My first foreign trip
Nepal was the closest foreign country,thats what I learned in geography. It is a country nestled in the Himalayas. Himalayas are mountains which I always wanted to explore.
Geography was my favourite subject in school. In fact social science was the subject I always used to like. Wish they could chart a career based on school marks and subject a kid likes.
Somehow General Knowledge (GK) was a topic of my interest. I used to read Competition Success Review and Times of India which were mostly a day late in reaching Jabalpur city as they were not printed locally. I used to ride my bicycle and visit the only paper distributor in the town to read the Times of India. There was an experience of attending SSB (Service Selection Board) NDA Interview in 1990 and this was four years later, I saw the advertisement for Air Force Technical Entry.
“Benaras, thats very close to Kathmandu (Nepal)”. I tried convincing my classmates. “Lets all apply for this interview, we can visit Nepal from there”, and they were sold to the idea. That was probably my first memorable sales pitch and a deal clinched.
As it turned out, five of us were called on the same dates to visit Benaras for the interview from our batch.
On day one Sanjeev commented seeing me in T-Shirt and Shorts. “You look like a fit sports person”. I said I just had few eggs more today. Let us not fail the test on day one. “If we have come so far let us all attempt interview seriously, then we will see about going to Kathmandu via Gorakhpur,” Shridhar suggested. We all agreed to do the same.
For me it was a know process as I had already appeared for NDA at the same AFSB 4 Varanasi. But the goal was to finish it fast and visit Nepal. One of the privileges of knowing the rules of the game is that one becomes casual in approach. Somehow for me, I am successful when I am more casual.
It turned out that I was in a last batch which was of candidates who had appeared for SSB earlier. The experience of 5-6 days of selection process is unmatched. But somehow I could understand the psychometric screening and loved the way group discussions and tests were held. I had always been an observer, a keen observer. The mettle of fresh blood is tested in a week long process by looking at overall aspect of the personality.
I had been regular in sports club for badminton, table tennis, chess and billiards. They kept me sharp and agile for this particular interview process. The last part of attempts at clearing physical obstacles was better for me this time which included monkey rope, height jump and few minor obstacles. I could do some at ease, others I did not attempt.
“Number 304”, it was repeated again, I suddenly was reminded that my number is was called as the last selected participant. “Come fast, there are lots of forms to be filled up”. I couldn’t believe that I was selected. So were my friends with shattered dream to visit Nepal. “Let’s call the visit to Nepal off” Shridhar looked dejected. “We are going back to Jabalpur should we book your ticket as well”. Bhaskar asked. “I said Yes”.
It was an overnight journey back home and atleast I slept soundless sleep and was woken up by Shridhar at Jabalpur station. I reached home and informed that I was selected. I do not remember the reaction at home but I also never calculated in those days that it was a great achievement being selected in pre final year and there was a scholarship of Rs. 7000 per month for final year of study in college, to be received on joining Air Force.
What are you doing in the back row? Prof. Xxx asked in the class. “Sir he has been selected in Air Force”. Umesh announced. “Yahan se nikaloge to Air Force jaoge na”. “Padhai pe dhyan do”. Xxx was my favourite teacher. Not because I understood what he taught in class but because I used to see him carrying share certificates of companies. I used to see Jaiprakash Associates, BSES, Reliance, Tata Steel etc. more often that the AC/DC currents flowing in the motors.
And I really could not come out of my BE. I decided not to join air force and pursue my dream of joining IIM. But I did not put in efforts to really make it. I was just selected in IMS Indore, in a new course Master of Financial Applications. Though I had few more alternatives like TAPMI and Goa Institute of Management, I decided to join IMS as it was the only place where I had relatives.
What I haven’t told my friends is that important reason for selection in Air Force was that, “I had picked up a Bomb”. A bomb was a heavy material pseudo to be carried forward from one end of the obstacle pit to another along with the team. It was a group activity. All the members in the group were unknown to me. As we were given instructions only thing I knew was that it had to be some kind of team play.
Steps were easy and a participant who had a heavy built picked up the bomb and allowed all of us to cross the pit. He said I will come last and will carry it. I was the second last. As my previous participant was standing on a stone, I called on the last guy, “Pass me that Bomb”. He initially hesitated as he wanted the credit to carry it himself all alone. He said, “Nahi aap chalo”. I shouted back “Pass me that Bomb”. He then handed over it to me. As I took it I realized it was too heavy for me to hold for a long time. I asked the next person “Just pass it one to the next guy to you” and tried to relieve myself of the heavy object. As a team we could accomplish the task.
I think sharing that burden with team mate in time really helped me in showing officer like qualities and were decisive for selection.
“In testing times how we carry ourselves is a reflection of how we are tuned to that situation and subconscious”.
We did not travel to Nepal but I could see how mountains have a calling. Mountains are not conquered but mountains allow you to have a sense of connectedness to the earth. For that feeling of rising high, one has to climb one step at a time, into the unknown and ofcouse the descent is always easier as the way is known.