IIM Ahmedabad Interview Experience – 2018

IIM Ahmedabad

Indian Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi
10th February 2018

Profile
X-94.43(Aggregate)
XII-93.60(Aggregate)
UG-7.04(As per CAT Application), Engineering Physics-IIT Guwahati
CAT-99.98%ile
Fresher

AWT
Technology impacts how children think and feel. They tend to think superficially and lose creativity. The ones who spend too much time online tend to lose focus. So they should be kept away from technology till they are 12 years old. We had to take stand for or against it and explain.

20 minutes and 1 lined page on the other side of the questionnaire to answer the following 4 questions.

  • Identify the author’s claim(s).
  • What is the reasoning behind them?
  • Whether the reasoning is weak or strong?
  • Justify your stand.

It was well coordinated by P1, who was on the interview panel. It was informed that the interviews would be of 20–25 minutes duration. Meanwhile you could get your documents verified.

PI
2 panelists, P1(Prof. Arindam Banerjee) and P2(Prof. Dhiman Bhadra). As I enter P1 is the only one present as P2 is leaving the room.

I stand near the seat to wait for the permission to be seated.

P1: Sit down, please, Eshan.
Me: Thank you, Sir.

P1(Scrolling through his tablet): So Eshan I see that you’re from Jhansi, you study in Guwahati but I’m seeing you here in Delhi. Why not Calcutta?
Me: Sir, I’m just more familiar with this place as I’ve been here many times. Also, on a personal note, I’ll be meeting my sister who’s leaving for NZ come Sunday.

P1: Okay. So tell me about all that you’ve done in the past 4 years in IIT Guwahati?
(Thinking this is the perfect opportunity to pitch in my extra curriculars and make up for the fact that my application form was blank in that section-because they’d asked for ONLY State/National/International events. I’d been pretty stressed about this fact)
Me: Sir, I’ve participated in numerous activities during my stay holding several key Positions of Responsibilities. I was the Undergraduate Senator in Student’s Gymkhana, Internship Secretary in Placement Cell, Student’s Mentor for which I was even awarded the best mentor award, Literary Secretary of my hostel and also the City Representative of Technothlon-an exam that the student body of IIT Guwahati conducts…

P1(Interrupts): Eshan have you taken any prior coaching or professional training for this interview?
(Seems like I’m doing a pretty good job speaking confidently. That’s why he’s impressed. Couldn’t be more wrong).

Me(energetically): No Sir, I prepared all by myself. Self-study. *Almost grinned*

P1(in a reprimanding tone): Okay Eshan, even though this is not my job to counsel you and I’m here to just judge you in interview but I’ll give you an advise which you should keep with you for the rest of your interviews. You never ever start telling about your college life with extra-curriculars. There’s a reason they’re termed ‘extra’. Now begin all over again(in a loud angry tone).

Me(smiling and totally calm): Thank you, Sir, for the feedback. I’ll surely keep that in mind(indifferent). Told how I didn’t really study for the first two years but found my way back in last 3 sems as apparent from my scores(My first 4 sem aggregate is 6.51 and next 3 sems is 8.17).

P1(interrupts): Whenever I talk to you IIT guys, you all are like, “Sir I didn’t study much”. Why? What’s the problem? Seems like I’m talking to all the wrong people.
Me(smiling): No, Sir, they’re certainly the right people. They’ve just gone through a wrong time maybe. Even I realised after 2 years that I am not being the student I’m supposed to be and not doing justice to what I came to do here.

P1: Why, what happened after 2 years? What realisation? Did you somehow sleep one night and woke up next morning metamorphosed to just score high grades?
Me: Sir, it wasn’t an overnight thing. It had been bugging me for a long time and eventually I got depressed. Depressed over my pathetic state. That motivated me to get back on track.

Meanwhile P2 enters. Doesn’t talk much, just keeps observing me.

P1: So what all did you study in Physics?
Me: Nuclear Physics, Cosmology, Human Resource Management(running out of subjects to name, even though I was prepared with 10!) and almost any subject from the last 3 sems because I was really sincere during this phase. Not much comfortable with first 2 years(said this because couldn’t recollect subjects’ name).

