Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Hospital Diaries

Well, there’s an often heard saying that goes like this: You can only plan for what’s in your control; you can’t plan for the uncertainties. The last 3-4 months have reaffirmed my faith in this saying. I am one of those guys who’s more organized than any of your average guys. I like having things planned in advance and I like being organized. It’s just the way I am. But I always had this saying at the back of my mind. 

Things were fine up until 3 days before Christmas. I had even planned on a holiday at my aunt’s place in Ahmedabad for the Christmas weekend and had my tickets booked. Heat boils are common and little did I know then that a small, seemingly harmless pus formation could ruin all my plans for the next couple of months and lay me low. 

This post is a recollection of my hospital experience - my hospital diaries.

My Hospital Diaries:

Day 0 (December 21st, 2015): I felt a slight pain in my seat. Noticed a small heat boil. Have had heat boils before. Felt that I should drink lots of water and it’ll go away, like usual.

Day 1 (22-12-15): Woke up with a slight fever. “Let me take the day off from work. Have enough leaves left, anyway.”  Took the day off, from work.

Day 2 (23-12-15): At work. “Oh, I am not able to sit straight continuously. Should go to the doctor in the evening.” I visited a doctor in the evening. Doctor said that it was the onset of an ano fistula. Said that it was alright and I’ll be fine soon. I read about it online. Details were scary. But my symptoms were different. Mild in nature. I consulted my uncle who’s a doctor and took a medicine that he prescribed.

Day 3 (24-12-15): Pain subsided a little. The boil remained a small one. I took the bus to Ahmedabad that night. Was supposed to return to Mumbai in 3 days. Little did I know then that I won’t be returning to Mumbai for another 2 months.

Day 4 (25-12-15): Christmas in aunt’s place at Ahmedabad. Slight pain was there, but the boil remained the same. No growth. Felt that there was no cause for worry, as there was no abnormal growth of the boil.

Day 5 (26-12-15): The pain spiked. The boil had grown a little – from 4 mm dia to 8 mm dia. Decided that it was best to consult a doctor. Visited a doctor with aunt and Arjun (my brother) in tow. Doctor examined the boil. Confirmed that it was a fistula and that it had started growing. He told me that the boil had to be surgically removed in a couple of days, if it does not burst on its own. He prescribed some medicines.

Day 6 (27-12-15): The pain shot up even more. The boil had grown to about 2 cms in dia. “Oh, no. Guess it’s now infected within, like the doctor had predicted. Should undergo the surgery then. No other go.” I informed my parents and they arrived in Ahmedabad that night. I decided to have the surgery the next day, as the boil showed no signs of bursting on its own and the sooner it was removed, the better.

Day 7 (28-12-15): The boil had grown incredibly to about 10 cms in dia. I got admitted in a hospital that was suggested by the doctor. Even he was surprised at the rapid growth of the boil infection. He called a senior surgeon to examine it, before he could operate. The senior surgeon said that the infection has spread rapidly and the boil had swollen so much because blood supply has been cut off to that place. He recommended surgery by that night itself. He informed us that I may lose some skin in that region while the infection is surgically removed and that I may have to undergo a skin grafting surgery later on, to replace the lost skin. He also recommended that I be shifted to a bigger hospital in the city, as he felt that the present hospital did not have the facility to cater to such a surgery. So what was supposed to be a minor surgery a few minutes back, had now become a major surgery. Oh, God! I was shifted to a bigger hospital in the city in an ambulance and was taken straight to the ICU. I was prepped for the surgery in the ICU. At 9:30 PM, I was taken to the Operation Theater (OT). I saw a teary-eyed mom wish me luck as I was being taken in. I was given anesthesia and was sedated. I fell asleep. I don’t remember anything that happened over the next 2 hours. I was woken up by the doctor at 11:30 PM. He smiled at me, indicating that the surgery was successful. I was brought out of the OT. I could see the anxious faces of my parents, brother, cousin and aunt. They were all smiling at me. Guess the doctor had informed them of the successful surgery. I smiled at them and then I was taken to the ICU.

Day 8 (29-12-15) & Day 9 (30-12-15): Post surgical recovery in the ICU. The ICU is such a unique world. I could see a few other patients lying in beds like me. Each one was fighting his/her own battle. I was fighting my own. I was bedridden. I could not get up, but the kind nurses took care of me and my needs. God bless those souls! To be a nurse (male or female) is indeed a noble thing. Only a few souls who have the innate quality of service within them, can be a nurse. 

Day 10 (31-12-2015): Was taken to the OT for a dressing. This dressing was done without anesthesia as recommended by the surgeon. It was the most excruciating physical pain that I’ve experienced in my life till now. I wish no one, I mean no one ever experiences such a pain. Horrible, it was! Thankfully, it lasted just an hour. But that was the longest hour in my life so far. Was shifted to a shared room in the ward, after the dressing.

Day 11 (01-01-2016): A new year in a hospital bed. Who would have imagined that? Certainly not me. Wishes came pouring in. I did not have my phone with me to see who all had wished. I got to see them only a couple of days later.

Day 12 (02-02-16) & Day 13 (03-02-16): Slow recovery in ward. Like the ICU, this room too had other patients fighting their own battles, with their family/friends in tow. I still did not have the strength to stand on my feet. I could sit with support, but not stand or walk.

Day 14 (04-01-2016): I was able to stand and walk slowly with support. The doctor heeded to my parents’ request to have me shifted to Coimbatore. He gave us the go-ahead. Tickets were booked and my doctor uncle agreed to come to Ahmedabad and accompany me on the trip to Coimbatore, the next day.

