Tuesday, June 03, 2014

A Garib Union and the MBA college

‘M for MBA and M for money’ our sir declared. But we weren't ready to accept it at its face value. We knew that the students who pursued MBA stood neck-deep in debt and underwent every difficulty. holding on to the promise of that one single word –placements. This word provides them succor, just as a gush of cool air embalms the sweating workers on a sunny day. But what to do for two years, when financial crunch and anxiety get the better of us?

My classmate had an answer – Garib Union. We had the temerity to start a union in the precincts of an MBA institute – where we are taught to loathe unionised behaviour. Socialism raised its hood in a lake of capitalism. It was a new way for moving out of the watertight monotony we were placed in. He even framed the commandments for membership, like the commandments of Moses. A few rules of membership were: 1) The student should be penniless by the end of every month 2) His wrist watch shouldn't cost more than Rs 1000 3) He should avoid rickshaws, frappes and all such indulgences to the maximum. 4) He shouldn’t have a girlfriend (the ones who have or have had one know how it burns one’s pocket) and a member of Garib Union wouldn’t get one even if he wanted. The list went on... But some common features were there. The group members were often seen with broken chappals, going unrepaired for weeks. They also kept a distance from the dhobi, so as to save on the laundry expenses. We were seen nowhere in the vicinity of Coffee Bars. Being ‘not rich’ became cool. Someone has said that this cycle of Capitalism and Socialism is inevitable in the society. Old Timers would have called this Fabian Socialism. We called it Garib Unionism. We were the new heretics of our B-School (all of course behind the screen). Now the union wasn’t sexist by nature. Many women zealously joined the Union and, like it happens in Political Parties, became the tokens of feminism in an otherwise male-majority Union.

Student unions are anytime considered to be corny. But this was ‘different’. Yes it was ‘hat ke’. Why so? Because we never had anything to do except add members on the Orkut community created for it. Therefore, some changes were brought in. Union members would be given help in times of need. The word ‘need’ was never defined and hence not a single pie had to be lent. The customary hallelujahs were bellowed out every day. One day a member was found splurging Rs.150 on a pizza when we were living on the stale dinner being served in the mess. The matter was reported to the union and he was promptly suspended from membership. Another member wearing an expensive brand of chappals (costing Rs.1000) was also shown the door. When Mr X got a phone bill of Rs.2000 (spending hours with his love bird miles away), he was promptly dismissed from the Union for a member wouldn’t allocate such a sum for the entire monthly budget (if one ever existed). The union displayed a no-nonsense attitude to such extravagance, though the union was formed for anything but sense.  Moreover, what we loved most about it was its sense of democracy. We have even impeached the founder on one occasion. But this led to a lot of dissonance. All the ousted members formed an Opposition Union. But our Union progressed. One of our members even went to France under a Student Exchange Program of our B-School. We were quite sure while seeing him off that he would bring new members under our fold.

But we slowly discovered one thing. As the litany of such cases increased, some amount of austerity set in our living, though unintentionally. The marketers of tomorrow were now living a life free from the shackles of brands. From M for Materialism, we starting practicing S for Simplicity. This happened in a B-school of all places, where students are taught to create a desire, if one doesn’t exist. Little do they know that practicing is often different from preaching. The hunter is a fool if he falls into the trap set for the other animals.
Today, the Union lives on, like all dysfunctional parties born of lofty ideals, in complete oblivion. But who knows, when this stint with unionism and party structure leads one of the members to chart a future in the unchartered territories of Indian Politics!

- By Arjun N