Monday, February 27, 2006

The Ring of Gyges

Ethics in business is the source of a troubled heart. On one hand you have business houses (VERY SUCCESSFUL business houses, may I add) that have a philosophy which says "To hell with everything else, business is all about being a profit making enterprise". To them, nothing should stand in the path of their success. Absolutely NOTHING. In a country which ranked 88th on a Corruption Perceptions Index in 2005, I do not need to tell you twice about the kind of bribes that are paid by companies to get into the favorable books of authorities.

Then again there are the house of Tata's and Infosys. These companies have re-defined the way corporate governance is interpreted in India. Time and again have they been lauded with doing things that were ethically and morally correct. Of course, the drivers of such business practices have been at the top, right from Jamsetji, JRD, to Ratan Tata and to the likes of Narayanmurthy.

You might wonder what caused me to write about business ethics and morals on such a fine Sunday morning.

Well, 2 things.

1. The HR project that my team submitted yesterday, which was titled "Ethical Challenges in HR"; and

2. The book "Freakonomics". I have been reading the bestseller for the Book Club review this Wednesday. An extract:

"There is a tale, “The Ring of Gyges,” that Feldman sometimes tells his economist friends. It comes from Plato’s Republic. A student named Glaucon offered the story in response to a lesson by Socrates—who, like Adam Smith, argued that people are generally good even without enforcement. Glaucon, like Feldman’s economist friends, disagreed. He told of a shepherd named Gyges who stumbled upon a secret cavern with a corpse inside that wore a ring. When Gyges put on the ring, he found that it made him invisible. With no one able to monitor his behavior, Gyges proceeded to do woeful things—seduce the queen, murder the king, and so on. Glaucon’s story posed a moral question: could any man resist the temptation of evil if he knew his acts could not be witnessed? Glaucon seemed to think the answer was no. But Paul Feldman sides with Socrates and Adam Smith—for he knows that the answer, at least 87 percent of the time, is yes."

The 87 per cent idea comes from the meticulous data that Feldman had recorded from his business collections where he would just place bags of bagels in offices and leave a small box with a slit on top for people to pay for the bag. On an average, his collections from the box was 87 per cent.

Just two more points:

1. On one hand, Glaucon uses the Ring of Gyges to prove his point that morality is just a social construction, i.e. we would like to project an idea in society that we are morally correct in our thinking; the moment our actions are invisible to society (like when the ring is put on) we would give in to temptation. Interestingly, this idea was also present in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, where the One Ring not only made the one who wore it invisible but also corrupt. Umm...Gollum gollum....My precious !!

2. Here is an interesting twist given by Scott Adams. Trust him to come up with something witty; yet true. It was this response from a regular reader that prompted him to put forward his ideas:

"A co-worker of mine is so cheap that he bought one of the portable electric batteries that you can charge up for emergencies, like jumpstarting your car or running appliances off of during camping trips, and brings it to work everyday and lets it charge in his cubicle. He then takes it home and runs his lights or microwave off of it. He says he is forcing the company to pay him a little extra by taking electricity home. He also tries to time all of his bodily eliminations to occur at work so that he uses company water for flushing etc… to further save himself money and cost the company."

What would you do if you would chance upon the Ring of Gyges?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lag gayi

I mean, Tag lag gayi... Abhinav tagged me. I'm honored. My chest swells up with pride. I float in mid-air. In walks my roomie, moves his hands around in another attempt to outdo the great Rajesh Khanna, successfully impersonates Bruce Lee and pricks a pin in my thought bubble, saying, "Abe saale, neeche aaja...neeche aaja.."

Back to earth, I proceed towards my laptop, with a smack of the lips and a devilish gleam in my eye. I'd been dying to get back to my laptop to punch the keys and come up with another one of 'em posts...but Abhinav bhai gives me the required ammunition as well.

"Will you walk into my parlour?", said Shekhar to the reader...

