Friday, February 20, 2009


I for Insomnia

They say that life is full of ups and downs. I love the saying, specially because of its tacit assumption that there are ups in life.

The gory details then:

The GD: Case study. Not too tough. Half an hour given for writing down the analysis, something I was very thankful for. The discussion went well, specially because in the end we gave everyone the chance to conclude, giving his own reasons. The panelists appreciated that. We thought they were cool. Till then, anyway.

The Interview: This is where the fun begins. Two gents again. Silent (S) and Not-So-Silent (NSS, pardon the initials)

S: So, you're from R? Quite a number of R boys here today.
Me: Yes, sir. I met some seniors from the 2005 batch. It was great meeting them. It'll be even better if we can all do an MBA together.
S: hmmm

NSS: So, are you doing your BTP? Or just GD/PI preparation?
Me: No sir. I've started.
NSS: You've started, eh? Very good.
Me: Yes, sir and my BTP is Extraction of Copper from Metallurgical Scrap/Waste by Cementation.
NSS: Cementation, huh? Anyway, what are Self Lubricating Bearings?
(Readers be warned now. The rest of this post only says one thing- I got screwed. Otherwise, people with an interest in Metallurgy might read further.)
Me: Self Lubricating Bearings? I know they're made by Powder Metallurgy...
NSS: Powder Metallurgy. ok. Evil glint in the eye. I will come to that later. Now go on about SLBs.
Me: Remembering, remembering. Er... I remember pores and... oil. I'm sorry sir I don't know. NSS continues to stare at me. I can't recall sir, I'm sorry.
NSS: Ok, what are the other processes apart from PM?
Me: Casting, forging, extrusion, rolling, forming, yeah and welding too.
NSS: How do you make Printer Circuit Boards?
Me: WTF? I don't even know what Printer Circuit Boards are. I don't know, sir.
NSS: Which metal is used in Printer Circuit Boards?
Me: Mustering courage... Er, what are Printer Circuit Boards?
NSS: I don't know, you tell me. Which metal is used?
Me: I don't know sir.
NSS: Ok. Powder Metallurgy then. Tell me some applications. You couldn't tell me about Self Lubricating Bearings.
Me: PM is used to make aircraft brakes sir. For emergency braking. And for... Iron Phosphorus systems. NSS continues to stare... I try to recall more. That's all that I can remember, sir.
NSS: Ok. You know semi-conductors?
Me: Yes, sir.
NSS: Is Silicon one?
Me: Yes, sir.
NSS: Why?
Me: Told him.
NSS: What is quartz?
Me: A compound that is a Silica form sir.
NSS: Would you call it a compound?
Me: Er, SiO2. It's basically a ceramic.
NSS: Ok, tell me its uses.
Me: Ajanta quartz comes to mind. Used in watches sir.
NSS: Watches? Ok, tell me one property of quartz because of which it's used it watches.
Me: I don't know sir.
NSS: How do you make engine cylinders?
Me: Casting, and welding (Wild guesses)
NSS: Casting, and welding?
Me: Sir, we make it by casting. In case the product required is too big, we join the different parts by welding.
NSS: Hmmm. What is Eutectic point?
Me: Finally, something that I know. Meta meta...
NSS: Ok, ok. Can you tell me the name of the Engineer who designed the Roorkee canal?
Me: Can I? Can I? Cautley sir. Sir Proby Cautley. And Sir Thomasson was the one who did most of the field work.
NSS: Looks at S. That's it I think. Thank you.
Me: Thank you, sir.

2 down, 3 to go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


K for Kandukondan Kandukondan

D-Day, or at least the first D-Day had arrived. I somehow managed to get up at the crack of dawn (6.30, not 10.00), suited up, took my folder and started off for my rendezvous at Qutub Institutional Area- home to some of the less famous B-schools of the country. Arrived well before time and realized that for reasons that will remain unknown to mankind, I was a nervous wreck. Jittering all over, hands shaking, not even able to make a single phone call. I took a couple of deep breaths, nothing happened. Took some more, still no effect. Sat down. Kept sitting down. Had a look around and finally time did what meditation and breathing exercises couldn't. Lefty was in his element once more.

Pleasant chit-chat followed with a guy who'd turned up from Bhopal. He knew Falana and Dhekana, most notable being Chiraunji. Fellow R-boys were discovered soon, and some more chit-chat followed. A gentleman who looked like a cross between Shibu Soren and Arul Mani walked by and I prayed that he would not be the one to ask me the dreaded question- Why MBA indeed? My prayers were answered when the 3 panels were announced, and I adjourned to the chambers of panel 1.

The GD: Some article on God's (dis)owned country. Kerala (pronounced Ker-ul-uh), it started off, has a per-capita income of around $2, most people don't even have a bed according to a study conducted in the 1980s. Yet life expectancy there is 70 years, literacy is 100% and birth rate is 18 per 1000- figures that match up to those of the United States. Puts the entire concept of Money Hai to Honey Hai into perspective, what? As in any GD, there were some 'eager' speakers. Yours truly was polite enough to let them speak most of the time. Chipped in here and there with the role that education has played, the importance of a population that can be controlled, the fact that a simple life makes people immune to stress and lifestyle diseases like OCD and that it was essential not to take life expectancy at its face value but look into the quality of life also. All fair and above board. Almost everyone came out of the GD happy happy.

