Monday, November 16, 2009

Presenting you a completely different experience

Hello friends,
I would like to share my SSB interview experience at Selection Center South Head Quarters at Bangalore.
It is quite a long blog to read on a single look. So I beg your patience to read this completely.
I know many of you won’t have an idea of what SSB is. So first I’ll give u details about it before going into my experience. SSB stands for Service Selection Board. It is a board or selection center that conducts interviews and tests to candidates applying for officer’s post in defense ie. Army or Navy or Airforce. It is a five day process and the tests are done so as to identify the actual personality traits of a person and then they will select that candidate if those traits match with their requirements. It is like this, if someone is selected, it doesn’t mean that he is extraordinary or if someone gets rejected, it doesn’t mean that he is not upto the mark. It is just that his qualities doesn’t match the requirements of defense. I was told that our former president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Bollywood king SRK, Cricketer Rahul Dravid all had attended SSB in their life and were not selected. It is so simple as this. They have a list of 15 qualities which they call it as Officer Like Qualities. When they test a person, they look for these qualities. When one has these qualities he will get through. When one lacks those qualities he doesn’t get selected. They don’t want IIT brains nor simply a body builder. In their terms they define an Officer as an average intelligence human who is capable of doing the given task without any excuse with the help his followers leading by example and authority. He is responsible for his men and materials and must have a stable mind taking success and failure equally.
So by now you would have got a rough idea of who an Officer is?
Now I’ll tell u how they test the candidates.
It is a five day process excluding the day of arrival of the candidates. On the day of arrival, the candidates are asked to fill up forms and given instructions. They are allotted rooms and chest numbers which is nothing but a serial number allotted to each individual. After this the individuals are addressed by their chest numbers. The candidates have to wear the chest numbers all the time.
On first day there will be two types of intelligence tests. After that there will be a picture story witting followed by a group discussion on the same picture.
The answers are evaluated in one hour and results are announced after lunch. Selected candidates are retained and others are dropped back at railway station from where they were picked up the earlier day.
The selected candidates undergo further testing which is as follows.
Three types of Psychology testing  ie. Thematic appreciation test, word association test and situation reaction test. This pretty much sums up second day.
On third and fourth day it is Group testing. It includes group discussions, group planning, progressive group task, half group task, lecture, individual obstacle, command task, final group task.
Interview will take place on 2nd , 3rd or 4th day.
5th day there will be conference where the psychologist, Group testing officer and the interviewers  decisions are combined together and put to paper. Then the results are announced. Again the selected candidates are retained for further testing and others are routed back to railway station. The selected candidates undergo medical tests. It will take place for 4 to 7 days or more. Once the candidate is declared medically fit. He is recommended by the respective selection center to Indian Navy that he is fit to become an officer. Then a merit list is prepared in New Delhi and if those recommended candidates find their names in the merit list between 1 to 30, they will be given joining letters. The candidates who join undergo rigorous training at Ezhimala, kerala at officers training academy for one year in which no matter what your physic is, you will come out well built with atleast six pack abs. Then on the job training will be given for next one year.
Those who join are eligible for full pay from the first of their joining itself ie. As of now the salary is between 35K to 40K per month. Apart from this, there is medical facilities for self and family. Travel concession, loan facilities, residence, military canteen etc. etc.. of course, everyone knows the benefits for defense people. I need not tell more on this.
I knew these things only after I attended a SSB interview at bangalore from 9th to 13th of Nov this year. My experience there taught me a lot and was a real fun. I would say everyone must give it a shot atleast once in their life. Because one can know themselves better once u go there and one must know about his country’s defense system. When I went there I was so ashamed that I knew literally nothing about Army, Navy or Airforce.

Please gather some patience to Read on to know about my experience there and what it is all about.
It was mid-July, it was a time when I was applying for every govt job which put advertisements of vacancy. One day I found an advertisement in some website that said, unmarried young male candidates are required for Indian navy for Logistics Officer post and there were many other conditions. All I understood from that advertisement was that I was eligible to apply. I applied immediately without any second thought mainly because, it didn’t ask for any exam fees or any DD. So I didn’t had to tell this to my parents. In the advertisement it was written that, there was no written exam(EKT- engineering knowledge test or CDS, usually conducted before calling for interview) and the candidates will be called for interviews directly if found eligible.
It was given that the candidates will be called for interview in about a month’s time or within maximum of 3 months. For the selected people, training starts on Jan 2010.
 After applying for that I forgot about that completely. As there was no written exam, I had nothing to  prepare. When other exams I wrote were flopping I thought of this as a back up because in the back of my mind I had a feeling that I will surely get selected in this because in the advertisement the selection procedure was given like that. It was given that,
First day,
There will an intelligence test (so it is just the usual aptitude test)
Picture story writing and a Group Discussion. ( nanga eluthatha story ah, parkatha GD ah)
Then candidates will be screened based on the performance. Selected candidates are tested further for 4 more days. It involves
Psychology testing, Group testing and Interview.
What can one prepare for psychology testing, and for GD? So I thought if I just perform well on the given day, I will be through.
I was busy writing other exams and applying for other jobs. In the mean time as I’m placed in CTS, they sent a mail saying that we have to finish e-learning as early as possible. So I forgot about this SSB completely.
