30th Dec 2007 – 04-Jan 2008 ( location : Allahabad cantonment area)
In this blog I would share my experiences of my SSB interview for armed forces engineering. To start with the five days were fun. We were the absentee batch as most of the people did not arrive on their first call though I did not receive the first call( lost somewhere in the Indian postal system). I was very optimistic about this attempt though Allahabad had its own reputation to stand for.
Not many did arrive for it being the absentee batch, the driver who came to pick us up from the station did comment ” Ab kya hoga is desh ka” ( what will happen to the country now). Also I thought that the SSB people also would not have much interest in us as most seats may have been filled by now and we were just formalities. Anyways they had to take it and we had to perform. So we arrived at the cantonment area at 1pm in the evening and we made way to the dormitory of 11 SSb board. The board dormitory was named after the famous battle of the India-China war where Indians fought bravely.
This is some description of the battle of Chusul which gave Major Shaitan Singh Paramveer chakra
In the evening we had briefing about what will be expected from us in the place and next morning we had our screening test. We introduced ourselves to the other individuals who had come for the interview.
The screening test comprised of verbal and non verbal aptitude test and also picture perception test and a group discussion on that basis. In the picture perception test we were shown a very blur image and we had to write a story on it and conditions on what led to that situation and what will happen in the future.
Well I could see only one girl playing piano and so I wrote a story about her getting in the mood to play as it was a very sleepy afternoon and she was remembering something and then she plays some beautiful melody and bla-bla-bla. Then we had a discussion on it and to my amazement some of them had seen more than one people and wrote a gory story that she does not have much money and bla bla bla and later she becomes a mozart or she helps the poor and bla bla bla…. well at least I could not see from where did the poor and other stuffs came out from.
Then we had a GD and we had to boil down to one story and finally it was agreed that their was a girl who was playing a piano… plus she had a bad past and a glorious future. Well on overall ground the GD was good, atleast we could make one story.
The results of the screening test was declared in the evening and only eight of us survived and the others were sent home. We were given chest numbers and my chest number was 2. Next day again early in the morning we were called up for next set of tests which would be more rigorous. One thing to note that the day was 31stdecember and we were not partying but all of us in the dormitory went to sleep at 9 as all were very tired. Though before going to sleep I called up my parents and brother and wished them Happy New Year and the went to sleep. Though I received some calls after midnight but that did not wake me up as I was deep asleep.
The previous night the temperature at that time touched 0*C at night in Allahabad and we had these “fauji kambals” and that too in pairs to prevent us from the biting cold. Getting up in the morning was like hell. You had to get up at 5:00 and and as you come out of your colts the chill hits you. The shiver runs down your body as the temperature is 3*C and we have to attend to our daily chores. The morning tea could not have tasted better if it was served in any other season. It needed lots of courage to touch the water coming out of the taps and I and few others decided to skip the bath that morning, but there were some brave among us you did have bath. The mess would stop serving breakfast after 5:45, so we had to rush and all of us being engineers were the last to report in the mess and always scolded for doing so in the coming days. The other boards would have finished by the time anyone from our side reached the canteen. Later on many of us did not even go for breakfast as the cold was too harsh to handle. After all engineers are supposed to be lazies and so we proved it.
We had another series of test waiting for us. Now it was a series of 12 picture perception tests, though this time the pictures were somewhat clear and we had only 3 minutes per picture to write a story. This time though I wrote about gloomy pasts and bright futures. The 12th story was a blank screen and we had to write whatever we wished to write and so i wrote something. Then we had sentence completion tests and sentence creation test where we were given about 60 of each types. Then we had to write an essay about ourselves, what my parents think about me and what my teachers think about me, what my friends think about me and what I think about myself. I had also to write about my weak points and my strong points and so I wrote something in it. You know this was really painful for someone who was unprepared ( like me) to think and write all this especially after attending the Infosys Soft Skill trainings. Those who attended this could understand what I mean to say.
I also like to recall one incident that day. While filling up some forms, the instructor happened to ask me something and I replied “Ya”. He asked me what “Ya” means and I said its short form of “Yes”. But he replied that you use this when you speak with disrespect. This is cultural shock especially for a person like me who was given cross-cultural interaction training in Infosys and taught to speak in this formal fashion. There were many shocks in the coming days.
