Monday, February 21, 2011

Links to savour, and save

A brilliant piece on the tendency of Indian American authors to essentialise, generalise and extrapolate. We are not one homogeneous identity, got it? You have made it, all right, now shut up already: Anything to Declare at Immigration?

Is the frenzy over Facebook fuelling the second dotcom bubble?


A mail to the prof on the new ethics workshop

We had an ethics workshop begun this past Saturday. The first session was conducted by the prof who is overseeing the entire workshop. It was a nice enough lecture on sustainable development, but throughout an unease had me in grips, which I vented when I returned to my room and drafted this mail:

Dear Professor XXXXX

This is Vikram Johari. I am a student of Section B, PGP-I and attended the first ethics class conducted by you on Saturday. There are a few points I wish to raise. I hope you would consider them in the spirit in which I make them and not penalize me for raising these concerns.

There is general disinterest in ethics sessions because they seemingly don’t add “value” to the business education that we receive here. I personally feel that business is all about bending the rules and most companies that are leaders today would not have reached that position had it not been for bending the rules of the game. What we celebrate as leadership success often involves shady transactions and sordid deals. Here are a few examples:

1. 1. The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group is one of India’s biggest corporate houses. Yet, their leader was questioned by the CBI early this week in relation to the 2G spectrum scam. Would any of us miss a chance to work at an ADAG firm because of this? I don’t think so.

2. 2. Vedanta, a global steel giant, has been in the news for not considering the legitimate rights of the tribals in the Niyamgiri area of Orissa. But I am sure it would be given Day 1 status if it ever came to campus for placements.

3. 3. Land acquisition has become a major issue in industrial growth these days. We hail Gujarat for offering Sanand to Tata Nano and blame Mamta Banerjee for scuttling growth in Singur. But there are compelling reasons for the poor not wanting to part with their land. But in India’s growth story, these are brushed aside.

I can cite many such instances. My basic point is this: We can have young, enthusiastic students attend innumerable sessions on ethics and sustainable development and feel good about changing the world. But these measures will have little relevance so long we live in a world where corporate competition and greed often cross the boundaries of ethical behavior, something which is couched as the “demand of growth” and which we are supposed to follow in our zeal for realizing a new India. Most of us would end up working for a company that has had skeletons of some sort in its ethical closet. Perhaps we just live in an imperfect world. Maybe this new India has little place for textbook ethics.

A humble request therefore to discontinue these sessions, or at least, not make them mandatory.


Vikram Johari

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In which I turn anthropologist

The residential life is a curious social construct. You are on your own and your worth on campus is gauged in terms that are uncannily dissimilar to the outside world. Since you are on your own, you have to count, and that counting entails being smart at all times. This could take several varied proportions: either you could be smart in the intellectual sense,which means you come up with such gems on Facebook: "One is not publicly feted but one is on people's minds." (mine) or "Vivid in English and vividh in hindi have the same root. When you think of the former, you think bright colours, lush gardens, tea sets and white dresses. When you think of the latter, you see fields, a radio station, small TV sets and old time charm. What is it about language that makes it absolutely wonderful?" (mine, again---modesty is another virtue, besides virginity, that you lose on campus).

Getting back to the matter at hand, for some others, smartness implies smartness of form, meaning a tendency to lord it over others in a I-know-what-I-know self-assurance. For guys, this could mean advising all and sundry on matters all and sundry without really knowing the pitfalls of said advice. See, if you are not in the know,you are not really living the hostel life. Lack of news is death, even if that news is garden variety--titillating at best, bogus at worst. For girls, this means a realization that they really are the fairer sex. If you want to know what kid gloves are, please visit the IIM Lucknow campus and you would be treated to a nice, fluffy pair. Condition: Be a girl.

Then, relationships. You are away, distraught, mommy's comfort food out of bounds, so you walk into the arms of the nearest, and hopefully dearest, stranger. Only, such relationships fluctuate, and with good frequency. Is it about sex, one wonders. But no, there really is the smell of forever-togetherness here but the particulars are hazy.

OK, as a man, you are supposed to define your territory. This comes in vivid shades of blue (inspired by the cricket team, no doubt) and smells of male perspiration. It's there, you can breath in the sights and sounds of superiority that descend from the heavens of quantitative aptitude. You wanna count for something? Join the fin (short for finance) gang. I-banking talk will get you the bucks, the chicks and hopefully, some peace.

As a girl, you just walk the walk and talk the talk, basking in the glory of admiration that 98% of the panting population will shower on the 2% of you. So, you participate in plays, crash parties, and show general femininity to play the game. You will pass with flying colours and HR managers of even fin forms will eye you longingly.

So you learn to survive. It's tough. You learn to be on your own, and if that entails saying sweet goodbye to most of what you hold dear, well baby, that's just too bad. At least you would have written some readably penetrating posts by the end of it.

Hey, did I mention placements? Never mind.