Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Sitting around in my parents home, I slowly started to see and realize the true meaning of sacrifice and unconditional love. My journey at INSEAD starts in a couple of weeks. And while I honestly have a lot of people to Thank for helping me get admitted (one in particular as well ;) I can't help but pause for a moment to see that where I am today is clearly a reflection of my humble beginnings - I truly am standing on the shoulders of giants.

From making it through Ruamrudee International School in Bangkok to my days at Vassar and then the journey that finally led to Chicago and eLoyalty... so many little gestures. so many little things. so many ways in which I've found my path - and none of them by coincidence. My family - yes, the immediate nucleus - has resonated with energy and support in ways that I don't think I'll ever fully understand, but always hope to pay forward to my own family. The sacrifices made, generally in the name of education, is something that I am thankful for every single day.

Anyhow, this is just one of those reflective moments.

But first (as The Mask might say it) I have to go through my checklist of INSEAD documents and requirements ASAP before I can even contemplate enjoying the rest of my break at home!

Health Insurance
Housing Insurance
Surveys to fill out

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Massages & Microecon

My gf loves massages. So we've been getting foot massages (aka fish nibbling on your feet), back rubs, head massages, and so on - I think we're averaging one every three days. And the cost for most of the massages ranges from $9 - $50 per person. Ubiquitous parlors = more selections = relatively low cost to consumers (I have been reading a bit of Mankiw's Intro to Microecon in prep for class :) 

Anyhow, the thing that amazes me about the massages is the fact that so far - NONE of the massages - even the one I got from Devarana at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok has been painless. Parts of the massages have been extremely amazing but parts of them have been really painful! I just do not understand why this is the case. Some of it I chalk up to the fact that maybe I'm sore from restarting certain workouts while in Thailand (swimming/free weights/etc...) - but how is it that no matter where I go I am in quite a bit of discomfort at various points during the massage. Intrigues me... but I continue to forge ahead (mainly because my better half's favorite place in the world is in the patron's seat at a massage parlor) - and I think I will find the massage technique most suitable for me.  Next stop Swedish massage. I'm hopeful (or maybe I'm just foolish).

Back to the FYIs - been in Bangkok a few days now... eating my way through the city. Enjoying every minute of it. Spending time with family (my maternal grandmother just landed) and with my gf's family (parents here as well). Hear it is blistering cold in Chicago and that France is getting quite a bit of snow as well.

Starting tomorrow I plan to buckle down on two fronts - swimming & reading (in prep for classes). Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Missing the Windy City...

Recently I started getting a few thank you notes from co-workers via email (as I had left a few presents for folks before leaving that I hoped they would get after I had already left Chicago).

I have to say... hearing from them, both the words of thanks and random thoughts/musings - basically just hearing from folks that were such a big part of my life - it is making me miss Chicago a whole lot more. And the madness in Bangkok is just getting started - 4 days so far. Non stop. Tomorrow promises to be no less.

So, thank you (for the Thank You ;) - yeah that's a cycle isn't it? It is helping me get through some of the busy-ness here and reminding me of the good times!

Still jetlaggin...

Monday, December 13, 2010

First 24hrs in Bangkok

I was lucky enough to be received by my parents & girlfriend at the airport - warmed my heart to see so many hugs awaiting - ALTHOUGH, my gf was sneaky enough to hide and act as though she was unable to make it to the airport... if she had a blog she would tell you about the mad wedding extravaganza in Penang that lasted 4 days and during which she only slept 8hrs. I am pretty sure there will be some sort of a post on any site that covers South Asian weddings :)

Highlights of the first 24hrs:
1. Zinger Burger on the way back home... honestly, fast food in Bangkok (and most parts of Asia) are just so much better than anywhere else (USA) and I have this weird childhood memory of always eating a burger in the airport - something my parents continue to entertain :)

2. Seeing Rex, who expressed both his love/excitement & disappointment/sadness in seeing me and realizing I left him for USA ;) - he has taken over my bed to ensure that I'm always aware that he's around and his mark in this house is more permanent than mine :P

3. Fuji Seafood Restaurant - Sashimi, Sushi, Miso, Edamame, and Goma Wakame!

4. Walk in the Park...

5. Fish Massage (not my feet, but will upload mine shortly):
Fish Nibbling away at Dead Skin and Smoothening out my skin!

