Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back where I belong!


I guess it was a fairly crazy thing to do. But then, I am known for doing crazy things. So there I was, sitting at home, 1 hour after reaching Pune, wondering what to do. Yes, an hour after reaching Pune after 3 months. Sad :P So then, I decided to do the only thing I can in such situations - go for a nice, long trek. My old company chaps had arranged a rock climbing and rappeling expedition to Alang and Madan, 2 forts to the north of Pune, near the city of Nashik.
Starting the climb : The eastern skies light up

Alang, Madan and Kulang were 3 of the toughest forts of the Sahyadris, with tiring, steep climbs and perilious rock faces to negotiate. I had fond memories of Kulang and Alang. I'd spent New Year's eve, 2004-05 on Kulang, after traveling all night, walking all morning for around 10 kms due to lack of transport to the base, and then doing the 6-7 hour steep base-to-top climb, all with the sun on my back. It was well worth it though, and the experience for the next few days was unforgettable. Oh, those memories...

Madan, however, had eluded me for a while. It has a bit of a rock patch which cannot be negotiated without technical equipment. I was close to doing it for 2 years with Trek'Di, my old company, but something or the other had come up at the last moment.

So there I was, sitting in the bus at 11 with a bunch of 30 odd similarly crazy outdoor freaks. I didn't sleep much in the night, discussing everything from the state of the automobile industry to CAT to life in the IIMs to engineering with Tarini, who had the misfortune of being beside me and then choosing to be with me for the rest of the trek! I think Trek'Di will ensure that I sit in a single seat the next time time round, lest I scare away more of their customers ;)

Morning came with us in Ambewadi, the village at the base of Alang fort. The 3 forts stood tall to the South, lit golden yellow by the rising sun. After a not-so-quick tea outside the village, we set off. I love steep climbs, the no nonsense part of it really appeals to me. Sure, it stretches you cardiovascularly, but it takes you up quickly, and I prefer that to slow ascents. By late morning, we'd reached the base of the rock face.

After a few hours of climbing and traversing scree-clad ledges with a couple of thousand feet drops alongside, we reached the top of Madan. There's something smug about the Madan summit. It sits pretty there, between Alang and Kulang, both with vast summits, which take atleast a couple of hours to get around, but which are shorter than Madan.
Left : The vastness of Alang Right : Moi, but a minuscule molecule in front of it.

After a quick dumping of my sack in the caves, I rushed to the top-most point of Madan. There are plenty of large rocks here to perch on and dangle your feet into the nothingness below. The setting sun casts a warm glow on our faces, as people leave their chores and climb to the summit for the sunset. It's a fantastic spot, although how beautiful it is will become apparent only the next morning. The sun sets, and the temperature dips rapidly, making me wish that I'd not forgotten my jacket in the cave below. Shivering, I head back to the caves.

Left : At the Madan Summit Right : View from the top

Its such an amazing feeling, having nothing to do at all at such a beautiful place. You are almost on the top of the world and there's nobody else to bother about. Nothing else matters. The sky has lit up with millions of stars, there is a soft breeze blowing. A jacket keeps me comfortable as I sit on the top of the cave, watching the goings-on below. The call for dinner comes, and we reluctantly head down. Back to the roof-top afterwards, the sky is too beautiful to stay away from. It's got colder though, and the warmth of the sleeping bag is too tempting to continue staying up here. Sleep overpowers me instantly, although the ground is hard and uneven and rocky and dusty.

An alarm rings at 5. Time to head to the summit for the sunrise, although its an hour away. The short climb immediately after waking up leaves me huffing and puffing, and the comfortable rocks at the top are a welcome site.

Right & Below : Sunrise at Madan top

We sit there, watching the surroundings in awe. It's not yet dawn, not even false dawn. It's night, complete and proper. We can't see anything, not Alang, not Kulang, not the caves below except for the suffused glow of the torches inside; the group leaders waking up to make tea and breakfast. Above us are millions of stars again, albeit different ones. A stiff wind is blowing. The silence is like a shock, the complete lack of noise other than that made by the wind is a treat to the senses. Sometimes, nothingness feels like it is so much! There is absolutely nothing and yet there's everything, nothing to see except for a sky full of stars, nothing to hear other than the steady wind playing with the grass, nothing to feel other than the coarse rocks beneath us, nothing to smell other than the faint fragrance of I-dunno-what which makes the mountains what they are. In our busy city lives, our senses are literally assaulted, and yet we don't feel, remember, cherish or value anything. It's when you get them in such carefully measured proportions that you realize how fantastic an experience each one of them can be. I loved it, the simple pleasure of watching a brilliant star-lit sky, without the sickly yellow glow of city-lights, the soothing fragrance of a night in the mountains, the feel of the breeze on my hands. Life can be so simple, and yet so incredible at times! Everything else seemed history, irrelevant. This was me, this was the present, this was life. Nothing before, nothing after. One moment at a time. To be felt, enjoyed and forgotten to the fullest. To be lived the way life deserves to be lived. Who knew, while doing the traverse on the way back, who knew for sure that I'd place my feet where they should be put. Who knew whether I wouldn't slip and lose my balance and just roll down. Why bother about things that might never happen... Why do I realize these things so easily when in the outdoors and so quickly forget them when I go back to my 'life'?

The faint outline of Alang started becoming visible to the east. Along with the first light of dawn, rose the moon, a mere thin crescent, a day away from nothingness. It was brilliant, the eastern skies turning from black to a dull brownish yellow to a bright orange, with the moon just above it. It was an enrapturing sight, and we watched it in awe. Conversation was surperfluous, and an insult to the celestial magic being weaved. I wish those moments froze in time...

The sun soon came up, and along with it, the rest of the members of the group. The Madan summit felt completely different in the morning, beautiful, but in a different way. After sitting there for a while and soaking in the sun, I descended down reluctantly.

Bags packed and all ready, we started the descent. The day's walk was not long, but time-consuming, as we had to first descend Madan and then ascend Alang, which also had a rock patch. After much loafing around at the base of the Alang rock face, waiting for the outdoor experts to fix things up, we reached the top.

It's a sunny, albeit cold morning!

A quick dumping of sacks in the caves, and we were off for the water tanks, which were a good 10-15 minute walk above the caves. A quick climb took us to the top of the caves, after which we went through the ruins of the forts, broken down walls of houses, the last remnants of a forgotten era.

Alang has 1 construction on top which still has a bit of it's old glory. It's a largish house, with its outside walls almost entirely intact. The walls are made of large basalt bricks, uneven and coarse, yet giving the feeling of solidness which nothing else would. It has a beautiful window on the South-western side, which, when seen from inside, frames the far corner of the fort nicely. After a bit of a photo session there, we headed to the hillock towards the south, with a flag at its summit. Beyond that, however, was another hillock, quite far away, and a few minutes on the uncomfortable flag-wala hillock convinced Tarini and me to go for the one further on. The distant hillock held promises of a smooth, grassy top, and looked like a nice place to watch the sun going down.

A bit of a walk, and we were there. The grass was tall, yet comfy, and the view, fantastic as usual. Tarini found a packet of a groundnuts somewhere in the hundred-odd things she was carrying around, and hey, we had salted groundnuts too!

It was a completely different atmosphere, yet, again ethereal. It's incredible how nature can be so simple and yet so beautiful, so easily. The skies were blue, the yellowing-but-still green grass was looking brilliant in the evening light. Tiny yellow flowers grew randomly in the grass. Madan looked tall yet lonely, far, far away. An eagle played with the drafts, diving, soaring, gliding, a little tweak of a feather here, a sudden flapping of wings there, sublime and majestic. Small yellow lights started lighting up the distant town of Igatpuri, where I'd spent a fortnight in the near past, although it now felt like a lifetime ago. I was staring, gawking, lost in the overpowering beauty of the place. Money, a good career, power, they all seem so frivolous, so useless, so lacking in the ability to give me a real high. What did it all mean, if it kept me away from all this? This was me, this is me, this is where I am happy, this is where I can be myself, toss my head back and smile from the heart and be glad and thankful to the maker for life and its simpler and yet so much more magnificent pleasures. Yet, I knew, tomorrow I had to go back, back into a world which, in all possibility, will take me far away from this. Yet, that did not bother me, for once, for a change, after a long, long time, I was living in the present, completely soaked in it. Life, I thought, could get stuffed.

Despite the fears of going back, I knew that I knew what it took for me to feel happy, to feel content. I hope that wherever I am, if the chips were really down, I could come back here, there and in so many of my favourite places in the Sahyadris, and feel good again. As much as I look forward to going to Germany this summer for my summer internship job, I think there's nothing which can hold a candle to some of the spots in the Sahyadris.

Fort Madan, seen from Alang

The sun dipped behind the range of mountains in front. We got up and started on the long walk back, past the first hillock, past the big ruin, past the water tanks, and on. Then, we had to look around a bit, I wasn't sure about where the first ruins exactly. If there's one thing which rarely lets me down, it's my sense of direction, and sure enough, I found them, and down we went, to the warmth, darkness and comfort of the caves. A superb day, with the sunrise at the Madan summit, and the sunset from the far corners of Alang.

An early dinner, and sleep beckoned again. Tomorrow it would all end, like I was going to wake up from a pleasant dream and go about facing life again.

5 am, and again we head out for a walk. Climbing to the summit was out of the question today, it was too much of a climb early in the morning, in the dark. So we headed down to another water tank near the spot we climbed up from. Dawn seemed to come quicker today, and soon we headed back to the cave, for breakfast and tea.

