Life has ups and downs. Failure gives life a spice. Without those sad or low moments, one can’t feel the importance of happy moments. We like happy endings in movies as well if it comes after a struggle. I’ve seen failures too. My success has additional importance as I failed. Not just once, twice.
I was an average student until 10th. My mind was sharp. Eventually, I was one of the best students in Mathematics in school. I like to solve numerical in Science, as it was related to Mathematics. So, I used to score very well in Physics or Chemistry, if there are more numerical than theory in the exam. Anyways, it’s a different story. The summary is I was an average student in school, who got less than 70% in 10th. I was not a looser. But, also not the topper.
On the contrary, somehow when I joined the 11th class, I started giving more attention to the study. While choosing my stream, I choose Physics-Chemistry-Mathematics (PCM). As it was the only stream, where I could continue my journey with Mathematics.
My target was IIT JEE. Interestingly, the questions asked in IIT JEE were only numerical in all three papers. I joined one of the best coachings for 12th which also used to target IIT JEE. Gradually, within months, I became one of the toppers in my class and also the favourite of some of the teachers. I was competing against state toppers and giving tough competition. I was on top of the cloud. Lastly, I topped a test organised in coaching comprising two batches.
IIT was my target. But, first I had to give 12th board exam. I schedule to divert attention to my 12th exam from IIT JEE almost a month before the exam. However, one of my close relatives fell sick and came to stay at my home during this period. The environment at home was not at all conducive for studies. They went back around 10 days before my exam.
However, my failures have just started. I fell sick in the next few days, maybe 2-3 days before my first exam. I was down with fever.
Strangely, I rarely fell sick. I always take good care of myself and take proper medicines or home remedy just after I feel some Symptoms. Like, mostly I feel the Symptoms of which leads to fever in around the next 48 hours. So, I take the home remedy and it goes away.
With time I forget that I don’t feel sick, as I take care of myself to avoid sickness. Rather, sometimes I feel proud and be overconfidence that I don’t get sick. It was one of such moments, plus exam pressure was on. I was behind the schedule due to my relatives. So, I was down with fever.
The luck was so bad that it was the second-longest stint of fever till date. My papers were on a gap of 3-4 days. However, I gave all my papers in fever only. One additional hindrance was cricket. It was World Cup 2003. India somehow won its first match with Netherland and lost the second match to Australia. My second exam was clashing with the India Australia match. Thank God it was a day-night match.
The questions in the exam were mostly theoretical and I perform very bad in writing theory. So, overall all the odds were against me in 12th exam. By the May end, Results were out.
First Failure in IIT JEE
IIT JEE used to be conducted in two parts. Screening and Mains. Both these exams used to be conducted in an interval of 2 months. I gave IIT JEE screening in April. Almost a month after 12th exam. The result came within a month, in the first week of May. I failed to clear the screening exam.
Later on, by the month-end, my 12th score also came in. I scored very very bad. Second Division. It was not at all expected by a student like me. Parents were upset. As I failed in IIT JEE and now in 12th also my marks were way beyond my expectations.
Thankfully, my IIT JEE Screening scorecard came in the next few weeks. I failed to clear by two marks. Per question, the score was 3 marks. So, it was a close call. And definitely, I was unlucky. However, it was just the beginning of my series of failures.
During this period, we purchased a new bike. Before this, there was no bike or car owned by us. We were not old enough to drive and my father was not allowed to drive due to his health conditions. I was not knowing how to drive and the same was with my brother, who was studying in IIT Kanpur. So, after the exam season for the next two months till July, our focus shifted to learning how to drive.
I had decided to not take admission to just any College. I’ll go to a good College like IIT. Basically, I took a drop for a year. But, I wasted almost three months after writing the screening exam. So, I went totally out of touch.
Another Year of Failure and Challenges
The year went by to gain back the same level at which I was before giving the screening exam. I appeared in the screening exam and cleared it. But, could not clear the Mains exam. In between, I heard about an institution in Kolkata, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI). I came to know it is a very good same or better than IIT. They teach Mathematics only. I sat for the ISI exam too. I was getting failure, one after another. Somehow, I didn’t clear it. However, I was more confident about ISI than IIT as it was related to Mathematics only.
