Dienstag, 28. September 2010

Behind the Scenes

They are invisible. In the background, quietly working, probably more dutifully than any of us has ever worked. The IIMB campus would not be the same without its countless staff tirelessly ensuring that everything goes according to plan.

Up on the second floor in a small corner a man hits the pedal of his mechanical script-binder. Meanwhile his colleague patiently turns roti (typical Indian bread) over an open flame to serve us students for lunch. Up to twenty women at a time move centimeter for centimeter across the cricket field. Their job is to gather the newly cut grass and they only take breaks when students come to do sports. Also without the ubiquitous security guards campus life would not be possible. They guard the main gate, roam through empty corridors and protect the construction sites. Here, small teams of workers slowly but steadily create new rooms and hostel blocks.

And there are many more of them. Delivering the daily newspaper ( 2 Eurocent), selling sandwiches, cleaning, making photocopies, cutting hair (80 Eurocent) or doing your laundry. Labour in India is cheap, maybe a little too cheap. As omnipresent as these people are as little does one take notice. Most of them work quietly, because they are either not supposed to make contact with students or they don´t speak English. Only on the rare occassion of a direct encounter a whole new world opens up. Happily they pose for a picture and are eager to get to know more about you and the world you are coming from. It is not a secret that there are divisions in the Indian society, but it is shocking how easy it is to get used to them, to accept them without a second thought.

The little fellow on the picture to
the right is not a member of staff,
by the way. He rather seems to be
complaining about the food he
gets for lunch in the canteen.

Montag, 20. September 2010


Behind the decision to go on exchange there is hardly a pure academic motivation. More likely it is all about travelling. About diving into a new culture, seeking the adventure, trying to understand the diversity of our planet or even the one of our inner selves. Especially if the destination is as far away and foreign as India certainly is.

But campus life at IIMB took me by surprise. Sitting in the first lectures I realized that it would be a pity to completely neglect studying, which seemed tempting given the fact that none of the courses will count for my final grade. It is about more than grades. Studying in India implies taking a completely new perspective. A new perspective on business, economics and not least on life. There is a difference between studying the theory of microfinance and actually going out to visit the respective institutions. Also performing Yoga exercises in class is unlike anything I have done before.

Nevertheless, whenever studying threatens to become daily routine, we make sure to leave campus and explore the exciting world around. This weekend the destination was Mysore, after Bangalore the second largest city in the state of Karnataka. The pictures show the richly ornated towers of different Hindu temples and the tiger statue infront Mysore´s palace.

Especially fascinating are the rituals inside the temples. Hundrets of visitors at a time push through the small rooms in order to catch blessings from one of the many priests standing in shady corners. They bring flowers or pay coins to the Gods. And there are many of them. Hinduism knows more than 300 million different Gods, each with a distinct story. But more about Hinduism at a later point.

Freitag, 10. September 2010

Campus Life

It is the kind of place archaeologists would get very excited about. Bare stone walls, columns, narrow passages and wide spaces. If Bangalore should ever happen to get deserted, IIMB would remain as a monstrous palace of cement and stone, a place for future tourists to walk through and wonder how past generations used to live and work.

But today the campus is very much alive. Within the stone walls some of the most renowned professors of India give lectures to 725 students. For everyone aspiring a career in business getting into this school is both the ultimate goal and a nearly impossible undertaking. Each year the school receives up to 280.000 applications so that 380 students compete for one seat. The lucky ones have two years of intense studying ahead of them and not a single one will leave the campus without a job-offer. It is a straighforward calculation: Take a loan for the tuition fees, study hard and become part of the country´s elite. The first words of our welcome speech are telling: "We are not a ceremonial institution, we like the functional approach. Therefore we are only here to provide you with the necessary information."

But that is just one part of the truth. The other part are the students. Those crazy Indians which I have only just begun to understand. They seem to never sleep, have group meetings in the middle of the night or party and play loud music whenever they like. They know very well how to make the best out of their time during the short semesters.

And than there is the exchange crowd! 75 in total, mostly French or German, but also Belgian, Italian or American. Even the Scandinavian states have sent some lost delegates.

We live on campus in hostel blocks among the local students. By now most of us have gotten accostumed to the small stone rooms, which at first sight rather evoked the association with (luxurious) prison cells. Living on campus among the other students means forgetting about old sleeping habits. Events take place whenever there is time, prefferably at night. Free food is served at least four times a day and little shops are open around the clock. If you feel like having a cheese sandwich or a cone of ice cream at 3am you might need to wake up the shop keeper but you are sure to get what you asked for. How people here manage to give up every distinction between day and night and still attend all lectures, I have not yet figured out. All I know is that I need some sleep now. It is going to be a great semester!

Sonntag, 5. September 2010

At a First Touch

    The streets of Bangalore. A semi-
    organized chaos of traffic, people
    and animals. Shops are everywhere,
    glass-towers of multinationals stand
    next to slums. Simply impressive.

    The IIMB campus is south of town. A Riksha ride
    takes up to 45 minutes for 8km through the crazy
    traffic. Accidents supposedly happen, though I have
    not seen any myself.

The atmosphere is hectic, people are hurried by the traffic which is everywhere.
But amidst all this you meet the friendliest people who never forget a happy smile.