Day 15 (05-01-16): Flight to Coimbatore from Ahmedabad, via Mumbai. Was the most uncomfortable flight journey that I’ve ever undertaken. Was completely reliant on the wheelchair to move in the airport. Finally arrived in Coimbatore that night and was taken straight to Vallalar Hospital in a cab.

Day 16 (06-01-16): Another painful surgical disinfection procedure in the OT. “The next few days are going to be painful and challenging.”

Day 17 (07-01-16) to Day 23 (13-01-16): Painful recovery as expected. Was put on antibiotics to ensure that there was no further bacterial growth in the infected area, so that the skin grafting could be performed. Had many visitors – friends & colleagues of mom and dad and relatives, during this period. Barring my own office colleagues, roommates and a couple of my close friends who call me often, none of my other friends knew of my plight. And I was in no mood to inform anyone, as I did not want to be seen in the helpless bedridden state that I was in, back then.

Day 24 (14-01-16): The doctor felt that I may need some fresh air. He discharged me with the promise that I come for dressing twice every day. He told me that he’ll do the skin grafting surgery only when he’s fully convinced that the infected area was devoid of any bacterial growth.

Day 25 (15-01-16) to Day 30 (20-01-16): Pongal Celebrations and recovery at home. This period was somewhat fun for I felt that I was getting back to being normal again.

Day 31 (21-01-16): Readmitted in hospital for skin grafting surgery. 

Day 32 (22-01-16): Had a sumptuous breakfast with mom’s delicious home-cooked food. Little did I know that it was going to be my last solid food intake for the next 10 days. 

Day 33 (23-01-16): Skin grafting surgery. A layer of skin was removed from my right thigh and grafted in the infected region. Surgery went well. Was brought back to the room. Was asked to lie in the same position for the next 4 days, so as not to disturb the grafted skin.

Day 34 (24-01-16) to Day 36 (26-01-16): The most challenging days in this period of hospitalization. Had to lie in the same position for three days. Was so difficult and painful. Was counting down every hour, literally.

Day 37 (27-01-16) to Day 39 (29-01-16): The doctor was satisfied with my progress. He was impressed with my obedience and told me that the grafted skin had set in well and that the blood flow had started within. He agreed to have me discharged the next day.

Day 40 (30-01-16): Was discharged at last. Home again. Solid food at last, after 10 days. I had lost a lot of weight – 10 kgs to be precise, during this period. It was time for me to rest and recover at home and regain my strength back.

Day 41 (31-01-16) to Day 54 (13-02-16): Rest and recovery at home. Regained my strength. Did some office works too. Started walking well.

Day 55 (14-02-16): Went out for the first time in two months to celebrate parents’ wedding anniversary. Drove the car myself. Oh, yeah! It was a big relief that I was able to drive without any discomfort. Sign of returning to normalcy again. Bike, though, has to wait. Not allowed to drive a bike for another 4 months.

Day 56 (15-02-16) to Day 64 (23-02-16): Complete recovery at home. Felt normal again. Doctor gave me the go-ahead to return to Mumbai. Was eager to get back to Mumbai and rejoin work.

Day 65 (24-02-16): Flight back to Mumbai. Returned to familiar territory again, after two long months.

Day 66 (25-02-16) to Day 69 (28-02-16): Rest at home in Mumbai.

Day 70 (29-02-16): Rejoined work. Was welcomed with open arms at work. Oh, I missed this place and the people so much. Things are back to normal again.

Some takeaways:

1.      Surround yourself with the right people: I had the good fortune of being amidst the best of people when the situation warranted. I had my parents, brother, aunt, cousins, all other relatives, friends and colleagues taking care of me, praying for me and wishing me well. All this made my recovery much easier. I can’t imagine what might have happened if I did not have the right people beside me when the situation warranted.

2.      Have a good medical insurance cover: I was fortunate that my company was not only professional enough to give me sufficient time to recover (2 months, in this case), but also had an excellent medical cover for its employees. I’d suggest everyone reading this to go in for the best medical insurance cover available, if you do not have one. Even if you have a company-provided medical cover, there is no harm in going for a better cover on your own, if you feel that the cover limit is insufficient. Medical facilities are expensive these days and it’ll certainly burn all your savings, if you do not have a good insurance cover. Even if you’re the healthiest person in the world, I’d still suggest that you have a good insurance cover, because some things are uncertain and beyond our control.

 3.      Have a couple of good credit cards with you: This is something that really helped me like the medical insurance. In times of emergency, like when I was shifted from one hospital to another on Dec 28th and operated upon, credit cards came in handy. In such times, the hospital may not wait for your insurance agent to come and pay your surgery fees. Though you have facilities like cashless payment cards provided by the medical insurance cover, it really helps to have a credit card or two with you, in order to pay.

4.      Be healthy, but be prepared: Apart from being a couple of kilos overweight, I was one of the healthiest persons around. I had a healthy lifestyle with clean habits. Even the doctors who treated me were puzzled as to how the infection became virulent and started swelling in my body. It was then that they told me that such bacterial growth in an infected area due to stoppage of blood supply can happen to anybody, anywhere. There may not be a particular reason for it, for the infection was caused by one of the most commonly found bacteria. It so happened that the initial pus formation managed to stop blood supply to that region and that helped its growth. So my takeaway from this experience was to be prepared for such eventualities. This takes me back to the saying that I started this post with. Some things are beyond our control.

