Category: Travel

Revisiting the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

I did my Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, way back in the late 1990s!

While I have gone back a couple of times, the last one was well over a decade back, and lots of things have changed at the institute. For one, they now have a large, ‘new’ campus that I had never visited before and was quite curious to check out.

I started my visit at the old campus. The first thing that struck me was how the city of Ahmedabad had grown in just the past 10 years. Even when I last visited the campus, it was on the outskirts of the city. A dusty road passed through the main gate, with tea stalls on the side, and barely any traffic on it. Now, the institute can be considered to be well within the city limits. The tea stall has gone and the dusty road has been replaced by a busy thoroughfare with a flyover just in front of the main gate.

Inside though, the place looked exactly the same. The buildings and lawns were just as well maintained. However, what really stuck me was the complete absence of any kind of atmosphere. I am pretty sure I visited during term, but I could hardly see any souls around. It almost felt like I was in a museum, albeit surrounded by structures that still retained the power to awe and inspire.

Louis Khan Plaza
Louis Khan Plaza or LKP
Student housing - old campus
Student housing (Dorms) – old campus
Student housing - old campus 2
Dorms 16 – 18

I then made my way to the ‘new’campus, crossing the busy road that separates the two campuses through a subway. The history of the institute and its famous architecture has been excellently told through a series of posters along the walk. As soon as I climbed the steps up to the new campus, I felt like I was in a different place altogether.

The architectural style of the new campus is quite different to the old, with concrete replacing bricks as the primary construction material. However, the architects have retained quite a few nods to the original style, with liberal use of red bricks, as well as in the overall layout of the various buildings.

Surprisingly, for a modern campus, there were very few maps around. So I pretty much had to walk around and guess what purpose the different buildings served. There was no single dominating structure like in the old campus. And there did not also seem to be any obvious central hub, unless I missed it altogether. What it did have, though, was the feel of a world-class, modern academy of learning. The last time I felt the same was at the campus of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney.

I would have loved to spend some more time at the campus, maybe interact with a few of the students, etc., but I was running out of time. I did make a note to revisit the place with my family. Until that time…

IIM A - new campus
New campus
Student housing - new campus
Student housing – new campus
Classrooms - new campus
Classrooms – new campus

A trip to Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad is the commercial capital and largest city of the westernmost state of India, Gujarat. It is where I did my Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management, at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

I was invited to teach a few sessions in Display Advertising at another eminent institute located in the city – MICA. Though I had been to the city a few times, this was the first time that I was actually flying in to the city. A few photos of the airport below.

The MICA campus is located on the South Western outskirts of the city at a place called Shela. I had to take the Ring Road to get there – a road that did not exist when I was a student in Ahmedabad. It was interesting to observe how large the city had grown spatially. There were also numerous apartment complexes along the road, though many did not seem occupied.

The campus itself had a lot of similarities with IIM. Low brick structures set amidst well maintained lawns and surrounded by lush greenery lent it a serene ambience, conducive to the pursuit of knowledge. The lush greenery also meant that it had a rich bird-life – in fact, after a while, the loud, harsh calls of the numerous peahens within the campus went from ‘nice’ to ‘mildly irritating’.

The classes itself were interesting. It was good to see the interest in the course with well over 130 students participating. Hopefully, they would have learnt a few things from the sessions.

A visit to Pench National Park

I visited Pench National Park a couple of weekends ago along with a few friends. It was my first pure National Park trip after 10 years and something I was eagerly looking forward to.

My first impressions of Nagpur were positive – clean, peaceful airport, good roads, metro construction happening apace.

Pench straddles Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. And on the absolutely wonderful road from Nagpur, we were at our resort in about a couple of hours. The National Highway has regular elevated stretches so wildlife can cross underneath, avoiding unfortunate accidents. I wonder if any studies have been done to understand the impact of this on wildlife – do they use the tunnels or still attempt to cross the road?

The resort was small, with A/C tented accommodation. It is located a few minutes away from Kharsapar, the entrance to Pench National Park from the Maharashtra side. We left for our first safari immediately after lunch.

We quickly settled into a routine – wake up early (around 4:30), leave for the morning safari that starts at 6:15, end the safari by 10:30, come back to the resort to rest and refresh, have lunch, leave for the afternoon safari around 2 pm, come back around 7 pm, refresh, relax and have dinner.

We did 8 safaris in total, which in the end, proved one too many for me. The hectic itinerary, heat and cold, oily food meant that I fell ill by the last day and took a couple of days to recover after reaching home.

But it was a very fulfilling trip. I spotted over 75 species of birds (full list in the next post), a tigress, two one year old tiger cubs, a jungle cat, mongooses, sambar and chital deer, herds of gaur and some nilgai.

It was interesting to view the difference in landscape between the Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh sides of Pench. While the Maharashtra side is dryer and rockier, the Madhya Pradesh side is visibly greener. The wide open patches along the Pench river were especially scenic.

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The other interesting thing for me was to see that most of the guides were locals who were earlier living in or near the National Park. It was also heartening to see many women guides. I would definitely recommend Pench for anyone wanting to visit a typical Central Indian jungle – the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’

Wayanad

Wayanad is a hilly region in the north of Kerala, bordering Karnataka. It is about two hours from Kozhikode (Calicut) and six hours by road from Bangalore. It is here that we went for a end of year holiday with family.

We stayed at the wonderful Annapara Home Stay, a boutique home stay located amidst coffee plantations with fantastic views of the tall mountains all around. It was a wonderful experience, with amazing home cooked food and awesome service from Pravin and Shibu – the two caretakers.

In addition to spending time at the beautiful property, we also went on a hike to a couple of waterfalls nearby, visited the Banasura Sagar dam, ziplined over tea plantations, visited Pookode lake and the Muthanga or Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary. Except for the last, which we all felt was frankly not worth the effort, everything else was fun and relaxed.

Definitely a place worth visiting more than once!

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Train Travel – Sleeper Class

Of late, I have been traveling by train more often. We recently took the 24 hour train to Mumbai as a family, traveling in AC coaches. Recently, I took the overnight train to Kerala, traveling sleeper class after a very long time.

I have always enjoyed train travel, liking nothing more than sitting by the window watching the world go by. As a child, I used to look forward to the long (30+ hours) journey from Mumbai to Kerala as much, if not more than, actually visiting Kerala and meeting family. But as I grew older (and with a family), whatever occasional train travel we did was in AC coaches.

While these are very comfortable, they just do not provide the same fun as the Sleeper class where one can open the windows and feel the wind in your face. Which is why, when I had to go to Kerala by myself recently, I took the opportunity to travel by Sleeper class.

The journey to Kerala was in a new coach. It was clean and quite comfortable. The only aspect where I felt that the older coaches were better were in the design of the window bars. Regular train travelers would know that, in the older sleeper coaches, the window bars bend outwards slightly. This is just enough that, if one were to place your face flush against the bar and peer out, you could get a great view along the sides of the train and catch glimpses of the engine around bends. In the new coach, sadly, the bars are straight. Which means that one does not get the same pleasure of peering out the window. Nevertheless, it is still far more fun that the sealed windows of AC coaches.

The return journey was on an older coach. And it was less crowded than the outward journey. The other pleasure of train travel, though definitely not recommended, is to stand by the open door and get a widescreen view of the scenery. This is, as one can image, a popular pastime, so I was quite surprised to find that the doors of the train were vacant and I was able to enjoy the beautiful Kerala countryside.

Some photos from the journey below:

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