Published on : January 02 , 2021
They say that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. For the better part of my life, I have agreed with them.
One fine summer afternoon, after refreshing the SPJIMR admissions webpage for the umpteenth time, I finally saw those magical words on the laptop screen. I had been offered admission to the PGDM Programme at SPJIMR. The first thing I did (after my hands had stopped shaking) was to search the campus on google and go through the picture gallery. I even checked for flights from Kolkata to Mumbai! Not to put up wallpapers or book a ticket, but just to tell myself that this was real and definitely happening.
About a week later, in a spectacular display of cosmic injustice, came the pandemic. And with it came the lockdown, the uncertainty, the fear, and collective anger towards a certain nocturnal mammalian species. Amidst all of this, came online classes. For the uninitiated, an online class is this magical place where your ISP would leave your side just before a graded presentation; yet it would conveniently make sure you’re heard loud and clear when you are unmuted and fighting with your sister. It’s basically a phenomenon that brings you closer and closer to your LAN guy, with every passing day.
We did manage to make friends along the way, even in an online world. People we hadn’t met, but with whom we could stay up talking to well into the night. We organized events together, lost competitions together, tanked assignments together, and much more. I guess we didn’t lose all of them, but the failures (and the subsequent ranting sessions) are more fun to talk about. Granted all of this online bonding made meeting these friends in real life for the first time, an incredibly awkward ordeal. How do you greet someone you have known, interacted, and worked with for the better part of a year, when you meet them for the first time? Do you smile and nod? Shake hands? Hug? High-Five? Pat them gently on their heads? (I have actually tried the last one; did not get a very positive reaction to be very honest!)
All things considered; I had settled in fairly well. Engineers are nothing if not adaptable right? The fear of missing out on the campus experience was barely even there. Then, about eight months after that summer afternoon, I got another mail, that again had my hands shaking. I was a part of the first PGP1 cohort, coming back to campus. I went through the same routine again; searching for on-campus images, followed by searching for flights to Mumbai. The next few days went by in a haze. There was simply too much to do in too little time! Thankfully, those friends I mentioned earlier, came to my aid. From taking care of group assignments to making sure I did not miss out on anything essential; they went above and beyond to help me out, and didn’t even ask for a pizza in return (at least not yet).
On the 18th of December, just as my hometown was preparing for jaggery based sweets and plum cakes, I left for the campus of my dreams. My home is very close to the airport. Every time I fly to or from Kolkata, I try to locate the apartment building from the aircraft window. This time, I didn’t. This time was different. I was not going on a work trip or a vacation, I was going someplace I would call home, for the next couple of years.
It was late afternoon when I reached the campus. I knew that I will have to stay in quarantine for the next two weeks. I tried my best to soak in every ounce of the scenery till I had to enter the hostel. I entered my room, looked through the window, and stopped dead in my tracks - I could see the (fabled) lake from my window. I could hear about five different kinds of birds chirping away. I could smell the freshly cut grass right outside my room. I could hear someone playing football nearby. In short, I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.
However, my fondest quarantine memory so far happened at about 3’oclock on a Saturday night. I had just finished watching a movie and taken off my headphones when I heard voices coming from near the lake. I tried to make out who they were and what they were saying. After some time, I realized that it was just a couple of fellow MBA students, chatting and laughing late into the cold and silent night, without a single care in the world. A teaser of days to come perhaps.
They say that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. I don’t think I can agree with them anymore.