Thursday, December 29, 2005

Munich, King Kong, Narnia

Note: Not edited for spelling/grammar errors. Happy new year to you readers. Dont waste time making resolutions and crap like that. Just have fun. I am off to chick-aaa-goo

Munich: Steven Spielberg's Munich exceeded my expectations because my expectations were pretty low when I walked in. Spielberg has given some mediocre movies off-late that I didnt think he'd be able to break the rut. Its not as if he has come out with guns blazing and stuff like that, but Munich is a good movie. So I saw Daniel Craig, who is slated to play 007, drink martini and have sex with other women spies. I am beginning to like Eric Bana. He plays a reluctant unsure militant (thats essentially what he is) who later becomes too good for his own liking.

Its easy to read too much into the bigger picture of this cat & mouse game that Spielberg has developed here. The infinite loop of execution and replacement is the heart of this movie. It essentially brings out the futility of nations showing muscle power. Because of the way these covert operations are fragmented, it looks like there is buracracy in terrorism too, where the right hand does stuff without being aware of the other hand. Spielberg can't be accused of giving a biased view in this movie. Yeah, he is a jew and stuff, but I thought he developed the argument for both sides in a reasonable fashion. The argument between the PLO team leader and Eric Bana when they are ironically put in the same "safe house" is very very interesting.

There is a bunch of irony in this movie, as Eric Bana is driven to paranoia, we see the futulity of the whole effort. I understood the ending of the movie differently. I thought I got the story allright but there were people who were arguing endlessly about it. At the risk of sounding silly, i'll ask this - We see a caption that says 9 of the 11 targets were eventually eliminated. This does not mean they are the same 11 people who organized the Munich attack or does it? Because clearly I saw at least 7-8 terrorists die at the airport. I thought the "sexual moment of clarity was evident". Jamnuz Kaminski uses so much of the hand held in this movie. John Williams breaks the orchestra mould and tries to churn up a war like drumming. This to me was really haunting. I can still imagine that war-like rhythm in my head. I am gonna by the CD.

King Kong: The striking aspect of this movie was the movie producer. Just watch his eyes. Its cold ruthless and he is out to get what he wants. This is a sign of a person who is determined. His eyes tell it all. If he had not been made to say the last "beauty killed the beast" dialog, I would have though this was a complete performance. This movie, for me, was the reverse of Munich. I went in with a lot of expectations, but came out less happy. I, like most of the people, who watched this movie felt it was too long drawn. The technology and everything was okay but it didnt give me the highs. Of course the girls cried and said "poor kong" and stuff like that but I was thinking "stop swatting the planes and just die..." The plane swatting scene was too long drawn.

There were some solid scenes in the movie though. I thought 2 scenes were pretty critical in this movie, the scene where Noami Watts fiinds out that this aint a monster but just another ape trying to get a chick. There is another scene where she has to chose between a dinosaur and this ape and she slowly wades towards the ape. The trust is complete, the choice has been made. This I thought was the turning point of the movie. I also thought this signified marriages in general, where a chic choses to marry an ape because the only other choice is a dinosaur. There is some grossness also. There was this scene that totally grossed me out. The pipe like night worm swallows this guy head first. He is alive when the insect has eaten half his head and slowly loses energy. Man ..this was pretty awesome. Jack Driscoll has a pretty long probosci. In any scene, It arrives 10 minutes before he does. Its in skull island when he is in new york. The pianist needs to do something about his nose. Its too distracting. Naomi 20,000 Watts is a super hot babe. So I know what went through King Kong's head when it falls down from the empire state - " would have been a nice lay". SOrry kong! size does matter but there is something called threshold.

Narnia: This is actually an adaptation from a book that essentially tells a christian tale. I heard the book was pretty good but sadly cant say the same about the movie. Walt Disney manages to cut down the religious references and makes it a childrens movie. This is one movie which takes itself very seriously. I probably would have liked it if I was 20 years younger, but now I was thinking "nah... not possible at all". The actors were raw, untrained and worse appeared nervous. The special effects were good. Hollywood knows the art of making war scenes look good. This movie was no different.

This is a movie, which if ran in India would have the audience laughing all through the movie. Because if somebody had laughed or made a funny comment in the theater - everybody would have started laughing. Part of the crowd did laugh at the closing stages of the movie - thats because it was just too corny. Good for children though.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Margazhi, Andal, Thirupaavai - Why is it so special for South Indians ?

