come across for long.... i know u r the person who will for sure be true to ur thoughts..in the process, making the better of u...

Anonymous said...

Too good Aso. Next level..

ASO said...

@AK - Respect *thumping chest* Yo! Anyway, its done...so, looking forward to the future.

@Sush - Thank you for the footage, once again :)

Chikkadi said...

Nice and cynical. Did a Prof really say you're not the IIM type? That's a nice compliment.

Most systems, if not pretty much everything, begin to look like this in life if you spend enough time within the system. You either adapt or perish. The system is there to stay.

Anonymous said...

Aso. Some useless gyan!!!!!
Simply because I feel, I have experienced similar stuff and by grit I have managed to understand and appreciate the system better (unlike the nihilist thoughts you put here of " taking the spaceship"). Hope it helps, or at least gives you another perspective.

In our final year, I gave up on CAT after "seeing" what a few true stud NITK seniors had gone on to become after their IIMs, especially those from a middle class background. (All those seniros are monetarily well-off mind you) The guys from well-off families anyways know the fundae, and they just go to B-schools to, how shall I put it, to socialize and learn a little bit more about finance.

As for the CGPA part, it just reflects
i) how well you understand the system and maximize the benefits
ii) you arent motivated enough to do 'job on hand' and would rather want to ramble on....
iii)Work life is never going to be goodie-goodie. Even people working at Max-Planck (I have spoken to a few), the Yoo Yes of A research labs "have" to do mundanne stuff along with all the "yo" things. You cant expect to keep on doing "yo" things, with a low CGPA.

And it goes without saying. Once you do have "power" in your hands down the line, you should have built your character up by then, otherwise..... ashte LLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!

ASO said...

@Chikki – I did consider becoming a part of the system for some time, but it just didn’t work for me. I was physically sick and couldn’t sleep peacefully, literally. So, played along as much as possible and I’m very glad that I’m out.

@Anon – First of all, thank you for your views. I guess a few aspects of what I have written maybe over-the-top simply because I was too drunk. But the fact that some other aspects haven’t been clearly mentioned, especially those involving the PlaceCom and SAC, is not lost on me (Again, I blame the booze). Let us not go into that in a “public” forum (though I honestly don’t know if approximately 5 people constitute a “public”).

I understand that every person who has gone through the system and the more gritty gentlemen and ladies who have come to appreciate it are wont to have a completely different perspective, which they may want others to believe in too. But from what I saw, many people went away completely disillusioned after spending time on the campus, and I know that this wasn’t lost on the gritty, appreciative non-nihilists. What I have presented here is only a small rant on how I saw it.

I should confess that I didn’t really understand what you were trying to convey when you mentioned about the NITK middle-class seniors who are monetarily well off after putting fight in IIMs. If you wanted to illustrate how a PGDM got them better paying jobs, there is no argument about it. Yes, NITK-ians who could bell the CAT did so, mainly because they wanted to get away from the “mundane” engineering profession and to gain more resume points. But as everyone who cracks the exam knows, the main reason of doing the course is to get more moolah and to attain a higher social status. People who deny this just don’t appreciate others’ intelligence enough. After going the quintessential engineering-MBA way myself, I wouldn’t dare deny the above fact.

But what ticks me off is that they way people go about “achieving” things and beating down the less-inclined to build their own resumes by way of RG-giri, leading to many an “Et tu, Bastard-of-a-friend?” moments. This is also reflected in how people treat their academics. You have been very illuminating in pointing out how “learning” has no effect on the CGPA. This takes me back to how TIME and others used to “train” us religiously to say that we wanted to join the institution “to learn, and not to earn”. So, from what I see, it is layers over layers of fundae on how to beat the system, and keeping your peers in the dark, while you build your resume. More importantly, I loathed the fact that I had to reduce all the highs of my life into single-line bullet points without white spaces. But after the summers experience, I knew that I had to do this to survive.

Now, to come to the all important part of getting an L. Or as you put it, LLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!

I lost a few friends along the way, only because I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I hated being grouped into the “non-performers”, though I learnt a lot. I have a decent CGPA, but not something that is noticeable. All this doesn’t bother me. I didn’t RG wantonly. I did all the “Yo” projects I wanted to do, and enjoyed doing every one of them. I had all the “power” that you spoke of (it being the knowledge of how to manipulate the system), but I didn’t use it. I didn’t build my character…I just refused to let it be stained. I did what I wanted to do and I stuck to my principles. And now, I am doing something I like and most importantly, I respect myself. And you know the best part of it all? I survived the system.

Izmail said...

these are scary things to read .. for a kid, whos just 3 weeks old at the institute...

Darkness and deep said...

I knew who aso was when he must have scribbled this on paper. He was bitter. But what you have written out there is without any doubts objective. No doubt.

I am three weeks into the same program and I already see people stereotyping me, a senior decides what goes into my resume, another decides why i should slog, other tells me why i shouldn't.

Funnily, they say the same thing to most people. I am scared I might loose my idea of life and work that I had before I joined this institute.

These institutes teach you how to stay up long hours and work most of the time.. A comfortable acronym MBA.

sharp edge said...

Life may be tough on one at IIMB, specially in terms of all the "multi-faceted" personalities. However, this is one of the reasons it teaches one well how things work in the outside world. What one needs is just find a few friends (which is a tough job in itself...), but thats exactly what we'll be doing the rest of our lives...... won't we?

Anonymous said...

