Thursday, March 23, 2006

Internal Conflicts

{A big thanks to Arnav, who woke me up in time for the IIMB interview, which otherwise I would have missed. And with it, missed an important lesson the interview taught).
I am finally over with all six of my interviews (five actually, I skipped I..isnt this a good line..I skipped I). Ideally, this should be a perfect time to relax. The mantra seems simple: sit back and wait for the results. Still a fortnight left till the R-day (Result Day). However, its easier said than done. These interviews have proved to be far more important to me than I thought they would. Especially the Bangalore one, in which the panellists quite explicitly told me that I wasnt meant for an MBA. And I kind of agreed. And they gave me a lot to think about, and I will be spending the next few days trying to analyse all that they said.
The IIMB interview started off again with a query on whether I was there earlier (I was, and the same panel member was there this time around as well). Then came the expected question about my GPA, which I think I handled pretty well. They also asked me about which business magazine I read, to which I honestly replied none. Then the question about passion (I had a strong sense of deja-vu) by the same professor who had asked it last year. And this time I was ready : writing, and NGO, which I also mentioned as my long time career-plans. And I also pretty much fit an MBA into those. Financial stability for pursuing a full-fledged writing career, and management training for running the NGO. Good, valid answers I think. And the person who had taken my interview last year seemed pretty much impressed with the transformation in me. Then the thunderbolt struck. For he then asked his colleague, a person with long, white beard (Seeing him reminded me of DNC, my course advisor for the first three years in IIT Delhi, who, after my first year, had advised me to run out of IIT Delhi and do something meaningful in life) if he wanted to assess me. And this is how he started. "You seem to be a bit confused about life, which is usual for your age. Is it true?" I said yes. Trying to be honest, they repeated continously. Then he started asking me arbit questions about Timbuktu and the source of the Nile, and I did not disappoint myself much there. He asked me about the battles of Panipat, and was quite surprised when I gave exactly the correct answers, and about where were the Ajanta-Ellora caves and the Chilka Lake. I knew it all. And then he asked me the location of the National Chemical Laboratory and the National Physical Laboratory, none of which I knew. Then came his most arbitary question "Where is Kocha Pody and why is it famous?" When I said I didnt know it, he said, "All I am trying to subtely tell you all along is that the kind of social general awareness that is needed for a management course is missing in you." And I was dumbfounded. What could I say? He went on to say, "You want to do noble things in life:writing and working with NGOs. These two things are directly opposite to what MBA preaches. If you follow an MBA now, you will lose passion for what you really want to do, and we as teachers dont want to do that. You have noble aspirations, join the London School of Journalism and follow your dream. Become Hari Kunzru, he is not an MBA. And he is earning money. Your heart does not call out for an MBA. You dont have to do an MBA just because your brother passed out from IIMA. (They actually repeated this line thrice the entire interview). Zubin has a different story. If you think that after a year or two, you still want an MBA, come back, otherwise follow your passion." And I believed him. My MBA dream lay in tatters, but I was happy by the time I got out. It was one of the best advises I had ever got from a teacher, up there with the "run away from IIT" advice (which, on hindsight, I should probably have followed). The complete advice then was this "IIT is not the place from you. You have cleared JEE, which means you have enough brains in you to earn money even if you get into politics. This place is not for people like you." How true words!
So well, by the time I came out of the IIMB interview, I was happy and sad. Happy because, for probably the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do. Sad because I was very sure that once more I had disappointed all those who wanted the best for me. And this is the internal conflict I am facing.
The main problem is that I am not a very good writer, which is something I want to follow whole-heartedly. On the other hand, I believe I have been god-gifted with a talent for numbers and am generally considered "bright", something that can really help me make a mark in Management. Without being too boastful, I think I do well in making a mark on people's lives as well, and all these attributes point to me having a successful career as an MBA graduate. In short, I think I can really be "successful" (as society defines successful) by doing an MBA course, something all my well-wishers want, and which will keep my parents and friends happy. On the other hand, it wont possibly keep me happy. I am not a very happy man, and like I was telling someone the other day, writing helps me put to rest all the frustrations I have. And these frustrations are not caused due to the job or anything else, but by the weight of people's expectations. I am trying so hard to meet them that I get frustrated at the end of it all. Or these bouts of frustrations are caused when I start expecting back from people, and those expectations are not met. Being a writer shall make me happy, and, being a person who does not neceesarily covet money, shall bring me fame. That is something which can help me in my plans for an NGO as well. It will be a lot more of hardwork being a writer than doing an MBA, but then things done with passion are that much easier to achieve. I have a living example in front of me, a man whom I have always looked up to him as being very brave and passionate. He did not take up a job and started taking dancing classes after his IITD degree. And today he has started climbing the ladder of success. To you, friend is dedicated this article, and my very slim hopes of becoming an author. I am not too sure if I can ever be that brave.
However, not being a good writer, I dont think I can be successful by following a writer career. And even though my parents dont depend on me for survival, I have some duties towards them, which by following a writing career, I will be neglecting. However, the original idea of going in for an MBA and then after going in for writing career, also seems to be impractical now, as the Professor was frank in saying. Knowing myself, I will agree. Working in an I Bank shall fuel in me a passion for more and more money, and I will lose this passion for writing. And neither will I be happy.
So then I face this internal conflict. Its probably a matter of counting chicken before they hatch, but do I do an MBA or not? There is a strong possibility of me not getting any call this year as well, but then, do I take CAT or GMAT next year? Or do I even continue with my job or do I start following my dream right away? Can somebody help me? If you can, please drop a comment. And please, try not to be anonymous.


