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20 hours and 300 seconds - A day in IIMA

A blatantly inconsiderate sound pierced through my subconscious sense, which, until the
mishap happened, was playing the moving images of a distantly possible yet infinitely
adorable event. The images, which so desirably played somewhere on a little screen in the
intricate alleys of my brain, were switched off in a flash and a warm darkness poured into me.
The sinfully punctual sound bleated incessantly as the frail images of sheer bliss broke apart
behind my sleep-sealed eyes. I groaned in anger. Eyes still closed, my hands were frantically
scanning the scattered area around my pillow, trying to feel the source of the sound. A
dropped mobile phone, a few open casemats, couple of closed books and an all-weather
note later, my probing fingers finally rested on the small digital alarm clock that had went off,
unconcerned about the little surreal joy the night chose to bless me with. A couple of
random hits, and the sound stopped. I buried my face into the bed pulling the pillow over
the back of my head in a desperate bid to go back to the state of ecstasy I was in, only a few
unfortunately unidirectional moments ago. Sandwiched by the warmth, I began to slowly slip
back into the calm wrapping of sleep, until… Peeeeeeeeeeep Peeeeeeeeeeep…

The deafening shrillness of the sound hit my ears hard. I let out an inaudible cry in semi-
conscious frustration and wrapped my hands around the pillow, pressing them harder over
my head. The sound still churned my insides. This time it seemed to come from the floor
below me - a piercing monophony that drilled a hole right through the bed to enter my
sleep-deprived brain. I extended my arms and probed again. This time, my fingers only
moved through the air, way above the floor level, collecting the mockery that the sound
below threw at me. Moments later, suddenly, the beep stopped – as if out of absolute pity
for the hapless victim. The mobile fell silent. Its back-up alarm still worked, amazingly, even
as it regularly got dropped onto the floor at an average rate of 0.9 drops per night, slipping
from the inclined mumbo-jumbo of brown-covered spiral-bound torture-texts, bouncing off
the floor as a winner every time, infinite scratches on its now defaced body not withstanding.
By this time, my comatose head was coming back to normalcy and I had started rolling back
to the unromantic mundane reality - the reality of undesirably waking up to another eighteen

non-stop hours of classes, meal-skips, quizzes, assignments and semi-night-outs. And this
day was even worse.

I looked at the clock. Fifty-five past eight. Hell, No! My heart skipped a couple of beats and
I landed ‘thud’ into the reality, with all traces of sleep vaporizing in a flash. Less than 300
seconds away from the first lecture! Coming late to class is not exactly celebrated here and it
was particularly unthinkable for today’s lecture. I jerked my length out of the bed while the
demure morning glow, softened by the translucent window panes, bathed the grim chaos of
fallen notes and books, a 24X7-running restless computer, a roof-kissing stack of
management books, a coffee mug, a phone fighting for space on the side-table, few pens
looking for their caps, chairs almost invisible under a pile of stale clothes and a towel, and
some twisted cables of the computer hanging down from the black-top table of my new-
campus room.

Time wasn’t running fast. It was zooming past like an F-16 fighter plane. I fumbled for the
toothbrush and paste and pulled out my towel, five percent visible from the pile of clothes.
Before I realized, I was running towards the bathroom adorned with all the morning-routine
paraphernalia, including an unlikely accompaniment – my wristwatch - to help me fight the
losing-but-yet-not-all-lost battle against the 9 am deadline. The next 180 seconds were action
packed – like a bizarre action movie in fast-forward. 70 seconds to 9 and I was already inside
my cargo pants – pants that afforded me the least putting on time - so crucial for survival
when you wake up frighteningly late on a fateful morning with Prof RC taking the first

Slamming the door behind me, unlocked, I took five long jumps to the flight of stairs
leading out of the dorm. As I took 3 steps down, my heart chocked. It unceremoniously
dawned on me that I had left the casemat in the room. The casemat was an absolute survival
kit that rendered an array of services in the classroom, including providing a life-saving
opportunity to look busy while trying to avoid the professor’s attention. The selected pages
of the SFI casemat had been sleepily marked last night with a highlighter pen, in an anything
but neat manner. However, these highlights could save you some terrible embarrassments in
the class, provided you get those luxurious 20-30 seconds before the question is passed on to

you. If you are the first one to be asked a brand new question, well, the casemat along with
the colored highlights is pretty much close to useless.