Thirupaavai. I am not a big expert in music. But if somebody asked me to name the best I have heard in this art form, I would name M.L. Vasanthakumari's rendition of Thirupaavai without hesitation. Come mid-December and Suprabhatham takes a vacation for 1 month. Suprabhatham and Thirupaavai operate in mutual exclusion mode, with the latter taking sole control of the Maargazhi mornings(Margazhi is a month in Tamil Calander that goes from Dec 15 - Jan 15). Since childhood, I have woken up to this enchanting music. For a long-time though I didn't know the marzhaai- thirupaavi connection and asked my mom to play "that music" which she occasionally played during the year. If you are unfamiliar with South India then this month is one of the distinguishing features of S.India. Temples are literally hyper-active this time of the year with morning rituals starting at 4:00 AM. Everyday of this month is totally special. With this being music season and all - If you want to talk my grandma' in Chennai - you'd find it hard to get an appointment.

Thirupaavai along with Naachiyar thirumozhi are composed by Andal. It contains verses that reflect what is now being popularly called as "bridal mystism". These are verses which depict a women's dreams, expectation and love for her (would be) husband. In fact in some Vaishnavaite weddings, the bride is dressed in Andal's attire (with a side pointing kondai hair style) during the Mangalya Dharanam stages. So what is the story behind Thirupaavai. Let me tell you. I have heard this story narrated to me many times, read about it a lot. So let me narrate it in my own words ( and in the process hugely borrowing from everybody).

Sri Vishnuchittar, popularly known as PeriAzhwar, performed daily puja for Lord. Ranganatha of Srivalliputhur. On the Tamizh month of Aadi (July15 - Aug15) and on the day of the Puram star ( There are 27 stars every month - adi puram occurs during the first week of August) while PeriAzhwar was plucking flowers in his garden required for his daily puja, he noticed a girl child in his garden. As a childless person, PeriAzhwar took this to be a blessing, named the girl Kothai. Many years passed by. PeriAzhwar had the habit of plucking Tulasi leaves and making a Tulasi Garland to be offered to the Lord. One fine morning, he saw Kothai wearing the garland he had kept for the Lord. Enraged, he scolded her for the sacrilege and prepared a new garland for the Lord. That night Sri Ranganatha appeared in PeriAzhwars dreams and conveyed that he only wanted the Garland worn by Kothai, because she was Bhooma Devi herself. Kothai also came to be known as "Choodi Kodutha Naachiyar" as a result of this.

At an early age, she began to believe that Lord. Krishna was her husband. So when she grew up, she refused to consider marriage proposals. She expressed a desire to marry none other than Lord. Ranganatha. She in fact wore the Tulasi garland because she thought she was the Lord's bride. She composed her dreams about marriage into 143 verses of poems, which came to be called Naachiyar Thirumozhi. The verses reflected an intense love for the Lord and a desire to marry the ideal husband. Andal's story culminates after she composes Naachiyar Tirumozhi. She derives the name "Andal" because she conquered the Lord through her love and devotion. So Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam appears in PeriAzhwar's dream and commands him to bring Andal to Srirangam. Andal's story ends when she merges with the Lord in Sri Rangam.

Nappinnai, Kothai or Andal, as she is popularly known, is the only woman among the 12 Alwars. Regarded as an incarnation of Bhooma Devi, she composed 173 of 4000 Divya Prabhandams composed by Alwars. 30 of the 173 verses are called as Thirupaavai and the other 143 verses are called Naachiyar Thirumozhi. Ramanuja who codified the use of Divya Prabhandams in temples and a man's daily life also standardized the puja procedures in Vaishnavaite temples. Thereby most temples do the same thing every day and follow a fairly standard procedure. While Naachiyar Thirumozhi is used during marriage rituals, the 30 verses of Thirupaavai are spread out and sung on the 30 days of Margazhi with 1 verse everyday. Thirupaavai is an important Sri Vaishnava composition, re-enforcing the fundametals of Vaishnava philosphy. The last two verses of it also form part of the daily Thiru-aradhana in the mornings.

Some of the media commentaries found on Thirupaavai is as follows. Prema Nanda Kumar talks about "Dawn Ritual" and says

Among the living traditions of India's ancient culture, the Pavai Nonbu has an endless fascination about it. It is astonishing that a rite which goes back by two millennia and more is still adhered to by eager practitioners with a rare sense of prayerful dedication

and also goes on to say
As the month of Margasirsa (December-January) reverberates with early morning recitations and special offerings in temples, serial lectures by eminent scholars and soul-enthralling dance and music performances on the stage, Tiruppavai retains its mystery when one tries to explain the verses. For each verse is a solid mandala by itself while it remains an inalienable part of the
whole. Like Indra's necklace of pearls, each pearl reflecting all the rest, in Tiruppavai each verse relates to all the other 29 paasurams. One or many, it is nothing but Ananda, the sheer Delight of existence which is the ambience of the Pavai Nonbu.
SudhaKrishna Rangasami also has an excellent piece in the Hindu on Margazhi.
Come December, Chennai metamorphoses into a happening metropolis on the tourism map with homesick NRIs and rasikas from all over the country descending on the city to soak in the ambience of its centuries-old cultural tradition. The month-long extravaganza — kalakshepam, upanyasam, harikatha, namasankeertam apart form the kutcheries — has something to whet the appetite of every cultural aficionado, young and old. The music season runs in tandem with the Tamil month of Margazhi
she also mentions, Velakudi Krishnan who has become my first and favorite commentators on religion/philosophy.

