This is the story of a confused engineer. And his journey to India's top b-school campus. The story consists of some wrong decisions, a yearning for a job not meant to be, and the journey to scoring 99.88%ile in CAT. This confused engineer found a happy ending. Read this to know the story of Jay Palnitkar - the confused engineer.
Finally, I penned my journey in an article. I hope all my pals at hot-shot B-schools are doing great.
I frantically called my best friend, Mayank Jain (who is at IIFT), of CAT-preparation days. I said, “Bhai! I quit. I cannot take it anymore. Chemical engineer ko zabardasti JAVA padha rahe”. I barely took a breath as that was just my 14th day at the job I had recently joined. I told him, “I have made up my mind, just convince me that I would at least make it to top 10 b schools despite taking a drop for preparation.”
“Bhai! Nahi! Mat karo aisa! Thoda aur push karo khudko,” Mayank promptly spoke up. But the decision was already made!
I was going for all or nothing. It was the biggest risk of my life! (To worsen things, I had an awful CGPA in my graduation.)
And believe me, I gave it my all. Maybe even more than that.
What was life going to bring?
A decision that was wrongly taken - The parking scenes of engineering college:
I guess it was term 2 of the third year at engineering. Horrible chemical engineering - horrible not being the subject, but the depth of it. I waited for my best friend, who was studying electrical engineering, in the parking lot of college. We were both looking for ways to add more meaning to life. That day was different. He mentioned something about MBA to me. I asked, “What?” He said that people have gone places by doing MBA, they have a flashy life, and moreover, they have earned respect!
“Accha, toh B-school me ab jaana hoga!,” I exclaimed. “Kaise jae? IIM A suna hai mene wese”, I continued.
I had taken a drop for a year after Class 12, just to take a hit at IIT/BITS. Alas, there was no Eminem in those days (meaning no internet penetration as like today) to motivate me enough. But, I managed to get a top college in Hyderabad.
Next day, we both went to TIME institute to collect details. There flashed the numbers - 99.99, 99.88, 99.77, and so on. Honestly, I was pumped up in that moment.
And the classes began. A few days later, I landed on PagalGuy (hardly realising that my life was going to change forever). That year passed and I took my entrance exams. I scored… CAT = 88.7x, XAT = 94.xx, IIFT = Not qualified (I never qualified for IIFT, not even in the next attempt), SNAP = 89.xx (GK bombed me here again, after IIFT), CMAT = 90ish (not sure).
MHCET was scheduled after 2-3 months. I told my dad, “This test takes people to JBIMS. Beautiful college.” Dad said, 'Theek aahe - de MHCET pan' (Okay, give MHCET too).
We both went to Pune. He waited outside the test center with high hopes. But I returned hours later petrified. It was the toughest test I had ever taken. I told him that there was no point in even checking the result. I could see a tinge of sadness in his eyes. Not because I failed him, but because he felt I really wanted JBIMS after all the entrance debacles.
We returned to Hyderabad and life continued.
A job I yearned for - and a job never meant for me
Future First was scheduled to come to our campus (for the first time ever). Somehow, that job fascinated me - also it had an attractive bounty attached. I started wondering, “How? How can I make it?”
A quick fast-forward: I tried desperately for it again, during my 'vella' stay at home after quitting my job. Went all the way for my second shot to the office. Waited for long – better prepared in quick maths, etc as compared to my engineering days. But the company policy made me ineligible to apply so soon after a failed first attempt. I was broken. I cried. Was actually crying walking those roads which still flash before my eyes. I went straight to a pub - questioning God, “Why? Why do I fail always?” After consuming enough drinks to make me lose my gait, I returned home.
Ok, now back to those prep days for campus interview. I am being honest here. I was mad for numbers now. I practised calculations all day long - speed maths, vedic maths and whatever I found useful. So much so that, while travelling to college (an hour's ride from home) I was messed up with papers and speed maths on it).
