When I left the ISB campus after graduation day, I did not feel the pangs of leaving unlike what a lot of my friends did. I secretly knew that I would be back the following week on the pretext of Orientation. Pretext? Weren’t we supposed to be those nice alums who had volunteered to return to the campus to hand over our legacies to the incoming batch? Well, that certainly was true but the greater incentive to stay back during O-week was to enjoy that last bit of freedom that the campus gave us. I must tell you that sitting on those wooden tables in the atrium with legs dangling on the table (barefoot of course!), seeing the hustle-bustle around and feeling that cool air on the skin was the most heavenly feeling in the planet.
Most of us who join ISB do so after considerable years of working. Change of location and transfers are fairly common; in fact we get used to working with new people every year. For a fair majority this is not the first hostel experience since we would have already experienced it during our undergraduate days. But what I really fail to understand is why does it feel difficult to leave ISB after just one year? (This is not a personal opinion – I did my dip stick survey!). There could be several factors. Some would argue that we actually miss the comfort that staying in ISB provides. (Remember housekeeping & the rec-center?) Many would vehemently dismiss that as a materialistic line of reasoning and argue that the one year at ISB is like a blast furnace in which the short heat treatment fuses together the horde of students like an unbreakable mass of steel. (That was a nerdy explanation of course!)
I have my own theory. The essential difference between ISB and other educational or professional experiences is that here we have no one to look up to. We are the ‘masters of our fate’ and the ‘captains of our soul’. It is perhaps the first life-experience where we fend for ourselves with no guidance and no supervision. Along the way we fall and we make friends and maybe this is what enriches our lives. Secondly, for a vast majority this would probably be the last stay in an academic institution – and therefore like Ulysses we ‘live life to the lees’. And when we live life like there is no tomorrow the times are bound to be memorable.
The independence that we get at the school is probably unparalleled. It comes at the right time in our lives when we are mature enough to handle it. I think this is what we shall miss the most about the place – the independence to be ourselves (without being judged – and if we are who cares?) and to do what we want (within the ambit of reason and morality).
For me, the O-week was reliving the last 52 weeks in one super compressed time slot and savoring this independence for the one last time. Along the way, quite a few of us spent searching for our carbon copies – people who we could identify with and who could play the role that each one of us played in building the community. Whether it was finding the next Biryani aficionado or the ethnographer or the lead guitarist, we spent time looking for similarities in thought and behavior. Behind all those friendships that we made with the incoming class there was one selfish objective – to relive the entire year through their eyes and ears.
The finale was to sit like monks in the atrium with cups of tea in our hands, watch human figures in various hues dash around and feel the ether uplifting of our spirits. We had already surrendered the ‘08 a couple of days back. And when the tunes of ‘Yaaron – dosti – badi hi…’ touched our auditory nerves, we knew that it was time to move on from the Atrium.
– Shreerang Godbole