5.      Have a hobby: By hobby here, I mean something like reading. Let’s face it. Lying in a hospital bed all day with nothing to do but to stare at the ceiling, can certainly bog you down. That idleness may not help you in staying positive. This is where a hobby like reading helps. Even phones were barred. Got access to my phone only a couple of times, every day. But my doctors were kind enough to allow me to read for some time every day. And I read some books to keep myself engaged. Best of all, I got to re-read the Amar Chitra Katha’s version of the Mahabharata again. Even when I was back home, I could not go out. I had to miss out on a lot of things. Even my close friend’s wedding. But reading certainly helped me keep up my spirits during this period.

6.      Be positive:  One thing that I am really proud of is how positively I was able to handle the whole situation. Not for a moment did I lose hope or felt dejected. I really do not know how I was able to do it, but I did. Me staying positive, even in the toughest of times, helped my parents and those around me. There were people who kept telling me that everything happens for a reason. I was not worried about the reason for the thing has already happened. I had needles inserted in my veins and antibiotics were injected into them, twice a day. Every time a vial of antibiotic was injected, it was really painful. I’d have had atleast 50 hypodermic needles inserted into my skin during this period. It was always painful. But every time it pained, I kept telling myself that this too shall pass. I was always looking forward to that day when all this would have passed and I’d be able to sit and write about it in leisure. That day is finally here. The single most important sentence that kept me positive and kept me going during this period was this: “This too shall pass.”

I thought long and hard before I decided to write this post. I thought if it was necessary at all to talk about it. But then, I felt it was important to record snippets from this experience and preserve it for posterity, while it was still fresh in my memory. Also, I felt that it may also help the readers to learn a thing or two from my experience.

I wish you, the reader, that you never have to undergo any such experience like I underwent. I wish you a hale and a healthy life.

Here’s to a healthy life and good times ahead.


-Ashwin Murali

PS: No surgery is pretty and I decided to leave out some of the bloody and gory description of things, in order to respect the discretion of the reader. I just wish that no one ever gets to experience such things or pain in life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

26 Vayadhinilae – I Am 26

Note: The title translates as ‘when you are 26 years old…’

Well, the reason for this post now is because it would lose its relevance in a couple of days for me. It already has for a couple of respondents.

Here’s what it is. During a casual chat with my school friends in a whatsapp group, we all realized how we were all 26 years of age, now. Wham! An idea struck in my mind. For those who may not know, ‘16 Vayadhinilae’ (When you’re 16 years of age…) was a landmark film in Tamizh Cinema that released in 1977 and starred both Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth. Taking a cue from that title, another film that released earlier this year was titled ‘36 Vayadhinilae’ (When you’re 36 years of age…). All that was left in between was a ‘26 Vayadhinilae’ (When you’re 26 years of age…).  So that was the idea. Ok. There you are – 26 years of age and you have your friends who are also of the same age. What to do next? That’s when this iconic video titled ‘I Am 20’ helped. This gave me a lot of ideas.

Very soon, I started working and spoke to a friend who worked in the print media. For all practical purposes, she’ll remain an anonymous entity in this post. She was excited about the prospect of doing an article on this topic. Another friend was consulted and very soon, we even had plans ready for a video like ‘I Am 20’. 

After a couple of weeks and a few rounds of deliberations, it was decided that we go in for an article first and if that shapes up well, further scope can be explored. And for the article theme, we decided to stick to the same theme that was dealt in the video in a more generic sense – about life at 26, the future outlook, the learnings and so on. With the sketch ready, I started the work and reached out to many of my friends who were 26 years of age. As expected, a few people responded in the affirmative to help and be part of this project or whatever you may call it. Soon, we carefully jotted down the questions that we would be asking these people. The questions were very generic in nature. The idea was to gain some insight into the minds of people from different backgrounds and how they looked at life at 26. With this, we felt we could write a cover piece or an article for the Metroplus (supplement of The Hindu) or a couple of other print supplements that we had in the pipeline.

Among those who answered in the affirmative, only a few actually responded to the questions that were posed to them. Pestering did not help and after some 3 weeks, we ran out of steam. All the enthusiasm with which we started the whole thing was gone. But to respect those who actually took the pains to respond without expecting anything in return, I felt it was my duty to do whatever I can and wrote an article. It did look okay, but the result seemed a foregone conclusion. With very little variety in the responses, even my supportive friend could not help much. Despite her efforts, the article could not see the light of the day. So here I am doing the least that I can do with the idea. Write a blog post on it and see how it goes. In the next para, I’ve written a summary of the questions posed and the responses received.

A brief summary of ‘Life @ 26’:
      The respondents are as follows (in no particular order):
            1. Nandiprasad V Prabhu, a 2nd year student at IIM Kashipur
            2. Ajoy George, a Consultant at Deloitte U.S India from Bangalore
            3. Ganesh Kumar.S, another 2nd year student at IIM Kashipur
            4. R. Rajaguru, an Airspace Manufacturing Engineer from Bangalore
            5. Shivaguru N, a writer from Delhi who’s also “an MBA student by accident”

The questions posed to them were as follows:
  1. How do you see life at 26?
  2. What do you wish to do in the life ahead?
  3. What is/are the best lesson(s) that you’ve learnt from your experience in life so far?
  4. What according to you are the most important requirements in life for a man/woman at 26?
  5. Are you happy with the state of affairs in your country?
  6. In the above question, if yes, state a few things that you’re happy about. If no, state a few things that make you unhappy.
  7. How do you see the future of your country to be like?
  8. What changes would you like to see in the society? Are you willing to play a part in bringing about that change? If so, how?
Here’s a brief summary of their responses:

Nandiprasad Prabhu:
Nandi feels that his life is pretty good at 26, and that he’s well poised to achieve something big. While he has no specific plan for the life ahead, he feels that working smart and on time in a structured way has been his biggest learning so far. He feels that confidence and a determination to work towards the goals you set are the most important requirements for a person at 26. While he’s not particularly happy about the way things are in the country, he feels that the future is bright and that we should be the change that we wish to see.

