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Many, many years ago, I was young. And like most youngsters I aspired to join the armed forces as an officer after graduation.
The selection process was rigorous. The candidates had to appear for a written examination first, and those short-listed in the written examination had to appear before a Services Selection Board (SSB) for further four days of physical and psychological tests and a personal interview.
Now, the written examination wasn't that tough, and I cleared it. The next step was to face the SSB (by the way, the four days of physical and psychological tests are real fun).
The SSB where I had to appear was in Allahabad. When I reached Allahabad, there were others like me who had come from across the country. We came from different states but we could easily gel with one another because we were young; friendships were struck on the spot at the railway station. Excepting a few, none of us was timid. There were a lot of backslapping and use of swear words (in good humour, of course) from the moment of introduction. We were a boisterous lot; what could you expect from a bunch of youngsters fresh out of college?
Anyway, we were herded into an Army bus and taken to the selection centre. At the centre, each one of us was given a chest number. Henceforth, we were to be recognized by chest numbers and not by names.
Somehow word got around that from now on we would be watched 24x7. Every person at the centre including the mess boy, and the shoe-shine person, would be watching the candidates and reporting any misbehaviour; that was a part of the selection process! I don't know how the word got around, and I don't really know whether it was true, but it had a marvelous effect. Our behaviour changed in an instant! We became angels overnight! We were perfect gentlemen! Okay, I am speaking only for myself.
Now, at home, I rarely said "please" and "thank you", but here I sought every opportunity to utter those words! At dinner table, at home, I had no qualms about grabbing the last piece of bread, but here nothing could induce me to do so; "Please have it," I would say to my neighbour at the table and wait. That, in short, is how my behaviour changed.
On the last day, the results were announced. I had not made it. I was very, very dejected. It was as if the world had come to an end. But I accepted the rejection stoically.
Well, when we boarded the bus to be dropped off at the railway station, we were our "good old selves" again. The swear words which had been erased out of our memory, made their reappearance; the words "please" and "thank you" were soon forgotten. The transformation from a wild bunch into gentlemen had been swift, but the transformation from gentlemen back into a wild bunch was swifter! Decades have passed, but the memories of those four days have remained etched in my memory. They were the most glorious four days in my life!
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu