30 people. From 11 different states of India. Under one roof. For 28 days. Everyday you are given different tasks. No mobile networks. One can’t go outside. A list of rules, 4 page long. And no I am not talking about some crap Bigg Boss airing on TV.
Welcome to COE, Centre of Excellence!
I heard about this 4 weeks residential program called Personality Skills Development conducted at Hyderabad by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. After giving away all my happiness for 4 years, my enjoyment, my college life, time, sleep to articleship and classes, I knew that this is the opportunity to get back something from CA. And I enrolled into program.
Never been out of the city alone, never been seen the hostel life, I knew beforehand that this was going to be life changer experience for me. And did it live to my expectations? The 4 weeks experience was way beyond what I could have ever thought!
The first impression
Day 0. It was 11th August, 2013- the day I reached Hyderabad. There was big glass building around 40 floors in height which was the ICICI Bank Headquarter and with reflections of sun pouring from ICICI Bank Building over it, was the campus nurturing the future CFOs of Companies- Centre of Excellence. Was it a hostel or a hotel? There were wooden furnished AC Rooms with LCDs, there was gym, swimming pool, lawn tennis court, a recreational room where we can play TT, carrom, chess, we could sit and relax in lounges, there was a well maintained cafeteria and the lawns were simply beautiful. In outskirts of the city, away from the chaos of traffic, truly going with the name, it was indeed the Centre of Excellence!
After exploring the facilities out there, it was time to interact with other people. From places like Shimoga near Bangluru, to marble city of India, Kishanganj in Rajasthan, to the city infamous for its opium crop, Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh; people were present from all over India. Delhi, Mumbai, Sungroor in Punjab, Jodhpur, Guwahati, Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Patna- There was virtually whole India at one place, called the Centre of Excellence. And we all were locked up there for next 4 weeks! There were no girls which was disappointing but nothing in this world can be perfect, and not having any girl was the only imperfect part of CoE.
That evening, we all sat down in the lawn tennis court and had our first formal introduction with each other. We had all India rank holders, singers, yoga-guru, air-rifle champions, musicians, tech-geeks, politically inclined, writers amongst us. Some were aspiring to be a great entrepreneur, some were already entrepreneurs, some were looking for jobs, people were having dreams of IAS and while others were still trying to figure out their future. But one thing was common between all, of course apart from CA thing, that we all wanted to gain maximum from the upcoming 4 weeks, both in terms of learning and having fun.
Next Morning. Day 1. Unlike the Bigg Boss house, there was no song playing to wake us up in the morning, and getting ready on time was a big challenge. There was rule that no breakfast will be served after 9:15 AM and our class timings were 9:30 AM. Day 1 only, I and my room partner were late for breakfast, but luckily got a parantha to eat, and the rest we managed with biscuits.
Nevertheless, we reached for our classroom. What a classroom it was- air conditioned, having projectors, mikes on each seat. To top that, everyone was dressed in their finest formals- shirt with ties, blazer and trouser. Even the best of MNCs could not have created such professional environment.
Having no idea what we really are going to learn, the Centre of Excellence kept surprising us. Just look at the activities we had on Day 1 itself- Strategy formation on how to survive in air crash in a desert, presenting our business idea for raising funds, participating in a virtual auction for establishing business and learning how to convert a group into a team.
The class ended at 5PM, but not the day. It was then time to try our hands on TT and Lawn Tennis, and thankfully not many of us were good at playing it. 10 PM was the time we were supposed to go back into the rooms, but they did not specify that into your “own” room. And from there began the legacy of “Club 1Show13” and our late night group project work.
It was all just on the day 1. Some of the creativiti-est class activities, best of speakers from across the countries, exploration of city of Hyderabad and the craziest bakchodi with hostel mates- these all were awaiting us in next few days. The next few days which were going to be the best few days in the lives of many of us!
(More on the experience of CoE, the hostel life and what influence it had on me: Coming Very Soon!)