Next on the same day I was called for personal interview. I went for about one hour and this is where I performed poorly in my entire SSB and may be the reason why I was not selected. I was made to feel comfortable and a psychologist was taking my interview and a brigadier was sitting on my left hand side, was noting my gestures ( which I realized much late in my interview). The interviewer asked me first about my job and how was I liking it. I said that the job was good though I was not liking it much. Then I tried to explain him the reasons why. Then he asked me what was my profile and I said that I was on a bench right now(but he could not understand what a bench was, So I explained him completely what it was). Then he asked what project I was in and as I was in bench and I did not know what type of project were going on, I said I was working on building communication softwares for British Telecom, but then I again had to explain him what communication means in this context. Then he asked me about my Boss and tell about two good points and two bad points about him. At this point I could not remember any name as I did not have any PM and told the name of GPM ” Nikhil Datar” whom I met on the first day and never met again. He was not even my GPM now but I could only recall his name and talked about two good points and added that , as I do had interaction only through mails it would be very wrong to speak anything against him…. well I tried to sound diplomatic.
Then I had to speak two good points and two bad points about my office friends, childhood friends, achievements from my school days and college days and I would say he was quite impressed though . Then he asked the questions on why I wanted to join the army and leave Infosys and why do u feel that u could become an officer in the armed forces. Here I somehow messed up and could not completely make him belief what I had in my mind. I also spoke something which I was not supposed to speak but the interview took it out of me and this was the major blunder.
He asked me about sports and current affairs. He asked me where is the next football world cup and I did not know this. He then asked me about the ranks in Indian army and somehow I missed Brigadier rank. He asked me ” How many commands army had, but I could only recall five”. Then he asked me some other questions related to the armed forces.
Then he asked about my opinion about the naxallite movement. I said that I feel Naxalism was not a disease but one has to study the movement before coming to a decision. Though I had read about the Naxalbadi movement but it would be too childish to comment without knowing the present situation. So it would be wrong to comment without having proper knowledge of their propagandas. Though personally I won’t take any decision but if the army asks me to go there I would follow orders….
Then he asked me about environment and development and then questions about what I read and sports – though I could not tell him where the next world cup will take place and also about the music. I could feel after the interview that it had not gone like the way I desired. Though I wished to do well in my other tests.
Next day again early in the morning we had ground tasks and group tasks, more of an physical activity. Now we had to go there in shorts and T-shirts and temperature was 5-6*C outside. We were shaking like hell but the GT officer, a colonel and a major seemed like unaffected from the cold. The first test was the military planning test where we were given a situation on a map and had to make strategy to tackle the situation and come out with a plan.
The situation was ” We had gone for a trekking down to a remote location and we are team of 8 and there we overhear some terrorists who were going to blow off a dam and also to derail a train coming from south location. Then at that time a kid comes running that he saw a mad elephant running towards a village. And at that same time the guide with us falls from a spot and he was bleeding profusely from his head. Now we had to plan out how we will tackle this situation.”
And we after a group discussion did come out with a feasible solution which I thought was good enough for the situation. The next was GD on two topics ” The energy crisis of India” and the other on ” The migration of villagers to cities and the trouble created”. The GD also did go quite well.
Then we had the snake race where we had to run with a rope with atleast 3 people holding the rope at one time and cross obstacles. Also we had to choose a war cry and choose ‘Vande Mataram”. I would say I had never shouted louder ever like how I was shouting and cheering my team( except in rock concerts but there your voice is toned down by the amplifiers). It was an all different feeling that we had to make all of our team mates to cross the obstacles (camaraderie) and not the selfish and self centered attitude that we are taught from our very first days in the competitive environment of our colleges and schools. The obstacles were not easy and people do get hurt doing this and ambulance was standing just in case anything goes wrong. The obstacles were spread over a 100 meter zone and needs help from others to complete.
As I was having the chest no 2 I was second on the line till the first obstacle. But somewhere near the first obstacle the chest No 1 was not there and I was in the lead now (though others were experienced and this was my first time). I shouted vande mataram and went through three poles making a figure of eight through them and taking the rope with me. Then we had to climb an eight feet wall and move to the next wall through a log of wood. I was again in the front and reached the other wall holding the rope, but the third one holding it fell down while crossing and it was an eight feet fall. We were given a 5 sec penalty for dropping the rope. It seemed the obstacles were not difficult enough that they put red and white marks on them and touching the red mark leads to penalty. We were given 10 seconds penalty for team members touching the red mark.
