Monday, August 7, 2017

The Unplucked Rose

Julia Owens was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

He wasn’t sure when he entirely fell in love with her – whether it was when she first moved in or when she started tending the roses.

The roses. They were the favorite part of his, besides Julia. The red, white, peach, pink, and yellow to his otherwise black and white existence. He loved the fragrance that followed him and the way the pollen dust covered his clothes all the time.

She moved in on the twentieth of April, exactly five months after his wife’s death. They had never talked, never maintained eye contact, but he watched her every day. She moved with an ethereal grace and had a smile that could put a thousand suns to shame.

He was in love, there was no doubt. But he couldn’t tell her. He couldn’t even be in her presence.
He didn’t think she knew that he existed until he found a yellow rose on the top stair of his porch. His wife’s favorite color was yellow. He didn’t leave anything in place of it, everything seemed too frivolous and she deserved only the best.

The days flew past and every once in a while, there’d be a yellow rose waiting for him on the porch. He always remembered to look out for it, in case he stepped on it. The stutter of his heart when he saw the rose was worth the disappointment on the rose-less days. He had to leave something. He remembered his wife reading word-of-the-day in the newspaper, so he began writing it down on a piece of paper and replacing it with the rose.

He loved her and he didn’t tell her.

It was on the third of December that he found a note beside the yellow rose. ‘Happy Birthday,’ it said. Sweet and simple; just like her. He had forgotten his birthday. The missed call from his mother was a daily occurrence and he scrapped up the two missed calls from his dad as a mistake on his dad’s part.
He wasn’t the only one who had forgotten, it seemed. His entire office had forgotten. There were no cakes, no candles and certainly no streamers. He wasn’t sure if it would feel better if they had remembered.

A year after her moving in and he still didn’t tell her. He had entertained the idea that she was the rebound after her wife, but certainly feelings for your rebound didn’t last a year. He should tell her, he knew, but he couldn’t.

Nonetheless, he observed her move around the garden. Petunias had taken the place of the roses and they were just as beautiful. He had been allergic to pollen dust for years and his wife had never kept flowers but it seemed that he wasn’t allergic anymore (“I’d have a huge garden if you weren’t allergic,” she’d say fondly). He didn’t know what he would do if he was still allergic. He would probably never tell Julia. He couldn’t even tell her he loved her. Though, objectively, love certainly ranked higher than the knowledge of allergies.

He tried catching her eye, one brave day. She didn’t look up from the shrub, instead she hummed along. He had heard the haunting tune before but he couldn’t place it. It was only as he settled to sleep that he remembered which song it was. ‘You’re My Sunshine’. It had played at his wedding.
Thirteen days later, he realized that he had never seen her talking to anyone on the block. Granted, he never talked either but it was odd that her sunny personality hadn’t caught anyone else’s eye. It had been his wife’s gregarious nature that still garnered the sympathetic looks from the neighbors. He sighed every time he found an errant note tucked within his newspaper. They didn’t feel the same as the yellow flowers. He was in love with her, though, and love warped things.

Another fifteen days and he wondered why loving her didn’t feel like a betrayal to his wife. He knew why. Somewhere inside, he knew why but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Most days he was so close to the answer but it flew past him just as he reached for it. A year and a half after his wife’s death and he prayed to her for help. She always came through.

He soon forgot his predicament, settling down to coveting Julia from a distance. Julia. Each syllable was precious; like her smile, like the crinkle of her eyes. She didn’t look like she had aged a day. He sighed, fogging up the window. She was like an angel. If he looked hard enough, he would see her wings. Maybe that was his answer. Maybe she was sent for him; to take care of him. It didn’t feel like the correct answer. It felt as though he was staring right at the correct answer but couldn’t make it out.

The world seemed better with a lone yellow flower – always different nowadays – in the vase in his hallway. He should tell her. It had been long enough.

It was three years after his wife’s death, and he finally found the courage in the crevices of his aged body. He stood right in front of her, as she tended to the flowers. It was as though, they spoke to her; following her as she moved, blooming fuller as she smiled. He found a smile creeping on his face. It was almost painful how beautiful and pure she was.

“Hi… I-uh. Hi!” he started, clearing his throat.

She didn’t even move, just continued to care for her plants.

“Hello?” he tried again. “Julia?” She never looked up.

She grinned brightly at a purple azalea. It seemed as if the flower responded by gazing back.

No response.

He frowned. Was she ignoring him or was she deaf?

The second he stood in front of her, right in her line of view that he understood something. The grand answer.

Strange women didn’t plant flowers in your garden; they didn’t leave flowers for you. They didn’t know your birthday and undoubtedly, pollen allergies didn’t cure themselves.  Strange women didn’t just appear one day. The entire apparition unraveled. All the flowers, the smiles, the days, the seconds, the minutes, the years. All lost.

It was like a dream. He was here but he didn’t know how he had gotten here. He couldn’t remember where she lived; couldn’t remember why she started planting roses in his garden. He couldn’t remember which house was even empty on his block. He didn’t know who had told him her name. When he started looking, he couldn’t stop seeing the blue eyes of his wife, the blonde hair, and the crinkles around her eyes. How hadn’t he noticed that she was the spitting image of his wife…

She finally looked up, her smile soft and loving.

