On Love, Depression And My Journey To IIM Lucknow

*The Author wishes to remain Anonymous. If you have a story to share but would like to publish it anonymously, please write to nidhi.malkan@insideiim.com

28th August, 2014, Infosys Training Centre, Mysore

Humara milna likha tha’, her face beamed with joy at the sudden revelation of the fact that it was purely fate which had led us to become acquainted with each other at the first place. Apparently, someone in the HR department had misspelt my name and hence I got seated next to her, with the classroom wall on her other side. Else, I would be at the corner seat in my row (And in a lot more peaceful state of mind’, I muttered to myself.)

‘Yeah!’, I nodded in an approving gesture. Good that it was the last day of the generic training before we would be allocated our respective technologies f or stream training.  She had to repeat a paper in the generic so there was no way she would be with me in the stream.

The campus at Infosys Mysore is a 400-acre haven of scenic beauty, with blissful weather and ample freedom provided to the trainees to pursue their interests in leisure hours. While for some it meant trying out every sports facility available on the campus, and some were busy slogging hard in the training centre till 11 P.M. to earn that coveted top performer bonus, a sizeable chunk of the junta were sprucing it up with campus relationships, including my neighbour who had fallen head-over-heels in love with the tall, sturdy guy who sat right behind her.

Now, onto us. I announced on the very first day that I’m an introvert and hence she shouldn’t expect much in the form of chit-chat from me.  I guess that’s exactly how you SHOULDN’T make a first impression. However, being her only neighbour I was compelled to keep her company during some mundane lectures, and that’s when the chemistry began to develop between us. WhatsApp conversations quickly turned into ugly fights, the blocking and unblocking games started by her, usually ending with me rendering meek apologies and her hitting me playfully on my shoulder, all grudges forgotten, every word forgiven. I thought I had made a friend for life, but that most highly glorified of all the nuisances was covertly spreading its roots inside my heart.

The first revelation came from a rumour about the sighting of the two love birds late into the night, which highly disturbed me. Fortunately (or unfortunately) my other neighbour correctly interpreted the symptom and I was advised to ignore her for the rest of the training. Good advice, I must say, except for the fact that my nonchalant attitude and plain ignoring her in front of our common friends, led to her feeling extremely hurt and disturbed. A few days later she called me to my room to demand an explanation, and several dropped calls, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ and wayward excuses later, I admitted my feelings to her.

Now a quick question, “What is the best way to avoid being friendzoned by a girl and suffering from humiliation?” The answer of course is, you friendzone yourself, so that you can tell everyone that it was not her, but you who decided to be “just friends” with her. So the exact words which I said were,

I love you, but it’s not viable” (These words later became a folklore in my friend circle, to the point that even today, I am teased by invoking these). To neither mine nor the readers (if you have actually read this far) surprise, she accepted. So I became friendzoned, albeit on my own terms!

Time to look for greener pastures”, I thought to myself. But however hard I tried to behave normally with her, that feeling of grief when I saw her with someone else, would never go away. So this is what means to be heart broken, well it’s not as bad as it looks (Boy I was mistaken!). In fact, after we got separated in generic and I came to see less and less of her, the grief ultimately vanished. We talked every day, as best friends, texted deep into the night and sometimes went out for walks in the campus. Rumour mills started flowing and it displeased her boyfriend. I decided to keep a respectful distance and didn’t meet her at all, except on the day I left Mysore after completing training. Little did I know, I wouldn’t see her again for the next two years.

February 2015, Hyderabad

My tryst with the eponymous feline started way back in my final year of college. I was interested in giving the exam as I had an inclination towards management, but the high fees and the spectre of burdensome loans, coupled with my own ignorance and proper lack of research discouraged me from pursuing it further. Instead, I gave GATE, securing a rank of 747, good enough to garner self-respect but not good enough to secure an IIT seat. Thus, I started again to research about CAT and the B-school scenario in the country. I filled the form for CAT 2014, deciding to use it as a trial before my serious attempt in 2015, but couldn’t attend the test as the centre was in Bangalore and I was posted in Hyderabad. At that point of time, the test was not important enough for me to travel to Bangalore for 2 days and attempt.

Soon, dreariness crept into my work and within 2 months I was yearning to get into a more functional role in the organisation, rather than implementing the functionalities viz. coding. Still, my goal for pursuing MBA was not as clear as they should have been, and that uncomfortable feeling remained. I joined Career Launcher in Hyderabad in February 2015 for the classroom course, attending classes every weekend morning religiously and surprisingly, performing average to above average in all sectional tests.

