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The very first bio I put on Instagram used to read, ‘Aspiring Dastangoi.’ It was kind of silly to put a newly learned fancy word without understanding the gravity, but there had been some kind of deep foundation in that wish too. I don’t know how good or relatable my story of getting inside the ‘Stone Walls’ is going to be, but I will try to craft my story as close to the journey as I can.
And one more little anecdote before I start, I would not like to tag this as solely ‘my journey’. I am not a lonesome sputnik orbiting in the vast unknown. I am thankful to every person and object that made IIM B a reality for me. It is a ride that we took together collectively.
I scored 92.00% and 95.80% in 10th and 12th’s board examinations respectively from Baranagore Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama High School and B.T.Road Govt. Spsd H.S. School, Kolkata. I graduated in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from Jadavpur University in 2019. One of my favorite professors in the university once said, ‘You won’t realize the privilege of your current state until you are leaving Jadavpur’, which was, indeed, a prophecy. During the four-year’s journey, many Indian engineering graduates come to understand that life is not exactly going how they thought it would be. I was no exception to that. This reality, the prophecy of my favorite professor, hit the hardest when I left college and joined TCS Research and Innovation as a research engineer.
Does this mean I faltered academically? Not at all. Throughout my life, I have been immensely respectful of my studies. But bringing good marks and applying that knowledge appropriately in real life are two completely different things. If the first one needs proper dedication and technique, the second one needs one more additional thing called passion. Stuck in front of the Laptop screen in the air-conditioned rooms of the company highrise, I found I was lacking that thing hugely. I started feeling chillier, feeling distant from the initial plan of going abroad to pursue a Ph.D.
So, how I planned things would be, failed. It was a very calculative decision on my part to take a job in R&I. I thought I would be able to publish research papers here and would smoothen the process of getting a foreign admit. I was able to do the first, even got a patent filed in my name, but the plan failed. Within three months of joining the first job of my life, I started preparing for something else, GATE 2020. Again, I failed. What happens when you are sound academically all along is that you don’t get to know the face of failure in life. Hence, the weight of accepting failure itself seems very heavy. I felt my legs were stuck somewhere and the train of my life was passing me by whistling slowly.
All along, I have been involved in numerous activities. I am an avid reader, sometimes a writer and a street-photographer too. I was a recitation-learner for a very long time and got several opportunities to work as a voice artist. I was a known face in my college when it came to organizing events. Never had I felt so unproductive before bearing those failures in my life. I started fearing the situation deeply. It is not that I did not have any options open; infact too many options were there with none of which I could connect from heart.
Then, lockdown happened. Things only possibly imaginable in dystopia started pouring in. The problem of migrant laborers startled the nation. Bengal got hit by the deadliest of cyclones in hundred years, named ‘Amphan’, which caused peril unthinkable to the life of people. Something happened to me too. All my personal failures, grief started to seem so little in front of all these miseries. I felt very much privileged to have a roof above my head, to have my dear ones around me. And I felt a dire need to do something.
Together with my friends, we brought out a fund-raiser webzine named ‘‘Homebound: Ghawre Pherar Gaan ” (Song of returning to home), where, by home, we tried to mean the accustomed earth that we used to know before new-normal. We collected articles from eminent personalities of cultural, academic, and political fields. Noam Chomsky agreed to give an interview for us, which had perhaps never happened for a student-run magazine in India previously. Our initiative was able to successfully raise 2,40,000/- entirely which went to the people of Amphan-hit Sundarbans.
The success of the magazine was like connecting dots for me. I understood the immense possibility hidden in initiatives taken for real-life problem-solving. And I saw that I have been involved throughout my life in one or another kind of activity like this. I felt, a management degree can take this potential further. And is there any other place better than IIM A/B/C that can propel me rightly? If I can make it to one of A, B, or C, an ocean of opportunity would open for me giving ample scope of real-life problem-solving.
Time was running out and I had to take a call. I was familiar with the pattern of CAT and owing to the strong foundation I carried from school, I was confident that there is nothing in the paper that is remote to my knowledge. At the end of July’20, I decided to attempt a full CAT paper without any preparation just to know where I stand. I ended up scoring a little more than ninety percentile, with a very poor sixty percentile in LRDI, and a less poor seventy in VARC.
I enrolled myself in CL’s Test Series and started to attempt tests following a schedule of practice and analysis. To beat time with accuracy, here is where the challenge began. Due to the lockdown, I could save a huge amount of time that got wasted earlier by traveling to the office. My day used to start with attempting a sectional test and then I logged in for the office. I analyzed the test during the lunch break and at night, attempted and analyzed one more sectional test usually. I tried to take two full-length tests on weekends, and on Sunday night, analyze where I am lagging. The sectional tests throughout the weekdays would try to put the major focus on areas I needed to improve.
