It was as if an invisible hand picked the 601 of us from different cities and different times in our lives and put us all in that gorgeous campus in Hyderabad. If we were to chalk alternate realities for each of us for the bygone year, we could have been anywhere, leading our mundane lives and never having met each other. The likelihood of the 601 of us ending up in ISB in the same year was tiny, but luckily that black swan did exist, and all our paths crossed for one beautiful year.
If you ever happened to go to H-block in SV1, you would have passed my studio on the right. It was a pretty little home, where plants outnumbered people, fairy lights shimmered through the night, conversations lit over cups of tea, strangers became friends and friends became family and where some of my sweetest memories will forever reside. Peacocks sauntering in my backyard would wake me up every morning and peahens roaming through their kingdom would bid me adieu in the evenings.
I had just finished an online lecture when I saw the dreaded email about the address by the Dean. That evening I opened my window and sat down on the porch, trying to comprehend the situation, bustling with thoughts yet blank. I couldn’t fathom how I was expected to leave the campus a full fortnight before my graduation, how I was supposed to say goodbyes, and how I would end my year at ISB with so many unfulfilled lasts. I was torn between my anger at the misery of the situation and my desire to soak in as much of the campus life as I could. My rational-self understood the need to shut the campus, but my emotional-self could be nothing but hurt. As a kid, you would become upset when your dad promised an evening movie and couldn’t make it because of some unexpected work. At that moment, I was that kid who folded his arms in anger, crisscrossed his legs and sat down with teary eyes. I waited for the peahens to show up, perhaps hoping that they’d answer my questions.
The last forty-eight hours at ISB were bittersweet. The legs were tired, but the soul wasn’t. The idli-vada at the atrium, the Sampoorna store, the Gulmohar in SV4, the sunset at the dam, the walk on the ring road, the gazillion photos, the last section meet, the familiar faces, the hugs, the smiles, the tears and the promises to meet again will be forever etched in my memory.
In the 10-minute walk from my studio to a lecture theatre, I would greet several familiar faces. Some I knew from my section, some from an elective class, some from a party the other night, some from Aikya, some from a case competition we participated in, some from ELP, and some I just met every day on my walk. These faces gave me a sense of belongingness and a sense of home. At the end of forty-eight hours, I was given a chance to stay for one more day, but I didn’t have the heart to say goodbye one more time, for the familiar faces were all gone, my pretty little studio was empty, the classrooms were bereft of voices, the atrium wasn’t as hearty as it used to be and my home was home until yesterday. I left campus hoping to be back again to toss my graduation cap in the air amongst a sea of familiar faces.
The invisible hand that got us all together is again in action. It is going to put us in as disparate paths as the ones we came from. It may not happen again that all our paths cross together. But no matter what path we take and where we end up, we all will forever be the ISB Class of 2020 – a class that braved toils with a smile.
(ISB PGP Co’20)