Of the many threads that united most of the wimwians over the past two years, sports had certainly been one of the strongest. What started way back at the end of first term and built up in energy for the next one year was finally going to come alive again at the start of our final term.. Sangharsh 2008 was here to electrify the batch after we all were back from our holidays. For the uninitiated, Sangharsh is the annual IIMA vs IIMB sports meet whose inaugural edition was won by IIMA at home ground and the second edition was now going to take place in Blore in the early part of jan.
After our emphatic win last time, Sangharsh had already become close to our hearts and we had been practicing quite decently for the past few days. Agreed, it was not at all an organized practice with a proper plan but even then, we used to keep on playing almost all the sports regularly and barring few sports, most of the players were in decent form in their respective games. I was, once again, part of the badminton and cricket teams. I wanted to try for TT as well as I knew I can make it to the team, but just like last time, I thought I better stick to two sports n give it my best shot there.
Few days before Sangharsh, I had gone to FMS in a sports meet and had won the silver medal in Badminton there. That success had given me some morale boost as I practiced baddy at the IMDC courts on campus. However, its an open court and hence we couldnt really get some serious practice done. The baddy team had all fachchas except me and Guru. We did hire an indoor court few days before our trip to Blore and I was quite satisfied with whatever preparation we could muster. SoDo, the other singles player in the team apart from me, was in great touch and though I used beat him earlier in singles, lately he had started beating me in closely fought games and was peaking at the right time.
Cricket practice was much better and organized this time compared to last year. This sportscom, of which I was a member as well, ensured that nets and mats were laid out in time on our college ground so that we could get some serious practice done. But we lacked match practice and little did we know that this would actually turn out to be our nemesis later on.
On a typical day, I would finish my classes and then head out to the cricket ground by 4 pm. Oh boy, what a beautiful time that used to be. Lush green grass and a shining red ball in my hand..an exciting combination! I would bowl my heart out for as long as I can and then just sit on the green grass n have a light chat with everyone. After dark, I would head out to the baddy court to play some singles with SoDo and by the time I was off the court, I was a dead man physically, but super charged up mentally. Sweating it out hard on the baddy court was the most relaxing thing for me.funny, I know, but thats how it was!
Similar practice was on for football as well; but I was worried about other sports where we hardly practiced. All we sportscom members would sit late nights to work out the modalities of organizing the trip and then discuss the progress of our practice in diff sports. It felt so good to be back in the thick of action of something so exciting and we all looked forward to retaining the trophy with great anticipation.
As we left campus for the airport, quite a lot of junta had turned up to bid us goodbye and cheer for us. Atom, one of our beloved sportscom members, broke open a coconut in front of the bus, to wish us luck As the wheels of the bus turned, so did the knob on my i-pod. I have a habit of gaining inspiration from music and this time was no different. As others chatted around me in the bus, I silently looked out of the window, the music in my ears reminding me of the hard work I had put in to prepare for this event. An year long wait had come to an end and now was the time to make everyone proud. I said a silent prayer for the entire contingent and joined others in their conversations.
It was dark when we reached the IIMB campus and as expected, there were posters and slogans everywhere welcoming us with a smirk! I loved it.these guys have revenge on their minds and will go all out to snatch the trophy from us. I knew that instant that it was going to be an exciting affair and a tough one for us to beat this blood thirsty opponent on its own ground.
Badminton was going to be the first event right after dinner and hence I hardly ate anything. The players reached the court in time and to our dismay, we realized that it is way too slippery. The IIMB guys also admitted the same but that was a constraint under which we had to play and we accepted it sportingly. The draws were going to be crucial. We knew they had a national level player in their team and our hope was to avoid him playing me in the singles as that would have implied wasting my match since I was expected to win my singles against anyone apart from him. It would have been ideal for us had he played our weakest player.
But sports are not played on ifs and buts. Sports are played on courage, a willingness to take on any challenge and hence I didnt want all these permutations to distract me. If I am a good sportsman, I should be prepared to play anyone and fight till the end. I guess god took my attitude a bit too seriously, giving me a chance to implement all my sports philosophies And so with Murphys law playing its part, the draw ensured that it was me who got slotted to play that nationals player in singles. But honestly speaking, I was glad after few initial anxieties. I was the captain of the team and I knew I have the courage to take on the very best opponent and not letting someone else in my team get sacrificed. It was the time to grab the bull by its horns and sweat it out to result in an upset win.
