By Chetan Bhagat
Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program, Pune
23rd June, 2008
Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak
to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college,
leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to
become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few
days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in
college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a
tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what
would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so
much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you
that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about
keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy
most, if not all the time.
Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year
old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make
them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park.
A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for
birthday party - several months in advance - just for the day
they will cut their own birthday cake.
I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see
older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age,
the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull,
dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab
We Met vs. the second
half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save
Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing -
to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard
To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve
and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is
possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to
company pay package, a particular car or house.
Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material
landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where
money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a
big achievement. But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the
case, Mr.. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay
at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to
make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars
already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday?
They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes
them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good.
If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to
interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice,
your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot
become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for
that next level is important.
Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which
we were born.. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of
nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.
I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give
you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before
Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all
in good order.
There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup.
There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not
enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.
You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon
or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those
races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon
kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first.
Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your
striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you
may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited
and alive, will start to die.
One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously.
One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One
student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the
The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined
my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or
any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing
everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I
take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I
live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary
here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are
lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500
weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up?
It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We
are people, not programmed devices.
I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking
it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four
storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame.
These must be guarded against. These are disappointment,
frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.
Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the
expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face
failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do
come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you
will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit,
like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some
IITians kill themselves over low grades - how silly is that? But that
is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life. If challenges could
always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember -
if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or
potential. And that's where you want to be.
Disappointment's cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you
ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is
especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that
job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if
you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for
Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely
lucky, but it took me five years
to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns
initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How
did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved - movies
take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking
a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result -
at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan - I
had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable
distractions in your life
- friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is
to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took
it too seriously.
Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is
how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful
faces, pedigree find it easier to make it - not just in Bollywood, but
And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities
in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen.
Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short
term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do
work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In
fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this
speech in English means you are pretty damn lucky by Indian standards.
Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what
we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot
even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I
don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are
more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your
Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you
grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all
kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you
still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize
you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you
feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can
create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may
drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop
playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give
up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family.
But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise.
Love yourself first, and then others.
There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms -
disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot
avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at
regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let
the spark die.
I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If
someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose
college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will
shine the same way as they do today.. That you will Keep the Spark
alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends.
And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark
alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And
there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion
Monday, August 25, 2008
By Chetan Bhagat
Friday, May 30, 2008
At the Airport:
- 1. Carry your passport and any other important documents with you all the time. Make at least 2 photo copies (of all pages of the passport including the page where the visa is), one in the other travelers hand bag and the other in a suitcase.
- 2. At the security check points, they will ask you to take out any electronics from the bag and remove your shoes, belts etc..Do take out the electronics as if they find out later, the do a complete check of your bag which is a pain.
- 3. Carry some material to read (books, magazines etc.). Waiting at the airports can be quite boring.
- 4. Do not get tempted to spend your dollars at the duty free shops. Most of the things are available in US at a much cheaper cost.
- 5. Do not hesitate to spend money on buying food at the airports if you are hungry. The food does seem a little expensive, but is worth it when one is hungry.
- 6. Be very careful about the liquids you carry as if it is not in a zip lock and less than some ml they will confiscate it and you will never see them again.
During the flight:
- 1. Drink lots of water and liquids: Do not be afraid to ask for it from the air hostess.
- 2. Eat : And if you do not like the food they are serving ( make sure you ask for all the options), take something from home (like parantha rolls etc .)
- 3. Keep Warm: I have noticed that different airlines maintain different temperatures, so I like to wear socks ( or atleast have them in my hand bag) and have a thin sweater or shawl.
- 4. Sleep as much as possible: The best way to pass time is to catch up on sleep, it might feel hard due to space restrictions but they give a pillow and a blanket and it is up to us how cozy we choose to be.
- 5. Watching movies is also a great time pass!
During the stay:
Things you might need:
- 1) Bathroom Slippers
- 2) Soft Jacket for the evenings/mornings/around the house
- 3) Enough undergarments for about 2 weeks ( or if you don't have enough and don't want to buy then we can wash them with hand).
- 4) Your personal medicines
- 5) Comfortable walking shoes
- 6) Carry your cell phones and chargers. ( I am not sure which charger will work here, but just carry it anyways).
- 7) Bring some reading material to read during your stay. I enjoy catching up on my novels during a holiday.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
USUALLY BEING FROM AN ENGINEERING BACKGROUND IS ENOUGH TO TAKE UP MOST OF THE COURSES IN MS&E. I TOOK A FINANCE CLASS AND THE ONLY PROBLEM I FACED WAS IN CATCHING UP WITH THE SPEED OF THE CLASS IN GENERAL. IF ONE PUTS IN SOME EFFORT DURING THE BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND SOME BASIC CONCEPTS, ITS NOT THAT BAD USUALLY. OF COURSE SOME OF THE UNDERGRADS FROM US WHO HAVE MAJORED IN FINANCE AND ECONOMICS SEEM TO BE WAY AHEAD OF US ENGINEERS. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT USUALLY A PROBLEM.