Another distinction that the `Tiruppavai' has is in the extensive commentaries that have been written on it. Hagiographical accounts recount that Ramanuja held this hymn in very high esteem (he was known as Tiruppavai Jeeyar). It is the time of the year to relive this spiritual experience by listening to discourses on the Tiruppavai. They are being held at: the city centre of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (M. V. Ananthapadmanabhachariar), Bharat Kalachar (Velukkudi V. Krishnan), Narada Gana Sabha (Kalyanapuram R. Aravamudachariar) and Sri Tyaga Brahma Gana Sabha (Sudha Seshaiyyan).

There is another interesting element to Thirupaavai. As U.Ve.E.S. Bhuvarahachariar Swamy comments
It may appear in the beginning that Andal is intending to perform a particular religious vow to marry the Lord and thereby obtain His Everlasting Company,and that she is inviting all her
girl friends to join her.It is only towards the end of Thiruppavai that we learn that she did not actually go to any pond or river or perform a religious rite; She is actually praying to be granted the service of the Lord for all eternity. It is the Soul's inner craving to redeem itself and to reach His Divine Nearness in order to serve him (" Attaani-cchevagam" as her father PeriyaAzhwar calls it) which forms the real purport of this poem.
It is the age-old practice of Sri Vaishnavas to sing these stanzas every day of the year in the presence of the Lord in the temple as well as in their homes. This practice assumes special significance during MARGAZHI so much so that each day of this month gets its name from a pasuram,like for example the first day (12.16.97) is called MARGAZHI- TTINGAL.
When I think of "Naachiyar Thirumozhi", I am reminded of my recent trip to Oppiliappan Temple, Kumbakonam. We were participating in the Kalyana Utsavam. As part of the marriage rituals the Vaaranam Ayiram verses (the ones that all end with "kana kanden thozhi naan" you get to listen to parts of this in "Vaishnava Janato" song in Hey Ram movie). are sung. I swear I have never enjoyed a better rendition of Vaaranam Aayiram. One or two people would sing the leading verses and three other people would join and chime in only when the words "kanaa kanden thozhi naan" was sung. The temple folks were so awesome that at the end of the utsavam, I approached one of them and asked if I could record it. Maybe next time I'll really record it.
When I think of Thirupaavai, I am reminded about a cold, very cold morning in Thirupathi on the last week of December, 2000. My uncle, brother and I had a rare chance to participate in the Margazhi morning rituals in Thirupathi. The Jeeyar Of Ahobila Mutt, Thirumala-Thirupaathi visits the temple twice in the morning during Margazhi and perform morning rituals. It is always a rare event to witness anything the Jeeyar does. The stunning rendition of "Thirupaavai" and other parts of Divya Prabhandam had me mesmerised. I neither have the talent or knowledge to recite Tamil verses in such an amazing speed. The atmosphere and intensity that day was simply electric. But whenever my brother and I talk of Thirupathi, that morning is still fresh in our memories. It was one of those "you had to be there" moments.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ganguly - Those who live by the sword die by it

Note: People have this irresistable urge to label anything they don't agree as predjudiced. I think all blogs are prejudiced towards the author's opinion. For example Mr. Objective's blog would be prejudiced towards objective opinion. Everybody else's blog is certainly not Mr.Objective's opinion. Hawkeye's blog is prejudiced towards Hawkeye opinion. So if you are gonna use the 'p' word in the comment, it would help to understand towards what (in terms of ulterior motive) is my view prejudiced for or against.
I am laughing at the whole Saurav Ganguly sacking episode. Sort of deriving indescribable pleasure watching people passionately feel angry, wasting million megabytes in expressing their frustration. I will add more to it. You know as the saying goes! If it weren't for "time" everything would happen at once. The funny thing about time is that - it spaces two incidents so far apart. So far apart that people completely forget the earlier incident when witsnessing the new one. This always amazes me. People never stop to think if their views on a particular incident would contradict an older similar incident. So they say stuff which makes them look like fools.

