ISB Diaries – Part 1:

Teary-eyed with frozen hands and shivering legs. This is how I was when my mom came over to pick me up from my class. A good 6 minutes is what it takes to walk from the second floor of the academic block to my studio in student village 4. But that day, those six minutes got me engaged in effectively concealing my tears from not just passersby, but also from my mom. But moms are moms. Their instincts can make you emotionally naked because all attempts to hide your emotions are disrupted when they ask you “What happened? Are you OK?” For the next couple of hours, my mom’s lap became a dumping ground of sorts because all the turmoil that I went through in the previous 2.5 terms of my ISB life came out with high decibel noise and waterworks in my eyes. Everything around me felt brutal. My awfully dipping grades, the fear of not being able to secure a job and clear my education loan, the irritability that comes with successfully screwing up time and again while your peers are leaving no stone unturned to land the job of their dreams, just everything felt like a work of brutality beautifully playing out right in front of my eyes. Just when the two ugly words namely GIVE UP flashed in my head, I knew that this was the time to bounce back. The dramatic venting session with my mom was followed by a ton of comforting hugs from my tolerant friends and each one of them tried their hand at motivational speaking by launching pep talks at me. But after I was deserted from the world, in the night, is when the silence began its lessons.

The silence was what reminded me of how I got here. I still remember a reluctant me, fighting my way through the CA classes vehemently opposing the very idea of them. There came a day of grand confrontation when I finally confessed to my parents that god bless those clients for whom I would be a chartered accountant. They were aghast at this very first rebellion of mine, but my consecutive failures made them realize that forcing this course upon me would be like preparing a perfect concoction for a disaster. There were 2 precise options that were considered soon after I quit CA. 1. Finishing my BCOM degree and getting comfortable with a cushy corporate job or 2. Extending option 1 with an MBA degree from either ISB or a university abroad. I wasn’t considering any other B-School in India because I was unsure of the infrastructural readiness of those schools and besides, I have been hearing about ISB since I was a 12th grader and something about the school kept me fascinated. A visit to the school further strengthened this feeling so here I was eyeing an admission in this magnificent campus ever since 2015.

My journey towards ISB began with a disgraceful GMAT score but my guts were applause-worthy and I applied none the less. My expectation was just right, and I was hit with rejection hard. The second time, GMAT was far fetched because my essays were enough to bid me goodbye. The third time, in my very first year of work at Uber, I took it upon me to make it or break it this time and my close to decent GMAT score, my grandly enthusiastic essays and my confidently chattery interview got me an admission but only with a wait time of 2 years. I was given admission in the year 2019 for the class of 2020. There was more fuel added to my excitement because I was granted entry into the campus for sample classes and to plan for the hectic year ahead with all the possible stakeholders. Meticulously thought of plans by departments such as the academics, student engagement, IT and facilities, a gazillion good wishes pouring in every day and grand declarations about me being Kanithi family’s only claim to fame, all this was supposed to ensure my uplifted spirit and motivated soul right? What went wrong after all? Did anything go wrong at all?

Dear reader, the silence was being a very bad boyfriend taking me to places that I never wanted to be in. Where did it take me and what have I learned?

ISB Diaries – Part 2:

The multiplicity of emotions is heightened in the night. Weirdly so, this is something I heard when I was a kid. But believe you me, experiencing it is like a petrifying rollercoaster ride, beautifully slipping you into both dread and excitement.

The silent night, with its masterful demonstration of my path to ISB, brought some secret smiles and tiny tear droplets to my face. It reminded me that I was perhaps more resilient than I credit myself with. The night also became a recollection of how my campus life had been thus far.

