I am not really sure what to name this post. I had many options to choose from as the title of this post. The options I was confused amongst were:
1) Battle of Minds
2) The Perfect Blend
3) Let me entertain you
4) A team apart
5) It’s the journey that matters.
The first option was too trivial, and you’ll know why in just a short while. The remaining 4 options were the cause of my confusion, and again, you’ll know the reason as you read through the post.
I’m not sure about the exact date, but it was probably the 2nd or the 3rd of February 2009 when we came to know that Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC) would be coming to IBA campus for the Battle of Minds (BOM) competition (and hence the reason why the first option was a very trivial choice to be the title of this post). This was the 2nd time PTC was holding this competition at the National Level. PTC was to short list 4 teams from each university. These teams were to compete amongst themselves, and the winning team was to go to Islamabad for the grand slam round, hence one team from each university was to participate in the grand slam. There were 6 universities from across Pakistan that PTC was holding the competition at. These universities included IBA, the GIKI, the UET Lahore, LUMS, NUST Business School, and NUST college of EME. The trailer looked good enough to motivate us to make a team and register for BOM, and so we did. Two of my hostel as well as class mates, Shahid and Umar (both Electrical Engineers from NUST college of EME), already knew about PTC and the BOM, and were interested in participating. So it was the 3 of us hostelites wanting to try our luck, but the team was supposed to be a 4 member team. The 3 of us, although did bring some academic (I am a Software Engineer from FAST-NU Lahore campus) and geographic diversity, but unfortunately had the same gender :P. I asked a female Karachiite, Sarah, a BBA-Marketing from IBA if she was willing to join us for the competition, and to our surprise, she agreed to team up with us :D, bringing in even more academic and geographic diversity, and obviously, the gender diversity as well :D. We were all set for the competition.
It was supposed to be the 19th of Feb when PTC was to visit IBA campus to give away the team registration forms, and 20th Feb was the last date for team registration.
It was the engagement session, as they had named it, the first of the rounds of BOM, where they first introduced PTC; well, it wasn’t only just an introduction of PTC but a little more than that, and later gave some details about the BOM competition held in 2008. PTC gave away T-Shirts, and obviously the team registration forms to those willing to participate. We later had a Hi-Tea (this obviously is always worth mentioning :P)
The team registration forms that we were given included a detailed personal information form as well. We had to fill in our academic background, our extracurricular activities, our achievements, our work experience etc; it was more of a CV on PTC’s format. We made it heavy on extracurricular activities, not that we exaggerated, but we put in all the smallest of activities that we ever participated in, and the reason was that someone had told us that PTC not only considers GPA, but also gives high weightage to the extracurriculars. We also had to decide on a team name and the team leader. We probably gave more than a couple of hours to decide the team name because all four of us would just not agree on one name. And guess what, the team name that all 4 of us finally agreed on took us only 2 minutes to finalize. Shahid suggested it; the other 3 were like, “OHHH PERFECT”. The name was to be “The perfect blend” (Hence the 2nd potential title of this post), and who else was unlucky enough but me to be named as the team leader :P. Well, I was actually a self proclaimed team leader, but no one from the other 3 members had any objection, so there I was. And the reason I say I was unlucky, well; this is another secret that will be revealed shortly. So, we filled the forms to the best of our capabilities and submitted it, hoping for the best, this was the max we could have done at that point.
23rd Feb, 5:00 PM:
The fun starts. I was fast asleep when I got a call on my mobile, a call from Islamabad. I received the call, still being half asleep, when I heard the other person say something about “The Perfect Blend”, and my eyes went wide open. I was quick to say that I was the team leader of The Perfect Blend, to come to hear from that person that our team was shortlisted Alhamdulillah. We were among the top 4 teams that were shortlisted to go to the next round. Around 60 teams applied from IBA, and getting shortlisted, as we thought, did not only have a very low probability, but it was out of question as well, but jisay Allah rakhay, usay kon chakhay :). I informed my team about it, and it wasn’t long when we had changed facebook statuses and had sms’es coming from all those who got to know of our selection. My team and I were happy Alhamdulillah.
The 2nd round was to be held on the 25th of Feb, and we only had 2 days, in fact, one and a half day to practice for the competition. But as if we cared :P. We were probably happy enough to digest the news of our selection, that looking at, or researching for any practice material would have been the last of the thoughts to come in our minds.
The fun escalates. The three of us hostelites gathered in my room for something that was to be called “preparation” for the coming day. The competition was to have a case study, and some questions following it that needed to be answered. We downloaded a small, or rather a very small case study, and started solving it, only to find ourselves engaged in arguing every now and then, and sometimes loudly too, in trying to convince each other. Soon, our 4th partner suggested that it’d be great if we sang a song while introducing ourselves at the start of the competition, as if the case itself wasn’t enough of headache for us engineers. Our 4th partner being a marketing graduate had participated in a couple of competitions of the same kind during her BBA, and hence had a good idea of what awaited us. The song she suggested was “Let me entertain you” by Robbie Williams (and hence the third option from the possible titles for this post). She knew what possibly could be a great start to such a competition. It was 3 people sitting in my room who weren’t sure if they can even think about singing a song in front of quiet many people, and it was the 4th member of our team who was constantly trying to convince us that it was the best thing anyone could have done to impress the panel upfront. This is where I thought I was a bad team leader, or rather an unlucky team leader, who hadn’t even imagined ever if he’d start off participating in a formal competition with singing a song, along with 2 other people sitting right next to him, convinced that they would be the last person on this earth to sing a song, that too, such an up-beat song, and one whose lyrics weren’t only difficult to understand, but were impossible to sing.