He couldn’t tell her he loved her because she didn’t exist.

                                                                                                    ~~~ Gargi Verma
                                                                                                              IIM Bangalore
Guest Writer

Monday, July 3, 2017

2 Pinoy Months

Internship – we had been hearing this word in its various forms, from various sources – friends, PGP2s, Professors, parents for over a year. Coming into IIM Bangalore as a Fresher, I did not quite realise how it would be a life-changing experience, till it actually began.
Beginning with a gruelling placement week, interviews, group discussions, resume submissions and a mix of black and white attire, Term 3, now in hindsight was the calm before the storm. I had been able to get into my dream company and a dream role for the summer internship with P&G, Brand management, but little did I know that the uncertain and unknown would go more profound with time. I was given Manila, Philippines as the base location, a country I had never visited but had friends in. As the date for joining came closer, I received my project.

It started with a new country, continued with a new brand and new product category – Fabric Conditioners, which does not quite exist in India, a new culture – with a French guide, Filipino Sponsor and an Indian manager, at a new and my first ever real job as a fresher. Moving to a new country for 2 months, I was determined to have an experience that would give me time to think and introspect about everything I ignore in the daily bustle of life at IIMB.
As a company, P&G made sure that we were well taken care of. The first day in the office, I do not know what took over me. Probably the corporate environment or meeting people who would decide the course of my career – the stakeholders for my project or maybe just the fact that everything and everyone were new. The whole day, I was so overwhelmed with everything that I did not know whom to reach out to for asking where do we get water from. As funny as this might sound, it is a little difficult to gel with people you do not know and barely connect with, despite the amazing support system. This is all really in your head!

As I began working on the project I realised that Brand Management is like doing multiple jobs at once. From coordinating with Sales (P&G being one of the only FMCGs who have Sales as a separate department), understanding the consumer insights from CMK, analysing the TV commercials from the Media team and learning 3-4 software programs together from the IT team, every day was jam packed with absorbing all the information that came my way. From nature of the consumer to pricing, sales channels and market, everything was new and I had to learn them from scratch.
Apart from work, I realised that relationships are what you take with you wherever you go. I had never imagined that friends whom I met in a 5-day conference in another country, would become my support system in times as crucial as the internship. They made sure they tell me about those unheard, native Filipino experiences I should not miss. From trying out the flying trapeze, to street shopping, Filipino food to snorkelling when I cannot even swim, the internship was an experience to get over the fear. The fear of a new job and corporate life, fear of heights, fear of water and fear of uncertainty. Snorkelling in the ocean was one time I realised that there is very little that we can do as humans. The place where you cant even see the base of the ocean, the current so strong that it can sweep you away and you cannot swim. That is when you realise that we try too hard to do things which are beyond our control. That day on, each moment I live in control has become so important and the fear of losing control has been fading away.
With this internship, I learnt how it was to be responsible for everything on your own. Despite having an 11-12 hour work day, if you get lazy when you get back home, you neither get dinner that day nor lunch the next day because you need to get all the groceries and cook each meal for 2 months, each day. The internship helped me explore a new country and their culture, new lifestyle, new cuisines – Japanese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Greek and Chinese and a new side to myself. My sense of achievement came in only at the end, when my guide said that I delivered strongly at the end despite all the variables of food, currency, language, culture and nature of work. These 2 Pinoy months have taught me so much more than I imagined and has given me such amazing people for life. As they rightly say, its always more fun in the Philippines.
Finally, #procterized.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I am a woman. Whom do I blame?

I am sure as you read the title of this blog you are wondering- "oh! Another 'help me I am a woman', or 'sympathize with me' or 'feminism is in my blood' kind" article is here. Let me tell you, this is not. 

Today, I pose an important question to your grey matter. The question that has been haunting me for days nay months and years. The question, I have found no answers to, yet. 

I want to ask you, today. You wake up to a news of harassment on any given day. Your reaction is subjective. Either "oh another one" or "when will all this stop". But I have a deeper question.

As a woman, every day I face inequality and no, this is not a "please sympathize with me" story. It’s a fact. I am told not to go out late night, not to go out alone, not to travel in trains alone, not to go out in the dark, not to dress a particular way, not to raise my voice against a reckless driver on the road, not to take an Uber alone, and believe me this isn’t even half of what all I am told not to do. But whom do I blame for this? And this is the question I pose to you. If I, or any other woman today is facing a suffocating set of don’ts, she is being punished. If she is being punished it has to be for someone's mistake, because obviously that's how Karma (or whatever synonymous jargon you give it say balance of energy) works.

 Image result for #unitedbydonts

So whom does she blame? The mother who gives her this list of don’ts because the mother spends sleepless nights when the daughter is in another city? Or the father who has, at any point in his life, heard how cheaply a few men/boys look at women indulging in any of the above don’ts? Or the society, who despite years of evolution and civilization has not been able to humanize its entities completely? Or those parents who unknowingly failed in rearing humane kids? Or those animals who have zero control on their hedonism despite education and a sane human mind?

