Saturday, May 19, 2007

The art of report writing

I know! You are thinking shouldn’t it be the science of report writing? How come I have classified it as art? Well it just takes about an year of B school living to bring you to this stage. You realize there are some things that can be done methodically, mechanically just like filling up some bland template. But there are others, where your creativity comes forth, like a specialist chef preparing a mouth watering delicacy or an expert sculptor chilling out the finer nuances of some classic statue. Report writing my friends, is in the same league of fine arts.

Now once you land in a B school you realize that you are dishing out reports left, right and centre life never before. So after honing my skills on it for over a year what are the tricks of the trade I can pass on? After all these should be some method to the madness.

Primary research is waste, trust only copy paste!

Every MBA student has a God. No, it aint Kotler, it aint Warren Buffet or George Soros. It is some thing far beyond the reach of these lesser mortals. The tiny little idea in the heads of Sergy Brin and Larry Page today is the mother of all gyan today. Google my friends, is the answer to all problems. Believe it or not sometimes you will get the entire report that you have to prepare online, neat and ready to be downloaded. If you aren’t that lucky, don’t fret. There is always some para, some figure, some table, and some data that will fit into your scheme of things. Its just about the super googling skills that will come into play. Once you learn the art of googling my friend, there is no stopping your juggernaut.

Mole hills to mountains

There is no denying the fact that what you are putting in the report is the most mundane, oft repeated bull shit that everyone in your class has put in. So what makes you special? What is your USP? It’s simple! Exaggerate! Till the last full stop you put on your report make use of every possible opportunity to blow the scope. An innocuous table is made into a ‘comprehensive database’; a simple source of data is transformed into ‘well-ground research’; a simple method is labeled as a ‘storyboard approach’; ordinary people from the corporate world are promoted to ‘opinion leaders of the industry’! And believe me it works. No one wants a run of the mill non entity! A humdinger you expect; a humdinger you shall get!

Charts, tables, figures….and all that jazz

All MBAs feel insecure without quant stuff! It’s a disease if you ask me. It’s like a muddles lover going on one knee and saying “Darling, you complete me!” Every report will have a atleast have a couple of tables, some great diagrams, flowcharts, eye popping list of references and a truckload of number crunching. It doesn’t matter if it’s relevant to the topic or not! I know how to use the most complex excel functions and I am going to show off!

Chitti Chiiti Bang Bang!

An AK 47 can fire some hundred rounds in a second they. A MBA grad is worse. Bullet points spill across the pristine white paper like there is no tomorrow. Some wiseguy must have told in some communications class that the approach should be objective. So there you go! Every page has like a main heading, sub headings, sub topics under the subheadings and points under every subheading! I don’t even want to talk about the indentation. I think if there is some statistic similar to MIPS, maybe MBPR, millions of bullet points per report!

Just a little seasoning of Jargon!

Why do you think Chicken Tikka Masala is almost the national dish of UK? It’s spicy and its popular. If your report is the chicken breast, then the jargon my friend is the masala. Moving up the value chain, understanding the customer, minimizing turn around time, optimum utilization of resources, minimizing risk, change management…. It’s a shamelessly long list that is the bread and butter of every student. I really pity the profs who look at these reports (or do they?) Every year the same jargon, from every student, in every report, across all subjects! Man! It should be a pain going through them year after year!

It’s all in the packaging honey!

Double line page borders, delicate colors on excel sheets, fancy fonts, justifies paras, pivot tables, immaculate table of contents…you will get the most fancy of reports to the hilt. I some times wonder was more effort put on the report writing or the packaging. The popular proverb goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. Let’s not talk about reports!