Panting, I rushed back, almost tripping near the door. I flung open the door and frantically
sifted through the pile of casemats lying on the bed. SFI was missing. The nerves in my brain
tightened below the skull and I was losing my ability to think and act. Heart pounding, I bent
down and looked under the bed. There it was! Neatly tucked in the little crevice between my
bed and the wall! The spiral binding, with diameter understandably greater than the thickness
of the mat, had kept it from falling down to the floor.

As I came out running from my dorm and climbed up the stairs to the classroom building, I
could see a couple of my classmates scrambling their way towards the class, a half-consumed
banana or an empty coffee cup in hand, sandwich partly stuffed into the mouth, partly
sticking out. I ran, trailing fifteen steps behind them as the countdown began. 20 seconds, 19,
18, 17… My hands were now working me up harder than my feet did. I was flying on the
final set of stairs, pulling my weight by grabbing the railing and jerking my body up, skipping
a couple of stairs below. 9:00:05. That is five seconds past 9. I burst into the classroom
screeching to a halt before the stocky, rotund guy, standing at the centre of a three-quarter
circle arrangement of benches, The Well in IIMA parlance, could see me. As I started the
precarious journey towards my seat, he looked at me with a scornful dismissal, probably
cursing himself for having to teach such morons like me who enter the classroom a gigantic
five seconds late. I quietly slid myself into my seat, breathing ten times faster than I did
when I won the Arithmetic-race at school, a rare feat by my running standards. Of course, I
won that race primarily because of my arithmetic skills, not running.

A heavy silence had descended on the room. Cold air, mixed with a calm nervousness,
flowed from the air-conditioning vents above and settled into the room, depositing itself on
the pale faces, turning the whole room into a cold concentration chamber. The horror on
the faces was more than just palpable. I opened the casemat, which until now was clinging to
my body, and started sifting through the pages, silently, blending myself into the
neighborhood as much as possible. Attracting attention by making a rustling noise was the
last thing I would dare do at this moment.

The professor spoke. His sarcasm filled sharp voice ripped through the silence like a siren in
the still of night. He thought some of us were missing. We were asked to perform a
headcount so that he could ascertain as to how many of us dared to think that his classes
were worth a miss. The count started at the extreme left-hand side corner of the innermost
ring of benches, closest to the professor’s table. One; the next one looked up; Two. Then
the next, and so it continued like a Mexican wave with people looking up before their turn
came and immediately looking down after they got themselves a number. No one wanted to
lock eyes with the professor, given that he wasn’t exactly a girlfriend material. Most chose to
look busy by turning back and forth the casemat pages and flipping through the notebooks.
Yet some others pulled pens out of their pockets and started writing the date, time and the
subject on their notebooks, something they never usually do for a class, to keep themselves
busy with a plausible reason. I was among the last set of people, drawing lines repeatedly
below the topic heading till I thought it was outrageous. I mean, nobody underlines texts
with 15 lines.

One of our batch mates was absent from the class. I didn’t know why. In fact, no one did
except for one poor chap who, by some cruel twist of fate, happened to be the dorm-mate
of the absentee. ‘Who are his dorm-mates?’ blasted professor RC. With reluctant trembling
hands one guy spoke from the dumb audience – ‘I am, sir’. The next 15 minutes were
probably the tensest moments of his life as he tried to defend his room-mate who hadn’t
returned to the college from a weekend sojourn.

Time didn’t seem to move in his class. When it did, it was like a rickety road-roller moving
on you - slow and painful. We didn’t move, nor did our lips. Only he did - marching from
one poor victim to another like a modern day Alexander, taking pleasure in subjecting some
of the best minds of India to 70 minutes of absolute helplessness. Unfortunately, this time,
80 minutes had already passed. And also did pass an array of condescending remarks,
reprimands, part-baked jokes, self-inflicted laughter, new inventions in torture techniques
and yes, some teachings too, though heavily colored by his own (mis?) interpretations. I
surreptitiously looked at my watch. 10.20 am. A shot-put ball was being dragged through my
caved gut. Having skipped the dinner the last night and now the breakfast, I was seething in

pain and hunger. It was already 10 minutes past the scheduled time. Yet he showed no signs
of stopping.

