The IIM-B Interview

To say it was an amazing and unforgettable experience would be an understatement.

I would love to say that the interview was a breeze and that I spoke and defended myself confidently as if I knew why I was good enough to join IIM-B.

It didn’t happen.

I think I should start from the beginning.

It was my first attempt at CAT – An exam that people call scary and tough and challenging. It was.

While I was going through the questions, all I felt was the urgency to somehow read through the questions even if I could not answer them. And the way I hurried, I had no hopes of even being in the rank list.

But surprisingly, when the results came out and rather than the pitiful score I had expected, I actually found out that I had a good percentile, and it knocked the wind out of my sails…

Even more surprising and amazing was the IIM-B call letter in my inbox a few days later.

It was an institution people covet to even set a foot in and I had an interview call from them.

The preparation began for the interview and despite the fact that this was my first ever major interview, I assumed that I was prepared. It was not long before I was brought back down to earth.

The interview was at IIM itself. When I walked into the gates and saw the beautifully manicured lawns and the grey  buildings, I was awed. There is no other word for it.

I stared at the long hallways, the reception, the offices and the classes as I passed. The students seemed to be on some higher plane of academia and I walked gaping at it all.

There were three parallel panels conducting the interviews and as I waited with my fellow candidates, I felt horribly out of place. It was not the dress, although we had all donned our best suits and shirts, and groomed ourselves to a shine. It was awkward because I somehow had a premonition that my inexperience was going to be my downfall.

The candidates were all male except for me and another female candidate, but the marked difference me and her was that she was suave where I was stiff. She obviously had finished her graduation and even had a few years of work experience. So were the others. They had all completed their college long ago and were working presently. I knew I could never make up for their work experience and a
post-graduation degree with my academic records, however exceptional.

The panel consisted of three professors, all male, from IIM-B.

The first question they asked me was why I wanted to do an MBA. They asked that for a person from a Science (Mathematics) background, an MBA seems like a totally unusual choice for further education. I replied that I was interested in studying there because, obviously, to be at IIM is a dream come true for students. It was a place that would demand only the very best out of the students. It had an unrivalled name and atmosphere that the ones who studied there could only describe their experience as a student of IIM as life-changing. I would not lie to say that to walk those hallowed halls, to be a part of that community, and to learn the things they’ll be teaching…I’m sure that the classes will be amazing just I had once seen in a Nicolas Cage movie, where he takes an absolutely inspiring class in Physics…

Just the thought of talking and walking with teachers and students who were on an entirely different level, to go to the amazing library I have only heard of (and still haven’t seen)…was like a dream.

But coming back to the interview…the panel was not satisfied with my answer or rather I should say they were experts in frazzling a candidate’s nerves.

They kept interrupting the answers that I had rehearsed, kept saying that they didn’t understand what I’m talking about. I tried in different ways to explain what I wanted to convey and even though I knew they were testing me, I couldn’t complete. It didn’t help at all that they, or rather, one particular professor contradicted and questioned every single sentence.

They asked questions on the WhatsApp buy by Facebook and whether I thought the deal had been priced too high. They asked what benefit was there since FB has obviously more users than WhatsApp. I replied that the deal was priced fine and that WhatsApp being an online messaging service was entirely different from the way FB operates. I told them it was a strategic decision to diversify and a way to try to convert lots of users from other platforms to WhatsApp. He kept disagreeing and when I stuck firm to my words, with a polite smile always on my face, another professor interrupted the exchange of words. He quizzed me on the papers I presented and asked me to explain one of them…and I did, thankfully this I could complete without words or questions being thrown in…

The first professor then asked me about the Women’s Reservation Bill and what my opinion was. Whether the bill should be passed or not. I said it should because we were ensuring that it be mandatory to have a woman’s voice at the top tier of our government, who would be involved in decision making, who would raise concerns regarding women’s welfare. But he asked if such a bill would ensure the choice of a right leader and I disagreed, because having a representative is entirely different from having the right representative. Since politics and a lot of lobbying involved in the latter, the people couldn’t exactly choose the perfect representative, but at least there will be a voice to represent the fairer sex.

Again the professor and I argued, rather politely and repetitively, on this topic. The other professor interrupted again with statements on my academics. He said that if I had gotten such a good record then I had to love my subject, but then I was there present for an interview to do management. The first professor took it upon himself to ask again and again why he still didn’t understand the reason I wanted to learn an MBA. He and I again were engaged in a heated session when suddenly, out of the blue, he asks about my role model in the business field, my future career, my aspirations and things like that. Although I tried to explain my point, my views and my aspirations, he wouldn’t let me continue. He would shake his head mid-sentence, interrupt, say “I don’t understand”, and ask other questions. I knew these were all calculated distractions and though I kept the smile firmly upon my face, I knew I was getting flustered. The third professor sat there almost bored, not even uttering a single word, when all of a sudden, in the middle of my floundering attempt to explain, they say the interview is over.

The professor, the one who shook me up (it felt almost like he took me by the collar and shook and put me upside down), asked if there was anything I had to ask them. At that point of time, the only thought was of escape. I said “Nothing, sir. I’m fine.” They look at each other, nod and send me away with a smile. The whole thing was a casual discussion and I felt like Hector returning from battle.

I leave the room and I start shaking. I knew that I had managed to make the interview a disaster. It wasn’t that the questions were unanswered or even that I had given the wrong answers, but rather in 20 minutes  I found how I was totally unprepared for an interview of this scale. I knew my inexperience had been a small disadvantage when compared to the other candidates, especially since they all came from Engineering backgrounds, studied in IITs, and had considerable work experience. But the fact was that I became nervous, edgy and anxious knowing that this interview would have changed my life forever. And my nervousness showed. I became flustered as the interview progressed and even though I replied to the questions, there was still that lack of self-confidence.

I hadn’t converted the call…

But…

It was an amazing experience. One that I would be grateful for.

It taught me a million things that no amount of reading or preparation could have done.

It gave me something that my studies could never give me.

And most of all, it humbled me.

I truly respect the ones who did get into IIMs. But it made me realize that this won’t be the end.

It’s just another one of those things that you would look back to and see how a brief 20 minutes changed the way you look at something…

 

So…the next line of thought is…how grateful can one be?
It’s never easy to admit your mistakes, especially one that you know was entirely yours.

Even now, I am able to write this because 2 months have already passed. It’s not easy. Not easy at all.

There are instances in life when you feel burdened by the heavy sorrow but time doesn’t stop.

People cope in different ways…

Maybe you turn up the music to deafening proportions, maybe you close yourself inside your room like an ascetic, maybe you find the uninhibited hunger for something sweet on your tongue, like ice cream, maybe you go on a cooking rampage and fill the kitchen counters with all sorts of things that would last till the end of the world, maybe you would bury yourself under the covers with your lovely doggy and hug him till you sleep…

There are ways…and slowly…you come out…and the first thing you notice is the sunshine.
That time hadn’t stopped…

And you feel that maybe, just maybe…things are not as bad as it seems…

That the sun still sparkles on the morning dew, that the wind still ruffles your hair a bit…

And it reminds me of a poem I once wrote…In fact, I relate to it now more than when I first wrote it…

It is called “Forward & Beyond”

It was published in my college magazine and I wanted to share it with the world…

If you would like to read it, please visit my blog titled “Speechless Thoughts” at http://shilthoughts.blogspot.in/p/forward-beyond.html

I have only published a few of my poems and I hope you like them…

Any comments, suggestions or thoughts you would like to share are welcome…

So…enjoy today, sit in the sun, listen to the birds and say a Thank You just because…

🙂

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