So that was the inside info about “the art of report writing” .Do you think you have it in you to be an artist as well? No issues. Just join a B school!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


We were ten of to start with. Then Lamp had something coming up, Kouki fell ill, Amshu had an emergency, Koba had work and Bobby had relatives coming home. So it was left to only five of us. Vishwas, my cousin, his classmate Deepak, both of them doctors just passing out of college, Dubuk my pal from IBM, Muppy from the good ole TCS days and yours truly. And the mission set to conquer was Kumara Parvata, Karantaka's highest peak.
Muppy and I

We set out on Friday night on a KSRTC bus to Kukke Subramanya. Kukke is one of the holy places of Karantaka and happens to be the base point for the trek. It was a herculean task getting tickets for the bus as no other private operator had buses going to Kukke. Later we came to know that the main road connecting to Kukke was broken some where and a deviation had to be taken. Boy and what a deviation it was. The bus went through ponds, dirt tracks, marshes and everything else but a road. Having got only the seats at the end of the bus, the faithful friends of mine decided it would be a fitting tribute to me if I sat in the last row. So to everybody who wished me a nice journey, I just want to say I enjoyed every bit of the ride, the half when I was on the seat and the other half where I was in the air.

The peak

Having reached Kukke by around 7 in the morning we should have started the trek right away. But all we wise men decided to take a room and freshen up. So thus went the costliest loo break of my life, paying 400 bucks for a mere 1.5 hr stay. We started the trek around 9 in the morning, our half way pit stop being Bhattara mane ( Bhat's house). The peak can be reached by two routes, one via Kukke and the other being Somarpet. The kukke trail is supposed to be the steeper and obviously harder of the two. The trail runs right through the dense junfle to start with. Even at 9 in the morning the humidity levels were so high with the jungle all five of us were sweating like steam engines in no time. The high humidity coupled with the heavy backpacks was just the perfect combination to drain every ounce of fluid in our bodies. The good doctors prepared ORS and all kinds of energy boosters only to realize its not so easy to beat the mountain. I have been on treks before but nothing insane like this before. There is no freaking respite from the the slope. No flat lands, no breathing space, no nothing. It just keeps throwing steep paths one after the other with no mercy. As they say only the fools rush in! On the way we overtook a bunch of people who had left some time before us. Every one of them were wearing the same brigt orange T shirt with "Cobrosis" written in bold letter across. We guessed they must be with some adventure team only to come to know later that they were all members of the same family and Cobrosis stood for Co brothers and sisters. Talk about a weird world!

For the man who doesnt have to try, too hard

The jungle after some time opens up into a grasslands which means that although the humidity reduces the there is no canopy on the top to shield us from the sun. With rains having started just around a fortnight ago the grass was looking fresh, but during October/November the whole place looks like a golf course. Unfortunately this being May and the peak of the summer, the situation was quite different. And if you are Mr.Dubuk weighing 110 Kgs and having a 15Kilo bag on your back life almost comes to a standstill on the trek. I have lost count the number of times he proclaimed on the way that this would be the last trek that he would ever be on. Next time we would be heading somewhere cooler and and on road! The rest of us were managing a normal pace but for Mr. Deepak. We thought his brain was sending him signals that he was strolling through some flower garden or some thing and he just used to climb like a mountain goat with the minimum of effort. And just to hurt our egos a little bit more we got overtaken by a lungi clad guy from the forest department climbing up with Hawaii slippers and 20 kilos rice on his shoulder. But despite all these, its always a pleasure to trek. To listen to the sound of the leaves being crushed below your feet, the constant egging of the crickets, the occasional chirping of the birds, your breath so loud it could wake Rip van winkle and head so clear you can listen to your thoughts aloud. No pain no gain!

Friendly neighborhood spider, man!

Finally we manged to make it to Bhattara mane, the half way point. For over thirty years these people have stayed here giving food, shelter and water to people who have been trekking up the mountain. There were already three other groups of trekkers there. Twenty odd students from RV college, a bunch of 9 guys from Bangalore and 3 others who had started the trek along with us. For a mere thirty rupees you will get the most unforgettable lunch of your lives. Steaming rice, hot sambar, clear buttermilk and pickles. They say a drowning man catches a straw. i believe in that. You should have seen us hogging that day.

Now we were left with the tricky question. Weather to camp up in the peak or to stay there. To climb up and return here by nightfall was impossible. If we had trekked up to the peak we were told that we had to face the fury of the inevitable rains and wind. Like wise men we had only sleeping bags and no tents! And with Muppy running a slight fever we were left with no other option but to halt there and start the remaining trek the next morning. But with 25 people already staying over in the house at night we had no place to stay. So went a little ahead to request to the forest department guards to let us stay over at their outpost. And i should say it was one of the most beautiful locations that one could over imagine. The door opening to the view of the majestic peaks in the front, covered by milk white mist playing hide and seek with the mountains, sprawling green grass to cover the the whole area and a pretty flower bed right next to the house. I dont know for how many hours we sat there just staring at the view and trying to absorb each second of the peace and beauty that it offered.

