Sunday, September 07, 2008

a summer wedding

Heck Mirko, I could hate you. Well, almost. You made me cry twice at your wedding. And that is when everything was in Deustche & I didn’t understand a word being spoken.

But I guess that’s what it is about. There are some moments that have no language barriers and this was a wedding to prove it. Beautiful, simple and warm. It was, by far, one of my most memorable evenings in Berlin.

The church on a cliff by the lake. Sigh. Drinking Proseco in the garden in the church on a cliff by the lake. Double sigh.

Of course, Mirko, honey, you were so pretty - that made it even more beautiful!

Carnations with your name on it, soap bubbles, strawberries & cream, dancing with your girlfriends to retro music (fantastic by the way, compliments to the DJ please) at a summer wedding. This is stuff that Hollywood movies are made of ~ such was the evening of 26 July, 2008.

To quote Emily Dickinson:

It’s such a little thing to weep,
So short a thing to sigh;

And yet by trades the size of these

We men and women die!

To Jana & Mirko ~ Herzlichen Glückwunsch und viel Glück!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

bacchanalian life

There’re ironies about doing an MBA in a city that was once at the heart of socialist communist pride.

Yeah, no one will tell you that you led a dull life, at least.

You wake up in the morning, you gulp a coffee down & manage to reach a 9 AM class, even though you don’t really feel alive till after the first break. But even this terribly exciting life, replete with cracking case analysis by 6 PM the previous eve needs some food for thought.

If it’s 1 Mai in Berlin, there’s enough to go around.

In Kreuzberg, especially. Where Beck is the official sponsor of Mayday. Or so it seems. You roam around Kotbusser Tor, in search of a revolution. But unlike this good fella, you are on the wrong side of the left side.


Anarchists, punks, rebels – where are they? Down the streets of Kreuzberg – there men making bar-be-que, pretty young girls selling Mojitos & folks are swinging to deutsche hip-hop.

Despite everything though, you know there’s hope. Because there’s a sense of humor.

In the unconscious capitalistic soul of the revolutionary.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our intuition is not Rational!

6 weeks ago, I read this piece by Robert Rubin – an optional reading for the beginning for the Decision Making class.

“…the intellectual framework through which I viewed everything that came my way, including the decision-making that has been the critical core of my professional life, both on Wall Street and in government. … I believe that decision-making will be at the core of your lives, too, no matter what you do. The only question will be how well you make those decisions.”

Just for these words, this reading should be made mandatory. Not just for a course in Decision Making, not just for an MBA degree, but for life itself.

12 years ago, as an undergraduate student of Physics, I learnt that logic and philosophy are two sides of the same coin. Over time, I forgot about it.

Cut to 2008. Berlin. ESMT. A 2-credit course in Decision Making. Exam day. Last class with Francis De Vericout.

Six minutes after the test, I was pissed off. If I had only 20 more minutes, I could’ve cracked it. Heck, I wanted to crack it and I hate myself when I know I could’ve but never did so. And I didn't want to disappoint the professor.

13 minutes post the test, I read Robert Rubin again. I was wise once more (at least for a while).

Ah hindsight.

Like with most special things in life (and thus so with Decision Making, our point being very obvious here!), it is the journey that is the destination. When I told my brother about the class, he cheekily retorted, “ I hope you can now be trusted not to take the stupid decisions like you used to”. Ouch. Well, we’ll see.

Well, it was a steep learning curve. But I think and hope, a relatively permanent one. I hate to admit it, but over the last few years I’ve seen complacency creep over like moss. There was comfort and inertia.


Empirical studies indicate that training in decision analysis is correlated positively with general aptitude to make sound decisions and can prevent common decision traps.

So, I’m hoping to be a part of the sample that continues to prove the above!

Some philosophies can give us the means of determining and understanding choices, responsibility, and consequences to behavior – it is up to us take what we can. And so long as the net pay off is positive, and there’s happiness associated with it, it was a journey that was well worth it.

The module on decision making gets firmly classified here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Christ, this cold!

Layers. For legs, body, arms and head.

The trick to keep yourself toasted. I need to figure out how to do so, without looking like a ball of wool on legs.