10.30 is the time when the over-enthusiastic and purposely punctual mess guys close down
the breakfast. Two seconds late and the door closes right on your face and you lose your
righteous claim on the cold cereals that had waited so long for you. 10.25. The hands moved
on. 10.26. The ticking of my watch now synchronized itself to the throbbing in my stomach.
My stomach was almost bleeding now and I felt unconscious. Each second grew increasingly
painful. Finally the Gods smiled on me and it dawned on the only motion-enabled person in
the room that it was time he stopped teaching the egocentric, immature and money-
worshipping bunch of management wannabes. At 10.28 am the class ended. ‘The rest of the
case, we will discuss tomorrow. Also come prepared with the next case and the readings’ –
were his musical parting words.

120 seconds and more 500 feet to go before I could land up at the mess door. That asks for
more than 4 feet a second. Not easy. Not impossible either. I ran, leaving everything else
behind. I had just one thing to take care of. My ailing stomach - deprived of its due for the
past 21 hours.

A huge queue greeted me at the door. The misaligned heads in the queue repeatedly and
anxiously lifted themselves up as if to take a sneak peek at the large hot iron plate, on which
some ten Uttapams sat, each slowly browning its circular thinness. The queue increasingly got
impatient and some members broke away, unable to take any further the endless wait. I
counted as I always did. There were still 12 guys in front of me. Assuming each guy
consumed 1.5 Uttapams on an average (this is slightly on the lower side, but I had no other
options than be desperately optimistic), at least 6 guys needed to leave the queue before I
could hope to earn myself an onion sprinkled, half-cooked delight. That seemed as possible
to me as Prof RC teaching anything substantial for more than 20 minutes. I looked back. I
was the last man standing. I don’t know if it came as a package with my birth, but whenever
I join a really long queue, I am always the last person to be standing with no one else joining
behind me to make things a little easier for me. I still have this doubt carried along with me
from my childhood days.

10.32. Economics class must already have started. If I waited for my turn, I would miss both
– the Uttapam and the class. I decided that I had to decide. Sometimes hard decisions like
these needs to be taken, even if it means keeping yourself inadequately fed, in writhing pain,
for the next 3 hours till the classes get over and lunch becomes available. I guess that is what
management is partly about. Or at least I understood it that way. I left the queue, grabbed
from the breakfast table two trimmed pieces of bread, joined by a thin layer of jam slapped
on their inner sides, and left the dining room, running and panting, again, to return to the
classroom or rather the CR. CR-7 to be precise.

10.36. I entered the class. The economics professor was into writing something on the
green-board. Yes, you read right. The boards in our CRs are green, probably because there is
otherwise a serious lack of greenery inside the class. Like a cat having sighted a delicious rat,
I entered the class in silent steps, calculating the pressure of each, while simultaneously
feeling guilty for entering 6 minutes late. Though the professor is chill – IIMA term for all
such nice chaps who don’t bother you unnecessarily to make you realize that they are still
very much the professors and you, the student - adorable and a real nice guy, the class is
perfectly soporific - worthy of a recommendation from doctors, if you ever had sleeping
disorders. Rest assured. You would slip into a slumber even before the first PowerPoint slide
got over.

The professor was teaching something on Nehruvian economics, the pre-liberalization India
and things like that. Keeping yourself awake through these 70 minutes of anesthesia is
probably the biggest bet you would ever play with yourself. I tried hard. Not that I didn’t
want to sleep. But I was among the very few people left in the class by the end of three
grueling semesters, who didn’t sleep during lectures. To keep the rare reputation intact, I
tried not to sleep. I pinched myself, squinted my eyes to read the board and tried to decrypt
the indecipherable lines projected onto the white screen pulled from above. Nothing seemed
to work. The lower half of my eye had turned into a magnet, pulling the lids hard into
closing down. I fought against an overwhelming feeling of losing sense. To keep myself busy,
I looked around.

It seemed as if the breakfast served some sleep tablets too. 60% of the class, in some way or
other, slept, dozed off or prepared for similar in-class crimes. The guy at the extreme left
hand corner of the outermost bench had fallen backward, head resting peacefully on the
backrest and glasses reflecting off the light, hiding behind them his eyes closed much before
the class started. The lady sitting right in front of me had leaned forward, head on table
between both her hands, her tresses crossing the width of the table and hanging silkily on
the other side. A guy on the front-most bench was ‘looking’ at the professor, frozen, leaning
forward sporadically and going back again with a quick instinctive jerk. Another girl in the
extreme right seat in the middle row was wagging like a wall clock pendulum – as if nodding
a ‘yes’ to everything the professor said. She was the most consistent of them all, behaving in
a remarkably similar manner in each class, not differentiating between professors, the
subjects or the time of the day for that matter. Nevertheless, some alert guys lent their voices
to what was otherwise a monologue. They asked questions, most of which were answers by
themselves. Some repeated in their own language what the professor taught and yet some
others asked doubts whose answers they knew themselves.