As I stepped on the court, my mind was struggling to keep calm. On one side I heard the loud cheers of my support group, rooting for the player who had got them victory exactly one year back.on the other side I was the target of sledges of the opponents camp, booing the player who had handed them defeat exactly one year back. I tried hard to shake away all these distractions from my head and concentrate on the task at hand. It was tough. He was playing a flawless game and I was on the backfoot right from the first point. I tried hard to cope up, trying to make him run around the court, but he proved to be one step better at every instant and within a short time the first game was over.As I took a break to cool off my head, scenes from the past flashed in front of my eyes.I saw how I won my singles in the last Sangharsh, I saw how my seniors carried me on their shoulders after the victory, I saw flashes of brilliance that I knew I am capable of ..and as I entered back into the arena that had become the first battleground of Sangharsh 2008, I began to believe a lot more in myself and vowed to die sweating it out before I give up. My game did improve and I felt more relaxed. But my unforced errors continued and even though I was stretching him much more now and getting back into my usual rhythm, he was playing equally well, responding to all my drops and placements with panache. I did win a couple of very good rallies and though they boosted my morale, I started to realize that its not long before the inevitable happens.
As I left the court, after being handed a straight games defeat, I was furious with myself. I dropped my racket on the ground and just stood there, my head bowed down lest anyone sees the tears from my eyes dripping on the floor in the pretext of sweat. I was numb.an year of hard work washed away in half an hour of misery. I didnt know whether to be sad or angry.I knew I am a much better player than what I did out there, I knew I could have stretched him much much more to give myself more chances, I knew that the reason I lost was because I made just too many unforced errors and though I dont dispute his talent at all, I gave away the match due to my own silly mistakes and may be my over eagerness to play excellently. Its a bad feelingit eats you from inside.when you know you frittered away the match due to your own idiotic mistakes when you are capable of much more.
But I guess thats what sports is all about. to peak at the right time and to seize your moment. I did neither and hence paid the price. The silver medal won last month was a pale memory now Sangharsh was far more crucial and I will never be able to forget the reversal of fortunes from my great victory on the courts of Sardar patel stadium Ahmedabad to the idiotic defeat in the first Sangharsh event at IIMB.
We lost baddy that night, SoDos lone singles victory going in vain. But we knew we had the firepower to hit back in the other sports.after all, Sangharsh had just begun and there were 11 more sports to go. Football, Snooker, TT & Tennis were the sports we were very sure of winning and we knew that by the end of the day, we will be back in the reckoning to defend our trophy successfully. But I guess it just wasnt meant to be our year this time. Our football team suffered a shock defeat, once again falling prey to their own follies. We lost very narrowly in Snooker, despite the brilliance of Anubhav and the same fate followed in Tennis, despite the greatness of Shettys grit and talent. Two of our champion players won their matches but the team still lost.Snooker and Tennis defeats were the turning points of the tournament. By now, IIMB was in full flow and having pulled out two upset victories, they knew their task was much simpler now. We did make a good comeback when our TT team romped home with a convincing thrashing of the opponents and our volley team, lead by the ever dependable and skillful Gendy, pulled off a well fought victory in front of a boisterous crowd. With Chess also in our bag, by the evening, things started looking bright and we knew if we can just pull off a couple of more good wins, we will be on our way to our dream. Thowball was a very close affair and I give full marks to our girls team which, without any practice, played extremely well till the end but ran out of luck. With Basketball, Swimming and Cricket remaining for the final day, we knew that it was only a miracle now that could save us. Our basky team fought hard but without any success and our cricket team got beaten comprehensively.......IIMB had taken there revenge and beaten IIMA 9-4 to claim Sangharsh 2008.
Sitting in the bus looking out of the window, I could see nothing of the Blore traffic zip past me.all I could see were glimpses of the past two days flashing by my eyes Sitting alongside the tennis court rooting for Shetty and his men till it got dark, Clapping hard in appreciation of Anubhavs masterful game on the green table, Watching guru pot some impossible looking shots and missing out some innocuous simple ones, Shouting for Gendy and his team at the top of our voice on every spike that he hit, Cheering hard for our girls throwball team trying to match the vociferous support that the home team enjoyed and advising the girls as though we were throwball gold medalists.. and Admiring the lovely speech that Adrian, our sports captain, gave at the closing ceremony that moved everyone present irrespective of the college he was from..
Sports is a great leveler, it teaches you never to give up and makes you humble at the same time.but Sangharsh is much more than that. Its a bond that we all have shared for two years..Its the victory shrieks we have shouted together.Its the dismay n disappointment we have felt together..but at the end of it all, its an emotion which we will never be able to express, an emotion that will manifest itself into action on the ground every single year, an emotion that will always bind all we wimwians where each one of us will stand by each other holding hands. in times of trials and in times of triumphs!