P1: What does Cosmology mean?
Me: The study of space and objects in it.

P1: Okay Eshan. I’m a common man. I don’t know anything about Cosmology nor am I interested in it. But I want to know something from the subject that would seem intriguing to people if I tell them. What is it?
Me: Sir, it has to be General Theory of Relativity or the Big Bang Model.

P1: Relativity sounds fascinating. Tell me more.
Me: Sir, it was propagated by Albert Einstein. It has one very special postulate that the speed of light is a universal constant and remains same for all observers irrespective of frame. We have spacetime…

P1(interrupts): Spacetime?
Me: Sir, the fabric of space and time. We merge the three dimensions of space with another dimension of time.

Now the real grilling part begins. I just couldn’t get to convince him from here.

P1: I don’t understand why are you considering time as a fourth coordinate? Are my 3 spatial ones with which I can figure out the coordinates of this room, enough? What is the significance of this coordinate?
Me: Sir time becomes necessary if you want to study the evolution of universe. For forming models of the universe.

P1: I’m not interested in evolution. How does it affect my life? I just want to measure distances. How does time come into picture?
Me: Sir, the same point in spacetime next moment will be treated as a different point.

P1: But you introduced time as per your convention na. If I remove it, there will be just 3 coordinates. If I’m measuring distance from Earth to Mars, I just need the location and it can done in kms. Why time?

Several failed attempts at explaining via rocket examples, speed of light, NASA and what not. Now that I think about it, even I don’t know what the hell I was talking about.

P1: No no. Every time you’re introducing a new term. You’re not getting to the point. You haven’t even touched my question.
Me(frustrated by now): Okay, Sir. Can I take a minute to think on it?

P1: Yes! Ofcourse you should. You should’ve done that a long time ago!
Me: Trying to explain via a figure.

P2(breaks the silence-with a helping smile): You can go back on your words, Eshan, if you think you answered incorrectly. There’s no shame in that.
Me(sort of taken aback that I screwed up-with full confidence): No, Sir, it IS required. Maybe I’m not able to get it across, but I do know my concepts. (I don’t :P)

P1: Sir, I’m done with him. He constantly beats around the bush and can’t get to the point. You can proceed with him now. (Rests his hands on his head now and just sits back).
Me: *smiling constantly and not flinching a bit. Portraying my bravest face. Still don’t know how.*

P2: So Eshan, do you have any hobbies. Any extra curriculars you participated in?
P1(in a joking way): Arre Sir inhone toh hazaar activities mein part le rakha hai. Extra curriculars hi inke curricular the.

*All share a light laugh*

Me: Sir, I’ll answer the hobby part now that extra curricular is taken care of(with a grin).
P2: *smiles*

Me: I like writing. About feelings, emotions that a person feels and the reasons behind it. I really like to decipher the emotions. *Thinking if I should mention reading or not*

P1: So do you maintain a diary?
Me: No, Sir, a blog.

Silence for a moment when I realise this could be a important point of my interview as this is something I can talk about for hours. I do this with all my heart.

Me: Sirs, if you’d like to read, I have a few articles with me. Would you like to read them? *puppy face towards P2-please help me get something right, because P1 simply doesn’t care*

P2 understands the desperate helping look in my eye and complies.
Me-*sending out blessings for the gesture*

P1(while P2 reads my articles): So when did you start writing?
Me(low key happy): When I was in depression back in 1st year. Took more intensely to it during 2nd year.

P1: So this is an outlet in a way?
Me: Exactly! Sir, channeling your emotions in a productive way is also an art. I penned down my deepest thoughts and feelings in words.

P1: So how has all this helped to transform you as a person? To grow?
Me: Sir, writing about feelings requires introspection. You get to know yourself better, people around you better. You learn how to truly appreciate what you have. You learn how people treat you, why and how you should treat them. Empathy is a great takeaway here.

P2: What’s the difference between empathy and compassion? *grins*
Me(seemingly synonymous terms are to be differentiated-writer mode on!): Sir, may I take a few seconds?