The last descents and walks of a trek really get to me. There is this growing sense of despondency and helplessness, as I come to terms with the fact that it is going to end soon. Most of these descents end with a hot, dusty, boring walk across miles of open country which also does not help matters. Anyway, as it is most of the times, there was little choice, and soon we reached Ambewadi again, where they'd managed to, remarkably, concretize most of the village roads in the 3 days we were gone. After a late lunch, we stuffed ourselves into the bus again, and headed back home.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thank God it's over!

They say Term 2 is what a MBA is all about, in India b-schools. I agree. Although this wasn't quite due to academics, as is normally the reason. Surprisingly, acads were much easier and manageable this time, despite summers and the mess associated with it.

But term 2 was bad and forgettable. There is no other way to describe it. Summers were a nightmare for the first few days. In the end, I got a good offer, but not before some severe heartburn and frustration. Then followed events on campus which left everybody stunned and shocked. Then came the mid-terms, and the stress associated with that. The next 2 months were a personal nightmare, something which I hope doesn't come back to me this term. All in all, 3 months of the course I would like to forget as much as possible about...

And the End-terms come visiting again...

OR and OM on day 1. Not very stressful, for the simple reason that few people have a clue about what really goes on in OR. I seem to do better than average here, so no worries. No reason to worry about OM either, the mechanical engineering background (finally) comes to the rescue. So day 1 is manageable, I think.

Alas, the OR paper was a bit of a disaster. By disaster, I mean it went kinda bad while it went fairly well for others. It's not a disaster if everybody screws it up, due to the relative grading system :) OM was average. A so-so start to the exams.

Day 2 was important. I had a below average macro-economics score in the mid-sems, and had to make up to avoid a low grade. Like Micro-economics, I had little clue about the subject for a long time. When I finally got down to read it properly, and I think i did a fair job of it, I started liking it, just like micro. I don't know how relevant these textbook theories are in real life, but the fact the front page of the pink dailies actually make some sense to me is so much of a morale-booster. I could now faff beautifully about fiscal policy changes and rate cuts. More seriously, it's actually quite an eye-opener, macro-economics.

Business ethics followed in the afternoon, which went fine. It's tough to do too well or too badly in subjects like ethics and sociology, which is just fine with me!

As expected, everybody had left the post-weekend subjects for the weekend. Again, as expected, nobody studied after the paper on friday or much on saturday. Which meant that come Sunday, and everybody was running around in a state again. So much for using the break! This is one MBA habit which I have to break out of. The tendency to leave EVERYTHING to the last moment. I think we should be having rigorous anti-procrastination courses :| It's crazy, it's irritating, and it makes me mad at myself. And yet I don't change. Procrastination has become a big problem :|

Monday morning, and the Financial Management paper is so tough, that it's funny. Few people have a clue about anything in the paper. I have a sneaking suspicion whether we actually had all that stuff... I mean 200 odd not-so-bad brains can't not have a clue, can they? Organizational Behaviour follows in the afternoon. My sole chance of getting a A+ this semester. Or in the entire course, I have a feeling. Anyway, I botch things up quite well, ensuring there's no way I am getting a A+. An A if I am lucky, or a A- most possibly. Darn.

Last day, and only a single paper. Management Accounting. After studying for a few hours, Mandy, the senior who's a CA, responds to a SOS and makes things much simpler and manageable. The paper's a dream, unfortunately, everybody's creamed it. Well, no issues, as long as I am not the one screwing up!

And that's that! I am a M. Out of a MBA. My friend says we get a PGDM, not a MBA. Darn. 0.33 PGDM doesn't sound that cool :|

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sem 2 draws to a close...

Aah, well, for a change, we didn't have anything like an exam week. Through some possible scheduling goof-up, the end-term exams for Term 2 were schedule across a weekend. By that I mean that we had 2 papers before the weekend and 2 after. With people studying less and less as the course progresses, and this sem's courses being more understanding based and analytical, the cumulative effect was that exams this time around were much less stressful. All in all, the second semester drew to a close in a much calmer way.

We still had lectures scheduled in the days before the papers, with some important OR stuff being taught 2 days before the exam. I guess the admin seriously believes in continuous and regular studies :| The problem with lectures in the exam week isn't the lectures themselves.. as in an hour or so is not that important, even when you have 2 papers about which you have little clue waiting for you the next day. The issue is that these lectures will invariably be in the morning. Which means I have to get up in the forenoon, or worse, in the morning. Which means I can't put in an all-nighter the previous night. So the straightforward effect of having lectures on days before the exams is that there is a direct negative effect on my grades. Which makes me hopping mad. This is something I love about the engineering system. 45 days of prep leave in which you have hibernate if you want, for god's sake. Atleast a business school should have a schedule which favours the night owls... which is more or less everybody here!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Roller Coaster

Warning : Serious Material Alert!

A year ago, it would have been difficult to imagine this scene - nay, I would have betted a hell lot against the specific sequence of events happening which would make me land up here, in the balcony of my room in the IIM Kozhikode hostels, watching the rising sun paint yet another stunning morning. Another long night has passed by, unfortunately just literally. Otherwise, I continue to wait.

They say life changes dramatically at times, events happen at a pace which leave you gasping for breath. It has been that sort of a year. Maybe the start was a sign of things to come. I start the new year with a fight in the wee hours. A sort of fight which leaves me wondering where we have reached and where we are heading. Time, (un)fortunately, does not offer me the comfort of delving into these matters, and they are shrugged off and (semi-) forgotten in the bustle of everyday life. There is a job to do, exams to give, a career to plan, back-up options to explore. I have a lot on my plate, I assume some things will fall into place due to the inherent strength of the foundations they have been built upon. Assumptions are silly things, lulling you into a false sense of confidence and comfort.

I vividly remember, 8th January, the day of the CAT results, when I spent a nervous day flying into and out of Delhi, and presenting our business proposal to a huge set of foreign delegates. Every other moment I checked my on-silent-mode phone for any call, any message about the results. I eventually found out about my LIK calls only the next morning.

The rest of the month passed in a blur, preparing for the calls, putting in long hours at work. 31st of January, and I watched the sun set on the outlines of Pune city on the horizon, shining through the haze and smog, on my way back from a business trip. There was something menacing about it, as if warning me of the dark night that would follow the twilight which, itself had followed the soft, golden light of the evening. I tried to shrug it off, telling myself not to be irrational, setting suns don't tell you anything. A bad phone call, another semi-fight, and I looked outside the window in frustration. Darkness was, indeed, falling rapidly. But that it would fall this rapidly, I had no clue.

There are incidents which you remember all your life, good ones, bad ones, but when you try recollecting what exactly happened, you go blank. February 1st was one such day. A normal day at office, followed by an evening which leaves me clutching for support to this day. There are moments in life when you reach a state where you are completely, totally, helpless, comprehensively defeated, with nowhere to go and nothing to hang on to. There are, thankfully, rare, most of the time. MOST of the time. I was having an entire set of them, bunched together in a nice period of 20 odd months. So much that I have begun to dread not the reason for those moments, but the moments in themselves. You learn to grapple with most of the stuff that comes your way, but it's those first moments, when it hits you is what is dreadful.

They say, what you get in life, what you do, whatever comes your way is all destiny. Some things are meant to be, some aren't. I was never a strong believer in this philosophy. The next 3 months, the fellow up there concentrated solely on proving me wrong about this. A series of events which put together would put a bollywood story to shame. It was as if there was a direct challenge from God - you can do WHATEVER you want, exactly THIS will happen. Exactly THAT happened. It was unbelievable. It was like he was sending me a message - just go with the flow - when it's meant to be, it will. Why couldn't I accept it and apply it to other things in life? I almost did. 3 blissful months when all that I saw was the the future. But these things have a weird way of getting back to you.

A month of here-or-there, and I land up in IIM Kozhikode. New place, new phase of life, new people, a new routine, a new purpose, a new destiny, all seemed enough to push the demons in my head way, way into the blurred past. As expected, I was overwhelmed, I was ecstatic, I was sleeping 3 hours a night and yet I was as happy as I can ever remember myself being. Life rocked. It was a fantastic place, with fantastic people, something which lakhs of people yearn to be doing.

Unfortunately, you adapt. You get used to things. You learn to manage them, as tough as they can get. You evolve. You fight for your space, your piece of time to think freely about what you want to. And then it all starts coming back. And you realize that it hardly matters. Your location, what you are doing, the people around you hardly matter, when the devil is inside your head. And slowly but surely, it takes you back into the labyrinth, through turns and twists which you pass and instantly understand that you will not remember on the way back.

I don't know where I am today. The IIM calls, the breakup, the interviews in that zombied, auto-pilot mode, the remarkable strokes of luck during them, the converting of almost all calls, the month where I drove myself up the wall trying to choose between the head and the heart, the 2-3 months when the high made me forget reality, the struggle to cope academically, and the eventual relapse. A soft wind blows, laden with the freshness of a hill-station morning, bringing me back into the present, into reality. The sun has risen higher into the sky, shining brightly into my east-facing room. Another delusion of light, another false but well-lit path to trick me to follow. Campus is waking up, the first joggers of the day are out. I turn around and walk back into my room. It smells stale, of yesterday, stuffy and humid, lacking the crispness of the air outside. It smells of things known, things and events in the recent past. I want to stay outside, in the fresh air, but something, something which I cannot fight pulls me back inside. I close the balcony door, pull the curtains. Why do I insist on keeping the sunlight out? I switch on the fan, it starts churning the same old stale air, and slide under the covers.

