An earlier version of this piece appeared in the IIMA Alumnus Feb 2017 issue.
In Robert Pirsig’s seminal work, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a student of the protagonist Phaedrus who is looking to write a five hundred word essay on the United States, finds herself at a loss for words, not knowing where to begin.
Trying to describe the Batch of 2006’s 10 year reunion weekend in a short passage, I’d like to think, is a similarly challenging task. After a considerable amount of time has been spent mulling over where to begin, it is very tempting to reduce the narrative to a mundane assortment of objective facts and the lowest common denominator of shared experience. I hope what follows does more than just that.
The new campus is a fantastic piece of architecture. Its stoic grey walls, while paying homage to Louis Kahn’s vision, have a character of their own. Twin ponds of water lilies, surrounded by flocks of noisy pigeons welcomed us to the IMDC. These exquisite flowers came to life at dusk and were in full bloom at midnight which seemed like an appropriate metaphor for the nature and intensity of our own conversations and activities. Yet, unlike the pigeons, we chose not to congregate around these blooming flowers. For the heart longed for a joy and vivaciousness that only red can engender.
Some proponents of field theory would like to believe that us humans are devoid of an independent personality, but rather, that we can only find meaning in the context of our environment. The close to hundred of us who arrived on campus, brought with us a decade of calluses, battleworn from our careers and weighed down by the responsibilities that time and age have bestowed upon us. Fortunately, we found all manner of ways to moult and rediscover our younger selves, as we were, in simpler, and perhaps only in hindsight, happier, times. For some it was just being able to meet long-lost friends, while others found their salvation on the cricket ground. Yet others resorted to the familiar taste of Rambhai’s chai or the lunch thali at Agashiye to rekindle old memories. As night fell, stronger restoratives were employed to keep open the doors of perception, helping us maintain peak performance be it at the ramp or the poker table. Few, however, would disagree that any of these experiences would have held as much meaning outside the confines of those magic red bricks, the late night dew and chilly winds of LKP or the characteristic musty odour of CRs 3 through 6. At no time was this more apparent than when the clock struck midnight, when, irrespective of where we had been until then, we found ourselves migrating slowly in groups towards the old campus under the pretext of an after-dinner chai at CT, and staying back for hours at end to stroll through campus making sure the present generation of PGP1s were adequately focused on academics.
Going back at this point to the story of the young student struggling to write her essay, her professor Phaedrus, suggests that she try narrowing down her focus at first to just the city, then to a street, to a building and finally to a single brick, at which point she suddenly experiences a deluge of literary and creative output which leads her to fill many pages talking about just that brick. Perhaps there is more here then, than just a trick to get over writer’s block.
On the final day, as we bade each other our final goodbyes, there was unanimous agreement that the reunion had turned out better than our wildest expectations. A spartan affair, bereft of holiday destinations, celebrity appearances or pro shows, managed on a meager budget by a handful of enthusiastic folks. Perhaps all that was needed to infuse the weekend with meaning, fulfillment and happiness, was the people and the red bricks. A decade into our post IIMA lives, that does leave one wondering, as to how many of us have identified similar cornerstones to anchor the lives we were returning to and to make them more meaningful.
In closing, I’d like to thank those who were instrumental in making this experience truly special – the Alumni Office and the organizing committee, Director Nanda and Prof Basant for taking the time to speak with us, our friend and batchmate, Prof Amit Karna, who we are fortunate and proud to call one of our own, Prof Handa for the lovely mementos, Poza, Anu, Rejoy, Paldy, Mansur for the memories and the entertainment and finally Tahseen and DD, without whose tireless efforts in marshaling the batch into turning up in significant numbers and coordinating and managing payments and expenses this reunion would not have been such a resounding success.