Making room on Life’s Shelf.

Shelf life – A concept that is often used in context with food products at grocery stores. Milk. Fruit. Eggs. Vegetables. Groceries. Even cosmetics in some cases. They all have a limited shelf life. After a certain point in time the product is rendered useless.

The day I got back home for the summer, I stood in front of my overflowing wardrobes. Clothes which hadn’t been worn in more than four years, some even ten, were still nearly sitting in there. I thought about the two other fully functional wardrobes I had half way across the globe. Why was I hoarding all these clothes when I had no intention of ever wearing them? A sequined piece of clothing from when I was a teenager, pants which shouldn’t be taken out anymore, belts which felt like they were from an ancient era, shoes not worn even once, sweaters and jackets which honestly would never be needed in this part of the country, junk jewelry which I cannot pull off anymore, and fluorescent colored hair extensions which…err… let’s not even go there.

After digging into study table draws and cupboards, I found unused diaries, notebooks, dried out or half used art supplies, shells from Goa and other beaches, too pretty to be used stationary and numerous other trinkets that sat there solemnly, never touched. If I wanted to, wouldn’t I have used all these by now?

FullSizeRender (28) FullSizeRender (27)

I wondered why we hold on to things in the hope that we would use them “someday”. Why do we hang on to things that we don’t need anymore?

FullSizeRender (30)

The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that we do this even with people, relationships, and experiences. We try and hold on to school and college friends who clearly seems to be slipping away amidst changing jobs, moving countries, getting married, having babies, and just living life. We keep memorabilia given by long past ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends despite everyone having moved on, multiple times. We stack away souvenirs, maps, brochures from travels to faraway lands in the hope that we will revisit someday. We document application forms, acceptance letters, and store wine bottle corks of endless parties from undergrad and graduate schools despite knowing very well we wouldn’t ever need them for any practical purpose.

FullSizeRender (29) IMG_7779

Which brought me to the question – Do some people, experiences, and relationships have a shelf life too? Should they be cleared out in a spring cleaning spree, sold off in a Garage sale, and gracefully let go once you knew there was nowhere to go from there on?

The very thought seems so depressing. If something was so darn fun, why did it need to end? If only we could collect all our favorite people, places, and experiences and never let them go, what fun that would be.

Maybe that’s exactly what we are trying to do. Somewhere between growing up and trying to be responsible adults, we all are trying to hang on to a little something from the good old crazy times when we were younger, wilder, eternal optimists, and incorrigible dreamers. Each picture, each song, each movie ticket stub, each sea shell, and each hideous sequined dress enables us to revisit and relive the person, the place, the relationship, and the experience that made us who we are today. As short a shelf life as it might have had, it added something to us and will forever be a part of us despite any number of garage sales, spring cleanings, deleting pictures, and changing numbers. Once every often, we find comfort indulging in ecstatic memories long forgotten, great friends long lost, and epic parties long ended. Before of course we all need to get back to the inevitability of today and now and the sweet uncertainty of what tomorrow holds for each one of us.

In the end, I did manage to clear out all the “clutter” from my room, neatly packed into boxes to be given away or discarded. After all, I wanted to make room for everything new and exciting that life will unravel in the years to come. New relationships, new travels, new experiences. Of course, safely smug in the consolation that pictures and people will always have an unlimited digital and virtual shelf life. Always just a click away; if one ever wanted to reach out.

As for everything else, there is always storage. I managed to safely tuck away a funky belt, some unused diaries, and a couple of Ecuador maps. After all, you never know when I might need them!

IMG_7783

The Darden i will miss.

When you finally get ready to leave a place as beautiful as Darden and Charlottesville, you try and soak in each and every part of it one last time. As I walked the 3 minutes from my idyllic apartment in Ivy gardens to Darden last evening, I thought about the numerous early mornings I thanked my stars for the perfectly located apartment to get to an 8:00am class! As I strolled about, I realized how I had seen this path snowed up in winter, rained in when it showered, bloomed up during spring, colored up during fall, and bared up during autumn. The Darden edifice itself humbled me with its regal brick red and strong sparkling white pillars. The meticulously manicured lawns and immaculately pruned roses filled me with a sense of pure joy. The grand piano room and the elegant hallways brought back so many memories from my wonderful time here.