I don’t know whom do you blame. I don’t know whose mistake it is. I know I have fought with my parents for no fault of theirs but concern of my well-being. I know I have consciously debarred myself of certain wishes for the sake of being safe. 

But, I, and every woman, need an answer. I am a woman. Tell me, whom do I blame?
                                                                                                                                               ~~ Palak Marwah

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Future of Politics

Future of politics seems to lie in the dirty game of identity-politics, through world leaders effectively sensationalizing that it is a zero sum game where their own country will win only if all other countries lose, pitching one against other. The rise of ethnic nationalism will be an easy cause to blame for all what goes wrong in the country, fueled by promising greater development of inhabitants over immigrants over current woes of people across the world making nations more homogeneous. Gaining a political stranglehold will hence be easier, functioning on the Shakespearean principle – a mob has a heart not a mind, defeating the efforts in democracy and globalization.

The onset of globalization in the world was a welcome change, where countries began to see themselves as inhabitants of a global village, sharing and transferring more than just goods. Opening up borders however unveiled inequality of benefit distribution. Countries, once forerunners of globalization, developed resentment as they saw themselves to be superior to other countries and felt they were being discriminated against in the distribution of development, receiving a smaller share of the pie due to rise in number of stakeholders - the immigrants. The feeling of age old nationalism which had led to pre-globalization wars, saw new light and a few countries, driven by power hungry leaders, headed towards protectionism, anti-globalization and from collectivism to individualism spectrum of the Hofstede model of global culture - reversing what we, as a world, achieved so far.

Taking cues from the present, Trump won by majority, promising to make America great again, banning Muslim immigration and building a wall on Mexico border, communicating that all problems faced by Americans are due to immigrants, Brexit covers the hidden agenda of safeguarding national interests, ISIS based its growth on safeguarding members of their race and in China, Xi Jinping established that providing legal advantage to people with Chinese ancestry has helped the Chinese economy and multiple such events in Turkey, Egypt etc.

Taking cues from the impending danger, Marine Pen in could be French president based on her Frexit promise, safeguarding interests of original French, in India Modi led BJP government is showing signs of religion-based politics with appointing a saffron clad Hindu fanatic as CM of a state which has a considerable Muslim population and was able to get out of caste based politics and nepotism after decades.

Identity-politics is the scary future unless we, the shapers of global agenda, choose cosmopolity over extremism

~~ Palak Marwah, Sourabh Kishanpuria

For the first time, I have co-authored a blog post with a friend with a crisp 400 word limit. I would like to introduce my friend Sourabh - a current affairs' enthusiast, a national rank holder CA, CFA Level 3 and a Finance demi-god just begins to define him. It was wonderful co-authoring an article with someone so bright and aware of what all is happening around the world. Cheers to the first co-authored article on my blog, looking forward to more such articles! ☺

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Never Failed Enough

“Hey! When are you reaching? Everyone who has been selected for the core committee has been called for a meeting immediately”

“Oh? I did not receive any call” I say.

Awkward silence. “All the best!” And I hang up.

Contrary to what most people think, the disappointment of not making it to something you really hoped and wished for, stems from the lack of a backup plan. I was no different. Not making it to the committee I really worked hard for, left me clueless of what to do for the whole year! That is when it struck me. Failure is not about not making it to the place you really wanted to. It’s about not knowing what to do, when you don’t.

I get into a frenzy mode when I don’t have work to do at hand, and when I realized I wouldn’t have a pre-planned engagement for the whole of next year, I was hysterical! Using the most popular mode of de-stress, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across this article from the Hindu about Harvard US-India Initiative. Applying with as good an application as I could, getting into HUII taught me way more than what I had expected, way faster and in a manner more interesting than I expected.

Colleagues at HUII immediately recommended to me the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015 – a biannual conference held at Harvard University every February and nursing the passion to reach my ultimate goal as fast as possible, I never realized how quickly I was in a Harvard dorm room. My panel was Corporate Leadership and it included discussions on behavior that would be expected of us, young leaders, when we hold responsible positions in the near future and how do we groom ourselves, keeping a wide perspective and targeting inclusive leadership. Meeting people from countries you have probably never even heard of (blame my weak Geography!) and understanding how it is to grow up in different parts of the country, I somewhere fell in love with the way Indian kids are brought up. That is when I decided I would pursue my Post graduation from India itself! The conference involved 200 delegates from over 30 countries across the world with over 70 speakers, each one at the pinnacle in their own sphere. The organizing committee consisted of Harvard students and thanks to HUII, I stayed with an Indian student at Harvard. The greatest pop on what I was doing with my life came to me on the 2nd morning at Harvard, when my host, a girl from Jaipur, woke up when her phone rang. She picked it up and said “Good morning Amartya! When do you want me to be at the office today?” Yes, she worked part time, managing her final year at Harvard in Applied Mathematics and Economics. And oh, in case you missed it, the call was from her immediate boss – Amartya Sen. THAT is when I realized how trivial things here meant so much to us and how we are blissfully unaware of the real BIG things!