6. Dinner w Parents & GF

7. Lounging with Friends

S'bout how I was hoping to spend the first 24hrs tbh. Can still feel the fish nibbling at my toes!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Surviving a 12-hr Layover...

You may have already heard about how the stewardess dropped hot soup & cold water on me when I was looking for a way to stay awake for a leg of the journey from Chicago to Seoul (to reduce fx of jetlag).

Well, one other thing to share about my journey is HOW I managed to survive the layover:

1. External Hard Drive
2. Scrubs on #1
3. Bibim Bap Lunch Bowl
4. Kim Bap 
5. Sony Headset
6. 12hrs to sit and wait for your flight... 

Up close Lunch Box Special!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Soul to Seoul (Leaving Chicago)

After 5 years with eLoyalty (i.e. first real-world job), it isn't all that strange to accept how difficult it was to turn in my laptop/keycard/etc... and walk out the front door of the building. It was hard not to look back, which I did, paused, said a few words of prayer/best wishes, and then trekked on.

The last meal in Chicago with close friends was a perfect way to start my journey. We picked an awesome Burger joint in Andersonville (sp?), enjoyed a couple of hot drinks (and one fruity-tootie) and head off to O'Hare (not using Foster as some amateurs might suggest).

312 215 5047 was disconnected at precisely 00:24 on December 11th while I was in mid-conversation with my brother and that's when the reality of the severance set in! SIM card not authorized - I couldn't independently contact anyone!

ANYhow, flight was good all in all - I wanted to stay awake as long as it was daytime in Asia (where I'm currently headed)... my wish was more than fulfilled. Shortly after boarding, my eyes started drooping. It was a constant battle to try to keep them awake and then food was about to be served. Great - trying to fight sleep on a full stomach is like listening to Michael Jackson's Billy Jean without grooving to the (awesome) beats.

Speaking of - I left my iPod in my friend's kitchen in Chicago... le.sigh.

Back to the flight. So I'm sitting there expecting the inevitable when the stewardess spills hot soup along the side of my leg... my wish was fulfilled. I was bright awake.

And I'm not sure how/why the next thing happened, but by some sick twist or someone's idea of a joke, the same stewardess (approximately 20 mins later) spilled freezing cold water on me while trying to assist me in cleaning up the mess. I was awake for the next several hours! Not too many great movies, but it is what it is...

Reminds me of something a friend/coworker told me recently: Love the trip because it is your trip. No matter what good or bad happens - lengthy layovers or delayed flights... spilled soup. It is your trip. And that makes it great, so embrace it, love it, and live it.

So here I am. 12hr layover in Seoul. At an internet lounge where the computers automatically reboot every 30 minutes to ensure that no patron is unfair to others waiting in line... except... that... it... is... 6:30am and the aforementioned line is non-existant.

BUT I'm loving it. Time to bust out the guitar and make some money!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Exit - [Stage Left]

If you live or have visited Chicago you are aware of Devon's reputation as a great late-night spot and also know of the feeling of general regret the morning after when you realize the grease you lovingly consumed...

My exit interview at eLoyalty marked the end of a 5 year journey that has changed the nature of my career. The things you learn at a start-up, especially if you're lucky enough to grow with the company, alter the way in which you process information, expect results, and generally go about your work. Nothing is really taken for granted and while there are some frustrations, since you're basically starting something - and hence might not have the appropriate tools available to make things easier since you are blazing a non-existent pathway - the satisfaction at each milestone is incomparable.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reality kicks in... Leaving Chicago in 40hrs

The reality of my one-way ticket has finally set in. My bags are packed... I'm ready to go... <song interlude!>

Um, my bags are packed, and I'm basically on my last two sets of clothing (as planned :) for Chicago.