Almost all my friends were now out of town studying in good colleges. I was still chasing my dream and experiencing failure. After the results, I was a bit depressed with my failures and with a lack of enthusiasm. I was fed up and frustrated solving the IIT JEE level problems for the last three years, not getting the courage to open the same books again and solve the same problems.
I went to one of my Physics teachers to discuss my situation. He gave moral support and suggested to raise my bar and solve some advanced level books not directly related to IIT JEE.
This was a boost for me. New challenges gave new energy to me. I was more charged to solve the advanced problems and solving those gave mental satisfaction.
Bad Luck in IIT JEE
The preparation was much better this time. Once again I cleared the screening exam of IIT JEE. I had filed ISI paper too. The second exam was of ISI. It went well. Lastly, I gave the IIT Mains exam.
IIT JEE Mains exam was a case study. My best subject out of PCM was Physics. I had solved the toughest level problems in it and could have easily come in top 500 if it would have been only Physics exam. Mathematics and Chemistry was the first two paper and last was Physics. It was the deciding exam.
The Physics paper was having very easy questions. The level of questions was not of IIT level. Some of the questions were so easy that I spent extra time on the reading, again and again, there must be something more to solve, as I was knowing the answer like a formula.
For IIT JEE exams, aspirants some time leave some sections altogether to study, in case they feel it is tough for them. Instead, they focus on chapters in which they are strong. My brother (who was in IIT) left permutation combination and probability. I didn’t focus much on Modern Physics. However, as the exam was easy, now the test was of who had covered end to end all the syllabus rather than who can solve more number of tough questions. I scored 42 out of 60 in the Physics exam. But, my edge had gone, due to the easy questions. Failure in IIT JEE was definite.
Success after a Stint of Failures
I cleared the exam of ISI and had to lastly clear the interview. They selected more than 4 candidates for one seat for the interview. A day before the interview, the results for IIT JEE came. I failed to clear it with a rank of almost 6,000. I was not at all planning to take a drop any more. So, the interview was my last chance to succeed and study in one of the best institutes in India.
There were almost 6-7 candidates during my slot of the interview. Upon inquiring, I found that leaving one, all else have cleared the IIT JEE. Two of them were in the top 1000. So, my hope to get selected in the interview was down. Interestingly, I was more relaxed and was not afraid of failure. Interview started. The panel was of five people. They asked my score in 12th and then score in Mathematics. After hearing my score, the reaction was quite visible that they are disappointed. They just leaned on the back of their chairs. Then, they ask to draw on the blackboard behind the graph of Integral function (if I remember correctly). However, they were saying some other name, which I was not much familiar with.
I started drawing whatever I understand. After 3-4 mins, one of the panellists who I believe was chairing the panel said I guess you are unable to understand the term we are saying. I said, I too feel the same. I said are you asking me to draw Integral function. Then, he said yeah, it is also known by that name. Somehow I was quite relaxed after JEE result and meeting the other candidates. I said casually it’s quite easy and just draw it within 10 sec.
The confidence with which I draw on board was a booster. Afterwards, they asked me 7-8 more question and I replied all of them instantly. I can see that the panel was amazed by my quick response. They didn’t expect by my score to be so confident. My interview got over within 10 mins. The earlier interviews were taking 40 mins to 1 hour. After a few weeks, results were out and I got selected. From being a failure, I was on top of the world.
After joining I came to know that the average placement package was even better than the IIMs. Obviously, there was no tuition fee or hostel fee. Additionally, there was a stipend. Each pass-out was having 2-3 jobs in hand. Life was not as exciting as in IITs, as it was a research institute. The batch size was of 39 Students. Most of them have left IIT to join ISI. Some were state toppers too.
My Biggest Failure
The biggest failure of my life was on its way. ISI was having a rule that if you fail in any paper. You will get a chance to appear for a retest. However, if you fail again to score 35 of 100. Also, there was a similar rule if you are having more than 2 papers in a year with a score between 35 to 45. You will be kicked out. In the semester exam, in one paper which was toughest for most of the class, 20 students fail. Very few were having a score above 45. Almost the whole class sat again for the retest.
