Thursday, June 30, 2011

The ARGHHHH files

How to fail a driving test 6 times in the USA (while havign driven 6 years in the rest of the world).

  • rolling stop at stop signs

  • taking a right turn from a not-so-rightmost lane

  • not yielding to vehicle on main road

  • even though the right turn is FREE, STOP COMPLETELY and then turn

  • hit a curb while parallel parking

  • not stop for 'long enough' at the stop sign according to the instructor
LIKE SERIOUSLY? Is this really happening?

And to top if off, How NOT to get paid 3 weeks in a row.

  • Forget to fill your timesheet in before the hardstop Monday 11am deadline. For this I AM PISSED OFF. Hello, Im an intern, please TELL me when Im supposed to do these things SPECIALLY if i wont get paid for it.

  • Have your manager forget to approve it. PLEASE HR, inform our full time managers who dont fill time sheets that they're important to us measly Interns.
I fail to understand why Im running up against all these administrative hurdles. EVERYONE else seems to be doing ok! A friend of mine, who I DRAGGED to the DMV got his license at the first try, and he dint even study for the written!! I TALKED him through all the important things and he's done! I JUST WANT MY LICENSE AND I JUST WANT TO GET PAID.
Too much to ask for? And also, its that time of month. why not just make sure my week tumbles to the secret compartment below the bottom of the barrel of shit, right?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Consultant type

With NO apologies for typecasting and acknowledging that exceptions DO exist, my MAJOR peeves with consultant (ex or present) colleagues and or bosses.

  • Talk at the speed of light as though being billed for each word

  • A-N-A-L about font colors, size and format. I'm a stickler for neatness and clean classic slides as well but I wont make someone 'do-over' an entire ppt over the header color.

  • Backtrack like its free. Mycurrent boss, an ex consultant has backtracked on so many things she's wanted me to do. Luckily I write. and draw. each thing during our meeting. which means I can pull out 'remember u had said this' which ends with a 'err, ok ya well no lets not do it like that' and take away a day of my work. thanks.

  • Assume taking a day off is wrong and life is ALL ABOUT WORK. my boss has been coming to work sick as a horse since the last two days and apologized (to me) about not being at work on Monday. I was like hellno, u shoulda stayed home today and tomorrow as well. She seemed guilty for havign had 8 hours of sleep on sunday :-/

  • UNREALISTIC. no wait, RIDICULOUSLY UNREALISTIC time expectations. Apparently everything can get done in an hour or day. MAX.

  • No Hi hello how are you doing today. The minute you start talking to them, it better be business.

Like CHILL people. Work gets done and life is about having fun. and working too but fun basically. I am SO glad I decided against recruiting for consulting. while i could do with the extra bucks, im glad I have a life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I cant believe after 4 years of working and a year of being a student later, I still hate monday mornings. I genuinely loathe them. I wake up feeling cranky and sunday evenings are generally sulking. Yes good info to have in order to date me.

This weekend was great though - saturday was run errands day - I finally got my license plates for the new car (of course putting them on will happen only next week), got an oil change and the tires rotated for $40 which in India would cost 200Rs or so? like $4 gah. AND watched a movie - Bad teacher. the other half of the name of this movie is Bad teacher, Mediocre movie. It's like one of those Hindi film movies where the extremely obvious things happen, the good guy gets the girl and alls well that ends well. It was overall fun, I was in the mood for a light chick flick and being at the Alamo Drafthouse where you can order wine, beer or even cocktails and a full menu of food during the movie, was great.

Saturday night was girls night and we got wine, cheese, garlic bread, roast asparagus, potatoes, roast chicken and cheesecake and had a chat-athon! Since we were all from different cohorts and to ease the bitching process we pulled out the facebook (the BOOK, not the Site) for reference. It's strange though. out of the 3 married women that night, 2 are getting divorced. In fact, we were at Michelles house for dinner and her (ex) husband had just moved out the week before. One of my closest friends S is leaving her husband too. Both are under 35 and S has a beautiful 4 year old son who I just wan to run away with and call my own. My Indian conservative mentality makes me feel bad at the word 'divorce' but I'm happy for both having had the courage to make the decision.

