Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of IIM C
When I began preparing to take the CAT, I was very clear that IIM C was the one I was gunning for. Rusty (PGP 91), a neighbor, had waxed eloquent on his vacation trips home, about nights spent hanging out on Howrah Bridge, music sessions on the jetty by the lake and mishthi in the canteen. Ravi (PGP 91 IIM A), a close friend, had complained miserably about the hyper competitiveness prevalent there, where classmates stashed critical reference books in wrong sections of the library so other classmates would be unable to find them. IIM B sounded very boring, because all my relatives lived near Bangalore and I had nightmare visions of one or other of them wanting me to go home every weekend. Not to mention Bangalore brings on my worst asthma attacks.
Luckily, I got in. When we all trooped into IIM C, I don't know what other people expected but I had had visions of a grand old campus – reminiscent of some of the famous campuses of the world, Oxford, Harvard and so on. I was pretty shocked to find a cluster of low-lying buildings coloured marzipan pink and bilious yellow, looking as if DDA had built them. And any image I had of preppy students dressed in Oxford shirts and ties and so on vanished when I saw a bunch of seniors dressed in ragged shorts clustered near the jetty outside OH. One of them even had a weird resemblance to Jesus…and later I found out his moniker on campus was indeed Jesus, or C for short.
It was a first time at hostel for most of the girls and the first few days brought on homesickness, invariably. Until late one night the senior batch decided to play a trick on us. They turned up as a group, one of them covered with a white bedsheet holding a lit-up torch in his mouth. They would knock on our doors and as we unsuspectingly opened them, this spectre would rush at us, flailing his arms. Screams resounded through L-wing as we all fell for this trick one by one, then joined the gang to play the trick on the next door.
Also, some of us behaved like city slickers visiting a village. The weather was hot and muggy, so many of us from Delhi and Bombay would wear sleeveless dresses or shorts in the first few days. Until we discovered that the campus bred a peculiar type of fighter-bomber mosquito whose sting was worse than a hornet's. the army could recrit those suckers to flush out terrorists from any hide-out, I swear! Within a couple of days, we were covered in unsightly red bumps and decided discretion was the better part of valour. These mosquitoes were so powerful their bite could reach through thick jeans, double layers of socks and full-sleeved sweatshirts. The first time any of us visited a beauty parlour after landing on campus, the attendants looked at us as if we were victims of chicken pox.
I remember Gabby, Ritz and I decided one evening that enough was enough and that we needed a visit to civilisation. So we got all dolled up and went to the Taj Bengal to meet a mutual friend, Bonny. Feeling much recovered after an hour in such surroundings, we took the bus back to campus. We weren't sure where exactly the stop was so we anxiously pestered the conductor to inform us in advance. So as we reached the stop, the conductor hollered, "MANAGEMENT"! The entire crew of passengers turned to stare at us as we dropped off the bus and walked in.
Classes were a mixed bag. Far from the high-powered and intense discussions we had imagined, one of the professors, on Day 1, demonstrated to a stupefied audience how to make tally marks. He made one hundred tally marks on the black board, all the while whispering his lecture in such a low tone that even the front row could not hear him. The black board probably thought he was whispering love songs to it. Another professor had a weird habit of sliding from one end of the professor's desk to the other while delivering his lecture. One professor used to spend a good five minutes flicking chalk dust off his fingers in the middle of a lecture. Doors were left open to cope with the muggy weather so some of the stray dogs which lived on campus would also wander in to see if they fancied the lecture.
We also had some wonderful professors. There was Ramu who made finance so fascinating that a batch more full of 'haloo's than 'muggu's got ready in time for his 8:30 am lectures. There was Leenchats, who had a passion for her subject of OB and an infectious enthusiasm so that everyone soon started regarding her as a friend. There was Indivar Kamtekar, the intellectual professor type who was brilliant and whom most of us nursed a mild crush on.
And the campus was full of magical experiences. Howrah Bridge was an innocuous white bridge built over one of the lakes on campus, and must have more than seen its fill of romance over the years. When you sat there in the hushed quiet of a Joka night, you could almost imagine being out at sea, with a far-off light somewhere across the weeds. You could discuss all the burning issues angsty no-longer adolescents-not-yet-adults have with the world. You could discuss lost flames or new, emerging ones. You could watch the full moon sailing through a midnight-blue sky. Or you could simply climb up on one of its bars with a bunch of friends, strum a guitar and sing old Hindi film songs and Billy Joel numbers.
And you made friends who were lifelong. Because…You had lived together with them during a tumultuous two years. You grew into an adult with them. You stood side by side with them and did a dharna for what you believed were fair practices. You wept together when a classmate died in a horrific accident and when another was badly injured during his summer training. They helped you get over the trauma of an F in stats II, and shared their last goodies with you when you didn't want the mess food. You travelled unreserved in trains together, sleeping on the floor on a bed of newspapers. You became hysterical with laughter with them when you both couldn't understand database management. You had food fights and water fights together and jumped into the lake, all covered with mud on Holi. And when you came home for your first vacation from campus, Sweetie called you and said, "I can't wait to go home again to Cal, can you?" and she had just spoken the very thought in your mind at that moment.