Hell is Other People

(Published in IIMPulse, The Oculus Newsletter, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow)

Sartre’s infamous end to what is perhaps his most famous play exemplifies our two (or three, as you may have it) year existence at this institute, which marks the pivoting act in the lives of us denizens.

Shekhar Deshpande, (IIML Batch of ’94, JWT), characteristic to his profession’s disregard for statistics as anything more than a tool for effective presentation, shared with us a similar sentiment when he said that PGP makes 49% of our learning at the institute. The remaining 51% is ‘other people’. Our ‘stint at the institute’ shares too its central theme of freedom and responsibility with Sartre’s doctrine ‘existence precedes essence’. One’s individual characteristics, or essence, are what carve one’s identity, and the freedom of choice to shape these identities necessitates the absolute responsibility for one’s own actions. Hell, therefore, is what we make of it.

When asking of a central theme for the articles in this edition of IIMpulse, I was instructed that this being the second publication for the incoming batch, we would do well to address issues and share pearls of wisdom that we wish we had received when we were ‘inducted’. The opinions I ruminate on here run the risk of not standing true to the brief, for they are by no means alien to us. In point of fact, they screamed at us from the billboards on the 3.4 km stretch before we ever set foot on campus. I reflect on and share them not because we were never told, but (in all the self-deprecating wisdom of this sermon), perhaps because we never listened.

500 metres from the campus, the words “Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value…” are heralded by the bastions of relative grading as authored by the father of relativity, but the value spoken of being subject to interpretation and of little use in EVA calculations, is ignored with easy abandon. “He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.” Why then, we are apt to question, must one be a man of value, when we have learnt from a lifetime of education and experience that success is the recognised measure of a man’s virtue?

Why should our next unoriginal submission not be akin to that of Peanuts’ Sally Brown - “This is my report on rain. Rain is water which does not come out of faucets... after a storm, the rain goes down the drain, which is where I sometimes feel my education is also going.”

Because… our own worth is measured, like that of our institute, by what we make of it. Because… if not, we run the risk of becoming Rocky’s Type II error. Because… we could do without the opinion oft expressed over a Cappuccino at Nescafe by us of the student community, as put more eloquently by Kurt Vonnegut, “…true terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your class is running the country.”

Because… as Bob Pirsig did in 1951 in Benares Hindu University, we too will recognise the value of the doctrine of ‘Tat tvam asi’ (Thou art that), which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided.

Peanuts Bell Curve

Pirsig, in his avatar as author of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, made another discovery - “Well, there's something whacky here,” Phædrus had said, “because the students I like the most, the ones I really feel a sense of identity with… are all failing!”

Disclaimer – The authors opinions are entirely his own (who else’s?) and subject to change. They are prepared as a basis for discussion rather than to present illustrations of either correct or incorrect handling of an administrative situation. ©kapitanniemand