Two months rolled on. But I didn’t get any letter or acknowledgment from the Navy about my application. I started thinking that my application was either ineligible or it didn’t reach them. Then in the middle of October, one fine afternoon I got a speed post. Yes, it was from the Indian Navy, the interview call letter. Till that time I hadn’t told about this to my parents. So, I showed them this letter and told them the details. Initially they were little confused and their reaction was like why I have applied for defense forces.  They have never heard of anyone joining the armed forces after finishing engineering. Looking at their reaction, I thought for a minute that they won’t allow me to attend the interview. But, they remained silent and later when I explained them what kind of post it is and what kind of job and the salary and other benefits, they were convinced but only a little.
My dad knew a retired Naval officer. So we met him to get an idea of what kind of job it is. He explained us in detail and my parents were totally convinced with his explanation. They started showing more interest than me in this. So now I knew I’m going to attend the interview.
It was that time that I received a mail from CTS asking to finish e-learning by the end of Oct. It is of foremost importance. So I had to study the modules sent by CTS and wrote the tests. I was doing that and somehow finished it by the end of October.
My dad’s friend gave me a book on SSB. It gave me an idea of what to expect there when I go for the selection procedure. There was no specific training given in that book.
I had my SSB interview on 9th of Nov and I had to report there at 3pm on 8th of Nov at Bangalore City railway station. It takes place at Selection Center South HQ, Bangalore.
I had to buy a pair of black shoes and a pair of white shoes with socks as we were required to bring them for interview. They also asked us to bring two sets of white shirt and shorts. I bought them too. So by now I had spent more than two thousand rupees.  Travelling charges will be refunded. So I need not had to worry about that. There is no train directly from Karaikudi to Bangalore. So I had my train ticket booked for 7th night from Madurai.
7th of Nov
I had everything ready for the interview. All my things packed. That includes the two pairs of shoes and white and whites , formals, all the documents they asked, the interview call letter with no claim certificate (we have to give them in written that if I sustain any injury in the selection process they are not responsible, it is our own fault). But I forgot my belt.
I started from my house. I went to karaikudi bus stand and took a Madurai bus. It’s a 2 hours travel. From Madurai bus stand I took a town bus and reached railway station at 7 pm. My train was at 7.50 pm. I had my dinner there and was waiting. Just then I remembered that I haven’t brought my belt. I saw some shops just outside the station. But it was already 7.50 and the train might come at any time. So I decided to buy it in Bangalore. The train came at 8.15. I got into it and as I was upper berth, I settled into it as soon as the TTR checked the ticket.
8th of Nov- Arrival Day
As the train is Mysore express. It will stop at Bangalore station for only 5 minutes. So I had to be alert. I woke up many times in the night and it was a long night. At last it reached Bangalore city railway station at about 6 am. It was so cold there. I was shivering and when I asked for coffee in a coffee shop, smoke was coming from my mouth. My reporting time was 3pm at the same place. So I had to spend the time there. I had an option to go my friend’s room, get ready and come back at 3. But I chose to remain there itself. I put my luggage in the cloak room and went to waiting hall. I got ready there. Then I went out to buy a belt for me. Luckily shops were just outside the railway station. I bought the belt and returned to waiting hall taking back my luggage. I had the book about SSB which I didn’t even open until that. So I was reading that and killing time. But it was really useful, that book. I got some rough idea of what SSB is. I had breakfast and lunch in the railway canteen itself.  I expected other candidates from other parts of the country to be at waiting hall like me. But I couldn’t figure out who has come for SSB and who has not. It was 2.30 pm I went outside the station and saw an Army bus waiting there. Lot of guys were waiting in front of the bus and a Soldier was standing there giving instructions. Thats where I should go. I went there, verified and I got into the bus. In the bus the person who was sitting by my side was coming from Kerala and is one year elder than me. We were just introducing ourselves. The bus took us to the Selection Center South HQ in Cubbon road. It was a fifteen minutes drive. As soon as we reached, we were taken to reception hall. We were given many forms and were asked to fill them up. We had to submit our train tickets in order to get the travelling allowance. If we submit one way ticket they will give two way fares. We were filling the forms and given instructions after instructions and finally all the forms were taken back. We were finally allotted chest numbers. My chest no was 27. After everything they showed us the place where we can stay. The time was 7 then. Dinner was at 7.30.
Instructions were given that we have to wear the chest numbers whenever we come out of hostel for food or anything.  We cannot use cell phones. We cannot use wrist watches. Whenever we come outside of hostel we must be in formals and wear shoes. Our behavior should be gentlemen like. As we had gone for officer selection, we had to behave like officers.
I met two guys from Chennai who were sitting by my side when we were filling the forms. We became friends quickly. One of the two guys was my room in hostel and the other one was the next room. The three of us went to have dinner in the mess. There was rice, chappathi, banana sweet, cutlet etc.. we started eating in our south Indian style using hands. The mess worker came to our table and started shouting. We were supposed to eat with spoons. (pona modha nale thittu vangiyachu)
The hostel was a new one. The bed and cot were brand new. But they didn’t give any pillow or bed sheet. Fortunately I had a bed sheet which i brought from my home. So I had little problem with that cold climate that night.
