I am going to do an MBA only once in my lifetime. I might as well get the degree from IIMA.
It all went downhill from there. Alright. Let’s do this. It’s been about two weeks since my last end-term exam. I have reflected on most aspects of my first year at IIM Ahmedabad during that time. Keeping a journal proved to be helpful. I’ll share a few snippets towards the end of the essay. This is a comprehensive review of the one year that I spent there – the good, the bad, the horrible aspects of B-School life. It has been an eventful ride - full of emotions, labor, and a few stupid decisions. I have taken the creative liberty to dramatize some of the stories, although I have tried to root these stories based on actual incidents.
The essay doesn’t have any target audience, but it may serve as a fun read to the reader; something to read over the weekend and wonder, “what the heck is that 22-year-old doing in life?” It is up to you to decide what you wish to take away from this essay. Of course, I have a few advice to give, but idk tho how much use they would be to you.
“A is for Academics.”
“A is A.”
I frequently heard these and other lines before and after joining IIMA. Some of them are a bunch of crap, but it is what it is.
Over the year, I read dozens of cases and participated in countless classes - sometimes helpful, mostly DCP 1. Some random dude said, “If you can survive your first year at IIMA, you can survive anything in life.” That statement has been blown out of proportion, and it has become sort of a cult now. You must have seen countless future leaders posting PGP1 Survivor photos (yeah, me included). I mean, what other options do you have than to survive? Remember, you have a 30L loan on your head, so the possibilities are limited. The only options are surviving the first year, slogging through the second year, and repaying the loan.
That rant aside, I loved a bunch of classes that were taught during the first year. Of course, there are also classes that I really hate. At times I felt like I was wasting my life reading those boring cases. I felt that in the middle of exams as well. During the most recent end term, there was a case study where one of the protagonists made all these emotional appeals against a hostile takeover of their company and still got acquired. LMAO. That was such a boring case, unnecessarily dramatized. These feelings of despair are temporary, though. I am mainly grateful to be at IIMA, and I try to reflect on the good things in life when I do not feel like working. It works out pretty well at times.
“Balance sheet tally nahin ho raha? Cash add kardo.”
The academics at IIMA is indeed rigorous. The content is digestible in terms of course content; however, the sheer scale and pace at which stuff is thrown at you can be unsettling. You would almost always play a catch-up game, and most assignment submissions happen just a few seconds before the deadline. No, we do not count those few guys who manage to submit their assignments days before the deadline. I am not that person.
Over the first year, we were required to take some 39 courses, spread across three terms. You can look at them here. Some of them even have boring names, but I knew what I was signing up for, so some days I just cried, carefully draining those damn tears from the keyboard and got right back to writing formulae in Excel. The good thing about the whole experience is that I know which instructors are boring, which instructors to definitely never see anymore in life and which areas I’m interested in. I have opted for many Public Systems and Economics courses for the next term. It remains to be seen if those also turn out to be boring. In case that happens, I’m genuinely a joker and a duffer, as one instructor used to say.
I have not seen much of life. Hell, I have not even had a proper relationship so far; hence I am always amused by the gossip on campus. Without taking names or pointing out specific incidents, I’ll try to narrate what happens on campus. Everything is fast-paced. One week you hear that a friend has a crush on someone, or another friend has a crush on someone else. The following week that friend is either in a relationship or the crush is already with someone else. The sheer pace at which things happen is fantastic. “A is A,” after all.
I have been lucky to find a group of friends who are the absolute best. Also, being the youngest in the group helps, I think. Everyone is just so kind to me for some reason. I reach out to them when things are not going my way, and in most cases, we manage to laugh stuff off together. I already miss them a lot. Sitting at this cafe and writing this essay reminds me of the many places where we went out for lunch or dinner and discussed couples, uninteresting courses, and everything going on in each others’ lives.
Friendships change, relationships change, but I have tried my best to be friendly to everyone. It’s incredible how problems in friendships can be solved over a birthday party. On the flip side, being in a close-knit circle of friends also means that I was hurt a lot when things went sideways. Of course, I did not confront anyone. Maybe I should have, but at the time, I did not, thinking things would turn out to be okay. And they did eventually, or at least I stopped being bothered by them.
I am proud of my friends in my section and outside my section. The shared bonding because you are in the same section or come from the same place is amazing. I think the shared experiences and the problems that everyone is going through make it much more real. If you narrate your issues to a friend, they immediately understand. We attended a few weeks of offline classes towards the end of the year, and I loved it. It is fantastic to discover new people and run into people you once had a massive crush on.
I should also mention that seniors are absolute gems. Be it on advising about courses (maybe not), teaching how to throw the frisbee disc, or the preference order during the interviews, they are helpful in everything. Perhaps this is true of life in general. Things are much more manageable when you sit down and talk to someone about your shared experiences. Hearing someone tell you that things are not as worse as you have imagined goes a long way and, at times, makes your entire day/night better.
Humans are fundamentally flawed in some sense. I found myself crying endlessly at four in the morning because I could not understand what was going on in life and if everything would be okay. Reading about Huma Abedin and her life made me reflect on my own. I remember reading a portion of the book Both/And and instantly related to what she was narrating. I started crying as if on reflex and did not know what to do about it. That is how much I am invested in books, movies, songs, and people that I like. Is that the way to do life? I don’t really know. You tell me!
I confessed to a friend during one of the parties. Everything came to a standstill after that. I don’t know what transpired in their mind, but things did not turn out great, or so I think. I did not really talk to them about it after that, and neither did they. So, we now pretend that all is well when it is not. I suppose that is okay because I know of at least a dozen people currently in the same state. Humans, together strong. LOL.
