All of us reach a stage at some point, where we pause, introspect and take life-changing decisions. When we do take those decisions – in the case of gladiators (the Great Lakes class of 2010-11), the decision to pursue the PGPM course at Great Lakes – We tend to get a little apprehensive. With industry experience, a pattern sets in and it gets difficult to shrug it off. When that is the case, the first impressions mean a lot, especially the first few days.
The journey for the gladiators started at the Great Lakes office in Saidapet, Chennai on April 25, 2010. Registration was spread over 2 days. Professor TN Swaminathan addressed every batch of students and the accompanying parents. He assuaged anxious nerves and subtly hinted at the rigor of the year ahead. I don’t think he minced any words when he said the next 50 weeks would hardly have any holidays and that we need to be prepared for a very taxing schedule. Food and snacks were served in the office and I got to experience a little of the diversity of our batch. Students from arts and journalism background were engaged in lively discussions even as some parents had the last few words of wisdom before bidding goodbye. Professor Swaminathan’s address was followed by collection of the mandated documents and the issue of ID cards. After registration, we were ferried to the scenic campus of the institute on the East Coast road. As the bus gathered speed, I could watch the sun set regally. It was as if the sun, in all its glory, symbolised the goodbyes that we had just told our dear ones. It was just another dusk on the ECR but to a set of 300 people, it was ironically the dawn of a whole new experience – an experience during the course of which they would get to interact with some of the best minds in the management academia as well as the industry.
The first thing that struck me on reaching the campus was the abundance of the greenery. There was a certain elegance characterising the layout of the reception, resource centre, the classrooms and the BAJAJ BISTRO. The classrooms were all named after famous lakes – Veeranam, Manasarovar, Ontario. Memories make for strange bedfellows. Certain moments crystallise so beautifully and so indifferent to our intentions and go on to implant themselves firmly on our psyche. I guess that the first view of the campus is one such moment for all gladiators. It is like meeting our love for the first time; no matter how old we grow, no matter how hard we try, it is difficult to erase. Our seniors –some of the Patriots – were waiting for us at the campus and engaged us in a session marked by fun, pranks and jokes. MBA education does not merely produce degree holders, it also shapes and lends every personality a gloss; we witnessed it in the assured and confident mannerisms of our beloved seniors. Based on their whims and fancy, they picked some gladiators and gave them whacky topics to debate; the evening turned out to be hilarious and acted as a nice refresher after a tiring journey from our homes. The hostel – our abode for the next one year – with its excellent infrastructure welcomed us for the night and we retired to the comfort of the air conditioned rooms. The silence after the mad rumble of the city was unnerving at first but slowly it grew on us and we got used to it. Nobody had the energy to unpack after such a packed day with so many loaded experiences! At dawn, on opening the windows, one could see the lush green of the coconut tress stretching far into the distance. What a view to behold and cherish!
April 27th was a big day for the Patriots, the day when one year of commitment and perseverance bore fruit in the form of well earned degrees. Their convocation took place at the Chennai trade centre. A quick breakfast later we were back on the bus. Infosys chief mentor NR Narayana Murthy delivered the convocation address. He emphasized the importance of values and principles. His speech was indeed the first lesson for the Gladiators. Mr. Andrew T. Simkin, US Consul General in Chennai, dwelt on the significant potential of entrepreneurship. Mr. Mahendiran, Managing Director, Godrej Sara Lee Limited, recounted his friendship with Dr. Bala V. Balachandran, Founder and Dean of the institute. Uncle Bala in his speech appreciated the patriots for being a batch that lived up to its name in every sense. As the patriots walked past in order, receiving their degrees, it was heartening to be a part of their achievements. After the convocation, some of the gladiators got to meet their mentors in the patriots’ batch. The interaction proved informative and gave a good perspective of the year ahead. Even though our interaction with the seniors prior to the joining was confined to a few through the ‘Admissions’ and the ‘Branding and public relations’ committees, we experienced a pang of grief that they are moving out from the campus for their own tryst with destiny. In the evening, the farewell party for the patriots at a beach resort (arranged by the gladiators) served to help the larger group unwind and get to know each other in an informal atmosphere. The first view of the beach with the full moon gazing down on us was a rare sight of splendour. Such sights make us feel insignificant and small in comparison to the nature’s incomprehensible marvels.
