Friday, September 25, 2009

Home- Save the Earth

The Home..a movie that I heard so much about but hadnt seen..is what I saw today. Thereafter, couldnt wait but open my blogsite to pen my thoughts. I dont wish to say so much about the movie and its breathtaking pictures and narrative but would like to write about its message and content.

The eye-opener for the entire humankind and more so us the more fortunate among the homosapiens who have benefited from the virtual slow death of the Earth, a result of our lust for its resources. I can only say one thing, if the Earth and life on the planet has to stand a chance, each one of us has to look at our role and the way we lead our lives. Sustainable Development has to come out of the feel-good dictionary of our business vocabulary and become the very genesis on which every action, every discovery, every technology, every triumph and every failure needs to be judged. The Earth is suffocating and the movie captures that in such a powerful way.

I feel like someone accountable for I never think before wasting hundreds of litres of water, eating meat that is necessarily produced in an Earth destroying manner, wasting electricity that is borne out of immense pollution and generating avaidable garbage. Can I as an individual do anything? Yes I can if i change my lifestyle and my habits which are based on the callous concern of natural resources. So many small actions at individual level by billions of us responsible humans should make some impact. The lifestyle has to change...I have to change and people have to change...only then can we gift a chance to the womb of life, that is, mother Earth.

I strongly recommend all to see the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU

Friday, September 18, 2009

What they do preach you at B-School?

A question that has been dominating my mind space relates to the nature of the MBA Programs and the great stress they place on "Networking". When I first arrived in France and entered the beautiful campus of HEC, I was virtually oblivious of this greatest learning that the MBA School tries to dig into the participants psyche- Hey guys learn to Network...no its not corporate finance, not marketing, not supply chain, not even French...but Networking that matters. What the hell was meant my 'Networking'?

I am not an IT guy so wansnt thinking in terms of networks of computers. I seemed to realise soon that most of my colleagues were well versed in what Networking meant. However, some of the anachronistic models in the Indian gang and certainly me seemed to consider networking as a trivialisation of human connectivity and human bonding. Such was the intensity with which everyone seemed to stress upon Networking that even a purely human and social urge to ineract with another human being was christened by these not so modern beings on Campus as "Networking"...it became a common joke among friends on campus..so if someone just felt like going out with some classmates for a drink...the fellow was charged (or complimented) of Networking.

Among some friends, it became a word to basically mean...Hey we know you have no interest in the guy or the girl but you think he or she can be useful to you some day..then please go ahead, show that plastic smile, talk on subjects you are least interested in and crack jokes you consider dumb and utterly stupid. After all, its all about Networking.

You would be insane if you want to hang around with people and colleagues only if you like them. The Networking Gain from the mutual consumption of the valuable resource called Time, was a fundamental parameter to judge a human exchange. After all, Time is money and we were in a Business School.

Well, now that I have spent an year on Campus and am somewhat free from my stereotypical view and biases for Networking, I do understand that it is an important tool for learning, growing and expanding ones horizon. What appeared as an assault on the humane aspect of the human self seems less blasphemous to me today. So what the hell Networking means to me now?

To me, it is the opening up of the hesitant being to fully interact and express oneself to the world around him or her. One is not required to have an strong emotional reason to meet another human being all the times. We can meet the other person because it can be rewarding to us- in terms of information exchange, knowledge and shared interests. Whether or not, the person becomes a friend would depend on shared values and interests but there is no harm is knowing another person and have a mutually rewarding interaction. What seemed like an exploitative regimen is more acceptable to me today..though i dont still appreciate the word "Networking".

Even if one has the most pious and selfless desires --wanting to lift the world's poor out of their drudgery, is it possible to do it alone? We need Networks of like minded people to achieve tasks big and small. Not all the nodal points in the Network may think alike or have same values and interests but still they can cooperate on a common goal or show each other a direction of value. If we make strong emotional bonding as a pre-requisite for a human interaction, we would either have limited number of beings with whom we have exchanges or we would be emotionally and psychologically drained. The practice of "Networking" allows us to expand our capacities, to expand our zone of influence and be part of the interactive human landscape. We can accomplish more and be more useful to the world around us.

Perhaps, the negative connotation I drew from the word "Networking" was borne out of the fact that I only remembered that the less gifted and less noble poeple had achieved a lot out of this tool. But a tool is a tool and should be judged as such.