The best experiences, moments and learning came from people who did not realize that they are teaching me something in the course of the conversation. For instance, most of us know that apart from India, pretty much everywhere students support their own selves once in college and still end up doing than an average Indian undergrad. But the more important learning for me was realizing why does this happen. There are a plenty of reasons, the most important ones being – they NEVER want to rise up pulling someone else down, their humor is NEVER sourced from mocking someone else, they read, read and read everything and anything and the most important one (I know I am repeating myself) is that if they have a difference of opinion with you, they would rather keep shut. That implies, conversations are either positive or no conversations at all, and that is where they save their time and energy.

Writing this article probably took me a week to think and minutes to write because I can never express what these interactions have given to me.

The journey that began from a desperation to keep myself busy with a 2 day conference in Delhi in January 2015, will probably terminate with the World Business Dialogue – World’s largest Student run Conference in Cologne, this March, or might never terminate. This is an addiction to me. The high of meeting new people, with different languages and perspectives, getting a 3rd person view of what you have been doing with your life all along and knowing what you could do. At the end if there is one learning out of all the travel and adventure I have had in these, it must be – You have never learnt enough, never travelled enough, never met enough people and definitely never failed enough!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Top 20 Personality Development Tips - Phase 2

With the Phase 1 being the beginning point, the next 10 in the list are the ones which make this ride bumpy!
With decreasing order of number the difficulty of inculcating these in your everyday habits. But they help, trust me :) 

10) Listen –
 Many a time we fail to listen to what is happening around us. We learn way more when we listen than when we speak. Be it a radio jockey, a professor or a friend, just listen with an open mind. You would get to learn at least one thing from each of them. You may ask why do I need to learn the tricks from such diverse people, well the answer is simple. A vibrant personality is nothing if not diverse. Once you can instill the diversity in you, people from all types of background will be able to connect with you and these connections would help you learn even more.

9) Never stop learning – Be it a restaurant, conference room or the roads, never stop learning from anyone and everyone you find. Learn from the office boy to balance 3 files, a napkin, a newspaper and 4 cups of tea together, learn from a child to paint the grass blue and think out of the box, learn from a teacher to remember the complete roll list of her class. Knowledge knows no barrier of degree, specialization, age or occupation. If you keep learning from everything that you see, you would sub consciously gain skills without putting your time in them.
8) Be kind – The best way to build an affable personality is to be kind and polite to everyone that you meet. Generally people ignore or ill-treat the people around them like the watchman, the lift man, the newspaper boy etc. If you make it a habit to wish them a good morning/evening, smile at them, recognize them, it would become a part of your personality and you would be nice to everyone you meet. Sorry and thank you are 2 words which are free to use and yet pave the path to the best relationships. Make sure you compliment people enough and be clean at heart. Undoubtedly you would then have glistening eyes!
7) Be energetic – Who likes a dull, drab, tired person? Right, no one. Be energetic and full of life wherever you go. Make sure you can light up the whole room, a group or a discussion with your presence. So the next time you are not there, people would feel something to be missing. It is important that people value your presence but it is more important that people realize your absence.

6) Prioritize – If you want to build an all-round personality, you will have to work on your language, tone, fluency, body language, knowledge base, dressing sense, hygiene and the list goes on! If you have to do all this in one day, every day, make sure you make the most of your day. Set up a schedule, stick to deadlines, never compromise with work and be sincere. Once you identify any activity to be non-developmental, quit it and use that time to relax, pursue your hobbies or chisel yourself. It is important to know what activities to indulge in, but it is equally important to identify the activities/people/groups that you must quit.
5) Take responsibility – In order to be good at something, it is necessary to take responsibility. Once you are answerable for something, you would automatically learn it well and do it right each time. Raise your hand when the professor asks one person to take charge for the class. If you keep fawning your skills in the nest, you would never know how well you can fly. You need to jump out of the nest, take the plunge and fly hard because that is all you can do then to save your life. Push yourself and take charge!

4) Fail at least once – In order to grow individually, it is very important that you fail at least once in life. You can never reach the height if you have not seen the depth. Falling is not an issue, not getting up back is one. It is very important to fail in life in order to identify your limitations and to know what is not to be done.
3) Do it yourself – Do not know how to make a presentation, open MS PowerPoint and try every tab. Unless you learn things yourself, you would not have the capacity to adapt things quickly when taught to you. This does not mean that you do not take any outside help. Take as much assistance as you need, but make sure that it is you who does it at the end. If somebody does it for you and tells you how it is done, you would probably forget the same in 3 months’ time, but if you learn it yourself and try your hands on it, you would never forget how to tune a radio or how to change the tyre. The difference between our generation and our parents’ is that they used their hands more and we use our finger tips more. Get to the ground and use your hands.You would become a different person altogether!
2) Perfection – Every reason behind making a mistake is an excuse. Extending the deadline even by one day, incorrect date on one assignment or any such trivial mistake. The moment you allow yourself to go wrong or do things incompletely, it would become your habit. In order to have an influential personality, try and make it a habit to do it right the first time and do it right every time. Mistakes are not taboo, their repetition is, casualness is. Try and make every activity as perfect as you can. The day you can say I did this in the best way I could, I know I couldn’t have done this any better, that day even a failure would be a victory!

