I woke up the second morning to find my swanky VIP suitcase missing. Every single certificate and citation I had won since my schooldays was in that suitcase — it felt as if my life had vanished with that suitcase. I got off the train at Howrah station, exhausted after the nearly 40-hour journey from Bombay, and headed straight to the police station. After filing my complaint, I reached IIM Calcutta with my airbag and tennis racquet, which had surprisingly not been stolen. I told the administration manager, Deepak Chatterjee, I had nothing left to identify myself but several of my friends were on campus and could vouch for me — apart from me, about 17 other people from my IIT Madras class had made it to IIM Calcutta that year. Mr Chatterjee called IIT Madras and the dean, Dr Srinivasan, told him to admit me; he would ensure that whatever documents were needed would be faxed to IIM-C. For the next 13 weeks, I made a trip every week to the Howrah police station but I never recovered my suitcase or my certificates. Even now, I don’t collect anything — whatever I receive, I send to my mother in Bangalore. She is the custodian of my scrapbooks.
My parents had wanted me to take the civil services exam but an uncle who was a police commissioner of Bangalore city had suggested getting an MBA instead. I took his advice, which was how I had reached IIM in 1982. IIM was a very different experience from what I had been used to, even though I had years of experience of living away from home — Sainik School in Bijapur and IIT Madras weren’t like this. There was no attendance and students could smoke openly in class — I didn’t because I don’t smoke; IIM-C truly treated you as an adult. I have always kept that at the back of my mind — treat people like adults; 80% of the time you get the results, 20% of the time you may not because some people may always misuse the freedom that you give them. But the good is far more important than the downside.
I was fascinated by marketing, so much so that I would attend the s