‘Walking with a friend in the dark, is better than walking alone in the light.’
I often get questioned on what the secret ingredient of the secret ingredient soup at IIMA is. All of us before coming out here had an idea this was going to be a training on lines of what Po, The Big Fat Panda got from Master Shifu, on his quest to become the Kung Fu Panda. It is inhuman, most of us told ourselves. There must be some way out, something to ease the pain. I mean you cannot imagine yourself doing three case studies per day, post classes, along with a ‘few’ pre reads and ‘certain other’ minor submissions. Add to it late night classes, and we knew we were in for a ride to hell. What then was going to keep us going? We would need a very strong driving force to survive the year. Because, we all knew none of us could keep motivation levels that high after getting this kind of battering each day.
Even Rocky Balboa would not have been able to stand up in the face of that kind of mauling. But he did have Mickey Goldmill who kept reminding him, “You are gonna eat lightning and you’re gonna crap thunder’.
We all need that support, those shoulders to carry us when we can’t get up on our feet. Success disappointment, misery, happiness all of it was going to be a part of our lives at PGPX- there was no escaping from it. it was going to be a ride to hell and back, and we needed to break the code, jump on the flight and zoom through. But for that, we needed to find our partners in crime.
And partners we got. That’s where the syndicates come in.
“So, what is a syndicate?” asked my curious friend, on hearing the term from me the umpteenth time. “It’s the study group you are talking about, right? What’s so special about it?”
Bro, it is not just a study group. These are my friends who ensure that I get up to fight that round in the face of a looming knockout, they are the ones who ensure I get the workout before that big fight, and deliver that killer punch when the time comes.
We met in spring- not literally, but looking back it does feel that way now. We were all happy, excited, radiant- like the new leaves on the tree that adorns the IIMA logo- ready to embark on a new journey. we wanted to make new friends, feel the warmth of new relationships and enjoy the excitement we all had in our hearts.
I remember coming out here- knowing no one but a few people from our WhatsApp chats, leaving behind my family- a new place, new people and new challenges. Our first syndi meet was pretty awkward- I was shifting in my chair through the ice breakers, thinking what to say about myself, and what to make out of the people sitting in front of me- who were supposed to be with me through our course. We knew this was important- the success of how much you learn out of PGPX depends a lot on the kind of syndi mates you get and how well you can align with them. What I didn’t realize then, was they were just not going to be our study partners, but would become friends that I would carry with me after the course is long over and done with. if any of you ask about what my key takeaways from PGPX has been, the first things that come to my mind would be the time I spent with these guys and gals, and the bonds we formed. Some of them would remain in my heart long after the certificates have gathered dust, and the books have been thrown off in some godforsaken corner of the room. Networks you will build many, friends you will get only a few. But it is those friends that will make you fondly look back on the journey that PGPX promises.
As I sat listening to everyone introducing themselves, I couldn’t help but feel amazed at the profiles these people had- we had a CA who had her own firm, a software engineer who has developed new platforms for a mobile giant, a marketing pro with billion dollar deals under his belt and a shy smile on his face, the silent spark who masquerades as an IT professional, an energetic chairwoman, the real estate business tycoon, the agri-business CEO, and me- the bumbling doctor who is still trying to figure out what he was doing in this mix. Two days into the course, we were way past the intros and vigorously discussing cases, and struggling to put in submissions before the clock struck 12.
All of us had some experience in our own fields- so all of us brought in their own perspectives. So, all of us were pretty hard to convince of why we should listen to what the other had to say- but we learnt to be good listeners. There was no denying there was a lot put on the table- insights we would never have been able to come up with on our own. Grades were important- they made us feel good or bad- however we realized that there was something much more beyond those grades- the learning we were taking away from our discussions and our late-night arguments. We were learning the importance of respecting what the other had to say.
And then came summer. It wasn’t just the sun outside. The professors had stepped up the heat, and we could almost compare them with roaming around with flamethrowers- we were simply getting burnt in the flames. We were the sleep deprived, energy depleted cells roaming around the campus, and sitting in syndicate rooms, trying to figure out how to escape the scorching heat. It was like dementors sucking out our remaining drops of energy.
It was thus not long before fatigue hit us- the initial excitement of getting through to IIMA does wear off after a while and those starry eyes are soon turned to sleep deprived droopy lids. That’s when we need someone to kick us in the back, to break our slumber.