Advice: It is okay if you are not 100% sure why you want to pursue management, believe me, most of us don’t have a clear conception regarding that well into the CAT journey; in fact, the interview preparation is a phase where you will get to know a lot about yourself and find out the exact reason why you decided to pursue it. So, don’t overthink about the consequences right in the beginning and try to enjoy the journey.

On the personal front, I kept in touch with her regularly through Whatsapp, Lync and phone calls. She had been posted in Trivandrum, her boyfriend’s native place and her boyfriend’s complacency and a general lack of friends in the early stages owing to cultural and language barriers, found her seeking solace in my friendship. The fact that I had no real friend in Hyderabad also helped. We used to talk over the phone 3-4 times a week and pull all-nighters on Whatsapp quite frequently. She had decided to pursue MS in the US, and was aiming to give GRE between June-August 2015. But she had little support from her boyfriend who wanted her to stay in India, preferably working in the IT job which she, like me, loved to despise.

We helped each other regularly with questions, puzzles, vocab and other stuff and in spite of her boyfriend’s disapproval, she signed up for GRE in August. In between all the heated arguments between them regarding their difference in views over their future, her ambitions (which were too big for his pride to swallow) and their cultural differences which she narrated to me regularly, frequently sobbing and breaking down, I tried to stand by her and encouraged her to work on the relationship. The straw that broke the camel’s back however, was a dramatic public encounter between the two of them in a crowded bus stop which involved name calling and some typical high voltage physical action (as narrated by her jovially the next day). She promptly broke up the following day.

Now as long as she was in a relationship, I used to talk to her without worrying too much, as to whatever I would say would have had no impact on our relationship at all. But when she became single again, that old faithful nuisance started to creep its head through the shadows of my heart. She broke up in June 2015, and from June to August, I suffered from complete confusion and perplexity. My mock scores took a hit, I couldn’t study at all because of the irrational fear that I would lose her forever (how could you lose someone who’s not yours in the first place?) and there came a point when I stopped taking mocks altogether. I wanted to scream out my feelings to her, but a fear of the second failure tightly grasped me and made me lose all confidence. Finally, it was she who spoke up after her GRE.

Now I can tell you for a fact that girls are not fools in emotional matters and they know whether you have feelings for them quite easily; so the fact that she called me to say that she knew the reason behind my weird behavior and couldn’t make up her mind did not come as a surprise to me.

She cut off contact with me for the next few months, the most crucial months for CAT preparation. The result was me going into depression and as a result, a massive damage to my CAT preparation. Even a party trip to Bangalore and two weeks of stay at home couldn’t put it back on track. I missed the deadlines for most of the exams and institutes and ended up giving only CAT and IIFT as a result, having applied only to IIMs through CAT.

IIFT was surprisingly less difficult than I had expected it to be, nevertheless, I missed the quant cutoff by 0.33 marks despite scoring 5 marks more than the overall cutoff.

CAT started pretty decently, I breezed through the VA section (which had been my strength for a long time now) only to be bamboozled by the DI-LR section (the toughest in recent history). I could make neither head nor tail of most questions and ended up doing random guesses on more than half of my attempts. QA was relatively easy, and had it not been for the after effects of the DI-LR section, I could have fared much better here.

Result:  Overall: 94.8 VA: 99.01 DILR: 74.XX QA: 90.XX

Funnily enough, I got a WhatsApp text from her right after my exam ended, wishing me best of luck for my future and asking me not to contact her ever again.

I will never forget the next few months in my entire life. I slid into clinical depression and had to consult a psychiatrist who prescribed me some pills. All this was unbeknownst to my parents, which made me feel additionally guilty of betraying their trust. I got the support of a few friends from Hyderabad and one very special friend from Pune (who’s almost like a sister to me) who pulled me out of this phase bit by gruelling bit.

By March, having fully recovered, I was ready to go to my client site in Gurgaon in the preparation of the project going live. Just then it happened one day. I had to go to the ground floor of my flat for some work and I took the elevator from the 4th Floor. There was a power-cut and I was trapped inside the elevator, the steel door model which doesn’t have any external light source. In that dark, claustrophobic atmosphere, I had already spent 5 minutes to no avail. I couldn’t reach any roomie through phone (ironically most of them were on a call with their girlfriends) and I thought my last moments had arrived. Then two thoughts hit me: whether I should call my parents or her. To this day I can’t realise why I called her.  She didn’t pick up. Fortunately, the power came back on again and I escaped.