So to compress time and juxtapose two very important things in cricket let me take you back to 1996. India had just lost the World Cup Semi-Finals against Lanka in Eden gardens, People were so over eager to have Sachin as captain and were blaming Azhar for "screwing up" by chosing to chase in Eden (when everybody were baying for his blood for batting first against SL in Kotla during the prelim games). Unsurprisingly Azhar was retained as captain until the England series.

After the World Cup India played a tri-series in Sharjah with Pak and South Africa. Sambran Banerjee was the selector representing East Zone. In those days people were hell bent on pushing a player from their zone. Much similar to now but then they were less subtle about it. So Sambran (who surprisingly was not critisized by experts for his lack of cricketing credentials - it is suddenly a big thing now) selected an East Zone player (Bhupinder Singh Jr (or something similar) ) for that tri-series in Sharjah. He failed obviously. I think Prashant Vaidya was the next obligatory team member, courtesy Sambran Banerjee, from East Zone for India's next tour to Singapore for a tri-series with Pak, Lanka. Rahul Dravid made his debut in this series (with a moustache and all). Then came the England tour. This was a longish tour for us. India had a month (imagine one full month of preparation) of 3-day 4-day games against several counties before playing their first International match. As part of India's holy tradition of selectoral/zonal politics another meritless player from East Zone was pushed into the Indian team. It was almost like a constitutional law. He had complete lack of merit (relative to Sharaths, Muzumdars and Laxmans in Ranji trophy). No business to be in the Indian team at all. But Sambran Banerjee pushed him in because India needed to have a E.Zone player. This player was Saurav Chandidas Ganguly.

What followed next was interesting for the next 30 days or so until the second Test at Lords, every reporter, journalist and commentator bitched about Ganguly's inclusion. Don't kid yourself - These are the very same people who are now mourning Ganguly's axing - Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Srikkanth, Kapil Dev. Didn't know all this did ya? If you had forgotten, let me remind you. Everybody wrote at least 1 article or made 1 statement every day that Zonal politics was wrecking Indian cricket and that Ganguly's inclusion was the symptom of Zonal politics. Saurav, isnpite of being the most hated player then, played some tour matches. He played when Sachin captained a few tour matches. He would not have played in Lords if Manjrekar wasn't injured in the Edgbaston test and Sidhu didn't storm out the tour after a spat with Azhar. So he made his debut and scored a century. At this point all the people who were bitching big time turned hypocrites and said "He is India's future". I didn't like Ganguly even when he hit the century at Lords. Every time I looked at him for the next 9 years I thought - "he is a symbol of selectoral politics". The thing that surprises me was - how come the general Indian public are so stupid. Incredibly, unbelievably stupid. People have such short-term memory that it offends me that such people are allowed to watch cricket. How does one century change all the evil that happened before.

This has been and will be Indian cricket fan's major weakness. This stupidity of being emotional and calling that virtue a pride. I think its a sign of stupidity. Anything that focuses on emotion and not logic is stupidity. Ganguly scores 7 ducks and then he scores a century, people will say "look he proved himself - how can you say he is not a good batsman". The century does not erase the 7 ducks. It is still there. Look at the record books. Its still there. Thats why he is a bad batsman. Unsurprisingly, he turned out to be a below average test cricketer (mediocre at best) - who would have been dropped if he played for any other country way back in 2000 itself. In fact he made only 6 or 7 worthy contributions to Indian TEST cricket as a batsman. I can rattle of his contributions from the top of my head. Wait...In fact I will. In his nine year test career, the worthy contributions are - 2 centuries in England, 1996 (and a 99, 100+ in the next tour, 2002), 1 century in Australia, 2003, a 70 odd against Windies in POS, 2002, two 70's in the same test in Johanessberg in 97, a 90+ while chasing against SL in Kandy. This is all I can remember about him. I may have missed 1 or 2 innings. But in net - this is his contribution as a BATSMAN to Indian cricket. For a 9 year career - this mediocrity is so bad that it is almost offensive.

Having placed the context, let us watch the recent developments. He came into the team as an "allrounder". He was considered for a spot that Zaheer Khan was considered for and got selected ahead of Zaheer. That to me is again selectoral politics. But people don't notice it when he comes in. Selectors do not suddenly become biased or politics does not suddenly come into the picture. It has always been there, otherwise Ganguly wouldn't have played cricket at all. Gangulay is now dropped and replaced by an opener. So essentially Jaffer comes into a spot that Zaheer Khan was considered for. Ganguly is dropped because of selectoral politics. Yeah Dude "if you live by the sword you die by it". I have no sympathy for Ganguly. I think he fully deserves any kind of selectoral bias against him. There is so much catching up to do for his life to come a full circle. And where the hell would you play him in the squad? I dont think Yuvraj can be kept out NOW because 3 years ago Ganguly was considered a good player.