This day was to prove a long day for us. One of our seniors, who had participated from IBA in BOM 2008, told us that we should think of a team logo and a tagline before hand, as we might be asked to come up with these things for the introduction part. The time it took for us to come up with different suggestions for our team name was nothing when it came to deciding the tagline, although the logo part was easy. Shahid was artist enough to come up with at least 20 different excellent logos, and we soon finalized on one logo. The tagline that was finalized after much discussion was “A team apart” (hence the 4th potential title for this post). This tagline was simple had it only been one person thinking on making one, as they say, too many cooks spoil the broth :P.
It wasn’t till the dates changed that we finally decided that we will sing a song. Sarah was to take the lead, and the three of us only had to sing the chorus, that is, we only had to say “Let me entertain you” for a total of 4 times, THAT WAS IT :D. This was some relief, though the BIG DAY was still to come. The competition was to start at 9:00 am, and we had to report at 8:45 am.
The fun reaches its peak. We were on time and were called in at about 9:10 am for the competition to start off. Some formal initial briefings took place, after which we were asked to introduce ourselves. My team was the third in line. The two teams before us were good and confident, but both of them didn’t sing a song. And then, it was us. Each of us introduced ourselves, where we belonged from, some of our academic and extracurricular achievements, and how we were different from others (remember that all-sort-of-diversity that our team had :P), that was when, against all odds, I announced that our team had prepared a song, yeah it was me to announce this. AND WE DID IT, and I thought it was good. This lead over other teams wasn’t to remain for long, as the 4th team had also prepared a song for their introduction; that was when I realized how correct our BBA partner was who had an idea of what was selling in the market.
We were escorted to the room allotted for my team, handed over the case studies and all the required stationary, and were given 90 minutes to read and solve the case study, and to make a presentation. The time we were given was just about enough, or probably we didn’t “practice” much :). We decided to first read the case individually and then discuss important points out of it. Coming up with solutions for the questions wasn’t really difficult (though coming up with the right solutions was :P), 90 minutes were gone in like 20 minutes :D, though we managed to make the presentation and be on one page about what we thought the solutions were to the questions we were asked.
The part of this competition that I enjoyed the most starts from the point we were asked to put our pens down and handover our presentation to the PTC staff. We were to present our solutions after two other teams, so we had more than an hour to relax and to have fun. Umar’s mobile had quite a collection of both English and Urdu songs. It was sort of a farmayishi program. One after the other, we used to say, Umar wo wala gana hai? yaar Umar wo wala gana laga do, yaar ye gana dubara sunna hai and so on… But how was it possible for me and Shahid not to sing, especially when everyone around was in singing mood. These 60 minutes or so were probably the most fun we had throughout the competition, but the fun wasn’t over yet. The climax was yet to be seen.
One of the PTC staff members came to our room, and this obviously meant that it was our turn to present. I was to go first, Umar was to follow me, next up was Sarah, and last to come in was Shahid. Somehow, we didn’t present as we had planned. Something went wrong; deep inside ourselves we knew that we’ve lost it all. We knew we won’t make it through this round. Our presentation took almost 25 minutes, and we were back in the same room we had been sitting in since morning. We were served with lunch, and were told to report back in another 60 minutes for the results. Lunch was good, good enough to cheer us all up after a bad presentation, good enough for us to enjoy it. This was when Sarah very rightly and truly said “It is the journey that matters, not the destiny” (the final option for the title of this post). If words can really express it, this saying made my day.
It really is the journey that matters, and not the destiny. That was when we recalled each and every moment that we had been through for preparing for this competition, talking to seniors and asking them about BOM 2008, sitting up late and deciding if we’d be singing a song or not, practicing it over and over again with one of us giving the beat, and others shouting LET MEEEEEE EEEEE ENTERTAIN YOU, synchronizing ourselves for the gap between repeating the chorus lines, quarrelling over a case study, deciding team names, deciding a team logo, the tagline, the presentation flow, who’d speak on what, and obviously the singing and the ghazal session and the jokes session before we had our turn to present, it was all just too great, just unforgettable. It most definitely is the journey that matters.
Soon all 4 of the teams gathered again to hear the results. My team was not expecting any good news; all four of us were prepared to be told that we had lost. AND GUESS WHAT!!!!! WE LOST 😛
All the participating teams were given a key chain cum 2GB USB. The winning team was most definitely better than us. This competition gave us a lot to learn from, and for me, what I think was most important of all, this competition taught me how to play a role in a team, how to be a good team member, it taught me how memorable the time spent with your team can be, and obviously, that it is the journey that matters, and not the destiny.
I am still not sure if this post should really be named as “Let me entertain you”, but this competition has also taught me that spending time on deciding team names, logos, taglines, and similarly, post titles is not a good place to spend our time at, we should rather be “practicing” instead :P. Thank you so very much my team members, Sarah, Shahid and Umar, for making this competition so memorable for me. I hope I haven’t missed out on any important detail of the competition :), and apologies to all the readers who have read so far, I never thought this post would go this long, but I somehow couldn’t control my words :).