9th of Nov- First day of Selection Procedure,12 SSB , Batch No: B-LCM/62908
Our reporting time next morning was 6.15. So I had to wake up early. There were two north Indian guys who were so clever that they took bath in the night itself as it would be very rush in the morning. I woke up at 4.(after a long long time) Ooooh.. it was shivering cold and my body was making dance movements though I didn’t intend to. In the bath room there was a big crowd. There was water coming in bathrooms but not in toilets. Somehow it was managed. I got ready by 5.15. I don know how I was able to take bath in that freezing cold water. Our breakfast was at 5.45. But I had to pack all my things and keep it ready so that those who are not selected will be dropped back at railway station immediately. So after breakfast we vacated the rooms and took our luggage and kept them at reception hall.
They took us to the exam hall. For the tests to be conducted they will give practice there itself before each test. The first two were intelligence test, each for half an hour. It was little easy and I did well. After that they gave ten minutes break so that we can relax ourselves in case we were troubled by the cold weather. Next is the picture perception test. The instruction was that they will show us picture for 30 seconds. We have to observe it carefully and write down who is the first person I saw in that picture. What are all the characters in the picture I saw and their state of mind. (happy or sad). And then I have to write a story related to that picture like what had led to this incident that I saw in the picture. What is currently happening in that place and what is the outcome of that incident. The time limit was 4 minutes. The picture was shown. A black and white picture. It was blurred. I saw a lady lying in the bed and looking at a man who was sitting near the bed. Another woman was standing behind them. The place looked like an ordinary room in a house. Immediately I wrote down the characters i saw and then was thinking about a nice story. I assumed the man to be a doctor. Then I thought about a name for him. Raju! I named him. I assumed that lady in the bed to be ill and imagined a nice story with some sentiments in-between, righteousness and happys endings.
Then I started writing the story fast. I was only in the second line of my story giving name to that doctor when that horrible thing happened. My pen stopped writing. I was stuggling with it for few valuable seconds before I realized that ink in that pen is over. ”Holy Sh** !!”. I took out my other pen and before I could complete another word, the time was up. Once the bell rings, We have to put the pen down and pass the answer sheet immediately otherwise the candidate is rejected at once. I looked around and to my shock everyone had wrote more than ten lines. O! My God!! I haven’t even started my story and the time was up. I know I’m OUT. I just gave away the answer sheet and came out. They asked everyone to assemble in front of the exam hall. Without wasting any time, We were grouped together with 16 per group and sent to separate rooms. Yes it was the time for Group discussion. And the topic for discussion was the picture that we were shown minutes before.
They returned our answer sheets. We have to read out our own story one by one and then immediately after the last person finishes his story we have to start discussion and come to final story that aptly fits the picture shown. Although there was nothing in my paper, I told the story that I had imagined.  At that time I knew that they haven’t seen our answer sheets and only how we perform in the GD will be taken into account. So I was eager for the Discussion and I wanted to start the GD. As soon as the last person finished his story, when I was about to open my mouth, another person started the discussion. At least I wanted to speak next. I was waiting for that guy to finish. But another guy started speaking even before this guy could finish. My god! If I remain like this I’ll have to wait for whole life time. So I decided to speak out in the middle of other persons speech. When I said “gentlemen, my view is blah blah blah….” Nobody was listening and my voice was so low and the other person didn’t stop. He was speaking continuously. I thought “this is not working”.  “GENTLEMEN!!!!, “  I spoke out aloud and I got the attention I wanted. But before I could speak anything meaning full I forgot what I had to speak. The other person continued again. And more and more people started to speak at the same time and it was becoming into a fish market. They even started verbal attack on each other. I told to myself,” if I don’t speak now, I’m surely out and all the shoes and dresses purchased will go waste”.
Ironically the time limit given for the discussion was only 3 minutes. And two minutes were already over.  I have to speak NOW!! I decided to speak without bothering anyone listens or not. As it was going like a fish market. Again I said Gentlemen in the top of my voice. That received some attention. Then I started speaking my points one by one. Fortunately many found my views sensible and their attention grew towards my speech and those who were speaking too started listening to listen to me. When I said my final point, It was accepted by the entire group with a big “YA”. No sooner everyone said “ya” than the bell rang. That’s it time’s up. By the time I was speaking the selector was looking at the stop watch. I don’t know if the selectors noticed my speech because I was afraid that I spoke too late. I was a silent spectator for most part of the discussion before I managed to pop out with a sort of conclusion in the end. So I really had no idea of how good my chances were to get selected.
We were asked to go and have lunch. We had, returned and assembled in the reception hall. We were given the travelling allowance. And the chest numbers were taken back. Now it’s the time for results. I was ready with my luggage to catch a seat in the bus. They read out the names one by one. I didn’t expect my name to be there, so I was relaxed. The 18th name they read was my name. I needed a time delay to respond as I was really surprised. I thanked God that the shoes and uniforms I bought are going to be used. Totally 23 got selected out of 63 attended.  Now my new chest number was 18.
I’m No.18 and from here onwards I’ll refer to others by their chest nos only.
The people who didn’t get thru were taken back to railway station. Of the two Chennai guys I met, the one who was my roommate got selected. He was chest no 10. Actually there were 22 people from Tamil Nadu of the 63. But only 4 including me got selected. 
