When I Found My Friends & My Love In MBA
I have always had no more than 4-5 friends in every phase of my life, whether in my school Nutan Vidya Mandir in Malad West area of Mumbai, or in my graduation from Patkar College in Mumbai or during my MBA in Pune. And just to present my token of love & remembrance, crediting their names here: Kunal Ingole, Prasad Padukone, Ashish Joshi, Saroj Singh, Pradnya Nageshkar & Shivani Mehta.
University of Pune (From August 2004)
(Can you believe it ? Source: Pune At Night)
I remember the rains at around 7.30 in the evening on 13th Aug 2004 when I landed up in my MBA alma mater’s hostel in Pune, pretending to appear super confident but actually a little vulnerable inside, battling doubts of uncertainty over my future & whether I will just make a good living post this course. Even during the Group Discussions & Personal Interviews’ process (prior to getting selected in MBA College), I had seen quite a few bunch of students being very clear in their minds on which electives to choose in the 2nd year of MBA – Marketing / HR / Finance / IT – whereas I was largely unclear. Also, just till about a month prior to this day, I used to work as an intern with Citigroup in BKC Mumbai, as a stop-gap arrangement to get some organizational exposure till I get in my preferred MBA College. But that experience of over 1 year in Citigroup actually had lowered my confidence, for some reason. I didn’t tell anybody about this and nobody, even in my MBA College, came to know of this.
My initial impression of the students I met in MBA was pretty much similar to the kind of opinion I had made when in July 1998, I joined my graduation alma-mater Patkar College (read on this in my separate blog “How I didn’t really live my Graduation Life“). I was away from home for the first time, going to be away for a lot many years (who knows !), and in the midst of a lot of guys from other regions… from UP, Bihar, Northern & Southern India. The tone, the diction, the body language, the manner of speaking, all alien (weird) to me. It’s quite different when you are at your home and have to travel for a couple of days, come back, again travel, come back. But staying permanently at any place w/o coming home for say 6 months, is quite another (I wasn’t the only one, it was the case with a lot of them, so not a big deal). At the time of entry in college after 10th Std, I was 16. Opinion on the then-classmates was made very quickly. Today, I was 21. It took me some time (in a matter of weeks, not beyond that !) to form an opinion on my new classmates, even though a considerable time was spent in initial days of weirdness, in only “receiving” than “sending”. Their grades in their respective state exams must be good, I thought ! But when you have a max ceiling in place, on admission to a fixed % of inter-state students to be allowed in institutes in Maharashtra, admission through capitation fee comes in picture. And if admission can be secured through capitation fee, why can’t low grades be ignored ? So then, it struck me that the education standard of a lot of boys & girls from other states could also be very much a debatable issue, irrespective of their scores. For eg: One Chennai-educated boy had a score of 97 out of 100 in English in his 12th Std. Is it possible under Mumbai board ??? To me, this was very much like India’s literacy definition – the one who can sign is literate !!
My other funny observation during the initial days of my MBA was the confidence with which a lot of boys & girls from UP & Bihar speak, irrespective of their “actual” knowledge on the subject. They would be telling you anything & everything under the sun with great confidence & attitude, so much so that you doubted your own awareness & knowledge on the subject, you felt just a little doubtful in your approach, you secretly questioned your ability at least once… It’s a different issue when I probed them into the “hows” & “whys”, then you should have seen their reaction ! 🙂
On the contrary, these students, especially the ones from smaller towns, used to think of anybody from a city like Mumbai as somebody who knows it all, who has done it all. That was the image of a Mumbai resident. Which was so much unlike me. I feel that this assumption is just like the mistake I did of judging my Graduation & MBA Batchmates, without actually getting to know them. (Now, my assumption on a majority of these students wasn’t wrong in the first place and I very well knew whom to make a friend and whom to avoid. So, no real regrets as such !). It all depends on the nature. It’s like saying that some boy or girl in Acting / Modelling / Event Management / Media is not okay character-wise and that all housewives are good & pure ??? Who says this is true ? If somebody likes doing something, he or she will do it any which way, irrespective of their location, family background, education or profession. Hence, what these guys assumed and a lot of them put it across to me that way, was actually wrong. My life in Mumbai in graduation was very simple and straight – Home to College to Home to Gym to Home… each day ! Nothing more ! (CLASH OF ASSUMPTIONS & PERCEPTIONS, ISN’T IT ?)
“I deserved more than this, I deserved better than this” was the one thing going in my mind. So much was my displeasure with everything there, that I started taking 2-3 days break and started travelling solo. I remember the first trip I took solo was to Ajanta & Ellora Caves, near Aurangabad, with just about Rs. 3,000/- and a camera at the start of my MBA. F**k the lectures. I really feel I should be given credit for introducing this concept of “Solo Travel” in India in 2004, which was not popular then. 🙂 In spite of people looking at me awfully.
It is then that I met the following & I inadvertently filtered them, as somebody who’s gonna be my friends, from the rest. I describe them here the way I thought of them then and the way I see them today (not in any order):
Kunal Ingole: Down-to-earth, without any ego, diplomatic, avoids unnecessary controversies, adheres to the defined rules & policies, fair in dealings. Speaks with an open mind but you will have to prove yourself as reliable & honest before you get close to him. Doesn’t backbite, anytime. And if he does in your presence, consider yourself as a part of his inner circle. I also always end up telling him that if he ever wishes to change his career function from Finance, he should opt for HR. One complaint I have from him is that if he is going through a tough time, this fellow doesn’t open up & share his issues to even his closest friends. Some day, I will beat him for that 🙂
Ashish Joshi: “Beyond comparison” is the word I use for him. A first class Electrical Engineer from Government Engineering College (Aurangabad) on merit, traits typical of a Koknastha Brahmin (although he later told me he is my type – Deshastha Brahmin), clear opinions, listens to all but does what he perceives as best. The heart of any Drinks Party, can easily defeat any girl in selfie / photo-clicking competition. Been 11 Years, still in close touch.
