Word count: 1388 | Estimated time to read entry: 10 min
Incidents described below have been slightly dramatized for the benefit of the non-TAPMI readers and for the sake of bringing interest in the narration.
Photographs used are taken from the “Creative Uncommons” of the TAPMI B2007 esp – Aashish, Nilesh, Paddy & Lipjo and have reached me through various sources.
‘Roadies’ is a teen-centric reality show aired on MTV that requires contestants to endure various tasks ranging from the physically taxing to the mentally humiliating. Contestants vote out the most undeserving after every episode and the one who lasts wins a cash prize, gizmos and the highly coveted title of ‘The Ultimate Roadie’.
We were in the toughest part of the MBA – almost drowned in excel sheets and group politics when the profs decided to up the ante against us. It was time for the most dangerous annual ritual that was designed to ‘test our mettle, team skills and how we would manage crisis and predicament under dire circumstances’. It was The Outbound, known to most HR folks as Outbound Learning (OBL). But I am sure even the most sadistic of you won’t be able to fathom the degree of difficulty and peril we underwent.
Assembled in the seminar hall, the seniors, who were already toughened by the experience, tried their best to hide their “it’s-your-time-in-hell” smirk but failed miserably. A brief ppt was shown to us about the ensuing ordeal – the location was a specialized outdoor training camp located at the outskirts of Bangalore bordering the Bannerghatta National Park; the place was owned by a firang Guru in saffron with a beard till his balls, escorted by two ferocious dogs; there were not-so-waterproof looking tents for sleeping in, like a refugee camp straight out of a World War II film; we had to stand in line for food despite having paid enough to stay at a decent hotel and no, there was no ‘tent service’; cell phones were forbidden as were cigarettes and liquor; one had to spend 7 days in that camp, complete all the tasks and come back alive if one wanted to receive the MBA degree!
The boys and girls went separately because the camp didn’t accept teams that had both in them. We soon guessed that this might be because of the fact that people might behave real dangerous under those trying circumstances… and man, did all of us suddenly feel safe and thankful that the girls of the batch weren’t accompanying us! We had seen enough of their dangerous behavior! 😛
After this, we were handed a list of essential items we had to pack if we wanted to survive the ordeal:
- Full sleeved shirts – rugged
- Rugged jeans
- Glucose – min 4 large packs
- Good pair of shoes – good grip
- Odomos mosquito cream – no coils, no liquid
- Torches with spare batteries
- Knife with long handle!
- Medi kit with antiseptic and bandages
- Bedding – thick blanket essential
- Stainless steel plate and glass
- Toilet tissue – big roll 🙂
- Water bottle with sling-on strap
Machine guns and napalm bombs were thankfully not in the list. I suddenly felt like I was force-recruited into Napoleon’s army and most people went berserk looking at that list. To calm us down, the wise seniors said, “The camp will be really difficult. You will have to walk through thick bramble and thorny forests, infested with mosquitoes, insects and even wild animals. You won’t have the patience every time to reach out for your bag for getting out your water bottle and you will mostly be walking all days and most nights through hostile environment. Every calorie you conserve or burn will account for your success or failure. Now, you decide”.
With this explanation, the items in the list became clear. We had to make a wise choice in loading our bags so as to carry all adequate supplies and yet prevent overburdening ourselves.
Initial surprise and Task #1:
We had arrived at the camp and were standing to attention in neat files. The business suits, ties and formal attire were all replaced by summer cuts, denim trousers and armor-like shirts. We looked nothing short of a rookie commando training parade. Three camp coordinators were standing a little distance ahead, talking amongst themselves. Clad in full commando camouflage fatigues, sunglasses, caps and boots, the three of them looked like they could bring down our entire 40+ team before we could bat an eyelid. Finally, one of them came forward and addressed us and we were not prepared for the surprise – it was a woman! 40+ pairs of eyes suddenly widened and ran a quick scan but the “camouflage” attire did a good job! 😛 She decided not to disappoint us by taking off her…relax!…cap and sunglasses!
In a crisp voice, she then said, “Hi, welcome to the camp. In the next few days, you will learn all about various kinds of knots, reading maps, usage of compass, navigation at night, rock climbing, cave exploration, rock descending, river crossing and survival in hostile environment. It will look tough now but it is possible if you think you can. We have had many teams of girls from your senior batches who have done all this very easily…” Each word she said sent a chill down our spine and the last sentence, deliberately added, froze us stiff. I expected her to sign off her speech in traditional commando style – “Mushkil waqt, commando sakht” (Transl: In times of difficulty, a commando plays tough) but instead she asked, “Any doubts??” I bet each of us wanted to ask “HTF does learning this make me a goddamn MBA?” but instead we chose to murmur vaguely to which she shouted,
“I DIDN’T HEAR AN ANSWER!”
“NO MA’AM”, answered 40+ voices in perfect unison, with half a mind to replace ‘Ma’am’ with ‘you bi###’
“That’s better”, she said and flashed an evil grin. “Since today is your first day, we will just go across the camp and return to this spot for lunch”. I soon realized that statements like these were orders and didn’t require any of us smart chaps to say things like ‘Can’t we wait till it gets a tad shadier?’ or ‘Why don’t you just show us a ppt of the camp instead of making us all walk?’ 😮
The camp was ensconced in natural greenery. The other 2 “commandos”, both men, flanked us and we soon reached a spot which had a series of shacks not far from where our tents were.
“This is where you, uh, do your business in the morning”, explained one of them.
“Your senior batches have called them the shit pits”, grinned another.
There were some 6-8 closets, each containing a deep pit that stank to high heavens due to you-know-what. Toilet tissue was the only savior as water was nearly a km away and the path to the shit pit was so rocky and uneven that half of what you would bring would spill out on the way. I felt like crying out ‘Jai Ho, Rig Rig Ringa…Tu mere saath dance karegi na?’ but Danny Boyle wasn’t auditioning there at that time. 😛
We walked a little further and realized that this seemingly easy task of ‘just going across the camp’ wasn’t as easy as expected. The damn camp contained a hillock twice the height of Eiffel tower, within its perimeter and going across the camp included climbing it too. We started the uphill journey – there were plenty of shrubs and rocks and the ascent wasn’t quite steep so with some effort we reached the top. We were about to take out our glucose water bottles and towels when a voice came from above our heads:
“It’s not over folks, you got to reach over here”.
Miss commando was standing almost 25 feet above us, on a steep rock that was totally bereft of any footholds, as if it was newly polished.
“There are 5 footholds – here, here, here, here and here” said the other.
“Oh really, I thought they are ants”, said I. He looked at me and decided to answer my sarcasm with action. Pointing to the “footholds” he climbed up as if he were on an escalator!
One by one, we started attempting. Some climbed half way and then slipped down the rock on their bellies and knees, some dug into the rock with their nails to avoid the fall and bled at finger tips and some nimble ones did a good job.
We had finished our first task and 70% had minor injuries already. The trainers were explaining the nearby vicinity but I was least interested in the view or their instructions as I was busy nursing my fingernail injuries and stocking myself with glucose. All the nitwits had forgotten that the task was only half over yet– we still had to descend the bloody rock and get back to the camp!
PS: B 2007 TAPMIans – please send some good snaps, hopefully with me in it 😀 I got 3 more parts of this coming up in the next few days.
>>To be continued….
Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4