“I am going to have a crush on her forever, and that is all that is ever going to happen. LOL!” That’s one of the entries in my journal. I don’t remember for whom I wrote that line, but it is pretty relatable even at this point. By my count, I thought five people were cute. I even thought I would ask someone to prom, but thanks to COVID-19, that never happened. And I’m so happy that it did not happen because I would not know whom to ask. Besides, most of them would have gone to prom with other people, so yay!
Phew! With emotions out of the way, let’s get to the good part of life - food. Sadly, getting good food is one of the most problematic aspects of the campus. Of course, if you can afford to order from Swiggy or Zomato twice or thrice a day, you would not face any problems. I am a non-vegetarian, and I struggled to find good non-veg food on campus. The options are minimal, and it is expensive. When I tell people this, they tell me, “Well, people have work-ex, so they can afford it.” No, bro. I am a fresher, and freshers are supposed to be broke!
I got used to the cheap food at IITK, so it was hard to wrap my mind around during the first few months. I was paying about three times the amount I used to pay during my undergrad and still had uncooked or just plain bad food. Of course, you get used to it, but it took me a few months. And over time, you stop caring about food and just eat whatever is required to stay alive.
When friends and others outside the campus ask me about the IIMA campus, I always tell them, “It’s exactly like IIT Kanpur, just 10 times smaller and much more expensive.” That is probably the most concise explanation of IIMA infrastructure that I can give to a layperson. Sure, it assumes that the layperson knows about IITK; otherwise, it would be hard for them to comprehend what I am saying. That’s not my fault. They are supposed to know about IITK.
The Vikram Sarabhai Library is my second favorite spot on campus. Next only to my dorm room. The printers in the library work hassle-free whenever you wish to print something. If you get bored in your room at two in the morning, you can go to the library to read a book or go to a friend’s place to discuss random happenings in life. The following two favorite places on campus where I look forward to going are the new classroom complex (CR7+) and the badminton court. I started playing badminton actively in July, and I can’t wait to go back and play again. The long corridor connecting new campus CRs is great for running into people from other sections and casually saying hi.
For those of you that are asking- yes, the new campus is definitely better than the old campus. It doesn’t matter how many arguments you give for the old campus - heritage, architecture, and all of that, you know nothing compares to the $22 \degree C$ AC temperature during the summer months. I love the new campus and would not trade my room for anything.
That said, the old campus is indeed much more happening. Part of the reason is that most events happen on the old campus, and then there is the iconic LKP 2. If you haven’t played frisbee at LKP, did you even go to IIMA? I love the IIMA campus not because of its legacy or buildings but because of what the place offers. There is just so much freedom (maybe a little lesser than UG). Once I finish what is expected of me, I am free to do whatever I wish.
Moving to and from the new campus to the old campus for an evening coffee or a stroll post-midnight is refreshing on hectic days, provided the ever-lurking dogs don’t pounce on you. I hate dogs, for the record. I even wrote an essay about the whole experience. To share the trauma, you can read the article here. Oh, the dog bite was an added premium to the IIMA experience. I was also hospitalized because of a dengue fever about a month into the program.
During moments such as those, I questioned every life choice I’d ever made. My takeaway from the entire experience is to apply enough Odomos before you ever step out of your room and carry a steel flask so that you feel a sense of security if a dog even turns towards you. Plus, you can drink cold water from the flask when the dogs are not around. It’s a win-win situation. Also, don’t go on a walk at night without applying enough Odomos, however cute your partner may be.
Of course, life at IIMA is not always full of tragedies. We have our fair share of fun amidst the deadlines, surprise quizzes, and the perennially dull food. The credit goes to friends who organize parties and various student groups on campus that organize student events. Some of them even sing for you. Can you imagine?! For the first time in many years, I celebrated Diwali properly. I even bought fancy clothes and tried to pair them with high-top sneakers. Honestly, it turned out to be okay. I’ll do it again if I get a chance. The after-party was even better.
The Garba night was one of the best nights on campus partly because that is when I met many of my friends and section mates dressed up in fancy clothes and trying to hit on each others’ sticks. Yep, you have probably guessed it, I went in black jeans and running shoes. Pro-tip: Despite appearances, running shoes are one of the best options for dancing - they give you that nice cushion while you’re dancing. I love Nike running shoes and have worn them to every dance party I’ve been to. They’re great!
I look forward to many more events and parties for the remainder of my time at IIMA. Truth be told, I am in love with my IIMA experience. I had much more freedom and free time during undergrad, for sure. But, it was at IIMA that I expressed myself much more freely, stopped worrying about things outside my control, and started living more carefree. And I love it. To copy a line from the love of my life, “Sorry the old Reang can’t come to the phone right now. Oh, ‘cause he’s dead.” I mean, not technically, but you get the point xD.
I’ll share a few lines from my journal. I won’t elaborate on them because, frankly, I can’t recall why I wrote some of them, but they capture what I was feeling at different times. Here you go:
Globe pe globe, globe pe globe.
qwehi maar dete hai, my lord!
Gigil: The irresistible desire to squeeze something cute.
Buddy, love the way you lie. Ruko Zara, sabar Karo. Kato jodo aur kuch bana do. Haar Ek point repeat kardo.
Running into your crush during Harvard dinner is a moment.
nameis cute. Her name sounds cute too.
course_nameis probably the most boring course in Term 2, slot 2. Pure globe, I don’t really understand.
Sometimes, I wish I went to IIMB.
XYZis too cute for us to not be dating.
It’s funny how people become aloof from the society once they start dating someone. :(
Have a healthy debate about affirmative action.
If mother nature wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for the day, maybe I didn’t need to be either.
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