4 CAT Attempts And A Journey To Success – A Story Of Persistence & Rising Above Mediocrity

Hello everyone. This is the story of my pursuit of an MBA. This is not your typical story or redemption and its going to be quite long. Apologies to all who thought they would be reading a short write up. On a lighter note take it as an RC passage for CAT .

The Failure

Having high expectations and not working hard to achieve your goals is a sure shot way to failure. I learned it the hard way. After getting decent marks in 10th, I got complacent and followed the pack in preparing for JEE. Without even weighing the options or what I had interests in, it was science and JEE for me. The pressure got to me. And from a 93% in 10th I fell to a 79.80% in 12th. I thought that was to be my lowest moment in life. But I still had some of that ego left. I took a year off and prepared yet again for JEE, this time failing even more badly.

With time, I’ve realised I never even once worked hard during those 3 years. I thought I was meant to go to a premier college, and I was dead wrong, and I still remember the night the results came and I didn’t make it to any of the colleges I wished for.

That entire night, I cried, with my mother’s words, “What will I tell the neighbours?” haunting me. Lastly, I took admission at VSSUT.

The Change And The Beginning

VSSUT was a phase of my life where I truly changed as a person. VSSUT had a culture of ragging. Most of my friends from school were my seniors at VSSUT, and even though the ragging sessions were meant to be interactive and create bonds for life , I felt humiliated, guilty and sick. I felt as if I didn’t deserve to exist. The daily torture got to me and I decided to immerse myself in studies. When my friends were busy experimenting with beers and other “stuff” I was busy slogging it off. Things changed but I didn’t. I had only one goal make my parents proud whatever be the costs and continued my hard-work. I nearly topped my first year and changed my branch to Mechanical , the best branch at VSSUT.

And it was in my 3rd year of Engineering when I decided I wanted to go for an MBA. 2 States had released back then. The red bricks of WIMWI and Alia Bhatt were enough to motivate me to study hard again for MBA entrance exams. I knew I couldn’t make it to the holy Trinity with my 12th scores and my intellect , but XL was possible. And so began the love affair. I started off with a CL summer course with my seniors of Burla. I easily used to be a 99%iler in VA but QA and DI LR were my Achilles heel.

It was here at CL that I met Bharti ma’am – a person who has always believed in me and pushed me. She believed I belonged to a top B-school and that I was meant for greater things. And this belief is very important friends, because believe me you’ll have a bad mock, a bad week and much more but having someone believe and have faith on you and take you miles.

First Attempt – 2015

I gave mocks religiously. IMS and CL mocks along with my college IT cell were my refuge for most of my final year. It was here that I became friends with Archit and Mitesh. We pushed each other and fought to better the other. Despite getting placed at Hindalco, I knew MBA was my calling. My favorite section was VA. I regularly scored 99+ in Mocks and loved reading RCs and solving them. DI LR and QA were painful as always but I was improving. But things seldom work out. I was going through a personal shit-storm (my fault) when I gave CAT 2015. I wasn’t at my best but I believed I had done decent enough in my weakest sections of QA and DI LR. Fast forward to result day – QA 97.** , DI LR 98.** , VA 88.** OA 95.64%.

Okay , so my strongest section took me down. I felt low but had the faith that I’ll come back stronger. In between my mom had a minor surgery. The doctors said it was nothing serious and only a cyst. That there was no danger of the “C” word. We believed them on face value. I joined Hindalco and began my corporate life.

Second Attempt – 2016

I was finding it tough to balance my work life and studies but, I kept going at it. I knew what my dreams were. But in October 2016 , a month before CAT , my family was dealt with a blow that would change our lives forever. My mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. The doctor who had performed the surgery a year early had screwed up and now it was back with a vengeance. My mother went to Pune and underwent treatment there with my brother in law and sister helping her through everything. And I was far away in Lapanga. These were the worst 2 months of my life. Far away from my family unable to help or do anything for my mother.

But as they say, in the darkest you find the brightest stars. At Hindalco , I met a young man whom I always refer to as Naidu. He helped me become pragmatic. He didn’t give me false hopes but helped me understand what I needed to do. What I actually could do and why I felt guilty. Those sessions helped me through this terrible phase of my life and for that he’ll always be my sensei . I gave the exam and I knew I had bombed it. The results read as follows VA 99.94% , DI LR 67.** , QA 97.** OA 98.2. I never had felt so low in my life. With everything that was happening with my mom and the way she was fighting with cancer I really wanted to perform to my standards and give her something to cheer for. Sadly I couldn’t.

The next few nights , my pillow continued to be wet with tears, thinking about my mom and how I had let her down again. But then life goes on. I requested Corporate HR as to if I could have Taloja Mumbai in order to help my sister with my mother’s treatment and Corporate helped me. There, I was treated with abuses from Mumbaikars (fellow GETs as well as Union guys, for whom I was a noob) who believed I had stole their seat in Mumbai and their plant, but my family always will come first for me.

I went to Taloja and started my role. On weekends I used to travel to Pune and be there with my mother. The side effects of Chemo were visible on mom. She had lost her hair, she was always irritated and cross with us and she was weak. My sister and brother in law were so brilliant in helping my mom cope, that she recovered in no time. The levels had dropped to normal levels. My brother in law and sister had decided to go to Australia for better opportunities for their careers. And so my mother went back home and they to Australia. I was left all alone in Mumbai.

