A seat of admission inside the premises of the coveted Indian Institutes of Management can very well be described as ‘The Great Indian Dream’. Revered by many as the pinnacle of educational excellence in the country and considered to be a genuine precursor to a life of material comfort (albeit with all the hardships that come along with that sweet smell of success), the IIMs have carved a niche for them in the general psyche of the nation. Millions throng the coaching centres that prepare students for that nerve-racking, exasperating race-against-time commonly known as CAT; thousands take the test every year and only a few get the chance to step inside the hallowed walls of an IIM. Yours truly is one such lucky entrant.
The toughest call that I had to make in that entire process was not inside the exam halls, but rather when I had to contemplate on which B-School to choose from among the ones that had offered me an admission. After weeks of deliberation, frantic Google searches and consultations with friends, family, alumni and present students from the various institutes and even to the desperate extension of rank strangers on online platforms – there was a clear winner. The underlying logic and reasons behind preferring IIMU over its contemporaries is a story for some other day. Thus, with a heavy heart I bade adieu to the city where I had spent twenty-one continuous years of my life and with a great deal of excitement punctuated by some amount of trepidation about the uncertainty of the journey I was about to embark (not the literal journey though, the tickets clearly spelt “Udaipur”), I boarded the train to the city of lakes.
It was my first day on campus and the academic block was teeming with students waiting in line for the registration process. I had expected the lion’s share of the crowd to be engineers – the general norm in B-Schools across the country. Much to my surprise, there were commerce and economics graduates aplenty, with considerable representation from the other undergraduate fields and even a couple of Fashion Designers, Doctors and Dentists thrown in the mix! With the usual formal introductions out of the way, people were getting to know each other over lunch at the Hostel mess. My parents accompanied me to the room allotted to me and helped in unpacking the luggage. Once settled, the students set out for the auditorium where the inauguration ceremony of the new batch was scheduled to take place. It was the first time that we had the wonderful opportunity of being addressed by the director of our institute, Prof. Janat Shah.
Classes took off from the very next day with the first week dedicated to the development of fundamentals like creativity, team work and design thinking with lectures from industry experts in the respective fields. Since numerous courses in the curriculum involve discussions on “Case Studies”, an introductory lecture on the art and science of understanding cases was given by the extremely experienced and renowned Prof. L.S. Murthy from IIMB. Incidentally, the first week of our stay at IIMU coincided with the World Yoga Day, the 21st of June.
The only time my obese, overfed and perennially-averse-to-workouts body came into contact with the word “Yoga” before coming to IIMU was through internet memes about a certain Indian self-proclaimed God-man. I had never felt the urge of trying it out; a foray into the realms of physical activity was, and still is, undesirable to a grave extent for me. Give me a book, I would devour it in five hours – Give me a ball I would throw it back at you and walk away!
However, much to my chagrin, I had to carry my sleep-deprived self to the academic block at 6 o’clock in the morning. But it was indeed an eye-opener! The sense of calm that infuses through the body; the feeling of your muscles waking up from a Rip-Van-Winkle-ish slumber; the light, serene morning breeze that ruffles your hair while you try your best to hold onto the position – I had never experienced anything of that sort before. I am sure none of my postures were perfect, in fact they ought not to be, but nonetheless it was a start and it helped me discover a new facet of life. IIMU had sparked the transformative journey that I signed up for, right from the very first week of my stay.
The first trimester consists of eight courses with varying degrees of Credit Points attached. Being an economics graduate, I was excited to find that two of my undergraduate courses were a part of the first trimester itinerary. However, once the classes started, we came to realise that having prior knowledge of a subject isn’t going to be a differentiating factor. With certain engineers acing the financial accounting course and doctors scoring the highest marks in micro-economics paper, the competition is intense.
Once we settled in, well and good, the toughest week of our lives started. It was time for the first year students to get inducted into the Clubs and Committees. Each student body has an elaborate and characteristic selection procedure to make sure only the ones with the perfect mix, of suitable talent and enthusiasm to work in a team, gets through. With classes continuing as usual, the various selection rounds took place in the evenings and, more often than not, stretched on till the wee hours of the morning. The surprise quizzes, mid-term preparations, daily case readings and submissions continued parallel. The delegation of time to different pursuits simultaneously is a great lesson in time management that plays a huge part in transforming a ‘college student’, fresh out of his undergraduate course into a ‘professional’.
One of the most interesting things I witnessed here is the ‘Soapbox’ system for the election of members into certain important committees. Prior to that there are several rounds gauging the acumen of the applicants on the various skills required for the concerned committee. The final round is the ‘Soapbox’. A ‘Soapbox’, for the uninitiated, is a batch meeting where the short-listed candidates of a particular committee pitch for themselves in front of the entire batch. Their challenge is to convince the audience that they are the perfect fit for the role at hand and not to let temper get the better of them in the face of controversial questions from the audience. It’s a test of several key qualities that will later form an intrinsic part in the life of a manager – bringing forth the communicator, the negotiator, the charmer, the leader and the confidante in each. It took me two failed soapbox attempts to introspect and analyse where I was going wrong and it led to a wonderful journey of self-discovery, a journey that I believe will have no end to it.
The reader, by now, must have formed an opinion that life at IIMU is all-serious with no time for fun and games. Well, we have our very own sports committee who goes by the name of Lakesiders, our very own music-lovers’ SIG (Special Interest Group for the uninitiated) called Octaves with their dancing counterparts being the SIG called Footworx. Together, they have organised several events to de-stress the students on campus, to help them let off some steam. ‘The Karaoke Night’ was a run-away success with huge footfall. Dedications were made – songs of love and longing to friends and family left at home. A few brave hearts even took centre stage to profess their love for a batch-mate – some were rewarded with a favourable response, others not so much unfortunately. The crowd had a gala time – singing along to their favourite tracks, dancing enthusiastically whenever a Bolly chartbuster started playing and showing full vocal support for their friends performing.
Academics, however, is the most important part of the campus life at IIMU, a fact reiterated several times by the faculties and seniors alike. Mid-terms arrived swiftly and like a silent assassin. Some unfortunate souls were caught off-guard, some had prepared hard well in advance. There was an added fervour in the hostel blocks, the usual 3AM nap time got deferred to 5. But eventually, everyone pulled up their socks and gave their best efforts in every course and subject befitting their tag of an IIMU student.
It wasn’t love at first sight. It had taken me a week or so to fall in love with the picturesque campus with the lonely road stretching down to the ST Hostel – greenery on either side; it had taken me a couple of weeks to fall in love with the ‘half-fry Maggi’ at the night canteen which has quenched my mid-night hunger many a times; it took the introverted geek in me almost a month to realise the importance of my study group mates and it’s just the beginning. Transformation is not an overnight process. The journey lies ahead. Or as a wise man (smirk) once said,
“Picture aabhi baki hai mere dost”