I jotted down whatever I could hear. I filled my note with disconnected series of words. In
my half-sleep, complete sentences didn’t register on me. Only some words did. I copied
graphs unconcerned about what they meant or showed or whether I drew them completely.
Notes were important, I thought, no matter how they were taken. As the professor kept on
rolling through slides after slides, my all-weather notebook filled itself with half-drawn
graphs, with several lines precariously hanging here and there fairly unconnected to the axes,
that could represent anything from the economic growth of India to the inventory in a

The 70 minutes of class-time lumbered past with tortoise-fast pace. The third and last period
was Finance. I was losing patience and my ability to think straight. So did many others in the
class. The fin (IIMA short for finance) professor, though quite chill otherwise, insisted that
we workout each case in detail before coming to his class. Worse, he called people at random
to photocopy their notebook solution onto the green-board, in front of 80 seemingly
probing eyes. A scary thought, even if you knew that 80% of them have least interest in what
you write. I took a break and went outside the classroom before the third lecture was

scheduled to start. I drowned my face in the cold drinking water and asked myself to feel

When I entered the class, the professor was already there, though it wasn’t time yet. He was
doing some small talk with people in the front benches, while the guys themselves probably
tried to figure out if there was a finance quiz that day. From what I later heard from them,
the professor, in some convoluted way, hinted at ‘no quiz’; or so they thought, unfortunately.

The third lecture was not exactly eventful except that some people were frantically asking
around for notes from the ‘regular’ guys who had put together what looked like a solution.
As long as you are armed with A SOLUTION, no matter how terribly idiosyncratic it is or
who it belonged to or who the owner of the note got it from, there is high chance that your
heartbeat reduced by one-fourth, irrespective of whether you possess the ORIGINAL copy
or you did a quick manual Xerox of the note in the 20 minutes of recess time before the
class started. While I was out, splashing my face with water, some guys kept themselves busy
inside the classroom, doing the later.

The sandwich had melted away in my stomach the instant it was thrown inside. The raging
hydrochloric acid boiled inside, burning down my stomach lining. The pain was once again
getting unbearable. As the professor left the class, I started heading straight towards the
dining hall. While I kept moving past the talking, chatting and shouting crème-de-la-crème
of India’s brains, the dreaded word ‘quiz’ hit my ears.

One guy said, “I am sure there is going to be a fin quiz today. SFI has no quizzes; we had the
quant quiz yesterday. Marketing is in-class only and EEP also doesn’t have a quiz. And we
are done with MIS. OM wouldn’t have a quiz until the current module is over. That leaves us
with just fin”. The other disagreed. “Boss, last year there were only two fin quizzes before
the mid-terms. Moreover, the professor hinted at ‘no quiz’ today in the class. I don’t think
there is a quiz today”. As the second guy’s words wafted into my ears, my heart was
plastered with sandalwood paste. A cool assurance enveloped me. Right, there can’t be any quiz
today. Last year there were only two fin quizzes before the mids. We are already done with two this year.
Moreover, if the professor has hinted at a ‘no quiz’, it must be true. My renewed faith in God threw in

the final dose of assurance – there can’t be a quiz if I am so under-prepared. God, we can have the quiz
tomorrow and I promise, I would prepare well. I was entering into a celebratory mood. Couple of
my friends anxiously sought my comments on the possibility of a quiz, probably not to seek
an answer but to hear what they so desperately wanted to hear. Nevertheless, like an expert,
I explained to them why there couldn’t be any. They seemed more relieved than me and
thanked me for saving them – as if I was deciding their quiz-infested fates!