Ajoy George:
Ajoy is a consultant and typical of consultants, he feels that life’s a little confusing with lots of new responsibilities. (No offence to consultants. In a way, I am one too :-P). While he looks forward to finding a partner and settling down in life, his biggest learning has been not to let anyone deceive him. He opines that close friends, an orderly life and a decent income are the most important requirements for a person at 26. Though he detests the prevalent tax structure, education system and politicians of the country, he foresees an India that is clean, traffic-free and economically strong. To get there, he feels that it is the responsibility of each one of us to be disciplined in everything we do.

Ganesh Kumar S:
Ganesh opens on a positive note where he feels that he’s clear and more responsible at 26.  He has his entrepreneurial ideas intact and wishes to open a restaurant of his own in the near future. A pragmatic individual, he feels that his biggest learning has been to be patient and believe in self. According to him, friends, happiness, patience, determination and money are the most important requirements for a person at 26. He feels that in the present scenario, actions don’t follow words as people talk, but seldom act. He also feels that the human element of care is somewhat missing in today’s world and this may lead to a society where people chase money all their lives. On a positive note, he signs off by saying that atleast he’ll try to be the change that he wishes to see.

Rajaguru feels that he has matured well enough to take decisions on his own at 26. While he’s worried that his days as a bachelor are numbered, he also looks forward to travelling the world and enjoying life to the fullest. He feels that being good to others, respecting everyone and helping selflessly have been his biggest learnings so far.  He opines that a good friend/partner and a healthy mind and body are the most important requirements for a person at 26. While he is not happy about the employment opportunities, basic infrastructure and prevalent corruption in the country, he foresees a rosy future free of corruption and other issues. And true to his words, he says that he will begin his entrepreneurial stint soon and strive towards the betterment of the society.

Shivaguru is a passionate poet and writer and his jest is evident in the way he answers about how he sees life at 26:  “Lesser hair, an illusion of maturity (which might actually be the lack of courage to experiment on the relationship front), confusions about the right career choices, the persistent ‘Why?’ inside the head about anything and everything, desperation for a partner and apprehensions about arranged marriage make up the major chunk of what life looks like from across here.”   He feels that he looks forward to earning as much as possible, so as to allow him the leeway to explore on the creative front. To not lose control of oneself and being true to self have been his biggest learnings so far. He feels that a partner, enough income and an idea for the future are the most important requirements for a person at 26. While he’s generally happy about the country, he feels that it is up to the people to take it to the next level. Echoing the sentiments of the others, he too feels that he can be the change he wishes to see, albeit, in his own way. 

My life at 26:
So there you go. The responses were unique, but in a way, you could draw a parallel. A response from a girl is something the article lacked and that certainly reduced its appeal. Writing about the responses of these people makes me wonder how I see my life at 26. On first thought, I don’t see it being much different than it was at 25. But on second thoughts, I notice a lot of difference. I am more independent now than I ever was. This also means that there’s more sense of responsibility. I am definitely happier and my mind is much clearer than it was a year ago. I am richer in every sense of the word and am wiser. Most importantly, I am grateful to whatever I have and I don’t regret the things that I don’t have. Somewhere I notice that I have become less preachy and more proactive. I’ve realized the value of being silent and also acting instead of talking. To sum it up, I’ve definitely improved upon myself from a year ago. I only wish for the resolve to keep myself happy and spread the happiness around and to continue being positive always.

All said and done, this ‘26 Vayadhinilae’ may not have taken off the way I wanted it to, but writing it the way I wanted to, with all the freedom here has made me happier than I could have been seeing it in elsewhere. 

So long 26! You made me a better person in every sense. Your memories will be cherished. Here’s to a glorious 26. Cheers!

Hello, 27! 

-Ashwin Murali

Monday, October 19, 2015

My IIM Days

I look forward to writing a post where I don’t begin with “Finally, I’m back”. But truth be told, it has eluded me so far. Anyway, I’m back again.

This post is a long overdue. I should have written it in March when one of the most wonderful journeys of my life came to an official end. A journey that started on the 29th of June, 2013. A journey that has given me a new identity. A journey that has helped me improve on all spheres. A journey that has given me so many friends. A journey that has left me with so many new experiences. A journey that has, in a way, shaped my life for the years to come. A journey in a beautiful place called IIM Kashipur.

It is good in a way that it took me almost six months to come up with this post. That way, I am able to look back at this journey with a clear, calm mind and present a balanced picture of the days gone by.

It is also true that I can write so much about this journey that I can easily fill a 200 page book. But then again, the market has been flooded with books by IIT/IIM grads recounting their stories that another book on the same topic would vanish without a trace. I may still spin a fiction out of this some time. But for now, I’ve tried to capture some of the real unforgettable memories, as briefly as possible.

