Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Campus Life
7 Lakes, white herons and life worth living

This section will give you the nitty-gritty of living on IIMC's campus in Joka. My intention is to give future exchange students practical information that will help them prepare for their time at IIMC. To find out more about the campus and the students, visit the Introduction page or the IIMC Community page.

I want to start by linking you to the Campus Life section on the IIMC website. Now, understand that unless you are or have been a student at IIMC, you will not be able to truly comprehend the references in this link... but after a term at IIMC you will not only understand the references, but if you had anything like the experience I did, the references will bring tears to your eyes and a joy to your heart. The author writes, "There are fish plopping in the lake under the Howrah bridge, the evening mist creeping in from the horizon … and if only for a second, you know that life is worth living…" Amen.

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Getting around campus

Everything on campus is within walking distance, yet many guys use motorcycles to go back and forth from the hostels to the classrooms. Check out the map on the introduction page to see the locations of the academic buildings to the hostels.

The campus, being a Bird Sanctuary, is quite lovely to walk around. However, if you find yourself walking around at dusk, you may have to zig-zag on the road to avoid the white rain that falls from the trees - or rather from the birds in the trees. At first, we found the ever-present Indian Crow a nice distraction from the New York Pigeon. However, the crows were very loud and messy. The nicer, less vocal birds on campus were Indian Cormorants and white herons - I didn't realize how many there were until I made a trip to the top of OH. I could easily count 50 cormorants at a stretch, roosting in the tops of the trees. I recommend that you make a trip up to the roofs of both OH and NH - NH's roof is amazing because of the views it has beyond the campus. I spent a lot of time on OH's roof and recommend it if you want to sunbathe or bird watch. At one point, along withe cormorants and the herons, there were seven hawks roosting on the opposite side of the roof. It was amazing to have them fly directly over my head, not 15 feet above.

Hawk at IIMC Comorants The everpresent crows

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Campus Food

Each hostel has its own mess hall. Each mess has its own contractor so food is different from hostel to hostel. We lived in OH (Old Hostel) and the food there went from bad to worse. Before you think my criticism is intolerant of Indian cuisine in general, please note that I adore Indian food. The spicier the better! At OH, even Indian students complained about the quality and lack of variety. It was simply bad cafeteria food. Here were our options for food:

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The Coffee Corner
1) Eat at OH and hope for the best
2) Eat at one of the other hostels and hope for the best (there was no guarantee it would be good)
3) Grab a snack from the snack shop - I had many lunches comprised of a chicken roll and pepsi
4) Eat at the Coffee Corner - a cafe located above the coop right inside the front gate - good food and super cheap
5) Eat off campus at a restaurant
6) Two words: Night Canteen! If we could last until 11 p.m., we could eat at the Night Canteen (I miss Aloo Parantha!)
7) Two more words: Dominos Pizza - yes, Dominos Pizza!

We liked going to the different mess halls for variety. NH has really nice mood lighting and music at dinner. Quite good. The campus food ranged from really spicy to mild, but as you can see from the number of options, no one should have a problem with the food. There are two drawbacks for the pizza: there's a hefty delivery fee, so you either have to have someone pick the pizza up or order enough pizzas that the delivery fee is worth it... secondly, the pizza is luke warm when it gets to the dorm. We actually only resorted to pizza twice. Why go 9000 across the world to have the same food you can have in your own neighborhood?!?

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Water - how to get your 8 glasses a day

We brought a water filter and purifier from the US that we had bought for $70. It wasn't necessary for campus living - we only used it when we were on train trips (you can't trust the bottled water you buy on the platform) and while hiking.

On campus, you can get a water dispenser put in your room. Then you just buy 20 liter bottles of purified water for 60 rps. The only drawback is the dispenser does not cool the water, so you drink it warm. It took awhile to get used to, but we did. We thought we would DIE without a little fridge to put bottles of water in, but we survived! You can try to rent a refrigerator, but none may be available, as was the case with us. People can also pool money and buy one. We seriously wanted one the first month but got used to warm water. When you're dying for cold water, you can buy bottles from one of the shops (although it still gets warm quite fast).

These are brands of bottled water you can trust: Aquafina, Kinley, Bailey, Bisleri are all good brands to buy off the street. All other water should be avoided or filtered.

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Hostel Living

At Baruch College in New York, I'm used to going to MBA classes at night, spending 3 hours or so with fellow students, then parting ways to go to our respective boroughs and homes. With all the 500 IIMC students living on campus in different hostels, I felt like an 18 year old freshman back at Hess Hall at the University of Tennessee. There were three hostels, and an additional married students housing complex. We stayed at OH, but the housing assignments for exchange students change from year to year, depending on vacancies. Again, you can check out the map on the introduction page to see the locations of the hostels.

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Our room at OH - bottom right terrace
OH - Old Hostel is where the girls stay. It's divided into wings (H1 - H4). The girls are in H1 and part of H2. But girls and guys come and go as they wish.

The other hostels are WH (White Hostel) and NH (New Hostel). There's also a family hostel where the married students stay. In Fall, 2003, the female exchange students were being housed here.