I along with two of my friends could not score 35. Other two had left good engineering college for ISI. In my paper, the teacher after giving me 35 marks, rechecked my paper and reduced my make to 27. Now, from being on the top of the world, I was nowhere and failure once again. I had wasted two additional years to get here and now again one year is wasted. I had no future, nowhere else to get admission. Neither I had enough energy left to again give engineering entrance exam. Somehow, I controlled myself and came back to my home. Next few months I spent on preparation of my sister’s wedding. It helped me to come out of shock. People say that I was in depression. My behaviour had changed. I had become over-reactive. Failure had certainly broken me mentally.
Life After ISI
With the Second Division, I was not qualified to get admission to even B grade colleges in my city. I applied for a C grade College near my home. Simultaneously, I filled form for IGNOU. IGNOU being an open University was having less weightage. It was known to be tough to score marks. But, it was a national level well-known institution. I get admission in IGNOU for B.Sc. (Hons) in Mathematics. In the meantime, out of passion, I started working as a counsellor and web developer. I was in the process to overcome my failure and utilise it strengthen my abilities. I was growing my skill sets.
IGNOU is well known to take more time to clear than prescribed. It took me 4.5 years to clear 3 years course of Undergraduate. Earlier, I was not appearing for exams. I was not filling the papers. I had cleared just 10 papers in the initial two and a half years. On the verge of my 3rd year, I sat for 14 papers in a months-long exam schedule. Cleared 12 of these 14 and after clearing all the papers had to wait for a year to get my marks for the assignments to get uploaded on the system. I scored just shy of 1st division. Based on the scenario, I’ve seen it was not a failure. But, certainly getting 1st division was a requirement for the future.
When the Going gets Tough, The Tough get GoingJoseph P. Kennedy
I had appeared CAT and XAT, a year before. Scored 93.5 percentile in XAT, the score in Verbal ability was around 30 percentile. In the CAT, the score was in the 80s. But, score in VA in CAT was in the same range as of XAT. My English was bad and it was a reason for my failure in MBA entrance examinations. There was no sight of dramatically improving it. So, I dropped the idea of doing an MBA.
Being a brilliant student and studying in a world-class institution. I was having below-average academic records. My marks in 10th, 12th and graduation were not at all impressive. I had wasted 8 years after 12th. Nowhere in my CV, I could mention the name of the brand ISI. IGNOU itself is not a good name. So, all in all, I was a failure at that point of time.
After coming out of ISI, the next 5 years was quite tough. I distracted my mind and was helping IIT aspirants (Also read: Abhishek Rukhaiyar – A Counsellor) and even started my own blog. I had no friends in town. Relatives used to ask about my future plans. They were suggesting to start with some small work. I could not sleep in nights thinking about my future. The whole night I used to just think, think and think. What to do next. What is my best option? I didn’t want to start my career with a low-level job in the unorganised sector. Exploitation is huge in the unorganized sector.
Without much options left, I started looking for a good government job. Filled the form for National Insurance along with few Banks. National Insurance form was the first to be filled and the first exam in which I appear. I cleared the exam of National, appeared for the interview. In between was getting pressure from my relatives to start some work. I was determined that I won’t spoil my life by doing a job which will pay not even Rs. 10,000.
Just a day before the result of National Insurance came, there was a huge discussion in the family about my future. Being low mentally, I was prepared to commit suicide rather than going for such low paying jobs. My friends from ISI had already got placed in good companies. I could not compete or think of a similar level of job. But, it should be respectful.
Incidentally, the very next day result for interview of National came. I got selected as a scale 1 officer. I could not describe fully the moment when I saw my result. After realising, that I’m selected. Tears started flowing. For some seconds, the voice was not coming out of my mouth. I called my parents, inform them about my selection. I know they were also under tremendous pressure.
The life ahead was totally a new one. Sometimes, it feels as if there was a new life that I lived after this. My academic records do restrict my career opportunities. I’m still not hopeful to get into a good MBA college. But, the life ahead is above average. It’s not in the same type as I would have got after ISI. But, I’m King wherever I work. People around me are not as sharp as me. I learn things fast, adapt fast. My chances of getting hired by a top-level company in my sector are slim, as they look for a perfect CV. Maybe later in my career I may, when the importance of academics reduces. However, I get a lot of respect at my workplace. I’m a dependable person. I find ways to do things in a simple way.