I walk around on the cold streets of Berlin and it’s all I can do to stop staring at women. Tall, svelte, immaculately dressed – though completely covered from head to toe – look simply stunning.

Darn this poor student life. I need a personal shopper and a stylist.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Warmly Welcome to the Delegation of ESMT

We meet. We talk. We’re all dressed in business suits. We all look nice.

31 of us. 15 different nationalities. Average age of 30.5 years. Average work experience of 6.5 years.

There. We’re done with the statistics of it. We’ve even gone through the fun and formality of introducing ourselves. But as the Dean gives his opening speech and raises a toast to the class of 2008, we look ahead and afar – some searching, some in anticipation, all wondering in some way or the other – how this year will turn out. A few of us will find friends where we never expected do, while some, even in a small group like ours, may remain strangers.

For me, this year might just make me push my limits more than I ordinarily do. Low temperatures, open spaces and no crowds I am not used to. A whole year away from friends, family, ostensible work responsibilities, people I love, people who love me – it is inevitably a year of freedom. A year to experience and live. May be learn some.

Maybe I will learn to cook me a meal, or maybe I will just learn to survive on really cold fresh air (any love? uh oh) and 3.5% fett Vollmilch. Eitherways – I think this year will make an impact on our lives. On 31 lives, if you will.


Stammtisch. Has a nice ring to it. Exactly the kind of thing I’d like to casually mention – Sunday’s no good for me, I’ve a Stammtisch to go to.

A tradition started by a couple of batch-mates, way back in August, it’s a lovely way to meet fellow students and alumni before the formal classes begin. Almost like getting a head start – a prive into knowing who and what you’re up against.

There were about ten of us tonight and a couple of folks from the previous batch. A pleasant evening, coke light and bier were nursed, as we asked questions and gave answers. I do hope at least some of us continue to be this nice to each other!

It is the Germans, the Berliners who continue to surprise me. All of them, very friendly, genuinely so and most decisively, have an awesome sense of humour. One of them went on to sagely advice us on not becoming ‘Germanized’, especially when things go wrong & are stressful – try to be like Indians and South Americans – learn to let go and find another solution.

It’s relieving to see people laugh at themselves. Especially the Germans! And I have to say – corny as it may sound – the warmth of the Berliners takes the edge of the cold in Berlin!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

local & lousy banking

It would be apt to start with wishes and greetings and all the luck for the New Year.

Instead, I’ll leave that for the world to figure it out for itself.

Right now, I’d like to talk about the world’s local bank. That in reality treats its customers in a ‘local’ manner. Here goes:

A month ago HSBC assured me that if I put in one lakh with their bank, they’d invest it further for me, assuring awesome returns. In return, I get a ZERO balance account, which I can use as I please.

So I obliged. Two weeks later, I’m happy – I see my money invested, I get regular junk communication from them, I open an online account and I feel so powerful and clever at having put my money in professional hands.

Alas, we fall victim to ‘lousy internal/external communications, lack of clarity on management policies’. And as usual, it is the small investor, which in this case, moi, who is left in anguish.

Two days before I am supposed to leave the country for a year, there are frantic calls from HSBC informing me that I’m too lowly to have a ZERO balance, Power Vantage account. Nope, I’m not rich enough. Either I put in another one lakh, or I forfeit all the advantages that accompany the powerful banking product.

Let’s not forget here, that the bank knows that I’ve taken a break, I’m a student now and I invested my savings with them for the period that I’ll be studying. But they don’t cut any slack to the customer, even if it is their fault at not having their policies communicated to me right at the very beginning. Forget that, internally they prefer to keep their front line employees in the dark about their products & services.

The premise of a good investment lies in acting on reliable information – in this case, the bank lacks this crucial information flow. So, should I trust them with my hard earned money?

Unfortunately, I don’t have anytime. I fly out tomorrow, so I’m obliged to hurriedly cut a cheque of 25000/- and the bank demotes me to a ‘MASS MARKET’ bank account. Ouch!

One thing’s for sure, once I get my MBA and earn an obscene pay packet – this bank gets no share of my pie.