Sunday, January 29, 2012

"My Grandson is an MBA"

Said Mrs. Mathew to the group which consisted of distant family members and close ones too. All of sixty-two years, born and brought up in an era which never knew what an MBA was nor had any use for it, she hardly cared. Licking her lips and chewing away at the chicken with whatever teeth she had left, she continued to her group at the marriage reception "He's got into a big company now. I don't know what it is ITC or Info-something.... some foreign company..There are so many new names now" She knew she had the respect of her on-lookers-it was the wedding of her cousin's grandson Benjamin. But even before the groom and bride had had a taste of the chicken gravy which awaited them at their table, talk was on at the family-network which laid the ground-work for the next marriage and Mrs. Thomas knew she had a winner. Why, didn't Asha's son who also had an MBA get a 'nice' match? For a country of a 'billion people' where their opinions are as varied from north-south and east-west as their paranthas to their masala dosas and pav-bhaji to momos, India is united in its ideas of marriage and right now with almost certainity in this hot marriage segment the MBA-guy/girl has as much demand as mutton biriyani at Ramzan.

True the Administrative Services will never lose their flavour with the North and Gujarat will always honour its business wallahs, but after the rise and wane of the software techie, the MBA wallah has steadfastedly held the ground at the top of the marriage table. But if you have to name the real hero it has to be the software techie. This particular creature did what no one could dare to hitherto- it single-handedly clutched the power from the doctors and engineers and overnight became the king/queen of the marriage table. This kind of power doesn't come easily in the rigid power structure in Indian society. The software-techie created a new segment in the Indian society-the middle-class or even as some might refer it to-the upper middle class. With the wads of American dollars flowing into the Indian software industry from back-office jobs, the software-techie bought houses, 3-bhks, travelled in autos where he had hitherto caught a bus or worse-walked and basically flaunted his money. Because lets face it- he could afford to show off. All of a sudden the Indian middle-class jumped from bank-slips and wait at cash-counters to credit cards. Where there was the old cathode ray TV now stood plasma flat screens. Be it the change from Old Cask Rum to Teachers and Chivas Regal or from local radio music to entry at the best pubs and discs in the city, the software-techie had it all. And for all the care and frowns and fights that take place to get two people fixed for marriage in India, it still couldn't ignore the fact that with software-techie as groom "life jinga-da-la"(basically means your daughter will be wearing a lot more jewellery than what you would send her off with at marriage). It was seen as a 'safe' investment and software-wallahs came to be hunted more aggressively than whales in the Pacific or cockroaches in China(wonder where those cockroaches in masala stalls in China come from?)

And what made the software-techie a people's hero was that anyone could become one. The American jobs didn't need much of a brain and anyone who could learn a computer language was welcomed in. It didn't matter whether you were a science graduate, a commerce student, or a techie all that mattered was whether you could learn a simple computer language. Quite suddenly NRIs began to lose their status in India 'cos lets face it software-techies did projects overseas and still managed to work in India. All of a sudden parents who wanted the status of a 'foreign-working' son-in-law and still get to see their girl more often, had found their golden goose. The basic man working outside was also happy 'cos the software-techie was bringing in loads of cash into their businesses. And boys and girls all over India were generally happy 'cos believe-it-or-not software-techies led to software-babes and with them came a wave of fashion. Hem-lines shrank and neck-lines dived and the Indian male population was definitely happy. And so was the female population-now they had boyfriends with loads of cash-well what more could they ask for. It was in this period of prosperity that disaster struck in the form a recession. Ask the auto-wallahs in B'lore; they will tell you, for, the recession in U.S which had nothing to do with them suddenly had everything to do with them. No more single-person trips from s/w companies straight to M.G road and discs, no more long distance trips from software-techies. Infact with software-techies clutching onto their money and making a bee-line for buses and a change in life-style, the auto-wallahs got one right on their belly. 