Note: This is not a story but a factual recollection of a few things here and there, as it happened. This is not a fiction.

Warning: This is a long post. I wrote it as it came to me. Hence this post could be a boring monologue. If you’re looking to read something short and spicy, then this is certainly not the post for you. But if you’re looking to read some interesting things that happened in the life of a student in a new IIM, well, then again this is not the post for you, for it may not be interesting. :P If you’re still up for this, read on.

The start:
I.I.M. The three letters that I strived for. You can read about the arduous journey to make it to an IIM here. If you had read that post, you’d understand how much it meant for me to be in an IIM – to achieve a cherished dream. So naturally, I was elated. The first few days were like a dream. Despite the heavy work load and the lack of sleep, I was on cloud 9. I quickly adapted to the new lifestyle of endless assignments, quizzes (in B-Schools, it is a practice to call ‘tests’ as ‘quizzes’), case studies, preparation for every class, projects, numerous lectures, guest lectures, late-night sleeps, sleepless nights and so on. I admit that it was not easy to adapt to this new lifestyle, but the people around me were also experiencing the same challenge and their company made it easy for me. It was that phase where I was still reveling at the fact that I made it to an IIM and feeling overjoyed about it. That phase probably lasted a month and a half, post which normalcy returned.

The Speech:
Since the moment I got into the institute, I was clear about one thing – that I’d make the best use of these 2 years in every way possible.  On that note, I was a little enthusiastic in the first few days and tried to participate in every activity possible. I won the Induction Quiz conducted by the Quiz Club and that really set the tone. This enthusiasm made people take notice of me in the initial days, I guess. It so happened that I was chosen to give the Independence Day Speech. I have to thank my batchmate and friend Divya Teja for recommending my name for the same. I felt it was a great honour and that I should do justice to it. But it was also that phase where I felt supremely confident about myself and everything I did. So I never bothered to prepare a proper speech for the event. I just thought about a few points that I would dwell upon and wrote them down in a tiny piece of paper. But it was also one of those days where I felt that nothing can go wrong. I just stood before the microphone and words flowed out of my mouth like a river approaching a cliff. It was the best impromptu speech that I have given till date.  The faculty and friends commended me and I too felt that I did a good job. Only after returning to the hostel, I recollected that speech and wrote it down, lest I forget what I spoke.  You can read it here.

The reason I’m mentioning this speech here is because it was that day I truly felt that I belonged there and I can compete with my illustrious batchmates, many of whom were from the IITs, the NITs and the like.

The Independence Day Speech

It was September and our seniors spoke to us on the importance of participating in external events and competitions in order to build the repute of the institute. Ours was a new IIM and we had to work towards building the brand of IIM Kashipur. Ours was like a start-up and the onus was on us – the pioneering batches to set the tone and build a structure for the years to come. This actually appealed to me. I was very proud of my institute and I decided that I’ll do all that I can to help build the brand image of the institute. So I decided to concentrate on quiz competitions, where I felt that I was fairly good. This was when my partnership with Arun started. Arun Kandikonda, my senior, was a product of K-Circle – India’s oldest Quiz Club based in Hyderabad. We instantly hit it off and what began was a wonderful partnership that yielded so many quiz wins. We named our team ‘Et Splendidiora’ and by the time we were done, it was a popular team in the B-School quizzing circuit. We managed to win some 20-25 quizzes – online and offline – in those six months from September 2013 to February 2014. This was followed by a runner-up finish in the Tata Crucible Campus Quiz at Dehradun, with my own batchmate Mohit Mohan. The momentum slowed down in the second year, but there again I won a couple of quizzes, got a second place finish in a National-level debate and another prize in a writing contest. Now when I look back, these competitions - especially the quizzes with Arun are some of the unforgettable memories that are vivid in my mind from my Kashipur days.

Tata Crucible Quiz

Quiz on the Beach

With the objective of building the brand name of the institute, we initiated many new things at IIM Kashipur.  There were 5 student committees and 6 clubs when we came into the institute. The number stood at 8 committees and 18 clubs by the time we bid our farewell. My seniors, juniors and my own batchmates worked earnestly to make this possible. In addition to this, we also brought in a structure, wherever necessary. For my part, I joined hands with a couple of my seniors – Srikanth and Arun and we started this new Literary Club and named it ‘Can’t Stop Reading’.  In the Quiz Club too, Arun & I initiated a few new activities and these were further built on in the second year when my fellow Quiz Club members and I introduced the Kashipur Quizzing League, the buzzer quizzes, Quriosity – the Quiz Club Newsletter, ‘Out of Syllabus’ quiz and so on. The final icing in the cake was our flagship quiz – ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. On the Lit Club side, we introduced debates and other activities and the culmination point was the first ever Lit Fest of IIM Kashipur, which my juniors organized with much fanfare. We also introduced the Yearbook for seniors and then followed it up with a Yearbook for our batch. The second Yearbook was brought out after much struggle and I consider it as one of our biggest achievements. Our annual management fest – Excelsior, our cultural fest – Agnitraya, the Leadership Conclave, the Annual Magazine – Revista, the IT Conclave, Neev – the Operations Conclave, DigiGo Social Media Week, MStore, Samanvaya – the HR Conclave, etc. were some of the other initiatives that I was a part of in some small way or the other – mostly as an anchor for these events, during this period.

But the biggest initiative of all was bringing a TEDx event to our institute. I was happy that I could play a significant role in this initiative.

