There has been heightened interest in my performance at IIM B GD/PI (5 Orkut scraps from 17 does make for heightened), which is to my delight and surprise. Ok, let me tell you the story about I & IIMB.

It is a fine tuesday morning of 21st March 2006, I woke up early, completed the morning rituals, got sumptuous poha for breakfast and right at 8:00 AM we set off for Institute of Hotel Management, Dadar (also known as Catering College). 40 minutes of bike ride and I am there.

Sweating, inevitably - Mumbai summer beaten only by the one in Guwahati, as I was, I made it to the first floor after a bit of in-the-bike-mirror grooming. I met some guys from
IMS. We were asked to be present there before 15 min. As we stood there it was 8:50 AM: just us - no IIMB Professor around. 8:55 AM - still no movement. And I started wondering if this is how IIMs worked, according to IST. But I was in for a surprise. 9:00 AM sharp (guess IIMs do work as per IST not figuratively but literally) a Professor arrives and announces 7 names (which includes me and a name of a person who is missing) and asks us to go to 5th floor. He aims for the elevator and we follow suit. He turns back giving us that look which hints us to take the stairs or something but no one is in mood for that. As we cram ourselves in the elevator (which appears to be kind of a service elevator to me. Catering College folks! Any bells ringing?) a bulky guy who reminds me of our very own Super Sand, making my thoughts drift to how he has done in his GD/PIs, when the late entrant identifies himself as the missing One (purely coincidental and no pun intended here).

5th floor: the Professor, whose visage kind of has started suggesting to me that he has had a severe case of constipation or has been asked to perform a lowly duty, in his opinion of course, of interviewing us by the IIMB administration and is mentally uttering words identified by some as bad but are part of regular vocabulary of others or perhaps these are just fantasies conjured by a nervous mind and I just mistook his dull professional precision, asked us to be seated around in the lobby for a while.

I was kind of a stranger amongst the other 6 who as it appeared had had frequent acquaintances during non-IIMB GD/PIs. Also, some were even acquainted to the venue very well. It was kind of scary for me with just one call.

In the 5-8 minutes that passed, I got a brief idea of what or rather who I was up against. The bulky guy had got 5 calls (C exception-ed him which is really weird since the exception-ing thing is more prevalent with B or A) and some 6th sense told me that he was an IITian. His vital stats: 99.76. There was an other guy who looked real neat in the black suit/pant – it looked like the mannequin from Raymonds outlet walked out straight that morning to IHM, Dadar. Vital stats: 99.99. Uffs! And then there was this guy with a pink shirt. Vital stat: Forgotten (Pink shirt on a guy at an IIM interview!!! Isn’t it too suggestive?) I didn't speak much (in fact may be just a word or too) those few minutes and as it might be evident was busy observing my competition, probably waving off any fear flies from around me.

9:10 AM: the same Professor led us to a room called the Senate. Another Professor, a bit senile with a cheerful countenance (which lifted my spirits), ushered us into the room. The room: around the same area of my IIT hostel room but bit elongated along 1 dimension, with 7 chairs put in kind of a parabola whose mouth opened to a table behind which the two Profs comforted themselves.

I hate GDs without a table for the folks in discussion. Thank God! My certificates file had a tough outer and kind of served as pad.

The cheerful Professor introduced himself (Narayanaswamy) and his colleague (Prabhu) and gave us the instructions: 10min (to organize thoughts) + 15min (to discuss) + 15min (to sum up) format, topic would be a case-let. In his cool way, in a tone which was informative and warn-ful at the same time, asks us not to use too much of throat power. Methinks – “throat power” is a good substitute for high deciBel levels GD or fish market GD which sounded very cliché-ed. He then reads out the formal set of instructions just to make sure he didn't miss any.

9:17 AM: Sheets are distributed, in the same order that our names were called out first and according to which we were seated in the parabolic arrangement. Sheets with face down – needless to say the simplicity with which they carried out the entire process was impressive.

9:20 AM: We were asked to turn the sheets and Phase 1 starts.

Case-let was about a Mongolian town which expended its budget to build a bridge over a river to the next commercial centre. The bridge proved to be a bane during peak hours when severe jams occurred. Economists suggest use of taxation to rationalize demand. Politicians (leftist) can't do that. Suggest local politician what to do to prevent jams.

I scribbled my points on the case-let sheet and readied myself.

9:30 AM: We were asked to start. I did not break in. But I had a good point and observing that nobody else had thought of it, jumped in with my point which would provide a quick short term solution to the problem – to encourage use of river for transport (ferry rides in Guwahati were of some help). Rest of the time the discussion kind of revolved around graded taxation which was mentioned in the case-let as a possible solution and how to implement it (in the case-let it said, it was difficult to implement graded taxation). I made few entries from Traffic Engineering point of view (Transportation Engineering I & II, Pavement Design – everything has got some use if you think of it!)

9:45 AM: We still had not reached a conclusion. We were asked to stop and sum up. Sheets were provided.