It was during this period of change or as a silent partner during their growth that a second species called the MBA-wallah began to raise its head. With major companies setting up shop in India they needed someone to run the shop. With C.As being produced in India at the rate of water in corporation taps and owing to the blood-suckers they tend to become when they finally become C.As, companies probably decided they needed their own answer to the adminisitration problem. They decided that people with loads of work experience in the shop-floor(the basic techies) couldn't handle the 'problems' of management and a new breed called the MBA-guy was created to be the Daddy of them all - yes even the software-techie. And the middle class had again found its foot-hold 'cos you said it- with a graduate degree and high school mathematics you could now enter any of the management schools and the best of them the IIMs and emerge as a new creature- the MBA-wallah. Almost inevitably unless you were a complete idiot you did the exitting with several job offers in 7-digit salaries. And the next door Ramu who until now had the vocabulary which could barely include "machining, procedure, scientific, sir/madam" now emerging from MBA colleges had lingo like "down-sizing, right-sizing, resources(not the iron-ore and aluminium kind mind you), break-even" all words which meant latin to common people. True to their nature of respecting things which they couldn't comprehend, the Indian populace treated the MBA-wallah with awe and respect. It invaded the industry in all spheres except where it mattered at the shop-floor and saw to it that things were run 'smoothly'. It became the baap(dad) to the software-techie and other basic techies. And unlike the software-techie of which there were basically two types the code developers( a rare minority) and the code-checkers and probably the bpo-worker, the MBA-wallah came in all kinds of types from number-crunching finance-types to tongue-wagging HRs and Marketting and still others. The work-force was not human anymore-no they were human resource and all the down-sizing, right-sizing hit the software-techies and other techies in their under-belly. Quite like shady religious preachers they used jargon which no-one could understand and lets face it-weren't meant to understand. Many a kid studying engineering and realising that his brains were probably only going to land him a tech job for a measly 5 to 4-digit salary saw the 'error' of his ways and moved onto MBA where you needed less brain and more tongue-wagging and he could earn a hundred times more. So they sold their souls and brains to the B-schools as they are called and shed their engineering skin to become a new breed which scarcely remembered or associated itself to engineering or science as such- and they were rewarded. They even marketted their own products- soft-skills to the unsuspecting public who lapped it all up- Gods that the MBA-wallahs were now.

And India's biggest unspoken industry-the match-making industry took notice of this new breed that was emerging. No one noticed the pot-belly or the photo-shopped hair on the MBA-wallahs, no one noticed the old Ramu hiding underneath they only chose to see the rich cream of the B-school smeared on him. They didn't care whether he could be a boring old fag crunching numbers day-in and day-off, they didn't care whether he could be home at all to spend time with the family, all they wanted to see or hear was the unfathomable jargon and the foreign business trips that their daughters could accompany him on. They chose to just see the cash-cow infront of them-"he is well-placed and will provide for you and you both will learn to adjust to each other" was what the daughters heard from their parents and instead of well-toned hrithik roshans in their dreams they learnt to accomodate the 'baby-facish', 'slightly plump' and 'official-looking' MBA-wallah. 

Every species in this world finds its own mate - by itself. Everyone except probably the Indian groom/bride. Like potato in our sambhar and aloo-gobi the choices of the groom/bride is just one of the ingredients in the sambhar that is a marriage-match. The Indian groom/couple are probably the only species still out there who are still spineless in getting a match on their own or worst still, are forbidden to do so on your own. Arranged marriages were followed to the best part of the last century probably in the west, but the scale to which it is followed here would probably blow away any comparison. From grand-parents to uncles and aunties on both sides of their dad and mom had to be convinced, before the Indian bride/groom even had a say. By then everyone else other than the couple concerned are convinced they want the two together and then everything thats important is shoved under the mat with "every marriage is like this. You will adjust to each other". Only such a system could have wagged in and lapped up an MBA-wallah with no apprehension whatsoever(am I being too critical? Some of them really work hard and are good at what they do you know) and as luck could have it it gave them the MBA-wallah.

On the dusty streets of Tanjavore in the early hours as dawn is still breaking Mrs.Iyer has just finished splashing water in front of her house and has drawn a kolam(drawing with rice-powder), to find the daily has just arrived. Breaking her reciting of the keertanas sung from the speakers at the nearby temple she opens it straight to the matrimonial section(they go straight from matrimonial to obituaries in that order) and thumbs down the Iyer section. Her face lights up as she has found what she was looking for "bride sought for Iyer boy,fair complexion, MBA graduate and working in reputed company. Girl should have traditional values..." True to her expectation Mrs. Mathew finds that her crowd of onlookers are eager to hear more about her MBA grandson. By tomorrow word would have reached the outer arms of the family tree and beyond and before long she would have a 'nice' girl for her Vincent.

P.S: Dru best of luck for your interview dude. I don't hate all MBA people you know, especially those who are really into management like you are.