From Failure To XLRI – My Hustle To Get Into A Top B-School – Gauri Shankar’s Story

That evening my father came from the court, by his old bicycle which he got in dowry may be 25 years ago. He is a short man who grew old in his 40s. Years of working in a courthouse as a clerk, listening to the heinous cases of rapes and murder every day as a part of his job and finally the incessant struggle to run a house with a meagre income, made him dull and tired.

He used to walk with hunched shoulders, head down, looking at his shoes. As if nothing new is there to be seen in the world anymore. But today he came with a smile, he was full of expectations, hopes and dreams. Finally, his poor family, which was in limbo for last 2 years, would get rescued, his son would get admission in an Engineering College! Today is the day which everyone was waiting for, today is the day which will decide what will be served in dinner 4 years later. Today the result of Jamia Millia University will be declared. His son had been preparing for last 2 years for Engineering entrance examinations and abysmally failed in all, except this one, where he reached up to the interview stage and today he will clear it. He had to clear it. His son struggled, stumbled and fell down and so did his family with him.

My father took the jewels of my mother and gave them as a security deposit to a shop to arrange 1 lakh rupees and sent me to Kota, a hub of coaching centers. He bet his life’s savings on me and I was failing miserably. This was unexpected, considering my exceptionally high marks in 12th class. But this is what happens when a kid from a Hindi medium school with average intelligence, from a family of clerks, dares to enter in exclusive territories dominated by generations of bureaucrats, Doctors, Engineers, metro city dwellers, DPS’, Xavier’s and randomly distributed intelligent looking kids with hunched shoulders, broad and prominent foreheads and spectacles bigger than their fathers’. 2 long, expensive, dreary, dark years and today this all was going to end. Failure is not an option.

My father came jumping with joy, a sweet box in his hand; Batisa, from the best sweet shop of the city. He smiled as he saw me standing in the room, the biggest smile I ever saw, a smile of pride and joy. Tired, dim eyes, broadened with hope. He opened the box of sweet, took a piece and proceeded to put that in my mouth. His hand was stretched, that piece of sweet was in my mouth and then for the first time that evening, he looked into my eyes. I did not have to say anything. I saw the light of his eyes fading away in an instant, there was the shock of betrayal. The unthinkable, unimaginable had happened. As if in one instant he slipped from the Mount Everest to the darkest deepest graves. His hand remained stretched, sweet was still in my mouth, I did not have the courage to chew it. We both remained standing in that humid room, the air became heavy with the disturbing silence that engulfed into it. That one small moment of 5 seconds, that look in his eyes, I wish I never had to witness and will never forget till I am alive. What I won’t give up to undo that, what I won’t do to go back in time and kill myself before being there? The next 3-4 steps were hardest for him, to find the nearest chair. With heavy steps he walked, sat on the chair, took his handkerchief and wiped the sweat on his forehead. He spoke with heavy heart and lowered eyelids,”It’s OK”.

Time moved forward, I took admission in a stupid Engineering college with stupid people like me, around me. The funny thing is that no guy in the college felt that he deserved this mediocre college. Each guy had his own story of how things went wrong and how by mistake he landed up here, none dared to admit that this college is as good as he could get. A college disliked and disowned by its own students. A no man’s land. I used to live alone in a room on second floor of a lonely building at the end of a deserted gully. I got into the habit of reading, as it was the only option to fight the loneliness and guilt of past. I read tons of books. I used to go to Delhi’s weekly bazaar and used to buy novels and books at a cheap rate. I used to read around 50-60 books a year. But as Ayn Rand says when people move from point A to point B they think that it is only places A and B which matter not the path between them. They are wrong. We remember each and every detail of the journey and path that we passed through to reach the destination. I remembered how I came here. What happened before. That look in my father’s eyes. Anything which gave me happiness made me feel guilty as if I robbed my father of happiness and did not deserve the luxury of joy. During the 4 years of my Engineering, I watched only 2 movies, I had a basic phone, no laptop, no TV. Just a room, a bed and many many books to read.