My entry into the campus as a student was nothing short of a Karan Johar film. It was glittery, glamorous and fun all at once. Though I entered with pangs of anxiety, the orientation week and the seniors who organized it, made it a breeze for all of us, but to be honest, they had only shown us a fun trailer for a movie that had shades of grey, black and white. Term one of the academic year was the base camp of the Mount Everest but the initial challenges were not academic, to begin with. Ideally, considering the whole host of extracurricular activities I had pursued in college and beyond, I was expected instead to give it my all to academics this one year. But affinity is a mastermind that beautifully directs itself to things that are forbidden. “Do you want to be the president of the music club? Or would your energy allow you to be just a core team member in the women in the business club? Choose one Shravya”. This was what my mind daydreamed about during those times when absorption in classes was becoming quite a challenge. “What? Are you crazy?” This is what I wanted to tell my friend who told me that I should consider option 3 which is the presidential role in the “Women in Business” club. I did listen to him. Not a garland of thank you, not my mom’s amazing Dosas, not a promise to be an amazing friend for the rest of his life, nothing can substitute the power of his suggestion that day. I drilled my manifesto into a majority of the cohort through a crapload of emails, oratory skills that could camouflage my nervousness and my mom who was not just a vehicle moving me from one room to the other but also was unconventional at the least pushing me to attend parties to establish an image for the election. Parties and I don’t get along well, so barring that suggestion, I tried to soak in not just my mom’s, but everyone else’s suggestions and incorporated them in my campaign. The day of the results approached, closely trailed by the never-ending barrage of exams. While I was mulling about the state of Statistics, which was my most dreaded subject in term one, a voice interrupted my thoughts and it said, “Congratulations Shravya! You are the president of the women in the business club”. My reaction was one of obvious elation. Initially, given that most of the cohort would be a part of the women in the business club, I was sceptical about people’s acceptance of a visually challenged leader. So, this result was a great source of validation. While my professors patiently worked with me after class to reduce my dread attacks, the happiness of the grand victory did not last long enough because another big day was yet to ruin the extravagance of my happiness. My midterm exams! To be honest I had known that I was close to bombing those exams but after writing them, being the protective self-lover that I was, I thought they went ok, especially considering that I was returning to academic life after 2.5 years. Alas, that feeling was short-lived. “My head is getting smashed with bricks” That’s exactly how it felt the day I received my results. Bombing would be an understatement here. I was destroyed with those results. I was consoled and comforted by my friends stating that everyone was on the same boat, but little did they know that my grades were so deep in the water that no boat could come to my rescue. A jolt of sadness had brought me back to that silent night and I forced myself to stifle a scream because I was afraid that my parents would be awake. The silent night was beginning to get murkily uncomfortable. The way the end term exams of term one proceeded and the results that followed were uglier than before and I was beginning to melt in the loss of hope.

My not so great beginnings to the presidential role of the Women in Business club was coupled with a persisting ugliness in my grades in term two. What was more worrying was the wall of pressure I would build around myself when I heard the words grades or exams. I realised that I wasn’t focusing on learning. The worrying process was getting exhausting. My parent’s concern was converting into irritation because they couldn’t understand what exactly the problem was. I would type, “I want to talk to you regarding something” and my friends would reply with “What are you stressing about dude?” On most occasions, I didn’t have to spell out stuff for them. My texts were synonymous to panic and stress. I realised that what was shaking my very being was that I was dipping in my own eyes, unable to redeem myself and define success in my own terms. What was also extremely bothersome was that I had allowed grades to define who I was. After flooding my bed with tears which could otherwise have been used for solving Hyderabad’s water problems partially, something began to shift in me. I was tired of feeling like a defeated soul. I had to change the narrative for myself. “She got really lucky. Not a lot is expected out of her anyways”. This is how I thought I was spoken about in my absence but my ears, even for a moment, resisted the possibility of these words being a reality. “This is it!” I told myself.

What followed is not a drastic improvement in my grades but a gradual upward movement in them so much so that I travelled all the way from a mere 2.5 to a 3.63 on a scale of 4. I began respecting myself. I also noticed my own flaws in my duties as a president of the women in business club and work began towards correcting them. This is not to say that superheroes blessed me and I became invincible. But the silent night bid me goodbye by gifting me a most treasured tool called resilience in abundance.

“So, resilience must have been a great companion that stood by you throughout your journey, right?” dear reader, if this is what you intend to ask, I would say both yes and a no.

Stay tuned to know why…

Author: Shravya Kanithi, ISB alumna, PGP Class of 2020