Sunday, August 3, 2008

Week of Horror : Mid-Sems !

The week of horror, the week of the mid-sems. Sunday saw the entire batch looking a bit tense. The first big exams, and no one knew how they'd be, how they fare. Most people had an engineering background, and were used to having their exams spread out for around 2 weeks, giving them enough time to cover everything in the days before each paper. And here we were, staring at 8 papers in 4 days. There were atleast 2-3 subjects which almost no one had had a look at. The next 5 days promised to be gruelling :|

There wasn't much left in Sunday by the time I got up. Sleep has become such a luxury. I hadn't gone to bed before 5 for the last 10 odd days, and even then, I was sure I wasn't going to do exceedingly well in my exams. What more do I do ?

Sunday went in another desperate round of trying to cover untouched territory. The afternoon passed by quickly and soon we were at dinner, the unexciting prospect of another night in the library looming in front of us. Dinner was a splash and dash event for me; studies had taken the joy out of life in general. All I could think of were the exams, with a sense of gloom.

Monday morning, and it was business at usual for everybody else other than us. The day before the mid-sems, and we were still expected to read case studies for class, and as tough as I find to believe it now, most, including me, had come prepared. They say that exams in b-schools are there to test how prepared you are in general and not how much you prepare on the day before ( they anyway give you little time to prepare on the day before ), but this was getting a bit beyond me. The 2 lectures passed by quickly and soon we had the rest of the day to ourselves to study, an undeniably exciting prospect.

2 papers the next day, Accounting and Social Transformation of India. Accounting gave a few nightmares to most engineering folks. Why people who are otherwise so comfortable with numbers and who are here because they cracked an exam like CAT which is so number and logic heavy find accounts so remarkably tough to get the hang of is something which intrigues me, though I, myself, am a part of the majority. Debits and credits and assets and liability and what not stuff we all desperately tried to make sense of. I have a sneaking feeling that CAs purposely made this stuff so complicated so that us mortals would have no choice but to go to them to sort out the 'mess' we created. The saving grace with studying accounts was that there was a significantly lower chance of me reaching that horrendously depressing state of semi-consciousness caused by extreme sleep deprivation, which I lapse into while studying theory-heavy subjects. This is usually characterized by an initial feeling of extreme comfort when you are tempted to slide down a wee bit more on the bed. You feel that all's fine with the world and that there's nothing more you wanna do than be here. Then you suddenly realize that the last paragraph you read made so sense whatsoever. So you go back to reading it again. Half-way through it, your eyelids seem to have a life of their own. You open them suddenly to realize that you'd had a micro-nap for 2-3 minutes. Yanking them open in a fit of violence, hoping that that would shake the mist of sleep off, you start reading the paragraph again. The first few words go well, and you congratulate yourself for having successfully resisted the attempts of the sleep monster to whisk you away. Then suddenly, another micro-nap. Again you get up, this time angry for letting this happen. And on and on it goes, with you getting more and more frustrated and irritated at yourself. Within 10-15 minutes, you are beyond the point of return. The only thing you can do at this stage is to give in and sleep peacefully for 15-20 minutes. Doing that, however, is akin to admitting defeat, so on you go, fighting, wasting a couple of hours in the process. You feel really lousy when you realize that you don't even have the faintest clue as to what the paragraph which you read atleast a dozen time contains.

Accounts, however, created no such problems. Debits and credits, however, refused to balance themselves, but at least I wasn't making too many fundamental mistakes. Money and other such materialistic matters were interspersed with reading a bit of sociology. STI was a very interesting subject and surprisingly well received by a bunch of people whom most of the rest of the world would dismiss as a bunch of capitalists / materialists. In fact, it was easily the most popular course this semester. Prof. Mathews lectures were always well attended in spite of there being no attendance. Reading up sociology was, however, a bit of a drag. It was interesting, but wasn't the sort of stuff you'd want to read before an exam, mug up, and spew out the next day. Give me a free day and I'll sit happily reading it, but don't tell me to speed read it for a paper the next day, please :| Sociology, however, did give most of us a very different perspective of life, something very different from what we otherwise got in business school. Here was a world in which hard selling was bad, consumerism was bad, 'development' under the garb of infrastructure and higher ( note, NOT better ) standards of living was something which had to be viewed cynically and after removing the money tinted lenses that most of us ( and this is not b-school specific ) tend to wear through all our lives. I don't know how many b-schools have this kind of a course, but I am really happy that K does. It does make for ironical situations when you read about targeting segments in marketing and then read how capitalism and consumerism is bad within an hour of each other, but then that's life in all its glory (!). I would prefer an attempt at balancing things ( this way ), rather than going to either of the extremes.

