My days at IIMA – II: All good things must come to an end!

“Time’s up!”, announced the invigilator in the examination hall, marking the end of the end-term examination on a Marketing course called “Delivering and Managing Customer Value”. It was a profound moment for many of us as we handed over our answer sheets and trooped out of the room. Term II was finally over… It is widely accepted (at least within the IIMA community) that the first two terms collectively constitute one of the toughest phases of our MBA program. We had survived! Having reached a milestone in our gruelling studies, a few of us are now taking the liberty of calling ourselves 50% MBAs! There was hope anew that “we’d get through this after all!”

It was time to take a deep breath….to unwind… to reconnect with our friends and family, before Term III began and the forced exile continued. Many of my classmates took the next flight/ train/ bus out of Ahmedabad to get back to their loved ones in different towns/ cities across India, UK and the US! As for me, being back with my folks in Bangalore after close to four months is a sheer delight although the change of scene had me sniffing for the first couple of days. Oh no! It’s not that I started to miss my home away from home when I WAS home! The change in weather probably was to blame – switching to an almost-always-air-conditioned Bangalore weather from the sultry, humid conditions in Ahmedabad (despite the rains) got my internal defence-mechanisms all confused.

Speaking of weather, it does feel good to have rains in Ahmedabad on a regular basis. Apart from keeping the temperatures down, it greatly increases the probability of me enjoying a hot shower in the day-time. In case you’re wondering if I’ve lost my marbles, allow me to explain… For the first few weeks on campus, I was finding it quite difficult to come to terms with the Ahmedabad heat, on the outside and in the classrooms. Yep! The intensity of the weather back then had to be experienced to be believed, or maybe you know what I’m talking about?! Here’s an example to put matters in perspective. We used to get hot water in the shower taps almost 24/7, regardless of whether we turned the faucet toward the ‘Hot’ side or the ‘Cold’!!! And to think I was blaming the plumbing for awhile?! Luckily things got better as the weeks rolled on… at least as far as the weather was concerned! 🙂

A sense of Déjà vu overwhelms me as I realize that a whole term has passed from the time I started to write this second blog post on my days at IIMA.

We had just finished Term I back then, and we were getting ready for a weekend-break before the next wave of the academic rigour began. A few of my friends and I had packed our bags for a road-trip to Mount Abu, Rajasthan! We returned, refreshed, anticipating the intensity of the course to pick up where we left it at the end of Term I. But then, IIMA is full of surprises…..

Those were such happy times

And not so long ago

How I wondered where they’d gone

But they’re back again

Just like a long lost friend

:

:

Just like before

It’s yesterday once more.

This lovely old song by The Carpenters captures the essence of our first few days of Term II. We were all pleasantly surprised by the reduced levels of rigour that we were subjected to, knowing all too well that ‘all good things must come to an end’… someday. And end they did in the ensuing weeks, with wave after wave of case-readings, individual/ group assignments and surprise quizzes hitting us with enough force to topple our balance and bring (some of) us to our knees. While I was ‘down there’, I found myself coming to terms with certain ‘ground realities’ about my ability to actually catch-up with all the preparation and reading for the classes gone by…. Innovation was nigh! Come to think of it, when confidence levels were at abysmally low levels, ‘grass-root’ innovation was inevitable – Survival of the smartest, for sure! 🙂

With age comes wisdom, huh? I’m not sure about that, but I CAN vouch for our improved skills in adapting to changing weather conditions in the classrooms. The ‘novelty’ or the surprise element of the quizzes had worn off to a certain extent by Term II and I joined my fellow warriors in determining different algorithms to predict ‘quiz days’. Of course, these are not yet fool-proof, but we’re working on ‘em; rest assured!

‘Selective reading’ was the order of the day (night?) and it was quite unfortunate that after the reading/ case-analysis/quiz-preparation was done, my mind had decided to go ahead with ‘selective retention’. What’s more ironic is that the parts my mind had chosen NOT to retain were the details required on the quizzes/ exams. Ah! Those were times when I’d remember (Aha!) the prophetic laws of a certain Murphy and go…

Oh, Murphy, where art thou?

Thine presence I seek now.

Should thy neck I gleefully wring,

or, to praise thee, start to sing?

Yeah! Yeah! That’s just another of my work-in-progress poems! Gotta finish those projects some day!

As unfinished projects go, regular updates to my blog is another matter altogether. The only growth my blog has seen over the last few months is the number of encouraging comments readers have made! A big “thank you” to you to all of them! Those gestures from my readers should have collectively given me the boost to keep writing. I remember how I had tried to discipline myself to do more writing in the second term. I had my fiction and blog-writing in mind then, but as luck would have it, I DID do a lot of writing… of the academic kind, on….gasp…paper! Give me a keyboard any day and I will probably be able to type faster than I can write, cursive or otherwise! I’m surprised (and peeved) that I have not yet been able to get my hand-writing to be half as legible as it used to be during my first phase of college-life over a decade ago. The various quizzes and exams that I’ve had over the last two terms have evaluated more than just my academic abilities. Other faculties of my mind, like patience, have been thoroughly tested as well. Who would have thought that for an MBA student at IIMA, the ability to stay put in one place for an hour or more with a pen in hand could seem like an ordeal, especially if he had to write something sensible for (what seemed to be) a painfully prolonged period of time? What’s happening to me???