THIS IS A TRICKY QUESTION AS PLACEMENTS IN STANFORD ARE USUALLY VERY GOOD , HOWEVER THERE ARE SOME STUDENTS WHO REALLY STRUGGLE TO GET THE JOB THEY WANT. SO TO MAKE MYSELF MORE CLEAR ONE NEEDS TO WORK HARD FROM THE BEGINNING TO ENSURE THAT YOU GET THE JOB AND COMPANY YOU WANT. MOST OF THE TOP COMPANIES RECRUIT FROM MS&E AND I DON'T SEE A PROBLEM IN GETTING SOME JOB ATLEAST!
STANFORD LOOKS FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE EXCEPTIONAL IN SOME AREA OR OTHER. USUALLY MOST OF THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS I MET HERE HAD A GRE SCORE MORE THAN 1400. ACADEMICS WERE PRETTY GOOD, TOP 5% OF YOUR CLASS AND SOME EXCELLENT PROJECTS AND RECOS, THE USUAL STUFF I GUESS!
WHEN R U GRADUATING? WIL YOU GET SOME WORK EXPERIENCE BEFORE YOU GET HERE. THERE IS NO HARM IN CONTACTING THE PROFESSORS AND IN GENEREAL GETTING PEOPLE IN THE DEPARTMENT TO KNOW YOU.
I GOT AN ADMIT WITH A GOOD GRE SCORE, SOP AND RECO;S. SO I DON'T SEE HOW ANYONE ELSE CAN'T GET IN. BUT AT THE SAME TIME LET ME WARN YOU, THIS PROGRAM IS GETTING VERY POPULAR IN INDIA AND LOTS OF STUDENTS ARE APPLYING. INFACT THIS YEAR, I WAS SPEAKIGN TO THE ADMISSION PEOPLE AND S HE WAS TELLING ME THAT CHOOSING AMONGST THE INDIAN STUDENTS IS GETTING VERY HARD...
was going through the course list, and some of the courses that would interest me have been marked saying that they are limited enrollment courses. What does that mean ? I select a concentration say Entreprenurship and Policy, than would i not be given preference over the othes who might have opted for say OR ?
IN THE MS&E DEPT, DON'T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT CONCENTRAITON TO TAKE. TAKE UP THE COURSES YOU LIKE. Some of the COURSES YOU SAW ARE LIMITED ENROLEMENT. THIS MEANS THAT THERE ARE LMITED SEATS AND ONE HAS TO APPLY TO GET IN. IN SOME, WE HAVE TO FILL AN APPLICATION FORM AND BASED ON WORK EX ETC, THE PROF DECIDES WHO TO TAKE. SOME OTHER ONES HAVE A LOTTERY SYSTEM AS THERE ARE TOO MANY STUDENTS WHO APPLY.
Although i have been able to research on the course content etc for the MS&E program, but i was not able to find any relevant placement statistics. I also tried getting across to the department grad. office assistant, but she was also not able to provide me with any number and asked me to write to the Graduate Student Placement Centre to find more information on the same. Would be able to provide some numbers on placements and some rough idea on the starting salaries there.
PLACEMENTS ARE PRETTY GOOD FOR ALL STANFORD STUDENTS. BEING A MASTERS STUDENT, ONE CANNOT EXPECT POSITIONS AND SALARIES LIKE THOSE OF THE MBA'S . BUT MOST OF THE STUDENTS END UP GETTING PRETTY GOOD JOBS . I KNOW OF SOME WHO DID HAVE PROBLEMS, THEY USUALLY HAD SOME STRANGE REASONS LIKE BAD COMMUNICAITON SKILLS OR APPLYING FOR THE WRONG JOBS AT THE WRONG TIME ETC..
THE SALARIES FOR MASTERS STUDENTS ARE BETWEEN $60,000 TO $90,000 PER ANNUM DEPENDING ON THE COMPANY AND JOB PROFILE AS WELL AS YOUR PAST WORK EXPERIENCE.
I also happened to visit your blog where i could see some of the rants about the program and stuff around it .
Also if you dont mind, i would like to hear from you on your background and what convinced you that Stan is where you wanted to be ( i read your blog post on this :) but still )).
SO AFTER COMPLETING MY ENGINEERING IN ELECTRONICS FROM PUNE UNIV, I WORKED WITH IBM FOR A YEAR AND REALISED THAT I WASN'T ALL THAT INTERESTED IN DOING A PURE TECH JOB. I THEN SWITCHED TO A START UP IN A BUSINESS ROLE. BY THEN I HAD STARTED LOOKING AT SCHOOLS IN AMERICA FOR FURTHER EDUCAITON. I DIDN'T HAVE ENOOUGH WORK EX TO GET THROUGH THE TOP MBA SCHOOLS PLUS I WAS STILL A LITTLE STUCK UP ON DOING TECH RELATED MANAGEMENT.
MS&E AT STANFORD WAS A PERFECT FIT. I LOVE STANFORD AND BEING IN THE SILICON VALLEY IS A BIG BONUS.
1. How did you prepare? What do they usually ask, acads, cultural, any specific questions on the form, etc?
THE PREPARAITON IS GENERAL SIMILAR TO OTHER INTERVIEWS: ACADS, WHY THE COURSE, WHY UNIV, EXTRA CURRICULARS, WILL YOU COME BACK TO INDIA AFTER YOUR STUDIES, 5 YEAR PLANS ETC..