Finally, Everybody except Agarkar should be judged by performance to merit a place in the side. The captain should be selected after the team. There should be no doubt that a captain is a person who does his primary job well and then is good enough to take additional responsibility. Agarkar is the only exception. I think he should be made captain of the Indian team and also its Board President for the next 10 years. He himself is confused. While Ganguly is desparately trying to get in. Ajit wants to get out and he can't. Imagine that kind of a plight. Poor guy! He gets selected for a year based on just one good performance. He tries so hard to fail and by mistake he slips up and does well in one match and he again has to work hard to continue to fail for the next one year. In fact even the Lankan team wants him. Agarkar's incomptence is so attractive that board has given him permission to captain both teams.

We also must need to learn from Kolkata on how to be parochial. I in fact totally support parochiality. Look at them. They are very clear. Indian cricket comes second. Their man should be selected first. I agree with it. Maybe TN should do the same. Instead of standing up like old british ladies and applauding Pakitsan and Australia, Chennai should stop trying to earn the "sporting crowd" reputation. Tamil Nadu - has seen not once but twice, two captains go from being in captain in one test to either 12th man or out-of-the-squad in the next. Balaji is so casually dropped. Nobody even asks a question. Even the TNCA doesn't care to make at least one statement about Balaji's exclusion. Have you seen Andhra or Hyderabad make even a noise about Laxman's exclusion or Ambatti Rayudu being ignored? Seeing this I feel, Ganguly's issue is going to the parliament is ridiculous.

And another thing: Nobody HAS TO be given a decent exit. Its a privilege Kapil Dev, Viv Richards, Healy, Border, Miandad, Pataudi never got. You earn an exit that is worthy of your cricketing life. Imran Khan, Waugh and Gavaskar to an extent got it. Just to bring in a person back because he has to be given a decent exit insults the person more than the board. On top of it - all the idiots who have been talking about past acheivement - SHUT UP! Kapil Dev has 434 wickets and won the world Cup before, should he be playing NOW based on that historical fact? Should we then by the same account go and dig up Bradman from his grave and put him on the pitch? After all - Nobody has got a better record than Bradman. So shut up with the past acheivements thing. Everybody has an expiry date and Ganguly's seem well past his.

It reminds me of a the rich kids who come to play cricket with us when we were kids. they bring the cricket ball, stumps etc. If you dont let them play for long they will take back the ball, stumps and go home. We had one rich kid who was so obnoxious that we refused to talk to him. He went and complained to his father, who talked to the teacher. The next day the teacher told in class that we had to include him in our friends group. We were like... a nice way to become friends. Ganguly is in a similar situation. He can't survive more than a test if he is not a captain or if he does not have a zonal selector voting for him. The big daddies are trying to force his way into the Indian cricket team, which neither wants him nor needs him.

If he enters the team again, this will not be the first time his selection was influenced by politics. He is the only batsman who has never been judged (by fans, selectors or anybody) based on the runs he has scored. Funny word this - R U N S. Given that Ganguly is a "batsman" does anybody care to look at the R U N S he has scored? Its always -- "look what he has done for India, he made us fighters, he is passionate". But what about runs? Can you spell this word r u n s? Whats he done in that department?

Post Script: Despite the fact that I mentioned TEST cricket in capital letters, somebody will leave a comment talking about his ODI performances. Re-enforces a fact that many Indian fans are not educated enough to distinguish the two.

Somebody will talk about "patriotsim" throw out a couple of "mera bharat mahaan" kind of statements. I am not very sentimental about this kind of crap. I would have shown the middle finger to fans who performed my last rites when I am still alive. I totally agree with everything Greg Chappell has done. And I think he (and Dravid) will do a lot more good to Indian cricket than all the stupid "patriots" put together.

Friday, December 16, 2005

One more exam to go

And then I'll sleep for 70,000 years.

Meanwhile you guys enjoy this video of a wonderful stand up comedy. Its a long time since I saw a quality stand-up. This one rocks and its by an Indian too. Watch it till the end - its hilarious

Here's the Link

Sunday Midnight - my exams get over. Hopefully I'll see King Korangu next week.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The GMAT Exam

The Graduate Management Aptitude Test is another test conjured up by ETS to provide a common reference scale for universities to judge students. Typically we do have many people in the business week forums asking "I have a 720 GMAT, I am 26/Male/IT. Will I get into Kellogg?". The answer is nobody knows. The purpose of this blog post is to put the GMAT score in the right perspective without eroding its actual value.