3 FullSizeRender (8)FullSizeRender (9)FullSizeRender (5)

I thought about how much I was going to miss all these aspects of Darden. But all of it lasted for a few minutes before I started feeling really alone. And then it hit me that the physicality of Darden I was experiencing has been here for years and will be here for many years to come but the Darden that I was going to miss was so much more than that.

What I was really going to miss had a lot to do with the people who made Darden what it was in my heart. Classmates who inspired me to be more than I thought I could ever be, faculty who pushed me harder than I thought I could take, the student affairs executive who taught me the real meaning of going out of your way to help, the IT desk, canvas, and qualtrics team who taught me how to be calm during a technology crises, the first coffee, abbot dining hall servers and the admin who demonstrated the value of being consistent even when no one is watching, the librarian who instilled the value of always smiling even when you are having a bad day, the career services team who taught me to never give up in the face of rejection and garner faith from corners of your mind you knew didn’t exist, the random Virginian at the corner who taught me the value of being cheerful and read to greet even when it’s cold and slimy outside, the roommate who keeps dinner for you when you haven’t eaten all day, the friend who makes sure you are back home from every single Thursday night drinking club, the Australian exchange students who teach you the value of being open and welcoming of every experience that comes your way in a new country, the classmates who shared their life story with Darden TALK, the girls who share their hopes, dreams, and aspirations over a fun night of wine and cheese, the aussie roommate and crazy friend who believe in opening at least 4 bottles of wine along with thumping Bollywood music every single night be it a weekday or a weekend, the endless nights of partying till 6:00 am, the numerous ‘last’ going away parties, the learning team dinners and hours of cards against humanity, the quiet nights at home when you just want to not think of any more alcohol and just have gatorade water and dinner for a change, the innumerable gossip sessions with your girlfriends over home cooked meals, the fiance who puts up with your every whim and fancy unconditionally, and finally my lovely family who supported me through every single step of the Darden journey believing in me more than I ever believed in myself sometimes!

FullSizeRender (12) FullSizeRender (10) FullSizeRender (11)FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender (19)FullSizeRender (17)FullSizeRender (13) FullSizeRender (4) FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender (6) FullSizeRender (14)FullSizeRender (18)IMG_6682 FullSizeRender (3)

As I look out at the beautiful Flagler court today, I know that it’s all these people, and experiences, the good, the great and the ugly, is the Darden I take back with me in my heart.

Of course the physical presence of Darden and Charlottesville with be missed dearly, but only because of the friendships and memories I made here… for life… This one goes out to each one of you who made Darden a very special part of my life! Till we meet again :) So long Darden! You have been a fantastic two years!

FullSizeRender (7) FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (15) FullSizeRender (16)FullSizeRender (11)

How an MBA ruins vacations for the rest of your life!

IMG_5203

This post was originally featured in TopMBA Blogs :)

IMG_5095

One of the biggest upsides of doing an MBA is the long summer, winter, and spring breaks you get.

Last year winter break was a long ordeal in prepping for consulting case interviews. After about putting in scores of cases your mind wandered to the carefree second year winter break that you would earn after having bagged enough offers to choose from upon graduation. The best part is customizing your winter break as you fancy. If you wanted to take off a few days before actual break started (of course you had to take a couple of exams from Airports around the world, not too bad actually) and attend your two best friends’ wedding or you wanted to go to Cuba on a Global Field Experience, or you wanted to just relax till you finished exams on grounds and still had enough time to decide what you wanted to do. You could come back first week January for a week of fast track classes to gain a few extra credits or take a lazy cruise from Miami to Mexico via Key West like I did. 18 months into the MBA you had become pretty darn great at customization.

IMG_5299 IMG_5312

However one of the biggest downsides of doing an MBA is how it ruins all vacations for life. Whatever it is that you decided to do for winter break, one thing was for sure – You were eternally thinking about interesting business opportunities, or optimization of processes, or potential revenue growth encountered along the way. Your mind never ceases to calculate, analyze, and hypothesis. Even on vacation!