Mainu ki achha nahin lagta?

1. I HATE eve-teasers with the same intensity that Osama Bin Laden hates America. Harmless flirting, fine. Eve teasing.. NOTHIN' DOING. I hate it when Indian men lustily stare at a woman walking by on the road. It gets even worse when there's a foreigner around. A quick glance? Understandable. Stare at her as if gazing at some poster advertising a free Domino's meal which includes a veg. pizza with extra mozzarella cheese, ginger bread and a bottle of Coke? Unacceptable.

And NO, asking a girl for directions to a courier office is NOT an offence.

2.I don't like violence. I do not mind the scenes prevalent in the hostel at midnight when some poor person is first 'shuddh' karo-fied with bathroom ka paani and then interesting patterns resembling shoeprints mysteriously make their way on to his shorts. What I do mind are the scenes which are regularly seen on TV news channels.

I had the good fortune to be the part of a theatre workshop conducted by Parnab Da (Parnab Mukherjee). As a result of that workshop, we put up a play at the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad in Calcutta. I was one of the actors who played the role of a victim of the Gujarat riots. It was a 75 minute silent play. Yes...not a single word was uttered right throughout the 75 minutes. We emoted purely through our body language. Life was never the same again.

3. I don't like reaching class late. Yet, it seems I might soon 'run' myself into the Late Class-Entrants Hall of Fame. Running the 10 km marathon at Nirma Champions League was fine; running every day to the classroom as if being chased by the Hound of Nirmaville, thinking of an 'original' excuse to gain the kind permission of the faculty to enter the class, panting helplessly while stumbling over bags and legs in an attempt to reach your seat and sitting through the first lecture of the day on an empty stomach devoid of the 'messy' breakfast pleasures isn't my idea of the beginning of a chapter titled "A Day in the life of Shekhar".

4. Confusion. One word that defines 80% of my time spent thinking. Ever heard of 'em birds who decided to flock ek doosre ke aas-pados mein? Yep, that's my story. A bunch of friends here have organised themselves into a group on IP messenger, calling ourselves "Confu-zone". Being true MBA students, we've even come up with a Mission Statement: To create an atmosphere of true confusion for the benefit of mankind in general and us dear darlings in particular. Group activities include gazing at the starry sky and wondering what the hell we're doing, staring at our laptops and practicing playing minesweeper when there are 2 quizzes and 1 group presentation the next day and (my personal favorite) trying to perfect the line ala Sachin: Main kaun hoon? Main kahaan hoon? (Who am I? Where am I?). Group trivia: I'm the ONLY Libran here, and feeling a bit lonely. Interested in helping out? Fast...hit the comments button!!

5. Memorizing tomes on Management learning. Yikes !! For Christ's sake, aren't we supposed to be managers? Why should we bother becoming a 'popat' (Hindi and especially Gujju talk for 'parrot'). I know, I know. The mid-term exam wounds are still fresh, and hence I type with extra vengeance. However, I eagerly pray to God for some faculty to read this.

Don't ask us in a question paper to reproduce 'such and such' matrix.....ask us instead what strategy A & Co. should use to market product B in country C, and we should be the ones coming up with interesting answers. True, some will quote the BCG matrix, some may photocopy some 12 pages of the text with the precision of a Canon copier, but lurking amongst us is the guy who's going to propose a new way of looking at markets, products, companies and competition. Helloooooo ?? How about giving him the space to voice HIS opinion, and NOT Kotler's ?


The flame of the tag passes on to Moonwalker, Amit, Sayesha and Arpana (previously mis-spelt here as Arpita). God bless. :D

Monday, February 20, 2006


Well, it didn't kill anyone, did it?

In the midst of all the tense preparation for the final 2 papers tomorrow, the variations on Yahoo! Avatars offers fun and relaxation. If wishes were horses...

