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!