We 23 people had to fill up few more forms and then we had a group photo. After that we went to the hostel. The hostel watch man had something to say to us before showing us our rooms. He just started scolding everyone. “If water is not coming in the toilet u have to take water from bathroom and use it and flush properly. You have to behave as if it is your home. But u people hav…” the exact phrase was like this “kisi ne toilet me thirupathi laddoo banake rakha hai”.
 We were allotted rooms according to new chest numbers. This time they also gave woolen bed sheet and pillow. That Chennai guy was chest no 10. Only 8 per room. So he was another room. In my room there were only 7 of us. I took the corner bed.  There was one Tamil guy in my room chest no 23. He too was from Chennai but he was three years elder than me. The fact that I know little Hindi was so helpful. Otherwise I would have felt like I was in the middle of nowhere because all the instructions were given in Hindi and anyone from other than Tamil Nadu were speaking Hindi. The north Indian guys of course were talking in Hindi only.
We are allowed to go outside to nearby places after 2.30 pm and should return before 7 pm. So myself, No.10 and another guy from Vellore No.6 , went for a walk to the nearby shopping area called commercial street. No.10 had few things to buy, so we purchased that. No.6 had a paper and pen in which he wrote down the street names and buildings that were on the way as he thought they might be asked in the interview. I and no.10 were mocking him for that. I wanted to check my mail. So I was looking for net cafĂ© but there was none. But we had a great time there, why because Bangalore GIFs were few levels above our Chennai standard. (We were flattered:-)) We returned back well inside time. I thought I’ll browse for sometime in the only computer that is available in the whole campus. Luckily no one was using that at that time, so I checked my mail. I don’t know what connection that was, it took half an hour for just checking my mail. I was fed up and came out. Then I was waiting in a queue for making a phone call. That’s where I met a guy who has come for similar officer selection interview there but for service candidates ie. Those who are working as soldiers can apply for officers post after a minimum period of service. The guy I met was Tamil. He has got a service of 13 years as soldier posted in J&K. His name was Sathish. He was a very nice guy. He was so surprised to see me there cos people from Tamil Nadu rarely prefer to join Defense forces. In north India it is a different story. Everyone will have a sound knowledge of our Defense system and a lot of people go training to join in Army after finishing engineering (like our guys go training for UPSC). He told me that he will give me some books for preparation after going to the hostel. Then after dinner, I and no.10 went to see him. He gave us two books and a hand written material for studying and he also sat and taught us a few tricks about psychology tests.
The next day again the reporting time was 6.15. so I had to wake up early. But this time unlike the previous day I had no cell phone to keep alarm. We had to submit our cell phones to the watchman. So we had an understanding that whoever wakes up first will wake up others. As me and no 10 were in different rooms, we told to each other, whoever wakes up first will wake up the other.
10th of Nov – psychology test
When was the last time I had woken up at 4 o clock without atleast two alarms or someone waking me up… NEVER. I was sleeping as if there was no need to wake up. No. 10 came to my room and woke me up at 4.15. As I was using woolen bed sheet while sleeping, when I woke up the effect of cold climate was more than the previous day. Again the same problem at the bathroom. No, not the crowd (crowd had become one third) it is the water problem. Water was coming in the bathroom but not in the toilets. Somehow we managed to get ready by 5.45, had breakfast and went to the exam hall for psychology testing.
The psychologist came and explained to us about the tests. 'Psychologist' was written all over his face and speech. Yes, his looks and speech were so intense and pin point. The way he was looking at us, he can easily tell the history and character of the person by looking at his face. He said the first test was thematic appreciation like the picture story writing, we will be shown a picture for 30 seconds and we have to write a story within 3 minutes portraying what was the first thought that came to our mind when we saw that picture. Similarly 12 such pictures will be flashed every three minutes and we have to write a story for about half a page on each of the pictures shown. The 12th picture is a blank picture. For that we have to imagine a picture and then write the story.
The second psychology test was word association test. A word will be flashed for 15 every seconds and we have to write a sentence using that word within that 15 seconds. Again we had no time to think. Whatever that came to my mind, I wrote that. Some 60 words were shown and I wrote about 59 sentences. I was very much pleased with my performance.
The third test was situation reaction test, a question booklet was given in which there will be sixty different situations (like: you are going for an exam and u are seeing a man teasing a girl, what will u do)  answers should be in one sentence or two. Time limit was 30 minutes.  I attempted about 42 questions. I felt I could have done better. But when I came outside everyone had attempted close to that many questions only.
That’s it for the day. The psychology tests are over. Those who had interview were asked to wait and others were asked to leave. I came to hostel. Had lunch and slept for about an hour. at 2.30 we three went outside. This time we went in the other direction, to the science Museum. It was about 2km away from our place and we went there by walk asking the route then and there from other pedestrians. The route was easy we just had to take a first left then first right where the over bridge starts and go straight. The Museum was awesome. Entance ticket was 20 rupees. But it was worth more than that. No.6 was again noting down details in his notepad. Me and no.10 smirked at that.