Will the coming times give me the strength and the courage to fling the door open and take in a deep breath of fresh air, not turn back, not turn back till the door is open long enough, till the elements do their job? Till every blob of air hiding in the crevices of my room is dragged out and replaced with fresh, oxygen-filled, crisp mountain air?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Life's a brick game...

The fourth or the fifth week of the second half of a semester is the one in which you started realizing that there are, err, a few project deadlines which are round the corner, and which would require a bit of serious work. Mails then start going around, pleading with group members to turn up at unholy hours. Huddles of worried and bored looking chaps can be seen everywhere, hunched over their laptops, busy chatting with somebody on their gtalk list while appearing to work hard.

This semester was a nightmare in terms of project deliverables. Almost every subject had some submission or the other, and they just kept coming at us one after the other, like a never ending stream of coloured bricks in computer games. A MBA, however, teaches you one thing - if it has to be done, it will, in all possibility, get done.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Old affiliations call!

Our sections had been shuffled for this second semester, which had caused a fair bit of heartburn amongst us, especially since we'd started to have a real neat time in class. I guess the professors didn't approve too much of the camaraderie we had. Anyway, so we all decided to meet up for old times sake, and went out for a 'B-Section' Party. Thankfully, the restaurant manager was smart enough to let us loose only inside a separate hall. Short of having a food fight and beaning each other, we pretty much created a fair bit of ruckus and mess. Whatever food came our way was attacked with a gusto. I keep seeing the scared-as-shit waiter syndrome a fair bit here. I wonder whether it's just here or also prevalent in other business school afflicted towns. An apprehensive looking chap will arrive with whatever you have arrived. He'll look around and ask a few people as to where that particular piece of edible matter was supposed to land. After getting more than a dozen authoritative replies of right here, right here, he quickly plonks it on the nearest horizontal surface available, withdraws his now-in-dangerous-territory limbs with the agility of a cornered snake and runs for his life. What follows is a scene which concerned mothers should shield their children from, as a couple of dozen otherwise perfectly sane folks jump onto the plate like a mass of crocodiles fighting over a recently pulled down beast, in the wilds of Africa. The crocodiles atleast leave the bones behind.

Satiated and tired after fighting for our food and getting it, we streamed out, boisterous as ever. I am sure we drive restaurant owners and managers here up the wall. They can't throw us out because it's just plain bad business refusing entry to a total of 400 odd customers, most of whom would have no qualms spending more than almost any of your regular customers. At the same time, with the way we behave, they wouldn't have too many regular customers. I think the manager of the Taj here would soon happily ban us from the premises, with the new found, unarguable reason of 'security hazard'.

Well, we do listen to them a bit when they request us to quieten down a wee bit, and haven't got any of them really cheesed off at us, so we don't seem to be doing too badly.

Needless to say, we had a great time. Strange to have a reunion when we were all of a sem and half into a MBA, but, well, as long as it makes sense, why not...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In the middle..

Life at a b-school soon settles down into a fairly established routine, depending on how close (or far) you are from the exams. As the semesters progress, even that stops affecting you. It can start getting a bit too routine at times, though I guess it won't even come close to the drudgery that life is in the corporate world.

The last week was like that. Classes, hauling myself out of bed at 9.05 or 9.10, making a reasonable attempt to not look like something they hauled out of the rainwater harvesting pond, a mad dash up the stairs to the main area, squinting in the bright light outside, huffing and puffing my way to class and finally plonking myself on my seat. I would have loved to add 'and going back to sleep', but the smart schedule setters had considered that possibility, and scheduled lectures first up in which sleeping had the potential of causing a sharp dip in your grade. So there I was, looking like a zombie, trying to make sense of salesmen running helter-skelter between delivery points or wondering how much it cost today to start a project in the next millennium but for which you would take a loan in the next century for an interest rate of 7.4573589 percent calculated semi-hourly, and which had a risk probability of 0.45379 if I became the prince of egypt and 0.5634 if the arctic ice depletion suddenly reversed and an ice age took over the world. My instinctive answer of none, nil, null, shoonya didn't amuse the professor, who didn't appreciate the use of the gaping loophole he'd left while framing the question. Like Calvin, I will make complete use of loopholes.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

:O

For hours, we were glued to the TV, watching the events unfolding open-mouthedly. It was all quite unbelievable. The reactions which followed it were typically aggressive, jingoistic. But is that how we should always react?

I think we need to look at this issue from a slightly different perspective. Terrorism is difficult to stop, however hard anyone tries, if the perpetrators are determined to do it. The only real way to stop terrorism is to ensure that the original causes are handled in a way that they don't exist, or at least, minimized. It is practically impossible to increase security to a level where it is impossible to smuggle unwanted stuff into our territory. Most countries tend to attempt to manage the symptoms. This might seem like an idealistic solution, but it looks like the only sensible and reliable long-term solution to me. We say we need tougher laws - but do you really think people who have been brainwashed so much into doing this would actually care about how tough the laws are? The current attackers are almost a suicide squad. And do we really want a state where security invades into every aspect of our life? Anti-terrorism laws can be misused - there are several examples of this across the world. Can utilitarianism justify anything and everything? And more importantly, is there any evidence that tougher laws reduce crime rates? Remember Freakonomics?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Woooaaaaaah!



It's as if the fella up there is thinking that I am being a bit of a chump by not being up to see the painting he's just painted. It's another typical morning for me otherwise, but for some strange reason, I will sit bolt upright in bed at 6.30ish, only to see the most stunning displays in the eastern skies. It's happened before, and it happened again. I'd slept at 3, and intended to sleep till 8.30, but for some weird reason I got up feeling as fresh as I ever could. I quickly picked up my camera and shot a few snaps. Why it never occurs to me to go around and get some better views than what my hostel offers is beyond me. Anyway, I did take some fairly decent shots and promptly went back to sleep. A couple of days later, I remembered them and saw them on the laptop, and was rather stunned to see them. This was by far the best sunrise I'd seen after coming here. I really need to keep a watch on sunrises here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Dust Bunnies come calling :|

It's one of the biggest frustrations when using a digital SLR. That's a single lens reflex, or 'professional' camera for the uninitiated. In short, it means a camera whose lenses can be changed. As liberating and incredible as this is, it introduces a problem which can assume terrible proportions. When you are primarily an outdoors photographer, and change lenses in the field, you invariably get a fair bit of muck on the camera sensor or CCD. Over 4 years, which is how old my camera is, it can get fairly dirty, which is what I realized when I took some photographs at low apertures. In months, the problem has become so bad that I need hours of cloning work in imaging software to make my photographs usable. And as much as you might suggest use of do-it-yourself cleaning methods, I really look forward to the day camera manufacturers look at this problem really seriously.

Despite all dire warnings from the manufacturers, I decided that I was going to give sensor cleaning a shot. So there I was, with an improvised swab, the camera body with it's lens off, the mirror lifted with a bulb exposure. I got a sneaking feeling that the sensor was placed in a deep recess and generally made as inaccessible as possible in order to prevent bravehearts (idiots?) like me from tinkering around with it. After all, how can they get their 16 hundred odd bucks for a 5 minute job? :mad: Anyway, I finally managed to reach the damn thing and swiped it a couple of times. Problem. The dust particles (or whatever else it was, it seemed like some alien growth to me, a central big fat blob with tentacles spreading out in all directions) clung to the sensor with the tenacity of tar on a shoe sole, and mocked my gingerly attempts to dislodge them off their perches. Now, I don't have enough in me to make a concerted attempt by putting a bit of pressure to remove the stuff (I do not quite fancy taking photos with a neat little dent where the 1/3rds line would come), so I decided to leave it to Nikon and their extortionists to do the job.

Maybe film isn't a bad idea after all. If only I could afford it. And if I had a Nikon film body :P

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Caught in a trough

I've got some strange comments on my blogs, comments which I don't understand. I didn't know IIMians also felt low, says one. Why? Aren't we humans? Just because we got into a good business school hardly makes life perfect for anybody. Everybody comes here with their own baggages, own set of worries and might-have-beens. You tend to get so carried away in this hectic life that you often don't how things are still pretty much the same for you. Sure, you might have dramatically improved your chances of getting a great job, and getting enough money to live comfortably, but you still have more or less the same set of problems you started out with. Yes, I am grateful for what I have got, for getting into a place so many deserve to (and so many who do so more than me) and yet don't. Especially since I have experienced first-hand what it feels like to be in a state of penury :| But money and a high flying profile has never been a big thing for me. I've always wanted life's subtler pleasures, the slightly off-beat ones. I have so many things that many people don't, yet at times there is this all-pervading gloom which envelopes me like one of those clouds which take over the campus during the night. I end up feeling terribly guilty at feeling this way when I am in such an incredible place, surrounded by such incredible people, something coveted by so many and achieved by so less. Why am I not happy then? What is that holds me back from enjoying these days - which would probably be the best in life - to the fullest? Why do I feel like life has already been lived, and that there is nothing to look forward to? Questions, questions and more questions to pull me down, and not an answer in sight. What am I looking for, that elusive thing which will set me free and give me peace? It's not a fancy concept, that much I know, I've reached that state of utter bliss before, for a period of time so long that I'd wondered whether I deserved it. When will I again, if I do, and how? Just more questions, again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

3.someone

Ok, really cliched title, I know. But it feels so good to be in the same point range as the batch topper. Initially, I'd missed this huge advantage of a 4.33 point system which IIM Kozhikode follows, as opposed to a 10 point system. So what if the topper has 3.94 and I have something on the lower end of the 3 range. But same point range :P

So, finally, the grades are out, and I receive a big pleasant surprise. Although my end-sem performance had taken away the pink-slip fears a fair bit, the usual paranoid me was always a tad scared. So I opened the result link with a bit of apprehension, only to see a list of pleasant scores. No path-breaking performances anywhere, but nothing to hide either!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good Evening, Komrades!

