What did your MBA give you?

If I had a rupee for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’d be in Hawaii right now having beer fueled discussions on the life, universe and everything.

Now there are only two ways this question can be asked in India. One, in a really genuine way, and this is only when the guy/girl at whom the question is directed has been doing reasonably well. And two, as a thinly veiled barb asked when the guy/girl hasn’t been doing very well. It has to be mentioned here that the latter is a favorite of the perennial bane of the young Indian – the neighborhood aunty. And her favorite time to throw this question at you is at random weddings you have been forced to attend.

Sigh.

It’s also a very tough question to answer.

I usually smile and walk away in the direction of the bhel puri stall; if its a Punjabi wedding, I go to the quintessential bar where huge Sikh gentlemen are downing glasses of whisky like it’s soda-pop. They are much more understanding to the general tumult in your head, especially if music is playing.

Angreji Beat De!

But then, of course, as we MBA’s are wont to do, I go home and think about it. Why indeed did I go do an MBA? And what did it give me?

The answer in my case was very simple. I simply didn’t know what else to do. I was your average overconfident, convent-educated, engineering grad, with absolutely no interest in engineering, or anything at all for that matter. So once I passed my engineering with neither flying nor swimming colors, I did what I could to play some more cricket and shirk some more responsibility – I decided to get an MBA.

I had to write the CAT in Chennai, as my little beach-town of Pondicherry is too small to merit its own exam centre. So I did, after a night on the town whose after effects almost prevented me from reaching the venue, which was, interestingly enough, a girls college.

I was out playing cricket when the results came, and when I did get around to looking at the results the fact that I’d scored 91 percentile surprised me more than anybody else. I found myself in a position to choose from a lot of colleges, but that this choice might be one of the most important I ever take in my life never once entered by brain. When you’re 21, nothing really does.

But that choice was, and remains, very important.

Because the B-School you go to will not just give you an education and a degree, it will give you a worldview, it will show you how to lead your life. So do all colleges, you might argue, but no, B-School happens at the age when you become aware of the world around you, how things function and why they don’t, and you begin to question things. Thoughts become ambition, and a young mind tries to figure out its place in the world. It’s a very important time.

I went to study business at Amrita. I don’t remember making that choice consciously; I had a few other pretty prestigious places to choose from. I just looked at the choices I had, and said this is where I’m going, to this lush green campus at the foot of the Western Ghats.

And it made me who I’m today – a left leaning, bookish Keynesian with a healthy distrust of capitalism as a system. But that’s just one thing Amrita moulded me into. It nurtured the romantic in me, made a writer out of a lover of words. It made me a walker rather than a runner. It made me conscious of history, geopolitics and the need to give back to the not so fortunate sections of society. It rounded me up, chipped off my edges as much as it could, and sent me off into the world.

As it did a lot of other people. I passed out in 2011. My seniors had set us almost unachievable benchmarks. We tried real hard, when we had time off from the endless walks we took on evenings that smelt of approaching rain and yellow bougainvillea, that is. And something did happen to us, in the roads and paths we walked on, in the endless mountain rain, in those university corridors and airy classrooms. Something happened, and we changed, and we somehow became ready to go face the world outside. I know I changed.

So when people ask me why I did an MBA, I tell them nothing. They wouldn’t understand.

They wouldn’t understand that learning to learn is an education in itself, that the arts can lead us to the right way to do business, that the world isn’t all about money and ways to make them.

My MBA at Amrita gave me a lot of things, and I wish you get all that and more with yours.


Written by Mr. Sairam Krishnan. He is an alumnus of Amrita School of Business, Coimbatore. Currently working as Manager- Marketing at iYogi Inc.

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