Amateur Blogger said...

Zubin, I guess we all face dilemmas at some time or the other. I have often wondered if people without choices are happier, if free will is a curse, rather than a boon. I faced one only recently.

Also, I believe the thought of dropping out of IIT is a thought that crosses the mind of at least half the people who go there. It did through mine too. But in hindsight, I think I'm much the better for sticking on. Does not neccessarily mean it's true for you as well.

Anyways, to step out of my ramble mode, here is my opinion. Work for a few years and work in a big company, so that you have time to gather the tools you require to do what you want, like practising writing till you feel confident about it, interact with loads of people so you get more perspective on what domain your NGO needs to be in.

That still doesn't answer your question about whether you should do an MBA. Even though it's would not be the ideal case (in my opinion), I say you should go for it if you get admission. A good education never goes waste. You don't neccessarily have to go work for a bank after that. My grudge with banks is that even though they pay well, they hardly give you time to spend that money or do anything else worthwhile. Take those two years to get more perspectives, experiences to help you chalk out your career path.

It's been a long comment, and you'll probably get a zillion opinions, but then you asked for it. However, use all of them as information for the decision YOU have to make. People have a tendency to want to impose their opinions.

Finally, you're lucky to have a dream, to know that there is something you are passionate about to want to do for the rest of your life. Not everybody has that. However, that does not mean that your dream needs to be fulfilled today. Give it time.

Also, listen to Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann. It's a soothing song for times like these and almost a mantra for life for a lot of people.

All the best.

sasikanth said...

What an advise! I am impressed. By two things. one how they advised you to think outside the box and two, how postively you took it.

DNC was right in what he said. I value his fundae i life more than the fundae I picked from his 110 and VLSI courses, which anyone could have taught us.

Good luck with the brainstorm

Astha aka anonymous_gal said...

[Zubin]Yours is the million dollar question. but you already have a dream in mind which you should try to materialise first otherwise you would be stuck your entire life at 'what if'. anyhow MBA right after graduation is meant only for those who have nothing better to do. they don't really have a dream or passion for something else (except a select few). i read in newspaper a few days ago about this policeman who completed his MBA degree this year after serving in the police department for 30+ years. there he used to earn something like 20K per month and now almost 20 times (or more, i forget) after his MBA from IIM. and when he was asked about his future plans he said he wud do the MBA job for a couple of years and then return to being a cop. Go figure?
but having said all that you should have a contingency plan. according to me give GMAT and if you can find a well known international company to work for try changing your job. meanwhile try your hand at writing/NGO for a couple of years. and as you know GMAT is valid for 5yrs. so in our 4th year of work ex or writer you can think if MBA is the only option for you. GMAT is valid in ISB, hyderabad as well so if u wanna stay in India...or try for the ivy league schools which concentrate more on SOP rather than the minimum score criteria.
P.S.:I think you have the potential to become a good writer

inhas said...

i am in no position to advise.. but somebody told me this.. do what your heart says and your mind will follow automatically. Listen to yourself. Best of luck

Phoenix said...

If I be honest I feel as if I'm reading something that's going to come out from my own hands, (or key board) after a few years. Deja vu is heard o, but reading ur post was liking living through a future that seems so real to me as if it's already happened.
So since i share this dilemma, i can hardly be the person who cd give a sane advice. but i second inhas, and i just want to add this...

The toughest of moments are of two kinds. One where everything is silent, almost dead. Nobody speaks anything, nothing that you could 'hear'anyway, and silence, loneliness, and a blank confusion.
The other is when it gets extremely noisy, with everything and everybody saying something, with the mind itself saying one thousand things, and in trying to 'hear'them, one feels torn and confused.