Then we had to climb a net and crawl down and again there was no one before me. Then there were some more obstacles and there were some more climbs and falls and then the last obstacle. This time someone else braved to come before me and it was to climb a log of wood with cuts meant for holding the foot to a height of 10 ft and then slide down from the other side. Though the other guy who was now in front of me skid and fell down from about eight feet, he though tried to struggle for some time. Then again I was on the lead and I shouted ” Vande Mataram” again and took the rope and came down the other side. We completed this in 9:35 seconds and no body was badly hurt. I had never given a war cry in my life and did feel for the first time doing things with such a josh.
Next we had strategy building steps to cross , where we were given a round log , rope and flat wooden bench to make bridge through some obstacles without touching the ground and cross them. This was really tough and a mind bending exercise to do something of this sort. We as a group did complete two quite difficult exercises of crossing the obstacles quite easily, maybe because we were engineers but otherwise these are very difficult for others.
The day was over now and we were very tired after the hard work that we went for an afternoon rest and then later went to the Allahabad market to do some bird watching. Next day was going to be tough and we did go to bed early that day as all were very tired.
And again in the next morning most of us missed the breakfast. Today will be individual tasks and extempore and some more obstacle crossing exercises. Again at 6 in morning , shivering like hell and just wearing shorts and T-shirt and temperature at 5*C we were made to sit in a line and each of us were given a topic to speak on and my topic was ” The current traffic situation in India” and I think I spoke quite well for 3 minutes. Then we had the individual tasks where the maximum accidents take place. Before this we were asked to run two rounds of the fields to warm up and then cross a set of 10 difficult obstacles in 3 minutes and do as much as possible. The obstacles were difficult and again not for the poor of hearts and each had a number assigned to it according to the difficulty ranging from 1-10.
I would tell the obstacles by the way I attempted it. The first I tried was the most easiest one , running up a ramp and jumping on the other side. Next it was to jump over a ditch and hold a rope hanging midway and swing and jump off the ditch. The next was to climb a ladder to an elevated location at 10 feet elevation and jump to a elevation about 6 feet high and then jump down. The next was to climb a ramp and jump off an elevated obstacle – high jump style. The next was to climb up a 10 feet high location and use a rope to do a mogli style swing and fall on gravel about 8-10 feet away. Then you do the commando climb where you walk on a rope and holding a rope overhead and then cross to the other side and use rope to climb down. Then walk over three logs of wood without falling. Then climb over an elevated stand made like ramp and shout the chest number from the highest elevated point on that and come down. And I missed one obstacle to do a long jump over some drums kept. But I repeated two more obstacles in my stipulated time of three minutes. There were again this red and white marks which you can and you cannot touch.
After this I could not feel my fingers for about one hour as they had gone numb while negotiating with the ropes in the cold. My throat was also dry and I was damn tired after this. After that we had command task where we had to choose two and command them to make a bridge over some obstacles and cross over them. After that we had half team obstacles were teams of 4 were asked to cross these obstacles and finally a full team task to cross a much tougher obstacle. It is said that people cannot cross these obstacles but we being engineers all of us were able to do it with much ease, though there were slight hiccups in between.
The day was hectic but now it was over. We planned to visit Allahabad as the result was awaited next day after the conference. We visited the Sangam, the famous Hanuman mandir near it, the Allahabad museum and the Nehru house and also visited the place where Chandra Shekhar Azad was shot. The day was fun and tiring but tomorrow was the D-day.
We all dressed in formals and were to attend the conference with other officers in the board. The conference was just a formality as I was told and your fate had been decided before that. All the officers who were involved in the selection procedure would discuss if you should be taken in or now. I was the second to be called for the conference and I went in. There were sitting all the officers of the 11 SSB board in complete military uniform. There were about 14-16 of them wearing the sexy military outfit and it I really felt a chill going down my spine while sitting in front of them. They asked general questions about my stay and how I liked the place and I said irrespective of the result I loved my stay and I also added that everyone should atleast come once in lifetime for SSb to know how much really you have in you.
After about half an hour of the conference, the results were declared by a brigadier and our batch was completely washed off with no selections. Though we had two people who were in the IMA before and they had to leave for some personal and unavoidable circumstances and one was recommended for 4 times from different places but for some reason he was not able to make it. Well after all Allahabad SSB has a reputation to stand for. But one strange thing that the Brigadier said did hurt me in the end. He said ” People are leaving armed forces to join the IT but you people having such good salaries want to join the armed forces for the reason of job security”. Well I do not know how did they make out this logic but job security was never in my books before coming to the armed forces.
Well irrespective of the outcome, these five days would be some of my best days of my life. The day started early at 5 and ended by 12 and then you get to do lots of stuff when you are disciplined. I enjoyed my stay.