Hello future officers, I am Bimal Ranjan Behera from Odisha, a guy who always dreamt of becoming an officer in Armed Forces and donning that uniform. It’s a proud feeling to share my journey from being a Marine Engineer to achieving my dream of becoming an officer in the Armed Forces. Putting in your time and genuine efforts will always give you better results but never forget “NO ONE GETS BEFORE THE TIME AND MORE THAN FATE”. If you ask me what motivated me for this, my answer would be the same as any other fauji blood, Father served the country, APS/NCS/TAFS product, love for the uniform, want to continue my dad’s legacy and the list never ends. So directly coming to my SSB experiences…
I started my journey in 2013 when I appeared for NDA written exam. At the same time I appeared for Merchant Navy exam just as a contingency option. I got selected for Marine Engineering course from Tolani Maritime Institute. NDA results came after I joined my Maritime Institute. Later I got a call letter for SSB from 18 SSB Allahabad. I was full of josh and excitement and went for my SSB. It was my first SSB and seeing 150+ candidates at the centre I became little nervous. In screening, 68 candidates got screened-in out of 165. Then we went through the remaining SSB procedures in the next 4 days. My Psych went good but I couldn’t perform well in my GTO tasks as we were not coordinating with each other and only focusing on our own ideas. That resulted in a complete mess. Then my interview was taken by the Board President and to be honest it was horrible. I was too nervous and because of that couldn’t answer even the simplest questions properly. Then came the conference day. 4 candidates got recommended and I was conference out. I was sad but I realized it’s the time of introspection.
I came back and continued with my Marine Engineering. I knew I would be coming back but next time fully prepared. I worked on my communication skills, physical fitness (participated in almost every sports event in the Institute, participated in numerous marathons etc.) and general awareness ( was not into a habit of reading the newspaper but started doing that regularly, started reading news blogs and watching debates etc.). In the meantime, got placed in MAERSK Line. Then I went for my first sail from March-July 2017. When I came back from my sail, CDS application forms were already out . I filled it up and started preparing for the written exam scheduled on 19th Nov 2017. I downloaded last 3 years’ question papers and solved it. The written exams went well and I was sure I would be clearing the cutoff. Then something unexpected happened on 28th Nov. I got a mail from my shipping company that my next sail is scheduled on 26th Dec 2017. Now this was a turning point. I knew if I would go on my sail I could not give my SSB. I was waiting for this moment for 4 years and I could not just let it go. I mailed my company requesting them to postpone my sail and they postponed it to 21st June 2018. I knew I had to do well or else these 6 months would go to waste.
I started preparing for the SSB. I prepared a diary and used to write one national, one international and one sports news daily in that so that at the time of SSB I can have a quick read. For WAT, TAT, SRT and GPE, I downloaded practice sets from SSBCrack and other websites and used to practice 50 WAT words, 5 TAT stories, 20 SRTs and one GPE daily without fail. I also prepared my SD beforehand and practiced writing it a couple of times. During practice I was taking ample time in giving my responses but my speed improved with every passing day. I also watched AFOSOP videos from YouTube which was a great help. For interview I used to sit in front of the mirror and ask myself questions from the interview practice set which I got form SSB Crack. The CDS written exam results came on 3rd Jan 2018. Later I got my SSB call letter for Indian Navy at 12 SSB Bangalore.
2nd March, 2018: Reporting Day
I reached Bangalore Railway station at 11 o’clock. Many SSB candidates were already there. All were very excited and I also made some good friends. Then at around 2 o’clock an Army bus came and took all of us to South Selection Centre, Bangalore. On reaching there, the NCO briefed us and carried out our documentation. Then we were given our chest numbers and sent to the barracks for accommodation.
3rd March, 2018: Screening Day
We were supposed to report at 0630 for our screening. After having breakfast, all of us mustered near the testing office. The NCO then took us for our screening. We were briefed about the tests. Then we were given 2 OIR sets which I completed fully in the given time frame. For PPDT, we were shown a picture in which there were two men talking. I wrote a story on two men inside a train but could not complete it in time. Then we were divided into groups of 14 and sent for discussion. Here I narrated my complete story though I hadn’t completed it on paper. All of us had different stories. After the last candidate completed his narration, group discussion started and to be honest it was like a fish market. Everyone was shouting. The assessor even stopped us twice and asked us to calm down. As a result we couldn’t even discuss the story and were stuck on the characters, their age and mood. After the discussion I had bad feeling that I have to return home on my screening day itself. We were asked to gather in the testing hall after the lunch for our results. Finally an officer came with the results and started calling out the chest numbers of the screened in candidates. He started calling the numbers in sequence and skipped my chest number. To my surprise, after 93 he said 27(my chest number). I said loudly “Yes sir”. Called out my name and DOB (we were asked to do that) and took my new chest number, 26. I came out of the hall. My friend Shreyash (also got recommended with me later) who was already standing outside came to me said and said “ what took you so long bro”. I was still in a shock. Replied “Suspense bro suspense”. 30 candidates got screened in out of 110. We bid byes to our friends. Then we were shifted to Candidates’ accommodation (a lot better than the barracks, trust me). We were 8 candidates in one room and luckily 7 of us were in one group.