The professors at IIMA are undeniably the cream of the crop. Most of them are, anyway. We all know that there are outliers everywhere, even in ‘crop circles’ like these! Incredibly intelligent, these ladies and gentlemen are accomplished veterans in their respective fields and their energy in the classroom belie their age. Not surprisingly, many of them hold a strong influence in the way business is conducted in India and abroad. Several of them regularly travel on consulting assignments, are on the board of directors at established firms and/or serve as advisors in various capacities to the Government of India on policy matters in a wide range of areas – banking, finance, economics, to name a few. As part of the PGPX course, we have had the privilege to be taught by a few of them so far and can only hope to have some of their wisdom and knowledge rub off on us. A few of us have also had the experience of staring at a closed classroom-door (one of the professors had the doors locked to prevent late-comers from ‘disturbing’ the class) and a few unwary others have had their brains freeze over thanks to professors’ cold-calls in the classroom. Their ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour is not lost on us either. Having taught for several years, many of them have brilliant ‘strategies’ to teach hard-to-absorb concepts, to control class-room discussion and to silence disruptive/digressive student behaviour (however inadvertent they may be).

We had our first glimpse into the professors’ presence of mind during the inauguration ceremony of our PGPX-V program in April, 2010. During the Q&A session, a student raised a concern on the formation of study groups, specifically about the limitations such a year-long grouping would have on students’ abilities to interact with others. Most of the out-of-class interactions would, he presumed, be within the confines of the group. The student went on to suggest having regular changes in groups so that the element of diversity could be intensified and also increase the probability of quality interaction with more classmates. One of the professors took the mike to answer the question/ concern. He gave the person an all-knowing smile and softly asked, “Are you married?” ‘Nuff said…. Everyone in the crowd roared with laughter!!!

Over the last two terms, we have had professors who taught us a lot more than academic concepts… At times, philosophy and spirituality were integral parts of the class-room discussions… and during some sessions, although the concepts being taught were mundane, they appeared abstract to students who would consequently experience what one of my friends calls ‘existential angst!’ Many of us have yet to answer in the affirmative in response to a regular question that one of our professors used to ask us – “Are you enlightened yet???”

Elephants and Cheetahs will never be just animals for my classmates and I, especially after their relevance as analogy to the strength, vitality and capabilities of organizations sank into our gray cells as part of one of our Operations Management courses. If it weren’t for our professor, we would NEVER have guessed that the origin of Operations Management (OM) lay in the chants of sages in ancient India. Ring a bell??? No? How about a hint?

Question: What do sages chant?

Answer: “Om!”

Oh my! 🙂

Having had a fairly good run till date on the academic front during my school and college days, there were times when I wondered why I found myself struggling to catch up on my studies (and sleep) and trying to make sense of the classroom sessions. The fact that I was not alone facing this predicament wasn’t very re-assuring… until enlightenment began to dawn on me! The odds of the race against time we’re in are stacked against us anyway. It is quite impossible for mere mortals to be in a position where they have ‘caught up’ with all the sessions/ readings/ cases/ assignments and what-have-yous. The A-graders, Dean’s Circle contenders and other super-humans can bask in their glory. I decided that it was futile to fight the tides… Instead, I was just content to go with the flow! 🙂 One of my current strategies on the IIMA campus is to keep re-assuring myself – “In the long run, all this doesn’t matter. There’s so much more to campus life than academic scores and grades. If I manage to understand most of the fundamentals, concepts, tools and frameworks, or at least know where to look for them when the need arises in the future, I should be ready to face the big, bad corporate world!” If this is just a reflection of my naivety and if I’m in denial, I’d rather not hear about it, thank you very much! Ignorance IS bliss! 🙂

Alright then…. What else happens on the campus to keep a dude like me enthused??? Factory visits, CEO interactions, Entrepreneurship, Sports tournaments, song, dance, drama, posters, banners, blood (huh?), tug-of-war???!!!

Whoa! That’s enough fodder for my next blog-post! Till then, happy re-reading! 🙂

Navin Rajendran
PGPX, Class of 2011

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5 Replies to “My days at IIMA – II: All good things must come to an end!”

  1. Hello Navin,

    I hope this finds you well. I’m very impressed with your blog articles. In fact, I’ve just added your site to our blogroll: http://thembaexchange.wordpress.com/

    Would you perhaps be interested in composing a guest blog post so that we can promote your site to our constituents? I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

    Best regards,

    Brian Bauer
    brian@mbaexchange.com

    The MBA Exchange (R)
    http://www.mbaexchange.com
    Admissions consulting services for applicants
    to the world’s leading business schools

    1. Hi Brian,
      Thank you for your kind words. The credit for many of the posts you see on this blog site go to the current and ex-students of the PGPX program (one of the finest full-time one-year MBA programs in India), at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).

      It is indeed a privilege to have our B-school blog listed on The MBA Exchange® Blog. I have sent you a separate mail requesting for details on how I could help create a guest blog post that would help highlight/ promote our site most effectively.

      Warm regards
      Navin

  2. Wow, Navin – hats off! 2 terms condensed into one mega-blog post. On the water front, I’d actually suggest flipping the handle to the hot position. Water stored in the geyser is out of the sun, so tends to be cooler 🙂

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