The intense case discussions had started. The profs were relentless in handing us assignments- when and how to get them done was our headache. That’s when we decided we needed to distribute work, and set timelines for discussions. Going on arguing on the same point indefinitely was doing us infinite harm. Strategy reworked for term 2- and we were good to go again. The CA taught us the nitty-gritties of finance- either we were too sleepy to understand in class, or the prof was too fast for some of us, who were hearing the concepts for the first time. The marketing pro taught us how to overcome channel conflict and how to incentivize the sales force. We had meanwhile developed the PPT guy, the Word Doc guy, and the orator gal- horses for courses. Some took it upon them to be the devil’s advocate- a necessary evil, provided it was kept within limits. Through all this, we hardly realized when the classes starting getting over and it was time for the end terms. Back to back exams, sometimes two in a day demanded we revised the concepts- group studies proved invaluable to give us some dope on how to attack the cases and understand the basics. A+ aspirants had to put in more efforts than the others, but teaching lesser mortals meant they could be well versed with the concepts.
Towards the end of term two, we felt we were ready for anything. We felt like being in a desert with no water well in sight. That’s when we felt IIMA does need a swimming pool badly!
IIP (International Immersion Program) was definitely autumn- life started all over again. We got the chance to rejuvenate ourselves- the dry season was indeed over. It was a welcome break, and we gathered our souls together. We came back to campus with renewed vigour- it was soon going to be placement season, and we were ready for it. It was a new way of life- we could choose our subjects, and form new groups. The schedules were grossly different too- and we started to enjoy life on campus.
We started missing our old pals. Late night meets over coffee and meal breaks would be the only time we could catch up on old times. Term 5 threw us back to the old routine- there were plenty of core courses on offer. By now our elective preferences had also aligned- whether that was by design or luck, was another story.
With the course nearing its end, it is now time we look back at all the memories we have made over the past ten months. We didn’t realize when we had in fact grown fond of the rigor that we were subjected to- so much so, that we have now started missing the fierce race with time to submit the PLPs (read word docs full of personal reflection, with a potential chance of being thrown to the bin by profs). We started missing the incessant intake of caffeine to keep our eyelids steady, and the late-night snack outs, the frantic catch-up on gossip on what was happening in campus. The ‘don’t worry I will finish it by the deadline’ cool attitude, and then frantically calling up my syndi mates at 11pm saying, ‘kuch help kar de bhai, it’s not happening’, the desperate cries for help on the night before the end term- we were going to miss it all.
Our syndi had eight members- the usual in our batch. Some said it would be too much and would lead to chaotic discussions- but we had figured out a way how to best make use of it. Some of the syndis had gelled very well from day 1, others were having a few minor niggles. But, when we got asked if we wanted to change our syndi, the answer was – ‘yeh dosti hum nahi todenge’. For good or for bad, we will stick together till the end, and beyond.
The excitement and parties when someone got a good grade, or we made some profits in the business simulation game, the ‘without any reason’ dinner outings, the ice cream stakeouts, the sharing of woes when difficult times stuck- we did it all. And how can I forget the group study sessions before those dreaded exams- that promised to be our only guiding light when the term paper came. The intense finance discussions, hour long discussions on excel sheets, longer hours of haggling on what to put in that PPT, and ‘minor’ clashes on who had the right point to solve the case.
Then there was the additional workload from committees too. Our syndi had the unique distinction of having a secretary/ co-ordinator from almost all the committees- Alumni, Media and Marketing, the one and only Place comm and the committee that brought in all committees- the election commission!
After autumn, its time for winter- and you cannot escape it. The chill could be felt in the air- the campus was somehow different. We tried to hold on to our buddies- who would provide us with that much needed warmth as some of us had started to feel the cold. There was often a feeling of deserted roads, and vacant syndis- our spirits desperately searched for the fire to warm our limbs.
There were those points in time, when all you needed was a shoulder to cry on- things weren’t going as you though they would, and you needed someone to tell you that light is just round the corner.
You just wanted someone to say,
“All I wanna do is go the distance,” aka Rocky Balboa, and get told in return,
“It ain’t how hard you hit, its about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. If you know how much you are worth, then go out and get what you are worth.”
Through all such times, we didn’t realize when we had become a close unit in the broader PGPX pool, a sample population that warranted a regression analysis to understand what made PGPX work. Normal distribution be damned- life at PGPX is far from what you call normal! It was what made us all tick, it was what made us look forward to another day, another challenge.
As I said, if someone asks me today what’s your greatest takeaway from the year at IIMA?
Without a split-second pause would come my reply, ‘My Syndi mates. Partners for life.’ Godspeed buddies.
We are now perhaps looking out for the next spring, when we get another new look at life. The year at campus has given us a lot, but it’s time to make a new beginning again.
(This has been written in collaboration with my partner in crime, Gurtej Singh, Secretary, Alumni Committee, PGPX Co 2018
Sincere thanks to Devlina Talapatra for being our photographer and creative advisor)
Archya, is a doctor-turned-healthcare administrator, who thinks he has a passion for writing, and hence uses his limited idle time to pen down his thoughts. No publishing house has yet made him any offers, so he has to now debate his opportunity costs.
Archya is presently pursuing a MBA (PGPX) from IIM, Ahmedabad.