Housing should be free, according to the IIMC website. We actually had to pay 100 rupees a night, as I had my husband with me so we were in a special guest room. It was a regular room with two beds and an attached bath. Thank god for the attached bath. It alone was worth the price of the room! Although I must say the Indian toilet took some getting used to.

The beds -- it took about a week to get used to the beds. They were about 1/3 the width of a US mattress, and about 10 times as hard. After awhile, we didn't even notice it and never really had problems sleeping. In fact, a few weeks before leaving IIMC, I found out that we'd been sleeping on the "soft" side of the mattress. Ha! A fellow student, Madhav, was in my room working with me on a group project when he remarked on the extreme softness of the mattress, which made me laugh. I actually did turn the mattress over and slept on the hard side. It was like sleeping on a piece of plywood, but surprisingly enough, I never flipped it back to the soft side. Just one of the many ways India changed me...

You'll be provided with a sheet and a pillow with pillowcase. You might want to bring your own as those provided were not so clean. We actually bought sheets in Calcutta at the New Market.

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Mosquitos, spiders and lizards

Being the typical Westerners, we were terrified of catching a tropical disease. Ok, I was terrified - Marcus was never really concerned, but I was whipping out the first aid book at the slightest symptom. To protect against the mosquitos, we did sleep under mosquito netting which we brought from the US. It really was not necessary, but it gave us a safe piece of mind. More than the mosquitos, it protected us against all the other creepy crawly things that go bump in the night. We would wake up in the morning and look at all the icky bugs plastered on the netting. Better than the netting for the mosquitos, was a "mosquito repellant" from OH's snack shop - it's called "All Out" and plugs into the wall to kill bugs. They literally dropped out of the air from the chemicals.

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Ants carrying off a grasshopper
There are ants EVERYWHERE so keep your rooms clean. The snack shops do sell cans of poison that you can spray to kill ants if your room is infested - it worked really well for us. There are little (and not so little) lizards everywhere on the campus. Just remember that they're more scared of you than you are of them and that they EAT the mosquitos and other icky bugs! The same is true of the spiders... they EAT the mosquitos! And if you find yourself with an abundance of crickets, just get one of the stray cats to come around - they'll be quite happy to pounce and munch away on the crickets!

There are also iguanas that are quite large as well as frogs and snakes. Just remember, there are lakes on campus which attract quite a bit of wildlife. I never saw a snake, but just avoid the high grass and you should be fine. We did see the aforementioned large iguana. It was in the field behind our room and was being attacked by the four dogs that hang out at OH. It was hissing and puffing itself out and each time the alpha male dog, Scooby, would try to bite it, it would whip its tail around towards Scooby's face. It was holding its own, but I had a feeling the dogs could wear it down. So I grabbed a bucket full of water and threw it on the dogs. They scattered long enough for the lizard to move to higher grass and escape.

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Scooby-dooby Doo

For an animal lover such as myself, having dogs running wild around campus was nice. Most of the students would just ignore the dogs, and the women were generally afraid of the dogs, especially when they were in packs. I confess to having been slightly afraid of the OH dog pack, as I always had to walk around them to get to my room and they had growled at me once. But instead of staying afraid of them, I thought if I was nice to them and spoke to them gently, they would at least not growl at me anymore. Well, after a few occasional pats on the head, they were spending most of the day sleeping outside my room and following me around. I would take walks around the campus and they would be my escorts! I even named them -- Scooby was the alpha male, then there was Patches, Scrappy and Dolly. The picture below left shows how Scooby would sleep right inside my open door, with the others keeping vigil.

Lovely Anita Dogs walking with me Dogs

The dogs started following me everyone -- The alpha male, Scooby, acted as my personal bodyguard. One morning he followed me into the mess hall. When I sat down for breakfast, he came and lay down at my feet until I was done. Then he lay outside the door of a friends' room while she and I worked on a presentation. Then later, all four of the dogs followed me from my room to the building where classes are held. They then did something they've never done... they tried to follow me into the class. Luckily the teacher wasn't there and I could shoo them out. I closed the doors, but each time someone came in, the dogs would follow them and start looking around for me. Everyone thought it was hilarious! I really loved them very much! Scooby has an amazing temperament and is just sooooo gentle. I never ever fed the dogs - they were just craving affection more than anything.

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Online Access

Each hostel room has online access to a network. The connection is pretty fast and it's free. I brought my own laptop, which was great because the computers in the LAN room are pretty slow. I recommend you bring a laptop if at all possible, just for your convenience. IIMC has a huge online community, with all major and minor announcements being made online on the extranet. You'll be responsible for knowing that information - it'd be a pain if you have to use the comps in the LAN room 3-4 times a day to check announcements or to do assignments. "Here's a link to IIMC's extranet page .

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Laundry

There is a dhobi for each hostel who will wash your clothes cheaply, however they take a long time (10 days) to get them back to you and they'll be either stained further or dingy from having been scrubbed so much. I recommend either washing them yourself, or making friends with one of the students who has a share in a washing machines - make friends with one of them and you'll be set!!!

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