The interview: There were two interviewers- a young-ish gentleman (Y-ish) and a young gentleman (Y). I made a memorable entry by sitting down and dropping my folder immediately.
Y-ish: Nervous, anxious?
Me: Just wrong-footed sir.
Y-ish: Tell us about yourself.
I started off. Mentioned Patna and then...
Y-ish: What do you think of Lalu Yadav?
Me: He's not been a good CM, sir. In fact, in my humble opinion, he's been a very bad CM. But he's done a remarkable job with Indian Railways.
Y-ish: Why the sudden difference?
Me: As CM, he was assured of a strong votebank, so he never had to do any work to remain in power. That doesn't work on the national scene. You've got to work to make a mark.
Y-ish: So can an incapable person suddenly become capable, or a dishonest person suddenly become honest?
Me: I wouldn't say he was incapable sir. He's always been very competent. It was just that he didn't want to work for Bihar and was more interested in minting money. As Railway Minister, he decided to work and has done a good job.
Y-ish: So will he make a good PM?
Me: He could. He's certainly proved himself as railways minister. (I guess a seat in the RJD was reserved for me as I said this)

Y: yMBA?
Me: Blah blah
Y: But Lalu has not done an MBA. He's doing so well?
Me: Yes sir. I agree that it's not essential to do an MBA. But there are a large number of skills that are taught to you through an MBA programme which equip you to be a more effective worker in whatever you do. Since I have an opportunity to do an MBA, I belive I should take it and learn those skills. Plus, for every Lalu, there are lots of people who have done an MBA and have done equally well.

Y: Ok. So metallurgy, right? You've probably studied the T-t-t curve. Tell me about it.
Me: Meta meta...
Y: Phases present in the Iron-carbon diagram?
Me: Meta meta...
Y: Hot working and cold working?
Me: Meta meta...
Y: Is stamping hot working or cold working?
Me: Cold working, sir (I was guessing). It's below the recrystallization temperature.
Y: Are you sure?
Me: (hesitantly) Ye-es sir. If it's above the recrystallization T, then phase changes will take place. We do stamping for Iron for instance, to get Iron Powder for PM.
Y: Can you tell me the recrystallization T of Iron?
Me: 723 degree C, sir.
Y: What is rolling? Can you draw and explain. Also the different types of Rolling mills.
Me: Drew meta meta... 2 high and 4 high rolling mills...
Y: What is the difference between rolling for Al and for Steel?
Me: Meta meta...

Y-ish: How are you in Maths?
Me: (What kind of a question is that? Do I say yes and invite a horde of questions?) I've always been ok, sir. Never had a problem.
Y-ish: (bemused) Always been ok? What is a singular matrix?
Me: When the value of the determinant is 1. (Wrong answer). Drew one when he asked me to.
Y-ish: Sure?
Me: Ye-es sir. I think so.
Y-ish: Sure. (Stares at me long and hard)
Me: No sir. I'm sorry. I'm not sure.
Y-ish: Can you find out the inverse of a matrix?
Me: Yes sir.
Y-ish: Does a matrix always have an inverse?
Me: It has to be nxn sir. Same number of rows and columns.
Y-ish: Anything else?
Me: (Recalling) The value of the determinant is in the denominator when finding out the inverse. So it should not be zero so that the inverse can have a finite value.
Y-ish: Sure? The long hard stare again.
Me: (Yes. What I'm saying seems to make sense) Ye-es sir. (I should have been more confident while saying that)
Y-ish: Draw a matrix where you can't find out the inverse.
Me: Drew one with first two rows having same elements. Put last row as all zeroes.
Y-ish: Are these zeroes necessary?
Me: No sir. As long as two rows or columns are same, the other elements are immaterial.
Y-ish: So you can't find out the inverse of this matrix?
Me: (Again hesitant, damn it). N-no sir. The determinant has a value zero and it's in the denominator, so you can't find out the inverse.
Y-ish: OK, calculus. What are maxima and minima?
Me: Blah
Y-ish: Draw a curve and show me maxima/minima.
Me: Drew (x-1)(x-3)=0 and showed minima. Was asked to draw a cubic curve. Added (x-2) there too and made it a cubic curve. Said that it'll cut the X-axis in 3 places. Showed the maxima and minima, saying it was local maxima and local minima.
Y-ish: How do you find it out?
Me: Slope has to be zero. Differentiate and put value as zero.
Y-ish: Ok, differentiate.
Me: (Ludicrously) You want me to differentiate (how old am I, five?). Started differentiating.
Y-ish: Forget it. How will you find out maxima/minima?
Me: (Realized what he wanted me to say) You double differentiate sir. If negative then maxima, if positive then minima.
Y-ish: Ok, I think that's it. Any questions?
Me: (Taken aback by the abruptness) That's it? No, no questions from my side.

Y: One sec. Roorkee, right? There's a hydroelectric power plant near Roorkee. Do you know where it is?
Me: (Trying to think) N-no sir. I'm sorry. (Damn you, Tehri Dam)
Y: What is the hot-topic in economics these days?
Me: The slowdown sir.
Y: Has it affected educational institutes?
Me: As far as placements are concerned, definitely (Don't we all know too well). Otherwise, I don't see how it has.

And, that was it. Pow-wowed with the others once out. Came to know that a singular matrix was not what I'd said it was. On the plus side, also came to know that I'd been right as far as the inverse issue went. 1 down then. 4 to go.

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