For instance, how could riding to the Dulles airport for an international flight from Charlottesville be made more certain and reasonably priced? Instead of hoping to hear back on your post in the Darden Facebook group for a ride share. You instantly start thinking about an “Uber communities” service option which could be created by students’ ridesharing activities. On your way to the airport you think about how you could pull data from various social media profiles to create a database of people riding to Dulles that morning.

As you stand in line for your boarding pass, you think about opening more counters during peak hours as you see airline employees standing chatting with each other while old passengers are close to collapsing, or howling toddlers are ensuring their voices outdo each other’s.

You always wonder why they don’t start boarding from the numbers in the back so people don’t keep waiting to get in as people in the front struggle with fitting their cabin bags over head. You mentally start calculating the minutes saved each business day with these optimized process. In turn the dollar value you could save on each extra employee hired by the airline or the additional tariff they pay at airports. When on board, you start sizing the number of meals served/items wasted and how you could estimate the cost savings involved.

When you deplane at your destination and see the serpentine lines for customs and the numerous closed counters you wonder why the variability in demand wasn’t accounted for or why weren’t flight arrivals staggered to manage traffic.

By now its 5:00am in the morning, you are jet lagged, and you can’t help but think about how you have absolutely nothing to wear for the upcoming wedding celebrations. You wish there was app which could customize your outfits based on your mood and theme for each event along with available items in your wardrobe, things you might need to order on amazon, or automatically order the most reasonable pins on your Pinterest board. You race through all the things you need to accomplish and how your life is falling apart without your outlook calendar.

At the wedding, you start optimizing seating arrangements and analyzing variability in buffet lines. Before you try to snap yourself out and decide to start having fun, you are on the second leg of your vacation – the Mexican cruise. All you can think about is calculating winnings the house made that night, by counting the slot machines, number of plays, winning odds, and pay out rates. You start calculating revenues from drinks made at the poolside and Jacuzzi and how if they had bundled them they would make higher margins.

IMG_4549 IMG_4578

As the sun sets across the Mexican gulf, I pondered over the constant quantitative and qualitative analysis that MBA students often subject their mind to either in a line for a chipotle meal applying operations management principles or while reading a news piece on a tech firm buyout applying financial valuation concepts.

Will our minds ever take a break? Maybe, maybe not. For the moment I was too busy making a mental spreadsheet on which would be the best vacation spot for spring break!

IMG_5070 IMG_5203 IMG_5317 IMG_5328

The ride I will never forget!

mean_streak

I still remember the first time I saw the mind blowing roller coaster rides on Discovery travel and Living on Indian television. It was late one evening on a show called, “The most trilling roller coaster rides in the world”. Seven out of the top ten were in the US. It was right then that I decided that this was going onto my bucket list of things to do!mean_streak        maverick_inversion

And so, one year since I landed in the United States, it was this summer when I finally decided to make it happen. My partner in crime and I decided that it was high time we went on a mini road trip and treated ourselves to some grand rides! So we embarked on a 2000 mile journey. Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland – rock and roll hall of fame, Detroit, Cedar point, Charlottesville and then finally back to Boston.

Cedar point is the case in point here. Perched on the tip of an island, the dramatic entry to which is only via a long bridge, the feeling is exhilarating you as you approach it.

There is a lot of strategic planning that goes into visiting an amusement park of this scale in the US. First, you don’t want it to be on a weekend. Given that it was the summer break it didn’t really matter. Second you want to leave it to the rain gods to make sure that crowds get dissuaded from cedar point. And so luckily there were showers. Heavy enough to discourage the majority of the crowds but light enough for those of us risk loving ones to still venture to the park in hope that the major rides won’t be shut down. Thirdly, you want to be an early bird to the park. Given how early we started, I was still surprised at how many cars were there already. You also want to make sure you are empty stomach for the whole experience, of course only sipping on fluids and electrolytes. Clearly the rides don’t make for a stomach friendly experience.

Once you enter the park, you feel butterflies in your stomach. The sheer construct of the rides over takes your bravado. And so you gingerly open the map. Being strategic about heading straight to the end of the park in the hope that the lines would be the shortest.

