Monday, May 28, 2007

Stanford GSB and the Rat Race

The business school is probably the best place to observe the rat race at its craziest best. Stanford might be the only anamoly to this. This is probably the only top school that has a lot of non-conformism associated with it. A good third of my class (including myself) doesnt yet know what they are doing post school. Dont get me wrong here, I am not saying its not good to find a job before you graduate. I am saying this is one place where people are willing to wait and explore avenues that excite and enthuse them truly to pursue as careers. Whether they get them right away or a little later, the fact is they are brave enough to take the risk. Are they foolish to wait..I would say no. But, thats my school of thought. Many people in the world would probably say "what i really like" is a Utopian concept, no one really knows, so its best to get the best money-lifestyle job. Its their opinion. Theirs is theirs and mine is mine. To each his own.

This is one place where you will find a girl building the world's first unique online one-to-one microfinance platform; a guy starting a company that manufactures low cost efficient lights for rural populations; a girl who is working on starting a plus size clothing line for teenagers; a guy who is starting an emerging markets investment fund; the list goes on and on. Even those who take the so-called tried and tested MBA path have a spirit in them that eventually drives most of them to do something different, to make a difference in this world. This entrepreneurial, non-conformist spirit is what pulled me to this great institution and this is what has made my experience so fulfilling. Now as I come close to within three weeks of graduating from this premiere institution a myriad of emotions going through my head, one consistent thought is that of thankfullness - thankfullness to God, my parents, elders, family members for blessing me and giving me this opportunity to experience this unique experience. It has been a most fulfilling, a most humbling, a most energizing, a most introspective experience, compared to any other I have had in the last 27 years of my existence. I once again humbly thank God, my parents, elders, family, friends and wellwishers for their blessings and good wishes that have kept me going. I pray such opportunities are given to everyone who desires them. I pray for continued support. I pray for humbleness, strength and perseverance going forward.

My friends here, I am surely going to miss big time. Each one is going to a different country almost. I get attached to my close friends soon and it is sad when they move away. With family I know I will be with them always, meaning there is a link for sure, so i dont feel sad if i have to move to a different place for a short period because I know its temporary.
Whereas with close friends, I am not sure when I will see them again..where our life will take us..whether we will be able to sustain the friendship at the same intensity..what kind of people will I meet later..these uncertainties weigh me down. Plus it is a reminder that life moves on..time and tide wait for none.

But again I guess thats the beauty of life!

It moves on, you meet new people and you make new relationships. Its fun for sure..though periods of transition can be heavy..but then there is the beautiful concept of Hope. Hope to relive old times, hope to have more good times, and that is truly a beautiful concept which keeps us going through life.

All this is right, but the feelings continue to well up.

Sad, happy, dull, excited, anxious, anticipatory - a mixture of feelings in my heart. As of now heavy is the right word to describe how I feel when I think of graduation.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Live-in Relationships Are a Sign of Progress....(?)

In a random conversation with a few friends (an international group) on cultures, norms and beliefs across countries, one of my Indian friends made a comment which stayed with me for a while and got me thinking. The comment was "India is making progress. Today you can see many more live-in relationships in the major cities."

I was silent. A strong proponent of individuals making their own choices on a life-partner, even having argued with my mother on many an occassion that live-in relationships are great, I was suddenly, strangely, in doubt. The more I thought about it the more stongly I felt the opposite. Live-in relationships were NOT a sign of "progress". They were, if anything, a sign of movement from a 'family-based' society to an 'individualistic' society.

For quality of life in general, having lived most of my life in the former and having spent almost two years in the latter, I strongly prefer the former - 'family-based' society. I look back at my parents lives, at my aunts and uncles, neighbours, everyone. Most of them went in for the so-called 'arranged marriage' route. Yes most were arranged, but its still self-selection, there was no force. They entered their lives marrying someone they had not really known. In the case that it was not arranged, still they went in with relatively lower expectations to today's generation. They had their dreams and their fears. However they came in ready to compromise. They came in believing that they have to keep the boat rocking till the end. They came in knowing that no matter how long you live with a person you will always have to make adjustments and compromises. As long as one has love for the other, for kids, for the family, one will be willing to make compromises to keep the institution of marriage secure. Why? Because instability in a marriage not only affects the two individuals concerned, but society at large. Starting highest from the individuals, to the kids, to the parents, to the siblings, to the friends, to society at large, the effect is felt.

Hence, in their journey of life, they made many adjustments, compromised with many of each other's quirks, lowered expectations when necessary. The primary objective was to keep the boat sailing. What was the result? The kids had a better life than otherwise. They had both their parents there for them together. They had their ups and down too, but they had a stable home to come back to. In the process they were taught to compromise, to learn to accept, to be tolerant. A very valuable lesson. Life throws googlies at us (sorry for the cricket jargon). We need to be mentally prepared to face them, catch them and live with it when we cant catch. We need support, however strong we are, we need to be loved and love and feel that there are people who care for us. The system that I grew up in gave me that feeling. Gave me that sense of belonging. I asked multiple people, my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, neighbour, cousin, friend. They all said the same. Yes, it has its downsides, but at the end of the day the upsides, the satisfaction, the fulfillment and the joy of seeing your family together makes up for all the pain and individual gains one gave up. Again this is a matter of personal choice. So I dont say one is better than the other. The 'individualistic' society has it upsides too. However my choice lies with the former.

Thus to me, 'live-in' relationships signify a lowering of the tolerance levels, a movement towards the 'individualistic' form of society, which is good for some, but for me its a little scary. I question my own desire of going into a marriage 'fully-knowing' my partner. I question whether that is realistically possible. I question whether I should give up individual wants for my parents preferences. Though I feel very grateful for my parents not imposing their beliefs on me. Then I wonder if I am losing out on benefitting from their experienced judgement and foresight of who's good or bad for me by taking up the task myself. I wonder if I am brave enough, self-less enough to say yes, I am ready to keep the institution of marriage, the boat, giving up some of my own strong wants. I wonder....

With many individualistic people like me today, I wonder if the future generation, our kids, will have the same security, the feeling of oneness, the so-many-people-care-for-me feeling that I grew up with, that I so took for granted until I came to the US where for the first time in my life I felt all alone........

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