The Crown Of The Hill By Vishal Bhardwaj – SIBM Pune Campus Walk
SIBM – It’s Lavale!
A winding road leads you out from the edge of the city into the rolling hills outside Pune. As you pass through fields and roads lined with bougainvilleas, and climb the hairpin turns up a densely wooded hill, the countryside below slowly comes into view. It’s only when you enter the gate and find yourself in a beautifully verdant campus that you finally realise that you have, in fact, reached a business school.
Welcome to Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune! The Lavale (pronounced “luv-lay”) campus is spread across the top of a crescent-shaped hill and commands a scenic view of the plains below and the city in the distance. And yes, it does has a way of taking your breath away the first time you enter, and then some more. But its beauty is more than skin deep – state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities complement its tranquil surroundings and make for the ideal setting for an otherwise exacting MBA course.
Situated on the outskirts of Pune, just off the Mumbai-Bangalore highway, it’s far from the noise and bustle of the city. A regular bus service every few hours to and from the centre of Pune makes the city equally accessible, thus giving the best of both worlds. The campus is relatively new, having shifted from S.B. Road in 2007. SIBM shares it with three of Symbiosis International University’s post-graduate institutes, and Symbiosis School of Photography.
Let the tour begin!
Once inside, the first thing that strikes you is all the greenery around. Well manicured lawns, bamboo patches and hedges bursting with vividly coloured flowers can be seen around all the buildings and in the spaces between. The sense of visual harmony is completed by the multiple water-features and an actual waterfall that together lend a calming feel to the landscape.
Walking around the campus is both a pleasure and a necessity, owing to its size and layout. But a nice second option for getting around inside are the campus bicycles which are free for all to use. Getting late for class? Just grab a cycle from the station outside the hostel and, in less than five minutes of pedaling, you’ll be parking it at the one near the Academic Block.
Safety is no concern here either. Well-lit roads and an effective and ever-present security staff ensure that roaming around the campus feels just as safe as in your own backyard. As for other essential facilities, there’s WiFi connectivity everywhere except on the roads connecting the different blocks, and an excellent on-campus laundry.
Academic Block – the heart of SIBM
The main academic block houses the lecture rooms/halls, IT labs and the faculty and administrative departments. An architectural marriage of red brick, granite pavement and white-painted iron columns and beams, the exteriors of the building give off a distinctly modern yet sensible aesthetic vibe.
Classrooms are large, bright and airy, each one equipped with its own PC, projector and public-address system. For important lectures that might need to be recorded for later reference, there are video cameras in the classrooms. Motion detectors even ensure that the lights are switched off when the room isn’t in use.
In the monsoons, here at SIBM, it’s not uncommon to see clouds floating into the classroom through an open window. Like absent-minded latecomers, they amble in at whim, straining the focus of the more dreamy ones in class (much to the professors’ anguish). And in the evening lectures, the much-awaited mid-lecture breaks become even more special. Step out into the corridor at the right time, and you’ll be treated to the sight of a spectacular sunset over the hills.
Supplementing the Academic Block are the IT Centre and the Central Library. The former allows live stock trading through six Bloomberg terminals, in addition to housing modern PC terminals for SPSS and other statistical applications. The library is a standalone, two-storey building with over 5000 books, not to mention the best and latest business journals and a bank of terminals exclusively for Euromonitor access. The open, high-ceiling reading hall is ideal for some quiet study time. As Shruti Mehta of MBA-I, Finance tells us laughingly, “The library is so peaceful and conducive to getting work done, it’s almost become a second home for me!”
Finally, Symbi-Eat, the all-important canteen, is located right next door, to help students grab a quick snack or save time on those rushed tea/coffee breaks between classes.
When it’s not hosting cultural events, public-speaking workshops, impromptu jamming sessions or even the occasional bonfire, the Amphitheatre effectively becomes the Marine Drive of the college. When the competitions and deadlines start to get stressful, students come here to just sit gazing out onto the valley below and listening to the distant roar of the city, and to have a few moments of quietude.
Decked the Halls
Key to all the important events, competitions and guest speaker sessions is the Symbiosis Auditorium. Seating six hundred at a time, it hosts all major corporate events like panel discussions and conclaves, plus most of SIBM’s own national-level competitions. It has also witnessed visits by such eminent guests as Mr. Narendra Modi, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Mr. Rajnath Singh, Dr. Hamid Ansari and more.
The Convention Centre next door, with a capacity of two hundred, is better suited for smaller audiences. Many of the guest lectures by industry leaders or international visiting-faculty are held here.
