The Balancing Act at IIM Ahmedabad

Do you really have to leave it all behind?


One of the many forms that pre-MBA anxiety takes is the worry that one won’t have time to give to the leisurely pursuits of life, or even to non-academic passions. I have often been asked (even from incoming batch freshers at IIM A whom I was taking an orientation session for last year) – ‘Will we get time for extra-currics?!’ Perhaps what many expect is a firm, decisive, ‘No.’ But surprisingly (or not, for those who’ve been there), it’s a heartening ‘Yes!’

As someone who had her heart much more in extra-curricular and social activities than academics all through her school and college years, this was a significant sacrifice I thought I was about to make – to give all that up for a grueling two-year professional course. But a few weeks on campus, and I realized that was not the case at all. Like so many other things, this aspect seemed much different from the inside than from the outside. There were groups of people, however small, which regularly played sport/jammed/quizzed/danced as the case may be. Incidentally, many of these were also I-Schols (Institute Scholars, kind of a merit list) whose academic track record remained unaffected by their many extra-curricular involvements. For some, the latter almost seemed to fuel them, energize them.

That’s at the heart of pursuing a passion, a hobby, or an interest – your love for it, or what joy it gives you. When you are in the middle of a high-pressure, rigorous grind in your first year, sport or art gives you a tremendous release, a much-needed break to de-stress and draw energy from. On our campus, regular players (first and second years alike) couldn’t wait for midnight to strike every day, so that they could run out of their rooms and take over the Frisbee field for the next hour or two. Much camaraderie and spirit ensued, and I don’t even need to get into what all sport gives you personally. The bonding holds true for other activities as well – all clubs, societies, organizing committees and so on.

What has been inspiring for me is the passion which some people have for their ‘hobbies’ and how they nurture them despite other demands on their time. Quizzing is supposedly a hot activity on engineering campuses (which they carry forth in their B-Schools), and I have seen quizzers holding informal sessions even the night before exams at times. It is amusing (and delightful) to see faces light up with excitement at getting the right answer, or guessing the movie correctly in a Dumb Charades event. It is even more fun to be one of those faces. And yes, you can do this while you’re doing an MBA, at an IIM or not.

A word of caution here – often, people join committees only because they are expected to (like that of the business festival at a B-School) or because everyone around them is doing it. Peer pressure runs deeper than one would like to admit, and it is not too difficult to get carried away with the flow. Surprisingly, something that is meant to be for enjoyment and learning can also get converted into a rat race – ‘How can I stay out? I will be left behind!’ Not true at all. You can stick to what you really like, enjoy, and believe in, and still stand out. In fact, recruiters across campuses would be used to seeing similar CV points everywhere, so a consistent track record of a passionate hobby can really strengthen your job candidature. For many students, their interest ends up becoming the main focus of even their job interviews! Imagine, if you were to enter an interview and be asked about your hobby and what you have done about it lately, and you were to fumble and answer – ‘Err…sorry Sir, I left all that behind when I came to study so that I could get a decent job at the end of it!’

I would go one step further and say – while you’re thrown into a pool of intelligent, talented people from across the country, jump at the opportunity of taking your interest one level higher. Can you put up a professional play instead of the amateur ones that you’ve done through college? Can you organize a city-level tournament (or even a national one) in multiple sports? Can you compete at other college fests and win a trophy or two for your institute? All of these, just by the way, have been done by students while at IIM, Ahmedabad, the institute thought to suck all your time into academics. It is no longer a big deal once you decide what that passion is, and how you will manage your time. How exactly you do that, we will keep for another post.  🙂


–  Akanksha Thakore

21 April, 2011


Akanksha Thakore

Self-growth Trainer , Social Sector Consultant Akanksha Thakore is a consultant in the social sector and a self-growth trainer. Her past work involves working with Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (Sales & Marketing, Corporate Responsibility) and Reliance Foundation. At Reliance Foundation she helped setup the Education Pillar with a specific focus on a rural secondary education initiative. She has worked with Blue Ribbon Movement for five years in its earlier form, and presently is the Program Director of the Social Leaders Program (SLP). SLP is an 8-month leadership building program training participants through a hands-on social project. The first batch is running a cleanliness campaign called 'I Clean toh Mumbai Clean'. She also takes workshops for schools in self-growth for teenagers and has taken an orientation session for 450 students of IIM, Ahmedabad, incoming batch of 2010. She is trained in Reiki (levels I &II), Art of Living, and practices different forms of meditation. She is passionate about theatre, dance, and writing. Akanksha is an Alumnus of NM College. She is an Institute Scholar and Best All-rounder from IIM Ahmedabad (PGP batch 2007)


One comment


Can you throw some light on the % of the people who are 'I-Schols'? How many people can truly be in the top 10 cgpa wise and also be very active in their extra-currics?