1) Know the mind – There are certain peculiar facts about the mind, the way it works. The best way to master your personality is to master your mind and the best way to master your mind is to know the nuances of it. The conscious, sub-conscious mind, the muscle memory and theconscious memory, senses which appeal to you the most etc. Once you are aware of the way it works, you can take charge of it and expand your strengths by narrowing down your weaknesses.
From my originals I quote - you are not what you are made of, you are what you make out of what you are made of! Work the hardest you can, while you can !
                                                                                                            Luck and Love                                                                                                                                        ~~ Palak Marwah

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Top 20 Personality Development Tips - Phase 1

Gone are the days when a piece of paper could define your future. Today, rather than what you have, what is important is, how you sell it! The content and knowledge can be learnt. Most employers today say, it is the personality and the attitude which demarcates one individual from the other. So in this extremely competitive world, when everyone has access to the same kind of information, how do you stand out of the crowd? Here are 20 tips which can help you develop your personality. Hold on, the ride is bumpy!
 20) Firm handshake – Whenever you meet someone, make sure you give them a firm handshake. This is not just limited to a handshake. Ensure that you sit erect, stand on both legs, keep your hands free and make eye contact with people when you interact. In short, mastering the body language would ensure people take you to be talented and smart. Your body language is the first word that someone hears when they meet you for the first time. Make sure it is such that itcalls for only compliments.

19) Chin up- I have seen people who look down at their feet when they walk or at the slightly lower altitude. This creates an air of confusion, instability and incapability around you. Rather always make sure that you walk with a steady gait, chin up and stature in your body language. This ensures an aura of positivity, self-confidence and assurance around you.
18) Stay fit – As unrelated as this might sound, a good personality is healthy at the body and hale at the heart. Fitness does not mean weight training or anorexia; it simply means stayingfresh, energetic and agile throughout the day. Improve your immunity, eat well, sleep well and you would glow even after a long day at work. Considering that you have to work hard on various aspect every day to build a wholesome personality, you must ensure that you stay fit all the time.
17) Read, read and read  – As nerdy as this might sound, even if every book sings a lullaby to you, even if the letters dance and your eyelids get heavy as you turn the cover, make a habit to read. Any successful person in this world, if nothing else, is very well read. There is no fixed rule for reading. Read what you like at first till the time books become your drugs (yes, they do.) Once you get habituated to reading, you will involuntarily read anything and everything that you can get your hands on. Trust me, I have seen people read the airplane magazines during safety demonstrations because that is the most that they can. There will never ever be anything that you read which would not be utilized somewhere or the other.

16) Use the information – Once when I was gorging in a bookstore, getting as many books as I could, one very proficient salesperson asked me – “how much time would you take to finish this 400 page book?.” I said maybe a week or so. He said “what would you talk about in that one week? “ It later hit me that what he wanted to say was make sure you use the information you read. Even if you read one headline in the morning, make sure you use that somewhere in the whole day’s conversation. This has dual advantages. First and foremost, people would know that you are an updated person and you talk about what is happening then, at that moment. More importantly, when you use some information somewhere, you remember that for a longer time than the one you merely read.
15) Curiosity – You can relate with the instances where you tag somebody as dull or boring not because he has different interests than you do, but because he is not interested to explore.Inquisitiveness or curiosity is the most important trait of a vibrant personality. Unless until you are curious about everything around you, you wouldn’t be able to develop a good personality. Curiosity is not a trait that you need to harbor in order to show the world, it is a pre-requisite to building up yourself well. Be curious about everything and anything, about what people think, about how a particular dish tastes, about a different genre of music.
14) Notice – Whenever you enter a room full of people, you face an identity crisis at that very moment. The best way to step out of the “usual crowd”, it is important that you make your mark. The easiest way to do that is notice everything around you. Be it somebody’s dazzling attire or the color combination of the upholstery with the color of the walls, when you keep your eyes and ears open, your words would be appealing and interesting. Many people also call it “words of the moment”, but it is a simple trick of using the environment or background of someone or something to strike an interesting conversation with them.
13) Master the language – When people say that a successful person has very good communication skills, it does not necessarily mean that the skills have to be in English language. As long as you have the command over any one language, that is enough for you to make your mark. Keep learning new words in that language, keep writing to ensure a flow of thoughts and interact with people who share your interests to learn the nuances of the language.
12) Discuss – More often you learn much more and much faster when you discuss with people than when you read alone. When you discuss anything with a group of people, you come acrossvarious facets of the conversation that you might have missed. In addition, you get exposed to those new perspectives that you would never imagine to exist. This would either change your perception or give you some additional content that you need to advocate your perception for/against. Discussion is like learning at fast forward!
11) Network well – A good personality is the one who can gel well with people from different backgrounds irrespective of the fact whether the connections are of monetary importance or not. A good, close-knit network makes sure that you stay updated and active in your field of work and at the same time gain information of diverse spheres over general everyday conversations without putting in any time into it. In addition, networking exposes you to diversity.

