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Archive for February, 2007

The day I agreed to get married

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 28, 2007

[PS (Pre-script): The text has been edited to make it fit for under 21s. No effort has been made to protect anybody from embarrasment to make it “sound as real as possible”. No attempt has been made to make people tickle. Any humour, if at all, is inherent¬†in the content. Any joke at anybody’s expense is purely coincidental.¬†This is account of an actual¬†event which I have used to present a “fictional” conversation¬†between me and my dad. This is how most conversation of this nature goes in real life. My dad was generous and I¬†turned lucky. I didn’t have to go through this.This has been broken in to two parts to¬†account for the short attention span of today’s generation, me being one of them.]

All my fallen comrades had told me that their life after marriage has changed for better or for worse. Not in position to analyse the statement objectively, I requested them to elaborate. They didn’t. I had heard that ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. With no opportunity in sight to fake my intelligence, I decided to think. I thought hard about the conversation I had with my dad during my trip to India, Bihar to be specific,¬†about couple of weeks ago.The context in this case justifies a mention of the background and merits some space for it¬†felt like a cruel joke at that¬†point. It was worse.¬†It was a well-thought plan devised at getting the desired result, by hook (read: emotion) or crook (read: force). ¬†

Me, my brother, mom and my dad were returning from Deoghar,¬†a religious place in Bihar. Trip was made to acknowledge god’s contribution in my recently achieved professional success. The trip was 250kms long (from Darbhanga to Deoghar) and we were anticipating to clock atleast 10 hours to get there considering the condition of¬†the roads, where there was one. We got there late in the evening that day feeling very religious with the general concensus amongst¬†us of some kind of¬†divine presence in the air.¬†Complaining¬†about the roads would have been a grave sin considering the troubles people go through to show their faith. (Background:¬†People walk 100kms from Sultanganj, a place in Bihar on the banks of river Ganga, to Deoghar¬†barefoot!¬†Time to boast:¬†I have¬†made this trip twice. Although, I wonder if I realised at that point the generally perceived significance of it or was it just the sense of adventure. I was just 11 then.)¬†¬†After paying our respects next morning, we started on our journey back amost certain that all this pain was worth it as we managed to stay in the temple longer (4 minutes) than usual (1 minute) due to the relatively less number of devotees, that being the “off-season”. I was driving with my brother seated next to me, mom and dad¬†having occupied the¬†seats at the back.¬†¬†The rear-view mirror made sure that I didn’t forget their presence with my dad keeping an eye on the speedometer to check if it stayed within the “safe” range¬†despite being¬†confident with my inability to go beyond it due to impecabbly destroyed roads which ensured that even a four feet wide car was not able to escape the reality of the road condition.¬†I don’t consider myself to be foul-mouthed, always in control of my emotions. But, I was getting overdose of reality. Bumps were so regular that¬†I had¬†almost¬†got used to it. Well, thats what I thought till I spilled something which made my dad say, ” how do¬†you expect these roads to be fixed in one day? Thats how it was yesterday, isn’t it? In fact it has been this way for years. This is not London.” which was enough to suggest the standard I was to expect for the remainder of my journey.¬†I decided to keep quiet trying to see the positive side¬†of all this and thought¬†it could have¬†been worse. It¬†did turn¬†worse.

Dad: So, what kind of girl will you like to get married to?

‘What???’ I thought in my head and decided to keep quiet hoping that it was some¬†figment of my imagination¬†or it will slowly fade away in all these car bumps and the¬†priority of the conversation will change. Didn’t work.

Dad: Say something for god’s sakes!

It was for real! My dad was thinking of my marriage!

(Continued here .)

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Posted in Bihar, India, Me | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Hack Your Brain!

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 22, 2007

In my previous post I discussed how scientists are closing on to our secrets by developing the capability to read our mind. Really, who and what we are right up to the smallest of details is defined by our brain. If thats the case, is it possible to fine tune our brain, recalibrate it, just like we would fix a sick machine. Yes. Super famous Mr Scott Adams (the guy who created Dilbert) hacked in to his brain to fix his complete loss of speech. And a stunning ongoing story of a kid named Caleb suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder is going through numerous classes designed to help him recalibrate his brain. His brain at the moment is one-dimensional incapable of multi-tasking. The blog says,

Caleb lives in the abstract, because the concrete world just doesn’t mean much to him. He is the epitome of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes; reality competes with (and often loses to) his vivid imagination.

Posted in Biology, Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Whats on your mind? Others will know it. Soon.

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 18, 2007

Recently another scientific breakthrough was announced in which scientists claim to being on path to predictingwhats on somebody’s mind ¬†based on some brain scans. As always, and not surprisingly, it is being discussed if this can be used to curb crime by predicting criminal intent. People are also playing with the idea of using this in court as legal evidence.