More than 2 hours was not enough to cover the whole museum. The time was past 5.30 so we decided to leave. We were walking as fast as we could because it took more than 40 minutes while going. We had few snacks on the way and it was dark by then. We were half running and walking all the way and we couldn’t find the end of the over bridge where we have to take a left turn. We started running as time was around 6.30. At last we found the end of the bridge and took the left turn. But it was not the same road in which we came. At that time we knew for sure that we have gone too far before making the turn. We enquired  the pedestrians on how to reach the army selection center. As it is not a common place, none of them knew it. We didn’t know the road’s name also. We thought we were lost. I was afraid if we fail to reach there in time, our candidature will be rejected immediately because rules were like that. We thought of hiring an auto. Just then there were few army people in casual dress who had came for purchase outside. Their looks itself told that they are army men. They gave us directions and we ran all the way and reached the place just two minutes before 7. Phew……….
Again that night we three went to see Mr.Sathish. He gave us another set of books and taught us how to face the group tests. That was his last day there. The next day was his results. His friends were singing and having fun. But he spent his time with us teaching us about the next day tests. We are so thankful to him for that. I just followed what he told and it was so easy for me in psychology tests. So I listened to him carefully when he taught us some tricks about how to face group tests.
11th of  Nov- GTO day1
Same 6.15 we had to report. Today the person who was in the next bed to mine (No.17) woke me up at 4. He didn’t sleep the whole night as he had to spend most of the time in the rest room ( sapadu othukala pavam).  In bathroom there was no water. We used drinking water for brushing our teeth. It too got over soon. There was not a single drop of water till 5.15. After 5.30 the watchman opened another bathroom in the other end of first floor which had a separate water tank. Got ready in express speed that I didn’t had time to wait and think about pouring that cold water while bathing. Had breakfast and rushed to the benches in the ground where we were asked to assemble. Our uniform was white shirt and white shorts with white shoes. It was so dark even at 6.15. In an already shivering cold weather, with half sleeves shirt and half trousers smoke was coming out from my mouth whenever I spoke or yawned. More than the weather it was the mosquito bites that we couldn’t bear.
In group testing, the 23 people were divided into three batches. First batch had 7, second batch had 9 and ours the third batch had 7 people. No.17 to 23 were in my batch. Each batch were sent to separate GTOs ( Group Testing Officer). Our GTO was a nice man. His English was top class. Whenever he starts addressing us, he will start with “Everything fine Gentlemen?”
He took us into a room and the first exercise was GD. There were two GDs. In the first one he gave two topics, we had to choose one topic from that and speak. In the second one whatever topic he gives we have to speak. In the first one the given topics were Who are responsible for Corruption in India or Cellphones- boon or curse. We chose the first one. The topic for second GD was education in india.
Here I MUST tell u how our GD was. Guys I can tell you, Ours was by far the best GD I have ever seen or heard of. Such was the coordination in our batch. We started serially one by one. Like that we spoke two rounds and everyone had enough time and equal opportunity to speak his point. Also whenever anyone wanted to add a point in the middle when other guy was speaking, he was allowed to speak. After he finishes, the guy who was speaking continues from where he left. Both the Discussions were awesome. Valid points were discussed and we almost arrived at a conclusion by ourselves within the time frame (20 minutes per GD). If the GTO had to select us based on the GD alone, all of us would have got selected.
Next was group planning exercise. In this, a situation will be given to us and we have to plan our actions based on the priorities and time limitations and men & material limitations. It was like this, we 7 are going to attend a conference in town X in bus through the main road and our bus stops suddenly without petrol as there was a leak. Nearby there is a tea shop whose owner is seriously injured and fighting for life. There is no one else in that shop. The tea shop owner says two terrorists came and attached him. They are going to poison the pond in the next village and keep a bom in the railway bridge near the river. So now we have to save this injured man, diffuse the bomb, alert the villagers about the poisonous water in the pond. Now the time is 8am and we have to finish all this and attend the conference at 11 am. In the mean time we have to get petrol for the bus too.
We discussed among ourselves and arrived at a decent plan. One of us had to explain this plan to the GTO. No.20 explained it to him. The plan was accepted.
The next task was Progressive Group Task. We were given a plank, a bamboo and two ropes. The task is that we seven people have to get across four obstacles using the materials given to us. An obstacle will be like this. For each obstacle there will be fifteen feet distance between star line and finish line. We or the materials cannot touch the ground because it is assumed to be full of landmines. There will be some structures in between like a pole or a stone or a mixture of these structures. Even in those structures some areas will be painted red that means we cannot touch those areas. And we cannot jump more than 3 feet. Four such obstacles have to be crossed within the given time limit.
The time given for our PGT was 15 minutes. We crossed the first obstacle with little difficulty  although it took some time. The next obstacle was so tough. We had no idea of how to cross that. Somehow we did some acrobatic moves and 6 of us managed to cross that. But we had no idea how to bring that last man. Whatever method we tried one man was left behind. Again some extra acrobatics were needed to bring that last man to finish line. But the time was already up. In fact we were given five minutes extra. That’s all. we managed to finish only two of the four obstacles.
Next was half group task. It is similar to the above task. But the group was split into half and each half were given separate obstacles. This time it is only one obstacle was given. We decided to split into odd and even. So in my half group it was 18 ie. Me , No20. And No.22. We finished our task just in time.
