September 25, 2013

The Doomed Dwelling!

Hi Guys,

I had been thinking about writing a story for a long time. I have penned down something which you might call a story, if you are generous enough. This story is inspired by some of the events that happened to a few of my friends years back. Please read it and let me know your valuable comments. Thanks!

The day still remains fresh in my heart. After spending two years in college hostel, my parents had agreed to allow me stay outside. I was a hot May morning, but I was so fresh and the day was simply great. To the readers who are confused as to who I am, let me introduce myself. I am Ram, a Mechanical Engineering student in one of the private Engineering colleges in Chennai. Staying in hostel has its own issues. We have to stick to the idiotic rules, we have to bear with the poor food, we were not allowed to go outside, we were not allowed to use mobile phones and so on. Staying outside has its own advantages and freedom. So, I and three of my friends got into a house in the suburbs of Chennai.

It was a quite an old house, but nevertheless a big house with a few spacious rooms. We were in the first floor. The house owner said that the ground floor was being renovated and that he was in search of tenants for the second floor which was also big. The rent was much less compared to other houses in the area. There are certain things in this world that you won’t believe until it happens to you. Getting a house for cheap rent was one such thing and I was happy with it. Little did I know that I will experience other unbelievable things too.

A few weeks passed by. It was the starting of September. My roommates had gone to their homes for weekend and I was staying alone in the home. I was a Saturday night and I was watching a random movie in my laptop. The tube light in the room started to flicker and it was off before I tried to do something. I went to the hall and switched on the light, but it refused to switch on. The neighbouring homes had power supply, so I thought there was something wrong with the fuse. I took a torch light and went to the electric meter box. To my shock, the main switch was turned off. I turned it on, but was observed in thoughts as there was no one else in the home.

I came back to the room to find that my laptop had been turned off. I thought it had run out of battery, but then realized the power source was still on. My first thought was that it was a thief. Slowly and steadily, I went to other rooms and switched on the lights to find that no one was there. I had a thought that it might be a ghost, but then I never believed. I thought, there was something with the electrical connection and slept off.

The next day morning, I got up quite early. I spent most of the time outside my home. The night came. By the time I came home, all the lights were turned on. Confused, I called my roommates. None of them had reached home. I was scared now. The house was open. I went slowly inside and found that no one was there. Sweat started flowing down my face. I was standing by the entrance for some 10 minutes. Someone was opening the door in the second floor. I starting walking down the steps when the house owner called me. He said he had come with a plumber to do some repairing works in the pipeline. Sometimes, mind does play games with us.

Night came. I locked myself and I was trying to comprehend whatever I had written in Thermal Lab note to write in my record. It was then that a small girl in the opposite house started to scream as if she had seen a ghost. The girl was pointing to something in the second floor of the house we were staying and she fainted. Her parents came later and took her, probably to a hospital. Her terror ridden eyes remained in my heart and was very scared after all the events. I tried to stay awake with lights turned on. My eyes and brain were playing games with me.

Somehow I drifted off to sleep. It was around 6 in the morning when I got up. I found that my roommate Siva had come from home. He was sitting in hall and writing something. He didn’t seem to note me. I brushed my teeth and I was having headache due to the events that happened in the previous night. I wanted to have coffee and came out. The mother of the little girl was standing outside. I enquired about the little girl and she said the girl was fine. She asked us to get out of the home soon as there was apparently a ghost in the house. The home was used as a hostel few years back and a girl had committed Suicide in the hostel. Due to that, the house has remain uninhabited for a long time. If someone comes to the home, the ghost makes an appearance. She said the so called plumber was a witch hunter. I suddenly remembered that he had no tools with him.

Confused, I reached for the tea shop at the end of the street. I saw Siva walking towards the street with his bag on his shoulders. Then who was sitting in the hall? I suddenly remembered the fact that I had locked the doors and no one could have come in unless I opened. Things dawned on me suddenly. I waited for Siva and told him everything.

He said he had been experiencing some strange dreams after coming to the house. A dream where he was walking somewhere with a long pathway with no rooms on the side and a photo of a beautiful brown horse in the wall. We went back to home. Other two friends said that they would come only on Tuesday.

We went to college and came back. We went to the second floor of the house. There was no lock and we went in. It was clear that the house was full of dust and no one can live there as of now. There was many old household things. I heard a cry from Siva in the next room. There was the picture of the horse that came in his dreams.

We came out of the house. We called the house owner and asked him to come immediately. He came and tried to convince that the house was safe. After a few nasty dialogues, he accepted that there was something scary there. He said the witch hunter would probably drive it away in a few days and wanted us to stay there and was ready to reduce the rent by 25%.

But, do you think we would have stayed there? Yes, we did. We wanted to get out as soon as possible. But, we didn’t get any other houses nearby. Our fears reduced as time went by. A few notorious things would happen now and then. But, it was some silly things and it didn’t increase in magnitude as shown in horror movies. We and the ghost got used to mutual existence. We stayed for two years and we never had a problem!