As I stood in line for the first ride – “the maverick”; worms, centipedes, and millipedes now joined the butterflies in my stomach. That’s another thing – the names sound so intimidating – The mantis, the gatekeeper, the dragster, the raptor, the mean streak, the blue streak, the magnum XL-200, the millennium force, the cork screw, the sling shot. The “The” makes it more overpowering in your mind.

IMG_3744    top_thrill_dragster_at_cedar_point

The moments up to the ride is what builds up the adrenaline, the rush and the excitement. The ride itself is exhilarating, adding the element of “really living life to the fullest in that moment”. And with that I had the time of my life. On each ride!

Were there times when I thought, “Do I really want to do this”? Of course there were. Were there times when I wanted to chicken out and sit quietly eating popcorn and pretzels? Of course there were. Were there times I wanted to just watch others be brave and get on the rides and think how foolish they were to risk their lives? Of course there were!

But then that’s life! There are rides you will be scared of. There are rides you will deem not safe. There are rides you feel you aren’t made for. But the real fun is in standing in line despite all those feelings, letting the adrenaline engulf you, over-coming your fears, insecurities, perceptions of yourself, and strapping on the safety belt, taking in each emotion of excitement, nervousness, apprehension, joy, wonder, doubt, getting onto the ride, living in the moment and finally surviving the ride.

      maverick

IMG_3815

Rock and Roll Hall of fame

On the trip back closer home, I thought about how “Darden recruiting” is in essence like a roller coaster. The curves, the bends, the uncertainties, the fears, the doubts, the joy, the mundane moments of waiting, and finally the sense of accomplishment and calm. Of course all of these in some random order and varying degrees of magnitude. The only thing you can do is just strap on and get onto the ride of your lifetime.

Corkscrew_(Cedar_Point)_01  IMG_3741

Why you should slow down at-least once a day?

4

Why should you slow down at least once a day?

For weeks on end I was running from one class to another, walking briskly from one interview to another, travelling from one city to another. I didn’t realize when spring had left Charlottesville and when fall had taken over. It was only yesterday when I was walking back from my innovation and design thinking class that I noticed the leaves had changed color and were vanishing faster than you could say “autumn”.

2    1

A lot of us often look towards the next big thing in life. The next big exam, the next big application deadline to college, the next big job, the next big promotion, the next big raise, the next big date, the next big graduate application, the next big internship interview, the next big first job after your MBA, the next big house, the next big promotion, the next big raise, the next big something else. There is always a next big something! And the search for the next big something often results in a sprint and a lot of speed. And the trouble with speed is that you often don’t remember those moments because they go by so fast.

I rarely remember the cases I spend hours on, because I read them so fast. Same with the interviews, phone calls, or emails. I rarely remember the meals I cooked or eat, because I cooked them and ate them so quick.

It’s only the times I actually slowed down that are etched in my mind’s eye. The meal I deliberately cooked after carefully selecting the ingredients, reading a recipe, talking to my mother/grandmother on the phone to ask for tips, listening to some fantastic music, and taking my time cooking it. That’s the one I remember.

The spontaneous long drive to skyline to see the change in fall color with friend’s one busy weekend will still be the best time that I had at Darden. Only because we kept no deadlines, no rush to get back in time for another event on the calendar. We decided we will just slow down and have a good time before a mad week began.

4      7

5

Finally after weeks I slowed down to watch the leaves fall with the wind and stopped in my tracks to realize how spectacularly beautiful Darden looks at this time of the year. I sat there to close my eyes, take a deep breath, listen to what the rustling of the leaves sounded like, and really capture what this moment felt like.

At Darden, and in life, you should definitely slow down once a day to build up these fantastic memories because when you are reading that next 100 page long case for class the next day, you can just close your eyes for a second and transport back to that magical place. Even if it’s for a ‘slow-quick’ moment.

Check out my previous post on autumn/fall at Darden – https://lifeismyclassroom.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/it-was-falling-and-its-all-fallen/

Eat around the world in 2 hours!

FullSizeRender

Come September end, Darden students take to buying ingredients, digging up old recipe books, calling their mothers frantically to figure out how to make that one dish, and basically trying to figure out how they are going to manage cooking like a master chef in between learning how to be outstanding business leaders! We call this event the International Food Festival (IFF)!

