Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Indian MBA dream: Part 1

If you are from the typical background, there is no escaping the big Indian MBA dream. Aware as you are, there is no dearth of aspirants dreaming to get into a premier B-school. To get a hang of the intensity, try throwing a few words like cut-off, DI caselet, or Paagalguy (this is the most powerful weapon in the MBA-to-be lingo) at your graduating college/ workplace and make a note of the number of people ready to pounce to take the topic forward. Those who cannot relate to it are labelled as dumb and shaky on the career front by the elitist quant and VA sub minute problem solvers.

In some cases, parents & the society have a lot to contribute as well. Why, many a times I was introduced as: “Meet my son, he’s going to appear for CAT as well as other b-school entrance tests this year”. Scarce they may be; but my all experiences/achievements in life and my work at one of the top technology firms of the planet were of course insignificant and definitely not worth a mention.

When I protested, some wise ones told me that I would be eligible to complain only once I’d beaten the system. 

Well, having made it to a tier-2 school I guess I have the right to speak out now.

First a few words about the thrill of the admission process. An underdog for a healthy portion of my academic years, I was never taken seriously (and rightly so) by the wannabe MBA community. Third person discussion featuring me would run in these lines: "Well, it is better to keep away from a guy who hardly takes interest in b-school cut-offs, the placement reports and so on. Ok, this fellow does claim to study in weird hours of the morning but blast him: he did not even join a test series! How can one be so careless about career!?"

As fate would have it, a pleasant shock was due when I got a couple of calls from some okayish schools. Without me knowing, I was elevated to a new brotherhood called the GD/PI call community. Since the hyper community freaked me out, I chose to keep distance and lived life peacefully in my own sweet world. The scene of the first interview was a rude shock to me. One memory I have is of two guys conducting a mock interview amongst themselves, and my o’ my: I was impressed. The answers were peppered with some lovely words and the tone & content was just perfect ("5 years down the line, I would like to see myself in a corporation as a driver of a product line maximizing value for the organization and the country. In this path, I would strive for upliftment of the less fortunate by as inclusive development is deeply rooted in my soul.." There were beautiful answers weaved for questions like “Why MBA?”, “Where do you see yourself 5 years down..”, “Strengths and weaknesses”. Though nothing could be done now, I was a bit disappointed in myself. I mean, what was I thinking? The war figures state that there’r a thousand applicants per interview call, a hundred for each seat in an interview/GD stage. The least I could have done was prepare for this!

Again, lady luck was kind to me and all GD’s I appeared for had no fish market traders (the screamy & hostile ones) and all interviewers I came across were more interested in my work, the books I have read, my adventures on the highways of India and my views on the economy. The process went on and a wait for results meant that I forgot about the whole ordeal in a short while and was happily oblivious to the speculations of results, rumours of result being declared etc. It was indeed a surprise when someone called me up to congratulate and declared that I was through. The story repeated for some other schools as well. Miraculously the underdog was now in a position to choose!

The situation changed overnight back at home. There was a marked elevation in the status. Back in my hometown, I was to discover that I was a talked about figure in my parents’ social circle.

However, the battle in my head was taking it’s toll. The fabric of life: the one I had taken great efforts to weave over time seemed to be falling apart. I was proud of what I had weaved: my friends, my colleagues, the job, some material possessions, the lifestyle and it disheartened me that all this would have to go.

With a heavy heart, I undertook a lonely journey to give myself some time to think and reach a point where I accept this development. So off we went: me and my motorcycle. It took 2 days in the clear skies and a thousand kilometres to think it over, let my past go and brace myself for the new life.

However, what I witnessed was something beyond my preparedness or my dreams.

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