The 2nd phase will comprise of the top 10 points! Placed in decreasing order, they are in increasing order of importance and difficulty to inculcate in your daily habits.
Would love to hear reviews :)
                                                                                                             ~~ Palak Marwah

Saturday, April 30, 2016

IIM Bangalore PGP 2016-18 Interview Experience

I will be joining IIM Bangalore for PGP 2016-18 this June and cannot wait for the dream place. A few of my friends wanted to know about my interview experience, so here it goes. I was sure after CAT results that I would not get a good call this year. After the B call, I prepared as well as I could.  After the B interview, I could not answer a few questions as satisfactorily as others and became apprehensive of a conversion. But somehow ARKS sir was sure I will make it after he heard my interview, and he was right, as always!

WAT Topic –
We have recently seen a student committing suicide that has brought to light the injustice that prevails in the education system. Suggest some measures to make the education system more justified (it was a long topic, this was the gist).
10 mins to think, you can note down points on the front side of the sheet, this side is not evaluated. 15mins to write one side of A4, lines are pre-drawn and space is enough for around 200 words. No extra sheet was given, time was more than sufficient for everyone.
The WAT was taken inside the interview room, all 12 candidates of my panel were seated, the interview panel of 2 professors and 1 alumnus (2004-06 batch, we overheard him) conducted the WAT. The topic in all panels was the same, but were held in different rooms, there were 4 panels.

Interview -

I was called inside by one of the two professors call him P2.
The alum asked me to take a seat, let’s call him A.
Professor 1 seemed to be frown faced since the beginning.
A – Okay, so introduce yourself
PM (that’s me) – My name is Palak, which literally means eyelashes but its contextually used in terms of swiftness or agility.
P1 – What is your name? You pronounce it Palak or Paalak?
PM- Sir, its Palak, generally mispronounced as Paalak.
P2 – I am sorry I pronounced it as Paalak while calling you in
PM – No issues sir! (With a smile)
P1 – Anyhow, continue
PM – so sir as I was saying, I have epitomized my name by being a part of various activities in both school and at college. Currently I am in my final year of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at NIT Nagpur

 P1 – Yeah you are all prepared for this question, aren’t you?
PM – No sir, I am just stating a few things in order (with a smile)
A – that’s a good thing na, if shes prepared (he is smiling too)
P2 – Yeah continue
PM – My interest in management stems from my diverse interactions. I was selected by Japan govt and MHRD India for JENESYS – An international youth exchange program to visit japan for 10 days. I have also represented India at HPAIR – A conference at Harvard University.

silence, I think they were expecting I would say something else, but I wanted to keep the intro short because they had a 600 word SOP of mine already and I did not want to repeat things.

P1 – Okay so you went to Harvard, the soldiers field?
PM – I beg your pardon? You mean academically “the soldiers field?” (I implied metaphorically)
P2 – No, no soldiers field, soldiers field
PM – Sorry Sir I am not aware
P2 – Okay never mind. Why Japan is called the land of the rising sun?
PM – Sir, it lies on the eastern end of the world, when I was there, we could see the sun rising pretty early at 3am
P2 – So I would go to Norway there the sun would rise even earlier right?
PM – Sir, I am aware of only this reason

(Ans is with respect to china, in the ancient times Japan was the eastern most end, I did not know this detail, so I told him I don’t know)

A – tell me something beyond this (pointing at my SOP on his laptop) (expected Q)
PM – Sir, I always keep looking for newer things to learn beyond the stipulated curriculum, and when I get interested in it, I pursue it. When I have decent amount of knowledge about it, I make sure I make the process of discovery and knowledge easier for people around me

A- Okay, give me an example (here I knew I am driving the PI)
PM – I pursued over 7 internships during my undergrad at VNIT and then this year  I published a mini journal on internships, with the VNIT Alumni Association that is helping them in their annual internship drive.
A – Who is it for?
PM – Sir, it is only for engineering undergraduates. It is free for VNITians, and charged at Rs 50 per copy for outside VNIT, the funds accumulated would go to Prayaas – a social club of VNIT.
A – okay, what does the journal include?
PM – sir, it talks about why are internships important, how do you choose the internship perfect for you, how do you apply, types of internships and a few internship experiences. It has a flow chart which the reader can walk through to reach at the intern that is fit for him.

A – what are types of intern?
PM – sir it depends on the basis of classification. Depending on location – on site, off site or distance, on nature of work – technical, management, on basis of returns- stipend included or freelancing. Depending on which factor is the most important to them, people can choose their intern.
A – when is the right time to do an internship?
PM – sir, this is a key question that the journal caters to. People generally do internships in summer or winter vacations, but I feel there is no right time. Whenever you think you are willing to work, you can do an intern. Like when I finished my 1st year, I was told that no internships are offered to 1st year students because you haven’t had any learning about core topics. So I did an internship at Times of India for content writing. Then in my 2nd year, I pursued a 6 months distance internship at IIM Ahmedabad, when my curriculum was going on.

