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There are places I remember all mylife….” The Beatles’ song couldn’t havebeen truer. IIM Calcutta touched my life in more ways than one. It prepared me for the challenges ahead and, in the process, lent me some timeless memories. MBA is a two-year long grind, I was told before I headed to Kolkata. Consequently, I had little hope of relishing the experience, and less so of falling in love with a place the students fondly call ‘Joka’.

June 2010. I found myself in the land of mishti doi and Rabindra sangeet. It is hard not to be perturbed when one is greeted by a not-so fancy airport and yellow-coloured cabs winding their way through packed decrepit roads, all in the midst of intolerable heat and humidity. Ofcourse, things look up when one enters the campuson the periphery of the city. I remember getting accustomed to the weather, suffixing every name with ‘dada’, and enjoying akta cupcha (cup of tea) in between classes.

The class schedules were rigorous, and the content was different from anything most of ushad studied before. Add to this, the preparation for the summer placements, and you have a heady cocktail of submissions, cases and presentations,leaving hardly any time to breathe for the first few months. However, this has got to be the most enjoyable of roller-coaster rides. For one, it is a wonderful learning experience tobe in the midst of bright minds from diverse backgrounds; each student at different stages of career, and remarkably, each with his own expectations from the MBA programme.

Here is where one really understands how to work in a group. I learnt how to deal with the autocrat, the hard worker, the loud mouth, the silent observer and the usual free rider. The discussions in class were engaging, and taught the solution-oriented engineer in me that there can be more than one answer, and that people can agree to disagree. But the most spectacular aspect was the culture of helping each other —seniors slogged to guide juniors, batchmates took time out before an examination to coach entire sections, or just be a pillar of support during rough times. All this is part of the Joka DNA.

I always admired how not adhering to a second-year specialisation gives one the freedom to explore a breadth of courses. I had the opportunity to whet my appetite for behavioural science,marketing, strategy and finance, and then make a well-informed career choice. Courses on leadership ethos, sports marketing and behavioural finance are ample testimony to the paceat which the curriculum is evolving to stay abreast with the business environment. It was extremely enriching to be taught by an erudite faculty, and be audience to lectures from the likes of Pranab Sen, Shantanu Khosla, ShashiTharoor, the Dalai Lama, and many more.

While there is so much to do and learn, it is hard not to stop and admire the scenic environs— seven lakes, a jetty to lounge on, our very own ‘Howrah’ bridges stretching across the lakes. Needless to say, the photography enthusiasts never felt the need to venture out. And then there are the constant members of the campus community — tuck-shop owners who have seen IIMC evolve through the years, and whose shops present an ideal jaunt akin to the Bengali adda. It is remarkable how the state-of-the-art finance lab and the plush new classrooms sit comfortably ensconced in the proud past of the institute.

That brings me to one of the most important take aways from IIMC — friendships. I remember the ease with which I could gel with people from different backgrounds, some reasonably older than me. It helped that there were many activities — sports, quizzing, dance, music (IIMC has a rolling band of its own), photography,writing, and many more — which made finding like-minded people easy. Even outside campus, connecting with an IIMC alumnus is never difficult. The umbilical cord binds us to the alma mater long after our stay there is over.

IIMC helped me grow as an individual, yet ingrained in me how this individual is meaning less without being one with the social fabric around it. It taught me how important it is tow in, and how to do it without stepping on others’ toes. It made me realise the value of the freedom to choose, and to, at times, step off the beaten path even if it means risking everything one has. What pleases me most is that I am just one of the thousands who share this bond with the veritable microcosm that IIMC is.