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4th March, 2018: Psychology Test
All of us reported to CHM at 0630 who took us to the Psychology test hall. The psychologist briefed us on the tests. We started with TAT. We were given 30 sec to look at the picture (not allowed to write in these 30 sec) and then 3min 30sec to write the story. After this 4 min, the next picture comes on the projector screen. Mind you, this time flies with light speed. All the 11 pictures were clear and I was able to produce legitimate stories on them but could not complete 6-7 of my stories which I later completed after SD. I prepared a story beforehand for the blank slide. After TAT, we started with WAT. I found the words easy and made observational sentences on all the 60 words. Then we started with SRT. I did 37 while some of my friends were able to complete all 60. For SD, the psychologist gave a twist. All those who were doing a job were asked to write on their “boss’ opinion” instead of “teachers opinion” and on “colleagues opinion” instead of their “friends opinion.” For that I had to change the friends and teachers part in my SD but luckily I completed it before time and used the remaining time to complete my TAT stories.
5th March, 2018: GTO Day 1
We reported at 0630 hours to the NCO. He briefed us about the GTO Day 1 tasks. Then he divided the candidates in three groups (10 each) according to our chest numbers. After that we were taken to the GTO. The GTO then again briefed us thoroughly and we started with the GD. I gave ample points during the GD and it went well. Then we started with GPE. The GTO showed us a map model and explained it. After that, he narrated the problem story and then gave us 5 min to read the narration by ourselves. We were given 10 min to write our solution on the provided answer sheets. There were 4 problems and I prioritised them according to my knowledge, thanks to practice sets from SSBCrack. After 10 min, our sheets were taken from us and we were asked to have a group discussion on the solution. Same again. Everyone started shouting. And same again we couldn’t come to the conclusion as happened during PPDT. Then the GTO asked us to nominate someone to give the group solution. I didn’t take anyone’s name since we haven’t completed our story and the nominated person would be in trouble. But the exact opposite happened. Majority of the group nominated me. Nervous ? Yes. And guess what. In that piece of nervousness two blunders happened. First, I forgot the starting point and started the solution wrong. Second, Rather than explaining the solution to the GTO, I explained it to my group. I felt bad after that but decided to focus on the remaining tasks.
Then we went for our PGT and HGT. In PGT, everyone started shouting again but this time chest no. 30 literally pleaded everyone to calm down and luckily it worked. I gave 4-5 suggestions which we successfully executed. Later all the groups were called for Group Obstacle Race. Everyone was full with excitement as this was the most exciting event in the GTO tasks. We had our war cry “ Bharat Mata ki.. JAI.” All of us were shouting our group war cry and running with full josh. We completed second but we enjoyed it to the fullest. After the GOR, we were given a small break and then taken for the Individual obstacle race. I completed all 10 obstacles and repeated 5 but while doing the double ditch obstacle I landed improperly and sprained my ankle. My ankle got swollen badly. I got first aid after that. While sitting I realized I did a huge mistake in my IOR. I skipped the barbed wire obstacle and hence repeated 5 without completing 10. Maybe a bad day for me. After a water break, we were called for Lecturette. My lecturette topics were Space Exploration, Sex ratio, Panchayat Raj and My HERO. Initially, I prepared points to speak on sex ratio but god knows what came into my mind and at the last moment I decided to speak on My HERO. I spoke confidently and referred my dad in that topic. Some of my friends asked why I chose such an easy topic. My ans was “Because I was most confident in it. I could speak on and on without worrying about any mistake in that.”
Later that evening, my friends went out on liberty. I couldn’t join them as I was having pain in my ankle. My friend Shreyash gave me some painkillers and I took rest.
6th March, 2018: GTO Day 2 and Interview
We reported to the CHM for GTO day 2 tasks. We started with Command task. I was called 2 times as a subordinate. During my Command task, the GTO asked me a few questions regarding my education and my job. Then he asked me about the performance in the previous GTO tasks. I replied “not good sir. I let my team down as a leader in the GPE, couldn’t coordinate properly in PGT, repeated the obstacles in IOR without completing them first and almost broke my ankle in double ditch obstacle. So on an average, it was pathetic.” The GTO said there is nothing to worry about. It’s common and happens with everyone. Then I called two subordinates and did my command task. Finally, the end task was FGT. This time all of us had decided earlier to coordinate properly and luckily everything went well. With this we completed all the GTO tasks. Then I was asked to go for my interview. Came back, took a shower and went for my interview. The board president was going to take my interview. His started with some personal questions and then asked a bunch of around 15 questions in on go (rapid fire). I replied to the questions and then,
Interviewer: What about the remaining questions?
Me: Sir, I cannot recall all of them.
Interviewer: *asked me the remaining questions*
Me: Replied accordingly.
After a couple of questions and one more 2 more rapid fires’
Interviewer: So Bimal you are in Merchant Navy. As of my knowledge, it’s a pretty good job and provides a big salary. So, why do you want to leave it and join Indian Navy which is far more hectic and can never pay you even close to what you will earn as a Merchant Mariner?