In some ways, those who wish to achieve the great and noble objectives (most time callously termed selfless and holy), are sinning if they fail to achieve their goals only because they don't employ the power of Networking. Thank God, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi knew better..though somehow, I have a hunch that they too may have detested the word "NETWORKING"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paris on the Move

Wow..paris the city of love, art, fashion, wine...and so on and so forth..the list is never ending. However, i have sensed another aspect of the city beautiful over the past 3 months when I travelled extensively by the local train network. As I was heading back to my hostel today, a train of thoughts occupied my nasty mind and I thought let me put it on rails.

Train journey in Paris can be a very interesting experience if all you do is observe people. Observant as I am (fit to be a Spy), I made a mental note of peculiar things that happen on the move in this City.

What strikes at first, is the sheer diversity of the people travelling in the metro. Its difficult to find a corner with only whites or blacks or browns, men or women, elderly or young, happy or sad..truly the myth of Paris being a homogeneous city is shattered within minutes that you spend on the move.

What to do while travelling? Oh my goodness there are a million things Parisians have worked out!! My grandmother, who didnt study much in her life, always told me not to read in a moving bus or a moving train as it would have spoiled my beautiful eyes but she ofcourse had not been to Paris. Enter the train station and you will people read and read, too much. They read papers, magazines and above all books (seem more like novels). The one observed these days the most is a book by someone called Marc Levy...i have no idea who is he and i dont want to feign great knowledge by rapidly scanning the Wikipedia.

But after all not all can read. So many others bother their other sense organ. They listen to something on their I-pods, Mobiles or similar other things..The number of ears that are adorned by the flowing white wires and the attached plugs are simply emormous to count. Its a sea of people who relish being with themselves and a voice that only they can hear.

Well but then we are all different aren't we? Some of us like to be heard and heard well. So you will find a breed of talented vocalists, guitarists and even flute players, who couldn't make it as big as Michael Jackson (please consider only his music talents). But they love their music and they make the world hear it on the move. Some people tip the performers generously, others like me, put up an emotionless face, as if I never heard or never understood what was he playing or singing. Anyway, if you have a day long pass for the Metro and are a music lover...hop on the Paris trains at popular stations and have a field day.

After reading, listening, singing..comes the sense of touch. A cultural shock to many from the other world is the sheer unabashedness and passion with which lovers in Paris like to display the warmth for their partner. For the simpletons from far off countries in the Oriental world (who would gossip over a kissing scene in a movie for hours) its a visual travesty. Some feel its not a proper thing to do, others ask their Gods...When would i become a true Parisian? But the lovers have never bothered about the world and in Paris you can see it. I must say I never found anything repulsive in this as love cant be repulsive and i detest the prudishness with which some want to curb this Freedom of Expression. Come on..if lovers cant kiss (and such other forms of expression) in Paris...where would they? And the moving train has its own romance. May be SNCF/TGV/Metro (the train companies in Paris) can regulate the actions on the move to respect sensitivities of some others who may not find it acceptable. But then..thats regressive!

Anyway...this was a brief count of the 'Sense Fulfilment' that happens in Paris on the move..and I now need to cook food to satisfy another sense organ..this time though..not on the move.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The HEC Parties

Had a great party tonight at HEC MBA. The party meant to welcome the new intake of Sept 2009 had all the characteristics of an HEC MBA party at the famous Piano Bar. For those who think that a Bar with a Piano sounds too classical and boring, you need to be at one of the HEC parties. The music was great, coustesy Negrel (i saw Lasana and Meagan helping) and its always fun to see the new intakes, full of energy and flame take on the dance floor. I had my share of the beers and had a good interaction with many of my classmates whom i was meeting after almost 3 months of vacations. What i found interesting in this year's welcome bash was the number of pretty indian girls. I am sure i can crucified for being honest but then all people (Jesus) who stood by the truth had to face the harsh world. Anyway not to make the comments too frivolous, but still to make my point, the HEC parties are great fun and whether you like to dance or not, drink or not, smoke or not..its a place to be. I missed by better half, as she loves dancing but I am sure she would have loved to see me relax in a nice way. I am sorry if this piece of mine doesnt satisfy the intellect but nevertheless i hope it does tell you about the fun at HEC. YOu guys are missing something!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My first french home dinner & the Cambridge gang