But then, Fido Dido ain't too bad at describing me either. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Exams again

You might be wondering about the sudden halt that there has been on the posts. "Yeh kya hua, itna romantic ho gaya ki Aladdin ke pic se aage hi nahi badh raha hai?" [What happened, how come he's turned so romantic as to not proceed beyond Aladdin's pic?]

The answer, my friend, is out there. And by "there" I mean it lies in the T4 room of my institute where I've been going for the last 2 days to face the mid-term examinations. Giving these examinations is a self-study on facing internal demons and fears. One has little time to pause and wonder, one has only just thought up a strategy after a spate of disastrous exams when another one strikes.

The mad dash to the examination hall after having slept for barely 3 1/2 hours, the attempts to try and remember jargons for the Human Resources (HR) and Marketing Research (MR) papers, are all very reminiscent of the college examination days, minus all the 'masti' of course.

Anyway, I have one last set of examinations on Monday after which I must return to my world of 'strategy building' and 'planning' for the end-term examinations. I guess, that is when I shall resume regular blogging.

In the meantime, dear reader, I would request you to browse through my new blog, My reviews, the link to which can also be found just below the 'Quotation of the Day' box on the right column. And oh yes, in the first post of my new blog, I also fulfill my promise of mentioning the reason why I named this blog "Adventures of a Traveller". Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

To whom no words can explain the feelings caught in the magical 3 words, I LOVE YOU


Happy Valentine's Day everyone. May God bless you and your beloved, wherever they may be.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A diversified portfolio

It was really amusing to find out that a friend here thought that I was a Bengali. The fact that I've been brought up in Kolkata and that I speak Bengali added to the deception. :D

Like I explained to her, she wasn't the first one, and definitely doesn't seem to be the last one, to make that erroneous judgement. And I explained to her why...

I am a Gujarati. My Mom n Dad are pure Gujjus at heart. By that, I mean to say my Mom still prefers reading her Gujarati magazine 'Chitralekha' to, say, a 'Femina' or a 'Filmfare'. Dad still loves to treat us to 'gaathiya' and 'jalebi' rather than to pastries. Gujju dishes are a regular preparation in the kitchen, although the rest of India also finds an able cook and representative in Mommy dearest. I looooove going to 'watch' a raas-garba and dandiya competition, although, I myself am no good at it. However, one particularly beautiful female back in Kolkata has promised me that she'll teach it to me, and I am certainly looking forward to meeting her again...err, the lessons. ;)

I was brought up in Kolkata. One word to sum up that city is 'magic'. It has perhaps the most crowded streets, the narrowest of lanes, the saddest water sewerage system, the Left government... The list is endless. Yet, that place is home. It is in the most crowded of these streets that you bump into old pals and decide to hit the nearest tea stall for a quick cup of steaming hot tea to catch up on old times. It is in the narrowest of lanes that you find your old homes, the places you shifted out from and the memories of your childhood dancing in front of your eyes. Only when the rains come down heavily and there is heavy water-logging do you realise that some things have still not changed, that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation is going to take the blame for yet another year and repeat the mistake the next. Only when you wade through those dirty waters do you remember the time when as a carefree child, you, alongwith your gang of friends, decided to check out how much water has accumulated in the neighbourhood. And when you came back home after being knee-deep in filthy water, it was Mom who used to command (for the loss of a stricter word) you to go have a bath. That, is Kolkata. The city of books, the city of the Coffee House at College street....the City of Joy.

And then again, my schooling was done in La-Martiniere for Boys. A school which started in 1836 with the generosity of a French army general, it taught us the best of Christianity and the best of disciplines. Till date, I repeat the Gayatri Mantra with as much devotion as I repeat the 'Our Father'. I am very much prone to exclaiming 'Oh Jesus !!' or '...for Christ's sake!!'. Some teachers leave a mark on an individual's life. Ms. GH, an Anglo-Indian class teacher in classes 2 and 5, was one such beautiful lady. On a particular occassion, when a few classmates had mocked me because of my dark skin (oh how cruel children can be) and I was really depressed, she came over, and like a doting mother, wiped away my tears to say "You are the son of God. Don't let anything or anyone make you forget that."