After the exhilarating regional round, we had a break of few days before the national finals. Topics were given to us much before the event so as to ensure top quality debating and the entire evening was going to be telecasted as a TV episode. We were slotted to face IIFT in the semi-finals and the other semis was between IIMB and IIMC. Now IIFT were the defending national champions and hence we knew that our task is going to be cut out. But in a way it pumped us even more and we relished the challenge thrown at us. We had to speak against the topic, Indias demographic dividend is nothing but marketing hype. We did lots of research and analysis in the days building up to the event and even though me and Maclo were in diff cities (our vacations had started), we still worked together over the net to ensure that we are well prepared. It was a tough but interesting topic and had a huge scope for throwing a lot of facts and figures that could be used to take either stand on the topic. Come D-Day and both of us felt very confident about the thoroughness of our preparation.
As we reached one of the grandest hotels in Mumbai, the venue for the event, we realized just how big this thing is! The eminent crowd consisting of senior managers from the two sponsor companies, cameras and wires spread all around and Harsha Bhogale again at his wittiest best.I surprisingly remained quite calm amidst all this excitement. I knew I couldnt afford to get overawed by the occasion and had to be relaxed.
The moment finally arrived and as usual, Maclo started the proceedings. It was always this ways. He would be the first one to speak and I will do the other half and the conclusion. I really dunno why we stuck to this pattern. Guess we just didnt want to change luck ! As the debate went on, it became extremely interesting and I actually started enjoying myself out there. Both teams were thoroughly prepared with all facts n figures on their fingertips ! The great thing was that we both referred to the same Goldman Sachs report and used it to arrive at contrasting conclusions, giving the report our own interpretations. And neither was wrong..It was just how you back it up! After the gripping 12 minutes, it was time for Q&As; and boy, what a grueling session that was. Judges went hammer n tongs at both teams but I feel me and Maclo handled the questions better n with more confidence. The good thing was that we both spoke almost equally unlike our competitors where one person answered most of the questions. It was a sight to see..both me and Maclo were working like a well oiled machine.discussing the answer with each other comfortably and then automatically one of us would step up to answer without any hitches. I loved the way we complemented each other.
After the second semi-final was over, which was, as expected, another keenly fought affair, it was time for the resultsI had always been quite confident about the results being in our favour in the regional round, but now, I knew it was anybodys game..I knew it was a genuinely very very closely fought battle and was actually glad that am not one of the judges. And then it happened. We had achieved the unimaginablewe defied all odds to beat the defending champions and enter the grand national final! Oh boy, what a thrill that was.me n Maclo hugged each other, still coming to terms with the magnitude of our success! We knew just how tough this battle was and were elated at our achievement We were to face IIMC in the finals.
We were to speak for the topic Indias business leaders should take over the political leadership. It was a relatively simpler topic than the last one, where we didnt need as many figures n data. We prepared decently enough and I was much more relaxed this time compared to the semis. I felt good about the topic and was keen to go up there n carry on our good form. And as if the grandness of the event was not enough already, a pleasant surprise came our way in the form of the chief guest of the evening..none other than John Abraham! I didnt know that hes an MBA as well and the entire place was electrified due to his presence.
We had to keep a cool mind as this was our last hurdlewe didnt want anything to faze us. We had come a long way and were determined to leave this place as winners. Maclo started as usual, and started well as usual The debate went on to become very lively indeed as this was a topic where every audience member had an opinion about, unlike the last one which was much more technical in nature. The judges questions were sharp and we had to be crisp n lucid in our responses. But we did well and I again felt that we handled the Q&A; better than the opposition.
At the end of it all, Harsha Bhogale had to admit that the semis and finals were by far the highest level of debating he has seenthat compliment itself was a victory for all of us! After an agonizing wait, which saw the quizzes being played out, it was finally the time for declaring the debate national champions.oh man, I cant remember when was I last so anxious and nervous. Thats the thing with me. I will be a statue of calmness and confidence when its the time to perform. But when its results time, I start getting the jittersbut I guess its coz I know I hv given my best already and can afford to be nervous now Anyways, coming back to the momentmy fingers had started aching a bit now that I had them crossed for over an hour! There was a silence just before announcing the runners-up name, which got filled with shouts of IIMC from somewhere behind in the audience. It felt good to know that some people thought we had done better and deserved to win. And then came the moment of truth.
