(Some background- was a cadet at NDA in 2014 for 2 weeks. Resigned due to disillusionment at the time and the thoughts of doing the same thing for 4 years when the same uniform can be had in one year of training after grad. Nothing against NDA. Love the place. My batch mates who persevered are better men than me. Regretted my decision to some extent afterwards, but informed about it while applying for UES)
(No tech questions asked by any officer)
I had already been processed for documentation in November end at the same venue. Therefore, I got some respite to sit back and prepare mentally. While in the hall, it was a long wait as the process started about 2 hours late. The reporting time was 10 am and I was there at 9:25 am. But the officers allowed some more time taking into account the difficulties of a morning schedule and traffic.
Talked to some of my fellow candidates and we became friends and chatted upon various issues. Had some informal interaction with the NCOs who came along. They were mostly jovial and helped out where they could. They asked us to be confident and respectful and let fear out of our minds and our words. They told us to be relaxed and give our best in front of the interviewing board.
12:15 (afternoon). Outside the interview chamber. Tried to stop my legs from shaking. To no avail. Gave in. Hoped they would remain firm when I walked in. Waited quite a while.
12:45 The NCO orderly opened the gate and I walked in confidently with my document folder in hand. Quickly scanned the room. It was very much like my SSB conference board with the only difference of being in a smaller room with fewer officers. Three officers and a Defense Engineer Officer (DEO) (civilian) looked at me. The Captain (junior-most officer) was taking minutes of the event. Interview board consisted of the other three. Presiding officer sat in the center, flanked by Defense Engineer officer on his right and a Lt. Col. (LC) on his left. Wished the PO (Presiding Officer) (Good afternoon, sir). Instantly, I regretted not wishing the others. But kept the reactions clamped to myself and stood at ease before them with a smile.
PO: Good afternoon, Mrinal. How are you?
Me: I am well, sir. Thank you.
PO: Great, have a seat then.
Me: Sure, sir. (Sat on a chair) Would you like to have my documents, sir?
PO: No, keep it. Just tell us yourself what you have in there. We will rather listen to you than read some boring documents.
Me: Definitely sir. So as I take it, I should introduce myself with details then. (SMILING mischievously)
PO: Yes. If you are comfortable with such a format. (Smiling)
Me: I am Mrinal, currently in 3rd year CSE at NSEC under MAKAUT. The first interesting thing about me is that I was born on 29.02.1996. So you see I have the luck of being born on a leap day. That is a unique thing about myself which is rare in the demography.
PO: So, is it good luck or bad luck?
Me: Well, sir, it is one way or the other but never quite the same. Good luck when I have to put it forward as an interesting detail. Bad luck when I have to treat my friends on 28th Feb in the non-leap year scenario and then again on 29th Feb in leap years. Saves me no money, you see.
PO: Oh, you are trapped young man. (Everyone laughs)
(Moving on, I talked about my parents, siblings, sports and hobbies. Got drilled upon having to study in a school where my father was the principal. Told them, they are welcome to try it as I got more punishments than others, what with my old man being a strict guy. That satisfied them and gave me some leeway. Told them that I used to play badminton till school level but now, I am more of a long distance runner.)
PO: So, did you participate in this marathon (Tata steel) yesterday?
Me: No sir. I can’t. Because the marathon route is far away from my place and happens early in the morning as it should. But it is hard to find conveyance that early in the morning. Moreover, I don’t participate competitively, rather I do it for my own fitness, in preparation of an army lifestyle as well as an easy way to shut out bad thoughts and as a means of personal therapy stemmed from physical rigor. It helps me to sort out my thoughts and make some strategy about the personal and professional aspects of my life. It is like listening to music in the background and planning an operation with the beats giving you the tempo and the rhythm directing your thoughts.
(Thank god, I drove to Howrah yesterday. That is how I came to know of the marathon. Due to google maps! While navigating, no less)
PO: Very nice. I am glad that you are using your sport as your mental outlet.
Me: (moving on to hobbies) Thanks sir. Apart from that, I love to read books (mentioned a few recent reads). I also love to speak publicly. And I do it competitively. Debates, elocutions and extempore. I have been through it all.
LC (Lt. Col.): So, Mr. Orator, why don’t you give me points in for as well as against the topic in 60 seconds for the headline “Gay Marriage in India”?
Me: Yes, sir. For: LGBT cases are not based on a conscious choice. Rather, it is more to do with hormonal secretions, mental aptitudes as well as biological development of the person. We can venture to say that an LGBT person has no say in his/her orientation. So, I don’t see any reason why they should be harassed. As long as they do what they want to with decency and maintain their existence with privacy and appropriate public dignity, it is no one’s business to question their lives. Against: In India, we are a conservative and orthodox society, mostly. We have not been able to equalize the two prominent genders, the men and the women. So is it not a bit too much to expect right for LGBT people? I think we should allow the people some time to gradually change their outlook instead of forcing such a drastic societal change upon them. The revolution should come but with some order and not anarchy.