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Me: Sir, first I like to clear that all the forces have equal importance to me. But since I’m trained in Marine engineering I’ll be more of an asset to the Indian Navy than Army or Airforce. Now my answer to your question. Sir, I always had a dream to earn that uniform and serve my country. The biggest reason I joined Merchant Navy is because it provides me a similar uniform I get in Navy but the country part is always missing. I have spent around 18 years of my life in the Defence cants. I am totally aware of the Armed Forces culture and it always thrilled me. People from all the corners of the nation come and live together in harmony. In a way, it binds the whole country. And what I love the most is its uniformity. I mean everyone is given the similar accommodation, have the same living standards, have the same working conditions, they work together, play together, celebrate together, their kids go to same school. Where do you find such a place! Only the defence can provide you that and I can give anything to get such a life. As far as the money part is concerned, yes money is important. But what is more important is satisfaction. What “satisfaction” means to me may not mean the same to you. And Armed Forces definitely reflects my satisfaction. That’s the reason I want to join my the Defence forces.
Interviewer: That was an impressive answer. But Bimal, if just being in that uniform satisfies you then why didn’t you join as a jawan to get that uniform and serve the country?
Me: Sir, my grandfather died when my dad was merely 3 years old. He didn’t get any comfort in life as I was provided by my dad. And after all the struggles, my dad joined Army as a jawan. Now if I also join as a jawan then what’s the difference between my dad and my grandfather. Sir, a good leader is one who produces better leaders and a good parent is one who produce better kids. And I want to prove that my dad is better than my late grandfather.
The interviewer smiled and moved on with other questions. He asked me questions regarding sports and my hobbies (which I mentioned in my PIQ). Then he asked me questions on Indian Navy and Merchant Navy, current affairs, financial planning (mentioned in my PIQ) and surely I couldn’t answer them all. But for every question I couldn’t answer, I replied “sir, I don’t know the answer now but I can promise to answer it in my conference.”
My interview had some bad moments also like the interviewer shouting at me, humiliating me. He also said that your father retired as a JCO but you don’t even deserve to become an OR and things like that. But in all those moments I was sitting calmly with a smile on my face. After the interview was over, I almost cried. I felt like I won’t be getting recommended this time. I cleared my mind and went back to my room. Later I went out on liberty with my friends.
7th March, 2018: Conference day: The most memorable day of my life
All the candidates took their luggage and went to where we reported the first day. A Maj. General gave us a short speech and said those motivation stuffs like “don’t lose any hope if you don’t get recommended” things and gave examples of some great personalities like APJ Abdul Kalam, Amitabh Bachchan etc. who also couldn’t make it through SSB. After that, the CHM took us to the conference hall and briefed us on how and what to do during conference. Then one by one we were called for our Conference. My turn came. I went inside the conference room. When I entered the room, my eyes lit up. There were around 15 officers all gleaming in their white uniforms and golden epaulettes. That was a view I can never forget. I took my seat and greeted the President. Then the deputy President started asking me questions. He asked me questions about my stay, my performance during the SSB and regarding any suggestions. Then he asked me some questions like,
Officer: What will you do if you don’t get recommended this time?
Me: Sir, first of all I’m sure that I am getting recommended this time. But I have done some mistakes and considering that if I won’t get recommended then no worries. I’m still in a good profession. I’ll continue my career as Marine Engineer. And regarding the rejection, I will introspect myself and try to improve in my weak areas. I’ll feel bad for sure but at least I won’t be regretting in future that I didn’t give my chance of becoming an officer in the Indian Armed forces.
Officer: Who in your opinion should get recommended and why?
Me: Sir, chest no.8, chest no. 30 and me. *gave reasons* (all of us got recommended later :D)
Then he wished me luck. I greeted them and left the room.
After the Conference, we were asked to wait in testing hall. A commander came with the results. Then he started calling the chest numbers. One by one he called the numbers and went till 22. Then he said the happiest thing I wanted to hear. CHEST NO. 27. I couldn’t control my happiness. Stood up, acknowledged and tears welled up in my eyes. 10 candidates got recommended. Commander left the room leaving only the recommended candidates. My two good buddies also recommended whom I mentioned in my conference. All of us shouted with happiness and some literally cried including me. Couldn’t believe that I achieved what I always wanted. Happiest moment of my life. Then we went to bid goodbyes to our friends. Later the recommended candidates were shifted to a different place.
For the next 5 days, we had our medicals. I believe the Medical procedure is where your real patience is tested. We were asked to wait for 4-5 hours for medical tests that take mere minutes and even seconds in cases like Dental check-ups but considering the results it’s worth waiting. All the medicals went well and I was declared fit. Happy moment again.
Though the merit list is yet to come, I’m happy to prove that I have OLQs in me.
This was my journey from being a Marine Engineer to getting recommended for Indian Navy. I have learned a lot through this journey and met many amazing people who are now like a family to me. Besides hard work, I want to give credit for my success to all those who believed in me in all these years especially my parents and my friends and wish luck to all the aspirants out there.
KEEP TRYING and NEVER STOP till you achieve what you are born for.
If any of you guys have any queries or need any suggestions, I’ll be more than happy to help. You can contact me on my mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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