Normally, during lunchtime, the dining hall is a little kumbh mela with most of the 300-odd
first-years gatecrashing at the same time. Things were different that day. It was oddly
deserted. The second-years were chatting away idly while watching the newly-installed
television sets. I swept my glance across the floor. Only five were from my batch. The alarm
bells started ringing and my heart-beat grew louder. Is there really a quiz today? My worst fears
were confirmed when I asked a fellow batch mate. “Yes, we got a mail. Fin short quiz, 2.30
pm”. Given my level of preparation, I should ideally have left the place immediately and
gathered whatever little was possible within the next one hour to manage a non-D grade in
the quiz. However, my burnt stomach was crying for food. I heaped my tray with whatever
laid on the table and swooped down on them, unheeding the noise I was making. Pieces of
ice were dropping inside and the fire was cooling down.

I ate to my heart’s content. And the upshot was brutally predictable. It was a dangerous 1.50
pm by the time I was over with my lunch. There was no point in running back to the dorm. I
already had run enough since morning. Moreover, I didn’t want to. As I started to walk
slowly towards my dorm, some passing runners threw a surprised glance at me. Upon
reaching my room I realized that I wasn’t in the shape of mind to open the fat B&M (A
finance book) and try to remember formulas out of pages of unfortunately un-highlighted
text. In short surprise quizzes like this, if you haven’t highlighted the important texts on the
book, you better pray that the quiz is more about how our finance minister looks than about
calculating the portfolio risk.

Till 2.25, however, I flipped through the pages, pausing at graphs and formulas, pressing my
head hard to mug them up. There wasn’t much I could have done at that moment. No
working out of past quiz papers, no discussing with neighbors, no revisiting the class notes

(there wasn’t any). Though I still cringed at the thought of appearing for a quiz and hoped
everyday that a quiz, if any, happened any day starting the next day, the surprise quizzes
offered little surprise to me. Quiz or no quiz, I was increasingly growing tolerant to the
uncertainties of the campus life.

On instruction from the Teaching Assistant (members of the TA class, in IIMA parlance,
whose only job in the campus is to take attendance, conduct quizzes, including sending mails
notifying them, award a random grade depending on their perception of how closely your
paper tallies with the ‘standard’ solution handed out to them by the concerned professor,
distribute the answer scripts and vehemently refuse to accept all possible valid concerns one
might raise about his/her paper), I turned the quiz paper over, exposing the text. In finance,
I remembered ‘beta’ to be the only Greek letter. However, quite cruelly, almost all characters
in the paper looked Greek to me. The next harrowing 15 minutes were spent sifting through
the drifting formulas in my mind, with words disintegrated from their expressions and
flowing into one another to form a single gigantic formula – the formula of confusion, of
mess and of the feeling of not being able to attempt a single question. I gave up, submitted
the virgin answer paper and left the room. A severe guilt was ploughing through my mind.
Only if I had bothered to read the chapter earlier!

Walking back to my room with heavy steps, I climbed into the bed and dumped myself. I felt
tired and battered. My eyes were closing down. I didn’t know for how long I had slept when
I woke up to the intermittent beep of a Dbab (IIMA messaging system) message on my
computer. ‘Ashutosh, let’s go collect our quant quiz papers’ – the message said. God! These
guys had to distribute the papers NOW? I had slept for 15 minutes. Getting up from the bed was
the last thing I wanted to do at that moment. But if I didn’t go to collect the papers, though
I would eventually get to know my grades, my paper would remain a tantalizing secret to me,
forever, and I wouldn’t know which correct answers were shot down by the randomly
shooting TAs. I needed to know, and needed to fight for them. Not for a better grade, but
for dignity; for not taking nonsense silently.

I looked at my paper. Marks had been snuffed out mercilessly. Though what I wrote was
absolutely correct, the method I employed wasn’t exactly familiar to the TA and hence he

doled out to me an infinitely familiar grade. Any argument was futile. I told him that I was
unhappy with the grading and needed a re-evaluation. He nodded helplessly; I wrote a crib
on the paper itself and deposited it back, carefully inserting it into the middle of the stack so
that my fabulous grade doesn’t become a public figure.

More than anything else in the world, I needed sleep. However, I knew I could sleep only
after sending a group meeting request. Unless I sent a request immediately for the meeting
that was to take place later in the evening, it would provide a perfect excuse to 75% of my
group mates for not coming to the meeting – on the pretext that they weren’t intimated well
in advance. I opened my dbab and saw two of my group mates online. I drafted the message,
put meeting time as 7 pm and hit the ‘send’ button. As the message was sent, one of them
went offline in an instant. Coincidence? Not really. That happened almost every time.