Pongal Celebration - Another Initiative :-)

In the very first month at Kashipur, I realized that this course is not going to be a smooth sailing as far as academics was concerned. I realized that I have to work hard if I were to get good grades. Relative grading made it more difficult to get good grades. Not only should I do well, I have to do relatively well, compared to my batchmates in order to earn good grades. I did struggle initially and for about 2-3 months, I did feel that I might have made a mistake by joining this course. But things got better once I got into the groove. Still, this was not going to be a course where I could top a class like I did in Engineering without much effort. Here my priorities were clear. I wanted to do well in so many activities, that academic excellence was not my top priority. Still, I wanted to ensure that I finished above average and that I finally managed to do comfortably. Choosing subjects in the domain I liked helped boost my academic performance in the second year and I finished with an overall CGPA of 7.6, which placed me in the top 30% of the batch. I was happy with that. Looking back, I realize that I did have the capability to achieve a CGPA of 8.4 or more, but that would have meant compromising on so many other activities that I was able to do.  The point here is not that academics was not important in a B-School, but there are other things which are equally important and it was important to prioritize things and balance those priorities well. In the end, I was quite happy and satisfied with my performance, both academically and otherwise.

The Internship:
One important activity for any B-Schooler in the first year is the Summer Internship Programme. I did manage to get a good internship offer with Emerson Network Power. I was to fly to Mumbai for two months to do my internship project in the field of Digital Marketing. Those two months – April and May 2014 – were probably the most comfortable and relaxed period during my two years of MBA. It was only during that period, was I able to sleep well for 7-8 hours every day. I stayed in IIT Bombay campus and had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful campus every evening with my batchmates Arnab and Vibha, who also stayed in the same campus during that period. It was my first time in Mumbai and I experienced everything that a person visiting Mumbai for the first time experiences. Initially, it was a shock for the first 10 days and slowly, the shock turned into awe and by the time those two months were over, I was completely in love with this city. It is a love story that continues to this day and I’ll write about this awesome city in a separate blog post.  Work was also pretty enjoyable and I enjoyed travelling to my office in Thane every day from the IIT campus via the famed local trains of Mumbai. That 60 day internship was followed by a two week holiday at home in Coimbatore, before I started the second year. These 75 days refreshed me both mentally and physically and all signs of exhaustion that were present during the busy months of February and March 2014 were gone. I was now ready for second year.

The juniors:
One of the things that we all looked forward to eagerly in our second year was the imminent arrival of our juniors. Everyone had their own reasons as to why they were so eagerly looking forward to this ;-) For me, I was looking forward to having people take forward the initiatives that were started by us. I was eager to share the responsibilities that rested on my shoulders with them. I had a wonderful time with my juniors during my second year and developed a good rapport with most of them.  They learnt a few things from me and I learnt many things from them. Similarly, my other batchmates too had a great time with the juniors. TEDx, Rumble in the Jungle, Lit Fest and so many other events happened because of the efforts put in by them, along with my own batchmates. I am not a tough taskmaster, but I had to act tough on a couple of occasions.  There were so many times when a junior walked up to me for some advice or the other and I was glad to help them in any way possible. Overall, the juniors were as much an integral part of my IIM days as my seniors were. I cherish those memories and the bond developed.

The busiest period ever:
It is not often that I use superlatives to describe anything, but I have termed this period from August to December 2014 as the busiest period of my life so far, for it was really that. I was occupied with so many things during this period on all spheres that I slept for only about 4-5 hours on an average every day. I had some work or the other to keep me occupied during this period. Be it academics or club activities or the events that happened during this period, especially TEDx, or some of the competitions that I took part in or getting ready for placements, I was always occupied during this period. But this period also yielded some of the happiest moments of my IIM days. I became a published author during this period. The book I co-wrote with authors from other IIMs titled ‘Small Big Bang’ got published during this period. It was a proud moment and a dream come true for me. Another dream – TEDxIIMKashipur happened successfully during this period.  My birthday that happened during this period remains one of my happiest days in Kashipur. It was celebrated with so much fanfare and the spontaneous outflow of love (that’s a polite way of describing the birthday bumps :P) totally floored me (literally and figuratively: P). This period drained me out so much that I spent the week of term break in December resting in my room at Kashipur, while my batchmates went home or went on a holiday to some of the picturesque locales near Kashipur.  This period threw up so many challenges that I emerged a stronger person with a steely resolve after this period. 

Clubs and Committees:
One of the reasons why I was busy during the above mentioned period was because of my involvement in many student clubs and committees. During my second year, I was the Secretary of the Quiz Club, Secretary of the Lit Club, Head of MStore, Executive Member of the Magazine Crew, Executive Member of the Marketing Club and an Executive Member of the Infrastructure & IT Committee.  I was the reason why the then Student Council framed a rule citing that no student can be a part of more than two clubs and one committee. But all this did not happen by choice. It happened by chance.  If left to choice, I would have been a part of just the Quiz Club and the Lit Club. But in some way or the other, my presence was needed in all these clubs & committee and I accepted the opportunity with open arms. I had a good time in the Quiz Club and the Lit Club as mentioned above. I had a nice time in Infracomm, where my responsibility was to coordinate with the concerned authorities and get the problems in IT, electricity, carpentry and plumbing rectified in Hostel 1, whenever necessary. I learnt quite a few things about networks, wifi and routers in this role. I was also a part of the editorial team (Magazine Crew a.k.a. MagCrew) that brought out the first and the second editions of our institute’s annual magazine – ‘Revista’.  In the Marketing Club, I was a part of the team that conducted a series of competitions during the DigiGo Social Media Week, including two brand quizzes. But my maximum time was consumed by MStore, where we struggled a great deal. You can read about our MStore story here. To sum it up, I can definitely say that I can’t talk about my IIM days without mentioning the clubs and committees which consumed a significant chunk of my time during my time at Kashipur. 