I'd always wanted to become a RJ. It seemed rather like a fun thing to do. Which is why I'd been rather gung-ho about RJing for K-Dio, the campus radio. Unfortunately, things hadn't taken off in the first sem, and I'd forgotten everything about it. Till now, when Nikhil aka Khadoos decided to take matters in his own hands. And so started our everyday adventure. So most evenings we now have a couple of people trying their best to bore the hell out of everybody else on campus. It's incredible fun, though thinking up stuff to say on the spot when you are live on air can get tough. You have to really think on your feet. Thankfully, the junta here is rather accommodating, and forgives us for the bloopers we tend to commit. Hopefully, we'll get better with time. We should, because it would be quite a feat to get any worse!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nostalgia..

The 3rd Sunday of November always had been a very important day for me for the last few years. It was the day when I made my ritualistic annual attempt to crack the Common Admission Test, or CAT. It felt different this year. CAT had been like a festival for me, something that I looked forward to. I was getting nostalgic. I was missing it, the slight tension, the feeling of anticipation, the dreams of getting into the IIMs, of fulfilling something which I'd set out to do one arbit day in April 2005. There's something about this exam, which makes it much more than a mere aptitude test. Maybe it's because the stakes are so high, maybe because of what it can do to you and your career, and failure so easy and a mere false step away. CAT, more than anything else, made me realize how much water had flown under the bridge. A year ago, life was so different. Back then, I used to wonder where I'd be a year later, which city, which b-school, or whether I'd be still doing some job, trying to fight again, giving it yet another shot. A regular 9 to 6.30 job, evenings with my girlfriend, weekends spent giving mocks and wandering around in the city or on the Tekdi, planning for sunrises yet to arrive, for years still unseen, for events never to occur. An uneventful but peaceful life. It's ironic, When everything is calm and peaceful, you want action and excitement, when there's action and excitement, you want a peaceful life. When there's safety, you want excitement and thrill and freedom, when you have all those, you crave for the former. Why do we plan so much into the future? Why do we think about events 2, 3, 4 years down the line, when everything can change so quickly and dramatically within days? Life today was not something I'd imagined a year ago. Some of my dreams have turned into reality, so have some of my nightmares. Do things always come in packages? Life today is not bad at all, by any stretch of imagination, but is it what I want?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A few peaceful weeks..

The week immediately after the mid-sems is usually a good one. There is little work, and the feeling of having the rest of the day to yourself after a nice lunch is incredible. You can have a nice little (or not-so-little, in my case) nap in the afternoon. Maybe a stroll in the evening, or a bowl at the cricket nets. Or rot around in the NC, sampling the day's special fare. Or grab a book and coop up with it. Evenings, of course, are a bit busier with some work to be done for upcoming submissions or projects. Nobody schedules any group meetings before 10 in the night. It's the best time to work in groups. The faculty and admin staff are long gone, leaving the place to us. Campus is in a relaxed mood then, you can sit anywhere and create a ruckus without worrying about anything. That's the one thing I love about this place - the freedom and lack of restrictions in most things non-academic.

So the week drifted by lazily. I slept and slept and slept, covering up for all the sleep debt from the (pre-) exam weeks. It was a good idea to do that till it was possible, end sem week can get rather hectic with multiple project submissions and a lot of studies to catch up on. StudCon and the Backwaters Committee decided to spice things up a bit by organizing an inter-hostel competition on Saturday. They'd thought up a nice, violent game for us. A team from a hostel had to build a pyramid of cans, while everybody else blasted them with water-balloons. Games like this which allows people an outlet to vent their built-up frustrations are perfect, and much loved. Which meant that the first few teams got an absolute hiding. As with most things on campus, it was fought with an intensity which could scare outsiders. Heated arguments over rules and their not-so-spirited abidance continued throughout. All in all, it was a fun evening.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Off goes the Prince :(

And so, it's over. Ganguly's gone. I've been an avid cricket watcher ever since I could say Sachin Tendulkar, and Ganguly's been around ever since I've really started to understand the game. I still remember his century at Lords. It's funny. I am a huge Tendulkar fan, and yet, when I think about cricket all these years, the moments which come to mind quickly and which I remember vividly are all Ganguly moments. The Lords century, those flowing cover-drives which left a packed off-side field running for cover, the shirt moment, again at Lords, the infamous wait Steve Waugh had to endure, that Pepsi ad which the world laughed at and finally, the comeback. It's hard to believe he's gone, gone at the peak of his form, gone after a comeback which even the craziest of his fans would not have genuinely believed as possible.

I've always had a soft corner for fighters, for people who want to and make a comeback against all odds. The odds were stacked heavily against him. The advertisement took the cake, for most people. For some strange reason, I'd always loved it. I don't think it would have been easy for him to do it. And he's never really been short of money, I doubt he'd put himself through so much trouble for a silly ad. He did it, because he meant it. What a way to announce to the world that he was gonna come back. And what a way to follow that up!

So one of the big four is gone. By far the most charismatic of them. It's only a matter of time before the other 3 bow out. One is in the middle of a horrendous patch, and is likely to be given a heave-ho for the upcoming England series. The other 2 continue in the same vein as old, but age can go only one way. Tendulkar insists that he will play for a few years more; the temptation of one last shot at the the ultimate prize - the World Cup is what, one suspects, keeps him going. With the temperament and skill that he has, it's quite likely that he will keep playing till then without giving the selectors any chance of thinking of keeping him out.

Ganguly has started the end of an era in Indian cricket. Without the big 4, without Tendulkar, Indian cricket will be but a bunch of talented youngsters. It's difficult to get by without something which you've grown up with. Cricket without Ganguly and Tendulkar will be but a pale shadow of it during the days when these 2 men set entire stadiums afire with their dazzling displays and personalities. There couldn't be a bigger contrast between them in many aspects, and yet they couldn't be more similar in the way they were synonymous with cricket for a long, long time.

There's this strange feeling that Tendulkar gives me. Call me crazy, but whatever trough life is in, if Tendlya's on song, everything else seems but a faraway worry. When the sun's out, the field's spread, Tendlya's batting like the good ol' days, it feels that everything else will take care of itself. It's a strange, overwhelming feeling of comfort, watching him in sublime touch. Yuvraj might dazzle with his stunningly graceful strokeplay, Dhoni might hoik things out of the stadium, but nothing, nothing comes close to a classic, minimal-follow-through Tendulkar straight drive.

When Tendulkar edges yet another one to slips or onto the stumps, I merely switch off the television for the day. When he hangs up his boots, however, the idiot box will stay off for a while. :|

Friday, November 7, 2008

And here they come! :|

As expected, the 4-5 days without classes passed by rather quickly, without any substantial reduction in the amount to be done for the exams, and we landed up into Monday, the day before the exams. For some obscure reason, the admin had decided that it would be a good idea to have classes on this day. And some of the professors had taken this further, and had decided to keep some nice submissions and presentations for this day. Which meant that a substantial bit of Sunday went into getting the stuff ready for the next day rather than contributing towards the last-ditch effort for the exams. I guess we are expected to study consistently all through the term rather than make a mad dash for it at the end, but I doubt that the concept has really caught on with too many people other than the toppers.

Despite a significantly lower amount of studying, the pressure was quite less this time round. People were keyed up for the exams, but the sense of desperation and tension had vanished. I guess all those pings on the internal messenger by the seniors, asking for the syllabus on the night before the exams started making some sense, though I doubt I'll ever have the guts to keep it till so late :|

The exam schedule was also such that I could get a bit more sleep than the nightmare the previous time. 2 of the toughest subjects - OR and OM, both from the operations domain were on day 1, which meant we could study then comfortably for 2 days. The first day went pretty well, with a reasonably easy OR paper, quite unlike what we'd expected due to the reputation of the prof for setting papers which left everybody wondering what hit them. The OM paper left everybody pleasantly surprise. It was a fundoo paper, a feel-good kinda thing. Even people who'd not bothered to read through the text could have done reasonably well, and there was a perceptible got-out-of-jail kinda feeling after looking at it.

Day 2 was for Macro-economics and Business Ethics. There's something about economics which makes me feel like an absolute idiot. The very sign of a supply demand curve makes me go, Hmm, interesting, what the HECK is that? Micro I had tamed after a death match last semester. I had started getting a feeling that I would have to do something on those lines this time around, too. Business ethics was very interesting, but wasn't really meant for pre-exam reading. The economics paper went sorta ok, only time will tell how it really went. Business ethics was decent, although there were some blank looks when a case had to analyzed by using the ISCT model. Right. What was that again?