I closed the door latch, put the phone off the hook and muted the computer. I couldn’t
have allowed anyone within and outside the material world to disturb me at this moment.
However, the architectural arrangement of my room ensured that during the only time I
could afford myself some precious sleep, the scorching rays of Ahmedabad sun entered my
room through the glass window panes (there aren’t any window screens to cover them up) to
land exactly where I kept my head on the bed, with barbarous precision. I folded the hand-
towel into several longitudinal folds and covered both my eyes with it. The fan’s noise
tended towards a jet engine’s, as if it had some square bearings inserted into it.

With only the digital alarm clock in apparently functional mode, I tried to sleep. Though I
was perpetually sleep-deprived, I didn’t ever have any sleep disorders. I thanked myself for
being able to sleep so easily with a jet engine roaring over my head and the sweltering heat
making a bakery of my room. A one hour sleep at this time wasn’t just an absolute need – it
was why I have so far survived in this place.

7.00 pm. That is when I woke up, not to my digital clock’s alarm, which had stopped trying
to wake a dead man up about an hour ago, but to the instinctive alarms built into my body
over the past three terms. I had overslept by one hour. This meant one more hour of study
added to the piling backlog. I sent another reminder dbab to my group mates regarding the

meeting now, and waited. I knew nobody was going to come before at least 7.15 pm. I
started the online file sharing program and checked out dbab notice board (nb for short in
IIMA) for any new movie added to the share. I started downloading some Hollywood rips.
As usual, I browsed through the dbab nbs; most of them were in bold, announcing the
arrival of new messages. I couldn’t tolerate a dbab nb stay bold for long because that gave
me an uncomfortable feeling. I made sure that I read, or at least browse through, all the
messages in the 70 or so nbs that were added to my screen. I browsed through ‘Perspectives’,
IIMA’s own online photo blog, and marveled at the fabulous photographs taken by the
students; checked out the birthday nb and my jaws dropped looking at the extremely creative
work of some of our batch mates who had put together an awesome birthday invitation
PowerPoint. The best minds at work, I thought. A few stops at the marketing nb ‘Niche’ with
some really intelligent and humorous advertisement clips, the adult humour nb, prevailed by
one particular guy of our batch, and my fist group mate entered the room.

It was 7.20. Over the next 20 minutes, 80% of my group mates dropped in one after another
while the rest of us kept on talking about anything but the group work. After I realized that
the rest 20% were probably in no mood to attend, the real work started. Most came fully
prepared. Some only half. Arguments and counter arguments flew and what was supposed to
be a short 1 hour meeting threatened to spill over to beyond the 8 pm dinner time. I checked
our progress. We had hardly made any. The meeting was for making a marketing strategy
presentation, in preparation for a random call in the marketing class the next day. Everyone
had his (there was sadly no ‘her’ in our group) own strategy in mind and was unwilling to
experiment with others’. Consensus wasn’t what we were looking at. Perspectives were what
mattered. Ultimately, just one guy (which ultimately and unmistakably turned out to be
‘yours truly’, almost every time) might sum it up all, but the arguments helped for sure. Till
about 8.45, we were discussing just the first case point with three more remaining to be
addressed. As we ended up doing every time, we divided the questions among ourselves, 0.5
per head while I kept the responsibility to merge individual works into a ‘projectable’,
coherent and plausibly single-source presentation.

When the meeting formally ended, it was about 9 pm, time when the dinner stopped being
served and you needed to find alternatives in the TANSTAAFL (short for There Ain’t No

Such Thing As A Free Lunch, IIMA’s private food plaza located right beside the mess and
run by the same caterer). The rules of breakfast applied to dinner too. Reach after 9 pm and
you witness the food being dragged away into the kitchen right in front of your eyes, to be
later fed to the management dogs and probably to some MBA wannabe monkeys trying hard,
by dwelling in the IIM campus, to move into the next level of Darwinian evolution.

Dinner is probably the only high point during a day when you sit back, relax and enjoy the
average and sometimes delicious meal while watching the overhead televisions playing
channels that you absolutely have no control on.

Back from the dinner, I looked at the class schedule. Marketing presentation, SFI case
readings and all related analysis and calculations, an MIS submission and case preparation for
finance for tomorrow, Marketing and WAC submission in the weekend and the SFI Project
review the day after. Top it up with the backlogs that have been piling over the weeks and
the week-long packaged honeymoon was ready. I smiled to myself. A remarkable similarity
with the pending court cases in India, I thought. If the judiciary were to resolve all the
pending cases without handling the new ones that popped up each second, it would take
about 36 years for the backlog to clear - I read somewhere, some years back. If I were to
clear only the backlogs…I shuddered to think further.