A Buzzer Quiz in progress
The one event that became a benchmark for all other events was this event – TEDxIIMKashipur. November 9th, 2014 will remain etched in my memory forever.  It was one of the biggest challenges that we faced and it was one event where everything fell in place, just in time. It was also one event that gave me an opportunity to lead from the front as a Licensee of the event and brought out a new facet in me. I enjoyed my role and I have to place on record that it was a massive team effort that made it happen. The teamwork was on display the day before the event when everyone chipped in, one way or the other and I felt completely happy that day. It was a huge team of 55 people and everyone performed his/her role to perfection and we managed to pull it off. The event was widely praised and it was only on the night of November 9th that I managed to sleep well in over 2 months. I will cherish the memories of the event forever. What the event also did was convince me in the abilities of my juniors and on that day, I got the confidence that these people will carry forward the good work done by my seniors and my own batchmates in building the brand image of our institute. Needless to say, they have ensured that a grand TEDx event happens this year too and I am completely confident that it’ll be bigger and better than last year’s event and raise the bar higher for the years to come.

TEDxIIMKashipur Team
The Dream Quiz:
In January 2014, Arun and I qualified for the finals of the prestigious Quiz on the Beach (QOTB), the flagship event of TAPMI in Manipal. We had a wonderful time and it also gave us an idea of hosting a similar quiz event in our institute. TAPMI had a beach close to their campus and hence they made use of it. We had the famous Jim Corbett National Park located close to our institute and that gave us the idea of having a Quiz in the Jungle. In my second year, our team meticulously planned for this quiz. A lot of constraints were there and we were not sure if we could do this quiz until December, when we managed to get a venue sponsorship from Aahana Resorts, located within Jim Corbett. That pepped us up and in two months time, we managed to host the quiz which we called the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ (RITJ). We gave away very good prize money and Mr. J Krishnamurthi, a renowned Quizmaster from Hyderabad hosted the quiz. Despite many hurdles, the quiz happened on February 7th, 2015 and it was indeed a dream come true. The seeds were sowed for a bigger and a better RITJ this year. That was my last hurrah, as far as events in IIM Kashipur were concerned. It was a fitting final bow and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a part of so many events during the two years.

Rumble in the Jungle - The Dream Quiz

Clamour for Jobs:
For many, the prime reason for struggling to make it to an IIM is to give a fillip to their career with a good job. Ours being a new institute, we had a rolling placement process – the companies keep coming throughout the year once the process starts and are not confined to fixed days. Our season began in October 2014. Since then, the companies kept coming at regular intervals and one by one, my batchmates grabbed the job offers of their choice. Yes, it’s a choice. For my part, I wanted to wait for the right company and the right profile that would suit me. So I was in no hurry to apply for jobs. While the clamour for jobs made many in my batch get into a frenzied mood, somehow I remained unaffected by all that for a long time. Now looking back, I really don’t know what gave me the confidence to take it light, but that allowed me to concentrate on organizing events like TEDx and RITJ. At the back of my mind, I was confident that something right will click and I just have to be patient. It did click, even if it was a little later than I expected, but I was happy that I got the right job.

The irreplaceable loss:
I could have just finished this post with the high points, but that wouldn’t do justice to all the struggles experienced. No journey is without its fair share of struggles. This journey was no different and I experienced my fair share of struggles on so many fronts during these two years. If you had read that post on MStore, you’d have got an idea about one of the major struggles that I experienced during this period. There were many disappointments too, for no journey is complete without experiencing the highs and the lows. But none of these disappointments would even come close to the shock that we all experienced on the morning of January 31st, 2015. One of our beloved batchmates, the brilliant Bharat Bansal, who was also the topper of the batch, met with an unfortunate accident and passed away. The fact that he was a nice person and a good friend to all of us, made it even more difficult. A product of IIT Madras, he was, in the words of our Dean, the most intellectual student to have studied in our institute so far. The reason that I mention him here is to remind and recollect the memories and cherish them. His was an irreplaceable loss. That really affected all of us in the last two months of our stay at Kashipur. I have no shame in admitting that he was a much better writer than me. Yet, he always insisted that I edit his articles which he wrote for our annual magazine. From your heavenly abode, if you’re reading this, please know that we miss you and your memories will always be cherished by us, my dear friend.

The last few days:
The last few days in Kashipur weren’t really the best of days, atleast for me. On the one hand, it was a struggle to ensure that we got the Yearbook for our batch that we promised. On the other hand, the ideal job that I was waiting for was not coming. As of February 21st, 2015, our course was over and we were free to leave the campus. The Convocation was scheduled for the 17th of March, 2015. So people who had already got their jobs packed their bags and left the campus by the end of February. Some people went on tours to the choicest of places like Goa, Nepal and the like. It was at this point, I began to feel a little pressured for putting off the task of finding a job. I was left with no choice but to apply for any company that came for placements then. The other struggle was the numerous issues that we faced during the final few days with regards to our Yearbook. Since I had taken up the responsibility of the same, I had to work to sort out those issues and get some clearances and ensure that the Yearbook got delivered in time for our Convocation. In the last few days, we also had to hand over some important responsibilities like TEDx, RITJ and so on to our chosen successors. All these tasks ensured that I had to stay on in Kashipur till Convocation, even though many of my batchmates had left. It was in March 2015, in the days leading to our Convocation that I felt lonely for the first time in Kashipur. I was desperate to go on a holiday, but could not. A couple of good companies with the right kind of profile that I was hoping for were to come for placements then and I had to ensure that I crack one of them. I eventually cracked one of them. In short, the last few days are something that I wouldn’t like to remember, but they bear testimony to some of my struggles in Kashipur.