Day 3. Management Accounts, of MANAC, or MANiAC, as somebody's gtalk status message read. Despite some anxious moments the night before, it went rather well. I don't know what block I have against accounts. I was absolutely panicking on the day before the paper in the first semester, and then I went and absolutely creamed the thing. It's funny that it scares me so much, especially when I don't do too badly in it :|

Organizational Behaviour in the afternoon. I'd studied well for this, and had a pretty good run. There's something OB and HR which really interests me. Unlike the masses who dread the prospect of studying for OB, I actually look forward to it. For one, it's rather simple to comprehend, atleast the stuff we study. Which is a great start, as that's the stumbling block which ruins most other subjects for me. It doesn't make you feel like a nincompoop, which is a brilliant start for me!

Day 3 evening was quite relaxed, with only FM, Financial Management, to be studied the next day. FM was not bad, it involved a few difficult-grasp-quickly kinda concepts, but as whole, it was rather interesting. There were some furious debates raging well into the morning as to how to interpret certain interest calculations-related stuff, but with the syllabus being not too vast, things were always in control.

The paper went ok. It was a binary sort of paper. You get the logic right, you'll get a good score, if not, you'd have to put in a fair number of hours for the end-sems.

All in all, the exams were much better for me this time around. Whether that translates into a better score remains to be seen, but atleast I didn't drive myself up the wall through lack of sleep due to it. The weekend beckoned, one of the few ones which were absolutely free and tension-less.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A peaceful week

A combination of Diwali and the summers week meant that we had 5 lecture-free days from Wednesday to Sunday. With the mid-sems next week, this was a blessing straight from the heavens. Somehow, however, this sem, the intensity was slightly less. One week before the mid-sems last term meant almost every soul slogging it out all night. This term, however, the mood on campus was much more jovial and chilled out. I guess it was like the seniors were telling us... first sem you'll all run around like headless chickens. Second sem onwards you'll all realize where you all fit in and leave the running around to the few souls who will fight it out for the top few places :D

It's much easier to study when there are no lectures. You can study late into the night without worrying about dozing off next day and getting on the wrong side of a professor. That's a constant worry with having late nights. You never know when you'll get into the sort of stupor usually the result of a bad night out with fermented liquids, when your eyes will slowly start closing, and when the professor who so far sounded like he was singing a lullaby suddenly noting your roll number down for getting even later :|

So there went the week... sleeping every night at 4 or 5, waking up just in time for lunch, lazing around in the afternoon, and lamenting how another day had passed by without any substantial deductions from the studies-to-be-done account. All in all, a rather non-happening week, other than the celebrations on 31st evening.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And we're done!

This is going to be a bad year.
All b-schools are going to go into rolling.
Placements are going to be hard to come by.
Top companies are going to stay off.

And on and on it went. Doomsday scenarios were thought of by everybody. With the fall of LB and Merrill Lynch, the cat was literally amongst the pigeons. Buck up, said the seniors. Tough times are coming.

And so they started. Reports started coming in on how other places were doing badly. There was utter secrecy and mystery surrounding the entire process. The air was thick with crazy rumours of substantial portions of the batch being unplaced in many b-schools. 100 year. 60 there. Little came in the media, everybody was waiting for somebody else to get going.

Placecoms calls for a meet on the last day of the summers process. This will be the last batch meet we will be calling, was the opening line. As you'll know, IIM Kozhikode is the first top tier business school to be done with its summers' placement process, they continued. 100% placements, by the scheduled date. And so they went on. While we all knew that we were close to finishing it off, we didn't know that we'd scored the winning run earlier in the day. With a batch of 260+ it's hard to keep track of who's got placed and who's still left. It was incredible! We'd pulled it off!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Diwali!

All pics courtesy Pratik

Diwali was initially a bit of a damp thing with lectures scheduled on the first 2 days. But trust people here to make the best of everything. Laxmipujan night, and the entire campus was filled with diyas. Every hostel floor, every balcony, every door and every walkway was adorned with these tiny lamps, giving the place a magical, ethereal feel. It was incredible to see the whole place lit up like that, and everyone walking around in traditional attire. Exams and the stress of the on-going summer placements was forgotten in the festive atmosphere.

The stunning F Hostel Decorations

Now, on Laxmipujan, you do a puja of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. But Laxmi was nowhere to be found ( literally, what with the money crisis going on :D ). Bad jokes apart, there was no portrait of Laxmi to be found anywhere on campus. So someone smartly got one of Saraswati, and kept it there in the mess for the Puja. Maybe it was apt that as an educational institution, we should worship Saraswati and not Laxmi. But then we are a business school for heaven's sake. So maybe it aint really apt. Anyway, nobody really noticed, which was quite expected!

The G-Hostel Decorations

It's these moments that make you feel that you will really miss this place a year and a half later. The camaradarie, the high spirits when you are a b-school in the midst of placements in the middle of an economic recession is something which outsiders would find hard to understand. The scenario might be gloomy, but there is this acceptance inside that what has to happen will happen and that there is no point spoiling the few good months you have here thinking about the future. I think this is a very MBA thing. You might have the toughest exam coming up, the biggest assignment due, you'll rarely find anybody fretting about it too much till it's really due. You know that it's gonna some doing, that you're gonna go through hell doing it, but till it hits you, you learn how to enjoy life and forget about your worries. I think it's a very valuable thing to learn, the ability to live in the present and let the future go take a hike, especially when you cant do much about it ( which is the case most of the time ). Life is going to be, undeniably, full of problems, especially the nasty types, and the less you let them get to you till you really are in the middle of them, the better. Now there are quite a few souls who might line up outside my room to give me a hiding for saying this and then worrying about the smallest things in the world all the time, but then I never claimed to be a successful follower of this philosophy. But I will learn, hopefully, some day. I am sure Pratik would be shaking his head when he reads this, though.

All decked up!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's a Bug's Life!




If there's one thin I've not been able to do since landing up here is pursue one of my passions - butterfly and insect photography. So I decided that it was time to make amends, and get back into the groove. With a campus like this, it was a criminal waste for a fella like me not to be there and shooting those bugs.

It was a hot afternoon, and the (possibly) last spell of rain - and what a spell it had been - had just got over the previous day. Pratik and I set off in pursuit of the 2 big blue butterflies which have always taunted us when we set off to the library for lesser pursuits.

With the area in front of the library being unusually unoccupied, we went to the Circle of Contemplation - this fantastically wild structure, covered with this creeper with bright blue-white flowers which attract a variety of insects. There are also some garden plants planted nearby, which attract the ones we were specifically interested in - Swallowtails!

It was mayhem out there. After a week or so of almost zero sunlight, here was a bright, sunny day, and everybody was out to make the most of it. The circle was absolutely choc-a-block with dozens of varieties of butterflies, a thousand-odd bumblebees which kept scaring me by getting too close when I was busy shooting a butterfly and a million other insects. A Southern Birdwing soared in the sky above, like a royal not bothering to descend amongst mere mortals. It's stunning golden yellow glistened in the bright sunlight, and was in stunning contrast to the jet black of its forewings. As I was following a particularly interesting bug in the circle, I heard a muffled thud beside me. I turned around, only to find a rather stunned looking snake lying there! Whoa! I tried to approach it to get a shot, but as always, it slinked away before I could even manage to get an id shot. But then even to see a snake in the wild is a treat in itself :)

We went berserk shooting, when the biggies arrived. Oh, what stunners these creatures are! It was extremely difficult to shoot them, however, due to their rapid wing movements and constant flitting from flower to flower. Finally, after an hour or so, I gave up. I'd run out of memory! But it was a good experience, an absolute de-stresser. I think I'll be spending a fair amount of time here, once the mid-sems are tackled and done with!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Water-fall

I don't think he meant the rain. I genuinely think he meant we'll go to see the waterfall. So there I was, a sucker for such things. Thursday. Classes were just over, and I was settling down in my room after a nice lunch, and had picked up a textbook to quicken the process of being overwhelmed by sleep. I love the way a text - any text - makes me sleepy. There's no better way to do it, trust me.

Pratik pings. Wayanad, he says. Yes, nice place, I go. We are going. Define we. You, me, Kaveesh and a senior. Ya, right. And so we go on. And as always, despite the fact that it's been raining like the dickens since 2-3 days, despite the fact that my sleep deficit has reached threatening levels, despite the fact that mid-sems are a fortnight away, I say yes. So off we go at 4.30 to Thusharagiri falls, someway before Wayanad. It's an incredible drive as always, made better by the threatening black clouds overhead and the chill in the air. After going all over the place enough to draw a combined physical and political map of Kerala, we finally reach the place as darkness starts to fall. The falls aren't all that impressive. I'd forgotten the simple rule that had saved me a lot of heart-burn so far. Any place which is easily accessible to tourists aint half as good as the stuff I've seen after trekking all over the place back in Maharashtra. Pookote lake and Soochipara falls had made me forget those wise learnings, at a cost I was paying now. After a 5 minute glance at the falls and an unenthusiastic attempt at a photo which was quickly abandoned after Pratik realized that he needed to replace his batteries, we started on our way back.

