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Ask Brock: Celebrating Diwali, Brock-style

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Brock Fantasia is the only remaining person in the JPMorgan analyst class of 2002 to still work at JPMorgan, which is in no way testament to the work environment at JPMorgan. In fact, Brock likes to think of himself as the Highlander of his analyst class, wielding an indestructible claymore of corporate finance.

After “totally wrecking” (in his own words) the Analyst-to-Associate program in the M&A group, Brock was briefly moved to the Natural Resources group, due to increased deal flow in the M&A group. Brock graduated from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Wharton with a degree in Finance and is working in investment banking until he can find a buy-side job. Brock has been interviewing for buy-side jobs throughout the past 3 years and has not been a “good fit” anywhere, despite his ever-burgeoning skill-set.

[Editor's P.S.,- Some of this is true. But only some of it. Previous Ask Brocks are here. Send your questions to : brock AT dealbreaker DOT com]
We will, we will, Brock you! Brock here, ready to win this once again.
Many of you last Saturday may have noticed an especially large contingent of people rolling top down, models and bottles style, with arm candy and $200 drinks to spare, almost as if AJ was having a family reunion at every single club or bar in New York. By the fifth time you heard that Panjabi MC song without Jay-Z’s accompaniment, by the fourth Priya you put in your cell phone and by your 7th IPA, you started to wonder whether or not the Indians were reveling in the triumph of good over evil by getting extremely hammered.
As it turns out, Priya #3 was clean, and last Saturday was the Hindu festival of Diwali. The festival of Diwali is known as many things to many different people – Divali, Deepavali, Deepestvali, Taco Tuesday, Yom Kippur or Arbor Day, depending on which part of India or Murray Hill you are dealing with. Diwali is the 3rd day of a 5-day festival, signified by the new moon, for some sects the New Year and for many others, the time when the stretch of road on Lexington Avenue between 27th and 30th street, Curry Hill, stretches a little farther.