The next day, I again called. She was quite pleasantly surprised but didn’t recognise my number (turns out she had bought a new phone) and that’s why didn’t pick up the call that day. Anyways, we talked normally, careful not to delve into the past and get too emotional. I had all but accepted that we were not meant to be together.

My stint at Gurgaon and after that in Hyderabad itself during the initial live phases of the project reinvigorated me with a new spirit. A short trip to Delhi where I explored the city solo, wandering the streets of Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazaar in search of street delicacies, also helped me overcome the narrowness of one-dimensional thinking, a symptom from which I had suffered for a long time. I was again getting the enthusiasm to work hard and started putting my best in every aspect of the project. It was thus natural that I would again start thinking seriously about CAT. Meanwhile, my roommate, who prepared solely from my study materials and did not attend any coaching classes, got admission to IIM Raipur. This further made me feel ashamed and then motivated to prove myself in CAT 2016.

She informed me one day that she had got admission into Carnegie Mellon, her dream school and she would be leaving for Australia in August. My joy knew no bounds; I congratulated her on a call, on Whatsapp and even sent her presents for achieving such a feat.

 

July 2016, Mumbai

Things were moving back on track now; I had started giving mocks from June and had started improving bit by bit. My routine consisted of waking up at 7, doing some quant practice till 7:45, reaching office by 9 and leaving by 6 (in between taking time out for 1 hr DI-LR practice and 1 hr VA practice, along with reading articles and books on eclectic topics), analyzing mocks in the evening for 1 hr, and then again practicing quant till 12 AM.

I wanted to meet her one last time before she went abroad and thus, in July 2016, went on a one-day trip to Mumbai from Pune, boarding the return train to Hyderabad the same day I reached Mumbai. This was to be our final meeting; we had lunch together, saw a movie and talked about myriad topics, as we always had since time immemorial. On parting, she extended her hand, half expectant for me to shake it, but I caught hold of her hand and boldly pulled her towards myself for a final, tight hug. It was the most beautiful moment between us ever, one which I wanted to never end.

The next day, back in Hyderabad, I texted her that I thought I would never stop loving her. She texted back, that I should never have gone to meet her, that I was crazy to love her like that despite she being clear that she could not commit. She expressed fear that her proximity would again lead to a disappointing result for me and asked me (again) to never contact me, blocking me and unfriending me from every social media platform.

Now if it were me a year back, I would have surely slid into another depression, but two years of lessons had made me sort of immune to such heartbreaks. Strangely I felt nothing, almost as if there were no feelings which existed within me. I calmly uninstalled WhatsApp and deactivated my Facebook account. I would not reinstall and reactivate them till January 2017.

My stubbornness to get into a top b-school increased with every passing day and I extended myself daily into the ocean of prep materials I had collected from various sources. I kept taking mocks religiously, studying for almost 8-10 hrs a day even after attending regular office, at times sleeping at 4 in the morning to be present in the office at 10 in the morning next day for a presentation. It helped that my roommate was equally dedicated to crack the Banking exams to get admission as a PO, and he too like me, extended himself to the fullest to realise his ambition.

My mock scores (IMS SIMCATS) ranged from 92 to 99 percentiles, with the average hovering around somewhere between 96-97 percentile.  I filled the forms for all exams except MICA and TISS ( as HR was really not my cup of tea) and appeared for all of them. Incidentally, this was also the time that I started realising my inclination for finance, after attending few online Coursera and Edx courses and doing follow up reading from various economics textbooks. I devoured NCERT 11th and 12th economics textbooks, along with popular authors’ works like Piketty, Stiglitz etc. and became determined to pursue my specialisation in finance.

I also received enormous support from my team lead, who allowed me to study in office hours provided that it should not have an impact on my deliverables, and supported me when I took off to home on a one-month extended holiday interspersed with work from home stints (in which he gave me minimal work pressure), in order to prepare better for the exams.

NMAT was the first frontier, I missed a couple of sitters in order to maximise the marks in known questions involving lengthy calculations, completely forgetting for a few minutes that no negative marking was involved and I should have marked all the answers at least. Nevertheless, I scored 225, which was enough to secure me a call from NM-Mumbai.