A – Distance intern? Whats that?
PM – In distance intern you can work from home and stay in touch with your intern guide over email, calls etc. so you need not be present at the location of internship.
A – and how did you get this intern?
PM – I saw on LinkedIn (it was FB :P) that one of my seniors in college had pursued an internship at IIM A and I contacted him for details. He asked me to e-mail my resume and request to all professors who work in areas I am interested in. the email Ids were present on the website. So Prof Sanjeev Tripathi, assistant professor in Marketing, replied with his acceptance to allow me to work under him as a distance intern. He assigned me the work of creating case studies, researching the strategies of sports leagues in India as that was the time when IPL was really catching the trend 2013 beginning. So we researched on other leagues like IBL (Indian Badminton League), Hockey India League and Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon

A – So which league was the best out of these 3?
PM – sir, we cant compare because they were for different sports and also SCMM had a slight edge because it had been running for 10 years when IBL and HIL was launched. But still, cant compare
A – but still on any basis?
PM – on basis of marketing strategies I would say HIL was the best because their campaign was really exhaustive and immensely successful. From December 2012, with 500 odd likes on their official FB Page, in February 2013 they went to around 3 lakhs (I had this data). IBL on the other hand saw a change of dates and there were issues with the organizing. They changed the rules of the game (A is surprised, so I take the opportunity to explain).
They introduced a 1 minute break at 7 and 14 in the game of 21 points whereas the BWF (Badminton world federation) has a single break at 11. For state level players like us, this change is manageable, but international players have their flow and speed broken and it affects the game. (I wanted to reinstate that I play at State level myself, he acknowledged it very well). Also the Indonesian govt wanted a confirmation that all its players would be sold, only then would they participate, the BAI (Badminton Asso of India) was unable to commit. Then they had fixed the price of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa, the top ranking doubles players at 50,000$ each, but that was later reduced to 25,000$ as they were not sold. This was another issue. On the other hand the HIL was really well organized.

A – Okay, so what was special about HIL?
PM – they demarcated their campaign content depending on nature of social media. So they used FB for facts and history of Hockey, Twitter for live updates, Youtube for advertisements etc. They advertised the league during very famous world cup and football matches and had good ambassadors like Kapil Dev, Shoaib Akhtar, Akshay Kumar, Navjot Singh Sidhu. They created state wise ambassadors so the masses could identify with them for example M S Dhoni campaigned for the Ranchi team. The state level federations were sufficiently involved, which wasn’t the case of IBL or SCMM.

P2 – But only this cannot help you conclude that HIL was the best amongst the three right?
PM – Yes sir that is why I said on basis of marketing strategies HIL performed better
(I realized he might not be listening because he said okay okay)

P1 – Okay in your SOP you have written – Corporate behavior and social responsibility (I had mentioned this in my learning from HPAIR). What do these terms mean?
PM – Sir, my panel at HPAIR was Corporate Leadership so….
P1 – Just answer my question (unexpected interjection by him, I did not realize he wanted to start grilling so I was at ease)
PM – The young leaders of today would be holding responsible leadership positions in the near future so corporate behavior talks about how should they behave when a lot of responsibility lies upon them.
P1 – So it is not about the behavior of a company?
PM – Sir, my panel and discussions were about how young leaders must be groomed for corporate behavior and an individual’s behavior, not the company’s.
P1 – Okay. And social responsibility?
PM – Sir, social responsibility talks about how a company can contribute to the betterment of the society.
P1 – What does it include?
PM – Sir, like Nike had launched a campaign for grooming athletes, once it had launched its running shoes.
P1 – Don’t give me examples, tell me what it means
PM – Sir it means the company allocates some % of its profits to contribute to the society
P1 – Why should a company do it?
PM – Sir it is like a good will gesture on behalf of the company
P1 – My company is for profit making not social work. Why should I do it?
PM – Yes sir its voluntary but generally companies, on reaching a particular level of development allocate some % of their profits for the society
P1 – What is this level of development?
PM – Sir depends on the vision of the company
P1 – Okay so why should the company do it?
PM – Sir, the inputs that a company uses – the people, the resources, the energy is derived from the society. So this is a way of giving back to the society from which it derives its inputs.
P1 – You are repeating yourself. Who does the company make profit for?
PM – for itself, its employees and contributes to the GDP
P1 – So why should it allocate anything for CSR?
PM – Sir, it’s a good will gesture
P1 – Are you connected to HUL or Tata motors in any way?
PM – No sir
P1 – Then why should they do CSR for you? They pay taxes, wages to the employees, they can have employee benefit program, why for you?
PM – sir I am a part of the same society as them that is all I can think of right now.