There's only one thing that can save one in either of this moment.
Ten deep breathes, and an effort to listen really hard to a tiny, almost inaudbible voice that comes from within u. it's feeble, and one may confuse it to be non existant. so it needs patience and perseverance. but trust me that within voice is always there. and it is always right. no matter what 'people'and reason say.

So listen to it.
Believe in it.
Trust yourself.
Back yourself.
Just do it.

....and trust me, this is THE BEST that all the people who care for u want for u

BB said...

Its great that you have a passion (many of us are still trying to figure out what it is) - be true to yourself though that it is what you want to do.

Also, keep in mind some passions are different or rather more difficult to achieve than others. "Becoming a doctor" may be relatively easier than "becoming a writer (by which I mean a full time writer)".

Separately, a number of people (who work in IBanks) have passions like scuba diving etc. or writing (I think Chetan Bhagat is still at Goldman) - which they fulfill almost every other weekend ... And quite a few of these people genuinely like finance and you could say are passionate about their jobs.

I know this all is rather a ramble but thought these musings may help.

Finally, read "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho if you haven't already. It may help. Also Po Branson's - What Should I do with my life is a good read: extract at this link

ps: Lighten up and don't take yourself too seriously (life is too short and you're only young once). You can be passionate about life and your dreams without being serious and moppy about them. And to kind of paraphrase from Rang De Basanti - Either change or do something about the things you care or be happy with them.

zubin said...

[Tushar] Thanks a lot, and yeah your advise is really helpful. I dont think the idea of dropping out from IIT comes to many people's life. And I am still wondering as to what is a braver (not necessarily more sensible) move, staying in IIT or quitting. I can continue with a job for as long as I like, but if its not making me happy, whats the use? Thanks for the advice about MBA, makes a lot of sense. Thanks again for this nice advice. Shall try listening to the song - havent heard it ever before.
[Sasikanth] I am not very sure I tool their advise in the right spirit. Yeah, DNC was one Prof whose fundes were great. And so is Prof. Visweshwaran, who was my course advisor the last one and a half year.
[Aastha] Yeah, thats the fight with the Indian Educational System. People rush in wherever they think money is, irrespective of interest. And thanks for the advice. And for the encouragement.
[Inhas] Heart over mind. Doesnt that make me a Sentimental C***iya? I mean, thats how probably people shall percieve me. And thanks.
[Phoenix] Hope you never find yourself in the same situation. Have been trying to hear that voice, and I believe it says be a writer, but I guess I will have to hear it a bit more. And only then can I make up my mind. Thanks!
[BB]A passion as a career isnt a bad idea - or is it? And yeah, probably its about letting things take their own turn and wait, Is that a nice way to sum up things? Thank you!!

inhas said...

what I meant to say to say was listen to the voice of your heart and act on it with all logic. Sometimes the fears in the mind may stop you from following your true wishes and in that cases conquer those fears by letting your passion take its course by itself.

Anonymous said...

Zubin....follow your dream and not what others follow. Even if you have started believing that you are not a happy person, it does not imply that you impose something on yourself which you know will be nowhere near happiness.

Harry said...

I have my favorite dialogue from Alexander,
'Conquer your fears, and you can conquer death'
Forget your fears of failing and follow your dreams.

nikhil said...

hi zubin : y sud u even think about,let alone being sad, the expections of well wishers. for them its just a news that u cleared iim, for u it is ur life. if u think u will be happy writting even if that means little money why should you bother. i seriously hate it wen people sing the mom dad tune in such cases. we have all dissapointed thm already many times and they will live with another dissapointment. tell people n tell them point blank that u will b a writer, a good one, and if they disagree tell them to keep their mouth shut. y should u care about opinions if they don't care about your happiness.

zubin said...

[All] Thanks for all your advices. I guess I have finally decided how I want to live life: take it as it comes. It is not a very brave decision, but I guess, a sensible one.

nemo said...

Dear Zubin,

Your article struck a chord with me. I am reading this book 'What should I do with my life". It is a compilation of real life stories about people in similar position as you. Needless to say, I am in a similar position as you and I can relate perfectly to what you are saying.

There is no easy solution to your problem and only you have to figure a way out of it. I wish you good luck with that.