The day had come. I was prepared. I think I was too well prepared to fail. The anxiety caught up with me. I failed the first round of speed maths! People who never ever learned the tricks - cleared it with ease. This was perhaps the first heartbreak moment in this CAT journey. Brace on - there were more. I was sad because there were hardly any more good companies for chemical engineering. (Frankly, there were none).
Next came Wells Fargo. It was my second ray of hope. This time I cleared the first round and second too. Came out of the PI room, very happy with my performance. Awaited results. One after other, names were coming up. My best friend Sahil, from electrical engineering, was called out. That moment, I felt happy and worried at the same time. And the final call was left. I prayed. Prayed to Guru Nanakji (Yes, I somehow developed a faith in him. He inspired me to quit smoking, completely cold-turkey. Been 3-4 years now).
I was not the person who was called.
This moment thoroughly shocked me. I remember going again to a bar to calm myself (I strictly advice against this. I am a more poised person now, and I suggest never to fall prey to your feelings and drink just to feel relaxed temporarily.) I tore up my resume and threw it on a table. I was unaware of my surroundings. Walked towards home, with tears in my eyes as there weren’t any more good companies for chemical engineers. And since Sahil got selected, as it is shown in the movie ‘3 idiots’, I felt, 'Dard hota hai agar best friend ka acha hua and apna nahi'.
That was the moment our lives parted after 4 years of being friends. He lost the fascination for MBA and started enjoying his job life. And I settled with 2 jobs in hand - IT jobs.
These times were testing times. I looked for stories on Pagalguy. The stories which are immortal. The Hate (IIM C chap who is doing very well right now), Gupta (from XLRI. I don't remember his Pagalguy ID). I literally got goosebumps by reading these stories.
In that moment, I vowed to come back. (Coincidentally, it was also that time that I had failed in the entrance exams)
I had nothing. No job or no work experience (Beleive me guys, work experience is very useful for admissions and later), GEM tag behind my name. I had a poor grad CGPA. No business or contacts to get a go post my graduation. Confused parents (My dad always told me to choose branch over a college. It’s a mistake I repent even today).
Just a confused engineer standing and watching the bustling crowd in front of my house, thinking, where would I go now.
Little did I realise that the PagalGuy stories, Eminem, etc planted motivation bombs inside me and they were turning LIVE!
Think you are Phenomenal - and you shall be
"You're going to be happy,"
"but first I'll make you strong."
- Paulo Coelho
Just a few days before me laying down my papers at office, I got a call from Mayank. He said, I was made the captain of Underdogs Team (Every year PagalGuy forms 2 national teams for CAT takers- Underdogs and Dream Team). I was jubilant. I remember screaming out of joy amidst the training. In the meantime, I had made a good friend Suraj Kumar at my office who was fun to talk to and who helped me manage my impatience. The office journey was as tiring as my engineering one..so I used to study during both sides of journey. During evening times, the bus had only a single light at the rear-end of driver and I rushed out of office just to pick that seat. People asked what is it that you are so absorbed into each day. I just swayed the topic around.
Now with the responsibility of leading a national team, there was only 1 thing going on in my head. To kill CAT or get killed (not literally but that was the level of 'JOSH').
I enrolled now for BullsEye, IMS, TIME, Total Gadha etc etc. Now finally I was out of my job. My home had a newly built single occupancy room right over the terrace. This was my new abode now. I woke up early in the mornings and never returned till evening (obviously yes for washroom, snacks etc). Now I made many great friends - Sabyasachi Mukherji, Anik Paul, Ankan Sengupta, Anit Suri (my mentor), Prateek Giria & Siddharth Chowdhry (both very helpful in my journey), Swapnl Jha (my maths teacher), Simrit Bajwa (my verbal teacher) and the list is endless…( will be adding as I recall)
I started imbibing ideals of Guru Gobindji and visited Gurudwara more often just to get that calmness and connection. Gradually, my mock scores started to rise. Now, I was so desperate, I used to take 2 full mocks a day. I mean seriously. 2 full mocks + analysis. I made notes of difficult maths and verbal questions. (still have 2-3 books full of them)
The exercise was tiring but rewarding. I remember one such incident - I took a proctored SIMCAT and screwed like hell.. I was transfixed. What went wrong? That day, there was no peace. At night 10, I started taking a Bullseye mock just to take revenge of some sort. I was AIR 1 in that.