My most beloved aunt is a Christian too, and her influence has been tremendous as well. It is from her that I learnt that one must always give willingly to the poor and the needy; the Lord shall ensure that your wallet doesn't remain empty. All this has again led some people to believe that I'm a Christian.

Some of my best friends are Punjabis. A particular langotiya-yaar from school days who has just returned from Warwick after doing his MBA, is a Panju too. And that makes me love the Punjabi life to the hilt. When in Kolkata, I was a regular visitor with some of my friends to the Gurudwara at Elgin Road. Of course, Balwant Singh's Dhaba located right below the Gurudwara obviously helped. *Grin* What could be more enjoyable than cold glasses of thick lassis and hot aloo ka parathas with butter on top!! Yum !! (I've just returned from the mess after a heavy lunch, but I can still hear my stomach leap with joy at the mention of the aloo paratha.) And obviously, the achaar to accompany the parathas.. Aaye haaaye yaar...I can almost smell the garama-garam parathas!! :D And to add to the fun, have you ever realised how 'hot' Punjabi females are? Wow !! No wonder words like "changa", "sat sri akal", and phrases like "Oye ki hoya ?" are part of my active vocabulary.

Gujju, Bengali, Christian, Punjabi ?? Who am I? You decide. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just happy to be labelled an ordinary Indian.

Friday, February 10, 2006

With due respect to Mr. Porter & Co.

Well, here goes...

It was 2 AM. I was working on my Marketing Research project, when, while Googling (oops, I let the worst secret out) I came across an article which said that some French group of political analysts, having studied the works of Chanakya and Machiavelli, had come to the conclusion that had these two men collided on the battlefield of strategy, Machiavelli would have been "torn to shreds" by the former.

I turned to my room mate and we immediately launched into one of our favorite topics of discussion; the ingeniousness of the ancient Indian wisdom. It so happens that both of us had the book "Jwalamukhi ke Phool", a book on how Chandragupta Maurya came to power under the tutelage of Chanakya, during our course at school. Both of us simply LOVED the book, the tense moments, the intense political struggle and the strategic battles (not always on the battlefield; a lot many were fought orally in palaces and dungeons) that were fought and won.

We also discussed 'Chanakya-Niti'. The translated version of the book is easily available on the Net and moreover, a cheap 25-30 rupee impression is available in most Wheeler book stalls across the major railway stations of this country. I have not had the time or the privilege to go through the book in detail, but one of the interesting snippets I read was the manner in which Chanakya had described how even the prostitutes of a land should divide their time. So-and-so time was for their ablutions, at such-and-such time they were to attend to 'customers' and their hidden agenda would be to gather information for their king, for they formed a small cog in the network of spies that Chanakya would have weaved. Goodness!! Talk about detailed analysis of each and every member of the community.

At the same time, you cannot underestimate either the man's economic or his capabilities as a strategist. Not only is his 'Arthashastra' one of the earliest treatises in economics, but very often we tend to forget that the great Alexander, who was thought to be unconquerable, was stopped from further invading the country by the shrewd Brahmin.

But wait, didn't Alexander return since it was his army that rebelled? Weren't they the ones who had had enough of battles and wanted to return home?

Very true, but according to various sources it was Chandragupta himself who'd spread the word of dissent in Alexander's armies. How did he achieve this? Well, Chanakya had instructed him to get himself recruited in Alexander's army. Reason? Two birds with one stone. One, spread the word of dissent among the war-weary soldiers and generals. Two, learn the Greek fighting style which cannot be duplicated easily by the rest of the kingdoms in India; this would later come in handy while setting up their own empire.

