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Snapshots From Hell: The Making of a MBA

Day 1: 240 students, some with their parents are sitting in a stuffy room in IIM L. The director walks in and gives a very warm welcome address convincing one, that this is the place to be. The Deans and the Chairman Placements follow talking about the standard of education at L and how well the placements have gone. Students are eager in anticipation, when a mean looking bulky man mounts the podium. Introducing himself as the chairman PGP, he sends out the following message in his first 1 minute of his address - Welcome to Hell, I am your master & You have walked into Slavery. He then proceeds to tell you 101 ways of getting yourself screwed out of L and thereby putting a question mark on your career. He ends with saying, lets see how many of you will survive the first term.

Day 2: You move into warm-ups, informal classes for introduction to the case method. The professor within 5 minutes starts asking questions about the case that 50% had read (this was informal class & you were told to just skim through the if you find time). Within 5 mins, the class strength is reduced to 50% precisely.

First Week: At 8:15 a.m. the first class starts. Half the class is sleepy eyed. In the first the CA and B.Com grads are sleeping, while engineers will not get sleep for next 3 months. Welcome to MANAC (Accounting), where last time 20% engineers flunked. But retribution comes after the communications class when a hideous looking man enters announcing himself as the OR professor. In his subject, last year 40% non-engineers got below 50%. Mornings are spent in classes. After lunch, which is better than BHU (only marginally), starts the preparation for next day. Subjects are also something you never seen before. In this first economics lecture, the teacher asks roll no.1 (Abhishek Mehrotra - Civil '99) and 2 (me) to make a presentation, the next day. As luck would have it, both of us are engineers with 2 years of work ex at Infosys and absolutely no idea about economics.

The Worshippers of Satan: The professors besides over-loading one with work have their own devices of pain. Assignments, projects, term papers and of-course cold calls in classes. Besides, that they simply count minutes after deadline. For each minute of late submission, one can lose 1 mark. You are never excused from classes - mandatory attendance is 90%. What happens if you miss the target? One letter grade down - B+ becomes C+. Now this chap had 104 fever and asked a prof before a 2 hour class, Sir, will you take a quiz today, I have fever today. The prof says, You wait in the class and find out. Occasionally, the things are a little cool. Just when you are planning a grand 8 hour sleep while having dinner, your CR walks in, with a large brown envelop in hand. The professor has sent this with regards at 8pm. Ladies and gentlemen; we have a case and get your groups to analyze. Bang goes the sleeping plan! One of them confessed to us, We load you with so much work, that you forget about your family and outside world.

The Terror Heightens: As in BHU, when terror strikes, you turn to seniors (PGP-2s) for help. Here in return, you learn the significance of 0.25 marks, which can have a bearing on your CGPA. One chap moans, "In 1st term, I missed a 7.0 due to 0.25 marks in business law." The second one laments, That's nothing. In marketing, it was 0.1 marks. The concept of relative grading (RG) fills one with dread. For each quiz, worth 1.5 marks, people study for 3-4 hours or in some cases put in night outs. The days fly and one loses touch with the outside world. The sole-window is the computer center, through which you mail to your near or dear ones that you are alive and kicking. The days and nights lose significance. The algorithm of earliest deadline first gets in-built in your scheduling system. At lunch, the most common question is, What are the liabilities (read submissions, quizzes, presentations) for tomorrow. Of course, each assignment can range from 1-5 marks. Sleeping 5 hours a day, you slither from week to week for a month and then it hits you right between the eyes.

The Mid Terms Horror: After a month, you come to realize, that exactly 7 days later, its mid terms time and you will have to read 7 subjects. Hence, an end sem once every 5 weeks. Sleep, a valuable commodity earlier, suddenly becomes an unknown commodity. Accounts brought nightmares to many, while economics increases the demand for sleep, in a market, where supply is scarce. Study groups are formed to share knowledge and a classical conversation (at 3am) runs like - (the 3 protagonists - Myself, Sameer & Lalit)

Sinha: (Munching snacks): This namkeen is good, where did you get them?

Sameer: Sinha, supply curve slopes to the right?

Lalit: Thapa's shop. Sameer, Is installment cost added in asset valuation?

Sinha: Yeah, installment cost is included in asset valuation. Sameer, In PLC maturity, should one invest in R&D.

Lalit: No, Demand slopes to right, supply to left.

Sameer: I will get another pack of namkeen. No, don't invest but harvest.

The preparation of mid terms was far more painful than the mid terms themselves. Occasionally in the mid term examinations, time is extended in finance and marketing papers when students are not able to complete it. Each day goes and people pray for the pain to subside. The seniors' advice: Never come out of the exam hall and discuss a finance or mathematics paper. Every chance you will end up screwing the next one. The best thing about IIM L is that the pain and work pressure is relentless. It keeps coming at you, unabated. That helps, because you don't get time to brood over your failures. It also teaches you that time and tide don't stop for anyone. To combat these work pressures, next comes the ever-ready hand grenade, with which every MBA is armed.

The Global Perspective: Globe means a piece of writing or conversation on a subject with no sense whatsoever yet somehow relating to the subject. It is a weapon in the armory of everyone in a non-quantitative subject. The moment you don't know the precise answer, you start talking about anything and everything related to the subject on a generic, broader and global scale in hope of salvaging some marks and may be stumbling on the right idea. Of course, it does not work every time. In the operations question paper, the teacher ended with a comment - Be Precise: Please don't write anything & every thing you know. A chap got his marketing quiz crossed out. The teacher wrote a comment with an accompanying zero out of 10 - Too Global. This has its own significance in making an MBA. He never says, Sorry, I don't know. He simply delivers the global perspective on the issue - be it fiber optical network or financial derivatives or the four fast bowlers of West Indies.

Moments of Fun: Yet, we do have the lighter side. Sometimes in classes, a challenge CP (Class participation) is decided. Now every question asked has to include the name of a movie. So in a finance class, this fellow goes, Sir, after all these calculations, isn't project financing carried out by the Basic Instinct of the decision maker or Sir in a high risk project, the manager is walking The Thin Red Line. The following gem comes from marketing class - ( Case Discussion: Marketing of Victoria's Secret lingerie )

Teacher: Does everyone know the most famous song of movie Khalnayak ?

(The junta smiles and smirks)

Teacher: Should we conduct a market research on it?

The sports tournaments after midterms, the festival MANFEST or the market research extravaganza, give some breathing space to us. The occasional trips to the city, desk banging in classes, the night out fortnightly dance parties, of-course the birthday parties and giving bumps, a religion in IIM L.

The Frijoles hit the ceiling: If mid term was a storm, the end term was a biblical deluge. A deluge of projects, submissions, assignments and preparation for end-term. The projects and their deadlines are killers, taking up the study time, which one had the luxury of during the mid terms. Again the fight for that extra half mark over your peer intensifies and the extra classes aggravate the situation. The attendance in extra classes is also mandatory. Then, suddenly the coolest professor announces that he wants a 25 page individual project. Soon, it all fades into a blur, as one remembers nothing and feels nothing; simply going through the motions, waiting for that 1-week term break. The last day of exams day finally arrives and most people leave within 3 hrs of final bell; not even bothering to have lunch. Such is the repulsion this place creates?

But is all this worth it? For that, you will have to wait for another year.

To Be Continued ...............

Abhishek Sinha (Pants)