Outbound induction at the campus:
Over the next three days, we were all part of the outbound induction at the campus. The facilitators from Excel Life Sciences Academy (ELSA), in a very structured manner, over a few sessions, helped the batch bond as a larger group, while at the same time imparting some skills that would go way beyond just preparing us for the course. Many of us during the course of the three day induction did things that we would have not done otherwise. We were split into three groups – Red, Green and blue – on the morning of the first day of the induction.
The green team’s induction started with the manoeuvring of some physical obstacles that were ingeniously placed. Our facilitators were very resourceful in that they shared their experiences in the Indian army that was very inspirational. As we completed our first activity, we were drained, but there was no respite. We got our faces painted for the next activity. If I was told before the activity that a human being can be pushed through holes less than 20 inches in diameter, I would have laughed it off, but when we managed to complete the task, I was able to fathom that the human will when pushed with some creative planning and team work can accomplish wonders. The afternoon started with Salsa lessons. Many of us were dancing for the first time in our lives and we developed cold feet. But thanks to the instructions and the ladies who mastered the steps in no time, the guys got to shake their legs to the accompaniment of beautiful music. In the evening, we realised how easy it is to underestimate the power of music. We sang along to some melodious old numbers and some peppy new numbers. The guitarists – Debayan and Ashish – enthralled by displaying their talents.
I have been part of a handful of treks but never had I thought that people can climb a hill blind folded guided by the instructions of a deaf person. Well, sometimes, human possibilities have to be recalibrated! The trek concluded with a group photograph that has a lot of beaming faces. I have heard about ‘The Secret’ before and its emphasis on the laws of attraction but seeing the movie together followed by the recounting of experiences attesting to the power of the laws makes me want to test the laws through the next one year. Be positive, be enthusiastic, you will attract positive vibes and enthusiastic people. Sounds simple? Yes, simplicity is one of the virtues that is rarely viewed seriously! Nothing works as well as the visual medium to implant a message and nothing is as powerful as the act of putting one’s goals on paper to get people started. Well, we did precisely that by doing a picture collage of our short, mid and long term goals. The evening of 29th April would definitely be remembered for a special reason – it would go down as the first time, we put on a cultural show for ourselves. Ramandeep and Shivesh worked the audience to some uproarious laughter and almost made our facilitators hunt for hiding spaces! Such talent and creativity makes me feel that we would surely have our share of fun alongside all the tests and assignments.
The last day started with a strenuous physical exercise that made us locate all our bones and muscles. In the afternoon, we did the most creative exercise of the whole induction. We were asked to get 25 items ranging from a shoe garland to a mock tail and kathakali dancers and asked to display them in 25 minutes. A perfect exercise in teamwork that we wouldn’t forget for a long time to come! These activities helped unearth different facets of our personalities and more than anything else bound us together as teams many a time to accomplish different things, While interacting with each other, we found that the diversity of the batch is simply amazing – from TV reporters to software consultants – to the extent that it can be leveraged to be our best strength. . We are extremely glad that, in a space of three days, we got to spend quality time with each other through a course of meaningful and intelligent activities. It has enabled the transition from work life to student life as well as anything possibly can!
When faced with change, the human mind, with its fickle nature evokes the pleasant memories of the past and frets over the uncertainty of the future. But sometimes life is all about the quality of the experiences we choose to indulge in, nothing more and nothing less. When that quality is high, it is best to dwell on the present and enjoy the wonderful journey! Years later as we look back, I am sure many of us would be saying, “Those days were the best days of my life”.
-Sivaraman Natarajan (“Gladiators”class2011)