Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Looking back....

Anniversaries are part of our life. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, business anniversaries and many other. Now here on my blog I’m going to celebrate the first anniversary of my entry in to this blogosphere. It’s a world filled with ideas and thoughts coming from people with different interest in variety of fields. I guess each one of us here would have a different perception in owning a blog. I am not really very sure what impelled me to start this blog of mine. But there are few things that I have gained and lost from this space.

Things I gained :

1. I became more conscious of the world outside and the things that happened around me. Not that I was desperate to post them here. But it gave a sense of fulfillment in life.
2. It kindled my thoughts and ideas provoking me to explore whatever creativity (please allow me to use this word) I have and got me playful with words. I even tried my hands on poem. (Wordsworth, to take note)
3. It give me a new identity ,not very much different from what I am already in real. But the fact is that I live here.
4. It got me new friends and I got myself exposed to new world of ideas and people with incredible prowess, which taught me humility without affecting the little pride I take from my contributions here.
5. It gave me a sense of belongingness in this blogosphere. Yes, I am part of this blogging revolution.
6. It got me more curious to the new technological developments. (But it’s the question of money, anyway)
7. I adopted a new hobby that was worth filling my civil service exams forms with. And it even formed part of my interview session and it helped my tread on path that I was at ease with.

Things I lost:

1. Doled out time and some money on surfing hoping to see some comments and new visitors to my blog. I have no regrets.
2. Accused of “self-advertisement”. But my argument is: aren’t blogs a form of online diary.
3. I guess there is not much I lost. So I’ll stop with this.

Anyways, thanks a lot for your gracious presence on the day of my blog-anniversary. Please do stay back for dinner :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A day with UPSC....

In my post last I had discussed about the 13th of April, the day that was fixed for my interview. First, I was thinking if I should sit here in front of the computer and type the entire details about it. Then for the sake of record I decided to do that. Here’s the transcript. (please leave your comments)

I was put under Dr. Bhure Lal’s panel. And I was the third person to go in the group of 5 candidates. I was waiting for my turn outside when the second candidate was being interviewed. He was out and said the panel members were very cordial. He wished me best of luck and left. I asked the attendant for some water before I was to go in. As luck would have it, there was no water there and he had to go to fill the bottle. Meanwhile the door was opened for me by another attendant there. I did not wait for the water and delay the process that was to begin. So I entered the room with mouth almost run dry.
There was a lady member among the 5 panel members,including the chairman.
First I wished the lady member and then others.
I was asked to take the seat by the chairman.

Chairman (CM): hello! Guganesan. How are you??
Me: I am very fine, sir.
CM: (he looks at the form again) G ganesan (and just moved his body forward)
(I sensed here that he was in a good mood)
Me: ( I just smile at him) yes sir, Guganesan.
CM: So, you are a chartered Accountant.
Me: yes sir!!
CM :why do you want to come to civil service after CA?
Me: sir, I had decided to join civil service even before doing CA. In fact after clearing my CA I came for civil services preparation immediately.
CM: What is money laundering?
I explain that to him
CM: What is the link between terrorism and money laundering?
I tell him about how terrorism is funded ,about drug deal and all that.
CM : what are the three stages involved in money laundering???
I started explaining. There he stopped me and asked “ do u know the stages or not”
Me: No sir. This is all I know
Then he explained me the stages with its specific names (this was moreover close to what I said, except for the jargons he used)
CM: What are the duties of CA under prevention of money laundering Act?
Me: sir, I’m not aware of any provisions under the Act.
CM: oh, I though they’ll teach u all that in CA.
CM: how much is our Forex reserve?
Me: sir, its 199 billion dollars.
CM: ok, that’s fairly 200 billion dollars. Do you think we are secured?
Me: yes sir. It is said we have so much of reserve that it can fund 13 months of our imports.
CM : I don’t feel secured.
Me: (after giving serious thought) May I ask you why,sir.
(Both the chairman and the lady member bursted in to laughter )
CM: Yes. You have every right to ask me.
( He explained me the reason to which I almost agreed)
CM: How do you manipulate stock market?
I explained him about insider trading, one of the manipulative practices.
CM: why there’s so much of volatility in the stock market now?
I gave two reasons and explained them.1. hike in interest rate. 2. Appreciation of Japanese yen.
Then the chairman showed sign for the lady member to ask questions.

