One of the major rewards of being a part of the gang of 1976 has been the kind of strong and resilient bonds of friendship one has been able to forge. Bonds which have survived the harsh slings and arrows of Life. Bonds which are like underground cable connections – dormant, but in place, ready to be reactivated as and when necessary.
Way back in the 1970s, UBS was an integral part of what was then known as the Department of Commerce and Business Management. Students of the Commerce stream would tend to treat the ones from the Management stream with some degree of awe, though laced with not-so-healthy contempt. Some lecturers from the Commerce side regularly put on a tie, trooped down to the ground floor, and shared their wisdom in de-mystifying balance sheets and cash flows with the Management students.
How friends made me gate-crash, cruise through, and then leave UBS
For one of the university management outfits ranked as number one in India then, it could have surely done without having to grant admission to someone of such a low calibre and managerial potential as yours truly.
But fate had other plans. Thanks to some postmen and a bunch of caring friends and well-wishers, yours truly did manage to worm his way into the not-so-hallowed portals of UBS.
Friends made then assured a lively stay on the campus, notwithstanding the dinghy hostel corridors and the tepid food dished out by the canteen contractors.
Friends also ensured that one got evicted from the system in due course of time, despite a Bollywood-style road accident which almost prevented one from taking all the examinations scheduled in the final semester on the campus.
UBS surely heaved a sigh of relief when yours truly boarded an outbound train and headed to one of the metros on a job-hunting spree.
This is how the saga unfolded.
Worming one’s way into UBS
Rewind to December 1973. A nation-wide strike of postmen ensured that a letter from IIM Ahmedabad asking yours truly to attend a group discussion and interview never made its way to me at Delhi University where I was busy pursuing my M. Sc. in Physics.
In the first quarter of 1974, a similar call letter from UBS was about to be summarily ignored. But two close friends finally managed to persuade me to catch an overnight bus to Chandigarh. My argument – that an important laboratory examination scheduled at Delhi University on the very following day could go for a toss – fell on deaf ears.
When a somewhat groggy me reached the hostel where a 1974 batch friend was staying, the latter was dumbfounded to discover that I planned to attend the group discussion and interview in our national dress – a simple pyjama and kurta. Prompt arrangements were made by him to borrow a corporate style dress. A crash course was conducted on the fundamental particles which govern the technique of participating in a group discussion. Thus, suitably dressed and armed, I was led to the UBS entrance, much like a reluctant lamb about to be slaughtered.
The rest, as you would put it, is history. By evening, it became clear that UBS had had the misfortune of taking yours truly in its fold, howsoever grudgingly.
Resistance on the family side was gradually overcome. A property had to be liquidated by my parents so that a part of the proceeds could be used to finance my further education. In July 1974, the session began in right earnest.
Cruising through the university eco-system
Surviving the hostel food
The tyranny of the hostel canteen food – a relentless serving of raajma-chaawal ad nauseam – had to be overcome. Late night visits to gobble up greasy omelettes and bread slices topped with half of an Amul butter pack offered at the hand carts opposite the PGI gate were looked forward to. On Sunday mornings, delicious breakfasts served at the nearby PEC canteen were put down the hatch with a flourish.
With the help of a friend, a make-shift cooking arrangement was made in the hostel room of yours truly. Yet another friend pitched in with his procurement and logistics services.
Yummy omelettes followed by senwai-ki-kheer were often whipped up, leaving several of our hostel mates green with envy. Some others, unable to resist the aroma wafting around in the corridor, did attempt to replicate the endeavour in their own rooms, each with a varying degree of success.
The Sholay magic
After having been through the rigours of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and mind-numbing formulae of quantum mechanics, management subjects were relatively easy on the grey matter. Routine trips to movie halls boosted up their revenues somewhat. The highlight was the release of the movie Sholay at Jagat theatre. One did not realize then that box-office history was in the making.
A batch mate, ostensibly the only one who ever maintained a car while staying at the hostel, belonged to the family which owned two movie halls in the city, Jagat being one of those. One day, having seen the first day, first show, he came back hugely excited and was all praise for the Hollywood-style pacy, action thriller. So much so that he picked six of his batch mates in his Fiat car to watch the late evening show of the movie.
Much to our dismay, the hall was fully booked. But lo and behold, out came six chairs, placed on the aisle, for this bunch of crazy cine goers , a VVIP treat, courtesy the batch mate.
An exciting time for the automobile industry
The car owned by this particular batch mate was a source of perennial fun for many of the 1976 gang. We had endless sojourns, exciting trips and fun-filled days and nights exploring the City Beautiful and its neighborhood in the Fiat – the then Empress of the road. (The then Emperor being the strong and sturdy Ambassador car). A test model of Maruti was just in the offing, at a price point of Rs. 25,000 each!
Once in a while, nocturnal visits to Morni Hills cheered us up no end. So were visits to Sukhna Lake, Kasauli and Shimla. Rock Garden was just about beginning to take shape.
Shaping the intellect
The hostel room of yours truly also doubled up as a mini lecture hall. The door of the cupboard served as a blackboard. Classmates who had been busy – either with juicier escapades elsewhere on the campus or had been mentally absent when a lecture was getting delivered – made it a habit of trooping in to improve their intellect.
The trauma and the relief
The trauma of the final semester examinations eventually caught up with us. A friend from the 1975 batch offered to share some of his class notes with us. A mobike trip was made to his house nearby. However, on our way back, a wayward cyclist hit us near the Sector 15 market.
In my whole life so far, this was the first time I experienced a complete erasure of memory and a blackout which lasted a whole night. Much like in a Bollywood scenario, I came to my senses the next morning while reclining on his bed in the hostel room, only to ask in a feeble voice, ‘Where am I?’. Concerned friends had spent their entire night sitting by my side, keeping an eagle eye on my condition. They were quite relieved when I did not ask the dreaded question, ‘Who am I?’
With the final examinations due to start within a day’s time, a process of reverse coaching started, where I was at the receiving end. Groggy, unfocused and in a dazed condition, I was somehow made to take the Business Policy examination. Rest of the examinations followed in quick succession and were a bit challenging to the frayed nerves. End of examinations always calls for a celebration. This one was even more so.
The bonds that linger
These are but some of the memories one cherishes. All of us have a unique story of our own – that of entering, cruising through, and exiting the MBA program of Panjab University. Of the friends we made and the cliques we were a part of. Of the acts we indulged in, whether glorified or goofy.
UBS played the role of an airport on which our individual planes taxied for some time and finally took off. Some became entrepreneurs. Some soared to great heights in their chosen career.
Wherever they happen to be, and whatever the time-lapse, the lingering bonds of friendship endure. Regular get togethers are not essential, but highly desirable. These do help us to keep the embers of friendship glowing.
(Inputs from Lalit Kapur and Kul Bhushan Khullar are gratefully acknowledged)
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