I completed my B.Tech and got selected in TCS, finally a respite! A face-saving event, good news after a long time. I started earning, my parents became proud and happy. Worked hard for 5 years, yet still, I remembered that failure. I had to remove that stigma. Whenever I used to read about great colleges like IITs and IIMs I would feel a pang of pain. For once, just once in my life, I wanted to study in a big college with a big name. So I started studying for GMAT, worked hard for months to get a decent score. Filled many forms. XLRI was one of them and I got selected in it. An MBA college which ranks 4th in all India ranking. I still remember the call that I made to my father, with that shaking and choked voice, telling him that I got selected in XLRI. There was a momentary silence on the other end. As if he was reaching out and reliving that moment, which refused to pass since 10 years. As if he was recollecting in his fading and aged memory, what happened then and what had been the struggle in last decade. How heavy that burden was, how long the days and nights were and how time is like a sea which gives you all back which it had taken from you once. Finally, he spoke in a broken voice and gave me his blessings. A short call of 2 minutes. It took 10 years of struggle, hardship and persistence to make that call of 2 minutes. Next month I took my father aside and we flew together to Kolkata. His first flight. I held his hand during the takeoff. I noticed how weak his hands had become, I could feel his nerves under my palm. We reached Jamshedpur and I noticed the pride in his first step when he entered through the gates of XLRI and saw those big buildings. Then he looked at me and smiled…



Aishwarya Rani

Not just your father….every person reading this shall feel proud of your journey sir!! It’s quite rare, when you read a story and experience a sense of belonging….a sense of conversance with the characters. Somehow your’s managed to strike an old chord. Best wishes for your future and kudos to an inspiring narration!!! 🙂


Failing to crack CAT/XAT twice, I felt that I am no good for these elite B-schools. But, After reading your story, I understood that no barrier can come in front of our perseverance and dedication. Thanks for such an ennobling story..

Anshul juneja

This is one of the best post I have read at InsideIIM. You should try your hand at writing, would love to read more from you. I am struggling and living the same journey. Hope I can make an end like you.

Sahila Bano

It says it all. Things are much similar(#father #clerk #hope #Delhi #Coaching #2yearsGap #TCS #GMAT #guilt #Struggle #yettocome), hope my next step not lesser to you.

pritesh purohit

Inspirational…!!! What an amazing Journey. You inspired me to chase my dreams. Thanks for this booster dose and for your wonderful poem also.


Loads of inspirations, ur failure story inspires so many success stories…. Respect sir..


Your inspirational story made me think once again that even I can achieve success in life after facing repeated failure in CAT/Gmat.

Nagarjuna Agrahara

Inspiring sir!

I can totally relate to your pre engineering days – selling jewellery for tuition fee, the anxiety, the guilt. Glad you could fight all of it. Wish you all happiness in years to come. 🙂


Very Inspiring! I am touched! I must say it is very well written! Straight from the Heart! At some point, I had a feeling as if I am having a flashback of my own life! Way to go friend! Wish you a fantastic time and a great year through! Thanks & regards

Biswadeep Ghosh Hazra

Amazingly penned! Being an aspiring author and an aspirant, this article captures the essence of students like me who desperately need to prove their worth not to the worth, not to relative and back bitching aunts, not to neighbors but to themselves. Kudos sir!
P.S- I am an aspirant for CAT, had a question
Can one prepare for both CAT and GMAT in a single year? How different is the syllabus for both? Thanks 🙂 Godspeed

Arvind Singh Phulad

I can’t find the words and more importantly right words to appreciate what you have written. Brilliant piece of writing, I enjoyed and felt every sentence blew right through my heart, breaking it into thousands of slivers.
hats off

kaushiki tiwari

There was so much to learn and it was all fun. But the best part was getting a smile in the end.That was like drowning in candy. Reading it almost after 2 years of publish. Great going Mr Shankar.

Mayur Jungi

the part of ur dad played the main lead and that’s what has tugged me till the end. the blood and sweat of ur preparations are visible in ur description with a blend of emotions. the master stroke was that that XLRI was not all that made u happy but it was ur reliable significance with respect to ur dad’s thinking was.


Tears came rolling down my cheeks by the time i reached the end of your story,could feel each and every word written.You are such an inspiration for every aspirant and definitely a son every parent would be proud of.


You are an inspiration…..Thanks for penning down your journey……..Truly Motivating!