(A compendium of experiences during the forest trip as part of MCC course in Term 4)
“It is impossible to trust a jungle at night.” Prof. Krishnesh Mehta was telling us in one of the preparatory classes. The plan was to visit forest of Vanaj-Polo, near Gujarat-Rajasthan border on a dark night. The sole intention behind the venture, as I understood, was to activate one’s inner locus of control – “If you are able to win the greatest fear – the fear of death, you will be able to sustain smaller fear in life – be it professional or personal. This will help enhance your creativity greatly, for creativity means divergence and inclusiveness.” With this premise our professor was priming our minds to embrace the intriguing, unexpected events that life relinquish to us. With a conditioned mind and an eager soul, the MCC group of PGPX 2013-14 began its journey to the forest on 30th November 2013. The 150-odd kms journey sounded more like an odyssey, thanks to the power-packed, lavish food and refreshment regime arranged by Maulik – our volunteer host. Many of us could not resist the temptation of applying the lessons from operations to the restaurants we visited – be it application of queue-theory or guessing whether the restaurant is a ‘Cheetah’, an ‘Elephant’ or a new cross-breed !
Call it the over-enthusiasm or post-rationalization, but somehow many of our minds were busy mapping the events to the more worldly experiences and confirming/questioning the beliefs fondly held so far. Similar to the plot from Matrix movie, we were mentally shuttling between the mystic jungle and the material world, (or should I say mystic material world and the real jungle!).
At around 11:30 pm we reached right in the middle of the jungle. With the medley of mysterious sounds, the jungle seemed to be inviting us. We split in two groups and started to tread the jungle in two opposite directions. Once we reached sufficiently in the heart of the jungle, it was time for ‘individual assignment’.
The task was to walk 200 steps down an unknown jungle trail. Nitin, the daredevil of our batch, volunteered to go first. The team leader handed over him a torch and all minds converged with only one thought. Nitin glanced the beam of torch in one direction, grasped the landscape and switched it off. The sound of shoes unsettling the bushes went feebler and vanished in 2-3 minutes. There was complete silence for a few more minutes and some of us started whispering, “Somebody please throw a flash so he knows where we are.” The team leader asked us not to panic. After a while we saw a torch flashing in the woods and everyone was relieved. Once Nitin came back, many of us grew bolder and ready to take the challenge, probably to catch the moment as the adrenaline level had risen sufficiently. As people kept visiting the trail, the collective knowledge dwindled the fear factor drastically. Sensing this, probably, the team leader asked the remaining people to walk in a different direction, keeping the surprise element at an optimum level for everyone. Working in this fashion, the exercise got over in a span of 2 hours. The individual walk was a unique experience – one of the rarest moments where we get intimate with our minds, confronting the situation and finally tilting in favor of courage over trepidation. The thought that ‘I am on our own, with no weapon but my presence of mind’ increased our courage and ability to embrace the uncertainly that is so integral to every walk of life. As sir explained later, the survival instinct had taken over and all six senses were in super-alert state.
“The less you use torch, the better your eyes get accustomed to seeing in dark”, were the words of wisdom by Col Rahul Tiwari from our batch. Equally useful was the suggestion from the Prof that the sounds in the jungle were not random and listening to them carefully might give us a new anchor, new perspective. Was he using a metaphor to convey a broader lesson for life (that all six senses should be aware to derive maximum value from the moment)?
Once this assignment was over, at around 3 am, we embarked upon a ‘group project’. “We are going uphill a terrain. If we go quietly, we can probably see an animal”, said our Professor. We formed a single queue and started climbing the trail that would lead us to the animal-watching spot. The same group that was earlier scary of walking in the dark was now eagerly climbing a rough terrain at 3 am. The fear of being attacked by a beast had been overtaken by the desire to watch one. The camaraderie among the team was at its best. Messages such as “Watch out, there is a big rock in the way”, “Careful! It is slippery out there” were being passed quietly to each other; support was being extended to friends lagging behind or in trouble. After strolling through the bushes and the steep terrain we reached a plateau. Sir asked us to sit down, close our eyes and reflect quietly. In the school of life, there is no fixed syllabus. Everybody is free to gather as much knowledge and wisdom as s/he can with her/his alacrity and appetite. All of us were busy connecting the dots and forming a holistic experience that would get imprinted into the cognitive memory. Sir started pointing to the stars in the clear sky with his laser torch and describing them one by one. Watching the sky full of iridescent stars was the best part of the trip. As we immersed ourselves into the beatific scene, a thought flashed my mind – When was the last time I watched the sky? When was the last time I admired the beauty of the starry night? The answer I got was a great revelation in itself.
After spending half an hour in that ecstatic state, we started our ascent. We reached Vireshwar – a temple of Lord Shiva at the foot of the trail and boarded the bus. Within 2.5 hours we were in Ahmedabad. Sure, not everyone liked everything that we experienced. However, there is one line by Martin Luther King Jr which sums up everything – “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” IIM-Ahmedabad has given us copious “first chances” and this one is a precious addition to the list.
~Amit Dingorkar (PGPX 13-14)