V Pattabhi Ram and Valambal Subramanian
First published in Hindu Business Line
It was a Friday evening. The clock chimed 9. Potato (because she was fat; the Hindi crowd had called her aloo but someone had it anglicized), Brains (because he was all style and no substance) and Tucks (because he would always wear his t-shirt in) were walking on the sands of the Marina. It was a year since they had graduated from the same B-School.
Brains’ loud voice crashed the silence of the night. ”I really miss B-School. They were the most colorful, most adventurous and most fun-filled days of my life.” Potato cut in, “Yeah; it couldn’t have been different. After all, you never studied anything”. Brains smiled ignoring the jibe. Tucks, speaking in his trade mark clipped accent said, “The place as such meant little to me. The people, each one holding a special relevance in my heart, did”.
Potato decided to lie on the sand and let her mind slip; recollecting where her journey had all begun.
Three years back when she found her CA (Inter) exam tasteless, she had to cut her losses and think of an alternative career. Her dad thought that she would make a great teacher but there was no money in that profession. Here sister’s choice was that she should do; after all, she endlessly got into debates at home. Her brother genuinely believed she was “good for nothing.” Potato’s prestige was really at stake. She couldn’t really remember how she stumbled on the MBA bandwagon. May be one day she would tell her daughter, “Hey, all bored CA aspirants have an outlet; MBA”
Potato had turned up at the b-school, dad in tow, insecure and latching on to seven heavy baggages. She was ready for any contingency, including jumping into the first bus back home, if the classes turned out to be intimidating. The introductory session had scared her. Her classmates ranged from an engineer with an M-Tech to an English Professor; some with five years of work experience to some who had none. Tucks disturbed her saying thoughts, “They either looked like your uncles or your kids”. Potato jumped up. “My God. How did you read my thoughts?” And Tucks gravely responded, “Hey don’t call me by my first name.”
The night was getting older. Brains stared at the boisterous waves in the ocean and remarked, “I can never forget Prof Sam. I learnt innumerable lessons from him. Not just the usual ones of how dedicated and sincere a teacher can be, but also of how a person should be and should not be”. Tucks chipped in. “Yeah. The best thing about him was that he was not a saint and he was not perfect; that’s what made him real”. Brains had misty eyes as he said, “From him I learnt how to give my 110 % to whatever I do. How to have great observation powers. How to stay focused. How important it is to yearn for things other than money. How to earn the respect of others not by force but otherwise.”
Potato remarked, “As a teacher, he treated us as nothing short of school students. The substitute for the stick were the words from his mouth. But outside the class, he was at his friendliest best. In fact rumor had it that people would tease him no end”. And then she added, “But my personal favorite was the placement chairman. He was the person I had interacted with the most. And from him I learnt the etiquettes of the corporate world”.
“Oh! You mean CB” said Tucks. CB was short for Career Boss. They called him that as he was instrumental in placing the raw MBAs. “And by the way what were his great qualities of head and heart” asked Tucks. Potato could smell a scorn in his tone. That wasn’t surprising because CB had used the rule book to stop Tucks from attending a second interview for what Tucks believed was a dream job after he had been offered and had accepted a job with an investment banking firm
“Like” said Potato “how to talk with the big boys of the corporate world. Most of the gyan that I picked up were by observing him and listening out to his stories, parables and telephone calls at the placement cell.” Tucks was impatient. “Why don’t you get to specifics? I believe he was a high funda snob”. Potato wouldn’t give up easily. “His unforgettable starting line was ‘Are you busy right now sir? Is this good time to talk? His persistent nature taught me the power of convincing. His constant search for strategies for placement taught me the importance of thinking on one’s feet.” Tuck whistled. That was his way of telling you that he didn’t buy into it
Brains chipped in. “I am told that his team was mighty thrilled because he always used to share placement developments with them.”
Snickers joined the group with a “Hi guys.” They called him that because he endlessly ate Snicker chocolates. He was late as ever. “Sorry folks, I got caught in a traffic jam.” At 9 30 pm the road was half deserted. Potato was at her sarcastic best. “He means he had dinner at Hotel Traffic Jam”. Snicker was one of the unfortunate few who had to join work two days after college ended. “So, how is work” Tucks asked. “Well, its good” said Snickers. The projects on ALM, Derivatives and Mutual funds that we did back in college are of great help here. Learning how to do financial modeling, making decisions based on live data, its fun.”
Potato recalled what Prof Sam had said, “5 years from today no one would bother what grades you got at B School”. She felt that he was wrong. 12-months after passing out of B-school no one was bothering about their grades. They were bothered only about their skill sets.
Someone screamed, “Isn’t anyone game for some hot food? And with that the gang rushed towards the food joint as hungry dogs would