All Talk and No Action Sunday, July 26, 2009

After To kill a mockingbird and the tonnes of Mills & Boons, this is one book that I completed in 24 hours flat.

Not that it is a masterpiece... Just that it's an easy read..

Joker in the pack traces the life of one Shekhar Verma - from his childhood in a modest neighbourhood in Delhi to the reverential corridors of an Indian Institute of Management.

Written in first person, this is an honest and straight forward account of a middle class guy, with dreams to make it big and his journey to the IIM - B and beyond.

The book gives us a detailed look into a Grad's life at the institution, his daily victories and defeats, the setbacks and little blessings...the longish days and even longer nights - all filled with classes, assignments, projects, extra currics, quizzes, tests, term papers, one-hour naps, 4 hour sleep days, summer internships, foreign exchange programs, summer placements, PPOs, final placements and a crazy, frenetic, dazed, coffee and booze filled life.

If this wasn't enough, our protagonist also has to deal with personal demons in the form of a broken relationship, a downward spiralling confidence and the incessant and mounting competition from batch mates.

The authors, Neeraj Pahlajani and Ritesh Sharma, both IIM B & L graduates respectively, provide for some genuine, honest and funny insights into what goes into the making of an IIMite.

In the form of Shekhar Verma, many a questions are raised - about age old traditions followed at the institution to "arbit" class participation requirements to the fascination for all female species on the campus to moral codes one shouldn't break during placements.

Shekhar represents a 22 year old guy, who by chance/design has ended up at the institution and wants to make it big. He doesn't fit the description of a genius, yet, manages to stay owing to sheer hard work and help from batch mates.

Joker in the pack does not make any moral judgments on the whys and hows of how such institutions work. It just brings to the fore what a graduate should expect and be prepared for during his stay at one of the IIMs (Or, I daresay, any top tier B school in India).

Mostly, I liked the book. Yet, it did give some insights which didn't go down very well with me, personally.

The protagonist, largely, has no particular purpose in life. Not that every 22 year old does. Yet, Shekhar Verma wants to be the king of the world at 22 - whether that comes through I-Banking, Consulting or any such fancy and glamorous field is immaterial. The profile takes a back-seat while all that is of prime importance is getting placed on Day 0 to maintain one's fragile ego. I am assuming this is representative of the large chunk of IIMiites?!

Studies have shown us how a large chunk of IIM graduates leave their first jobs within the first year of work. Isn't this because their personal goals or ideas might not align with those of the company in question? So why go through the high intensity, depression and panic filled Day 0/1/2 placements? Why not turn it into a 10 days/1 month period wherein the students as well as prospective employers can spend more time and see if they genuinely meet each other's expectations?

Also, this book should be read by the HR of all top tier companies that throng the IIMs. Just how do "Plan for next five years"/"where do you see yourself in the next ten years" help them sieve through the sea of students and zero in on the next CEO material? For me, these two are the most idiotic questions EVER.

I am making these points because the IIMs are the torchbearers of Indian Management Education. All other institutions follow what the leaders do. Doing away with their complex and not so transparent placement process would do a world of good to all the stakeholders.

So, Joker in the Pack is an interesting read. Do give it a shot.

Also, if you are keen on reading more in this genre, a better, sharper, funnier and a more wholesome look at a Management Graduate's life has been portrayed in Snapshots from Hell by Peter Robinson - a look into a Stanford MBA's life. A lovely read that leaves one spell bound and shocked at the same time !

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey I tried reading this one long back and couldn't complete it... I thght it was very amateur kind of writing and more like a personal diary...I mean author doesn't have anything to convey ;he just tells you how things happen, It was more like reading piece of news.

I wonder you liked it.... :O

regards
allthecrap

ashkd said...

very well reviewed by you.. gives all the flavour of the book and also the hint of yours..hehe..

i had really liked the 'Snapshots from hell'.. kafi achchhi likhi hai.. though i dont remember exact details now.. would try to get both these books today itself.. :-)

All Talk and No Action said...