10:00 AM: Sheets were collected. We were told interview would be around 15-20 min per person starting from 10:15 in the same order as we were seated and that we could suit the time accordingly.

Well, in my opinion, if GD was the decider in this game, I had a done a job better than most in my group. I believe the sutta-ed and sometimes non-sutta-ed discussions at IIT on anything under the sky from religion to the sexiest of Hollywood babes have contributed towards it. But it was not the time to rejoice yet.

GD was going to be easy for me and I knew it mostly. Even at IMS, during the mocks, the moderators there never had any comments on my performance. They did not say that, I was perfect, and did not say, I was bad either. I cursed them a lot then. I travel from Borivali to Andheri just so that I can get any hints to improve and all they give me is nothing, how frustrating!

It was then and during the interview mocks, I knew, the toughest part for me was going to be the interview. And I got some real bad comments from the interviewers during the mocks.

And thus, I had prepared. Done my homework! General Knowledge - Stats on India, State Cabinet, Census information. Current Affairs - Indo-US Nuclear Deal, Iran Vote, Oil Prices & OPEC, Economic Survey of India 2005-06 (Yes! I read the 10 chapters - no kidding) Budget 2006. All about Stanley Kubrick, Nirvana & Kurt Cobain, Harper Lee, Salman Rushdie, Bubble Sort, Quick Sort, Merge Sort, Algorithms, Order of algorithms, Normalization, RDBMS, etc. I was tired. Imagine – Jan 2nd I know I have a GD/PI for IIMB on 21st March. It is a long wait and very tiring.

Cut to IHM, Dadar. It is 10:05 AM and I have helped myself in the comfy but a bit dirty sofa (either it was dirty or the color was just not right) in the lobby. I started revising some stuff, when I am interested by the conversation going around. Bingo! The bulky guy is an IITian. IITB Chemical Engineering graduate, we struck cord when discussion about a guy from IITB popped up who finished his B. Tech. thesis in 4 years (well that is a rare achievement for those who are not acquainted with IIT style of working - if you still don’t get it, I am being sarcastic when I say achievement). Well, it was pleasant talking to Abhijit (the bulky guy) and knowing about him. He did MS from US, had an accident, returned to India; setup his own consultancy shop, helps companies setup plants. He gave us all a brief on bribing in India (which he acknowledged – if his words are to be taken true – in front of the IIML Panel), its nature, the sums or %ages, the difference in bribing cultures across various Indian states. Only thing weird about him was his tie – he was wearing a party-tie for an interview, with fishes swimming all over.

Last-minute revision is not something I usually do (unless it is Borbora's Economics paper) and I let myself to these musings. Kept myself updated with the cricket score (could be handy if the Professor asked for it). Also, learnt the both Professors were not engineers and was really happy about it. I know well how much sadistic pleasure engineers derive by making their kind suffer or see them suffer and what better place than an IIM interview. I was to follow Abhijit, so after he was in, spent time with others there. I got some quick gyan on Capital Account Convertibility from the Raymonds Manequin – then got bored. I needed to refresh myself (I was all sweats!). In the restroom, the tissue paper made me think to myself, what genius designed them and what makes me or anyone use them? Reminded myself that the Professor would be least interested about my interest in the genesis of the toilet paper and the reasons of it’s omnipresence across all restrooms of the world, and that while I did not find them of much use, my ideas could conflict with those of the Professors, if he chose to discuss on the topic, worse, he could be of the cult who finds them of sincere use, and decided once again that if asked what I liked to do in your spare time, repeat the prepared answer “I like writing blogs” and not to say, even by slight slip of tongue, that I liked deep-thinking. Thus giving myself a wake-up call, reminding myself of the mission I was on and I quit the deep-thinking I was into.

Abhijit's interview lasted a whole 25 minutes, which somehow made others think that he was definitely in. I wonder if there is any relation between getting selected and long interviews. As he moved out, he asked me to get in after 3 min. I set my watch – tick, tick, tick,... And exactly 180 seconds later as I was about to push the door, Prof. Prabhu opened the door. I was in. The parabolic arrangement had been dismantled but an isosceles triangle formed easily between my chair and both the Professors' chairs. My chair was kept away from the table at least a 3 feet distance – may be to disable me by virtue of the configuration to read the notes they scribbled throughout the interview. I asked them if they would like to see my certificates which they gently declined. And a train of questions started about me and – let me think – about me and – let me recollect more – yet about me. No GDP numbers, no inflation, nothing like what is the Finite Element Method or the FMEA or Six Sigma? Just all about me! It was good friendly conversation though and I enjoyed it. Well, my interview ran to 25 min too. I felt like those minutes passed by in a jiffy.

After all was done, I was happy that it was over. I helped a fellow candidate out there with a joke (just in case he was asked to tell one) as he was not prepared with one.

Well, I don't know if I am through or not or if I will be through or not. And wait upto the results, is an ordeal. But, I think the real ordeal will begin just after that!


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