The Proud Moment:
The day of Convocation finally dawned upon us on the morning of March 17th, 2015. All people who had left for their homes and elsewhere returned one last time with their parents, siblings and relatives in tow. It was as much a proud moment for them as it was for us to finally graduate from an IIM after two years of hardwork. Yes, it’s a hard task to be frank. People only talk about the struggle to get into a B-School like an IIM, but it is equally difficult to graduate successfully. So it was something that we all eagerly waited for and the day was finally upon us. My parents and my brother came to Kashipur for the same. What made it more special for me was that I was awarded the ‘Medal for the Best All-Round Performance’ for the class of 2015. I was overwhelmed and so were my parents and my brother. The efforts put in towards building the brand image of the institute through various events, competitions, clubs, and committees and so on, probably helped in me getting the medal.  It was a surreal experience to pose for newspapers and give interviews. That was indeed my proudest moment in the institute. I wouldn’t call it the happiest because so many other emotions were running through my mind then, including the fact that it was finally time to bid farewell to the institute and its people. But it was a very proud moment even for my parents and brother. My most profound feeling at the end of that day was that of sincere gratitude. I felt thankful to all the people who had helped me in that journey, in some way or the other. I’ll never forget that day. 

My Proudest Moment in IIM Kashipur
The Job:
It was only a week after my convocation that the fate of my job got sealed. On the last day of my stay in Kashipur, I gave an interview via video-conferencing and on the 24th of March, I was summoned to the Head Office of Indofil Industries in Mumbai. I had to take a detour from Kashmir, where I was holidaying with my parents, to fly down to Mumbai. I got the job that day and I flew back that very night to Kashmir to rejoin my parents in their holiday. It was all like a scene lifted out of some movie, where there’s a fairytale ending. That’s how it really was. In the end, the three months of struggle since the start of the year bore fruit and it all ended well. I went back home to Coimbatore a happy man with a job in hand and a medal-winning performance to show for. Now looking back, I can safely say that I did the right thing in waiting for the right job. Yes, it was a risk laden with so many things and I had to bear so many talks and so many unheeded advices, but in my mind I was very clear about one thing. I would rather wait now for the right job, than take something that wouldn’t suit me and regret later. It did pay off at the end, but it is not something that I’d advise anyone to do.

The Legacy:
It has been more than six months now since the journey ended (infact, it’s been seven months exactly today) and this time has certainly helped me to reflect and look back at the journey with pride. These six months have brought in so much happiness and cheer, that it has reiterated my belief that it was all worth it. I now work as a Manager in the CEO’s Office (called Growth Office) in Indofil Industries Ltd. and I have enjoyed this journey so far. Time and again when my boss mentions that me and a few of my colleagues in my department are the bright young minds from IIM, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and gratitude towards my institute. But it also means that I have to live up to the expectations that people have of me. The same is true for my batchmates too. It is a huge challenge, no doubt, but it’s something that we are learning to take it in our stride and face it with a sense of pride and a smile.

Parting Shots:
Now I am sure if you’ve read till here, some questions might be cropping up in your mind. What about all the masala - the masala that Chetan Bhagat cleverly employed in his stories about an IIT and an IIM? Well, all institutes have their own masala elements. One of the frequent questions that I often get asked is if I found a girl in IIM Kashipur. I blame Chetan Bhagat for doing this. Fortunately or unfortunately, I never had such luck, but it never bothered me. I was clear as to what I wanted from the institute – the IIM tag that I can proudly flaunt and make up for my IIT miss. I got that and much more. I also got so many friends that I’ll cherish that association for life. The hostel wing that I stayed in was called ‘The Hive’. We made up that name and I wrote a song for it. Some of the best memories of my life so far are associated with ‘The Hive’. 

The Hive
It’s always a debate as to whether it is the institute that makes its people or if it the people who make the institute. I strongly believe in the latter and I was blessed for the wonderful people that I spent this journey with. I am not a fan of Chetan Bhagat, but I really liked his parting shots in ‘Five Point Someone’. So I am borrowing the same here. I may have graduated from the institute and may have moved out of Kashipur, but a part of my soul still resides there. It’s probably taking a stroll down the corridors of ‘The Hive’ or in the H1 Classroom or holding a microphone in the auditorium or having a cup of chai in the night canteen. It will always be there, for sure.

- Ashwin Murali

PS: I’m a firm believer in the idea that one swallow does not make a summer. Likewise, none of the above events/initiatives/whatever are one-man efforts. It never was, it can never be and it will never be a one-man effort. Every single thing mentioned in this post is a result of efforts put in by a lot of people. I am just one of them. Keeping in line with that spirit, I’ve taken care to mention we, us, ours, everywhere. If I had missed it somewhere and mentioned I, me or mine anywhere, then please know that it’s a genuine mistake and that’s not how it was intended to be.