How can somebody’s intent be ever proved in the court based on these scans? Don’t our legal system work on the theory of “beyond reasonable doubt”?

That aside we are very close to proving one point. We are merely biological objects following the rules set by our genes. Thats not a surprise as we always knew that. However, being able to predict one’s behaviour accurately does make it a bit different. There have been arguments made in favour of prevention of wrong doings based on predictions of these scans rather then to punish the wrong doer after the crime has been committed. It is said that¬†criminal intent is merely a result of biological signals triggered in certain environmental conditions. As we are knowing more and more about these signals and the factors that trigger them leading to criminal behaviour or otherwise, the whole theory of free-will is being questioned. Science everyday is getting closer to proving us as a biological being dancing¬†to the tune of¬†these strings. Once we manage to discover the relation between these strings, we will be able to generate our own Minority Report (2002 blockbuster in which criminal behaviour is predicted to stop crime from being committed).

It is said that we blow these scientific discoveries and inventions out of proportion to excite ourselves but, it has seldom stopped us from wondering.

Posted in Biology, Controversy, Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Racists or Emotional?

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 8, 2007

Shilpa Shetty won¬†the reality show Big Brother and received whopping 63% of votes. It would have been¬†interesting to find whether those 63% of votes she received was due to people of Indian ethnic origin in UK (about 3 million people of Indian origin live in UK) flooding the show with¬†calls or was it a gesture from the general British public to let Indians (and others)¬†know that they don’t¬†condone shocking remarks made by Jade Goody and her fellow housemates. In either case, it does make you wonder whether remarks made echoes the sentiment of large section of British society. Education teaches us to be tolerant but, emotions¬†more often than not¬†has the final say. So, was that just an isolated outburst or does it go far deeper than that.

I have been in UK for more than five years (four years as student)¬†but apart from isolated heated exchange have had quite a pleasant stay. However, recently¬†India has made its presence felt on the global map by being one of the fastest growing¬†economy and has taken big strides in most sectors.¬†But, with stories of Indian success¬†( Tata taking Corus,¬†Shilpa Shetty¬†winning Big Brother etc’) flashing across the television screens, sentiments are bound to take over. It is further compounded by the fact that major section of this demographic share the belief that Indian economic surge has been at the expense of US and European economy.

Well, I am not ignorant enough to call them racist but it will not be entirely misplaced to call them emotional.

Posted in Controversy, India | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Attraction

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 7, 2007

Following is an extract from Atlas Shrugged– the book I am reading right now, by Ayn Rand (yes, the Fountainhead Ayn Rand!). I won’t trivialise it by trying to explain it. Just read.

“A man’s sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions…who a man finds sexually attractive¬† can tell his entire philosophy. Who a man sleeps with can tell his valuation of himself. No matter what corruption he’s taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act he cannot perform for any motive but his own enjoyment…It is an act that forces him to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and to accept his real ego as standard of value. He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience- or to fake- a sense of self-esteem. The man who is profoundly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer- because only the possession of heroine will give him the sense of achievement, not the possession of brainless slut. He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it. There is no conflict between the standards of his mind and the desires of his body. But, the man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to a woman he despises- because she will reflect his own self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value and a momentary escape from the moral code that damns him.”

And thats that! There are more extracts from this and other books to come.

Posted in Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Recruitment at Investment Banks

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 6, 2007

Investment Banks are notorious for their endless working hours and their strict recruitment process. Well, the former is mainly a myth if seen in context whereas the latter is there to ensure selection of candidates who have what it takes to excel – something that Investment Banks thrive on. I will in this post go through the stages a candidate has to go through for graduate positions in Investment Banks. Although I will outline the recruitment stages of Morgan Stanley in UK, it applies to all Investment Banks with some minor details changed which rarely changes the nature of preparation required.

Applications for Graduate hiring for most Investment Banks open in first week of September. Hiring for almost all of them takes place on rolling basis so apply early. However, merely applying early is not going to do the trick as there is no compromise on the criterias!

Some of the major Investment Banks are Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, UBS, JP Morgan, DrKW, Deustche Bank, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers. (For overseas nationals, these firms do apply for your work-permit if you are successful.)

First Stage: Fill online applications. There is no other way to apply. Forms are to be filled at their respective career websites. Online application can take considerable time. At least don’t submit your application in haste. Pay particular attention to the essay type questions which will be your chance to stand out at application stage. Remember, you are as good as you express! Think about the long answers for 3-4 days and refine it everyday. If possible, ask somebody to check your answers. Its no use filling 100s of applications and getting no interviews. It is always advised to concentrate on the quality rather than quantity.

Second Stage: Second stage (apart from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Deustche Bank) is online tests. Tests will be numerical and verbal. There are numerous practice tests around. Use Google to good effect.