Third Attempt – 2017 

Everyone says third time’s the charm. Well I couldn’t find of a better example of proving them wrong. I was working with Unions and had been given the role of an OPS manager at Hindalco. The work was tough and demanding, but I loved it. I used to be available for calls and developed a genuine interest for OPS here only. My immediate and reporting managers helped me through the process and settle in at Hindalco. But as I had said before good things seldom last.

Both of them were transferred and my new managers were rather difficult to work with. Preparing for CAT while working for them was very tough , but in the 15 SIMCATs that I took I had secured 99+ scores in 8 of them and was pretty confident about a good show despite all the shit at work. But CAT is not about how much you got in mocks or how many sectionals you ace, its about one day, the D-day.

CAT 2017 turned out to be a disaster – OA 88.2%. I went numb and didn’t know what to do; I began questioning myself and my abilities. It was here that I finding one of my best friends in Sumit. He helped me understand that an exam is not everything. That I had to take things easily. That not everything is black and white and that I should stand up for myself. He’s one the most genuine and helpful person you can find. He changed the way I think and go about in my life. But MBA was still a dream.

Meanwhile back at home, mom wasn’t keeping well. She had some issues and my father is a diabetic. So, I thought and decided that it was time for me to quit Hindalco. That even though I loved my job, my parents and their health we’re my priority and I could prepare for MBA exams as well. As a parting gift my manager decided to change my ratings and give me a Far Below rating from a EE rating so that I wouldn’t be eligible to a single rupee of my bonus. Even though I had won an award from the MD of Hindalco , a couple of other awards and had done everything that had been asked of me, he decided that I wasn’t worth it. He decided to take away my hard earned money out of spite, money I could have really used under the circumstances.

Last Attempt – 2018 

With a heavy heart I bid adieu to my friends and Hindalco. I returned home and started preparing alongside taking care of my parents. I prepared with all my heart and always believed that I was meant for a top 10 B school. During this phase I became friends with Moinack and Aryan. Two of my fellow competitors and genuine human beings.

My mocks were going decently and I was hovering in the 98-99 range. I was hoping against hope to score a 99+ in CAT on my final attempt. In this season I first gave NMAT , ended up with 221. D-Day came and I changed my strategy after talking with people from 1st slot knowing that QA was comparatively tougher than past years.

After the exam , I knew I hadn’t given my best. A week later , I sailed through IIFT. In between preparing for XLRI, my mother had started complaining a bit about her health and how she wasn’t feeling a 100% but we disregarded it and I continued with my prep. I did more than decently in XAT and then we decided to go for my mother’s checkup.

A couple of days after, it was just another day for us, my IIFT results were announced I was shortlisted for IIFT with 99.879% and we were over the moon . Later in the evening my mother’s test reports came back. Her cancer had returned. The next couple of days were among the most miserable of my life. Our whole family was distraught. My mother inconsolable and all of us were at a loss of words.

We as a family decided to fight with this disease as a family and my brother in law flew down from Sydney for the same. My mother spent days and nights crying and cursing herself for ruining her children’s lives. No matter what we said, it didn’t matter to her. We went to Pune and started with her chemo sessions again. She has been responding better than most. She’s doing well currently and her levels are better than ever.

In between this upheaval, NM released the dates and I had my interview scheduled a couple of days after my mom’s chemo session. Thankfully, I had Sarthak Rout to fall back on. He helped me with clothes and shoes for NM. I did well and returned home where we would continue my mother’s treatment.

A Somewhat Happy Ending

4 months down the line, my mother’s health is stable and well, despite chemo making her system weak. She still fights everyday for herself. I carved time out between her treatment and gave my interviews. In the limited preparation and time that I managed, I converted NM, XL HRM and IIFT D till now. Each time I convert a college my mom is the one who’s more jubilant and happy than me. She wants to see me succeed and happy. But how can I tell her , how can I make her see that everything I’ve done , I have or will have is for her. She’s the only one that has ever mattered. That she’s my everything.

Parting Gyan

I’ve been a mediocre student for most of my life. But I always had faith in my abilities, that one day I’ll be at a top 10 B-school; that one day I’ll make my parents and sister proud. For that I traded partying, traveling and wasting time. Every day or moment that I got, I tried to get better. Failure or settling for a lower tier B-school was never an option for me.

I still remember the day I opened Pagalguy and read posts on, “All I wanted to talk about CAT”, tears trickling down my face as I saw people’s hardwork finally bearing results. I wanted to write something that tells you to not give up. That to keep believing in yourselves and keep working at it, till you achieve your dreams. Pagalguy has been a place where people with wild dreams come and find people with similar wild dreams.

You compete and make friends for a lifetime.

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You may also be interested in reading more inspirational and brilliant stories like this on InsideIIM:

From A Hospital Bed To IIM L – Journey From 47%ile In Mocks To 99.4% In CAT

How I Got Into IIM Ahmedabad Defying All Odds In My 2nd Attempt

“You Might Not Be Able To Run, But You Will Fly” | Cracking ISB Against All Odds

Durga Satapathy

I am Durga Madhab Satapathy. Just another average GEM from Odisha who never gave up on his MBA dreams.

Comments

11 comments

nishant vurla

Man!!! What a fighter you are just like your mother. I always thought I have too many problems haunting me but after reading your story, my problems are nothing. Literally nothing. I’m glad that I read your article.It really changed my perspective. Congratulations on your success. Keep fighting bro

Ajay Singh

You have fight against all odds ,you have proved if you have strong determination no one could defeat you.

Aditya Trupta Pattanayak

Bharti Mam is indeed an amazing teacher bro & one more thing -> ‘nothing will happen to a mom who has a son like you & get well soon’ to her . she will always be proud of you . All the best for the 2 years ahead at XL .