Thursday, January 30, 2014

The reunion - I

After arriving at the IIMA campus and  freshening ourselves up quickly after a long journey (for me) we went to where all my batch mates were gathered.  Most of them had not seen me after my stroke so they were naturally unsure how to interact with me. For my part, I could take advantage of my inability to speak to take my time to put names and faces together.

There  was some comment about the fact that I had managed to retain most of my hair and most of it had remained black. This is easily explained. The hair on one's head tends to be relatively unaffected if the most taxing work one has to do is to read and  write about a fish. But when you are Director of  something or Head of something else or are managing your own firm, the hair tends to turn grey and lots vacant real estate tends to appear on your head.

The first session I attended was 'Honouring Gurus' which was about honouring various professors who had taught us. Several of my batch mates related anecdotes about various professors the most hilarious of which concerned Prof. Mote who taught us probability. In one of his classes one student fell asleep. He walked up to her, said something loudly and when she woke up with a start, he asked, 'Am I disturbing you?"

Prof. Mote addressing the alumni
The reunion was being held in the new campus which did not exist when I was studying. On the second day of the reunion. we went to the old campus which held more resonance for us. The first event was a photo shoot of the alumni at the Harvard steps. (I am reliably informed that there are  no corresponding IIMA steps in Harvard. 'Pop' goes our egos.)

Alumni Group Photo

Then we roamed around the old campus reliving memories.

With Jaya, my brother-in-law Rananunni and my batch mate Vivek Chandel going around the old campus
While passing the LKP or the Louis Kahn Plaza (which is an imposing name for a grassy lawn with a stage), I recalled the first and the last times I was there.

The first occasion was on my first day in the campus. A few of us were sitting on the lawn at the LKP introducing ourselves. One guy looked over my shoulder and said, 'Janta is playing basky.'I turned back and found that what he meant was that some folks were playing basketball. I then realised that I not only had to learn subjects that I knew nothing about like Accounts and Economics but I also had to learn a new lingo.

With Vivek Chandel, Ramanunni and Jaya at the LKP
The last occasion I was at the LKP was during our convocation when the then PM Narasimha Rao was the chief guest. It was the only time I have seen SPG security. It meant lots of cars, lots of security personnel and being confined to our rooms for most of the day. But I did manage to see that famous pout from a fairly close distance. And I don't remember a word of what he said in his speech. (Apparently this is a common occurrence.)

Above the LKP was the library which held pleasant and not so pleasant memories. I particularly remember the 'New Arrivals' section that had beautiful  hardbound books that smelt nice and had imposing titles but I couldn't get past the first paragraph. Years later, I read Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers where Robert M. Sapolsky captures the feeling I had:

An overabundance of information can be stressful as well. One of the places I dreaded most in graduate school was the "new journal desk" in the library, where all the science journals received the previous week were displayed, thousands of pages of them.  Everyone would circle around it, teetering on the edge of panic attacks.  All that available information seemed to taunt us with how out of control we felt - stupid, left behind, out of touch, and overwhelmed.

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