Thursday, February 24, 2011

Candidate to Cadet: My Journey in SSB

Chapter – 1

The result and the problem

It was August 2002; I was sitting in my room reading novels as I had nothing else to do. I had completed my higher secondary examinations, results were out. All the Engineering Examinations were also complete and I was waiting for the calls for counseling. Among all the examinations, there was one exam which I gave with utmost sincerity and it was not for Engineering, like all the young students I was also caught in Moral Dilemma of joining Engineering or pursuing my own dream, this was my dream to be serving in Indian Defence Forces and the Exam was National Defence Academy.

Phone bell rang suddenly breaking my interaction with Sherlock Holmes, Mom picked up the phone and said “Bankee!!!! It’s for you.” Yup, that is my nick name. It was Sumit on other side, “We have done it”, he said. It was all for me to understand that we were going to be a part of a fantastic journey. Our road to SSB (Service Selection Board) has just begun. We came to know very late that in 2002, only two people have cleared the written examination conducted for NDA from our city.

We received the call for interview on different dates his was scheduled from 24th August, while mine was the next batch starting from 30th August and then came the first problem. Counseling for my state colleges was on 28th and as part of documents to be submitted to college I was supposed to submit my mark sheets both 10th and 12th. As it was not clearly mentioned in the Brochure for Class 10th mark sheet specifically, I carried it with me but kept it away from main documents. At the counseling Desk they asked
“Your 10th Mark sheet?” I was prepared.”It wasn’t mentioned anywhere” I said.

“You cannot be allowed without it.” I almost skipped a heartbeat. Composing myself, I politely asked “Can I talk to the Director of the College, please?” After almost half an hour of discussion I finally managed to convince them that 10th class mark sheet was not required. I was admitted to Engineering College without my original 10th Marksheet, this usually never happened with anyone else. The road to my SSB was becoming simpler. The first hurdle was through, I had an Engineering College seat and a call from SSB now.

I was ready, with 10th Class Mark sheet (It is important because it is the only document that bear your date of birth and is reference for all other docs), Xerox of 12th and other docs.

My interview was scheduled at 4AFSB Varanasi Cantt, as I have applied for Air force as my first preference. I boarded Durg Chapra Sarnath Express for Varanasi, it was the first time that I was travelling such a long distance alone. I was excited. A family joined me in my compartment on berths opposite to me. They were a family of 3, husband, wife and a kid.

“Where are you going?” He asked.

“To Varanasi, for my SSB interviews.” I told him taking pride and thinking he might not understand.

“Oh great!” He continued “I am posted as Sergeant there.” Now this is what I call a coincidence.

We talked at length about Army, Navy and Air Force. I was avoiding any discussion about interview process to not to give any wrong impression. Finally he told me “When you are doing Tarjan Jump, hold the rope above your nose level.” I did not understand a word, but had a feeling this is going to be important for me.

We were supposed to gather at MCO (Movement Control Office) at Varanasi station next day at 5 AM. An Army truck and a Bus came to take 83 candidates gathered for interview. Bus took us to the Air Force Selection Board, where our document review started. It was a splendid facility which you will know gradually as we proceed, 4 uniformed officers were validating all the documents. The guy in front of me came from Pune. His name, still imprinted in my memory, was Nitin. He didn’t have class 10th original, but carried attested photocopy. I had 10th original, but 12th attested Xerox. Officer came and checked his document.

In a trade mark Army voice he said “What is this?” pointing towards his documents. “Where is Class 10th mark sheet.”

“Sir it is submitted at Engineering college I am going to join.”

“OK!” he said, “than join the college” he was routed back at the same moment even without facing the screening process and without reimbursement of Train Fare(Train Fare is reimbursed for all candidates).

I was next in the line……….

To be continued.