Well..not all days are the same and today was definitely different than others. I always wondered what would a french dinner at someone's home be like..now i can stop wondering. I was invited today by my newly made friends in Paris and they live in this nice and cosy place near Gare du Nord...Yes, they are not Sri Lankan Tamils but actually the original white French!! I was hesitant because I had not bought any gift and I knew it would be nice to get one. Anyway, i dropped the hesitation and thought I would rather enjoy the time with my friends. I was told by David (name changed) and Lucie (name changed) that some of their friends would join soon. I was informed (i am sure in a rather jestful way) that French too arrive at dinners a bit late..but only a bit. Ofcourse, they are not as late as Indians are. Soon their friends, who studied at Cambridge (not all of them together, I believe) enlightened the room. I say so because they were people who were from different fields of study and from more interesting fields like Architecture and Physics (Yes it too can be interesting! Watch discovery channel for more information).

I had my eyes on the watch as my last train from Gare Du Nord was more important than religion to me. Lucie was kind to lay the table for dinner, perhaps earlier than they would have normally done. So, I was waiting for what could be on the cards...and i was told its Vegetarian..Wow..that was great! So arrived some great Spinach patties (i dont remember if there was a french word), lentils, wine, salad and cheese. Lucie broke my excitement a little bit by setting the limit of maximum 2 patties per person (i could have had all..they were awesome) but the overall menu and the talks around the table made it into a great eveining. We had stories of the Investment bankers, the recession, architecture, france, italy, india, marriage HEC, Cambridge, hire and fire, lawyers, British emipre, Price Charles, legitimacy of one of his child and french labour laws etc. Thus, both the food for the stomach and for the thought were simply great! I must say, when David told me that he had read my critical blog about the French and the English language...i thought oh my goodness, he read it! I dont know if he reads this one or not, but as i said in the previous blog, France and the French are as nice as anyone else and I was glad I could have my first french home dinner with such wonderful people.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why the French dont speak English?

An year spent in France, and a rich taste of the French distaste for persons who don't speak royal French. It becomes worse if the poor person happens to be linguistically challenged in the french language and at the same time boasts of being an English speaker.

My worst experiences being unwelcome as an English speaker here have occured at the offices of the Government. The rude look, the stern voice, the unwelcome demeanour, doesn't call for me to know good French to understand...after all, body language is a far superior communication format, and trust me the French are good at that.

No one can take away from the French the right to love their language and perhaps also the right to be unwelcome to those who don't speak French, I have a fundamental question to ask the French state and the policy makers. Why should a person, who was granted a VISA to study in France, in an English language MBA Program, be subjected to the torture in the government offices. Mind it, these are offices meant for entertaining the issues of foreigners in particular..and thus you would expect anyone with a little common sense to have some English speaking staff at such bureaus. But no my Goodness, this is France. So, here I am, a Foreigner, going a an office meant to look into issues of foreigners...and no one speaks English..remember this an office meant for Foreigners. The issue is Why grant a long stay VISA to people without insisting on an acceptable level of French at the first place? Feels like someone cheated you big time!

A country that proclaimed that it wants to regain its international position in global affairs, that aims to invite large number of students, researchers, professionals from its Target Nations (many are non-French like India, Brazil), for programs increasingly being taught in English, can't be anything but flexible. French society and the state has to learn to manage its disliking with the non-French speaking junta. If not for the love for English but for the long term interests that France aspires to achieve.

Let us hope that the omnipresent Ads for 'Learning English' found in the Paris Trams and Metros are an indication of a different approach in the not so near future! I hope I havent gone over board in my expressions. Don't get me wrong, I know of several French people and have scores of experiences that display the warmth and affection present here...but nevertheless this point had to be made at some time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My views of France, HEC & Europe

It was exactly one year ago that I came to France to study at France's jewel institution, the HEC School of Management. As I look back, I can remember innumerable experiences in the past one year that touch my innate feelings. So many memories that will always be etched in my mind..both good and not so good..but all significant nevertheless. As I revisit my blog today after more than an year, I feel an urge to share the thoughts I have on France and the French experience. So, I will share over time my views on HEC- the MBA School, France- the country, culture and bureaucracy, Europe- the land, the beauty and the magic!!