As me and Maclo went up on the stage to collect the runners-up prizes from John and other judges, I found it a bit tough to hide the disappointment on my face. But astonishingly, as we came back to Maclos family in the audience, my mind started realizing how big our prize is nevertheless and my heart slowly but surely started feeling more content than before. And when people from the audience came up personally to tell us how good we were, I knew that I had nothing to be disappointed about.We had made our insti proud!
Dude, we have come a long way from that lazy evening on campus, Maclos words had never been so soothing before. As he stood there smiling at me, his family admiring the prizes he had won, I smiled back at him. A smile of satisfaction, a smile of triumph, a smile thanking him for being with me in this journey, a smile that proved that the past two months have left us only richer in experience, a smile that said it all.
Few years down the line all this will look so inconsequential in the larger scheme of life, Acumen might just be forgotten as yet another one of my experiences during the years at IIMAbut I know somewhere deep inside, the thrill of those days will never cease to put a smile on my lips, probably the same smile that me and Mohit Sadani shared that night of December 2007 at ITC Grand Central, Mumbaifar away from the red brick walls of home.
It was a lazy evening when instead of being on the streets of ahmedabad on my bike, I was passing my not so precious time on dbabble, chatting away to glory. The now so familiar beep of a new msg on dbab informed me that the trials for BT Acumen, Indias largest national B-School quiz n debate competition are gonna be help at 10 pm in CR 4. To admit honestly, I had never heard of acumen before even though I later found out how big the annual event was. But, being ever ready for any extra currics, ( as long as its not a case study competiton ), and specially one that involved public speaking, my fav, I decided to give it a try. As it is, I didnt have much to do that night except of course playing cricket n watching a movie !
So I landed at CR 4 and as expected, there were a bunch of studs of IIMA, waiting to be a part of the team that was to be selected to represent the institute this year for debate. Glancing around the room I realized that with such heavyweights around, I might just be wasting my time here. But well, now that I am here, I might as well give it my best shot, the words traveled instantly from my brain to the tongue as I saw Maclo stride into the room. Maclo was this stud McKinsey dude who had never ever debated before in life and came that night with the sole intention of giving me company since I didnt have any partner to go with. It was a team of two that was to be selected and from the 15-16 odd candidates, it was decided that from the 8 teams, top 2 candidates will be selected irrespective of which team they belonged to. And so began the trials..each team of 2 given a topic and after a min one guy spoke for the motion and the other against it. When our turn came, I saw Maclo instantly spring into action, chalking down points that would build our arguments. I never doubted his intellect n sharpness, neither his speaking style. But he had never debated before and hence wasnt sure if this is his cup of tea. Anyways, just like me, he didnt have much lined up that night I suppose (hello..placecommer with no workhahaha) and hence he turned up to give me a partner so that at least I could try out. But I always knew that hes a great speaker irrespective of his past debate credentials and hence was confident of our chances. We worked wellhe gave a lot of inputs on the arguments and I structured all of it and the way we need to present n speak. We spoke well, but so did the other 7 teams!
Results were announced pretty quickly and I really didnt expect anything looking at the standard of the competitionthe very best of IIMA were there. But then it happened. I was stunned for few seconds when they announced that I had topped with the max pointsand not only this, Maclo was next to follow which implied that me and Maclo were the debate team from IIMA at this years Acumen! Oh boy, my happiness knew no bounds.It was the first time at IIMA where I had truly achieved something very significant by beating top competition...and it was public speaking again that did it, something close to my heart since my school days. Maclo was ecstatic as well, though displaying much less emotions than me, still not very convinced that he spoke so well despite his virtually zilch past record in debating. One can say that it was a grand Debate Debut for him ! Little did we know that the coming few days would bring us even more excitement
Next step was the West Zone regional rounds. Each zone had a regional round that would throw up one team which would be representing that zone in the national finals. The entire process was to take a couple of months. Both of us headed to Mumbai where the west zone regional was to take place over a period of two days at Wellingkar institute of management. We arrived quite early and all we saw all around were teams all decked up in suits, from all over the western part of India, some nervous, some confident, and some having fun. It was a grand event for sure. There was a buzz everywhere, no dearth of media and the sponsors presence was felt all over the walls and corridors. In a nut shell, it was an exciting n happening place to be in. We were given badges with our insti names on them. The IIM-A tag did raise a few eyes - easy enough to unnerve you if u start feeling the burden of expectation but also sure to boost your morale if you are thinking clearly in your head. I dont know about Maclo but I kind of enjoyed the attention and was even more determined to prove our worth as was expected out of us. We couldnt let our brand down so early in the competition.
