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Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck

I have hated studying for most of my life, be it books, lectures, or the agonizing day of giving exams. Higher education was never in my future plans; it was made clear to me that graduating with a degree was the bare minimum, so I thought I will plough my way to a degree, and that is going to be it. No more misery of reading big books, attending long lectures, and of course, no more dreadful exam days.

Initially, it wasn’t clear why I was always at odds with studying, but an answer presented itself when I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia & dyscalculia in the 6th grade. It isn’t the most fantastic of news at the age of 12 when you are told you have multiple cognitive disabilities. But on the bright side, at least I was off the hook for having illegible writing and pretty much one spelling mistake in each line. This disinterest in studying never really went away. Still, somehow, I ended up scoring a great score in my 10th Board exams, exceeding everyone’s expectations, including mine. Having never had any inclination towards the sciences, I ended up choosing commerce and fortunately got admission to one of the best Colleges in Mumbai, Narsee Monjee College of Commerce & Economics (NMCCE).

The two years went flying by, and again in the 12th Board exam, I found myself punching above my weight, getting a great score. At this point in time, I still did not know what I actually wanted to study. I shortlisted two courses: Bachelors of Management Studies (BMS) & Bachelors of Financial Markets (BFM). With BMS being a more general course, I thought that it would be a better choice to study a wide range of things. And of course, my choice of college was my very own college. Based on previous year’s cut-off data with my 12th percentage, I would easily get admission to BMS in NMCCE. But fate had something else in mind for me; I was far away from making the cut. BFM was not a problem though I easily made the cut there. I had a choice to make take my favored course in my 2nd choice college or take my 2nd choice course in my favored college. Undoubtedly one of the toughest decisions I had to make. Ended up taking BFM in NMCCE, in retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I have made in life. The year prior & the year later to when I had to take admission, the BMS cut-off was 3% & 2% less than my 12th percentage; just during my time, it ended up being 2% higher. Today I can gladly say I understand what Dalai Lama says “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” A great stroke of luck indeed.

Fast forward 2 and half years, one of the best years of my life, I made lifelong memories and wonderful friends. Still, at this point, the plan was the same somehow graduate and maybe start working. While a good number of my peers gave the CAT, I chose the opposite path and enrolled for the placement process. Company after company I would crack Round 1, Round 2, and finally after Round 3, when the company had to choose from the handful of candidates that made it to that point, I would not get selected. My college had a good record with placements, so I knew I would get something or the other.

Somewhere in early 2020 one of my close friends Nemi Kamdar, after scoring a great CAT %ile was in the midst of his interview process for selection into the Top B-schools. One day while we were attending our lectures, he told me one of his friends with similar cognitive disabilities had received an interview call from A, B, C. At that time, I did not give it much thought and with the Math involved in CAT I knew it was a tall order if I were to give CAT a shot. Still, Nemi persisted in telling me that I was capable enough & I could easily do it if I wanted to. Another of my closest friends Kevalya Sheth, who too gave CAT, too made it very clear that he believed I could do it. Even so, I wasn’t so sure about myself. Yet the two persisted with their motivation and encouraging me to try. When my mom

and sister got wind of this, they too got quite overexcited and told me to believe in myself. I still ignored any ideas of giving the CAT and continued with the placement process. But still, I was repeatedly told that I can do it.

One fine day somehow, I had something of an epiphany and thought maybe I can do it. I thought what’s the harm in trying, I’ll start with my coaching, take a job and give the CAT for everyone’s sake. Again, fate had something else planned and my plan was down the drain. The world had come to a standstill, I was stuck in my house, my final exams were cancelled, the placement process had stopped. However, my coaching institute started with their online lectures and I found myself having absolutely nothing else do and quite weirdly, studying was the only thing to do. So, that’s what I did study seriously with all the dedication. At the start it was tough but with every passing day and every passing mock I got better and better. Verbal was my strength boosting my score; the other two sections I started doing fair enough better than I had expected.

Come the day of reckoning 29 November, I remember waking up that day rejoicing in the fact of how far I’d come. Still, I had far to go and the work wasn’t done yet. The clock ticked down to 4:30 and the paper started. In the next hour or so I don’t know what happened; exam jitters, pressure, toughness of the paper or what but I had messed up the first section my strongest. After the section ended and in the few seconds before the next one started, I remember having two thoughts. 1- I had made a mess and was getting nowhere near my amazing mock scores. 2- It isn’t over until it’s over; somehow, I can crawl my way back to a good score, I cannot afford to lose hope. For the rest of the exam, I forgot about the first section and focused on the present. Alas it was over and the reality just sunk in. I came out of the exam hall and over the by the gate I see my mom standing. As I move towards her, I nod in disbelief & regret and say “messed up English”. I knew I did not have time to sulk in, my sister was getting married in 8 days, I had to put on a happy face and keep my remorse within and so I did.

A little over the month passed and the CAT results arrived as expected my Verbal scores are way below my expectations, but I had outperformed in the other two, so maybe not all was lost I may still have a chance. Within a fortnight IIM’s started to roll out their interview calls. When I started my preparations A, B, C were my only target, anything apart from it would feel nothing more than a loss. Ahmedabad No, Bangalore No; other interview calls didn’t mean much to me. I had decided when I started not to settle, and still, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than A, B, C. Calcutta was my only hope. Most of the top IIM’s had declared their result but Cal is making everyone wait a little longer.

I had my CV ready, the list of companies I wanted to apply to ready, now just one thing was left the result that would decide if were to take a job and let-go of my recently envisioned dream of making it to one of the to three IIM’s. Calcutta interview calls came I had been shortlisted, I had a chance at redemption, the ball was in my court, it was up to me to make sure my last year or so did not go in vain. I made sure I prepared rigorously for the interviews, leave no stone unturned, give it my all. Before the dearth of interviews started, I knew the result of the other 17 IIM’s I was selected for did not matter I just had to make sure I perform perfectly in my Cal interview. While the other interview results didn’t matter the interviews did matter. I could learn from the mistakes in those and make sure I ace my Cal interview. Well, I did not ace it but it was close enough.

Couple of months had passed after the interviews and in that time, I was diagnosed with kidney stones. Once again, all IIM’s start releasing their results and Calcutta is late to the party. While I had converted top IIM’s, it still didn’t matter I just wanted the results of one. My kidney function was being hampered, so I had to get a surgery. The day before the surgery as I lay on my hospital bed my phone starts buzzing, it was here finally IIM Calcutta Results were out. I was in the waitlist, with a

fairly achievable waitlist number. I text Nemi and he replies “Congratulations you are going to IIM Calcutta”. If time had taught me anything it was to not celebrate early, so I didn’t, I waited. Finally, a couple of weeks later, while I was recovering from my surgery, the waitlist moved I had made the cut. I called up my sister, my close friends, family everyone. After sometime, later that evening, when all the emotions settled, I found myself alone in my room feeling proud of how far I’d come & grateful for all who were there with me when I needed them.

So, to say the least my Journey to Joka has been clumsy, full of up & downs and unpredictable at best. Yet I am glad for all of those downs; of not getting what I wanted, because all of those things have got me here today when I can finally say I’m a Jokar.

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