P1 – okay. There is another line that you have written – “While choosing a material for a typical application, we must optimize on properties and compromise on a few, less-important properties” what does this mean?
PM – sir, my undergraduate majors is Metallurgical and Materials engineering so…
P1 – I know I can understand that this line is related to your majors. What does this mean?
PM – Sir it means that I have imbibed the habit of making informed decisions and look at the perfect balance of factors. Like some properties cant co-exist like hardness and ductility.
P1 – What is the context here?
PM – Sir it has taught me to look at all possible perspectives before taking any decision, even those angles which could be generally ignored.
P1 – Give me an example from the conversation we had till now
PM – (with a gentle smile) Sir like you asked me about the CSR, I was considering all stakeholders – the employees, senior management, owners etc and also from local to national level.
P1 – Okay

A – You have talked about women leadership. Why is it important?
PM – Sir, my perspective is not about gender representation. But I believe women representation would bring diverse skill sets to the workplace.
A – Give me an example
PM – Talked about Anne Mulcahy, the Ex CEO of Xerox Inc. and how she avoided a bankruptcy and ended with saying that in many countries including India Xerox is still used synonymously as photocopy
P2 – But that was achieved before Mulcahy became the CEO (I realized it was a risk greater than I expected so had to cover up)
PM – Yes sir, but what I mean is we “still” use it because she evaded a possible bankruptcy. (saved!)

(P2 smiled)

A – okay who is Marissa Mayer?
PM – I beg your pardon?
A – Marissa Mayer, which company is she the CEO of?
PM – Sir I remember reading about her but cannot recollect right now
A – So you know just one CEO and you have written women leadership in the SOP?
PM – no sir, I know a couple of them. I elaborated on the story of my role model.
A – okay name them
PM – named 4 fortune 500 CEOs and 4 from India
A – Okay. I asked about Marissa Mayer because she recently had a child and is back in office after a maternity leave of only 2 months compared to leaves ranging from 6months to a year in India and other countries. What do you think about it?
PM – Yes, I am aware that the USA has lesser extent of maternity leave. In addition, Mark Zuckerberg recently spoke about allowing paternity leave as well. In the case of Marissa Mayer I think her decision reflects a balance. We cannot overstep certain natural boundaries. If she has to build her family and expand it, the onus lies on her. At the same time she realizes that she has a lot of responsibility and the company needs her so I think this case reflects the balance on family welfare and work responsibilities.
A – Okay

P2 – What is the status of women in Japan?
PM – Sir I did not find any discrimination in the work place or in the home sphere during my stay
P2 – No in business, politics etc? What have you observed?
PM – Sir, I am not aware of the details of politics but in the business sphere I believe the roles are allotted in sync with the skills. Like the company that was organizing my international youth exchange had decent, rather 90% of women. They were responsible for getting us from Delhi to Tokyo.
P2 – How would you rank Japan and Sri Lanka in status of women?
PM – Sir, as per my observations and interactions in Japan, I would rank Japan above SL

P2 – Okay last question. How can you differentiate between a natural and artificial diamond
PM – sir the natural diamond has a typical sparkle (I did not take time to think)
P2 – So does an artificial one. I am telling you that you can differentiate visually
PM – Sir, visually in a short span of time we cannot. Over a longer span the artificial one loses its sparkle.
P1 – no tell me scientifically
PM – sir we can look at its microstructure and bonding (I was answering him very briefly)

P2 – Bonding would be same a diamond is a diamond
PM – No sir we have a machine called XRD in which we observe a section of the sample. An output graph of intensity vs wavelength is obtained that has various intensity peaks at characteristic wavelengths. This graph can be compared with the encyclopedia of natural diamond.

P2 – okay do you have any questions for us?
PM – No sir I think I am good
A – Okay I think we are done. It was nice meeting you Palak
PM – thank you sir thank you for your time

(I got up took 2 steps away from my chair towards the door and then P1 says)

P1 – Palak you have used this word quotidian in your SOP. What does it mean?
PM – sir it means regular or usual
P1 - okay
(1 sec pause)
PM – with a smile, sir any more questions?

All 3 burst out laughing

A – no no you are free to go
PM – Thank you sir good day
After the PI the alumnus came out of the room for visiting the loo, gave me a wide smile and said All the best :D

A little personal note (as always)

I knew that CSR is an indirect method of marketing, I did not mention because I did not want to get close to unethical measures or any controversy. But my mentor later said it’s a fact so could have been used. I regretted not knowing about Marissa Mayer because my mentor, ARKS Sir goes without saying,  had told me to read about her 3 days ago after my IIM Kozhikode PI, and I just read the fortune 500, Yahoo wasn’t one of them then.

I never expected a call from B in the first place. I was dazed for 3 days when I got one. There are just two things that I think helped me convert B-

    1)    ARKS Sir. Nothing needs to be said here
I have no clue how he knew about Marissa Mayer and kept me calm all through this time, despite being miles away as B was the most crucial one!

    2)    My presence of mind in the last 10 seconds of – sir any more questions? :D

I know I have given just 4 interviews, but I have this theory that if you make sure that they remember you at least by face at the end of that day, or have a healthy little giggle due to you, you are in! That is what happened in all 4 interviews. Other 2 experiences to be up soon

ARKS Sir, I have run out of words to thank you. I mean it!