IIFT was next – I had promised myself that I would ace this one as it involved a heavy weightage in GK and VA (both of which are my forte). I performed better than expected, instantly realising on checking various answer keys that I would get an interview call. I ended up with 99.91 percentile, the highest across all exams this year.

Next I tackled SNAP and contrary to expectations the paper was quite tricky – however, I managed to secure 99.1 percentile and earned calls from SIBM Pune and SCMHRD.

I had had a good feeling about the previous 3 exams, though their results were not yet published yet I was confident of getting interview calls from all of them. This is why I think you should not put all your eggs in the same basket, a good performance in one or two of these exams before CAT goes a long way in boosting the confidence of the aspirant before the main exam.

So I approached CAT in a much more confident frame of mind than the previous year, the target was to secure at least 1-2 old IIM calls. The centre, however, was located in a remote area and the facilities were abysmally poor. The screen was getting locked with every 1 minute of inactivity and I had to constantly keep a check on the mouse to avoid this inconvenience. The mouse provided to me double-clicked on its own with every single click and it was proving impossible for me to use the calculator properly. I was hugely disappointed after leaving the exam hall, as I had felt the performance was of the level of last year albeit with a slight improvement in DI-LR.

The result, however, astounded me. I scored 98.18 overall with a 99.19 in VA, 96.01 IN LR-DI and 91.1 in QA. I was sure to get some old IIM calls now and my joy knew no bounds. Finally, I had achieved a milestone which I had been dreaming for since months.

The calls surprised me even more. I almost fell off my chair when I saw that I had been shortlisted by IIM-B and another shock was received on seeing the shortlisting mail from IIM-L.

Calls: IIM-BLKS, All new, MDI, SP Jain, IIT-B,D.

Though I gave my best interview and wrote my best essay in B (according to me), I was rejected outright there. K took a stress interview where I smiled throughout (probably too much for my own good) and got waitlisted at 320. MDI too waitlisted me at 52, while SP Jain almost rejected with a WL of 52. I didn’t attend the IIT interviews and IIMS as I had already converted IIFT Delhi before.

I honestly didn’t think much of my L interview, it was a weird one to say the least with all sorts of history questions thrown at me after I told them my hobby is reading non-fiction in history.

 

28th April, 2017 Hyderabad

  This is the day when I converted IIM-L and became an affiliated member of helL. I still remember I couldn’t close my mouth for 3 seconds as I gaped, open-mouthed at the result screen while my lead was giving instructions on call. Hearing no response from me for a few seconds he started enquiring ‘ Are you all right?’, ‘Nothing, I converted Lucknow’, I said nonchalantly a few seconds later, ‘Yes, please continue’.

This unique ability to absorb shock and still continue as if nothing has happened was inculcated in me by my life experiences as I have narrated above. After all, as one wise Italian-American said, ‘It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward’. Writing this at this moment, I sometimes have fleeting visions of what-if situations and really try to think whether I should inform her about my selection or not. She was the one who wanted me to succeed the most, and had expressed it on numerous occasions, directly and indirectly, with small gestures like sending me Norman Lewis Word Power books or tough decisions like choosing to isolate me so that I can concentrate better on my goals instead of pondering over our relationship. But then, I realise that again getting involved would mean an inconvenience to both her and me, after all not all relationships are destined to reach the ultimate goal.

As much as I am thankful to her for this concert, because she was a true inspiration for this journey, but most of all I have quite simply, learnt about my inner ability to triumph over adversity which I thought I never seemed to possess. This was my last real chance at redemption, for next year would mean too much work-ex for me for applying to a 2-year MBA course. Working under this grim assumption, with a haunted past and bad history with the exam, it was only that inner ability which helped me succeed.

In conclusion, I would like to state that I guess everyone possesses this special ability, but few have some sort of inspiration required in order to channelize it. While I don’t suggest people get their hearts broken by getting into a complicated relationship like me, what I do suggest is to find a solid reason for why you want to succeed, why it is important for you, because without inspiration you cannot really value the essence of success which you are striving to achieve.

 

*The Author wishes to remain Anonymous. If you have a story to share but would like to publish it anonymously, please write to nidhi.malkan@insideiim.com

Comments

7 comments

Sandeep Pol

My journey is quite similar to yours. Ergo, I can relate to your journey. Surprised to have have call from IIM L. But, I think I was destined to go into JBIMS. Salute to your life struggle and hard work. Best of luck brother 🙂