5 in the morning, with the last balance sheet balanced after an enormous fight and a few lost clumps of hair later, I push off to bed. The campus is, as always, filled with clouds, ghostly clumps of white streaming through the campus. This is our territory, they say, our land. They invade everything, the amphitheatre, spooking out the lights encircling them, the empty ground floors of the auditorium, the walkways, the mess, the hostel corridors, even my room, as I go back and open the balcony door and see the faint light of impending dawn at the horizon. I set 3 alarms for the morning, and have told all of my groupies to call me at 8, yes, I am paranoid of sleeping through the exams. As Wednesday would tell, I am glad I took such measures.



View from my room !


Accounts. The paper was ok. For reasons best known to nobody, I panicked like the dickens in the first 15-20 minutes. I broke out in sweat, and saw visions of me flunking and all that rot. I'd managed to stay utterly cool in one of the toughest exams in the world, CAT, and here I was, panicking for some inconceivable reason in a mid-term paper for which I was well-prepared. I lost the first 30 minutes to this. However, I regained control and breezed through the paper, solving all that I could. The trial balance balanced ( hurray ! ), and that was a huge relief ( All those who've studied accounting as a formal subject will know how much of a difference it can make when a trial balance balances - or doesn't ! ). STI was a breeze, though I wished that he'd asked more stuff to write in the paper.

The next day was one dreaded by everybody, the double-strike day - Markerting Management and Organizational Behaviour. Both subjects involved vast amounts of reading and caused frequent bouts of the semi-conscious state described earlier. This wasn't due to lack of interest or because the subjects were boring - I personally found both of them very interesting, though a large proportion of the batch would raise an eyebrow to the term both. The problem was, simply, lack of sleep. It's one thing to study a mathematical subject where you are writing, calculating and wondering how that particular figure ended up there at all, and another where you read page after page of text, although the marketing text did try its best to alleviate boredom by putting colourful pictures all over the place.



No, I didn't get up early to see this... I didn't sleep :(

After catching a quick 2 hours of sleep - an essentiality, if there's a term like that ( which there is, I guess, after seeing that Mac hasn't angrily underlined that word in red :P ) -, I start off, in what promises to be a marathon. After 11 odd hours of crazy reading, interspersed with states of semi-consciousness and visits to the NC to grab some grub, I manage to get it done. Here's to 3 hours of sleep again.

Marketing turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Again, I freaked out and messed up some stuff, which I obviously had to go back and do again. OB, however, was pleasant. Not too tough, not very easy, the sort of stuff everybody could attempt and come out reasonably happy from.

Day 3 started on a very scary note. Rupee called up and told me that it was time to wake up - we have this system of calling up each other to ensure that nobody misses a paper due to sleeping late. It might sound weird that somebody could miss an important paper by sleeping late, but given the incredible amount of stress and sleep deprivation we were going through, it was very likely to happen. In fact, many people nodded off DURING exams, only to be prodded awake by slightly bemused invigilators and reminded that they had a paper to write. Anyway, I cut his call and got up with a start and sat on my bed. I looked at my watch, and I read the time as 4. I looked again. 4 The hour hand was on 8, and the minute one on 12, and my zonked brain smartly interpreted that as 4. It was daylight outside, so it couldn't be 4 in the morning. That meant it was afternoon. I had missed both papers! Shit !!!!! I looked at my watch desperately and my brain stubbornly kept saying 4. I looked at my mobile, it said 8. Thank god for digital watches. At that point of time I realized what I was doing to my body, to my system, to everything in me. This was crazy. I'd never been so unhinged before, not even when I was really sick. It scared me. This was unchartered territory, and yet I had no choice but to keep pushing on ahead. When things collapsed and my body gave up was anybody's guess. As it turned out, it did happened - though it was my mind and not body - on the morning of the QM paper.

Day 3 was for Management Information Systems and Managerial Communication. MIS was again very dense stuff, and a non IT background didn't help me much while dealing with databases and bits and bytes. Managerial Communication dealt with the basics of, well, managerial comm :P

It was day 3, thursday, which everybody was dreading, not because of MIS and MC, but because of the prospect of what lay in store after that. The next was a double whammy in the form of Quantitative Management ( Stats ) and Micro-economics, both heavily understanding oriented subjects, with vast syllabi. QM was full of numbers and formulae and distributions and mind-numbing concepts, while eco was filled with a bewildering array of graphs, each containing about a zillion curves. They fought amongst themselves, went up, went down, straightened, plunged below zero, and generally made life miserable for everybody. You think you understand it when you are taught it in class, you think you understand when you read it the first time, and yet, on the day before the exam, it sneaks up and laughs at you when you realize you have no clue what is going on.

