Saturday, July 12, 2008

Twenty years old!

I sit here with a dull ache in my head and a funny feeling in my heart. The dull ache I recognize. It is the symptom of a toot, this time occasioned by our class reunion, the distinguished and erudite batch of 88, SPJIMR. I suppose I had a sip or two too many of a fine Scottish product named Aberfeldy, though it did not seem excessive at the time. But the funny feeling in my heart is different. It is that sweet pang of pleasant memories.

But first, some background for the reader not familiar with our little community. We studied management at the S.P.Jain Institute of Management and Research in Andheri, Bombay, from 1986 to 1988. We were a rag tag bunch of fifty recent and not so recent graduates. Some had prior work ex, but most of us were, like me, fresh out of college.

Almost everyone looked disoriented and had the vacant looks you see on the faces of the Page 3 crowd. Nothing like the focused and purposeful young geniuses that we see entering B-schools now. They start preparing for their entrance exams about 18 weeks after they are born. Actually, there is a school of thought that both parents must, at the moment of conceiving the child, close their eyes and concentrate on a single thought "B-School B-School B-School B-School", (where "B-School" is the name of the school you want the child to get into) so that the right gametes or whatever they're called, fuse and result in a naturally gifted child who will easily get into the said B-School. But this is cutting edge research, closely linked to the Human Genome Project, and way beyond my league. Plus, not relevant. Though, being an MBA, I don't have to stop talking about something just because it is not relevant. But let me move on.

As I was saying, in the two years that we spent in SPJIMR, we metamorphosed from empty headed graduates to empty headed MBAs. No, I'm just kidding, we really learned to think and argue. In my case, this was a distinct revelation, the fact that I had a mind of my own which could actually formulate its own thoughts. Prior to this, all that I had done was read, listen, memorize and replicate on paper. In SPJIMR, however, the teachers wanted to listen to MY opinions and what I feel and why.

As they say, if you keep talking about something, you eventually start thinking about it. So we, our thought processes gradually progressing from tentative to assertive, learned to think for ourselves. I said all this at speech time last evening, prior to sampling the Aberfeldy, by the way, and I meant every word of it. Among those who attended was a man by far the most loved and respected by our bunch, Mr D. Sundaram. He used to teach us Cost Accounting, and more than anyone else, he taught us to use our minds, to use humor effectively in communication, and to be level headed and humble. He is now the Vice Chairman and CFO of India's largest FMCG company. He has an infectious charm which came through in a little speech last evening. He spoke about his fondness for teaching, and his delight at the fact that there is such camaraderie among us. For him, teaching was indeed a labor of love because he had to travel a very long distance, in several modes of public transport, because driving down was just too time consuming, and he had a pretty demanding full time job too. And he definitely did not need the money. He did it simply because he loved teaching. And he still retains that infectious enthusiasm and belief in people. Oh, we loved him!

The other professor who attended was Dr. R. Krishnamurthy, who taught us labor law. He was another one who drew extensively from his professional experience, just like Mr. Sundaram used to do, and in his class, we would be transformed from a bunch of bumbling students to senior executives trying to find a quick solution to some vexatious labor problem. He had a lot of wisdom, Dr. Krishnamurthy did, and he inspired us to think wisely as well. All this came back when he chatted with us last evening. The years just fell away.

Well, this is turning out to be a rambling post. I just wanted to make this a sort of a bulletin board for all our batchmates - I'll be sending invites to them so that they can post their thoughts, photographs etc here - and hopefully thiss will become a repository of mail ids, addresses and so on. Actually, I need to make this into a proper web-page. I'll try to figure out how to do this.

And a quick explanation about the title. We had a prof, who I won't name, who reveled in saying "See friends, no final answer" over and over again when faced with contradictory opinions from all over the class. This became a joke with us - not a very funny one, perhaps - and that phrase was eventually codified as "CFNFA ".

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