Here comes the next task. THE SNAKE RACE. It’s a very exciting, adventurous race that needs stamina and will power. It was more fun than any other tasks. All the three batches were called and each batch were given a snake like thick rope. Now each batch will be lined together in the starting point. Between starting point and ending point, there will be ten obstacles. The obstacles will be like this, a twelve feet high wall, Spiders web- ten feet high, two ten feet high walls with ten feet distance in-between connected by a five inch pipe ( we have to climb the wall, walk on the pipe and jump from the other wall), a steel structure, a wooden structure like this shape /\ with one slant side as single bamboo and another slant slide plank. Like this few other obstacles were there.  There are some rules like minimum of 3 people must always hold the snake. The snake should not touch the ground….. each batch had their own war cry. Ours was “Bharat matha ki Jai”. We were shouting our war cry throughout  the race and were well ahead of other groups. But there were some violations of the rules. So we were given penalty ie. We must repeat the obstacle in which we violated the rule. We repeated more than 3 obstacles and still managed to win the race. Our GTO praised our batch as a very spirited unit.
The race was exhausting. We were given a small break and we assembled again after 15 min. next was Lecture. Each person in the group will be given a general topic about which he has to speak for 3 minutes. When the first person is speaking the second person will be allowed to prepare his speech. So 3 min for preparation and 3 mins speech. My topic was Linking of Rivers. It was easy for me to gather points. So I spoke without any problem. Some were given abstract topics like My shoes, My father, My watch… Next was another interesting event. The Individual Obstacles.
So far we performed all the obstacles as a group. Now we have to do it individually. There were 10 obstacles and the time limit was 3 minutes. It is basically like this.. it starts with a simple jump, high jump, long jump, tarzan jump (using a rope we have to jump a distance of more than 20 feet, then rope walking at a height of 15 feet, monkey jumping etc.. (it was a bit like anu alavum bayam illai)
We were called serially. So I was second. I finished 7 of the 10 obstacles in the given time. I was doing the tougher ones first rope walking etc and lost the time. I felt very bad about that not because of losing the marks but because of missing some of the fun.
The GTO said that’s it for the day from him. We had two more group tests to be completed. That will be done the next day. We completed about 7 exercises on the day whereas the other groups finished only 6. We were all very exhausted. Just when we were leaving from the ground, we were told that our interviews start immediately. No.17 was called first. Next was me. No.17 had no time to change his dress. So he was asked to go inside with the same white and white uniform itself which was dirty but they didn’t mind that. Next was me.. so I rushed to the room, changed to formals and went to the spot. The others were asked to have lunch and come.
My interview started. As soon as I entered the room, the interviewer said, “welcome Arun, what is your full name?” I told my full name. then he asked what is the meaning for my name. I said it means Sun god. Then he asked me to tell any five other names of Sun god. I managed to tell four. He said ok and started asking about my family background like a rapid fire round. He shot out 10 to 15 questions without taking a breath and asked me to answer one by one. I think I answered them all.
After that he asked what is the principle behind the braking system in Trains. I said “when brakes are applied friction is developed between the wheels and the track. So the train stops. “
I am not asking how the train stops. I asked how brakes are applied and the principle behind it.
“Sir, when brakes are applied the engine stops. So the compartments behind it will also stop”
oh! Tell me what happens when u apply the front break in your bike when you are going fast”
sir, it will topple.”
Sir, brakes will be applied on all the wheels in the train”
“what principle……….?”
“……………………….????...............??? (I was just blinking) Sir I think the brakes are connected mechanically to each wheel”
ok tell me how brakes are applied in Bus”
sir,in bus they use drum brakes. When brakes are applied the hydraulic pressure pushes drum discs against the wheel outwards and in that friction it stops.”
what pressure…..?”
“hydraulic pressure sir”
“then in trains…………?”
“Hydraulic pressure Sir”
He said “perfect!” and moved on to another question. He asked whether I went outside for sight seeing not. I said I went to Science Museum. Then he asked what I saw there. I said I saw an aircraft built by HAL in the entrance and when I was about to continue, he stopped me there. He asked what is the principle behind flight of an aircraft. ( My god… we were mocking No.6 for taking notes at the museum, but  now the interviewer had asked me questions from that. I cursed myself for that.) But I must thank No.6. He not only took notes but he also taught us a few things that night. I remembered the flying principle of aircrafts told by him. So I told him what I knew. Again he said Perfect! And moved on to another question.
Again rapid fire round started. He asked another 10 to 15 questions continuously starting from my 10th std , 10+2, college, my hobbies, achievements, books I read, teachers I like,if I like why I like, teachers I don like and why etc etc…
I was not sure whether I answered all the questions he asked. But I thought I did. then he asked, what is the difference between BE and
Initailly I said I don know but didn’t stop with that. I started blabbering something.( I shouldn’t have done that)
Then finally he asked why I want to join Indian Navy. Obvious question. For that I just told him what I had prepared for that question last night. Before finishing he asked me to tell five positives and five negatives about myself. I had prepared only 3 in each. But anyhow I managed to tell 5 positives but negatives I struggled after 3. So I included physical fitness in that. for that he said “ don worry about that we know how to get u into shape”.  (O My God!! Ithula sentha avlo than pulinjiduvanga doi) Then  I said that’s all sir.
He told he was finished with my interview and asked if I have any suggestions or questions.
That is a trap. Generally,if we ask any wise questions showing to show off our confidence that we will get selected, we think we will get selected. But as far as Army or Navy is concerned, they don’t want lower people to ask questions to higher people. So the best way get out of that trap is saying a polite No Sir. That’s it. Interview was over. I went to room, had a quick bath and had lunch.