Near Bhattara Mane

It grew dark by around 6 30 and we had a nice little dinner thanks to the Holige Vishwas's mom had sent and of course some ever so convenient bread and jam. The group who had decided to trek and stay over at the top returned by around eight, unable to face the wrath of the lashing rain and the danger of lightning strikes. The wind they said was so hard that it blew away twenty kilo stones that they had used to put up the tents. So, there went our night out plans, in sleeping bags inside the house! Of course the guy sleeping next me ensured that his symphony of snores kept me awake all night but still it was to hard to keep the eyes open.

The next morning we all set out early around 6 30. The mist was all over the tracks and the dew sitting on every possible corner of the grass blades. The weather was just perfect for our climb and we made a good pace.But it was the same old story. Steep paths and no respites! It was a funny feeling trekking up then cause your body is so heated up because of the constant climbing and the weather around is freezing cold. A thermometer on our skins would have got muddled up in no time if we had tried. We reached this place called the Mantapa by around 9 to catch out breaths. We were on good time considering that we had a bus to catch at night and it would rain like crazy from evening. Muppy had recovered from his fever only to pass it on to Dubuk. He was finding it almost impossible to climb even when the weather was great and he had no backpack to carry. We just had to ensure that there was someone with him always while climbing. From the mantapa it took us around an hour to reach Shesha parvata. Its like a cruel joke actually. After the life taking trek you feel that you have reached the top only to realize that its a a false peak! Infact most first timers trek back after they reach this point. But it is a fantastic point to be on. The whole place was covered with clouds and mist and it offered some breath taking views.

The gang sans Dubuk

We had to climb down Shesha parvata to reach the actual peak. Now this trek is through a jungle again. But there is a difference! While the jungle we trekked initially was hot and humid this was cool and damp. And when it is damp and you have vegetation on the ground get ready for leeches. The slimy bastards were there everywhere. They keep standing vertically on end and other swaying around in the air sniffing for idiots like us who would cross the path. And they latch on to you in a fraction of a second. If they latch on, you wouldnt even know cause they inject something like local anesthetics. Only when they have sucked your blood to their hearts content, bloated up to about five times their size and fall off you will realize they bit you cause the wound will still be bleeding! It really pays to wear white socks and shoes there cause you can easily spot them. But the issue is that if you stop to remove one that has climbed up, the rest will get on to your other shoe! Its crazy! The only option there is, is to literally run! And with a slight incline, heavy backpacks, thinner air and legs that have decided to fall apart it is a brilliant trick that the mountain plays on you. The leechy forest we termed it. Ingenious i know! A scientist from the Tata institute got lost in these jungles quite recently and it took them 6 days to find him. He was covered from head to toe with leeches and had they found him a day later he would have been dead.

The Leechy forest

Having crossed the forest we reached a rocky climb that we had to cross, accompanied with a tricking stream. The summit was quite disappointing actually. The mountain is so huge that the peak is actually flat land and offers no pretty views to enjoy. And with mosquitoes the size of golf balls biting through the shirts we had to scoot quite quickly. But among all the groups that were there we felt proud as we were the only two who made it to the complete summit and were the first ones to do so! On the trek back we had to again run through the leechy forest to save our lives. Muppy in fact ran so fast we all decided that he must have royal blood which should not be split on the ground. We met Cobrosis gang at the rocky path and half the RV gang at the mouth of the forest. They decided it was too risky to go thought the forest and also it was already twelve in the noon. So they decided to trek back with us.