I dont see any real reason for S's unhappiness - her husband (Was) nice, caring, a great father (ofcourse now he's a wounded lion and behaves it). She feels 'meh' about him now. I feel as though she's in the MBA program with a bunch of younger women, who're mostly single, hooking up with boys here and there and keeping their own time, and she feels weighed down. I've seen that shift in her from a devoted wife to someone who suddenly felt shackled by her marriage. Nothing changed in that equation except her.. I support her decision to move on 100% .. since she seems happier now that she's made up her mind. At the same time, I only hope it isnt a decision based on a transient phase... yes we're all young, fun, single, with no responsibilities and therefore we act that way - carefree and self focused. School is also a place where you can lose yourself, sink or swim. There are some who find themselves, and others who lose who they are. Either way, these 2 years are not represent of the rest of our lives.

This chaos, tumult and insane life is fun for these years but real life hits you when you get to work. The routine sets into place, mindspace too... Im worried S is just in a place where she wants to be 25 again (which AGAIN, i am not saying is wrong) but she's giving up her marriage to be it. I hope its the right decision for her since its a big sacrifice - and there's an adorable little kid involved.

Not known to keep my thoughts to myself I've had a conversation with her about this yielding no results as expected. I guess what worries me more is her relationship with another guy at this point. Another guy who has already told her this isnt going anywhere and things wont work. Another guy with whom she has no future, but is continuing to pursue. Another guy, while being married to her husband. I'll support her through whatever she needs me for, but there's a part of this I dont like, and I dont want to see her hurt.

Makes me wonder. I recently read a Shobhaa De article where she spoke about the right to lave a marriage because it got 'boring' - I agree with her, at the same time, how do you know you've tried your best? This is also one of my greatest fears.. getting bored of the monotony of the husband, same sexual partner and seeing these instances just cements it. I can only imagine how Indian parents would take to a marriage ending because 'it got boring'.

Either way -I'm all for the idea of individuals taking control of their lives - with happiness being the key driver. After all, everyone deserves it - but leave me to wonder. Without the societal pressure to work harder and do everything in your will to work on your marriage or life and following an individualistic approach, will there be a breakdown in the institution of 'togetherness'? Will 'Just because I dont feel like it anymore' be the new 'Irreconcilable differences'?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Work and other scary things

Internships are stressful jobs. In 3 months or less one is expected to show off your best and come out with a full time offer, or a pre placement as they’re called in some places. They’re a source of judgement as not getting a full time could be considered a sign of a bad job. There are times though that the team doesn’t have the budget to support you, or you were not the best fit, but did a good job anyway. That doesnt matter. You dint get a full time.

When it comes to me, going by my job title, Global pricing strategy and planning, it’s an exciting, new role and something Ive never done before. And also something that makes me worry. I love data, and interpreting it (after 4 years of consumer insights) and would say im pretty good analytically as in, I can interpret data well and spot trends and make a story and link disjoint events. But I’m no genius at crunching numbers – at working on complex piece of valuations or formulae. I’m terrible at Finance, averaging a B- in the first semester. I’m even WORSE at accounting. (way worse) Which leads to me thinking – I hope I can manage to do a good enough job to get a full time out of this. While I’m not sure where when what I want to do and be, I like the company so far and am having a good experience. I am out of my comfort zone staring at millions of excel numbers, but at the same time excited to see sell in, sell out and supremely confidential numbers. I’ve had to suck it up and learn to love pivots (which are as awesome as people say they are) as well as troll through investor relations presentations and pick up market intelligence. Having said that, I am super tense and have no idea how this will pan out. Will my weak area be really obvious or will I be able to prove my worth as an overall employee?

I was telling an old colleague today whose seemed lost and distant since his last job shift how sometimes a place change can make a world of a difference. Sometimes when things are like this, and dont feel right for a long time - a change of scenery works, or starting afresh...I found my old self in moving 100,000 miles away from home. I found my carefree spirit, I found that ring in my laughter, I found that excitement to waking up everyday and doing new things and being surrounded by new places and faces. I found a reason to work hard and confidence that I had so much to work towards ... just by moving here.