A Scenic Stopover
As you walk along the road from the main college block towards the mess and hostels, keep an eye out to your right for the Aqua Point. Situated on a small outcrop, this lovely view-point commands an awesome, panoramic view of the hills and plains around. Be it solitary soul-searching session or amorous encounter, it’s an ideal and idyllic spot for a quiet moment. Quiet, that is, except for the rush of the wind.
Further down the road, a beautiful, open courtyard planted with flowering trees leads to the double-storied mess and kitchen. Like a well-oiled machine, the kitchen churns out a wholesome new menu everyday, from 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night. And, as in everything at SIBM, here too it is the students who make the decisions. A group of students meet to set the menu items for the upcoming week and to make sure there’s something for everyone, be it vegetarian, non-vegetarian or Jain food. “We get a lot of requests, so every once in a while, we like to surprise the students with special items like pasta, chinese, biryani, dal-baati, etc.”, says Trupti, a member of this committee. On days when non-vegetarian is served, the non-veg section is thoughtfully restricted to the upper storey.
Adjacent to the mess is a tiny shopping arcade of sorts. Apart from an eatery and a juice shop (for those who want a break from the mess schedule), a couple of general stores and a unisex salon round it off nicely.
Sports and Recreation
While academics are undoubtedly the mainstay of student life at SIBM, there’s no dearth of facilities for the sports enthusiasts and fitness freaks either. A fully furnished gym offers modern fitness equipment and stays open morning and evening. This is complemented by regular Yoga and Zumba classes, for those seeking a different kind of workout.
The Recreation Hall provides ample space for either working on a group project or practicing for cultural events. And, as midnight approaches, it turns into an animated birthday bash venue, with both cakes and kicks flying equally freely!
Stepping out of the Recreation Centre housing the gym and recreation hall, you find yourself at the indoor sports building. To your right are two spacious indoor badminton courts; to the left are the squash court, pool table room and table-tennis hall with three tables. And finally, all of this overlooks the outdoor swimming pool.
Speaking of outdoors, there is also a basketball court and a full-sized football/cricket ground, complete with scoreboard, audience stands and lighting for night matches. With the perfect hilltop view along one side of the high-fenced field, a game on the Symbiosis Ground is a treat for the players and audience alike.
Needless to say, as classes get over in the evening and students feel the need to unwind, there’s a heavy rush to the gym and sports venues. Even with all the options of games to play, you’ll often find yourself having to wait for your turn wherever you go!
Home away from home
Something you don’t often hear from resident college students is that their hostel is awesome, but that’s exactly how it is here at SIBM: we really do love our hostels! Separate for boys and girls but similarly laid out, they offer different-sized rooms (all fully furnished, with large windows and attached bathrooms) for either two, three or four occupants. Many rooms have balconies with – that’s right – still more scenic views! Come exam season, the corridors are buzzing with activity, as study groups materialise spontaneously and students rush from room to room – some to teach, some to learn. On lazy Sunday afternoons, the many open courtyards with grassy lawns become makeshift cricket pitches or jamming spots. And, at night, you’ll spot many a solitary lover sauntering alone in the moonlight, whispering sweet nothings into a mobile phone.
But the tour would be incomplete without a visit to the latest canine residents of the boys hostel. Two little labrador puppies, one black, one white, these newly-appointed hostel pets are the apple of everyone’s eyes. Interestingly, their names – Dollar and Pound – aptly reflect what’s on the minds of us MBA students! When they’re not being doted upon by a comically giggly group of boys, they can be found dozing in the sun outside their very own double-occupancy room (with an attached bathroom which, up to this writing, they have steadfastly ignored). Incidentally, the little ones have also drastically upped the female footfall in the boys hostel, a development that the boys have surprisingly little issue with.
Hunger has a knack for striking hardest at the oddest hours, and for SIBM students (nocturnal creatures, all), these odd hours usually tend to be well into the night. That’s where the much relied upon Midnight Canteen (or ‘MNC’, as it is lovingly called) comes in. Open from 10:30PM to 2:00AM, it’s the hangout where study sessions, group assignments and late-night student council meetings take place over steaming cups of coffee and delicious parathas and pulaos.
As you begin the walk from the far end of the campus back to the gate, the trip suddenly seems to have become longer than it was on the way in. You wonder if it could be the way the path slopes or if you’re just tired, until you realise – it’s just that you’ve already fallen in love with this place.