The summit

The trek back up to the mantapa was swift and purposeful. On reaching the place we met a bunch of frenzied people from the RC gang who wanted to know who the doctor was. One of them had fallen down unconscious and was having what seemed like severe convulsions! Vishwas and Deepak immediately got into action and took control of the situation. It was surely not fits they declared and the only thing to do was to wait for him to wake up as he was in his REM sleep. After a frantic half an hour he woke up to the relief of everybody. A quick check up reveled that he was alright except that there was no vision perception in his right eye. Vishwas was worried cause he had fallen to his right and hence his vision on the left eye should have been affected. Since it was his right eye he suspected something more serious was the case and advised them to immediately take him down and get a scan. Its was really amazing to watch the whole thing. Just a bunch of kids who were with us goofing around talking bullshit like everyone suddenly transform into a someone who gives hope and meaning to so many people. For once in life I felt,damn this engineering degree has got me no where.

Gimme ur blood and I shall gv u freedom

Among all this confusion we had lost an hour and were terribly behind schedule. Dubuk meanwhile who was behind all of us had taken another path in an intersection and had by passed the Mantapa! With fever and a body not cooperating for a second he was on his own with no water and no cap! Poor guy was so thirsty that he manged to lay his hand on a straw lying on the road and drink some water from a puddle on the road!! Boy! he wont forget his trek in a long while! It was 3 45 by the time we reached Bhattara mane, had lunch and started out again.

Wanna jump?

The trek down we hoped would be quicker than the ascent. But what did we know! With the toes bearing the brunt of the body weight while getting crushed within the shoes, the knees taking constant pressure during the heavy descents and the ankles for ever in the mercy of the stones in the path, it was a whole new deal! And with Dubuk finding it just impossible to get down it was a slow painful trek down.The more time we lost we knew the treat of getting caught in the the rain was higher. But the poor guy was in shape to step up the pace. And the inevitable happened. For people who dont know, it just doesnt rain in these parts of the country, it just pisses down like there is no tomorrow! And we had no option but to continue on the wet rocks, fading light and unforgiving rain! By the time we hit the main road and the hotel it was six thirty and we were all soaked to the bone! With all clothes in the bag wet as well we had no option but to travel again in the night with the dripping clothes, And I dont even want to talk about the night journey (which again was in the last seats of the bus), the roads or the lack of them!

The proof!

I am sitting here now two days later with blisters on my feet, pain so high in my thighs and calves that I am unable to climb down a couple of stairs straight! Will I get on such a trek again? Bet your last cent that I will! There are few joys in the world than going up an mountain and coming down.

To all those who were with me in the trek, guys! this was undoubtedly the best trek I was ever on. And to those who couldnt, I say, sorry guys, it was your bad luck!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Missed Blogathon?

Its been a while since I have blogged. And what is the reason for that you may ask. I have loads of lame excuses to give. No Time, I am doing my MBA or I utilize my time better doing more productive work or some crap like that. But to be honest there are no excuses. Its just plain sloth. So what do I blog about I am wondering. So much has happened over the past one year, I dont know where to start and where to end? What to include and what to leave out? Its all such a blur.

Do I talk about the zillion tests I have given and how I have managed to scrape through the first year of my post graduation? Do I talk about birthday celebrations and the crazy life in the hostel that I am seeing for the first time in my life? Do I talk about Acad groups and assignments? Do I talk about reading case studies till 3 in the morning and then going for a cup of Horlicks and bland maggi. Do I talk about 3 crazy days in Lonavala in all the rain and slush? Do I talk about the Geeta, Swamijis and horrible loos? Do i talk about the one many army called Baba Amte and his vision? Do I talk about the Guild of actors @ SP? Of Kamala, Jai singh, rehearsals, lights and action? Do I talk about Placcom, MFOI and the control room? Do I talk about the magic of ADMAP, the Nanavathi hospital and the six thinking hats? Do I talk about my nirvana and an event called Bhavitva, the stage and CEOs sitting on it? Do I talk about managed float exchange rates, Maslows hierarchy, capital budgeting or buzz marketing? Do i talk about the Mumbai rains? Do i talk about the NCPA and the Marine drive? Do i talk about Lokhandwala and Infinity mall? Do i talk about Vrindi and hot vadas? Do i talk about Andheri Sports Complex and advance booking? Do I talk about the many brilliant movies I have managed to watch or do I talk about the magic of IP messenger? Do I talk about the tonnes of new friends I have made? Do I talk about highs and lows, the pains and the pleasures? Do i talk about what the past gave me or what the future holds? Do I talk about ........ I rather shut up!