My checklist (part of):
- Departure Paperwork
- Visas for Travel
- Thank Yous/Meetings/G'byes
- Apartment Lease Ended
- Disconnecting Utilities
- Closing bank accounts (only a few since I may be back soon!)
- 401(k)
- Shares/Stocks/etc...
- Essentials, like my guitar, purchased ;)
- Sold all that can be sold
- Donated & recycled items
- Paperwork for INSEAD
- Laptop & Charger
- Contact Information (Address Book) Updates
- Cellphone Contract
- CTA Transit Card Cancellation
- Pre Reading..

And of course, the most important part of the checklist is to get some R&R w/ the friends before the madness of the next month descends upon me. I will, however, have 12hrs in Seoul to ruminate.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Have a Happy Holiday!

Seriously - HAVE a happy holiday. I'm advising you (not wishing you :)

I'm sitting at the RIU Maya Palace Riviera Hotel in Playa Del Carmen - Mehico, sipping a cerveza.
And something I did want to say, early on, is that as soon as you decide you want to go to school (any graduate program) it is really helpful/healthy/important to take at least 1 month off prior to the start of the program (especially INSEAD where you have about 5 days off every couple of months) - recharge your batteries. Meet your friends. Do something ridiculous and fun (but not too new since the idea is to relax).

I got into this hotel last night, grabbed a bite and then went out with friends - we were hosting pseudo-bachelor/bachelorette parties for the bride & groom so needless to say I hit the sack around 2AM.
Got up bright and early - 7AM and with my roommate and newfound friend went to SCUBA dive in the Cenotes. Basically drove into a jungle and, in a hole in the ground that has been built after years of amazing geological phenomemna, jumped in to experience the wonder of caves/caverns. Surfaced in a bat cave in one of the dives which is like entering an old attic but with limestone and... ok I'm partially uneducated in the appropriate terminology (and trying to recollect what my divemaster told me in his heavy italian accent), but more than that, I'm speechless. I don't want to ruin the experience for you, so I'll just say this - check out Dos Ojos if you're ever in Mexico (google it).

Cenotes, as my divemaster explained to me, were created by heating and cooling of the earth over millions of years which results in flooding and drying of land masses, which, because of the space and time associated, involves quite a bit of erosion and hence creates these amazing tunnels - partially filled with water...

OK rehearsal dinner time, but more on this later!

and the typical feet-in-front-of-ocean picture :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Better Half

There's a story that goes something like this...

Barack & Michelle Obama are dining at a restaurant when the Manager walks over and embraces Michelle,  asking her, with a broad smile across his face, "How have you been after all these years?"

After he leaves, Barack asks his wife, "How did you know him?"
To which Michelle responds, "He proposed to me back in the day..." with a reminiscent smile.
Barack, keeping his composure, while obviously slightly jealous quips, "Well honey, if you had married him you would be the wife of a restaurant manager."

Michelle softly responds, "No darling, if I had married him, he would be the President of the United States today."


Great story isn't it? Humbles you. Reminds you that no one is an island. While the tough times define you, they also highlight the angels around you.

I'm very lucky. I am constantly thankful for that. I have a very close-knit family unit - My parents, brother, and sister-in-law are always by my side. Then there are many uncles, aunts, cousins, and "distant" relatives who remember me in their thoughts/greeting cards/etc...

Family has been an inexplicable pillar in my life. Come to think of it there are quite a few friends who fall in this category, too! Basically what I'm trying to say is that I did not do what I have done alone - there are so many people out there that have been integral in the journey... 

And one person (who is about to join the family unit soon as well :) has literally been my better half, esepcially through this journey to b-school (her family's great too!).

There were times that I wondered what the point of some of her difficult questions were, why she would get frustrated when I took a night off from GMAT prep, and best of all what was the point of some of the arguments over random words or phrases in my essay applications.

And now I look back at the application and what I used to think was the brutality with which it was checked, was really unconditional love - and I can't help but smile. I almost want to apologize for the madness! (which I did do, but was "refunded" after experiencing the Illinois Bar Prep vicariously through her ;)

Truth be told, I didn't get into INSEAD - we did.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Zoom Zoom!