For example lets say a person comes and tells you "I take a bath everyday" you tend to think " well good for him". If the person says " I take a bath 2 times a day" you think " well! Thats nice! he is clean". Lets say a person says " I take bath 9 or 12 or 15 times a day" you dont think any different about the person. You know he is clean and he takes bath. The fact that he/she bathes 15 times a day doesn't make the person any special. On the other hand if the person does not take a bath you'll think the person is unhygenic.

So GMAT is like bathing. If you score over 700, you are clean and hygenic enough for B School. Below 700 - yes you stand a chance of failing the hygene test. The more you score in GMAT like 760 770 and 790 - while is impressive - will hardly turn around your application decisively. Taking the test again after scoring 720 to improve it to 780 is just doing charity to ETS. And they are already rich. The Universities know you are clean so dont waste your time retaking after a 700+ score. Spend that time on getting your essays in shape. That is more important. Last year alone I have seen a 800 GMAT being rejected and tossed around by many schools in the BW forums. I personally know of 2-3 people who did not get anywhere with a 790 GMAT.

Having said all this - the GMAT score does play a factor in your visa and you will put it in your resume (in some schools) when you search for jobs during B School. So it plays a factor. So while you are writing it make sure you write it well.

The adaptive test Factor:

So I have taken the paper test and this computer adaptive test. I feel the computer test is a bunch of BS. I agree to an extent that it is a more accurate reflection of your score than the paper test. But the paper test is slightly difficult and requires more stamina. The computer test increases in difficulty if you are getting the initial questions right. It maintains or lowers its difficulty level if you get the first few questions wrong. Paper based tests increase in difficulty regardless of how well you are doing. So in a computer based test the key thing is to make sure you pace yourself very well in the first few questions and make sure you do them right. You get heavily penalized for getting the first few wrong. This is very critical.

Anyway the GMAT has 4 sections.

2 Writing Sections: These 2 sections are scored for a total of 6 points. It does not make a difference if you score 6/6. But you have embarassed yourself if you score less than 4.5. This philosphy is representative of GMAT as a whole. You only stand to lose by doing badly. The gains are less. Follow the Kaplan Verbal reviews tips on how to write this essay. That book was priceless in this regard.

Quantitive: There is no specific advise that anyone can give on this section. I wish I had taken my GMAT after my CAT. I would have totally nailed the GMAT quant. The Quant portion is simple enough if you compare it with CAT. But unlike CAT in this section - you can't afford to make mistakes at all. You have to get all the questions correct (at least almost all of them). Even if you get one or two wrong its a big impact. So dont take this section easy. Find out the types of problems asked. If you do not know how to tackle those problems (you will not initially) then have a record of new learnings and memorize it.

Verbal: So This is the make-or-break section for most engineers. This section is pretty tough. Tougher than the CAT verbal. The sentence correction questions are ball-breakers. RC was the key element in GRE. Here it is sentence correction and RC. Comprehension still needs some strategizing and practise for the GMAT also. This continued to be my nemesis even in the GMAT. I'd highly recommend Priceton Review and Kaplan for verbal. They have a systematic approach for sentence correction questions.

You dont need to memorize the word list. It has no relevance here. The main thing is to make sure the sentence correction and RC is in control. Priceton's 6 types of sentences helped me a lot.

Timing the test: I did not have a problem with the time. Initially it is better to do the full test and then crank it up to meet time limits.

In terms of when to take the test - see this was my problem. I had kept Dec 31 as the date ( nobody takes it then, you can leverage christmas holidays and the date was easily available) and thought I'll prep from Vijayadasami (Oct). But thats only in theory. Work will come and beat the shit out of you. It always does. My toughtest project in my work exp came during GMAT. This happens for a lot of people. So account for this. I think 1 month of finding your feet and 2 weeks of test taking should be sufficient.

Which Books to buy?

I am a big book buyer. I felt I needed a lot of tests. Tests are bundled with books. So if you want to take 20 tests you have to buy books. I'd highly recommend the following -

1) Princeton GMAT Reviews
2) Kaplan GMAT
3) Kaplan Verbal
4) Princeton Verbal
5) GMAT ETS - The Big Book
6) Barrons
7) Archo
8) Petersons GMAT Guide ( has 6 exams in it)
9) Power Prep - 2 Tests comes to you as free when you register.