@allthecrap - May you expected something on the lines of CB's Five point someone? Or some more story? I did like the book. Though it is simple, straightfwd and almost like a personal diary, it showed true glimpses of what a B school life can be....

@ashkd - Thank you :)

Snapshots is definitely a Fabulous book worth buying...However, can't say so about Joker...

Deepak Iyer said...

Yeah your dislike for IIMs and IITs is obvious in the post.

Pleaaaj leave them alone :)

Oh and "both IIM B & L graduates respectively" .. how does this make sense ?

All Talk and No Action said...

@Deepak - I do not dislike the Grads or the institutions. I do dislike some of the long held traditions and processes these esteemed institutions follow :)

In this sentence, "both" referred to the authors and not the institutions...I guess a "comma" would have helped here...

Ye manzilen !! said...

The question is: when would MM be appearing for one of entrance exams?

Anonymous said...

no no..i didn't expect something on lines of 5 point..but i thght the writing skills were not up to the mark or may be I expected bit more from the book...

anyhow wen obama's book review coming up???

regards
http://allthecrap.wordpress.com

Arvind Pasi said...

Nice review! Though I found the book pretty average & not that much exciting. May be because I have had already experienced/witnessed most of the incidences described in the book and so could predict them easily while reading. Nevertheless, I would suggest all IIM aspirants to read this book at least once to prepare themselves for those 2 years of mental & physical grind! Apart from IIM aspirants everyone else should read this book and appreciate the kind of stress IIM grads deal with throughout the course. Be it emotional (Parents, Family, Friends, Girl friend/Wife etc.) or academic (Grades, Placements, peer pressure etc.), in any situation they are supposed to adapt and keep fighting to win the "satisfaction" of the above mentioned emotional & academic contributories.

@your recommendation to HR people to read this book...
I don’t know how much effective it would be because almost all HR people in those companies belongs to these top institutes itself so they already know the concerned incidences described in the book but still they always prefer to participate in the traditional placement process. Primary reason could be companies are getting the best quality quickly through a hassle free process (at least for them) with a lower ‘recruitment & selection’ cost as compare to other methods. And also it seems these companies have nothing much to lose even if major chunk of IIM grads leave within one year. Anyways, that’s a different issue all together that you can write a separate blog on this :)

Devil Incarnate... said...

I havnt read the book yet, bt ur review is more than enough reason 4 me to buy.. :) nicely put 2gther..

All Talk and No Action said...

@Ye Manzilen - MM bhi kuch na kuch...kabhi na kabhi kar hi legi :)

@allthecrap - Obama's Book review bahut jald aa jaayega...

@arvind - thanks for visiting! Yes, any graduate that goes through an MBA life and bears with the stress involved should be lauded!

About HR - It's sad if these people don't think about changing the process...who shall then save our dear harried MBA Grads?? :)

@Devil I don't know how much the book shall help...since you have been through an MBA yourself :)

Stupidosaur said...

I think there there's just too many of these IIM/IIT 'writers' jumping on to the bandwagon.

Don't have much substance story whetever. Like the first anonymous comment says here!. I also consider the great chetan bahgat in this class :P

http://saying-private-yarn.blogspot.com/2009/04/cricket-why-and-what-i-think-of-chetan.html

All Talk and No Action said...

@Stupidosaur - You might be right about a lot of IIM/IIT grads penning their experiences...

Chetan, I think , is very mediocre too. Yet, I liked Five point someone for its humour.

Anonymous said...

I detect a lot of jealousy from people who neither made it to an IIT / IIM (honestly, how many of you did NOT try for one of the 2..?) nor have the talent to come up with something creative of their own...couch critics :-) just my humble opinion!

All Talk and No Action said...

@Anon - Sorry to see that you have only come across couch critics :-)