Saroj Singh: Popularly referred to as “Baba”, a tag derived from the way he sits with folded legs and gives Pravachan. That has reduced these days, but in hostel from 2004 to 2006, it used to be extremely popular. Misconstrued and misidentified as a little laid back, I seriously feel he is pretty clear of what he wants to do & how he wants it to be done. Not a “chingus” money-wise. Invariably, boys form a great rapport with him and they share with him a lot many things, which normally you & I would find it difficult. Another HR in-the-making ! A friend of everybody !
Pradnya Nageshkar: A girl very homely, confident yet normal, soft-spoken yet stern, studious yet funny, no boastful attitude. Apart from Pradnya’s academic achievements, people also distinctly remember how she & Kunal got together within the first 10-15 days of the starting of our batch, though I wasn’t there to see their journey. It amazes me and makes me believe that if there is a spark between 2 individuals, they can really come close in no time. Else you keep on trying forever and nothing happens. They are happily married today and it’s great to see them that way.
Prasad Padukone: When I first met him, he looked really innocent, simple guy from a small town, very soft-spoken, getting along better & hence more popular with girls than boys, with a helpful nature. Don’t ask me how many times I must have borrowed his bike in those days. And he never refused me ! Post his MBA & 5 years of Sales experience, no less of a feat to become an entrepreneur, start 2 companies in a short span of time and run them successfully now. The simplicity, that of a small-town-boy, still intact.
Shivani Mehta: And of course, The Iron Lady – is how you would find people describing her. Confident, extrovert, homely, very active, centre of attention, feisty and a fighter. Reserves her comments if need be but won’t mince words if a stern message is to be given. She joined the batch a little late sometime in Sept 2004. I was introduced to her on her first day itself by the Admin Official who was escorting her. It was just a very very short handshake in corridor & I remember she didn’t even look at me while shaking hands & went inside the classroom. And I thought “WTF ? It was not as if I was standing here only for you. I was just here in corridor on my own, for my own self”. But then in next 2 seconds, as she was getting inside the class, I saw her moist eyes and instinctively felt that someone from her family might have come to drop her off from her hometown and she was feeling just a little emotional, may be. So, it kind of neutralized my views on her, from having attitude to her being soft by heart. 1-2 days went by and then that one evening while I was on my way for dinner to the college canteen (15 minute walk from hostel) with Ashish, that Ashish figured out Shivani was ahead of us along with another female batchmate. (It was the first time I was talking to her). So, in a matter of minutes, we 4 were walking parallel to each other on the desolate road, with Shivani & I on outer end and Ashish & the other girl on the inside. 2 minutes into the walk, 2 minutes into the talk and the positions reversed. I bet you, they were meant to be. Ashish & the other girl never made it together… while Shivani & I got married some years later, thanks to that reversal of positions 🙂
When I titled this blog as “When I found my Friends & my Love in MBA”, she’s the one I am referring to as my Love of MBA. Just like I said in Pradnya & Kunal’s case, spark & luck are extremely essential for it all to get started. In between those 2 years of learning, Shivani & I had huge fights in college, that also became famous. Then I would end up paying more attention on her. Sometimes getting even more angry that she’s not apologizing, sometimes with some insecurity when there were boys around her, whom I didn’t perceive as merely having feelings of friendship towards her. So, in effect, I would like to believe that these very fights brought me closer to her. I tell you guys, there is a different fun to fight with a girl and then patch up.
Coming back to overall friendships, in those 2 years and thereafter, each of us also had different set of friends in between (in reality, room-mates or call it a make-shift arrangement for sharing of hostel & rent, doesn’t necessarily mean we shared hearts), or a time when a special person in our lives felt important than friends or when we had to settle in different cities for job purposes. But ultimately today, after 11 years from the date of taking admission in MBA, these are the few who have been able to come together once again, from different places. Prasad was well settled in Bangalore before he moved into Pune, I was put up in New Delhi / Mumbai / Ratnagiri / Mahad in these years before moving to Pune. Shivani was in Mumbai / Jabalpur for some time, again before moving into Pune. I remember how much Saroj yearned going back to Calcutta during 2007-09, but now looks pretty comfortable & settled in Pune, hopefully because of us. (Hey Saroj, can I assume that ?). Hence, I consider them close enough to be able to refer them as friends and a part of my inner circle.
Not that the others, who played their part in my journey, were not good people, I am sure they were & they are. Just that may be everybody can’t stay together at all times (a lot of them are in same city but we don’t meet at all, at the most we may just bump into each other). May also be that with geographical distances, you go apart and then you just don’t feel the same intensity. Out of sight, out of mind ! What was once important may not be so after some time. I don’t know tomorrow when any of the above I referred to, settles in some other part of the world, time shall blur their memories of me. Further 11 years down the line when Kunal settles in USA or Saroj goes in UK & if we bump into each other at London Heathrow, it’s fine if they just give me a formal hug, we exchange some pleasantries and then carry on, as if no great camaraderie ever existed.
Anyway, after all things said & done, these are the only handful who have somehow managed to get back to each other and that calls for a party !! 🙂 🙂
Capturing some moments below:
Somewhere I read & I quote
“If your friends remain with you for more than 7 years, there is a 93% chance your friendship will last a lifetime”
It looks like it is turning out to be true… 🙂