Diwali is a commemorative festival of lights, because when Lord Rama returned from vanquishing the demon king Ravana, the dude needed a nightlight to sleep for like, four centuries, and also because when Lord Krishna’s wife vanquished the evil demon Narakarura, Krishna, suspecting infidelity, which to be honest can look a lot like demon vanquishing, stormed into the room and turned the lights on. I’m sure these events must have involved something to do with either fire or the sun, as I don’t think there was electricity at the time, and we all know how many major Hindu avatars it takes to screw in a light bulb.
Now some countries like to set off a few fireworks when they declare independence, others when someone tries to blow up the primary seat of government, but it is comforting to know that India only breaks out the Roman candles when a demon is vanquished. Along with lighting a few candles or setting off a few explosives, you are encouraged to wear new clothes during Diwali, as nothing signifies the ultimate triumph of good over evil like an especially shiny $700 pair of Jimmy Choo’s.
Although extraordinarily diverse in practice, Hinduism asserts that Brahman is an infinite formless impersonal abstraction of God and Ishvara is a more finite manifestation of God that is commonly worshipped. Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are forms of Ishvara, each representing different aspects of life and cyclicality. Ishvara is often seen as a singular representation of diametrically opposed things; male and female, good and evil, right and wrong, north and south, hot and not, great tasting and less filling, Dharma and Greg.
A major role in Hindu life is played by yoga, which has many forms – Bhakti, Karma, Raja, Jnana, Power and Steam to name a few. Yoga, deceptively, is also how most Indians have mastered Street Fighting, explaining the Yoga Fire and Yoga Flame techniques, not to mention one of the more cheap throws and limbs that distend halfway across the screen. Advanced practitioners of yoga are called yogi, which makes the Hanna-Barbera cartoon a little more coherent, and credits the rumor that the show was cancelled once Yogi and Boo-Boo discovered tantric hibernation. One of the most comprehensive texts detailing yoga is the Bhagavad Gita. Jamie Dimon practices yoga because he believes we need to stay the course in Bhagavad.
My advice for this week is to follow my primer on how to treat Indian colleagues in the financial profession, because until India runs out of smart people, which according to my misreading of the recent New York Times article has already happened, there will always be a friendly Indian to help you, or in many more instances, from a consulting firm to fire you.
How I developed this primer was to watch a lot of movies, as India produces more movies than any other country and has influenced many American films and filmmakers. A prime example is the film Vanity Fair in which Indian director Mira Nair took Thackeray’s famous novel and had the remarkable insight of making Becky Sharp’s travails a mere diversion on her way to India to follow her true passions of elephant riding and bhangra dancing. Another outstanding Indian tilt on a popular American classic by Jane Austin is the film Bend it like Prejudice, which came out a few years ago.
Whereas these cinematic masterpieces are helpful in understanding our Indian friends, none really presented a comprehensive display of etiquette. Since there is, as yet, no Disney film that contains a crude facsimile of Indian culture (besides Pocahontas) to base one’s actions on, the best available cultural bridge is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In this movie, we find that it is natural for Indians of high status to want to subject scores of helpless children, or “analysts” as they are called in the West, to forced slave labor to appease pagan gods and facilitate obscure blood rituals. This explains why projects in which your tasks are driven primarily by Indian associates and VPs are just as painful as when driven by your non-Indian colleagues.
I was skeptical of this assertion until I saw a chanting Indian VP in my group rip out an analyst’s still beating heart for not calendarizing EPS in an accretion/dilution model and lower him to the M&A floor screaming in a wrought iron cage. Fortunately, the Indiana Jones film does teach you some basic techniques for avoiding such treatment; for instance, if you find yourself given a task by an Indian superior that will donkey punch your weekend, merely repeat that that person is disrespecting Shiva over and over again until he/she bursts into flames. Then take the Sankara stones from that person’s desk and return them to the village, along with the missing children.
Here are some more helpful tips for dealing with Indian colleagues at work:
1.When greeting, shake hands with your Indian colleagues four times, representing the four arms of Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva. Recruit Indians in any major fights, as the same philosophy applies to fisticuffs.
2.Refer to your Indian colleagues as “Native Indian,” because no one likes to be known as just an Indian.
3.To celebrate Diwali and as a gesture of goodwill, draw a giant swastika on all documents circulated in teams with Indian members. Your colleagues will appreciate the swastika as one of the 108 symbols of Vishnu representing the sun’s life-giving rays, and one of the more popular Diwali symbols, often appearing in lights, or underlying Ganesh in pictures.
4.Ask your Indian colleagues to spell check your work. Pop into an Indian superior’s office to ask the language of origin of an unknown word or to use it in a sentence.
Many people do not realize that JPMorgan has an especially deep connection to India and Indian culture; however many of these roots are less Hindu and more Buddhist in nature. Although Jamie Dimon was practically born into finance, during his formative years he experimented with alternative passions, alternative religions, and lots and lots of peyote. Jamie Dimon came to believe that banking was his life’s calling deep in the Ajanta caves in the Indian state of Maharashtra on a Buddhist pilgrimage. It was here that Jamie realized that investment banking is the truest embodiment of the Four Noble Truths, which are suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
Jamie, in an epiphany, realized that the Four Noble Truths can be represented by a career in finance, in that the first two Truths involve working at an investment bank, and the second two Truths involve leaving it. It is here that Jamie attained enlightenment, and made the sacred “om” sound, followed by “y god I still get to be insanely wealthy.” Jamie tore away his monastic robes to reveal a pinstriped suit, acquired the Ajanta caves and quickly turned them into a call center.
The Four Noble Truths are an essential component of the Slightly More Noble Eightfold Path laid out by the wise Siddhartha Guatemala while conversing with a salad fork. Siddhartha Guantanemo (aka “The Buddha,” or “B-nutz”) was born a wealthy dung beetle in the late Triassic, eventually reaching personhood in the 6th century BCE, in which he was born a wealthy prince. Siddhartha Guadalajara cast aside all earthly possessions, wondered around for a bit, achieved enlightenment, and then became extremely wealthy again on the lecture circuit, which was attended by more inanimate objects than lectures of any other minor deity.
Jamie Dimon had a similar experience, in his conversations with a monetary bonus several thousand times larger than the median American household income, in which he was led to the JPMorgan logo, which has eight points – essentially the Dharma wheel of finance.
While following the Four Noble Truths along the Slightly More Noble Eightfold Path, being careful to adhere to the Not as Noble as the Eightfold Path but Pretty Darn Noble Five Precepts of Buddhism, Jamie Dimon has come to know many things. Jamie Dimon knows the sound of one hand high-fiving himself, and knows that if a pitch book is printed at 3:00am when no managing director is there to read it, it does make a sound. This sound can best be approximated by passing a kidney stone the size of a Blackberry.
Good luck everyone. Follow my advice and you will not only develop a more meaningful relationship with your Indian colleagues but also you might just get to third base, or rather the ninth wicket with Sushma.