So often, far far too many times we hear of others or even ourselves saying ‘I’m in a rut’ or ‘I feel as though Im stagnating’. The ONLY thing that can ever help you out is acceptance of the situation and a severe change in something – routines, job, home, country. Anything that gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you look at things anew.
When I moved to the US I had to learn how to do laundry, drive on the other side of the street, self check out grocery and a million other mundane things but which were fun, and exciting. I learnt to cook and discovered I’m a pretty good at it. If it hadn’t been for the courage to do this, I would’ve missed out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Among other things

There are times when you miss a man around the house. To summarize -

  • To life something heavy OR

  • To open a jar

Yesterday was one of those days. An attempt to make pasta was annoyingly sprinkled with a fistfight with the jar of olives and when that battle was won 20 mins later, another one ensued with the pasta sauce jar. Of course, at that time none of my neighbours were home so I was lef to fend for myself. Now my usual well worked out self wayyy back in the day wouldve scoffed at not being able to open a jar, but 10 pounds later its a different story.

My mom has picked up me not having sent her any new photos of me since a few months. "Beta, why are you not in any of these photos?" she asked - "oh, no reason, the scenery was so nice I dint want to take away from it" I said which is the same as saying I've put on weight and you will kill me if you knew. Now the plan is to lose it before my India trip in december and what they dont know cant hurt, right? :-/

While it took me some time and apprehension, living alone is kindof nice. I curled up last night under the comforter with my laptop and book with just the tablelamp on, working a little and reading. The last two Sunday evenings have seen a pattern fall into place with the time from 6 p.m onwards dedicated to cleaning the house, doing the dishes, ironing the clothes for the week, cooking 2-3 things for dinner for the week and such chores. I had a drink while doing these chores as well, felt strange. Call it good bringing up or some such, but even having moved away from home I havent abused this liberty ever since I moved to America. Not one drunk night, not one mindless regrettable act, no fling, (wait, this sentence is depressing me!) - I was a good girl even in Vegas. Heck, we fell asleep at 12 on a saturday night when we went since we all were out all day! All in all, Guess im just not the kind to lose my inhibitions and be a wildcat although id like to be a little bit of it ;)

It's also scary that everyone around me is in relationships and engaged or married. Will I be that girl whose old and unmarried and who has only married friends? Will I be that girl whose parents are desperately looking out for when all the 'good ones are gone'? Much as I want to marry on my own terms and for love and happiness, this scares me. After the last experience where I almost got married to my best friend of 4years but then didnt, I'm phobic. Im scared of the 'M' word when it comes to my relationships and im scared of not having control. I'll be scared stiff if my in laws dont like me cause they can make or break your relationship (and i WILL ATTEST to that) SPECIALLY if the guy isnt strong enough to stick up for you. I'm scared of making the wrong decision, of hurting my parents and putting them through what I did a few years back. I'm scared of losing this liberty, this ambition with my life aspirations and I'm scared of holding on too tight. I'm scared I wont know where the middle ground is... I'm scared ill fall out of love or get bored. Mindjob? Yes please.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Absentmindedness of the week

  • Walked into a mens restroom at work, and told the guy who entered that he was in the ladies

  • Transferred my clothes from the washer to ANOTHER washer thinking it was a dryer starting a wash cycle, and then an hour later starting the WASH cycle AGAIN thinking the dryer wasnt working. Also, this was entered in the complaint book stating non compliance of dryer - and I ran 3 wash cycles before realizing it was A BLOODY washer.

  • At work - A colleague BOUGHT lunch because I thought the meeting we were headed to was brown bag. It was catered.

I cant deny it ANYMORE. I am absent minded as HELL.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A full circle