It was a very exhaustive day. So I thought of sleeping for sometime. Just when I was trying to catch some sleep, others who finished their interviews came one by one. No.19 who had the interview after mine came to the room. I asked him how was the interview. He said “I f***ed him man” in a peppy tone. “ “wha….?” I was little shocked. I asked him again what happened. He repeated “ I f***ed  him hard” with action. I was totally confused as what in the world would have happened. Then he explained, for whatever questions he was asked, he just gave funny answers and funny reactions. He had told the interviewer whatever that came to his mind. ( he never wanted to join Navy. When he was selected from first round, he asked them if he can leave if he wants in the middle. But they didn’t let him go)
After sometime No.20 arrived. When I asked him how was the interview, his reply was equally shocking. He said “ I was f***ed man…. I was f***ed ”. My curiosity had no bounds and I immediately asked him what really happened. For him, just like me, was asked rapid fire rounds but the difference is he was asked questions from mathematics like what is the differentiation of __, write the formula for differentiation, what is the intergration of ___, ____,____, tell me ten differentiation formulas. Difference between Microsoft Vista and XP and so on…… “yes, you were f***ed”
Each person had a different story to tell about his interview. We were discussing that the whole afternoon.
That day evening I went to see if Mr.Sathish is therein his room. He was not there. His results had come and he didn’t get selected. He had already left. The good thing I did was I returned his books in the morning itself. But I was very much disappointed. More than expectation, I wanted him to get selected because such was his efforts and helping tendency. He is a nice man. I just gave him my mobile no the earlier day as he has got no mobile. So I hope he calls me sometime later when he is free. I really want to say him Thank You.
12th of Nov – GTO day2
The next day I had to wake up again at 4. Same problem. Same adjustments. But this time there was no water to take bath. Felt half bad and Half happy because I need not take bath in that cold water. Today for our batch alone the reporting time was 7. For other groups it was 6.15 because we had finished one task more than the other groups.
The GTO came little late. We were waiting for him till that receiving all the mosquito bites. As soon as he came, he started the exercises. First one was Command task. It is just like the group task that we did before but in this each one will be made a commander for each task and he will be given the materials and two helpers. He has to command his men and get across the obstacle with his men and materials. We were called serially. I was second. I called No.22 and No.23 as my helpers because No.22 was the lightest and No.23 was the heaviest of our group. My obstacle was straightforward and easy (I think so because I don’t know others obstacles, I just feel mine was the easiest). I was about finish it very quickly, so the GTO put one extra rule for me to make it difficult in the last stage of my obstacle. But I thought of another quick plan and managed to finish it quickly. Similarly No.23 called me as a helper for his obstacle. It was also a easier one. In that, plan was simple but it needed some physical strength.  After everyone finished their command tasks, The GTO took us to last exercise.
It is Final Group Task. As the name suggests it is the final task and it is similar to the group task we did earlier. In this the whole group will be given only one obstacle. The GTO asked how much time we need. We said 20 mins and he gave us only 15 mins. But u know what we finished it in 11 minutes.
That’s it from the GTO. Before leaving, the Officer told us that our group was very well coordinated and said most of us from our batch will get selected.
So, for our group everything was over by 10 am. We had finished our interviews, our Group tests and we had nothing left. The other batches were doing their final group tasks. I went to see if water is coming in the bathroom. It was coming. So had a bath and started packing my things because the next day is the results. We are supposed to be ready with our luggage when the results are being announced and we will have to leave as soon as the results are out.
Actually, the day when we arrived, we were told that there is a recreation room where we can play table tennis, billiards, carom board, chess etc… but when we went to see that. the room was so quiet and the tables were covered and it appeared that no one had ever played in those tables. So we didn't dare to play there. There was some newspapers kept in a rack and we were just reading them. The papers were dominated by Karnataka news. So I just read the sports column and came to the room.
Post lunch, I slept for an hour and woke up at 2.30. We all knew it is the last day so if we want to go somewhere that is the last opportunity. But, we had another plan. There was a military canteen ie. A grocery shop in the entrance of the campus. The products sold there are without tax and sold at production cost. So there will be upto 40% difference in the prices of the same products that is sold outside and the canteen. So we thought of doing some purchase. I bought things like perfume, shaving foam, nail cutter, a pair of shocks and some snacks. The MRP rate summed up around Rs.550 but the bill was just Rs.375. No.10 and No.6 had no intensions of coming out soon. They were doing rounds and rounds of purchase and finally when they were finished, they had bought enough grocery items that is required for two months for their family. The highlight was that No.6 went bankrupt and didn’t have that much money with him. But, still he borrowed money from No.10 and bought those items.
By the time the purchase was over, the time was 6 pm. We still had one hour to go outside. So we three went for a walk towards the museum road. This time we clearly marked the landmarks whenever we took turns. On that road there were so many shops and No.10 was not finished with his shopping spree. He took money from ATM and started another round of purchase. This time it was fancy items and lady’s bags. He said it is for his only sister. But he bought two bags ( I don’t know why).
At some point of time he was running out of money so decided to end his shopping. I asked for time to one of the pedestrians and he replied 7. SEVEN!!!!!!!!!  ( ada kadavule……… machi oda arambi…....)