GP Sir’s LRDI Decoder classes were an eye-opener for me to discover how an LRDI paper should be attempted. I learned the techniques and tried to reflect that in subsequent mocks.CL deserves hearty praise for arranging those sessions and allowing students like us who were not enrolled in classroom courses. Gejo Sir’s VARC Decoder classes, Arks Sir’s strategy sessions, everything was so, so helpful to make a proper plan and rectify my mistakes.
The new pattern of the paper, I guess, was a blessing in disguise for me because it eased the process of concentrating on one single topic by reducing the required time.
Gradually, the D-Day came. On 26th November, I was in slot 1 to write the paper. The VARC section went by in a blink of an eye. I did not know what happened, but I failed to attempt even a single odd-sentence-out question. Had I even blindly attempted four of them, probability says, I had a chance of getting higher marks than what I actually scored. I kept telling myself not to panic. Coming from a Ramakrishna Mission School, one of the first things that we were taught in childhood is to have full faith in the power of honesty. The honesty of my effort so far kept my nerves strong. Thankfully, the slightest of panic did not last long because the LRDI section went by with flying colors. Now, coming to the section that was perhaps an ego-fight for me; all along, I have loved mathematics wholeheartedly. In Quant, the second or third question I attempted was on functions and perhaps it is one of the least attempted questions in the paper. It took me nearly 5 minutes to solve that one single question, but I was so happy after solving it that it boosted my confidence automatically. After coming back home, I checked CL’s analysis of the paper and how much one needed to score to get more than 99 percentile. With a little pricking of not attempting the tita questions in VARC, I was satisfied primarily.
I never went to check the predictor. I cut myself off the telegram groups. I was so insecure about the whole process that I did not discuss with anyone I knew about the paper, just kept checking on when the scores might get released.
My insecurity took my ignorance to such a height, that I forgot to check the result on 2nd January. I knew that the result might come out sometime in the first week of January, but did not care to check so early. I came to know from a Facebook advertisement the next day that the result had already been announced. Now it gives me so much fun to write, but at the moment when I went to the CAT website to check the result, my heart seemed to explode in tension and excitement instantly.
I missed getting a call from A and C. But still, I think it was a blessing for me that I did not know the fact that a GEM needs to score at least 99.65 to get a call from A or C. Had I bothered myself with this target, rather than putting my whole effort, I might not be able to score my current percentile of 99.53.
In two years after leaving college, it was the first time I felt somewhat free. ‘I want to break free’, I have always been a fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury and Andrew Scott’s Dr. Moriarty. It was a moment of true realization for me. My best friend from college got into IIM Kozhikode in 2019. Since then, hearing the interview stories from him, I had always secretly wished to appear in front of the IIM Interview board at least once in my life.
The interview preparation was itself a very, very interesting journey. I got to learn so much from the two months of preparation. Naveen Saraf Sir helped me very much to modify my SOP for Bangalore. I went on editing and rectifying it seeking help from two of my closest friends through a whole week. I remember being questioned about my hobbies in different PIs. In the CAP interview, I had to summarize one of Tagore’s well known poems named ‘Debotar Gras’ (‘The Divine Seize’). In the Indore Interview, the interviewer asked me to enact a few lines of any script that I performed. And the professors in Bangalore’s interview went on questioning me on my favorite novel and movie ‘Aporajito’/’Apur Sangsar’ (Parts of ‘The Apu Trilogy’, written by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and directed by Satyajit Ray).
I feel so happy now thinking that I could carry my interests even in front of the super prestigious IIM Interview boards.
IIM B, L, I, Cap – I successfully converted all the interviews I appeared in (got a 100 out of 100 after a long time, as I say to myself jokingly).
Like I said in the beginning, it was not a journey of my own only. The fact that I am writing this today, should be credited to my parents, my grandparents, Ramakrishna Mission, my high school teachers, Jadavpur, my friends, my professors, my relatives, the CL gurus and my surroundings who taught me a lot all along and never lost faith in me even when I myself felt lost. Maa could not sleep properly until I went to bed in the wee hours of the night after finishing the day’s preparation. She was the same person to wake me up the next morning.
On some lonesome nights nowadays, I go and pat the back of the boy who has turned gradually into today’s me. Mostly due to his work, I am going to start a whole new chapter of life. Yes, the journey ahead is too full of uncertainties and storms, but now I am more confident than ever to brave those holding his hand strongly.
Talking about storms, I would like to finish this with a favorite note from Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka On the Shore’ that provided me closure during the whirlpools of this journey. Murakami wrote, “…..And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about.”
Thank you CL. Thank you everyone for bearing with me so long.
Keep inspiring, as always.
-Chirayata, Class of 2023, IIM Bangalore.
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