Hey everyone, I am Danish Syed from Bengaluru. I have been recommended for AFCAT 2 2022 and CDS-IMA (155) on my 6th and 7th attempt respectively.
Cracked SSB Interview in 6th and 7th Attempt
“Chest Number 14…… Chest Number 19…… Chest Number 21…….
AND…… Chest Number 25″, said the Duty Selection Officer (DSO) on one Friday afternoon last November in Mysore.
My heart skipped a beat because my understanding of the English language told me that ‘And Chest Number 25’ meant that it was the last number on the list. More than my chest number’s absence, I was surprised to find Chest No. 34 missing from the list, which was also in our GTO group (of 8 candidates). Sohan Goswami from Kolkata was previously recommended and was a sure-shot recommendation-worthy candidate in my eyes. (Currently undergoing training in the Air Force Academy, Hyderabad) Right when I was thinking about him, the DSO, after a pause, said “Chest Number 34”. Before I could feel happy for him and realize that the list hadn’t ended with Chest No. 25, the DSO finally announced, “and Chest Number 37” (yes, yours truly). My heart did skip a beat again but for a completely opposite reason this time. In the roar of claps in the Arjan Singh Hall (2 AFSB Mysore), I shouted my name and date of birth as asked and ran towards the stage of the hall and joined the other five recommended candidates standing proudly facing our friends who were cheering for us. That moment will always have a special place in my heart. Whenever I narrate this episode, I automatically start smiling.
It took me 3 years, 2 months, and 2 days (and 6 attempts) to finally hear my chest number being called by the DSO on the conference day. I would be lying if I said I did not see it coming this time because I sure did. While standing on the stage, my eyes did become heavy and a couple of tears did drop for sure.
Flashbacks of previous attempts come to mind and all the times when we called back home soon after getting our mobile phones back on the fifth day of the SSB Interview and said “nahi hua, mummy/papa” again and again. It’ll be false to say it doesn’t affect us. It drains us mentally. Parents are sweet and they’ll always say “Koi nahi beta, tu ghar aaja jaldi”, but deep down they also feel sad for us. All these experiences repeating themselves make you question if it is all worth it in the first place. And let me tell you, it definitely is. Without a second thought. It definitely is.
While we are at it, I’ll take this moment to appreciate all the efforts and sacrifices each and every repeater puts in for the dreams of donning the uniform. It goes unnoticed with the moment of celebration soon after the recommendation. But it is noteworthy to acknowledge the patience and persistence we all got in us. Especially those working professionals who utilize half or more of their leaves just for attending SSB Interviews, and everything else takes a backseat.
Coming back to the story.
Although hearing my chest number was a euphoric moment, as I said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. I always believed I had it in me even after 5 unsuccessful attempts. Self-doubt creeps in sometimes and I used to deal with them by proving to myself that I’m worthy of it through my actions, and I firmly believed that it was just a matter of time before my recommendation. I had internalized the belief. It was a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
Hona toh hai hi ek din, bas baat hai toh sirf aaj ya kal ki.
What did I do differently in the last two successful attempts than I did not in my first five unsuccessful attempts?
Honestly, there’s nothing I specifically did very differently this time. I feel that we can’t exactly point out why we got recommended. Just like how we can’t exactly point out why we did not get recommended. Neither the recommended candidate nor the conferenced-out candidate can accurately tell the reasons for their results. A person can only make assumptions and speculate what could have been the factors influencing their result.
So, my speculation is that I just took life as it came by. Did not rely solely on SSB Interviews for everything. Although I kept appearing for AFCAT and UPSC CDS written exams side by side and kept clearing them each time, I also did fairly well in academics and eventually got placed in the biggest of the Big4 and moved and started living independently in the beautiful city of Hyderabad. Since day one, I have been enjoying my time in the cozy IT job to the fullest, wonderful corporate experience, because I always had at the back of my mind that I’m just a guest there and won’t be staying for too long, therefore making the most of it. Which has come true now. This sense of security helped me be calmer and not be desperate for recommendations unlike in previous attempts. Having something already in hand gave me a little more confidence. I started putting more focus on self-improvement, like working out, reading books, watching documentaries, introspecting, and constantly improving as a person and doing well in my work as well. Improving in personal and professional spheres of life. All these for the SSB Interview? No. For life, in general.
For those curious about the statistics, of the five earlier attempts, I’ve been Conferenced Out 4 times (NDA, TES, AFCAT, AFCAT) and Screened Out once (CDS IMA). It has been a very humbling experience overall. It has to be.
Joining the National Defence Academy right after 12th standard was my dream. I worked hard for it. Cleared the written exam but was unsuccessful in the interview stage. Went on to do a bachelor’s degree (BCA) from Christ University, Bangalore. And now when I look back, on the amount of exposure and personal growth I’ve seen in the three years of College in Bangalore and close to one year of Work in Hyderabad, I am grateful for all of it. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Therefore, no regrets now.
NDA or Direct Entry, eventually we all wear the same uniform, serve the same purpose and stand for the same values.
Deliberately have not written much on my second recommendation because it was like flowing with the recommendation ki lehar (wave) sort of experience. Was reasonably confident. Gave my best. Got recommended again in three months in February for CDS-IMA (155) from 11 SSB Allahabad.
Current status: Medically fit for flying branch (+ Administration and Logistics) through AFCAT and for Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Officers Training Academy (OTA) through UPSC CDS as well. Awaiting the merit list for both.
It feels great to be in a position to be able to choose the service as per my choice (subject to making it in the merit list for both). This is just the beginning of a very long journey ahead and I am excited for all that is in store for me, be it in the Indian Army or in the Indian Air Force.
My school friends from Chennai, college friends from Bangalore, work friends and colleagues from Hyderabad, and all the friends I have made from other sources, have all contributed to the person that I am today. It goes without saying, the impact my mother, father, sister, and teachers have had in my life. Special thanks to my dearest friend from school, Sayak, for motivating and believing in me right from the pep talk before my first SSB for NDA entry in 3 AFSB Gandhinagar in 2019 to now celebrating double success after 3 years. Another special mention to my school teacher Seena Ramesh ma’am from Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 Air Force Station Tambaram, Chennai, for sowing the seeds of Fauj early on in school and for constantly believing in me even after back-to-back setbacks.
Parting message to all my fellow defence aspirants:
If you firmly believe that Fauj is your calling, then be steadfast in your objective. Keep trying and keep improving. Also, have a backup so solid that, god forbid, you do not make it medically, then also you enjoy what you’re doing and have a fulfilling life with no regrets. And believe that you have it in you. Be a recommended candidate in your eyes first before the board recommends you.
This was my small attempt to give back to the platform I derived motivation from by reading the multiple success stories here.
A little motivation to keep you going, a couple of lines from the song closest to my heart, which helped me throughout my journey:
“Haan Yehi Rasta Hai Tera, Tune Ab Jaana Hai
Haan Yehi Sapna Hai Tera,Tune Pehchaana Hai
Tujhe Ab Ye Dikhaana Hai, Roke Tujhko Aandhiyaan
Ya Zameen Aur Aasmaan, Paayega Jo Lakshya Hai Tera
Lakshya Toh, Har Haal Mein Paana Hai”
~ Lakshya (2004)
Let us all strive to be citizens worth fighting for and sacrificing life for if need be. Jai Hind!
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