P2: Sure.
Me: Sir, empathy is about a person understanding and relating to another person’s emotions and feelings. Compassion is about helping, regardless of the fact that you may or may not be understanding their feelings.

P1: But I don’t think anyone can feel what I feel. My feelings are unique to me. So what does empathy even mean? It means that compassion is same as empathy!
Me: Certainly not, Sir. They ARE different. I never said that someone can totally understand the other person’s feelings. But even if they are successful in relating to them to a certain extent(which may vary), that is empathy.

P2: So Eshan, you mean to say that empathy is a better emotion? So if compassion is an actionable emotion then in empathy you are just feeling, not acting. So doesn’t that make compassion a better emotion? *grins yet again*
Me(thinking okay he’s now trying to wrap my words around me. I won’t let it happen. Let’s end this discussion once and for all): Sir, having empathy doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t act. You may just understand the emotion and show it through words. Or you may go a step further and help them. That part is compassion.

Both look convinced.

P1: You’ve lived in Guwahati for 4 years now. Can you tell me something about river Brahmaputra?
Me: Yes, Sir. I can tell you an interesting fact about it as well which you might not know about if you haven’t visited Guwahati. The river bank is hardly 150m from my college. *smiling*

*No expression on either of their faces*
*I realise it was a stupid statement-time to talk sense*

Me: Sir, Brahmaputra originates from China, comes in India from Arunachal Pradesh and goes from Assam into Bangladesh.

P1: So is it called Brahmaputra in China as well?
Me: No, Sir. Tsang-Po, with ‘t’ being silent.

P1: And in Bangladesh?
Me: Jamuna.

P1: Sounds like Yamuna? Is it Yamuna?
Me: It does sound same. Maybe it’s the regional pronunciation that they adopted the name. But no Yamuna is different.

P1: Jamuna doesn’t go to become Yamuna later, right? *teasingly*
Me: No, Sir. *almost laughing*

P1: Where does it originate from in China?
Me: Some southern province.

P1: Give me the exact name.
Me: I don’t know, Sir. *P1 gives a don’t worry look the first time*

*Thinking to say that Brahmaputra is also the widest river but interrupted*

P1: So any issue on the river you might be knowing about?
Me: Yes, Sir, it has come to our information that China is trying to build a dam across the river. That would stop the water flow or greatly reduce it leaving us to China’s mercy. The water is really important for NE India because the region is greatly separated from the rest of India and not much heed is paid to it. So people depend on the river for their livelihood to a great extent.

P1: What can we do to stop it? What can Assam government do?
Me: Sir, I don’t think the state government can do anything directly but…

P1(interrupts): By Assam I mean through the central government.
Me: Yes, Sir, this is what I was about to say. That the actions will be taken by the central government. Sir, we can go to the United Nations and hold diplomatic talks to resolve the issue.

P1: But UN is a completely useless body. It doesn’t resolve any world issues(looks at P2 and both smile-I smile, too). They don’t have any political stance. What else would you do?
Me: Sir, we can’t take up arms. It would result in nuclear warfare. The only action in today’s world can be through dialogue, diplomatic talks.

P1: It takes years at a time. What else?
Me: Sir, in that case we can divert water from the river originating from Bengal to NE through Bangladesh because they’ll also suffer from the water loss. We can make a deal with them which shouldn’t be tough.

P1: How will you divert the water? Are you trying to pull of a Narmada canal here?
Me(clueless now): Yes, Sir, it’s possible.

P1: What possible? You’re agreeing to everything that we’re saying. *P2 laughs*
Me: Sir that’s because your arguments are reasonable so no harm in agreeing to a possibility which I’m unable to think of.

P1: So you said river coming Bengal? *astonished*
Me: Sir, not exactly WB. I meant Bay of Bengal.

P1: Bay of Bengal?! *Even more shocked*
Me: Yes, Sir, the rivers.

P1: So the rivers originate from BoB?!
P2: Eshan do you know that rivers don’t originate from BoB rather end up there? Can you tell us why?

