Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Placement hype : the "what" part.

After all this placements frenzy, there was this media frenzy about the placement frenzy. This year though, it was different for me, because I was a part of the frenzy! A look at my account of my internship at Facebook, would tell you how I hate "edited or censored" news and articles. And that was just an article with minor stylistic and technical modifications. This time though, media took the meaning of creative freedom to a whole different level! This post is going to be an account of how a seemingly simple thing like getting a job is made a huge issue of, how lax the media in general is and how "masala" is added to news. As a bonus, a funny story of how those typical news channel "success stories" are made is included...

Print media (national)
The next day, December 2nd, Deccan Chronicle carried a front page story. My god! Such paraphrasing! My friend was quoted saying "I am one of those who have created a record in IIT placement history." Yeah, right! No sane person would go on record boasting like this. These words were conjured out of thin air because... urm... I guess they had some space to fill up and could not find anything substantial. I was asked what my favourite programming languages were. I answered "python and JavaScript". Result? "... he would add more value to the company with his programming skills in Python and JavaScript..." I have no damn clue what technologies and languages Samsung uses and they paraphrased my statement like that! Worst part? They couldn't even get my name right!

With Times of India coming next asking for a story, things seemed better. The first question was immensely satisfying: "Tell me how exactly to spell your name." Thank you my dear sir for asking me that! While impressive with unmodified quotes, TOI could not resist the temptation of sensationalizing the story by using the title "Rs 82L/year? Not interested, say IIT-Madras graduates". Hardly the case. Makes it sound like the Samsung thing was not a big deal at all and gives an overall impression that IIT junta are an arrogant overpampered bunch.

Then came The Hindu, I was asked to give a "nice and interesting" story. Well, I should admit that the interview was quite detailed and gave me an impression that news is what is being cared for and not eyeball gathering headlines. It spoke volumes about their standards when before printing, the draft was run through me! With exception of few that slipped by, most of the corrections I suggested were prompted accepted. Although I felt like a fool when I saw myself being quoted "I used to think I was just a local star." What? I never said such a thing! I had said "Both on my face and behind me, many used to say that you are just a local maximum, doing well because of no competition."

Print media (local)
Local news articles are a class in themselves. The template is pretty simple: have first paragraph deliver the news "Mr. Foo from Bar did so and so" and then devote entire paragraphs about which politician of which party and which bigshot of which awesome thing congratulated Mr. Foo and how they honored him and how they expressed joy over Foo's achievements! All major Marathi dailies ran the story, in the same template, just that the "well wishers" changed from news to news.

Puffing it all up
Have you read the news BITS Pilani Student Gets Job In Google With 1.22cr? No, don't read it. It is a nice thorough mixture of bullshit and crap! Well, at least the numbers. Here's how they make the numbers :
  • Base salary : Rs 100
  • Bonus : around Rs 10-20
  • Stock options : around Rs 100 (can encash only after more than say, some 5 years, mind you, this is just one time thing! Not every year this much of stock is going to be given)
  • Relocation etc allowances : around Rs 10 (again, only one time thing)
Anyone who can read English and hasn't lost their senses will call it a Rs 110-120 offer. And if they really wanted to make it sound bigger, add the 100 stock rupees over the five years to make it 130-140 offer, but news people? They add it all up to Rs 235! People, please go attend your basic arithmetic classes again! Another very important point being it's just foolishness to multiply U.S. salaries by 50 and report them in rupees. For the curious, here's a very nice and detailed description about the salary equivalence.

TV interview
I saw, first hand, how stories are manufactured and nicely(?) packaged. The reporter asked me whether I knew how to make tea. I said no. "Doesn't matter, we will teach!" They made me make tea, shot it and guess what the news showed? Right! How I am a humble and down-to-earth guy and how I made tea for the news team when they arrived at my home! Next they told me that they wanted to shoot a clip of me programming. Funny part was that they wouldn't let me use my laptop. For some strange reason, it was also very important that the windows logo wallpaper on the desktop screen should be visible! I became a laughing stock among my friends when they saw the video in which I am typing gibberish in an unmaximized window of notepad, with a prominent windows logo at the backdrop!

One would excuse all this drama and pretense if they at least run the story with facts. Instead of showing my school, they showed some file clipping of a village school (without mentioning that it a file clipping), my school became "Jeevan Vidya School" from "Vidya Bhavan School" my JEE rank was off by 60 (oh, how I wish it really were...) along with the obvious puffed-up salary figure.

A popular(?) weekly
One fine day I got a call from a Marathi weekly telling me that they want to do a story on me. After asking a few questions about my education, and the placement process, he made a remark "It is really admirable to achieve this, especially for 'bahujan samaj' boy" That was just too much! What the heck my caste has anything to do with this? In Maharashtra, there is this utter-crap stupid movement-kind-of-thing against brahmins. People spearheading the movement come up with all hi-funda propaganda about how all non-brahmins should unite as 'bahujan samaj' how brahmins have always dominated and succeeded and how it is time to strike back and all that bullshit. And here I was, being dragged into this. I told him loud and clear, "no way the article is should contain such stuff" I was surprised when he obliged, his tone too mellowed down!

As far as the actual story is concerned, it was a total disaster. I just don't know how they dare to call themselves a 'popular' weekly. The article was just all the national news translated into Marathi and a transcript of the TV interview, along with the gazillions of factual mistakes the TV interview had made. It didn't stop just at that. These people went to my facebook profile, downloaded a few of my pictures and put them in the article. All that without even letting me know. That too, one picture on the cover!

Facebook
Someone on facebook posted a picture of the above mentioned issue's cover. It just went viral with 5.4K likes, 3K shares and 500+ comments. Guess what most of the comments said... "proud to be Marathi"! Pretty surprising how people link up stuff...

So, that pretty much sums up the "what" part of the hype. Consequences? I got to see how judgmental people are, eager to jump to conclusions, possessing a binary world view. I got to see how money can dramatically change people. I experienced the burden of expectations and quite a lot of odd, funny, outrageous, saddening and delightful incidents.

Frankly, I was surprised by the scale at which stuff was being hyped up. So I decided to dig up and analyze why is it that such a big fuss is being made. That's the subject of the next post : the "why" part.

1 comment :

  1. Well written with dollops of humuor! The second last para sums it up beautifully.

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