My mock scores soared now (atleast in take home ones). Scored in range of 99.8 ish range. Underdogs team was doing good.
But, as I recall, I had literally noone to talk to. All my friends had moved to the USA or were at work. Loneliness is sad. It deprives you of joys. This period moved me more into spirituality. I remember days when I used to weep in my new 'abode' behind closed doors thinking that even if I get a 99.99 or so I stand a bleak chance for converting A and B. Even C would be apprehensive about me having a drop. (this thing is difficult to put across in a PI, but I feel a person should do what he must not push himself into something he doesn't like by his heart).
Just to relieve my nerves I did pullups and chinups (most difficult exercise but relieving).
Came the day of CMAT. My 1st match in the new era. I completed the test with half an hour remaining. That day when result had come, there was somebody more happy than me. My dad. I scored 99.78.
But as this is life, there are downs too, that being screwed up IIFT entrance. Just after exam I checked the key and that was the lowest point in the journey. I was clueless, because despite a 99.78 in CMAT there were no colleges which I wished to join via CMAT. What if this happens in CAT? This one full year - was it worth it?
Took NMAT - scored 208 or 210. 3 biggies remained now, world cup being the CAT, Sharjah - XAT and Asia Cup - MHCET. As every serious aspirant is - I was sleepless the night before CAT. But by this time, I had solved as much quant and DI that I felt there was no question on earth which I couldn't solve in test (not being headstrong but you guys need to get this type of attitude before the test, it helps!).
CAT strolled past and I hit 82/100 questions. Those 3 hours of my life, I was so absorbed - post the test I actually forgot where was I .
Then came the big day. I remember calling Vivek Busar ( 99.97 scorer) . 'Bhai, kitna aaya?' I exclaimed. It shows 99.97, he said. I was happy and this soon turned me into a trembling Jay. Should I log in and check? This number will decide my future - my life!!!
I remember sitting in main room with my parents around me. My dad finally accepted that I had worked hard and whatever the result be you have improved in life as being a hard-worker (as contrasted to my engineering days so to say).
The screen popped - 99.51. This moment was as if your crush says yes to you. You don't know how to react. I logged off and prayed to god that let this be my overall score and not a sectional. And yes, it was overall!! I remember posting this on Facebook, as I could see those teary eyes of my dad. That read- yes you have made me proud!
XAT came and went. Got HR call (for 96.xx) but was not much keen. Prepared more and more for MHCET. As I wrote in my previous part, MHCET was the toughest last year for me. But, today I answered almost all questions in the given order as the questions came. I was more than enough prepared for today.
Interviews came from IIM C, K, New IIMs, MDI, NMIMS, FMS, JBIMS
To this day, my happiest moment is the day IIM C sent me a mail saying they are happy to invite me for further process (and yes you get tears of joy too, this was that scene).
Lost FMS very narrowly, maybe a little more percentile would have helped (a final waitlist movement of even 2-3 guys would have opened the red brick building's doors). C was obviously a reject.
I had 3 big colleges now. But as human, you never know how stupidity takes you over. Had a heated debate in K interview. Result = I wasn't in. Should have prepared well for GDs/PI , maybe over-confidence took me over - 'Yar 99.51 pe K toh hona hi chahiye' was what I believed.
JBIMS had dearth of seats and I ranked All India 60ish something without work-ex (aww this should obviously take a dig at me - I knew this all the time). The seats for the general category were 60 and you guessed it right. I wasn't in.
I was now riding towards crest from the trough. Only 1 b-school in top 10 remained now. Prepared very well this time for PI avoiding any controversies and justifying my drop well.
Guru Gobindji blessed me.
I am a happy 'Mandevian' (as they call the MDI people) now.