Under The TISS Umbrella!
Frank Zappa is said to have stated that the mind is like a parachute and it doesn’t work if it is not open; however, when it comes to TISS, Mumbai, Walter Gropius’ words that the mind is like an umbrella and it is most useful when open, seem more fitting. The mind as an umbrella analogy is more appropriate for at least two reasons, foremost of which is the indispensability of an umbrella in the regular walk of life in Mumbai. An umbrella is more than an equipment here, it is an investment. Having or not having an umbrella with oneself has a greater bearing on one’s quality of life than most other material possessions, an umbrella provides a sense of security, a mental comfort that one is prepared, and even when it is not raining a well-chosen umbrella provides an aesthetic value. Secondly, while a parachute is a valuable thing, it is very far removed from having much practical utility for most people, a parachute is useful under very special circumstances, circumstances which will not arise for most people. The reason for musing about umbrellas is because TISS as an institute provides you with the intellectual equivalent of an umbrella for the rainier days of life, an education which is meant to ensure that when it rains you are not stuck and can keep moving, maybe even get refuge for other people, if you have an umbrella big enough.
The campus of the institute is simply beautiful, and not just because of the architectural structures but also because of the people and the activities going on inside, something is always happening. The palette of courses available is rich and diverse and such is the case with the population in the campus, coming from pretty much all the major geographical regions of India. You can be whoever you are here, and even be whoever you are not and there is no one to bother you. Being amidst the milieu of such a vibrant diversity, everything becomes the norm, there are no outliers here, or maybe everyone is. There is a lot on offer, a lot to learn, and it doesn’t have to be classroom learning, a casual conversation with someone about their course can be as stimulating as a highly engaging lecture.
At any other time in my life if I were asked what is it that I have learnt from my course I would have spoken about the impressive theories I have read, and the skills and adeptness I have acquired in accomplishing tasks. Here, however, I have learnt that theory may provide us with the umbrella but it does not open the umbrella for us. If I have to state my most important learning here in my first few months it will not be about the books or theories I have read and learnt, they are supplementary, although very important, to me what is more crucial, which is the importance of simplicity in conversation, especially if you want to have a meaningful discussion or even want to convince someone. The best way to have a meaningful conversation with someone is not by telling them a theory built on concrete yet lifeless logic with a plethora of jargon words thrown in; the best way is to tell them through a story because a story is a form of life itself. And stories abound here, as they do in all walks of life, however, for some reason, one is more receptive to them in this place, at least I am; it could be due to something in the air, or the water.
The second lesson is that do not accept or reject anything in its entirety, things are not good or bad in themselves, but only according to the use they are put to. The professors here often teach through the medium of stories, about their personal lives or someone else’s. There is also not much of didactic education, while generally a lecture involves a professor transferring information or knowledge to the students, here, often, the professor is the one who keeps asking questions and the students are required to come up with answers to satiate him; and this role reversal is the most peculiar and refreshing aspect since in real life one will be required to provide answers, especially if one aspires to be in a leadership position.
All in all, what I have learned till now is that there is a lot to learn, I am in a free fall right now and opening my mind like a parachute to all the experiences will make it an enjoyable and smooth adventure and by the time I reach the field I should have an impressive and functional umbrella.
About the Author:
Abhishek Pareek is a 1st year M.A. HRM&LR student from TISS, Mumbai. He likes to read Indian and Western philosophy and write his reflections on his observations. He’s a certified Competent Communicator in Toastmasters International and also an athlete. He has also recently developed a peculiar fascination with umbrellas.