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Posts Tagged ‘Campus Life’

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.Panjab_University

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.

May 2014 037

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.

pu-student-center

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

sholay-poster

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!

MBA 1976

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 my 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.

bacth-of-1976-in-2016

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)

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-class-of-1976-some-encounters-of-a-musical-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/an-ode-to-our-teachers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/revisiting-the-alma-mater)

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The gang of twenty-five wannabe managers, when it entered the not-so-hallowed precincts of the University Business School of Panjab University, Chandigarh in the year 1974, was clueless as to the effective use to which the power of music could be put to practice the art of managing people.

Much later in their careers, some members of the gang might have woken up to the immense potential of healthy musical practices when it came to surviving in the corporate jungle. Some would have soared higher whistling the tune that their bosses wanted to hear from them. Others would have become great leaders based on the results their teams produced, much like an orchestra gets led by a conductor to produce mellifluous symphonies.HIS MASTER’S VOICE

Some might have perfected the art of phasing out dissent from their team members by the sheer power of their vocal chords, not alike the way even soulful lyrics get drowned by loud music in some of our best movies these days. Others might have formed a Mutual Appreciation Team by bonding with like-minded colleagues, much like a group of star artistes who transcend man-made borders to come up with their own brand of fusion music.

When faced with a challenging task, an informal chat, especially when conducted in the presence of appropriate tissue restoratives, duly backed by some soothing music playing in the background, often helps.

Discovering the Music Society

Two members of the gang, however, stood out. Having spent much of their previous years in understanding and memorizing basic principles of Physics and Chemical Engineering, a course in business administration gave their grey cells some well-deserved breathing time. Soon, they discovered the presence of a Music Society on the campus. Prompted by another musical soul from the 1973-75 batch, they joined the music classes on offer.Chandigarh Music Society 7

One aspired to learn playing the sarangi, while another, yours truly, weakly attempted to master the art of playing a guitar. Friends and critics obviously had their doubts on the efficacy of our musical endeavours. Luckily, they were too busy with their own lives to continue to watch our progress with any interest whatsoever.Chandigarh Music Society 2

On a personal note

Allow me to digress a wee bit and divulge that since childhood, my parents had repeatedly failed in their attempts to get me trained in classical vocal music. Subsequently, a banjo was gifted, in the fond hope that I might make something out of it. Alas, that too was not to be. Since there was no Wodehousean kid character like Edwin around, using paraffin sprays to douse fires, the instrument never went up in flames. It merely got lost in the rapids of time.

Eventually, my parents gave up and resigned to my limited capability of belting out some movie songs at birthday parties and some social events.

The original singers of most of these compositions were such stalwarts as Hemant Kumar, Talat Mehmood, Rafi sahib and Kishore Kumar. Luckily enough, none of my attempts to copy them ever reached their ears. Had a calamity of that nature come about, they would still be found shuddering in their graves.

My crude attempts at singing were carefully planned at such locations where donkeys could not have ready access. This way, I avoided the risk of a bunch of them joining me in unison, overjoyed at having finally found a brother-in-notes amongst the Homo Sapiens.MBA 1976

Treks to Kasauli and nocturnal visits to Morni hills nearby provided several other opportunities for me to display my singular lack of vocal skills. I still admire the tenacity and politeness of some of my hapless batch mates who not only tolerated but also applauded such renderings.

The sound of musicChandigarh Music Society 5

The association with Music Society added some colour and spice to the otherwise staid life on the campus. The members were drawn from different departments of the University. During 1975-76, the group even decided to confer on yours truly the title of Chairman, though I still wonder what I had done to deserve the honour.Chandigarh Music Society 4

Two events readily spring to my memory. One was a grand cultural show, where Mrs. Bimla Paul, wife of the then Vice Chancellor of the University, accepted our invitation to be the Chief Guest. The show was named ‘Swar Gunjan’. It was held at the University Auditorium.Chandigarh Music Society 3

Some members performed a Tibetan Yak dance. My batch mate and I, more busy coordinating the back-stage gaffes and on-stage slip-ups, were part of a group which presented an instrumental version of an old song ‘Aayega aane wala…..’ from the movie ‘Mahal’.Chandigarh Music Society 1

Yet another highlight was a bloomer in the shape of a post-card handwritten invitation sent to the inimitable Amjad Ali Khan sahib, requesting him to play at the University. After some time, surely despite our invitation, he did come over to the city and performed at the auditorium of PGI, right opposite the University Campus. Needless to say, that was a veritable treat.Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

A tool for enriching our lives

Looking back, the key lesson was the importance of indulging in extra-curricular escapades in that unique phase of life. It broke the monotonous tyranny of a class room instruction. It came across as an instructive experience which broadened one’s mental horizons and provided one with a diverse group of people to interact with. One learnt the art of event management, a term which was not in vogue in those internet-less and smart-phone-less times.

One might not have learnt what exactly what one set out to learn, but the spin-offs have surely been a reward in themselves. Above all, a connection with music, howsoever tenuous, got reinforced.

Music is not only a food for the soul. It also nourishes our mind, cleansing it of all the negative toxins which dampen our performance. It enriches our lives in more ways than one. It helps us to have better interpersonal relations. It even helps budding managers and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals more efficiently!