Settling down into my chair, I tried to prioritize things. The first criterion was the in-class
dangers, including the genetic build of the professor who took the lecture; second, the
possibility of a quiz, or an assignment delivery, the next day; third, the quantum of grade that
is affected, and finally whether I could tolerate any backlogs in the subject (tolerance
depended on how bad one is in the paper and what was the other subject being tested on the
same day during the term exam)

SFI by professor RC was by far, quite predictably, the first priority. As I opened the casemat
to locate the case, I felt terrible looking at the sheer number of pages that needed to be
covered before I could call myself half-prepared for the MBA-eater’s class. I switched off the
monitor, flashing comfortably semi-clad beauties as screensaver, easily distracting me from
the lines and lines of texts, interspersed occasionally with graphs and tables. I knew I needed

at least three hours before I could, albeit reluctantly, certify SFI as ‘done’ for the day. That
makes it 12.30. Assuming I sleep at 4, I could have another three and half hours for putting
together the marketing presentation, solving the finance case and spend some time on the
SFI project to be submitted the day after tomorrow.

It was 3.30 when I was done with SFI and the Marketing presentation. My eyes were closing
down frequently as I involuntarily kept on lurching forward, every time almost banging my
head on the computer screen. All efforts to keep awake including browsing the dbab and the
internet, fast-forwarding through some downloaded Hollywood flicks, visiting some muggus
who didn’t have the time to lift their heads up from their books to acknowledge my coming
to their rooms, had failed. Finance, for the next day’s class, was almost completely left out.
Half in my consciousness, I staggered the highlighter across the texts. As some letters, on the
magic touch of fluorescence, rose from the texts, I felt happy. I was preparing a
SOLUTION for the class!

It was 4.30 now and the overhead light had grown progressively dimmer. At least it seemed
to. Things around me started to encircle me in a haze and I was awake only in staccato
moments. I knew I was sleeping. Could be pretty similar to dying I suppose.

The campus dogs howled at a distance. Through the open balcony door, other dormitories
shone as rectangular equi-spaced blocks. The golden campus light added a sepia glow to the
monolithic classrooms sitting gigantically across the walkway. A chorus of tempo shouts
dislodged the silence of the night. IIMA was very much awake at this otherwise ungodly
hour. As I had come to realize, the evening in the campus had just started.

A cool peacefulness wetted me. It felt like the touch of an antiseptic aftershave. An
afterthought for me, I suppose. For the past several months I had complained about the
highhandedness of the professors, the stupidity of the teaching assistants, the extreme study
pressure, the unnecessary submissions and resubmissions, the terrible grading patterns, the
meals, the facilities, the readings and every other thing about this place. Yet at this hour of
semi-conscious tiredness, all that mattered no more. It’s a place I worshipped. A place I
longed to come to. There was pain, but with pain came sweet memories. Of watching the

whole night pass by, half studying and half chatting, of sharing cold maggis, of running to
the quiz without the calculator, of ordering pizzas and tearing apart its sectors, of group
meetings that discussed more on girls in campus and those outside rather than the case for
the next class, of predicting quizzes and getting it wrong, of getting drenched on a cold
birthday night, of kicks from the ones you love and love from the ones you kick, and of
cakes that were less for consumption and more for a face-wash. I was learning to manage
friends, their arguments and disagreements, frustrations and criticisms, the pressures of study,
competition and expectations, the difficult decisions, multi-tasking and prioritizing, the
negotiations with TAs, the fighting for justice (read grades), the mad regard for deadlines,
the absolute respect for original work (though we all slipped occasionally) and punctuality
down to the seconds.

It was almost 5 now. Before the final strand of sense snapped and I started my free fall into
the abyss of the dark empire of sleep, I felt I was probably growing into a manager, with
each passing 20-hour day; with each non-existent night.

Peeeeeeeeeeep peeeeeeeeeeep…I looked at the clock. 8.50 am. I smiled; a hell lot of 300
seconds to go before I needed to wake up. I pulled the blanket over me and retreated into
the ‘night’; or whatever was left of it.

Ashutosh Kar


Minat Terkait