With about 30 odd teams, by the end of the day, 4 teams were to be selected to fight out the semis and finals the next day. The topics were already given to us and we had done our homework. But we only got to know whether we are speaking for or against the motion on the spot itself. These qualifiers were help in 4-5 diff classrooms, judged by eminent personalities from the India Today group and the Aditya Birla group. We both spoke well, and barring a couple of points that we thought we missed, I was quite satisfied with our performance. The results were out by the afternoon and yes, we had made it to the semis We were both glad n relaxed. We at least wont have to face the ignominy of going back to college having been shown the door in the first round itself. Now was time for some serious business and for the first time, we seriously started to think about winning the zone. Till now, we never saw long term. We just thought we will give it our best n have a good time. But now apart from enjoying the event, we started wanting to create some history here for our insti. And the best part is, we believed in ourselves ! We spent the remaining day preparing for the semis topic. We were to face IRMA in the semis and we knew from now, nothing will be easy.
The next day, the auditorium was jam packed, with various colleges making an official visit with their teachers to witness the finale. But if you think that it was our debating that brought them all there, well, think again. The crowd puller of the day was none other than the witty n ever smiling host of Acumen, Harsha Bhogale! He has been with Acumen for 2-3 years now and was going to be our companion on stage for the whole day. Ours was the first semi-final. When Harsha announced our names and that of our insti, and when I started my trip to the stage with the beats of some dhinchak music blaring our of the speakers, I felt so proud..proud of being there to represent my IIMAproud of being on stage in front of TV cameras and a huge audience.and proud of not letting Maclo down. Once I was up there, I knew I had a job to do and was eager to blast off. Harsha made a witty good natured remark on my name another one of the times in my life when I have been so thankful to my parents for giving me this name We spoke for the topic, An MBA is the most over hyped academic qualification in India today what an irony, isnt it ! After all 4 people from both teams had spoken for 3 minutes each, each team could ask the other two questions, which was then followed by any no. of questions from the judges seated in the audience. So it was going to be a long fought battle for sure. We did well at the end of it and specially with the Q&As; and I left the stage feeling satisfied. Results were announced after lunch and as Harsha spoke out our names as the finalists, I gave a hi-five to Maclo and we knew we are just a step away now!
Now comes the best part! We were to face Wellingkar, the host team, in the final. Not only did we have to be ready to witness huge support for the home team, there was another coincidence! Maclos girl friend (and now his fiance), who was all along helping us and rooting for us, is from Wellingkar itself Oh man, poor girl..divided between loyalties for her boy friend and her college !
We prepared well for the finals, even though we just had a short span of couple of hours to do so. But I knew that more imp than anything was to keep our nerves. I knew by experience that at this stage, its a lot to do with the way you answer and argue, apart from just the content of your arguments. And hence we both paid special attention to this aspect. And as I stepped once again on the now familiar stage, the blood in my veins flew at breakneck speed and the only thing on my mind was to emerge victorious as that was the only way to quiet the boisterous support the home team was enjoying. We spoke against the topic Soft skills, and not technical proficiency, are what separates the great managers from the good ones. It was a tough side to take on the issue n we knew we had an arduous task at hand.But as the debate went on, my confidence grew every minute. And by the time it came to Q&As;, I think we were in a state of mind where nothing could faze us. The questions were tricky and twisted and demanded some quick thinking backed up by sound logic. I was so much drowned into the action that after discussing the answers with Maclo for few seconds, I only ended up answering most of them, though we had decided we will split it up. But he gave me a thumbs up to go ahead with every answer and his confidence in me pumped me up further.
After the exhausting grilling, we were off the stage, holding our breath for the final results. For the next hour, I was on the edge of my seat. Maclo was much more relaxed than me.may be it was her presence or just that hes very calm by nature, I dont know. But I couldnt relax till the moment when it finally happened. As I walked down the aisle to the stage, the thunderous applause finding its way from my ears to my heart, I looked for Maclo to accompany me.and that moment I realized how much it meant to him as well.He was already ahead of me waiting to climb the stage and collect the winners prizes.
And as I stood there posing for the cameras with Maclo and acknowledging the warm appreciation by the jam packed auditorium, my mom and dad watched on the TV the news about how IIMA has emerged as the West Zone Champions.
From the lazy evening on campus that day to the happening centre stage of a grand event, it had been an unexpected but rewarding journey. And even though we knew that the Nationals is our next step, we thought nothing about it. That night was ours to savour. And when congrats messages by our batch mates started pouring in on dbabble, I knew that I had played my small part in making my college proud something that will always remain close to my heart.
Not to forget the new ties of friendship that I forged with Maclo.I was sure these days would be the topic of our reminiscence when we catch up with each other over a drink 10 years down the line