LC: Great, I see you are a damn good orator for real.
Me: Thanks, sir.
DEO: So, Mrinal, any thoughts on demonetization by Mr. Modi?
Me: Yes sir. It is a progressive step and so I support it. It would help our authorities nab the corrupt and flush out black money.
DEO: What about the inconvenience it has caused to people?
Me: Well, in my view, fighting for Kashmir can also be termed as inconvenience. So, we should hand it over to Pakistan once and for all and be done with it. Why do we let our army fight and die for us? Sir, to tell you the truth, all this talk of inconvenience is just bad politics. A nation cannot live on its knees. It won’t survive on its knees i.e. weak leadership and soft decisions to cushion the public are not going to do any favors. Let me tell you a story. In China, guy called Mao Tse Tung embarked upon industrialization and 30 million people died in the process. China got independence later than us but managed to become a larger economy. That is what taking hard decision means and whoever takes the risk shall reap the benefits. In contrast, think of Hitler who killed 5 million Jews and is called a great villain in history. But this guy Mao is a hero in China. So, as I see it sir, Mr. Modi is not playing vote bank politics and is not afraid to hurt the public in order to establish a progressive country. He is doing it for the greater good. Few people die of natural causes and we let the other 1 billion get screwed by corrupt idiots? That is not the answer. The PM is not afraid of losing his mandate and if he is such a bad guy and has hurt the people, he will face their ire in 2019 and he knows it. Meanwhile, the march to progress shall be relentless.
DEO: Is India ready for a cashless society?
Me: No sir. But that is the responsibility of citizens as well as the govt. If poorer sections can own a smartphone, they better learn to use it too. If downloading Candy Crush is not a learning constraint, I don’t see why the same people can’t move on to Internet banking, electronic transfers and online wallets like PayTM as well as initiatives like UPI.
DEO: Great. Now, what is better, bullet trains or better train services?
Me: Better train services, sir. We need good quality services and a comfortable work and rest environment is more desirable when compared to an efficient system. Clean and calming work environment will lead to efficiency rise and not the other way round.
PO: Something else about yourself?
Me: (narrated the whole NDA incident) I wanted to move on with life sir. No use stuck over same routine for a singular experience. We should all explore a bit more.
PO: But you are stuck, right? Army then, and army now? What has changed?
Me: I moved on with life, sir. Doesn’t mean I changed my goals. My priorities are the same and my job preference is the same. I am not interested in money. It is all about donning the olive green for me.
PO: Well said, my boy. Kindly tell us some of your negative points. (I finally knew he was convinced. I was serious about this and he knew it)
Me (with a sheepish smile): Sir, I over eat as I adore food and confess to being a foodie. And I swear a lot. I have a filthy tongue.
PO (laughing): So what made you realize that?
Me: Actually, I was watching this movie Malcolm X where it said that people who do not have words to express themselves use bad language to vent their frustration. And being a public speaker, I take great offence if I do not have words. For words are what I deal in. In this manner, I realized my fault and now whenever, I am about to cuss, I simply shut up and calm down by counting to 10 in my mind.
PO: I am glad you have worked on your issues.
LC: You are a frank, young, dynamic and bold person. Does that also make you temperamental?
Me: Yes sir. You caught me. That is a flaw to some extent in my otherwise calm persona. Being a debater, if someone calls out my flaws with good facts and arguments, I will bow down. But if someone (who has no business saying things to me because he/she is not at the same level or does not have any experience in certain matters) comes to argue with me without facts and without any respect for my views, I will tear his world down my words and have a verbal duel without any restraint. The thing is I am all for a good chat, but it should be mutually respectful. If you are about to criticize me for my views, you better do it properly and with some intellect. Otherwise, I am not to blame for the loopholes in your logic or your shortcomings as an incomplete but argumentative Indian.
PO: So, you will be giving SSB again as a repeater. Does that give you an advantage?
Me: No sir. I am not afraid of this board or this process. I was not afraid the first time. Why? Because I love talking to people and expressing myself. My good qualities and bad qualities are my own and I stand by them. So, other candidates can be scared but not me. For me, it is reward enough to be able to chat with officers like yourselves and I love it even more as it helps to enhance my skills as an orator.
PO: Lovely, young man. Thank you. That will be all.
Me: Thanks sir. Have a good day.
(Shook hands with everyone and departed with a smile on lips)
Met with the Lt. Col while results were being prepared and had a good chat during this break. He kept calling me Mr. Orator throughout. Had an inkling that I would be hearing some good news.
Got the results after a few minutes. Qualified (with highest marks amongst 4 selected candidates). Again called out by LC as Mr. Orator and not by my name made me really happy while walking towards the stage. Got the provisional letter. Done.
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