Member 2 (M2): Guganesan, explain over invoicing and under invoicing in foreign trade.
I explained her about that transfer pricing practices which related companies follow.
M2: ok. That relates to transfer pricing . Tell me in general. Suppose I’m an exporter in Tiruppur and you’re my client. I’m billing you at a price less that what it actually is.
I explained how it affects India and said the balance proceeds can be siphoned off to someother countries ( I guess she was looking for that word ‘siphon off’. After I said that she seemed more convinced)
M2: do you think India should accept foreign aid? I want your opinion on that.
Me: Yes Ma’am. I feel India should accept foreign aid. Although India is a developing country and sitting on huge forex reserve it needs so much of fund to finance our infrastructure needs.
M2: Ok. What is the legislation that regulates foreign aid.
Me: (think for a while) Ma’am ,its foreign contribution regulations Act.
M2: that’s. right. But do you think we need such kind of legislation. You know, NGO’s accept lots of foreign aid . do you think it needs to be regulated?
Me:Ma’am I’m not aware of the detailed provisions under the Act. But I know that NGO’s are under an obligation to file some kind of return with RBI after the receipt of the aid. I feel we should have these kind of regulations. B’coz some accountability is ensured on that part of NGO’s . It ensures that money is spent for the said purpose.
M2: But that’s between NGO and the foreign agency why should govt get involved.
Me: yes ma’am. Its true that its only between NGO and foreign agency .but NGO’s involve in social sector projects. So I think that it concern the government. So there is need for regulation.
M2: Ok.what are the preferences u’ve given?
Me: Ma’am I’ve given IAS as my first preference and IFS -2nd, 3rd-IPS and 4Th IRS.
M2: (she just smiled and nodded her head )ok, thank you. (she showed her hand to the third member) I just thanked her and looked in to the eyes of the third member.

M3: who are mafia?
I just gave an vague explanation.
M3: can we call phoolan Devi mafia?
Me: No sir. Mafia operate as network. They are widespread. Whereas Phoolan Devi just had a set of people.
M3: tell me who are the constituents of this Mafia.
Me; (I think for a while. Couldn’t really make out where the discussion is heading) sir, mafia would have set of musclemen.
M3: ok. They’re field staff. But what it takes to organize a crime?
Me: they need a proper plan before anytning is to be committed. And they collude with people on the other side.
M3: who are this people on the other side?
Me: sir, it’s the officials of the government.
M3: do you know chartered accountants play a major part in legalizing their money?
(here I realized why he started this discussion. So much of grudges against CAs, I thought)
Me: sir, there would be very few chartered accountants who are involved in such activities.
M3:Very few? (he looks at the papers in front of him) u’ve given reading as your hobby. What kind of books you read?
I answer that .(both fiction and non fiction)
M3: Have you read this book called “ Sacred game” by Vikram Chandra.?
Me: No sir, I haven’t read that.
M3: Read that book. It talks about how chartered accountants involve in legalizing the mafia’s money. They’re even called counselors.
Me: ok sir I’ll read that.
M3: what is the legislation that exclusively covers organized crime?
Me: no sir, I’m not aware of any specific legislation.
M3: ok. Blogging is your other hobby. On what kind of issues you write.
Me: sir, I have not restricted myself to any field. I write on anything that is interesting . It could be something interesting that happened in my life.
Me: once I wrote about the rag picker boy in my street. (I explained what I wrote in that post. The lady member seemed to be interested too although I dint make any eye contact with her)
M3: So you are interested in human behaviour?
Me: yes sir, u can say that.
M3:ok, now looking at the psyche of Indian people. Why there’s so much of adulteration in our country. Its not found much in other countries. Why only this subcontinent?u know, law allows some qty of stone in rice. There’s adulteration in drugs. Why is it so.
Me: sir, its because of the erosion of values among people in our country. India is a country where so many movies made every year. I think people pick such things from these movies.
M3: but adulteration has been there even before the movies came.
Me: yes sir. That’s true. But after movies these things increased in numbers.
M3: but where do we learn all this. Does historical books and religious books teach us?
Me: no sir. Our religious books and historical book don’t teach us these practices. I think its people’s desire to make easy money. They come out with new ideas and get involved in such things. I think its all about money, sir,
M3: suppose there’s a shop keeper who mixes stones in rice. One day his son falls sick. He buys medicine which is adulterated and his son dies. Do you think he’ll change.
Me: sir, it depends on the person. If he’s really learnt a lesson from this incident I think he’d change.
M3: I don’t think he’ll change.
(he thanked me and put me onto the 4th member)

