Friday, February 27, 2009

Munia's offer from CMU and my Birthday with Delhi 6: the film

Yesterday when I reached home after a boring day's timepass at CES office, I found a big envelop delivered by an international courrier service waiting on the centre table in our drawing room. It was for Munia, and since she was now living in Mumbai (working with ICICI), I opened it. It was from the Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. It was an offer letter for Munia for a PhD course in Econmics in CMU starting from the Fall semester of 2009. The offer mentioned a complete tution fee waiver (around $47000) and a felowship of $25ooo yearly for the next three years. The Tepper School of CMU is one of the top schools of its genre, that boasts of a number of Nobel Laureates among its faculty. To get an offer from such a place is in itself a great achievement, and I was immensely pleased. I called up Munia on her cell phone, and she was literally ecstatic. She said at it was her dream fulfilled. Later I also phoned Rupu and she was excited too. Munia later SMSed me "I love you Baba", and I messaged back promptly "We are so proud of you".

Incidentally, yesterday was my birthday; I am now 65 - a bit old, would you not say? Actually it was Munia in the morning who called me up earlier in the day to wish me. Later, when I told her about the CMU letter, and also informed her that she has to report at the university in Pittsburgh on August 11 (which happens to be our wedding anniversary day), she exclaimed that these were really good omens that the offer letter comes on her dad's birthday and she must be there in USA on her parent's anniversary day. I do not know, but there is some coincidence, is it not?

Munia had applied to a number of top US universitie this year, and I have a feeling, she will receive a few more offers of admission with financial assistance. Obviously, Munia has to decide which one to accept, but CMU being the first offer (and a very good one too), I think it will get some preference. She has got upto the second half of April to take a call.

Rupu and I went to see a movie in the evening to "observe" my birthday. The movie is called Delhi 6 and the it was screened at Satyam Multiplex in Nehru Place. It is a well made movie, with a potent message about purging of a "beast (kala bandar)" resideng in the minds of the society in this country. The AR Rahman music was out of this world, a mixture of Indian classical and folk, and western pop and orchestra tunes craftily put together. I have to buy the soundtrack CD. The reviews in the press has, however, been a little unkind, and rated the movie beteen 2 and 1/2 and 3 stars. (For reference, the movie DevD, which I have not seen yet, got a 5 star from Nikhat Kazmi of TOI, and Slumdog Millionnaire got a 4 1/2 star). I suspect that for many professional reviewers, the storyline of Delhi 6 was perhaps a bit too revolutionary, directly attacking the Hindutwa philosophies, especially caricaturing VHP and Uma Bharti. There are lots of shortcomings in the film, of course, yet the concept of liberalism and modernity that continue in the ordinary folks in an old Delhi suberb is very refreshing. The dream scene combining New York streets with Chandni Chawk melee was superb. Using the Ramayana drama as a part of the background of the film was also a novel way of expanding the underlying message.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Visiting Mumbai for Munia's Convocation

Rupu and I went to Mumbai for a short 3 day trip, ostensibly to be present at the 2009 Convocation of IGIDR where Munia got her certificate of M.Sc in Development Economics.

We flew by Spicejet in the evening of Thursday, the 5th of January. Munia was there to receive us at the spankingly new terminal of the Mumbai Airport, and took us to her apartment in West Andheri area, near the beach of Versova. Later we went to a restaurant in Juhu called Mahesh , where we had one most amazing meal that consisted of four types of fish, namely Bombay Duck, Lobster, pomphret and sole, all cooked in different styles. This was truely an experience of great eating.

Next morning we took a taxi to IGIDR at Goregaon. Munia(Nandana) wore a sari in bengali style, and interestingly the mother daughter duo had almost identical attires. The convocation was addressed by the present chairman of RBI, Dr Subbarao, and also the chairman pf the 13 th Finance Commission of India, Vijay Kelkar. IGIDR being a very specialised institution (and a deemed university), there were only around 30 recipients of degree, which included 5 PhD , 8 M.Phil and 17 M.SC candidates. The whole function lasted for barely one and a half hour, including a very erudite lecture on the GST (Goods and Services Tax) by Kelkar. Kelkar claimed that introductiof GST in India (slated for April, 2010) would constitute the most significant reform after the 1992 economic reforms, and would fuel economic growth of the nation by as much as 1.5 %. The function was followed by lunch in the beutiful IGIDR campus. We met some of the professors who taught Munia in IGIDR. They all spoke fondly about her, and praised her academic ability.