First round of interviews: Morgan Stanley has two set of interviews, personal and technical. Personal interview is about your past experiences, team working and other soft-skills. I will talk in the context of applications to “Technology Division” as far as Technical Interview is concerned. You need to be comfortable in atleast one programming language for Morgan Stanley. They try to gauge scope and depth of your knowledge. Tip: Prepare couple of topics very well and direct the interview in that direction. Increase the scope of your technical knowledge but make sure that you know atleast couple of topics very well.During the interview show eagerness to learn. If there is something that you fail to answer, make sure you ask them the solution. Don’t keep falling over after saying “Yes, I know it!”. Technical interview is something that you can prepare for. Make sure you do it. More often than not, it is also your chance to stand out.

Assessment Center: For Morgan Stanley, it is a one and a half day exercise. For others, generally, it is a day’s process. First afternoon, you are likely to sit for Diagrammatic Reasoning. Make sure you practice these type of questions. They will send you a practice booklet but there are not many questions. It is advised to google for some more practice questions. You might be in for an unpleasant surprise if you don’t prepare for this. Rest of the evening is trip across the magnificent buildings and nice dinner with recent graduates and a senior executive.
Second day starts early. There are four activities. Technical Interview (Yes, another one!), Problem Solving, Role play and team working exercise.

Technical interview: It is pretty much the same. However, you will get different set of interviewers. Again, it might help to show the scope of your knowledge. If there is something that you know, give some sort of hint to direct your interview in that direction.

Problem Solving: You might find this most challenging. You will be provided with a case study. Based on the problem provided in the case study, you will have to ask questions to somebody who will have set of specific information. This exercise will indicate your problem solving skill based on what you thought was important piece of information for you to be able to solve the problem. Your nature of questions also give assessors idea of the level of your understanding of the problem. You will also get some time to make some recommendations and justify it. It will end up with the assessors providing you with missing piece of information, stuff that you were not able to retrieve during your questions round. You will be asked if you will like to change your recommendation in the light of new piece of information. Think, answer and justify. (Note that time-keeping is very important for this exercise. If you use all your time asking questions, you will not have time to prepare your recommendations and even present it!)

Role play: You will be asked to act as a consultant and prepare a recommendation for some sort of project etc’ based on some fictitious case study. You will need to discuss this with somebody who poses as the Project Manager. The idea here is to see how you cope with pressure, your ability to think on your feet etc’. The project manager will dismiss quite a few of your ideas deliberately and ‘act’ harsh. You will need to act calmly and try and come up with rational explanation for your recommendations.

Team Exercise: It is pretty much what you would expect. Tip: Don’t impose yourself, participate, let everybody speak, listen to what everybody says and make sure your participation is constructive!

Note: Please do not ask for specific case studies. It won’t help. Also, preoccupied mind compromises flexibility and your ability to think on your feet which is very important for the process. However, if there are any questions regarding the process itself, feel free to drop a comment. Also, don’t let the rigorous process put you off. Rigour is the only way to ensure selection of candidates who are responsible, accountable and have the aptitude to work in an environment where huge sums and company’s reputation is at stake.

(Please note that Investment Banks are always looking to improve their recruitment process as you would expect. Thus, structure might not remain same every year but, any changes should be minor. But, then it shouldn’t really matter if you have what they are looking for! And finally, opinion expressed in this post is mine and only mine.)

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Posted in Career | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Exploiting Subconscious

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 5, 2007

Have you ever wondered why in order to think, you have to stop thinking? Stop thinking here means, ‘actively’ thinking. Why do you get more ideas or thoughts when we are least bothered to think about it? Shower? Walk in the park? It is a proven fact (not literally!)¬†that subconscious mind is more powerful than¬† conscious mind. I find it so hard to switch my brain ‘off’ because my subconscious is always active without me having conscious knowledge of it. Here is a link to ‘Nature‘ magazine article (Read the synopsis if you don’t get complete access). This talks about brain activity when we are asleep. (Have you ever solved your Maths problem while you were asleep?)

The conscious mind captures a very detailed version of an event or situation, it will notice the colors, sounds etc. so it is too busy creating a very detailed construct. Where as the subconscious organizes information from the conscious mind w.r.t to the past and existing memory archive structure. It compares and contrasts events and new memories with old ones to archive. In that process it sees similarities and draws conclusions that the conscious mind cannot at least initially with all the clutter (Thanks buddy).

So, how can we exploit our subconscious? Tip: In order to comprehend a situation/problem better or to comprehend it all, let your conscious mind take it in, but let your subconscious mind work on it (Well said Tia, wherever you are). One should always have a pen and paper handy because most wonderful and brilliant thoughts come when you are least expecting it.

Its yours. Exploit it!

(This is an extract from one of my random posts in one of the random forums. )

Posted in Psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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