That was when the fun started. Rain. Not your usual pitter-patter splotches, but heavy-duty hiding. It just started and went on and on and on. We drove on, desperately watching out for approaching floodlights, and road borders to keep us on track. The rain hit our faces hard, huge, sharp drops piercing into the skin. After a while, we got used to it, and from then on, it was a blast! I've always loved driving in the rain, especially the really torrential types, and this was incredible. We reached campus at around eight in the evening, thoroughly walloped, yet grinning like kids in a candy store. This had been AWESOME!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sundays suck :(

I've come to the startling revelation that Sundays suck. No, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with them. Other than the fact that they always, yes always precede a humongous assignment, which I will, in all probability, start too late and will therefore stay up all night to finish off. I guess the professors are just being nice by keeping submission deadlines on Mondays. They'll get time to do it because of the absence of classes, they must be thinking. Unfortunately, the lack of classes simply translates into reducing 4-5 hours from the sleep deficit account ( deficit sounds way cooler and appropriate for a b-schooler than mere debt :P ), with the result that the whole campus goes around wishing each other 'Morning!' at 2 in the afternoon. Then there is lunch to be had, and you can't really get to work immediately after lunch on a lazy sunday afternoon, can ya. I mean, some sense of ethics a person should have. So there goes the afternoon in rotting around somewhere, maybe the NC, watching the seniors stream out of their sunday afternoon classes and snigger :D Oh, well, I know they have the option of NOT going, because they don't have compulsory attendance :| Take away that sadistic pleasure too!

Evening comes, and with it the sinking feeling that unless I get cracking on it now, it will never end. So then off I go to the library, where I will then spend the next 12 odd hours getting increasingly frustrated, which usually culminates in a hair-pulling bout when I have to watch a stunning sunrise through the library windows. I now understand how those poor butterflies must be feeling when they are stuck behind glass windows :|

So, yet another sunday night cooped up in the library completing an assignment. Yet another monday driving myself up the wall trying not to fall asleep in class. Yawn!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bouncing Back!

End-term papers to be distributed on so and so date, said the mail. Errr, ooooor, ummmm, went I. Crap. So there ends the party :P It's funny. Maybe it's not. All my life, I've always been eager to get exam grades. While I've always known that I wouldn't be getting mere-bete-ne-mera-naam-roshan-kiya kinda grades, I also (usually) knew that I wouldn't be doing badly. So there was always an air of expectancy about getting exam scores.

Cut to circa 2008. Now I don't quite know how to react to this. My performance till now had been the types which could be described by a list of synonyms which more or less meant bad, and you could still not quite describe it properly. Started off so badly with the quizzes in term 1 that there was no looking back, by the time mid-sems arrived, I'd turned the art of screwing up exams into an art form. In the beginning, it was due to the simple fact that the gap between the instructor's expectations about how much we should know and the reality of how much I knew was, well, a tad too large. In the later half, viz the mid-sems, I'd made some small modifications. Now I actually knew a bit of stuff, but I still managed to screw the paper up, either through (a) panicking left, right and center in the paper and hyperventilating my way through the first half, only to kick myself in the latter for being an idiot when I knew most of the stuff or (b) being too zonked due to extreme sleep deprivation and repeatedly falling asleep in the paper.

To cut a long story short, I landed up in the second half of the first sem in a bit of a mess. My tail was well and truly on fire, and it needed something big to set things right. (Un)fortunately, I have little recollection of how my end-sems actually went. I was just too zonked through all of it. The one thing I well and truly remember about them is that I was in the very base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs :|

So then, I didn't know what quite to expect. I trudged warily to class, searching for escape routes to take me away quickly in case of a disaster. The windows... might be worth the fall from the first floor in case of an emergency. Crap. Forgot the fact that first floor here is akin to two and half elsewhere. That would hurt. Especially since they'd paved all the area under the windows. Sadists. On second thoughts, knowing how the imported grass hurts, this would be a better deal.

Accounts. 31. Out of? 40. Eh? Is this my paper? It is my paper! Eh? Yippee :P And so it started. All-in-all, quite a decent performance. Something which should pull me back to average grade. 4 papers done. 4 to go. Hmm. I think I can be happy with the thought that I might just escape opening the DCPS khata :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chugging along!

The second weekend of October brought with it IIMK's annual management conclave, Horizons. Horizons 2008 was on a scale never attempted before, with some of the leading personalities from the Media & Entertainment industry, Realty and Retail sectors visiting campus. Some of the sessions, like the one from the Nokia India chief, were simply brilliant. The only problem was, the attendance rule for the regular course lectures meant that most people had something of an allergic reaction to the idea of spending entire days listening to more lectures.

It's extremely annoying to see a stunning sunset happening, and you not getting a good view. That's a drawback of campus - there's just no place to see the sun set properly, unless you get onto one of the approach roads to the academic block, which is not practical on an everyday basis. So there I go, sitting at the NC, seeing a stunner of a sunset, and cursing the world :P

The rain gods decided to visit us again, so we had heavy downpours everyday for 4-5 days. Campus has a melancholic beauty about it when it rains. And of course, when it stops, the valley view is breathtaking. The grass is, however, going a tad yellow now, and there's a bit of a weary look in the vegetation, like it's under stress. Which it is, because the monsoon has ended, and water is not going to be as plentiful as before.

There's a cat and her kitten frolicking around campus nowadays. They are an incredible pair, the mother cat all vary and scared and scampering away when anybody got close, and the juvenile kitten bounding around all over the place, jumping on its mother, pouncing on her tail and trying to pin it down to the ground, generally head-butting her, and roaming around curiously all over the place. It's so relaxing to sit at the cross-roads and watch them roam around. It's a nice place for them, I guess. Not many dogs around, and not many humans who'd want to do any harm. Free food with the mess around the corner, and free accommodation in the hostels, with people fighting over who'd get to keep the kitten in their room when it was really small.

Week 2, and life was getting hectic. The daily rigmarole of lectures, assignments, group meetings and trying to desperately catch up on sleep started. People started falling asleep in class, out of sheer exhaustion. The height ( the depth? :/ ) was when a professor pointed out to a guy who was sleeping in a really funny position. The class guffawed, and his partner moved to wake him up. The kind professor frantically gestured to him not to do so, and let him be. and so, there we were, all staring at the guy, and falling off our chairs. The poor fellow then gets up and sees 60 toothy grins! Aaah, these campus moments!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Getting into the groove, again

The first full week on campus went by quickly - though I don't remember any week which hasn't! There's a peculiar thing about campus life - the pace at which it moves. Days move like hours, weeks like days. I get a call from home or a friend, which I invariably can't take because I am busy. I say I'll call back later. I call back later just to hear either parents who are wondering whether I am ok, or rather pissed off friends who think I am fast getting an attitude. I then say - but you just called me yesterday - I am returning the call. Yesterday? they go. Yesterday? We called you 5 days ago. 5 days, I ask? 5 days? You called me, let me think, when? It was on tuesday, of course, and today is, ooooooooor, errrrrr, ummmm, sunday. In a sheepish voice, I admit my mistake.

I have to say, though, that this had reduced significantly over the last few weeks. People stopped calling. :|

There are less of afternoon and evening lectures this time, which is a real relief. I prefer morning lectures which end by lunch and leave the rest of the day to while away :P

As always, 1 week into the semester and we're already expected to actually know and understand stuff. So we had this small quiz in the class which just reminded everyone that they didn't have much clue about the subject. Which was a bit of a rude shock because I'd actually thought I'd understood it pretty well!

This semester's subjects seem really interesting. We have Financial Management, which is basically an introduction to the world of finance, Operations Research and Ops Management, the difference between which I am still trying to figure out. A background in mechanical engineering does help with these, though, and so does experience in a role which involved a few aspects of supply chain management, or atleast quite some proximity to the people who were in the thick of things. OR and OM, really seem interesting. Which most subjects do. Till I have to mug them for the exams :P Then we have Organizational Behaviour 2, which as the professor says, is Macro OB, as compared to Micro OB last semester. There's Macroeconomics then, Accounting part 2 and Business Ethics, which seems to have a good book. So this semester does look like I'll have a slightly better time than last.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Captivated!

It's rare that a person is hyped up to the skies and he actually lives up to the expectations. Sunil Handa is one such man. Egged by seniors, we lined up in the auditorium, expecting a gyaan session on why we should be entrepreneurs and how entrepreneurship is good and such blah. They'd probably switch on the AC in the auditorium, we thought, and we'd get some nice sleep. So we thought.

It was one of the most incredible talks I've heard, simply on the basis of oratory skills. It's extremely rare to hear good speakers, and it's a real privilege. To see a person captivate an audience without being flamboyant or through excellent language skills, but through sheer speaking prowess is simply brilliant. Mr. Handa spoke in ordinary english, and occasionally switched to an earthy hindi. But not for a moment did he not have the audience listening to him with their mouths wide open. It's a matter of debate as to how many people would actually sign out of placements and start off something of their own, but that is definitely not due to a lack of effort from Mr. Handa!

And it wasn't that he just gave motivational talks. He regaled us with his personal experiences, his struggles, the occasions when all seemed lost. He told us about his students who had set out on their own, egged on by him, and had risen dramatically. One of his statements had a deep impact on me. Tax planning? That's nonsense. You worry about things like taxes because of your pitiful existence and sad jobs. Leave them. Start off on your own. Who cares how much they tax you when you have your own company which nets you 20 crore? Point :P As much as I not interested in entrepreneurship now, it was a real pleasure to hear this man.

I went with a walk with him early on saturday morning with a friend who's looking at starting out on his own, and was awed by the number of ideas this chap can keep coming up with. He is like an idea machine - you switch on the power, give it some other input, and off he starts. It takes a rare brain to be able to do this. Frankly, I am not surprised at how successful he has been - with a brain and an attitude like that, it just has to happen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Take 2!

