-Shreyas Vasant Joshi,
“So, where did your adventure take you Bilbo?”
“There and back again”
Day 1, 2016.
Until I actually woke up in the morning, alone, in the new hostel blocks, an event occurring for the first time in my life, at an age where I was just a couple years short of reaching a quarter of a century, all I had heard about MBA life, was it’s a ‘roller coaster’ ride. Now, here’s the thing about experiences. You can read all the books in the world about something, but you don’t really internalize anything about it until you’ve experienced it for yourself. The first week at IIMB was exactly like that.
The hustle and bustle, the excitement, the innocence associated with new beginnings was at an all-time high, as a batch of four hundred, highly ambitious people, who until then had only interacted with each other on Facebook and WhatsApp searched for familiar faces and started forming the first groups, which might or might not stick with them through the two years. Parents could be seen everywhere, gleaming pride externally, yet baffled on the inside, walked around, looking at the hallowed silver walls, for many of them, their kid (finally?) setting upon the right path to “The Indian Middle-class dream”. The students, taking care of their loans, biometric verifications, registration process, eating in mess, most of them waiting for their parents to depart before they really opened up. This is unlike the first day of school or undergrad college, mind you. People from multiple walks of life, and at various stages of their lives enter this esteemed institution. It is a little bit like the ‘real world outside’, only with some layers of protection added in. One could write a book just based on the back-stories and the future aspirations of every batch that comes in here. Somehow, with minor exceptions, most of the batches are similar in one way or the other. Even before they get institutionalized, if I may put it so.
Rains have always been a major part of my life during key milestones, and today was no different. The Director’s merit list (DML) awardees being honoured in front of the entire student populace, in no ways a coincidence that this ceremony happens on the first day of college for PGP1s. The college always tries to gently nudge you and mould you in an almost sub-conscious manner in ways.
It was a folly to think that there would be some respite in store for us during the night, hoping to catch an early night’s sleep, the student activities began! The safety catches were off (or so it seemed back then!) and we had to prioritize. The entire atmosphere that is built up, it’s difficult to not admire it as the lessons you’re taught are very real and need to be carried throughout the two years. Management students, coordinating worse than a fish market, is a sight to beckon. But it is in this ‘organized chaos’ that bonds are formed speedily, because, only shared adversity and a common goal can accelerate the process of friendship between two strangers. Sleep came and went by in a flurry in the wee hours as the next day’s activities beckoned.
(Not exactly) Day 1, 2017.
Sleep is still a rare commodity, a year past now. Back to campus, back to the now-familiar, comfortable cocoon that these silver walls are, it’s time to ensure the incoming batch has a successful first week here. Times change, some things change, so the DML ceremony has already happened on the first day, and we have been allotted a select number of days to interact with the current batch of PGP1s as PGP2s. The same sessions that we attended last year, are now divided as responsibilities for some of us, and we’re running around to take care of any last-minute glitches.
The atmosphere is our responsibility now, and as we wear our professional faces and try to deliver improved content, and execute the events in such a way that the previous year’s mistakes are removed, it’s a humbling experience to create the ‘organized chaos’ and requires immense restraint to estrange yourself from personally reaching out towards few of the obviously troubled newcomers. The schedule is much more spread out now, with the student activities not clashing with the PGP office events, to ensure that there’s enough sleep to go around for everyone. Only for the attendees though, not the organizers, as some legacies need to be continued.
Day 2, 2016.
Woke up and ate like a zombie before reaching the auditorium to attend the PGP office scheduled events. All the topics had so much depth, and were planned in a perfectly coordinated way. They were basically letting us know that paucity of time is a given while you’re here, just focus on what matters most – context and length. Many of us sleepy with the overnight activities, the faculty did notice it. There would surely be repercussions!
Come night, and the other orientation began. Multiple activities with deadlines due the next morning – some of us gave up and slept, some of us trudged on and somehow met the deadlines. When you’re short on time, then it’s important to learn how to say no to things you simply don’t have the bandwidth for. Many personal learnings in these nights, only if people took these challenges the right way. But, of course, you cannot shove wisdom down someone’s throat. All you can do is create an environment and hope some of the folks it is meant for, grab it while they still can. Without these activities, would never have got to know my huge batch in such a short amount of time, especially when no one has the time to put up a front. Naked honesty is too rare and too complex to put into words, but it’s like you fast forward years’ worth of companionship with someone and see them at their worst.
Day 2, 2017.
The activities in full swing, the incoming batch having the entire day to themselves. A couple of them visited our hostel wing, which reminded me of the same time last year. To each batch their own – hopefully these folks pick up relevant learnings for themselves through this whole charade. It feels like most of the new batches are really so naïve and over-the-top with just the fact of having made it here, that this seems to be the need of the hour to ground them and prepare them to have a level-head for what lies ahead.
The function at night was more elaborate and planned this time round. Last year’s mistakes had to be removed while effectively customizing the delivery. Before any of the students got wary and complained, we decided to engineer one ourselves and abandoned the activities till further notice. This must have put to rest anyone who might have been thinking along the same lines. Any untoward incidents that could have been a side-effect were also taken care of.
Penultimate day, 2016.
Two hours continuous sleep seemed to be a blessing after having successfully completed all the tasks within the deadlines. What seemed insurmountable, gave as much satisfaction once completed. The activities in the morning were PGP office’s efforts to let us know there’s more to life than money as we introspected about what we really want out of our stint here. Just to listen to so many stories of people speaking frankly, really provided perspective on the different paths that people have followed to reach this common platform.
The evening turned out to be a dud as all our overnight efforts went in vain as one of our batch mates had actually reached out to the faculty and the student activities in the evening were called off. People were ready for the now-famous end of the activities, and for a large part of time, everyone actually thought this is just a diversion. However, back to our rooms, and suddenly there was so much free time that we didn’t know what to do with so much time on our hands. Strange. Only two days back, we were wishing we had more time to sleep.
Penultimate days, 2017.
Orientation activities resumed for PGP1s after a pre-planned break. More events planned for them to get to know each other well. Some issues cropping up here and there. Last minute fire-fighting. Surprise elements for our batch as well, as we barely had the entire set for us last year.
Sometimes, it’s all about being at the right place at the right time. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer. Tough love and brutal truth from strangers are far more valuable than Band-Aids and half-truths from friends, who don’t want to see you suffer any more than you have. And as Bill Watterson says, “Suffering builds character.”
There and back again…
And as it is, everything that has a beginning has an end. And the more spectacular the end, the more memorable it is. It’s not all work and no play here. Fun events happen at the last night, as everyone finally lets their hair down. Some things can’t be just described in words, and they need to be experienced first-hand. So, let’s keep the secret legacies a secret.
This place has been a witness to so many generations of people coming by and creating stories in these hallowed walls. And to end with a personal note of advice to all those who are here, right now. Cherish these moments. Because ten years down the line, when you start thinking about what your life was like now — and not in general terms, but in highly specific detail — it might be disturbing to realize how certain elements of your being are completely dead. They die long before you do. It’s astonishing to consider all the things from your past that used to happen all the time but (a) never happen anymore, and (b) never even cross your mind. It’s almost like those things didn’t happen. Or maybe it seems like they just happened to someone else. To someone you don’t really know. To someone you just hung out with for one night, and now you can’t even remember the person who experienced them. And so, carpe diem.