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More Snapshots from Hell - The Making of an MBA

Stockholm Syndrome: Summer internship was a welcome relief from the grind that the first year brought. It felt good once again to go to a regular 9 - 8 job and concentrate on a single thing - it was the race for a PPO (pre-placement offer) where you were competing with other B-school fellow besides your own (rest assured most are as good or bad as you) - competition heightened. At the same time, this change of pace left a gaping constant ache in the side - yes, we missed the constant grind and had learnt to love those bastards (read Chairman PGP & Co.) who gave us so much pain.

Refer to the PGP Manual: Day 1 everyone is given a PGP Manual containing the numerous ways one can get oneself screwed out of IIM L. If you do badly in a couple of courses or miss some classes due to illness (and earned a consequent letter grade drop) and take up the matter to the PGP Chairman, he will simply ask you to refer to the PGP manual. If so happens, then the person is on the threshold of getting out of IIM L or in the words of a professor, "You did something hanky-panky and you had it big time".

The following exchange happened to a guy who asked for a 3-day leave to visit his ailing mother -

Student: Please grant me leave for 3 days.
Chairman PGP: What is your CGPA and your grade in term 3?
Student: Its 5.68 and in term 3 it was 6.36.
Chairman PGP: You please go and study in your room.
Student: Sir, I have to visit my mother. She has not been keeping well for a month.
Chairman PGP (with a sorry expression): I am sorry. But you please study in your room.

Bottom line: You did not pay 3 lacs to be a student but to be our slave.

Bankman, Brandman, Stratman & Riskman: Each of us took fifteen electives performing a load balancing exercise and trying to hedge ourselves for the placements. Of course our ever- helpful seniors had given us 'valuable' tips for choosing. They were not always accurate. They said Bankman was a 'chill' course - only that the end-terms had about 2000 slides and some 40 excel sheets of enriching material to be gone through.

Lesson 1: The seniors are not always right. 15 of them had got a D in Bankman last year in the course as 'chill'. We knew it too late.
Lesson 2: Try as we may, we will also give similar guidance to our juniors. 240 people have 240 points of view.

Stratman brought a daily 40 page (in fine print) case analysis - God forbid if you don't read the case, you can get a bad grade and this course is the heaviest in MBA curriculum. The last sentence was by the instructor and then he asked us to do an impact analysis on our CGPA. Brandman further made it worse by submitting a written analysis of similar cases. And when you believed that the last term, the matters would be cool, the Risk Man(agement) instructor announced, 'Some of you have taken a 'risk' here - you might flunk out in the last term'. The one who did was asked to leave before 2 days before convocation and come back next year (2 years of hard work and struggle down the drain). Another was asked to leave on the last day of classes in the sixth term (actually the entire MBA course) when the fifth term results came out. B-School is merciless and relentless - only the fittest survive. It embodies the cutthroat corporate culture.

The Ego has landed: Placements for our seniors came and went like a nightmare. Of course the economy was bad, the reason every institute offered and a recovery was in offing, but the summer placements suggested otherwise. The official end of summers left the entire institute stunned almost in darkness. Many of us who left cozy jobs realized that they might join at lesser salaries in worst companies. We no longer commanded the pedigree of our seniors who sat back in comfort waiting for companies - in fact we were begging for jobs. Like true MBAs we countered this and so in 5th term Murphy awakened.

In Deep Frijoles: Murphy says, "If you think that things can't be worse, they will worsen.". In the fifth term, the learning is put to test when almost all B-School grads all over India are pitted against each other in case competitions and live projects (with handsome prize money) organized by companies and colleges. This pursuit is for improving the resume with 'differentiating bullet points'. So the sleep lost after the summers' nightmare was put to constructive use by almost all and sundry. So besides the usual workload, a person is writing software for placements or doing marketing research for a leading pharmaceutical company or watching the stock market fluctuating in an online stock-trading contest - all in one term. So those who believe that their CGPA will not fluctuate as much as the Infosys stock sacrifice academics for a 'silver bullet' in extra-currics that will land them with a good job. Often I wonder - Why am I doing this? The answer is, " If I don't someone else will have an advantage over me; so if I invest my time, I better win".

Sure this was a difficult time but then again when would a bank like ICICI would give a bunch of 300 odd b-school students to speculate in the stock market with 20000 bucks each and give a cash prize of 1 lac for making maximum profits (or losing least money). True it was one hell of a ride with night-outs and slogging for days at a stretch but surveying the city of Lucknow gave you insights on how people thought before making decisions about buying soaps, chocolates or health drinks.

Judgment Day 0, Judgment Day 1, Judgment Day 2: For people like me, placements were over before they started being a lateral (with 20+ months of work-ex) and so for the 52 other souls who had a job (laterals or ppo) before going into final placements. The other 177 were 'Alive' (a euphemism for yet to be placed) in the process and were about to go through one of the most strenuous, stressful and in some cases traumatic experience of their lives. With an uncanny similarity like IIT-JEE, the hard work and toil of a year and a half boils down to your performance in 3 days of placements.

The sheer intensity of each GD and interview; the tension in the waiting rooms where all people 'Alive' or placed sit throughout the 3 days; the laughter of those placed and the crying of those who are left; eerie placements causing frustration where people with no finance courses getting into banks or systems experts into FMCG or the 4th ranker among last 30 to get a job or 200th being the first one; the desperation of the last 10 or the last trauma of last 5 suffering the indignity of being 'leftovers'. All those 'Alive' strain their ears for the sound - 'Job Offer '. As the placements go on and the count (of those 'Alive') reduces fights breakout in GD sessions and people break down in front of companies. Said a company official, "He had some excellent concepts but why did he start crying 10 minutes into the interview". The pressure and the weight of expectations of those back home and the peers' gets to people as they crumble.

But this is one time for solidarity as the entire institute comes together. The first years run the placement process and those placed help out other by giving them last minute ideas and more importantly standing by them. Teachers join in by taking spot sessions and counseling the students. Hostels remain empty till the process ends, which it did when the last guy was placed at 6:45pm. An earth-shattering roar went up with a wild storm of clapping and shouts. The last one was chaired to the waiting rooms and in hearts of everyone was the thought, "Thank God, its over".

Aftermath: The next 2-3 days went into a daze and the nights into partying as everyone reflected on what we had been through. Then it was time to go. The convocation was held in blissful spring weather with parents teeming all over the campus adding color to the mundane surroundings. The first years went back to their slogging counting down time as we did last year. Looking back, I remember my batch mates as people of unusual and varied abilities and skills and intelligence. The awesome curriculum and the instructors, the top-drawer facilities and infrastructure and the quintessential relentless pressure. Yes, sometimes I miss it enough that I want to go back. But then I ask myself the a question -

"What would you do if someone asked you to do the first year again?"
The answer is always the same: "Drop on my knees and Beg for Mercy"

Abhishek Sinha (Pants)