Me: Sorry, Sir. Seems like I didn’t pay much heed to my basic geography.

P1: Where’s the empathy now? You IIT guys pay heed only to yourself and what happens in your campus. You don’t care about the world.
Me: *smiling* Sir, absolutely not…

P2(interrupts): So where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Me(looking deep in his eyes and very confidently): Teaching. *Both look shocked*

P1(instantly): Why?
Me: Sir, I believe in giving back to the society and not just taking it all in to grow. Teaching is the noblest profession I can think of.

P2: So who is nobler, a Teacher or a Doctor? (My mom being from Education Dept. and Father a Doctor-they picked this up)
Me(confused for 3 seconds about Doctor being a PhD doc or a medicine Doc-then bulb lights up): Okay, Doctor!

P1: Why? You just said Teacher is “noble-st”.
Me(confused-didn’t realise they misinterpreted my reaction above as the answer): Sir, I never said Doctor.

P2: You just did! You said, “Okay, Doctor!”. *imitating me*
Me(FML): Sir, that was just me understanding…

P1(interrupts): But why Teacher?
Me: Sir, this is an extremely subjective view. For you, it might be a teacher. For someone, it might be a doctor. For me, a teacher will hold value close to my heart. I don’t think it can be justified.

P1: Okay, Eshan, we’re done here. Thank you. You may have a cookie now.
Me(shocked that there was no cross questioning on what sort of a teacher or why MBA): Okay, thank you, Sir. *take a cookie*

*My past 1.5 years flashback in an instant as to how I worked my ass off to get here and don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Desperation kicks in. Good? Bad? Remains to be seen.*

Me: Sir, off the record, I want to say something. Off the record. *looking for cooperation in P1’s eyes*
*P1 nods*

Me(offering my last and best blow holding my nerves-both listen intently for the first time): Sir, I was an intensely self-disciplined, hardworking student till class 12th. I studied in a small city all by myself to reach the place I am today. I do agree I lost track of my sight in first 2 years of my college but once I realised my mistake, I left no stone unturned to make up for it. I promised myself that my B.Tech. would be divided in 2 parts both of which would be polar opposite. And I think I did a pretty good job in overturning my situation.

P1: So you did all your extra-curriculars in first 2 years?
Me: Yes, Sir.
*P1 smiles and nods in approval*

Me: So Sir, to be seated here despite a 5.9 pointer I worked hard to take it above 7. I had to get next to a 100%ile to make sure I come here. I just work very very hard for everything that I want and have. This is all I wanted to say once to the interviewers. I think I’ve done that today with you, Sirs. *smiles*

P1: It’s okay Eshan. We appreciate the efforts you are putting in. It’s really good of you to work so hard. Good luck for your future!
Me(smiling): Thank you very much, Sir!

One thing that I maintained during the entire PI was my composure. The calm and smile on my face was a constant. No sign of being scared or shocked. Although there’s so much more I could’ve said in right time. So many better words I could’ve used, which I generally do. But the fact that I prepared insanely for the interviews in the past 2 months and sacrificed so much in past 2 years would leave no regrets even if I fail to convert now. Simple reason: I know I gave my best. An interview won’t define me. Not even WIMWI’s.

Eshan Bhargava

A Senior UG at IIT-Guwahati, an MBA candidate and a wannabe Professor define me professionally. Personally, an introvert by heart, I like to decipher emotions and am always on a lookout to understand more about the world. This leads me to learn a lot from almost anything around me and pen it down. Reading, writing, watching unsung Hollywood movies and listening to new music consume my free time. Feel free to connect!

Comments

6 comments

Eshan Bhargava

This was a blunder among many others. I meant ‘Professor’, not teacher. Had they asked it, it would be the fact that initially I need the industry exposure to gain some inside insights into how things are done so that the subsequent research doesn’t go far away from the practical stuff and stays relevant. This would ensure that I don’t just publish papers with numbers, but figures that make a difference. Unfortunately, I screwed this answer.

Aparna Nayar

I think by sharing how you had worked so hard in the last 2 years could be a game changer! And coming out of depression and using that energy for working so hard was really good.