Another thing, your writing style is very unique and you write from your heart. You definitely have to work towards polishing your style but the potential of becoming a good writer is there in you. Read more and write often.

pseudonym said...

hi zubin.. umm.. dunno how to help really but I have been in this situation on and off and so maybe you wd find my twopenny bitworth interesting…incidentally found your blog cos I was looking through another one called ‘dust in the wind’. Friend of yours I guess.
So. A little background first. My dad’s in the army so I grew up basically all over the country…9 schools. End result was that I grew up being really close to my family and reading like crazy. Books were like my refuge: my whole family – three generations – are in the forces so I suppose in a strange way I was rooted by literature. Strange cos book are supposed to give you wings right? Anyway I think this sounds like nonsense :) for whatever reason then, I read like mad – 3books a day on weekends.. and when someone reads so much you wd want to write as well. Wanted to study literature and write, and travel…that’s all I want still. But ended up doing economics and now am in the ibanking division of a consult..i like my job, im taking my cat this yr and I have a little more clarity on what I want to do – I want to save up enough in the first ten years of my working life to be able to travel. And feed myself while I write : cos I write for myself, I am REALLY not good enough to sell anything at all! So I suppose I have compromised.. but then I enjoy the thrill of ibanking, the intellectual challenge, dealing with the client, the glory of having your deal in the papers, the money…what I do not like is the hypocrisy the greed the shallow people..sometimes yeah I do go berserk cos I think I am totally out of place.. but then how many ppl are actually doing what they really want to do? Practically noone I I am cming to terms with it a little..
I think I haven’t really helped you at all! What you shd do is a question you have to answer on your own I guess.. I think it really comes down to what compromises you can make and what you hope to gain in the end..
Hey I hope you figure things out :)

zubin said...

[Nemo] Thanks a lot, have been through your blog as well, and it surprises me to think about how many people actually are in the same dilemma. And thanks for the encouragement!
[Pseudonym] Answering your query about why people blog in Atish's blog, in my case its because it helps me to end the frustration I otherwise feel. The frustration of standing upto other people's expectations, and making a mark in the real world.
And your comment really helped. I am planning to do what I was planning to do earlier. Go to an I-Bank, earn money, and then stop. Thanks for visiting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zubin,
To let you know, i regularly read your blog and that is a kind of filler in my day to day life. Thats so nice on your part to share your experiences with others.
Sometimes i wonder how incomplete life was without the internet and computers. But then at the other moment i am forced to think life was there even before the inetrnet and computers.! And people were happy.! So see how ambiguous i am in whatever statement i make. But it's always like that.
Whatever, but i know that people like you will rise high in life. Mind it i am not talking about materialistic life but about being recognized by people as one great man who thought not just for himself but for everybody else.
You might pretty sure turn up ending into your dream IIM at this time and you might not( sorry i am being too rude in saying this) but at the end i know that being into IIM is all what you want , then no bloody hell can stop you doing that.
Live every moment and make every moment special for yourself. Thats all i cud write as if now.!

shaurya vaani said...

hi sir
obviously i m a junior to u still i wud like to share wat i think.definitely i m amongst those of ur well wishers who wud like to see u doing MBA frm IIM so first of all plzz try to be a bit less honest atleast in such interviews(i know its already done).
as far as ur passion abt writing and ngo is concerned i feel u shud not see writing as a proffession but as a hobby.Although believe me u write really well but still the financial aspects always come into picture.the ngo thing u can always associate urself with a ngo helping it in various ways and then may be at later stages of life run ur own.

and my best wishes :)

zubin said...

[Anonymous] Thanks. For all your wishes, and for telling me that this blog is a filler. And thanks for making me more sure of myself.
[Shaurya] Thanks. Yeah, I guess what you say is the most practical thing, but pragmatism has never been one of my few virtues.

pseudonym said...

my twopenny bitworth...firstly.. have been reading your blog rather often, and if you put your emotions out on the stage like this... perhaps you wdnt mind me commenting on something which is so intensely private..

ummm... i think perhaps your unhappiness stems from the frustration of not being able to do exactly what you want, live your life exactly on your terms without the burdens of anyones' expectations... but in my (limited admittedly) experience.. that frustration wd just be rooted in contradictions.. i guess what i am trying to say is.. a) if you have made your decision to work with an i-bank, make money, quit eventually and then write&work with an ngo, please do not go over and over on the same ground.. quit thinking abt the frustration that led to that decision.. i know its difficult.. but you can take comfort in the certainity of your decision, that shd make you happy no? once youve made the decision derive happiness from what led you to make it. b). you talk to expectations.. look.. if you are so unhappy fulfilling them/trying to fulfill them, i dont think whoever has these expectations from you will be too upset if you just chuck the whole damn thing. and if you are going to be practical and pragmatic and decide pro-ibank - then dont keep hitting yourself with it. in the end, dont dwell on the conflicts in your life. resolve them to the best of your ability, then get on with it. you derive happiness from so much else - that rafting trip, the trees your friends... why screw it by reliving what you can come to terms with...

also... to write well.. you need to live a little too... for all you know you'll be a better writer for the angst that ibanking brings :D

all the best and hope you find your happiness, wherever that lies.