On the 8th of May, 2017 at 1 PM, as the bell rang, the last exam of my postgraduate programme in Economics concluded. I came out of the class a master’s in Economics. The beginning of the effort goes three years back, in March 2014, when I decided that I do not want to pursue Chartered Accountancy anymore. The trio of the last two papers of IPCC, University exams and postgraduate entrance exams danced on my head, as all I had were 90 days in my hand to tackle to all three. But alas, fate had its own way here and I had to wait an entire year to proudly march on the beats of my own drums and finally live my dream of pursuing a master’s in Economics.
For many it may not be a big deal, as I eventually realized. For many Gokhale was among the last resort options after a Delhi School of Economics or an IGIDR. But for me, things were very different. As a kid who was always intimidated by calculus and math at large, and being a B.Com. graduate where you probably forget math by the time you pass out of college, it was a real challenge. I know I could have done better, and there is no shame in admitting that, but I guess not having the habit of self study since the 1st grade right up to IPCC really put me at a disadvantage, and I had tough time teaching myself. Also, secretly, I spent a lot more time studying Economics, simply for the love of it.
What had to happen happened, and I landed at Gokhale in July 2015. I was taken aback by the fact that students had travelled alone from all corners of the country with all that luggage, without their parents, whereas both my parents had accompanied me, to make sure everything was well. I felt like a kid. That was also my first encounter with my roommates, Harshvardhan Dhapola and Shshank Chowdhury, who would go on to become my closest friends. And I had the best room in the hostel, the Boys Common Room, or as we called it with great affection, BCR. No privacy, but full party scenes. Though it was only for the first year, we had a ball.
Come December, and my life was wrecked as a lot of quick but permanent changes took place on the personal side of my life. I had barely just made it through the first semester, I was tired and weak, but was coming back from home to Pune with renewed vigour and a lot of free time in hand. The plan was to use the time from Diwali to Christmas for doing research with Shubham Gupta and Dhruv Goel, probably the two most well read and intellectual rational minds on campus I knew by then. It would have been great to even start writing something with them, but that was also the time they fell in love with their respective partners. Good for everyone at large, I too found place in a “group”, with Shubham, Samiksha and Kshama, who went on to be my support system for the rest of the year and half there.
The year 2016 and 2017 were everything I could expect from time. All the ups and all the downs hit me. There were all kinds of days. It is hard to express in words the high I felt for days at stretch, and the kind of thought stimulation that was taking place. In a course like CA where you get very few moments where your mind is blown away, this place was like heaven. With all resources at hand, open door policy everywhere from administration to faculty right up to the Director of the Institute, it was a very free environment to grow, at least for those who chose to.
January 2016, in the Alumni meet under the Banyan Tree, a place of historic eminence, where it is said that Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah would talk about the Independence struggle, where an alumnus from the early eighties batch who also joined in as a faculty for that year, mentioned that he does not see people spending enough time under the Banyan Tree. In my mind, I agreed to the fact immediately as I always thought that I loved the campus but never spent enough time on the campus. Also, on the same day, the Director had mentioned how Professors had fierce arguments among themselves. I think, everything came together to give birth to UTBT, which went on for the following year too, for a total of 12 sessions in my presence. UTBT opened a lot of doors for me. It gave me the opportunity to talk to many seniors, just brainstorming over topics, with various faculty, who I think appreciated the initiative even more than the students did. This was followed by the juniors who came in July 2016, where I met the three best people there could be to pass UTBT down to in Sejal, Shreya and Prasanth. They became like family till my time at Gokhale ended. They added a lot of substance and flavour and maturity to the content of UTBT. Not to forget, it was only two sessions old when UTBT found its place in Pune Mirror. UTBT also influenced some of the most important interviews that I gave, and put me virtually in control of the interviews. Also proud to say, UTBT did not cost even a single penny to the Institute and I was able to get students and teachers from neighbouring colleges to come participate in the sessions.
The following year I was given charge of the Alumni Committee with Anne, who went to become my go-to person that year whenever I was unsure what decision had to be taken. Alumni Committee was very close to my heart, not just because of the nostalgic factor, but mostly because of my head in the junior year, Arushi, who did some spectacular work and made me realize the linkages that Alumni Committee possesses that waited to be unleashed. On top of it, Anne and I were blessed with a great team. We could pull off four Alumni Meets around India at a fraction of a cost that would otherwise be incurred to hold a single meet inside the campus. We also began the Alumni Lecture Series and laid the foundation for an Alumni Portal.
Among the things that I treasure the most about Pune will be gazing at all the different trees and flowers in and around the campus and the city, the clear skies that I hardly ever get to see in Pune, and most importantly, how nature was so close to civilization. We had two hillocks, Vetaal Tekdi and Hanuman Tekdi at walking distance from our hostel campus which we used to climb regularly to get a good view of the city. The only thing to not like about Pune was the food.
I met a lot of interesting, and at the same time, weird people at Gokhale. That is the thing about staying in hostels with 300 other people. It is a small world in itself. You get to see go-getters, humanitarians, shrewd people, selfish ones, and also those who have not made any worthwhile friends in the entire two years. You get to see the world a bit more. Also, as it was my first time outside the house, I cooked, washed my clothes, and did some cleaning, along with a few other chores for the first time by myself. Made me realize what home-makers go through on a daily basis and still do it with perfection.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who made this journey beautiful. All my friends, seniors and juniors from whom I learnt so much! The faculty with whom I had the privilege to discuss things within and outside academics freely, Registrar Sir who made possible to convert everything I had in mind for Alumni Committee and UTBT, to every single person in the administration to every single peon who have worked throughout to make Gokhale Institute the way it is! These two years have been etched in my heart and my mind!