Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Graduation Rations

Now that we’re all set to enter the big bad world of corporate business and hang our consciences along with last night’s pyjamas as we head out for the day’s work, a couple of memos from the past few years of my life come to mind.

(Note that since some of these did take place eons ago, I will not be producing them in verbatim and in fact will be making some of the parts up, just to add effect. The essence, however, is still preserved.)

The first memo I heard only a year ago from an incredibly distinguished IIM alumnus who was delivering a speech to a rapt audience of soon-to-be-IIM-alumni. During his conversation with them, he was asked several questions, one of them being what, according to him, were the shortcomings, if any, in the MBA system in India when compared to the rest of the world. The esteemed Alumni replied that he felt that there was a marked lack of emphasis on health and physical fitness in institutes across the country. We have the best minds, the best facilities, but for some reason there is barely any awareness much less approval when it comes to running five times around a small field every day for the sake of longevity. And chain smokers, alcoholics-on-weekends, junk-foodies, alcoholics-after-ten-pm, unhealthy canteen food (not the mess), no little love for ordering big chunks of cheesy pizzas in, these were all abundant in the past two years of my life.

Not that I’m complaining mind you – which is probably the guy’s point in the first place.

The second bit comes from a continent away and was brought to my attention by the voodoo child. It was the eve of said child’s graduation from school (they call it 'graduation there, I suppose, even though she was only eighteen) and her Economics (or was it Philosophy and English?) professor was delivering the speech to the outgoing batch. Among the several things he said, one pearl follows. He started off by talking about a hypothetical situation. “Say you were given three hundred thousand Euros and were told to spend all of it (no saving, this was before saving became savvy). Of the many things you could do is buy a Hummer. Now a Hummer is massive. There are villages in Tibet that are smaller than a single Hummer. But it’s sexy (again, this is 2004), it’s cool, and it gives you about five miles to the gallon. Or, you could take that money and spend half of it on a weekend skiing vacation and still have enough left over to but the latest hybrid vehicle that while not being as powerful as the Hummer will still be more than enough equine muscle to get you around on your daily chores and not make a big black puddle in the middle of Alaska somewhere. The point is this. Money talks. Let your money speak for you.”

He then proceeded to crack several incredibly inane jokes in Latin which you and I are both better off not recalling.

The last memo came recently. It was during our very own convocation speech. The chairman of our institute's board stepped up to the podium and began recounting the time when he was in our shoes, graduating with an MBA (albeit in another country). He said that there are would be several things going through our minds, as indeed there were. There we were, being handed the world on a veritable platter. All of us ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead. Our chairman could have spoken about anything; he could have spoken about ethics in business and not letting go of one’s principles, about being environmentally friendly and caring about others and the state of the lesser fortunate than we were and other such David Copperfield crap (yes I had to use that line). You could almost say it was expected of him; but he didn’t. Instead, he summed it all up perfectly by simply reminding us of the people sitting just behind us, hidden from the glare of the flashes from the photographers and the stares from the cameras, all vying to capture us in our robed splendour. The ones without whom all of this wouldn’t have been remotely possible and, while we were the ones shining in our moment of glory, they were the ones who had been with us every time we were down in the mud. Our parents. The chairman said “as I graduated, the only thing on my mind was how to make my parents proud. The rest all follows from that” ... or something to that effect.

Later people found the speech more than a little ironical, given the facts which we all know. But it was true nonetheless.

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