2. What should I watch out for? Stress Interviews, etc
I DIDN'T HAVE A STRESS INTERVIEW AND DON'T THINK ANYONE ELSE DID.
3. I heard it is random selection sometimes, how do I increase my chances?
I DON'T BELIEVE IT IS RANDOM SELECTION. BUT THEN I COULD BE WRONG, SO CAN'T SAY FOR SURE!
THE ONLY THING TO DO IS GIVE THE INTERVIEW YOUR BEST SHOT! AND SHOW YOUR DEDICATION TO WORKING HARD IN GENERAL.
4. Is this a loan or a scholarship?
ITS A SCHOLARSHIP.
5. Can you connect me to any of your friends who have been selected or been through this process?
I DON'T KNOW OF ANYONE ELSE WHO GOT SELECTED LAST YEAR, BUT YOU CAN JOIN ORKUT GROUP WHICH HAS A LOT OF OTHER SCHOLARS POSTING THEIR EXPERIENCES.
Firstly, kindly tell me what percentage of the tuition fee do they offer as scholarship.
Secondly, what kind of interview is expected.. I mean will this be a normal HR interview or will they be asking me questions about my area of study.
THE INTERVIEW WAS BOTH HR, ACADEMIC, ACHIEVEMENTS BASED ETC..ANYTHING CAN BE ASKED..BUT USUALLY THE QUESTIONS ARE ORIENTED TOWARDS WHY THIS COURSE, WHY THE UNIV, EXTRA CURRICULARS ETC.
Around how many people generally attend the interview. I am asking these questions to just get an idea of what I have to face and prepare myself better.
I AM NOT SURE HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE ACTUALLY CALLED FOR THE INTERVIEW AS THEY WERE SPREAD OUT OVER A COUPLE OF DAYS. BUT A ROUGH ESTIMATE COULD BE AROUND 80-100 STUDENTS LAST YEAR. I COULD BE WRONG, SO DON'T TAKE THIS AS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH.
How much amount was the scholarship given to you.
THE AMOUNT VARIES WITH STUDENTS , COURSES AND NUMBER OF YEARS IT TAKES TO COMPLETE THE COURSE. IT CAN BE ANYWHERE FROM 4.00 LACKS TO 8.00 LACK INDIAN RUPEES OVER A PERIOD OF 2 YEARS.
2. How was your interview and what all things were asked. What was the duration of your interview and how many rounds were there?
AFTER I RECIEVED THE RESPONSE FROM THEM INVITING ME TO MUMBAI FOR THE INTERVIEW, THERE WAS ONLY 1 ROUND IN MUMBAI. THE INTERVIEW LASTED FOR 15 MINUTES TO 30 MINUTES FOR VARIOUS STUDENTS. THEY ASKED ME QUESITONS ABOUT THE FORM I HAD FILLED( ACHIEVEMENTS, GOALS, EXTRA CURRICULARS ETC) AS WELL AS WHY I WANTED TO PURSUE THIS PARTICULAR COURSE AND HOW WILL IT HELP INDIA WHEN I COME BACK.
3. Is there any terms and conditions like you need to serve BPCL after your completion or some thing like that.
THERE WERE NO TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP I WAS GIVEN EXCEPT TO PERFORM WELL IN THE COURSE I AM PURSUING HERE.
4. What was the rough intimated date when your scholarship result was announced?
I DON'T REMEMBER EXACTLY BUT I THINK IT WAS TOWARDS THE END OF JULY NOT BEFORE THAT.
5. Lastly, your own suggestions, tips, tricks and advices which you feel necessary to share it with me regarding the scholarship.
BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHY YOU WANT TO PURSUE THIS COURSE AND HOW IS THE BPCL SCHOLARSHIP GOING TO HELP YOU IN DOING THAT. TALK A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR LOYALTY TOWARDS INDIA AND HOW YOU WILLL HELP THE COUNTRY WHEN YOU GET BACK.
FINALLY, THE INTERVIEWS WERE VERY VARIED AMONGST DIFFERENT STUDENTS SO THERE IS NO CLEAR ANSWER TO WHAT MIGHT ACTUALLY HELP YOU TO WIN THE SHCOLARSHIP. HOWEVER, DO YOUR BEST AND I AM SURE YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU DESERVE.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Sometimes one ends up meeting the most wonderful people who one knows are there to change the course of your life. It doesn't happen everyday. It takes a lot to just reach there. But when it feels right, you know it. And no I am not talking about a life partner.
And yes, the world still has some good people out there!
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Also, some of the situations and people who give the most security suddenly don't seem that secure. Why is that those who you had believed in, in a new system let you down. Or maybe my belief has been faulty. But if I look back, many of my beliefs have been faulty and soon they had to be remade and reinvented. That is change for me. The sting of certain situations never goes away, it only fades and then becomes a memory which comes back if the lesson is not learned.
In this land of strange, who and what can be my own? Who are the people I lean on for support and courage? What if they suddenly disappear? Find new ones? Renew, regenerate, reinvent, rethink..the message of this spring!!