One of the toughest things about leaving any place is the distance you inevitably create between the people you have grown to love in the life you've built in whichever city you're currently in.

Throughout my life, however, I've constantly been away from my closest family and friends to the point that physical distance is just a fact of my life so much so that it no longer overwhelms me. Instead, I welcome it as a chance to visit yet another new city! (and if you know me even remotely well, you'll know that I love to travel :)

INSEAD's 1 year program in France, Singapore, USA, Abu Dhabi... leaves very little room for people like myself to retain ties in our current city of residence. I was born in India but I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand where I attended Ruamrudee International School. I left Bangkok when I was 18 to move to New York where I attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Upon graduation I moved to Chicago where I've been living and working for the past 5 years... so as I pack my bags, I have to come to terms with the possibility that - depending on my job prospects - I may only return to the USA as a tourist from here on out!

My brother, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousins, god-daughter, nephews, nieces, grand uncle, and aunt (to name just a few close relatives) live here. My girlfriend and her family as well. Then there's obviously the extremely close friends (some of whom are like family) and the list goes on and on...

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without my mentioning some of the THINGS that I've had to "leave" behind - i.e. sell, donate, recycle: the top 5 being:
1. ZoomZoom (Mazda3),
2. Schecter Electric bass
3. Ibanez Electric guitar
4. My first guitar - a Fender DG acoustic
5. My first TV ever - Samsung 42 in Flatscreen w/ DVR (that some might argue slowly deteriorated my ability to eat a meal w/o TV)

Mind you, these are not in chronological order of importance - just what I typed as I typed and reflected, fondly. Point being that, yes I was/am/have been attached to certain things. It is natural to become attached, but sometimes I think it is odd for me to feel that attachment since I've been leading this "peripatetic" life for as far as I can remember. Every few years I pack a few suitcases and I board a flight to some new place to settle down.

It is interesting because last year, when I moved into my apartment in Lakeview (the Briar residence you probably recognize), I thought: This is it. I'm in a serious relationship. I will apply to b-school here in Chicago (two of the best being in the city itself). I will setup my life here, in Chicago.

Approximately 12 months later, and not entirely shockingly either since I actually applied to a school halfway across the world, all that came to a grinding halt - and Chicago turned out to be yet another stop on my city & country hopping journey!
Chicago - A view from the North Sie

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

INSEAD on top!

A year ago today I walked out of an INSEAD information session at the W Hotel. I was impressed by the style in which the session was held - both because it was the W and their appetizers and drinks were exceptional, and because of the format of the session (see post from Nov 13 2009).

As I was reminiscing and cleaning out my gmailbox, I came across this:

Promises to be a great year ahead!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Way Ticket!

After taking into account work commitments - specifically a smooth transition to ensure my responsibilities were more than covered and balanced across the appropriate team members - I decided to pick December 11th 2010 as the date of departure.

And let me tell you, hitting "Purchase" on that Orbitz transaction was probably one of the toughest things I've had to do recently. It solidified, without a doubt, the finite nature of the rest of my time in Chicago and while I am not trying to be melodramatic, I challenge you to put yourself in a similar situation and buy a one-way ticket out of a city you've started setting down in :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bring on the EMAILS!

A few days after getting accepted into INSEAD one of the R1 (round 1) admits started a Google Group and an email chain with it.

And then came the emails.

First it was a few hey - how are you type emails. Introductions and so on.

Then came the questions about visas & financing - probably the two most-discussed questions for any students attending INSEAD - a lot of us are not eligible for good interest rates in our countries of residence or citizenship since our lives/travels have taken us elsewhere. (e.g. I was born in India, grew up in Thailand, and currently in USA -I hardly qualify for loans here in USA).

Then there's the banks to work with - BNP Paribas in Fontainebleau and HSBC France in Melun - the two top choices due to proximity to Fontainebleau. Both banks also offer great rates for INSEAD students.

Other emails were around laptops to purchase, renting cars versus bikes, pre-reading, and running groups.