Later that afternoon we went back to Munia's flat, had a bit of rest (sleep?) and took a taxi toward Worli to go to our niece Babi's residence. It took us nearly two hours to travel what would hardly be a 12 kilometre journey, giving us a taste of slow traffic and congestion on the Mumbai roads. Pampa (Sanu's Daughter) was also there, and joined later by Bibek, her husband. Pampa (Debopama Sen) is with the Citibank. This was the first time I met Pampa since the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, in which she got stuck for 12 hours in the Tajmahal hotel and was witness to much of the mayhem and killings that happened. We did not speak about it much, but I felt I must express my admiration for the cool headednes she showed during that time.

Babi (Suvolaksmi Chakraborty) now works for Berkleys Bank as the Commercial Director in India. Her residence is on the 16 th floor of a highrise building very near the Worli seaface, and is a very specious and well appointed 2500 sq ft flat. We spent two nights in her flat. Babi' s mother, our Chhotoboudi, was very pleased to have us around for the next two days. Aniket, Babi's son, is hardly eight years old, and have grown to be a little diffident sort of person. He likes computer games (we took two such games for him from Delhi), cartoon networks and video films. He is also good in his studies, and also in Karate (in which he has alredy got a Blue Belt). Babi was very proud of the interior decorations in her flat, which she designed herself with help from a professional artist.

Next Day was a Saturday, and Babi took us all in her Toyota Innova for a day long trip to Lonavala (also known as Khandala?), Mumbai's nearest hillstation on the Paschim Ghat Mountains. The journey was nice, especially after we left Mumbai 's congested roads and took the Mumbai-Pune highway. We went into a resort (called the Farayas), where Aniket indulged in some water sports. We had lunch in the restaurant, after which Munia was taken to the nearest Bus station to catch a Volvo Super express to Mumbai via Goregaon. Afterwards we had another car ride towards Ambey Valley, the famous city of the Sahara Group, which was about 20 miles from the Lonavala town. We could not however enter the city, which appeared to be out of bounds from non residents and cordoned off by private security forces.

We returned to Mumbai by the late evening. Next morning Sanjay (Babi's Husband) arrived for a short visit, from Dubai wher he works. We lefft Mumbai by the 12 o'clock flight to Delhi.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It has literally been months, and more than a year, since I posted anything in my Blog. In fact, I found it tough today even to sign in on my own blog. I started this blog nearly three years ago with a view to making it my diary; but I have been too lazy to keep it up. I came across Amitabh Bachhhan' blog ( little while ago, and found he has been meticulous in recording his life's event regularly. If I am not mistaken, it was his 299th posting yesterday, that realyy woke me up, and pushed me to start blogging again.

Last posting I made in my blog was in November, 2007. Since then lots have changed. At the end of April, 2008 I found myself at the end of my contract with IMI. I decided that in the absence of any signal from the Directoe, I would not try to continue there. Sudhansu Chakraborty, CMD of Consulting Engineering Services Pvt Limited, a BE College dada of 1957 vintage, had been asking me for years (ever since I retired from FITT) to come on board in his Company. I would like to boast that it was on my prodding Sudhansuda decided to get CES try enter the Steel Consultancy Business, with a view to filling in the enonormous vacuum in that line, only MECON and Dasturc being the two other consultants in an era of enormous potential jump in new steel plants. I decided to take up his offer, and joined CES on 12 May, 2008 as a senior consultant, to get involved in Steel Consultancy area of business as well as helping the Company in tackling the HR problems, especially with respect to the attrition of skilled executives, and training of manpower.

Well, nearly nine months have passed since I got myself into CES. They gave me a good office. And I started first to understand the HR scenario in the Comany; sent out a questionnaire (which I created mainly out of commonsense and my previous exposure to such issues in FITT and SAIL) which was responded by 68 executives (more than 5% of the total number) from various grades in the Company. I wrote out a report on the state of HR in CES, which I felt. and most CES colleagues whom I showed thought, flagged all the main issues. But CES being a somewhat elephantine organisation, where only the top knows what is best simply let the report remain in the cupboard. Perhaps some day, when CES really gets pressurisede, they will lookk into this report and do something about it.

Later I helped Induction Training modules for new executive recruits, and tried them out with general satisfaction on those who joined last year. I am now trying to develop a Training Need Assessment study (skill gap analysis?) for all the employees.

Meanwhile, I also continued to teach at IMI albeit as visiting professor two courses, namely Entrepreneurship Development and Knowledge Management during the last trimester (ie September to December, 2008). Just before my end of tenure at IMI, in February, 2008, I had developed a proposal to start an MBA Course on Entrepreneurship, which was sent by IMI to AICTE for clearance. I was told by Dr Venkata Ratnam, Director of IMI, last week, that AICTE may accord its approval soon, and he felt I should go back to IMI in that event. It may be a good idea, because I am convinced that for an "old" person like me academics is the most rewarding profession.