I'm sure there are many knowledgeable individuals who would have done a lot of research on Chanakya and would have read tomes about him. But the fact remains, that for an average B-school student like me, Chanakya remains the one 'strategy guru' that I would like to learn the most from.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

LATENT: Part 2

Those of you who might be confused by the title of this post may want to check out this previous post which contains an explanation as well as an interesting story about the beginnings of Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

One finds many ways of motivating oneself....especially after bad scores. I have found mine; reading, watching, listening to people who dreamt and pulled off the impossible.

Our library has a website on the local server of which we can watch a number of educational movies. I went back to the videos listed under "Lessons in Excellence" (remember the program which used to be aired on CNBC TV 18?). I clicked on "Episode 5: The Three Stages of Competition. Companies featured: Reliance, Canon, Xerox".

Hidden within the 20 minute video was this interesting anecdote that the late Sumantra Ghoshal tells a spellbound audience of 2; Raghav Bahl and Gita Piramal.

Sumantra Ghoshal: You know, when we were writing that case on Reliance...the ex-chairman of one of the major public sector infrastructure banks...he told me a story. That bank had financed the very beginning of Reliance starting up. So, he said, "Dhirubhai came to me one day. At that time, Dhirubhai is (just) a polyester trader sitting in Bombay and he is a small little dealer. That's all that he has, his little office. In his diary, he had this little picture. The picture said at the bottom...(indicating a box) 'Textiles', then it goes up, 'Textile Intermediaries', then it goes up, 'Bulk Intermediaries', then it goes up, 'Refining', then it goes up 'Oil Exploration'....(looks up in amazement with a glint in his eye) Remember? He was working with Shell in Aden. Shell was an integrated oil company doing all of these things. Starting a six loom little factory in Naroda, the man had in his mind this whole empire that he wanted to build.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bad karma shivers

Brr.. why do I feel cold?

Simple, dude! The grades for the second term shall definitely be out by tomorrow morning. And, as is no national secret, me had a nightmare during the last examinations.

So, what is my schedule for the evening?

*Sigh* No blogging, no 'orkut'ing, no reading trivia on wikipedia, no browsing through the latest issues of Businessworld and Business India which are lying on my table (have already gone through about 10 pages in each magazine, though).

Next step, close my media player which is playing 'Paathshala (Be a Rebel)' from Rang De Basanti, and concentrate on my Management Information System (MIS) book for the quiz tomorrow and then prepare the pre-readings for the Operations, Finance and HR classes tomorrow. Boy, at this rate, I'll only finish at 4-5 in the morning. Awwww... there goes my tomorrow morning's breakfast....

Monday, February 06, 2006

A fly on the wall

A couple of years ago, a friend asked me who my dream date would be.

"It definitely would be Arundhati Roy.", was my prompt reply.

"Why ?", she asked.

"Umm..she seems to be a decent writer, having won the Booker prize and all. Then what the hell motivated her into getting involved with social movements alongside Medha Patkar? Surely, she must have seen something dramatic enough for her to commit herself to the cause."

Fact remains, my friends, that no matter who you are, 9 times out of 10 you would want to be around a celebrity. It is not necessary that it has to be someone from the film world, although they would rate highly on anyone's charts. The guys shall surely want to have a 'close' chat with the likes of (ahem) Bipasha Basu, Sameera Reddy and more of their kind (may their tribe increase).

I presume the girls would go ga-ga and giggly over Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan or even an Abhishek Bachchan (what say Munnu bhaiya?).

Then, you would have the 'oh-so-serious' business school student, with the gelled hair and pin-striped shirt et al, who would personally want an interview with Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Narayan Murthy, Azim Premji and the other luminaries of the business world.

Me? I would surely want to have a run-in with the damsels (who would say 'No' to that?). I would be over-the-moon if I were spotted in a gym with either Salman or Hrithik giving me tips on improving my physique (God I need those!!) and I'd be overwhelmed if any of the fundoo businessmen/entrepreneurs would give me an opportunity to pick their brains.