But my favorite so far has been two of the following:

1. One student modified Google Maps to include all the living options in reference to INSEAD, banks, groceries, etc... I used this map to decide on where to live! Finding a place to live, securing it in time by placing deposits with your landlord, and meeting your future housemates is one of the most important things to get done when deciding to attend any school outside your country of residence! Remember that! And there are many tools to help INSEAD students (will list them here soon).

2. Travel blogs - where people were going around the world - I mean it - around the world between getting accepted and starting in January. No continent was left unexplored. In fact, if I could, I would like to create a world map (seriously thinking about this) for future classes in MBA Connect where students can list their locations from the date of acceptance until starting in Fontainebleau or Singapore so that, at any time, anyone visiting a particular city could look at the map and see dots indicating students - "hey - x,y,z is/will be there, then!"

In fact, if you could see that map now and play it, like a video graph, you would see a living organism.

Cells converging in certain locations, achieving critical mass during Open Days (or various meet-ups in cities with high density of accepted students), followed by erratic movements from consultants during their final months on the job, admits wanting to use up their vacation time, and many heading home to see respective families - then a convergence of all the dots forming two pulsing masses in Singapore & Fontainebleau - 11D buckling down for P1 and P2...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meals I have Eaten...

This one is actually a shout-out to a friend who provided me with some much-needed assistance in the application process.

She was candid in her feedback, yet very friendly in the suggestions she left me to consider - And more than anything else, she was very diligent with my essays even with her own full time job to consider.


The Phone Call (Decision)

At 8AM on Friday May 27th, my better half was getting ready for school (in Hyde Park) and I was getting ready for work (post-early-morning Conference call) in Lakeview. We were on the phone and I was trying very hard not to bring up the glaring fact-of-the-day.

Today, May 27th, was the final day for INSEAD to accept (and reject) incoming students for their December 2011 MBA class. It was 8AM in Chicago, which meant it was 4PM in France. On a good week that is about 1hr from the weekend.

Up until this point, I was hopeful. I was a bit worried about one of my essays where I basically talked about how great Thailand is, only to find, three weeks after submitting the essay, that there were violent protests throughout Bangkok and the entire country was thrown into turmoil. I truly believed that THAT one essay I had written would actually end all my chances. If there was any doubt about the application up until now, this would lead the admissions committee to remove me from "Doubt" pile to the "Out" pile.

And she laughed at this idea, trying to lighten my mood - constantly reminding me that the process was 4-step. My application was solid. The interviews had gone well (read post on interviews: May 8th). All in all, if INSEAD was going to reject me based on my inability to tell the future, then so be it. The Oracle would have to get prepared for part time b-school in Chicago.

She's been right almost every step of the way so far, and a pillar of support... I should've listened.

Instead, a few minutes after our conversation, my gradual acceptance of the inevitable rejection started to set in - and then, my phone started to ring: caller ID started with +33 (yes, France country code)

Before answering the phone I asked myself a simple question - would INSEAD go through the trouble of informing students of rejection via phone calls? Maybe they wanted to make a special case out of me, seeing how "gullible" my essay on Thailand was (by the way - I will stand by that essay word-for-word even in light of the crisis).

I was greeted by the sweet French accent that I so missed from my days of IB French in High School. And it was INSEAD - before I could apologize for I truly believed they were calling to reprimand me, I was cut-off by "Welcome to INSEAD..."

Chicago through a new lens

The day I got accepted into INSEAD, I stepped onto the 134 express to go to work, and felt... different.

Chicago looked like a completely new destination to me. The people seemed foreign. Lake Shore Drive, which I had frequented more often than not in the past 5 years here, felt like a welcome surprise - I found myself rethinking: "Whose great idea was it to build this "outer ring road" along Chicago?"

Even the air seemed different. A fresh breeze of experiences seemed to flood my senses as I embraced the new reality about to overtake me.

I was a tourist, once again, in the Windy city.

One of the most frequently photographed places in Chicago

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Interview(s) w/ a Twist

One of the second best things about the INSEAD application process (the first being the separation of church & state, I mean marketing & admissions) is that one of the most important components of the application process is the interview.