Intern Global Pricing Strategy and Planning CM Optimization

You know you’ve come a full circle when you reach this designation. It feel strange being an intern all over again, specially after havign workd for 4 years. Although I wonder what it must be like for a lot of my classmates with twice my work experience. Looking back at my first year of MBA and this internship and contrasting it with Indian education, I know we’ve got a long way to go.
First and foremost this concept of doing an MBA or any masters right after undergrad needs rethinking. I have not a single 22 year old in my class, the youngest being 26 years old with 3 years of work ex. Working brings so much perspective to ones thought process and orients your mind to thinking like senior management unlike the fresh faced almost kids graduating as MBA’s.
Being an intern here is serious business with all of us working on high impact projects – a little unnerving but also a great challenge, and you’re expected to build off from your work experience as well as the education youre getting in B school to be able to handle it. In short the MBA focuses on making you a manager, a leader and a businessman – not someone who can read textbooks and regurgitate information on a written test. In fact, most of my classes in the second half were not even written tests - they were case analyses, projects, presentations etc.
Which brings me to the second thing – testing. Indian MBA’s have to move away from the written test format as well. I had a few friends go to Bschool in Mumbai and saw them cram from textbooks the night before the exams much in the same fashion I studied for engineering – textbook rote. That takes away from application altogether.
Thing is, we all come to the US for higher education for many of the same reasons – its just a richer quality here. Which does make a case for brain drain. Its not just engineers and PHD students the US is luring away now, its also business professionals, future leaders. Funny thing is the US is under flak for giving jobs to so many Indians so ideally they wouldn’t want us here, whereas India would, but there arent enough opportunities anymore.

Its almost surreal how if I was back in India everythings changed with my circle of friends – we’re in the 27-28 age band now, and everyone back home is married/engaged/formally announced marriage. I was in for a HUGE shocker when I found out my best friend is pregnant after her marriage last year. It was GREAT news, but unexpected. She’s extremely excited about it, and so am I but it was strange nonetheless. Here I am being a student and my bestest friend, the closest thing to a sister is pregnant! Thing is, we’ve lived 5 mins from each others house since the last 20 years, gone to the same school, college, moved to the states together so her life is very synonymous with mine.. except the marriage of course. So when she called to tell me shes pregnant for the first ten mins of that phone conversation I dint believe her! I of course had to make up for that by sending her red velvet cake. I cant imagine her being a mommy – we’re such kids ourselves. I LOVE animated movies, rides, lollipops, am scared of scary movies, I LOVE Dave and Busters and Universal studios and disneyland and my idea of parenting is cuddling up to a baby. So is hers!

Speaking of friends – the other best friend from Mumbai finally had the time to write me an email last night. It gives me no explanation as to why she never had even 5 minutes to write back, or wish me, or reply to my calls, or facebook messages. She dint even reply to a thread I had posted on her facebook wall asking how she’s doing. She’s quitting her job next month and will be taking a break and I feel like she wrote to me because her time opened up, which hurt. I don’t think I will reply to this email, simply because I think she doesn’t deserve a reply from me. Guess ill see her when I go home in december. I feel bad, but enough of this being there for someone to walk on and then be there again when they need you.
In other news, I got a car! Im now a full fledged working girl living alone (temporarily) driving to work, cooking over the weekend and wait, I sound 45.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A careless whisper...

It was the kind of moment dreams of made of. Those strange stomach turning, heartbeat hastening moments. The only cherry on the cake would’ve been that kiss in the rain…that would have made it too intoxicating to handle maybe. Make that For sure. The wild breeze, free flowing hair, that hand on her back. That feel of the form next to hers… that almost physical presence. That intense long for being held, and wanted. Its almost as though the distance had created this electrifying chemistry. And the wind rain and waves came together in perfect harmony to play their parts in the symphony which was building up to a grand finale.
It’s a strange feeling - of being inside a dream. An eerie sense of Déjà vu coupled with the tingle of the reality of the happening. It was actually happening, she was actually in the pouring rain, with wild unruly winds and the agitated waves. There were a few infinite seconds - when they were almost wrapped around each other shielding themselves from the pouring rain under an umbrella which wouldn’t stay still. The wind played havoc with her hair and wouldn’t let them be - that was the beauty of it - the fluidity of the moment, the constant shuffle, the tickle from being so close… yet so far. She was thinking of whipping that darn umbrella away, letting it be carried away with the thundering wind and rain, and press up closer to him… until they were face to face, neck to neck and goosebump to goosebump. That Elusive kiss….
The other time, stars came into play. Her Favorite thing. Stars! The open air, that romance in the wind and the tussle of her hair. Wildly they were flung about the curve of her face, round and round she went with her hair having a mind of its own, she having succumbed to it. And she turned, and faced him. That was mistake no 1. Mistake number 2 was the intense eye contact that shut out all else, and though it lasted for a fraction of a second it was, in fact the kind of eye contact that can overpower the strongest of minds. Mistake no 3. She kissed him. In her mind and through her eyes, she kissed him.
Theres something about this combination of the sea and wind and tussled hair that makes her want to feel somebody else next to her, that shes not by herself, that there’s a hand on her waist or a person in her shadow, or a shoulder beneath her head, Blame it on the movies?