1. The real test will be much harder than any other test that you might've taken before.
2. During the test - Even if you feel you are doing badly - you may not be. So don't fret and really start doing badly.
3. Never run a ball-by-ball commentary when you are writing the test. Its disastrous.
4. The power-preps are way too easy than the actual tests. If you score a 790 in both those tests don't feel smug.
5) Sentence correction and Comprehension will make-or-break the engineers taking GMAT.
6) Need passport to write the exam.
7) If you see a score stagnating between 2 practise tests. Back off. Post-mortem your exams and come back. Taking 200 tests doesnt earn you even bragging rights.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Financing your MBA - Exhaustively Updated 12/03/2005 - Added INS/Visa Info

1 Northwestern
2 Chicago
3 Pennsylvania
4 Stanford
5 Harvard
6 Michigan
7 Cornell
8 Columbia
10 Dartmouth
11 Duke
12 Virginia
13 NYU
15 Carnegie Mellon
16 UNC Chapel-Hill
17 UC Berkeley
18 Indiana
19 Texas - Austin
20 Emory

There are 3 ranking systems that are more popular than others. Wall Street Journal and US News are the other two entities that pepare B School Rankings. I sort of listed BW rankings here because WSJ lists Michigan at #2 and I didnt want to sound biased. US News Lists Michigan at #10. My point was to throw out names of 20 schools and discuss financial aid possibilities.

If you register with BW and follow the link of each college you'll probably see the annual costs per each college. Yes! its not cheap. So on an average you should expect to cough up more than $100,000. This is actually a good entry barrier for (a) Smart students who have money but want to hold on to their money (b) Smart students who feel they can't do MBA because they don't have money and (c) Smart students who don't want to do an MBA. That these categories of people stay away - actually works in favor of students like me who are of average smartness and don't have any money to start with. Their absence really make our competition slightly better. On behalf of this category, I thank those who preferred to stay in their cubicles. Anyway to end the digression - I feel the whole MBA process is more suited for risk loving category folks and risk neutral folks who are totally frustrated with their current jobs.

Do all people who do MBA have that kind of money?

Bloody NO dude! If people had that kind of money they'd be sitting near a pump set in a village watching test matches and living on interest.

Is there financial assitantship (RA/TA/GA) available for MBA students?

Negligible. Very few people get funding. The program is not built that way. Infact if you had a GA you'd probably resign if you want to keep pace. The situation improves slightly in the second year but not by much.

So How do you penniless folks manage to fund yourself?

In the ranking listed above - the top 13 programs and #17 have guranteed loan programs (if i excluded or included a school by mistake - its only because I didn't know better). For example Michigan has a partnership with CitiBank where every incoming MBA student is provided a loan that covers tuition and living expenses for both years. I think Wharton provide the loan themselves. So bottomline: Most of the top-ranked schools have some sort of a loan program that pays for your tuition and living expenses. Many of these loans offer the flexibility to pay back the loan in 35 years.

Why do they do this? Whats the trust involved?

I don't know. Maybe NPV of doing an MBA has a positive value and a payback period of 6 years (note the usage of jargon). Who knows? People seem to somehow pay it off which is why they seem to continue providing the loan. Its not your father's money, so why the hell do you care? If you can't pay it back - I am sure they will take all the money - that you didn't have to start with in any case - and pay back the loan.

Do MBAs get jobs that pays back loans?

So if you look at the ranking link above - you will see recruitment related statistics. Looks like people are getting jobs and paying it back. Yes! Not all get the super IB/MC kind of jobs. Some (5-6%) graduate without jobs. But they eventually get a job. After they get a job they payback the loan. It also appears that as the ranking goes higher - you stand a better chance of paying it back. I didnt mean it in a way that school #8 is better ranked than #9 (actually they are.. but they aren't...well u get the point). Small deltas in ranks aren't much in terms of getting a job - but schools are kinda perceived in levels and if you are in a top-tier school - you should be okay.

As a bonus info - a miniscule amount of firms do pay your second year fee if they offer you a full-time job after an internship. So there is that too.
How do I show funding for visa as an International Student?
If you get into a good school - Both for M.S and MBA - The visa process is fairly simplyfied. You'll get through with very little questions asked. In general the visa is more dependent on school, scores, acads than actual finances. The school will anyway put the banks name as source of loan based funding in the I-20 if you want it to.
I am married. Can I do MBA? Can I fund myself?
As crazy as it sounds many married people do MBA. Infact 20 of the 30 desis in my batch are married. Yes! we all have been asked questions like "are you crazy?" (Apparently we are). Almost all the spouses have been asked (in many different ways) if they were "aware" of their husbands MBA plans. After being interrogated (by various strangers) if their husbands cheated them and tricked them into the MBA deal, they have all got the sympathetic looks indicating "poor girl- she doesnt know what she got into - its student life". If you are married and decide to do an MBA you will go through this. Apparently most of the general public assume spouses have no brains, can't think on their own, have no relatives who know stuff and have no personality. In fact the spouses get together and joke about it too. There are some husband-wife MBA pairs too. About 50% of the MBAs in my batch are married. So yes! you do MBA if you are married and yes! the loan amount will cover it. Among the desi MBA batch starting this Fall about 10 students got married between Feb-July :-)

Does the TOP 10-20 Bschools require a Collateral or US Cosigner for the loan?