M4: so you are from kancheepuram. What’s the name of the famous temple in your town.
Me: sir, its kamakshi amman temple.
M4: what is the name of the legendary who laid the statue there?
Me: I’m sorry sir. I’m not sure of the name.
M4: its adi shankara. How far is that temple from your house.
Me: sir, its 2-3 kms from my house.
M4: oh, so close and still u haven’t bothered to find out that. What is the relationship between culture and reading?
Me: sir , If one person had been unaware of his culture, he can know them by reading any books. That way one can come to know about one’s culture and get them imbibed in his life.
M4: what is culture?
Me: sir, culture is one’s way of life. One’s way of dressing, food habits. It covers these many things.
M4: why do we have so many myths in our life?
I explain him something.
M4:no,,no. u have not really understood what is myth. U know we celebrate diwali.someone killed someone.
Me: (having got the flash in mind)yes sir. We have these kind of festival in life. Although they are based on myths they bring our families together. We celebrate and stay happy. It even disciplines our lives.
M4: “churning milk out of sea” what do you interpret on this.
Me: (almost puzzled) its like getting the best out of something which is in abundance.
M4: how education has churned u?
ME: (having no clue how to address) sir, eduction has helped to meet people from different background. I have learnt to interact with them. And also I;ve been able to understand the values in their life and tried to take it if they are good.
M4: why filmstars are raised to the level of god in tamilnadu?
(M3 interrupts and says even temples have been built)
I explain something .
M4: that’s there’s everywhere. There’s one particular reason. What is it?
Me:no sir. I can’t think of any particular reason.
M4: ok, think on ur way back u;ll get it.
(he thanked me and passed onto the 5th person)

M5:I’ll just ask you few questions. (I was happy to hear tht)
How do you classify land?
Me: sir, agricultural land and non-agricultural land.
M5:ok. That’s one way of saying. U know , u can classify it as mainland and hinterland. (I uttered the word ‘hinterland “along with him, as he was very slowly talking)
And we have islands. Tell me the name of an island in Arabian sea.
Me: sir. Its lakshadweep.
M5: what is the total surface area?
Me:no sir, I’m not aware of that.
M5:ok, I thought since u were staying close to that place u might know that. Ok. Why British came to India, first?
Me: Sir, they came for trade.
M5: but there’s one incident that prompted them to rule India. What is it?
(Here this member was very vague in framing this question. Then the M3 explained it in a better way for me.)
Me(after serioulsly thinking) no sir, I have never come across any such incident.
M5: now I’ll give u a topic. I want you to deliberate on this and speak for and against. “All people who come for civil service preparation should not do that”
(I know it sounds confusing)
I spoke about why people want to come to civil service. Reasons like public service, improving the functions of govt. For against the topic I said there;’s so much o f corruption and abuse of power.Said “ civil service is even considered first resort of scoundrel “
(only after coming home I realized that what I spoke under :For” was actually “against” and vice versa. )
M5: do you really think people come for service?
Me: yes sir. There are many people who come for preparation with the public services in mind. In fact, I’m one such person myself.
(then M5 looked at the chairman. )
CM: guganesan, you interview is over . you can leave.

I thanked everyone and left the room. Wow. What a relief when I came out. Now I have to wait for the results. That could be anytime during the second week of May.

Here is another transcript of interview I had on 31st March,2010:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

13th Friday: Black or red

Now I have only few more days to pass before I go knocking at the doors of the interview panel at UPSC. It is on the 13th of this month. It falls on Friday. I have heard stories of 13th being an unlucky number. And even know that this number is most despised in western countries. There you’d see tall buildings which does not have 13th floor but 14th ,15th and so on. You won’t find a street that is numbered 13th. Those who do not believe in those superstitious stories would be dumping it as non-sense and say its just another number.

But to me its not so. No, I’m not afraid that my performance at the interview would be upset just because it falls on the 13th. In fact, the experience of preparing for this interview is quite bizarre. In all those written exams I have faced in life I had been under some stress. I have almost felt suffocated. But this is different. I feel the knowledge I have acquired over this few years is adequate enough to prove what I have in those 30 minutes of test. Yet, there is sense of incompleteness but without any pressure to finish them off. Strange it is ,indeed. Everyone here are telling me that it just takes a bit of attitude. Right one, of course.

Whatever it is. The 13th of April is a big day for me. Is it going to be a Black Friday or a red letter day in my life? The future holds the answer.