Friday, June 3, 2011

The 1-2-3 of buying a car in America

There are a few things in America that are very painful. Paying for medical emergencies, renting an apartment, breaking your leg and on the same lines - buying a car. A naive first timer can easily get duped into thinking they just bought the best deal ever and walk out with that all knowing smirk on their face, but little do they know.

As a first timer myself, my saving grace is a few friends who've lived here since a long time and who have taken it upon themselves to make sure no one makes an ass out of me. Here is a quick guide on how to approach buying a pre owned car, for any budget.

  • NEVER buy a salvage/rebuilt title. This is often the most important question you must ask the party you're buying the car from, and often the detail missing in advertisements, for obvious reasons. (In the United States, a salvage title is a form of vehicle title branding, which notes that the vehicle has been severely damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it) These are the cheapest kinds of cars, but the most dangerous to buy. At this point (2011) there are a lot from the Katrina wreckage.
  • ALWAYS check the Kelly Blue Book price: So when someone quotes a figure, you should know whether its a fair price. The KBB takes into account model, make, miles and condition and give you three prices - good condition, excellent and fair condition. So you should know that while buying a car, depending on the variables mentioned above, you know what to expect. It also gives you bargaining power, and the seller knows your not the average joe but a seasoned buyer who knows whats what.
  • Craigslist is where to start: and its overwhelming, and confusing and has a crapload of junk, but there are those occasional deals. It is imperative to scour and stalk and make calls and visits and narrow down the cars you want to bargain for. Private party cars tend to be cheaper but dealer cars are shinier - choose your poison.
  • If you think you find a great car and a good price and you think you're done, your NOT. the last thing to do is to get a lemonbuster to check out the car. Don't know what a lemonbuster is? Not a good sign if youre looking out seriously. A lemon is a car which is neither good nor bad and can swing either way. A lemon buster will look under the hood and let you know about big ticket expenses that you may incur. Refer to autopi or other mechanics in your area.
A car passing ALL the filters above is finally waiting to be bought! I'm still looking for my baby.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Wine phase

Has now begun. Ive graduated into the 'wine lover' zone. Although Im a novice - sticking to the sweeter Reisling and Merlot varieties. Although this move doesnt seem of significant importance by itself, it signals a life changing event.. a move into maturity if I can say so. Let me put it this way - wine parties used to be those boring old events when people are fussing over a bit of fungii and which decayed bit of cheese would break down more with a slight sip of the wine or which combination of a half cracker, mini berry and wine would set off a symphony on your tongue. (I was clearly very amused.) I remember being at a fairly expensive wine bar in the first few months of me reaching the US and texting a friend about an exit strategy from under the table. Seriously, my patience for moth eaten smelly cheese and elaborating on the fermentation of a grape into an aromatic teasing drink was very very low. The people at the party were all married, me and my friend being the only single (and bored) ones there. I distinctly remember the duration of my sigh (of relief) when we actually left, i think it spanned a few minutes.

Therefore this graduation into liking wine, is significant not to say the least. Its an acceptance of the changing conversation and an evolution of taste. A glorious move towards turning older (dammit) You know, there was a time not so long ago that everyone around me was getting married. Now everyone and their neighbors are making babies! Seriously, there are close to 6 pregnant women in my life right now. I'ma have a hard time catching up!

I'm now living alone - its funny that its 27 years of my life later. Better late than never - I'm alone for the 2 months of my summer internship before I move into a new house with a new roommate. Its not so bad at all, I have me a bottle of wine while eating dinner and this walking about the house naked thing is not overrated at all. I celebrated the move in with a luxurious bubble bath and then dinner. After my experience with my previous house where the ac dint work in the summer and the heat dint in the winter and sharing a bathroom with one girl, I deserve royal treatment and thats what I'm gonna get me.