Most of the schools listed above don't require a collatral or US co-signer. I think Texas-Austin does require one. But Texas-Austin is only half as expensive as any other B School. Bottomline - For most schools an admission by itself gurantees loan for both international and domestic students. Please check with individual schools on this but you can be reasonable sure about #1-#13 and #17. The others should have a similar program.

Whats the interest rate of the loan?

Okay Finance is not my domain (although I am boasting for the last 1 week that I did better in my finance exam than those finance specialists. I apologize but I am so proud of underdog-wins kind of situations) They have something called "premium rates". I am told that among the interest rates available "premium rates" is the best possible interest rate. So I know that the rates are competitive. More importantly - I stopped asking questions when I knew this was my only option (same goes for student health insurance too) Just take it. It should be fine

What happens to the loan if the Student's soul separates from his body and decides to live elsewhere ?

No sort of collatral was asked. The guarantor is the school and not my parents. So I suppose nobody (except the school) will be held accountable if my antaryaami shifts residence.

Can the spouse work if she is on F-2 student dependent visa?

No she can't. And getting a job is difficult. very difficult. But it is better than searching for a US based job from India.

Can the student do internship? Does he/she need an OPT to do it?

Almost all students do an internship. International students can do internship. They do it as CPT (Curricular Practical Training) as opposed to OPT (Optional Practical Training). You dont do internship in OPT. You dont even want to try it.

Can students who have used the OPT for previous Masters get another OPT?

OPT is a 12 month buffer to transition from F-1(student) Visa to H1B (work) visa. It is available for 12 months only. If issued for 12 months, the 12 months is considered to have expired even if you did not use the OPT for the entire 12 months. You are eligible for another OPT if you have been out of US (and never entered it) for 1 full year. The H1B also gets reset to a fresh 6 year period in this case.

I did Masters. Converted to H1B. Spent 3 years in H1B and want to do MBA. Can I do that?

You may not be eligible for OPT (see above). If so - You may work out a premium H1B processing (1 month processing) with your company. That seems to be a workable option given that US based Masters degree holders have a separate H1B quota. Apart from the fact that you have a serious race against time in the Green Card domain this should be okay. To start studying - You just have to do a I 535 - H1B-to-F1 change of status application. You need change of status approval (2-4 months) to work in campus. You just need acknowledgement to enroll in courses (2-3 weeks).

How about employment for International students?

A significant chunk of firms require GC/Citizenship. It is sometimes frustrating to watch a firm leave with open interview slots, you like the firm but cant interview there. Some really neat jobs are also out of reach. Having said that, visa status only prevents the job scene from being easier than what it is right now. It does not make getting a job impossible. Almost all international students get jobs. If its not their #1 choice, its motsly because they couldn't beat the compatition and not because of visa issues. If you are coming to US for Marketing General Management, Rotational Program kind of jobs - you stand almost NO CHANCE as a international student. IBM, Intel, HP and many Hi-Tech firms DO NOT sponsor visas for MBA kind of jobs.

Will the loan amount cover travel, entertainment and miscelanious costs?

You cant really be be revelling in alcohol and flying away to Bahamas every long weekend if thats what you are asking. You may be able to watch a movie every week and probably fly to New York or Valley for recuiting events (You certainly have to). You can live in a normal apartment, sleep in bed, watch TV, listen to music, cook food, eat in plates, wear shoes, tie laces etc. The money is not a lot but it does cover the essential stuff and a little bit more.

Bottomline: There are N thousand uncertainities and hurdles. Take that as a given. Essentially if you are doing the same mistake I did, which is base you decision on the answer to - "what is the gurantee that i will get a job and will pay my loan". There is no guarantee. None whatsoever. Like Gandalf said " even the wise cannot see all ends". You may not get a job at the end of the degree. Regardless of your thoughts on who deserves/does not deserve to get a job - only those who get the job will get the job :-) If you dont get a job, the road is just a little longer for you. The statistics of that happening is low but it is real and there. So you do run a risk. The question is are you willing to ride the risk? If the answer is yes then all the above questions will begin to have answers. Otherwise they will just be reasons as to why you chose not to do it.

Middle finger - Joke of the year

"Showing middle finger is not part of Indian culture"

This was said by some BCCI dude. Does the kolkata crowd or the Indian media deserve anything better than the middle finger.

I think these fools have been used to cricketers meekly taking abuse and cant stand someone with the spunk to show the middle finger.

Indian cricket media is the most parochial, boring and nonsensical in the cricket media world. About 10 times worse than English media. And Kolkata doesnt deserve to watch cricket let alone stage a game in the future.