Friday, January 6, 2012

Boston Musing (3)

One would think that moving to a whole new country, settling down in a beautiful city,  doing an MBA  and the likes of it all would have me raving and blubbering all over this lovely rant space of mine. I will be honest -- I want to, I really want to. But I find it hard to condense to text five insane months of overwhelming changes, experiences, and all the binge eating and drinking that usually followed (follows) such events.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride.  From the first day I landed here till now, every aspect of my personality, my perspective and even my likes and dislikes have been challenged. It was disconcerting at first; I landed here with a butt load of confidence, and then felt slightly shattered. I was shaken and stirred, often left panting, but I trudged along, found some wonderful friends to help me along the way and some cynical acquaintances that kept the boat rocking. The Fall semester whooshed by, and I sit here, wiser, a new year in a beautiful city and some lovely people in my life. I am smiling, it wasn’t so bad, I made it … I am doing quite OK. Boston is awesome.
Business school has some important lessons to teach. For starters no matter how much experience, intellect and hard work you bring to the program, it will still overwhelm you. You will be sleep deprived, overworked, stressed and homework ridden.  Often I found myself paying so much attention to each moment (for time and work do become synonymous here) that I felt that I was missing out on the ‘big picture’.  I had no time and energy left to ponder on the larger context; I was so busy just ‘doing’. It worried me a lot, and gave meat to a lot of whining sessions, which surprisingly we (my classmates and I) made time for.  The pace of the program is incredible. But last week, my second week of winter break, I went through all my class assignments, my case memos and marketing plans, as I read through my work and my notes, I feel reassured. I was glad to realize that everything I did was in fact elements of the big picture. All the late nights, long hours in the library and the taxing learning team meetings make sense to me now.  The best part is, I heard myself saying out loud while reading few of my papers, ‘oh! I can see why I got an A on this one’.  Serendipitous self-ratification is indeed lovely.  
All the subjects -- Marketing, Accounting, MIS, HRM and even Econ blended effectively and seamlessly to assure not only an incredible business perspective on things, but a personal development that will take me far in my personal and professional life. However there is much to learn and struggle through, time management is still tricky and I hope to fair better going ahead. I kept my plate quite full, became the president of the Finance club, participated in an MIT case competition and also worked as a research assistant for the international business strategy group…actually let me rephrase -- my cup overflowed.
My class is an interesting bunch, a heady mix of international and domestic students. The cultural mix in itself opened doors of understanding and awareness of self and world I was never acquainted with.  For someone as me, who has never been out of the country till five months ago, it has been quite a rollercoaster ride. Culturally, there have been few shocks but what I find most amusing is the range of stereotypes and clich├ęs of different cultures that both international and domestic students deal with.  It is a huge learning experience, I for one find myself shedding few misplaced perceptions and I hope some of my classmates do too.
 In a way the likeness between USA and India is so stark, the cultural diversity is mind boggling, it always amazed me in India, even though I lived there all my life; it amazes me even more so here, for it is more global, more international and as a foreigner here, the learning is richer.
But one thing really bugs me, when people ask me whether ‘Englische’ is my first or second language… grrrr…
MBA students love to drink and get silly… it’s true. The program gets really hectic, and by the end of every week most of us head to a bar to let off some steam and cool off. I observed that the international students especially let go a bit more than most, I am not stereotyping here, but I can see why... As an international student, I am not only here for the MBA program, but also for an experience of a life time, which I guess makes me overtly exuberant, enthusiastic and high spirited, and I am not alone feeling that. We love to celebrate, it’s been a blast. Study hard and party harder is truly the mantra that keeps most of us going.
And Boston is lovely; I walk a million miles here, and find myself rejoicing. But it gets lonely too sometimes, never been so far away from home and the little luxuries that I had taken for granted back in my country. I miss my family and my crazy bunch of friends.  My only friends in this city are some of my classmates, they are wonderful and I am thankful.
Exactly a year ago, I was waiting for my b-school results, I had no idea what the future held for me, it was disconcerting and trying. I have come a long way since then... And 2012 seems even more exciting – There’s a trip to South America, a corporate residency and so much of Boston and beyond I am yet to explore.

Dybbydyy dib dib doo... !!! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review : Kafka On the Shore

This Book Review got published on The Tossed Salad (click on title) . 

One of the reasons I am always drawn  to Murakami’s writing is because it makes one extremely cynical and critical of their own likes and dislikes and how they view life. I sometimes find myself judging my own self rather than the content and the context: Did I really like this book? Do I relate to these feelings, am I scandalized or appalled or simply approving? Of course these ruminations are not mandatory, but if one does find themselves over thinking after reading a Murakami book, it is not a reason to be surprised or much too perturbed.
The mystical, the supernatural and the sexual overtones of his work are a manifestation of feelings, perspective and desiresIt would not be fair to  say that his writing is food for thought, but it is definitely a decadent dessert worth the money.
Kafka on the Shore is one of those books which keeps you completely immersed till the very last page and then leaves you feeling extremely confused. You find yourself questioning whether you actually did like the book or if you liked it just because the book carries a certain reputation, falls into a specific genre you usually like and is heralded by people who might be considered fashionable enthusiasts in your social circle or on the Internet .  Murakami does have an exclusive and ardent fan following. Either or tether ways, his books do make for great reading and one will enjoy reading him if the reader enjoys literary fiction.
While reading the book, I went through several motions; the assertive yet esoteric tone of the book got me hooked early on. The chapters alternate between Kafka, a fifteen year old runaway, and Nakata, an old man who can speak to cats, tracing their bizarre journey and interesting accomplices. It keeps one engaged, as the tone and tenor of both the parallel stories are quite different. While Kafka’s is sexually charged with a familiar youthful angst, Nakata’s is spiritual and calm with wonky wonders that balances the tone. Interestingly, all the violence is depicted in Nakata chapters.
The book starts rather dramatically with young Kafka running away from home and provides the alternate and rather detailed explanation of a mysterious incident that changed Nakata’s life forever. The author is able to draw the reader deep into the story and into one’s own mind. The plot is mesmerizing, slightly spooky and convoluted, with elaborate philosophical and spiritual musings of Ms Seiko, Oshima and Kafka, the principal characters. These musings are unrealistic and over the top but carry strong content, which really keeps one pondering over them. Nakata’s characterization is brilliant and endearing. The sequence of events flows steadily, but Murakami just drops certain explanations from the book, never to be answered. The reader loses track of the layered references and the engaging mystery.
Bizarre and supernatural sequence of events like leeches and mackerel falling from the sky, talking cats and ghostly spirits are easily weaved into the plot — characteristic of Murakami’s work. However, this book definitely feels more controlled than Murakami’s other great book Dance Dance Dance, where one is sure that the writer has let his pen, feelings and imagination run wild and bouncing.
The book ends on a disappointing note. Too many loose ends make the plot unsubstantial.  One might find themselves re reading certain parts of the book; certain parts definitely need going back to, especially the part where a ghostly spirit – Captain Sanders makes an appearance. But the ending may be forgettable for some.
All in all, the book is still recommended for the undeniable brilliance in Murakami’s prose.