Insightful post, and scary for a PGP1 like me. But I have my own questions. I have worked for some years before coming here, and I can safely say that this so called "RG-Giri" here is just a minor form of what is practised at the corporate level. Don't tell me people don't pull down their peers to get promotions. Ofcourse it happens. In that sense, life here prepares you for what awaits you in future.

Now, the even bigger question, Is it correct? So what if the corporate world is mean, does that mean that we have to stoop down to such levels before jumping in to the real world so that we are more "prepared"? That's a personal choice. I have not done it in my work life and would not do it here. I just hope the system doesn't change me.

But one thing I learnt was that when you are in deep shit, it really helps when there is a friend by you. So I am just trying to have some good friends here. But a friend of mine once told me something that is very scary-
"In engineering you build friends, In MBA you build networks".

King Vishy said...

TOTALLY with anonymous above!! EXACTLY the words I wanted to say.. (and some more too.. loved the last line of the comment)..

(@Anon.. you could have used your own name to sign off! :))

@ASO: I too was a system-hater. And gritted my teeth as I went thru' the two years. Now all I (wish to) remember is the beautiful campus :) And 'maturing' experiences of a lifetime. For someone like me who's used to trusting everyone, these two years were a maaaaajor learning experience! In one sense, preparing me for the corporate world.. In another, for life!

ASO said...

Whoa! July 11th seems to be a momentous day around here…a look at the number of comments on the other posts will tell you why :P I thank you all, the nameless included, for taking pains to reply :)

The thing about building networks, rather than making friends is tragic, if not anything else. My second year was much better, mostly because I was lucky enough to find some very good friends, and we all drank and made merry ever after… that is, until we all transformed into corporate gimps. But I know for sure that we will get right back to the party mode if we were to meet again, with or without any ambrosia to poison our livers. That said, one rather disturbing, but completely expected phenomenon I noticed on campus was the flocking together of all the similar-minded creatures.

For instance, all the prospective studs teamed up for whatever project they did. This was more or less based on the funda that they all knew what the professors expected (the information begot mostly from networking with seniors), and hence, could deliver on besting their project, and hence, paving way to their DML-ship. In this way, all the other “non-stud”, non-DML-aspirants would end up together, resulting in a huge gap in grades many-a-time. This was mitigated in the academic scenario by a few Professors, who insisted on making the groups, but it did nothing in the really important stage...the preparation for summers and finals, which are bumper seasons for epiphanies!

Sometimes, I have noticed some fighters literally begging to work with the “higher beings”, and end up being bitter for not being “considered”. Thankfully, I stayed away from this, and honestly, got to do all the projects I wanted to, with much less fight than what I would have been expected to put if I were lucky enough to be in hallowed company. I did have fun.

As for how the exposure to “RG-giri” helps one prepare for what is to come, that is exactly what I mentioned at all the “send-offs” I had on campus, and got stared at for most part for addressing it. Now that I’m out of the “system”, I can say that two of the major take-aways from this kind of an environment, other than the usual high-paying job and addition to the marriageable-quotient, is the kind of network one develops and the learning that one has on how to deal with people. Yes, it does prepare you for the life ahead.

But I have a gripe with it only because it seems to have become a culture! For a majority of the junta on campus, RG-giri is a norm. These are the people who are being “trained” to become leaders of men (and women) for the next few years of their lives, and however cheesy it may sound, there are many, both within and outside their own family and friends’ circles, who look up to them as role-models, based only on the fact that they cracked a super-competitive exam. So what “values” is someone who is going through the system supposed to imbibe within himself? That’s its OK to screw others, as long as one’s own state and reputation are top-notch? So, this makes it practiced hypocrisy, don’t you think?

I know that all this babbling is not going to amount to anything…everything being discussed here is in the grey zone. I write about it only because I didn’t like it. But as the Dark and Deep Thopal mentioned, all this eventually leads to a stereotyped, IIM-branded person who is not very different from any other IIM person one meets. Thopal…more food for thought for you…do you realize that all the fundae you are getting is the same thing that has been imparted to all the “generations” before you, and that you will be passing on all of this “wisdom” to those who come after you?

Guess we are all destined to be bricks in the wall after all…

ASO said...

Before I forget, let me clarify about the “spaceship that left”, that I failed to address in the last post. I have read Hitchhikers only once, long ago, but one of the main sub-plots I remember is the one about the spaceship Arthur and Ford beam themselves into, which crashes eventually, to reveal that all its inhabitants are the simpletons from middle management, who were convinced that they would be launched prior to the “less resourceful” handymen and ideators from their home planet as they were deemed to be more “valuable”, and hence, should leave the dying planet ASAP! As Arthur and Ford are learning this, if I remember correctly, one such hapless manager runs into the circle, claiming that he has discovered a wheel, and they decide to hold a committee meeting to decide on its use. That’s the kind of spaceship I don’t want to end up on…

To quote Scott Adams, who hilariously glorifies engineers over managers in “The Dilbert Principle”,
If not for the compulsions of engineers, mankind would have never seen the wheel, settling instead for the trapezoid because some Neanderthal in Marketing convinced everybody it had great braking ability. And there would be no fire, because some middle-manager cave person would point out that if fire was such a good idea, the other cave people would already be using it.

Ouch (?)

Safari Al said...

You have if I may flick a phrase from thopal "intellectually shagged" all over the post and the comments.


PS: I'd read the post, but not the comments.