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/the-class-of-1976-forging-the-lingering-bonds-of-friendship

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/music-food-for-the-soul)

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The gang of twenty-five wannabe managers which had entered the not-so-hallowed portals of UBS* in the year 1974 had only one regret. Fate had not been kind to it. Gender diversity had taken a toss. None of the members were from the tribe of the delicately nurtured. The batch senior to them did boast of a few, but none who would put a Venus to shame. A sense of melancholy pervaded. The roving eye, having roved, could at best console itself with brief encounters with some of the lotus-eyed females of the species on the campus either while visiting the Student Centre or when loitering around the campus.Panjab_University

The gang was blissfully unaware of the fact that an alumnus of Panjab University could become a sagacious, albeit reluctant, Prime Minister of India some thirty years down the road. Some of its members had vaguely heard of a keen and bright elocutionist from the Law Faculty, little realizing that she could be heading the Ministry of External Affairs some forty years into the future. Almost all had heard and seen the exploits of a rising theatre artiste, though none could guess that she could become a celebrity Bollywood artist in the years to come, and even a Member of Parliament from the City Beautiful. And, not to forget her future husband, who was then honing his acting skills, eventually getting recognized as one of the finest actors in Bollywood.

A sense of gloom and despondency

Few months into the session, an underlying sense of gloom and despondency could be discerned. The hostel food would turn to ashes in the mouth. Evening saunters down the Sector 15 market brought some solace, by way of pleasing either the palette or the eye. Nocturnal visits to the road side vendors dishing out greasy omelets opposite the PGI gate brought the only rays of sunshine into their lives. Most of the architectural and natural attractions of the city had been explored ad nauseam.MBA 1976

The not-so-United Colours of Academicians

By then, the tribe of UBS educationists had been thoroughly observed, studied and classified. The dominating ones invariably knew their stuff, but also knew that they knew the stuff. A stiff-upper-lip approach to all affairs, academic or otherwise, came to them naturally. The outpourings of their knowledge had to be listened to in rapt attention. Their razor-sharp eyes would invariably cast a supercilious gaze upon the hapless students seated meekly in front of them. Nerves of chilled steel were required to deal with them. Not surprisingly, they earned a deep respect, duly laced with acidic scorn. These were the types who represented stark authority and were thus deeply resented.

Then there were those at the other extreme. They would walk into a lecture hall hiding behind a huge stack of text books, as if to prove their thoroughness in the subject concerned. These were the defensive kinds who would deliver their sermons of knowledge in a sheepish manner. The studious coves of the gang, like yours truly, were invariably driven to study the subject on their own. Visits to the Department or the Central Library were thus prompted by intentions of a pious nature. Most others would be on back-slapping terms with them, trying to use their sense of humour to gain assignment marks.

Bang in the middle of this normal distribution curve of professorial skills fell those who not only knew their stuff but were also good communicators. They were revered, liked and admired by a vast majority of the members of the gang.

Shaking off the gloom and despondency

Come Diwali and some brainy, dashing and enterprising coves of the gang decided to take the matter in their hands and shake off this feeling of gloom and despondency. The rebel spirit held sway and a ‘time bomb’ was concocted, using an ‘agarbatti’ (incense stick) and a large size cracker. Several trial runs later, an impromptu device was perfected, so as to burst some twenty minutes into the class. Understandably, the target was one of the stiff-upper-lip category professors.

On the appointed day, the scheme was put in motion. The device, kept just outside one of the class room windows, went off a wee bit earlier than planned, perhaps surprising even the planners and the executors. Its loud bang broke not only a few glass panes but also the envelope of gloom which had come to surround the gang. A beetroot-red-faced professor walked out of the class room in a huff, not before casting an acid-spewing eye on the assembly of students, most of whom were twiddling their thumbs, trying to make sense of what had transpired.

Masters Thos, Seabury and Edwin, of Wodehousean fame, would have heartily approved. So would have Stiffy Byng and Bobby Wickham, if they had happened to be around.

Summons from the Chairman were not late in coming. The entire class trooped into the corridor outside the seat of power. Few privileged ones were called in and given a sharp dressing down.

The nuclear fall-out

That is how it came about that the whole class of 1976 was suspended for a week. Much rejoicing took place. Revenue of some movie halls registered a quantum jump during the week. Restaurants in the vicinity and elsewhere registered brisker business.

1975 and 1976 batches, UBS, Panjab University, Chandigarh

1975 and 1976 batches, UBS, Panjab University, Chandigarh

Some members of the gang whose parents lived not too far away went off to gorge on their mother’s exotic dishes. Those who had stern and disapproving fathers decided to spend their time quietly on the campus itself. Some openly complained as to why the perpetrators of the ‘crime’ did not plan something more elaborate, something that would have merited a longer period of suspension!

In the course of your own academic career, you might have had quite a few juicy experiences which broke the spell of monotony which a regular classroom routine often entails. If so, how about sharing it here?!

*Note: The term UBS stands for University Business School of Panjab University, Chandigrah.

(This post was subsequently reproduced at https://universitybusinessschool.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/an-ode-to-our-teachers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-class-of-1976-some-encounters-of-a-musical-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/the-class-of-1976-forging-the-lingering-bonds-of-friendship

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-class-of-1976-some-pseudo-academic-pursuits

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/the-class-of-1990-how-ubs-prompted-sandeep-mann-to-learn-management-from-movies)

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