It feels good to be back, have got used to campus life and the craziness that is a part and parcel of it. Life back home was good and chill, but kind of pointless. Campus has changed a lot in the last few days though, and unfortunately not for the better. An incredible patch of forest beside the road has been cleared, I guess for building more classrooms and faculty accommodation. As unavoidable as this is if the institute has to grow bigger, it still feels bad :| For me, one of the biggest attractions of campus is how wild the place is. Unfortunately, the admin seems to feel otherwise, and so we have those horrendous grass cutting machines cutting up the shoulder-high grass which grows all over the place. Again, a sensible course of action when viewed objectively - after all you'd rather not have tall grass and slithering creatures which go with it going all over the place - which they do - when you have more than 400 students and a hundred odd other folks roaming around all over the place. Snake sightings abound; unfortunately, the wrong people end up seeing them :|

Came back here and got back into routine since day 1, except for some minor tweaks here and there in an attempt to keep my resolutions. This semester will probably test our limits like never before. Some of the toughest subjects in the course taught by some of the most demanding professors on campus, and in the middle of all that we'll go through the craziness that Summer placements are. From what I have heard, the summers process is an absolute killer. Sounds interesting now, though whether I'll still subscribe to that opinion a few weeks down the line will be worth watching!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I shall...

A new semester brings with it new resolutions.... Here are some of them... some which I hope I can pull off, others which I hope aren't that ambitious that I give up on them in a few days!

1. I shall work out in the gym everyday to stop looking like the scarecrow I bear a stark resemblance with ( those yeah, right looks are NOT appreciated )
2. I shall go for a run everyday. Yes, I know I am thin enough. No I don't run to lose weight. I actually love it. No, I don't say that to fool myself into running.
3. I shall try my level best to understand what is happening in class. I tried last semester too. I really did :|
4. I shall binge less and eat less junk food. Don't ask me how I eat all that and still manage to look like a stick insect. If I knew, I wouldn't be one. I currently contribute a fair bit to FritoLay's topline, which I have no intention of doing any more. Nor Britannia, nor Parle. Maybe the local fruit-seller. If only I did not forget to take some money along when I go all the way down to buy fruits :| No more nonsense eating at 4 in the morning.
5. I shall sleep nice and early, even if early means something else in a b-school. And get up early for gym.
6. I shall not drive myself up the wall worrying about my test scores. Especially since worrying isn't getting me anywhere. Although this is subject to my my grades for the first sem.
7. I shall stop being an idiot and keep my reading habit going. In the same vein, I shall introduce an additional step of reading the newspaper between the daily actions of picking it up and keeping it in the old newspapers pile in my room.
8. I shall make my blog posts smaller and more readable and avoid the tendency to bless the population with my largesse.
9. I shall prevent my room from degenerating into the mess it does every fortnight.
10. I shall eat something other than cornflakes and coffee at breakfast and stop giving the mess guy 25 bucks for (almost) free every morning.

Good Ol' Kokan :)

It's surprising how easily one can lead a double life. There I was on campus, staying up every night till the cows started going out again, and hogging anything remotely edible at any time, including nthe almost ritualistic feast every night at 2 before the NC closed. I was dreading the prospect of going crazy with hunger at odd times during my visit home after the term exams. But I went back to my old routine without any trace of the old habits. Sleeping at around or before midnight, and eating like a normal human being at normal times. Adaptation makes life so much easier.

30th September, and my time in Pune was up. It had been, as life has been over the last few years, an absolute roller coaster of a time. In the end, I am neither regretting going back to Kampus, nor particularly looking forward to it. Kampus is good for my morale though; the never ending list of things to be done ensures that I don't wallow in depression and self-pity which I have an unerring tendency to veer towards given half a chance. The coming semester and particularly the coming month promises to bring new extremes of craziness and sleep debt. With summers round the corner and the economy reaching new extremes of unpreditability, it's going to be a high pressure month. Add to it the fact that this semester is finance heavy, and you quickly start looking forward to the next term break.

After falling in love with Kozhikode and Kerala and shouting from the roof-tops that its the most beautiful place in the world, Maharashtra, and particularly the Konkan region made me think twice about that proclaimation. I've always found the Western Ghats and Kokan extremely beautiful, but I'd thought that the praise that it sometimes got was a bit more than appropriate. How wrong I was. I'd never seen it during its best, and it was an experience which left me gasping. Minutes after the train pulled out from Panvel station, I was staring outside the window with my mouth half open, as landscape after stunning landscape passed by. I'd forgotten how maginificent a look the Sahyadris adorn at the end of the monsoons, in the end of September and the beginning of October. The grass is at its tallest and greenest, and any small, large or humongous open piece of land is covered by those ubiquitious yellow flowers, the name of which I know but always tend to forget. Imagine this in the foreground and crisp blue skies with fluffy clouds interspersing them,throw in an odd tree or two, maybe a small hill covered with thick forest, a crystal clear stream tinkling along, and you can come close to the stunning vistas which keep coming up all over the place. It's like a kaleidoscope. Every shake and turn will bring the same old bits together, yet arranged in a never-before way.

If it's the sights and sceneries you want to see, there's a tremendous difference between traveling by rail and by road. Roads, as essential as they are, bring along with them the unavoidable bogie of 'development', in the form of more money, more commercial activity, and probably the worst of all, the cultural impact on the local populace of any and everybody passing through. In a few years, the best of places degenerate into a mess, stuck between what they were, and what they can never be, in an in-between ghastly state. People become too money-minded and stop caring for each other, without the inherent safety and the facilities which cities offer. Railways, on the other hand, stand isolated from the landscapes, other than at those few unavoidable places where they mingle with it. This difference is nowhere more stark than in Kokan, where the single rail track of the Kokan railway runs through some incredible patches of dense forest, beside small communities with little contact to the outside world, present yet lost to the people living in the area, simply due to the fact that it does little to change their way of living. I'd thought of Kokan as over-rated when I traveled through it by road. I'd say it's under-rated now that I;ve seen it by rail. I just look forward to the day, sometime in the distant future, when I jump onto a bike or into an open air vehicle and travel through it at a leisurely pace, exploring it to my heart's content.

The single track meant that the train kept stopping frequently to allow other trains traveling on the opposite direction to pass. As frustrating as this can become after a while, it was a blessing in disguise, as we stopped at the tiniest of stations, ones which did not even have a road elading upto them. One such station became a favourite the moment I saw it. Ukshi station was made up of a single platform nestled between 2 tall hills with long tunnels. A small waterfall descended onto the ground on the side opposite the platform. A dense thicket of plantains had conquered the space immediately outside the station, as if informing man in unequivocal terms that this was nature's territory, where he was but a tolerated guest. It was a stunning sight, the late afternoon sun streaming over the mountain top and lighting up the small valley. I hope Kokan railway runs local trains (ones which stop at every station on the way) on this route - it would be a fantastic way to explore this route.

Traveling by train has always made me very philosophical. There's something about train travel which makes me think, think deep about life and the place I am in it. I've always been a sucker for symbolism, and this train journey was the most appropriate way to describe life as it currently is. Stunning landscapes suddenly rolled into dark, never-ending tunnels without the taken-for-granted light at the end being visible most of the time. One moment, I was thinking about how happy I was in the stunning views unfolding in front of me, the next, I was staring at the stone cold, stark, concrete slabs at the base of the tunnel we were passing through, wondering at the dark mess life was.

Evening descended quickly, and soon the beauty of the world outside was lost to me in a blanket of darkness. It was time to entertain myself with more artificial pleasures, and wait for the next day, when episode 2 of the MBA experience would start unfolding, an episode much dreaded by people who've been there and done that. Semester 2, they say, is the watershed of b-schooling, it tells you how tough you are and what you can take and continue moving ahead. With a bit of trepidation but little hesitancy, I look forward to the last quarter of 2008, a year which has changed my life in ways I'd never imagined, good, bad and ugly. Whether there were (more) twists in the tail, only time would tell, but I hope that life leaves me alone and at peace for a change and derives its pleasures from some less sadistic means!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The mundaneness of existence...

It's a feeling which has been growing stronger and stronger within me over the last few weeks. Life, however you live is, is so mundane. You do your schooling, your college, your degree and get a job. You rise up through it, jump companies and keep growing. Or you get an advanced degree which makes a few of those initial jumps larger or quicker. You go through college, grad or post-grad, with the aim of getting a good job, initially an idealistic one which will make you happy, which is 'what you want to do', a profile you 'like'. Or you try for one which will give you more money. Either way, you'll work hard, slog like anything, do well. You'll find someone, with a lot of effort when you are young, because you ( and he or she ) can afford to be choosy and wait for the 'best' person to trundle along, or very quickly, if you are slightly older and starting to grow desperate and acknowledge that gnawing fear inside you that you might not end up with anybody. Or you do nothing and take the (for some people) easiest way out of selecting a person chosen by your parents. Either way, you get together, you stay together for a while, get married. A few decent years pass by. You have fights, you settle them, you move on. If the fights part is larger than the move on part, you separate. You go through pain, sorrow, hurt. Which you would have also gone through anyway even if you were with him or her. You'll have kids, you'll watch them grow. Life goes on. As typical as ever. As mundane as ever. Sometimes you are lucky to follow your passions, sometimes survival demands sacrifices, sacrifices which start with your passions because they are the most expendable. You keep going on and on, and somewhere deep inside you, starts growing a gnawing doubt : what for? The mundanity, the stupefying ordinariness of your existence starts getting to you. What for? What's the drive? Why continue, when the end is just another ordinary, mundane, nobody cares about you ending? It just gets so overwhelming at times :| I haven't seen life beyond a certain stage, but its appears just so set and typical. Its like it hardly matters what you do now, tomorrow, or next week, because in the larger scheme of things, it doesn't matter, life's still gonna be an ordinary, sodding mess. A mess from which there is no getting out of. It feels strange that at 25, the excitement of life seems to be lost to me. I appreciate the small moments of happiness, enjoy them too, but they never seem to be enough of an answer to the question which keeps bothering me. Why? What for?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sleep ? Eh ?