But being a fly on the wall here, in another age and another generation, would've made me the happiest.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the question is, which celebrity would you like to have a chat with?

[P.S. Saurav-ko-gussa-kyon-aata-hai, you'd better answer, or else....]


Umm...Just realised that it would be rather ungrateful towards my brothers and the female audience if I left out the international celebrities. Point noted.

Edited Female Celebrity list: Alicia Silverstone, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz...frankly, folks, the list is endless.

Edited Male Celebrity list: Well, how would I know?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Luka Chuppi

It is 6 in the morning and I'm just about to go off to sleep. Yet, I pause before I get off the chair and finally hit the bed. I click on Windows Music Player and decide to listen to the song "Luka Chuppi" from the movie Rang De Basanti...again.

I do not know what it is about this song, but right from the time I've heard it, it refuses to stop playing over and over again in my mind. The strumming of the guitar, the beats of the tabla and the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and A. R. Rahman make it an unbelievable song to listen to. Hats off to Prasoon Joshi; he has achieved the impossible in expressing in his lyrics the love and care that a mother has for her son.

On hearing the lyrics for the first time, I thought that the song might be talking of the love of the motherland that an expatriate might have. But the beautiful manner in which the song was picturised in the movie, I could not help but smile in the darkened cinema hall. Smile... while there were tears in my eyes. God only knows what powers of self-control made me stop tears streaming down my face when I saw the silent stare of Waheeda Rehman, a shattered mother who has lost her son.

Luka Chuppi bahut huyi saamne aa ja naa
Kahan kahan dhoonda tujhe
thak gayi hai ab teri maa

Aaja saanjh hui mujhe teri fikar
Dhundhla gayi dekh meri aa ja na

(Enough of playing hide-and-seek, come forth now;
I have searched everywhere for you
And I am tired now

It is evening time
And look, my vision is blurred with tears; come forth now)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Summer placement done

My summer placement got finalised today in 'Business Standard', a business daily newspaper.

Check out: ; or

Marketing project.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mom, I've grown up naa...

Hi i got engaged today.

The SMS made me stop in my tracks. What? G got engaged? She is a college friend, and just the other day we were roaming the streets of Calcutta; aimlessly wandering in the Presidency College compound during their fest; getting worried about college examinations; getting nervous and excited as Valentine's Day was about to arrive, and now all of a sudden.. "I got engaged today"?

I immediately called her up and conveyed my heartiest congratulations (sheesh!! That sounds so cliched). When did it all happen? Well, in a matter of 2 days flat. Wow! Talk about Indians on the move. How did it happen?

His parents met me yesterday. My parents met him today morning. I met him in the evening. We all agreed. I got engaged. Ring ceremony in a few days, marriage in a months' time.

Zap! If only our politicians could agree in a similar manner to modernise the ancient airports of our country which are in shambles. Consider what the situation would then be like.

Aviation minister: We met the interested investors yesterday. They filed their proposals today morning. We went through them in the afternoon. We announced the results in the evening. We all agreed. So-and-so company starts works in a few days; airport modernised in a few years' time.

However, one realisation has just hit home.

We're quickly getting older. We're supposed to be mature individuals (I consider it as fit to consider myself mature as I consider Atal Behari Vajpeyee to win India a Gold in 100m in the next Olympics). We're no longer kids who could turn towards their parents and ask for help, monetary or otherwise. Apne pairon pe khade hone ka waqt aa gaya hai. We're adults now. (NOT in that sense, stupid! Of course I knew that the moment I turned 18, I had reason to be conscious of the fact. Every year tonnes of us wait to actually become 'eligible' to watch adult movies.) But now, we're expected to take care of ourselves. WOW!!

I don't give a damn.. Now that I've grown up, I'm immediately calling up Mom n Dad to tell them to give me more pocket money for my expenses here. "Mummyyyyyyyyyyyy....."