We were running all the way and didn’t even stop for a breath anywhere. When we reached the campus, the time was ten minutes past 7. But the watchman didn’t say anything. We entered 6.58 in the return timings and went inside. At 7.30 we had dinner. That day, they gave one extra chicken piece for everyone as it was the last day. I haven’t told about the food so far. Food was very nice except the rice item. They will give a sweet or fruit for every meal, chappathi or poori , rice and sambar, chicken or mutton or egg. For break fast they gave four slices of bread with jam and butter, one or two eggs, oats meal or corn flakes with milk. I cannot blame the food. Everything was nice except rice as I said earlier. It was over spicy.
Everyone had dinner. Came to room and we exchanged our contact numbers and mail ids. Then at 9 o clock we all 23 people assembled in room no.2 and thought of making everyone dance or sing or do something. It ended up like this.. few guys volunteered to do some mimicry speaking like the GTOs, the watchman and his famous Thirupathi-laddoo dialogue and some of the funny characters among ourselves. It was so much fun. After sometime No.2 took over. he is a big comedy character. He was making fun of each and every person in that room.
Among the people from Tamil Nadu, I was the only one who can understand little bit of hindi. So I was having great fun as I could understand what they were talking. No.10 and No.6 can not understand the ‘h’ of hindi. So they were simply sitting and looking at each others face. After sometime no.10 got frustrated and went to sleep. This mimickry was going on for sometime. After that we ran out of topics. So we decided to play dumb charades.  All hindi and English movies names. Though I don’t know many hindi movie names, I was just trying to figure out what the person acts. And I ended up finding the names of two movies. It was a great achievement for me :-).
13th of Nov- Conference day  
We were playing till 12 o clock. Then we went to sleep. The next day our reporting time was only 8.15 I thought I can sleep little longer. But my roommate woke me up at 4. (ada pavingala unga kadamai unarchi ku alave illa ya da). I slept again. He again woke me up at 5. (shabbaaa… mudiyala) I got up and got ready. Only the last day water was coming properly. Had break fast and had all my things packed. We took our luggage and kept them at reception hall. The Vice President of the Board gave us closing address. He was the one who interviewed me. In his speech he described the qualities of an Officer which they were looking in us. He told that it is not a job where if you fail one time you can attend continuously and succeed at some nth attempt. In this, they look for a persons characteristics not knowledge. So if one gets out in the first time that means he is likely to get out in all his subsequent attempts unless he really practices and changes or improves his character to the defense standards.
After his speech, we were asked to wait in front of the conference hall. Today each of us will be called in  one by one inside the conference hall where the President, Vice president, The GTOs and the psychologist will be seated. It is only now the individual decisions of the psychologist, GTO and the interviewing officer will be put together for the first time and a final decision is made as whether to choose a candidate or not. Unlike during the other days, the officers will be in full uniform. It was a great sight to see them in their uniform seated in a big hall.( sema getha irunthuchu)
There was a red carpet laid on the floor from the entrance of the conference hall to the middle  of it where a chair was kept for the candidate. We had to walk only on the carpet with firm shoulders like the army way and go and sit in the chair and answer whatever question thats asked by the board members.
Each candidate will be asked to go in serially when they call out the numbers. Usually the questions asked will depend on the marks of the candidates. If the candidate is just near the minimum cut off marks, he will be asked few GK or HR questions so as to take a final decision on his selection. If the candidate has got high marks and will surely get selected or if the candidate will surely get rejected will be just asked questions about their stay, food, friends he made here etc.. and will finally be asked if he has any suggestions to give. I got these type of questions only and I knew I’m not selected as soon these questions were asked. I answered them and had no suggestions to give. My conference time took just 30 seconds. Likewise the conference got over in half an hour.
Just before the results each of us were given a copy of our group photo. The results came in another half an hour. Expectedly my name was not there. But the highlight was that, the person who “f***ed the interview” and the person “who got f***ed in the interview“ both got selected.
(For the selected candidates there will be medical test. So they will have to stay there for another one week. If they are found medically fit, their name will be sent to the HQ at New Delhi. The appointment orders will come from there. )
Totally four persons were selected. And we were asked to get in to the bus with our luggage immediately. The bus dropped us at the railway station. Me and no.10 decided to go to bus stand. So we took a town bus to satellite bus stand and from there we went our separate ways. I took a bus to Salem. From there to Trichy before taking a bus to Karaikudi. At Bangalore I started at 2.30 pm and when I reached home it was 4 am.
The irony is that for the conference we had to be in full formals with ironed full sleeves shirt and pants and black shoes. Few also wore their neck ties. But once the result was out. We had no time to change the dress to casuals. I had to do all the travelling in the same costume. Once I entered Tamil Nadu, at bus stand, people started looking me in a strange way.  But somehow I reached home. I was totally exhausted and immediately went flat.
Next day when I woke up, I knew I’m not the same person who was a week before. There were so many changes in me, physically and behavior wise. I’m not saying this myself. My dad noticed this and told me and I could feel that.
These 6 days gave me one of those rare experiences one can get. My interests in joining the armed forces has increased many folds after this. So I’ll certainly give it another shot before I take up another career. But before that like the Vice president told us, I have a lot of character building to be done.
Thanks a lot for having patience to read this completely. It is quite a long blog to read in one go. If you have anything to say, please put your views frankly in the comment section below.