And thus we landed up in the exam week. Lectures had ended last Thursday, leaving us with 3-4 days without lectures, which was quite a relief as it let us study late into the night without worrying about nodding off in a lecture the next morning. The center of activity shifted from the night canteen to the library. Rupee practically made the library his home; keeping all his books and other study material inside and never bringing them out. I think he would done well to shift his bed also in, although that would have been a bit of an overkill considering how many hours he slept ( 1 hour of sleep = 1 hour of staying away from the books was the formula used by most of the toppers ).

Sunday night. I studied till around 5 in the morning and went off to bed, only to realize to my utter frustration that I just couldnt fall asleep. This had been bothering me for quite a while now - insomnia when I slept really late. It was extremely irritating - I was suffering from serious sleep debt, and here I was, tossing and turning for hours. Usually the nightmare started at 5 in the morning, and ended at around 6.30, after I resigned myself to my fate and went out to the balcony to see the sunrise - which was magnificent, as always. Somehow, after doing that, sleep quickly took over. I have a sneaking feeling that I am a nocturnal creature. The calmness and tranquility of the night make me want to stay awake even when I have nothing to do, and then just as the sun rises, I somehow manage to switch off an sleep blissfully till lunchtime.

Monday was the day of the last Accounts quiz, one in which I hoped to get the few marks required to clear the course. I'd always been paranoid about clearing subjects, although everybody keeps telling me that the relative grading system takes cares of that quite easily. I guess its a hangover from the engineering days, when Pune University made our lives miserable by make us fight to the very end for clearing some subjects. Things were so tough then that some of the University toppers had had a few KTs ( Fail for the uninitiated ) on their way! The quiz turned out to be a nightmare though, and it was left for me to complete the formalities later that week in the Accounts end-term paper. My preparation for the end-terms started after the quiz, with the intention of getting 2 full days till the first paper on Wednesday, thus minimizing the addition of sleep debt to the nightmare that I was going to live through during the exams.

Alas, as always, that never happened. Micro-economics, my bugbear for most of the sem, was the first paper, followed by Quantitative Methods later that day. Studying eco took a horrendous amount of time, especially since I needed to do well in it to avoid a possible D or F. Thankfully, QM was open book, which took the pressure off quite a bit. I finally managed to wrap it all up at around 5 in the morning on Wednesday, and went off to the paper with about an hour and a half's sleep. Both papers went ok; a good start to the exam. Wednesday evening, night and Thursday was the day of despair for most people, with the deadly combination of Management Information Systems and Marketing Management, both heavy duty rote learning subjects which left most of us non-mugging junta crying for relief. The amount of stuff we had to cover in around 12 hours ( there was no question of sleep, of course ) was unbelievable. I'd always thought that the amount I had to go through before papers in engineering was a lot. Back then, I atleast had 2 days before each paper to study everything at leisure. Here, I had 2 subjects, each with more content that most engineering subjects, to be covered in 12 hours. It was beyond sanity. 5 am again, and I finally manage to hit the bed after blitzkrieging through the material. 1 and a half hours of sleep and I ready to hit the paper again. So far, so good.

Thursday evening had 1 task to be done which I would have given a lot to have avoided - I had to rush to the railway station to change our boarding station for the journey back home. I had booked the tickets online in an extremely groggy state on Monday morning, annoyed and frustrated at the lack of sleep, and had forgotten to change the boarding point from Trivandrum to Calicut, with the effect that I now had to physically go to a reservation center and get it done. So there I was, at Kozhikode station, a good 20 km away from campus, bang in the middle of my exams. Great!

Thursday night was panic-attack time for me. I have this strange mental block against accounts, probably a result of listening to too many horror stories about it. The accounts mania is present amongst most engineers, and whether you will take up finance or not is usually decided by the level of accounts mania you suffer from. By midnight, the panic attack had reached its peak, with me fidgeting and and sweating and doing all sorts of weird things and convincing myself that i would not even get those 3 marks I needed out of 40 to pass in accounts. Kaveesh, who has been my accounts teacher for the sem gave me an exasperated look and tried to convince me, in vain, of course, that I would do sodding well if only I stopped being an idiot and stayed calm. After a while, I did manage to get a trace of sanity into the proceedings, and worked steadily till morning. This night was good for me, I got some more sleep, 2 hours compared to the 1.5 each night so far!

With a trace of apprehension, I took the accounts paper in hand. Didn't look so bad. Hmm. I solved the cash flow problem, but things weren't adding up. Giving it up for later, I went to the reconciliation problem. 10 minutes, and it was solved. 8 marks. Not bad, I thought. Another easy caselet on balance stocks and stuff. Solved. That was good. Things were looking up. Back to the cash flow one, to give the thing another chance to behave itself and surrender to me. Wonder of wonders, it did! I could have almost done a war-dance there!

With accounts done and over with, the major chunk of the exam was over, although we did not know how Organizational Behaviour would sneak up from nowhere and give us a real frustrating time by just refusing to get over quickly. All night I plodded on and on and on. I'd always liked reading OB, but doing it this way was mind-numbing. Finally, at 7 in the morning, I put the book aside and had a bath, and braced myself for the day ahead. Managing to go through 2 papers after a completely sleepless night was going to be tough. I'd always wondered how people could feel sleepy in exams, didn't the tension keep them up? 2 papers into the mid-sems, and things became crystal clear. This was an altogether new world, a different level. Nikhil's Gtalk status message summed things up perfectly : 'Buzyy.... Buzzzzzy...... Buzzzzzzzzzzy.... zzzzzzy..... zzzzzz'. As hard as the mind can try, sometimes, the body just cant keep up. And so people fell asleep in almost all papers, which made others sitting next to them frantically call the invigilators to wake them up. Most invigilators are kind enough to comply. I dread the day when one of them simply refuses to :| Some of them are even kind enough to keep a keen eye on everybody and themselves wake up people who've nodded off, with a sharp rap on the desks and a 'likho, paper likho' instruction. I solved the OB paper in a dazed state of mind, wondering whether it would have been a better idea to have left a few chapters undone and slept for a while.

The last paper was Managerial Communication, which was preceded by a mad dash towards running through all the material we had for the subject in the space of the 2 hours. The 2 hours of the MC paper were probably the groggiest of my life. I hope I don't repeat this silly idea of not sleeping at all again during the course :| I slept for a total of 7 hours in a 102 hour period starting from Tuesday and ending when I went to sleep in the train. It was crazy, something which I could not have even thought of before starting my MBA.

The mood on campus was one of exhilaration, as smiles of relief and cries of joy broke out everywhere. It was, finally, over. For all those homesick fellas, all that separated them from home sweet home was the journey, most of which would go in sleeping. There was no smile on my face, though. I was running around frantically, trying to trace my cell phone, which I had managed to forget somewhere during the day. I couldn't go back without it, and I had exactly 1 hour to pack, fill out some important forms, and locate the damn thing. After 15 minutes of crazy searching, I found it lying peacefully on a table in the library. This is 1 thing about Kampus which I really like. Nobody touches your stuff. You can keep your phone, your laptop, your books, anything you like anywhere, and you can rest assured that nobody will touch it, unless some kind soul picks it up and drops a mail saying 'so and so item found...', which is not a bad idea when you forget things like USB drives, which can sneak into some corner and be lost to the world for ever. I've done all of it, having managed to forget my eco textbook in the first week, my helmet, my clothes in the bath and the washing machine room, my USB drive, and now this. I even came across a familiar looking pullover the other day outside the library. Who else was in fergusson college, I wondered, before it dawned on me, that that was err, mine, and I had forgotten it there a few days earlier.

A stern warning from Nikhil to haul myself to the hostel entrance in 10 minutes robbed me of a parting cuppa at the NC. But finally, everything was done and set. Hopefully I hadn't forgotten anything important. The last 3 months had been incredible. Despite the pressure, the stress, the constant running around, the struggle to keep up with others academically, the constant fight against sleep and the body, the curses of friends who always got a 'sorry yaar, talk to you later' when they called or pinged, and an occasional feeling of 'why am I doing this?', it was a fantastic, fantastic experience. I had been stretched to the very limits physically and mentally at the same time, and it felt good! Time seemed to have flown by; it seemed like just yesterday that I'd landed up here, walked down that red-tiled path, gazing in wonderment at the stunning vistas around me. Just yesterday that I'd met all these wonderful people here, and yet it now feels as if I know them since ages!
I'd always looked forward to the MBA life, and here I was, a sixth of it over already! With a happy yet slightly nostalgic heart ( for heaven's sake, I was coming back in 10 days! ), I sat in the rickshaw and we trundled along downhill. That's it from God's Own Campus for the moment till I return next semester for another 3 months of globing, gassing and rotting around. Till then, the onus of bearing with me shifts to good ol' Pune!