Make that TWO interviews: Two separate Alums are selected. Generally one is an expert in your field and the other has little to no experience - basically how do you converse with someone who speaks the same language and a complete outsider. Speaking of languages (pun intended) - some interviewers will bust into a 2nd language as indicated in your application so if you're thinking about forging knowledge of a language (or stretching your actual fluency) be prepared for a pop quiz!*

*Small disclaimer: this was my experience and based on what I Googled about other peoples' interviews. This may or may not be the case for you :)

Anyhow, my interview experience was very different from any others I've had - for jobs & school.

The interaction with Alumni was a great way for me to learn more about the real INSEAD experience - I'm not going to provide too much personal information on the interviewers themselves, since this is a public forum, but the point is that the interview process was eye-opening. Being accomplished in their fields, each Alum had insights that I did not expect. Walking out of that interview either solidifies your interest (and hopefully their's in you) or leaves you asking very important questions about next steps.

The best way to prep for the interviews is two-fold. First, read. Not just before your interview. Because that sort of regurgitation is very obvious and generally, out of nervousness, you will use up all the information you've stored within the first few minutes of the interview, leaving you with a lot of empty space :)

If you've had time to read and assimilate and understand and interpret and form your own ideas and opinions about what you've read, then you can have a conversation.

Secondly, practice answering some of the most basic questions like: strengths, weaknesses, examples of leadership, failures, your job description, the future of your company, your five year plan - these are all good topics of conversation that, with friends, you could probably spend hours. But when you only have a short amount of time, you want to make sure that you get to the point, make an impact in your observation (don't force it), and leave time for follow-up. Being clear and concise goes a long way.

In the end, so much of what INSEAD does is different from other b-schools you might encounter. The interviews play a key role in your application because they assess your fit with INSEAD among other things. They give you access to a breadth of knowledge about the campuses, courses, etc... Essentially it is a mutually beneficial process. Kind of like a first date where you ask each other important questions about long term goals and if she's a cat person and you're not only allergic to animals but dislike cats (because maybe you're a Mummy), then you both know to move on. There's other fish in the sea, right?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hitting "Submit"

I was leaving for a long overdue 2 week vacation back home (Thailand) to visit my family and get my work visa restamped. During this time I was planning on visiting a preschool in Sri Lanka that I had helped build through some charity work at Vassar (we raised $10,000 post-Tsunami and donated the money to a group that built a preschool! I wanted to visit and follow-up on anything additional we could do).

Needless to say there were a lot of things I needed to wrap up (logistically) before jumping on that flight... one of the most important things being my Round 1 Application to INSEAD. I had already decided to apply to INSEAD but WHEN was the question: Do I recharge my batteries in Thailand and then come back, rejuvenated and ready to hit "Submit" or do I hit "Submit" now and go home with absolutely no worries on the b-school front.

I hadn't been home in over a year so the latter option won in a landslide vote: 1 to 0.

Anyone that has downloaded the online application and circulated that to their respective recommendors knows that the INSEAD application process is built for worldwide access which can, at times, be a little unnerving since every time you open your application (even after submitting) Adobe asks you if you want to grant or block WWW access to the document.

Secondly, I suggest to anyone writing the essays to stay within the word limit because every word you go over changes the word count into RED alongside your application... not something you want to see before submitting the application!

Anyhow, two nights before leaving for Thailand I was up working on last minute edits. No material changes - little "the" additions or removals of too many "ands" - simple things. I re-read the essays until the words looked like foreign languages I did not recognize. And caffeine seemed to pass through my body like oxygen.

Finally at around 2AM (9AM in France), with my now-jittery hands on the mouse, I hit submit.

The rush of adrenaline lasted about 5 minutes - Oh no! I forgot this. I didn't highlight that. The essays were great. The essays were poor. Grammar mistakes resurfaced.

And so, akin to the appropriate response for computer related meltdowns, I hit CTRL+ALT+DEL and shutdown my computer.

Then I crashed.