Amongst all the craziness of brutal Thursday came one email which almost created a festive mood on campus - QM lectures on saturday were cancelled. We were due to submit a case analysis in that lecture, something which would have kept us up half the night our exams ended, only to wake up the next morning and trudge to class, not something which spreads cheer in the most study loving of folks.

It was a nightmare, day 3. It was brutal fight, to the finish, from 6 in the evening to 7 in the morning, when I left the library in a state of extreme agitation, close to breaking down and giving up. I had fought hard all night, and yet I was in a state of absolute panic, freaking out. Nothing made sense to me, the simplest formulae were confused with other ones. A nice bath calmed down my frayed nerves a bit, and I went to the exam with a calm, yet resigned-to-getting-sluaghtered look. I had not slept a wink, and was in an extreme state. The last 15 odd days of sleep deprivation and stress had finally got to me, a few hours earlier than I would have liked. Anyway, there was the paper in front of me, and there was no choice but to get on with it.

As it turned out, QM was quite pleasant. I came back to my room in a hurry, and proceeded to do Economics. I had worked hard for the quiz a week earlier, and therefore knew the basics. I was confident that if I managed to read through the text once, I would be in a decent position. Unfortunately, there were different plans in store for me. The lack of sleep the previous night started having its effects, and the next 2 hours were a desperate struggle, a struggle which I ultimately lost. And so I reached the paper at 2, in a completely zombied state, without have read anything properly, and having missed lunch. It was close to a disaster. After all the fight I had put up, the struggle over the last 2 weeks, it had to all end in this way.

The mood on campus was great. The sun was out, birds chirped and wide grins covered most fachcha faces. It was finally over! Many people had had a bad day, but what the heck, it was over!

I reached a semi-dead state of unconsciousness from 6 in the evening to 1 in the morning, missing dinner and half a dozen phone calls and messages. Kaveesh called, and summoned me to the NC, chastising me for doing boring activities like sleeping for hours. NC, surprisingly, was empty - a rare thing at 1, when it's absolutely bustling. While sipping coffee and tucking in an aloo paratha, he got a wicked brainwave. The whole batch was fast asleep, recuperating from the tortures of the week. But that ain't no fun. So off we decided to go, to wake up everybody to share in our joy of being alive and awake. What use is the beauty of life if you spend it in slumber and such lazy distractions was our motto. One by one, we woke up every single fellow, and asked him to join us in our crusade. Initially the seductress called sleep caused much anger and resentment in them, but they soon converted to our noble cause, the liberation of mankind from such futile activities. So off we went, our numbers swelling, chanting slogans and banging doors. The Standard Operating Procedure was set. Bang door till its opened, wait for groggy occupant to come out, push him back inside if he aint sufficiently dressed ( can't have the female members having fun at our expense ), pull him out, lift him and start swinging him, singing happy birthday all the time. Most protested wildly that it wasn't their birthday, the prospect of getting 'bumps' sent shivers down everybody's spine. But sadist creatures we weren't, our intentions were not to hurt, but to enlighten the populace to our cause. So without hurting them a bit, they were placed back on terra firma and strongly urged to join our cause. Some seniors found the whole thing a bit too dry, and promptly emptied a few buckets of water from the higher floors. On and on we went through the hostels, and finally ended up in the NC. A guitar was procured, and a good bout of singing followed. After a while this got a tad boring, so we decided to liven up the proceedings by walking to the football ground, a good 2 km away and above 2-300 feet below. So off we set, 20 odd of us, to the football field at 3.30 in the morning. The singing continued, and we might have given the watchman at the gate a bit of a fright - after all, it's not everyday that he saw 20 odd people singing at 3.30 in the morning, 2 km away from their hostels. It was good fun!

More timepass till 6, discussing life and philosphy, following which I reached by room and crashed, waking up just in time for lunch. The rest of the day went in wandering around the campus. It felt weird to have nothing to do; it was a feeling we hadn't felt from day 1. There was always just so much to do that getting half a day for yourself generally left everybody wondering what to do. Many went to the city to satisfy the cravings for fast food and for wandering around malls. Others continued to catch up on sleep; yet others went to some of the many beaches in the nearby areas. A subject submission, however, put a spanner in many people's plans, who were resigned to campus.

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hk said...
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