September 21, 2013

Jack: Straight from the Gut - Jack Welch - Book Review

Hi Guys,

I have always found it difficult to start an Autobiography and even more difficult to finish it. For the first time, I found an autobiography interesting and finished it very quickly. It all started with a case study for Strategic Management class. I was very impressed, borrowed the book from library and finished it in 3 days in my term break.

The book is more than a history of personal life. It provides a larger view on General Electric and how Jack Welch transformed GE with his leadership. He goes deep into many events and how he acted upon them and how he enabled people to perform better.

The book starts from his younger age and how his mother was his role model. He says his mother taught him an important lesson that if you can’t lose, you can’t win. Then he goes on into this education and how he joined GE in its Chemical Department in 1960s. The interesting fact is that Jack disliked GE and wanted to get out of it due to the bureaucracy. But, he stayed on selling himself to go into higher positions and went into the corporate office pretty soon.

He gives the full account of how the race to CEO was and how difficult it was for the candidates and how he made it. After becoming the CEO, he wants to move GE from the position of a ‘Giant Tank’ to ‘Agile Speed boat’. He describes about his Neutron Jack years, where he sacked many employees, sold many businesses and acquired many.

Then he moves on to how he improved the people side of the firm with Crotonville centre, stock options and so on. He moves on to describe how he continued to learn and introduced ‘Boundaryless’ term in the firm that enabled ideas to flow across. He continues to describe the main strategies that GE took in his years – Globalization, Services, Six Sigma and E-business. He says as a firm they have only 4 major transformation in the 20 years.

He says that it was people who did things, not strategy or machines. He writes, ‘In Manufacturing, we try to stamp out variance. With people, variance is everything’ He writes how he made good people stay back and poor people get out before worsening the system.

From the book, we know that Jack Welch is a guy who you won’t come across very often. He knew what he was doing. He didn’t wait, plan and do. He acted swiftly and he says that in the end he felt he waited a lot before getting into it. He understood business, he understood people and he enabled them. He is a great inspiration to all those people who want to run companies.

Many of the people focus on improving processes, reducing costs, building brands. But Jack says that it is people who matters most and it is an important lesson to all the young management grads. He writes in the end, ‘Great people, not great strategies, are what made it all work’

Happy Reading!

September 9, 2013

Are Engineering colleges focussing too much on attire?

Hi Guys,

It has been a long time, since I wrote my last post. It was my term end and I was busy with projects and exams. It is refreshing to have a week break and I have thought of writing a series of posts. Lets see how it goes.

The first one I want to write is about the recent story of a Social Media Entrepreneur being turned away by a famous Engineering college in Chennai for not being in formal attire. The college invited him for a guest lecture and when he went there in casual attire, the college refused to let him address the gathering. The reason given was that the students were raised up in a disciplined way and allowing a guest lecturer to be in casual attire could spoil them. They gave him formal attire and asked him to change. He refused and came away.

Students being asked to dress in formals is a usual story in the so called best colleges, but asking a guest to be in formals is quite pathetic. Interestingly, this guest handles a course in my college on Social Media Marketing and is said to be one of the best professors. Last year, the assignment he gave to students was to perform a Harlem Shake in classroom and spread it on Youtube.

Having done my Engineering in a college where we had lot of restrictions on what to wear and what not to wear and currently doing my MBA in a college where there is literally no restrictions on what to wear (of course there are few, but no sane person would go beyond the limit) I think I have some points to make. Personally, my discipline levels have not gone down or up because of the attire I wear. I no longer have to worry about the attire I wear to my classes. It feels comfortable and level of discussions certainly goes up. I would say that these colleges should have a certain dress code, but it shouldn’t make students hate to go to college every day.

The concern of the college authorities that the students could be spoilt by the guest wearing casual attire is a very stupid thing. With the growth of technology, students have access to information from all across the world. They can certainly see what is happening around. The CEOs who have been very formal in their attire have made the biggest of crimes. Students would have certainly seen Steve Jobs delivering Keynote address in his famous T-shirt – Jean Combo. They would know that the most innovative of firms do not focus on attire.

By making students focus on these small issues, they fail to kindle the minds of students to do big things. The students’ life revolves around focusing on what would be the consequences of what he does and it would not allow the student to have any freedom on innovation or research. I have witnessed many of these incidents. A student who is interested in doing something innovative would go to a leading professor in his department. The professor would not heed to the student’s concept, but would rather focus on what he did against rules recently and how it affects the reputation of the institution. That would be the end of the student’s research.

No wonder these colleges produce scores of students with university ranks, but not with scores of students with good innovative projects. The lead university provides 50 ranks to the best performing students in academics. But, isn’t Engineering a research oriented field. Shouldn’t the awards be focused towards Research and Innovation. I myself belong in this top 50 category. But, to be true I never did a meaningful research. I never had the chance to do one. All I did was study and crack the exams. This is how our system works.

It is high time for them to focus on research rather than on discipline. I do not say that discipline is not required, but discipline should not be the only thing that is required.

Happy Reading!