FullSizeRender

Every year students from 40+ countries around the world present their popular cuisines to the Darden community. Faculty, students and family come together, babies and pets alike to celebrate the vast diversity that the business school has to offer.

It’s advisable to start fasting all morning to be able to make it around the numerous mouthwatering stalls at least once before you go back for seconds, of course given there is food still left! Of course I hit the Indian stall the earliest to make the most of the “Channa masala” and the “butter chicken”. Craving spicy Indian food for almost a whole week. Moving on to the all American meat, British chicken sandwiches and salad, Chinese delicacies, Vietnamese rice items, Pakistani chicken dishes with spiced rice, Turkish walnut Baklava, Indonesian summer spring rolls, Israeli Falafel hummus, Japanese sushi, and tons of other exotic cuisines inviting your taste buds to dig in!

The Darden South Asia Society introduced the diversity pledge which strives to continue spearheading diversity initiatives. Be it race, nationality, gender, sexuality, background or even your school of thought. Students and faculty extended support by endorsing the pledge during the event. One of the reasons you enjoy two years at Darden is for this very reason. The openness to diversity of thought and being.

IFF2014-3516                   IFF2014-3509

There is of course no evening complete without dance and music. We had melodious Bollywood numbers, opera singers, violin performances, Japanese dance performances, and of course own very own Bollywood dance numbers ended the evening on a high note with the brave ones taking to the dance floor almost at the drop of a hat! Who doesn’t enjoy shaking a leg to the peppy “Bhangra” beats now and then?

So the next time you want to eat around the world in 2 hours, you know where in the world you need to be!

IFF2014-3551           IFF2014-3542

Can you read for pleasure when doing an MBA?

FullSizeRender

When you think about becoming a student for two years, one of the resolutions you make is that of reading more. That’s exactly what I thought when I decided to do my MBA. “At last I can now read all the books that I want to.”
A month into the program you soon realize that all the reading you would be getting are 100 page Business cases. (Thanks Harvard Business school publishing, it’s always a big wonder why such long cases! Most HBS cases are close to around those many number of pages.) Most of the time you are not even getting through the whole case. One of the skills you pick up very early on is the skill of being able to skim through volumes of text to find the relevant information, data, and tables to arrive at the insights required to make a recommendation backed by reasonable analysis and data.
And so a year later, it’s shameful to admit that I haven’t read for pleasure. I have read to analyze. I have read to make recommendations. I have read to draw insights. I have sometimes not read at all (but that’s of course between only you and me! You soon realize which courses you can get by a few minutes of skimming, a warning though – very far and few and often require a lot of strategic positioning and intuition. else you could get crushed in a case study classroom. So err on the side of “reading” a case – always!)
best-business-books-2014
So when the chance came last year to pick electives for second year, I ensured that I signed up for “Reading seminar 1” and “2” and “3”. The idea is to read a book a week and write a paper on what you took away from the book. Additionally you meet as a group of 15 students to share your reflections from the book. Very similar to a book club. But you are doing more than just reviewing the book. We read Machiavelli – Prince, Andrew Carnegie, and Enron – the smartest guys in the room, Steve jobs, Collin Powell, Warren Buffett.

Each one made me think deeply about lessons I could learn and mistakes I don’t want to make. It is one time in the week that I put all other reading away and curl onto my chair with a hot mug of chocolate and just read. Read for pleasure. About lives and stories and characters and dreams and hopes and successes and failures. Agreed that it’s not too far removed from business. After all we are reading about stalwarts in business. But biographies make for an interesting way to understand and internalize experiences, decisions, turning points, and character traits that make business lessons pleasurable to read.

download Capture 29-buffett1-slide1

And so a year into the course I have read six books in six weeks. Spent two continuous weekends with Warren buffet, and Steve jobs. A rainy weekend with Collin Powell on his American journey curled in with a mug of hot chocolate and some Beethoven in the background. A weekend with Machiavelli and the prince. Not that’s what I call reading for pleasure! Looking forward to reading seminar two beginning in a week! American icon – Ford motors coming up!

the-prince                                                                 FullSizeRender