All I Wanted to Speak About CAT
They say in the end all you'll remember is how you felt. Not an emotion more, not an emotion less.
This is not going to be very long for this journey has barely been as exemplary as all the ones prior. This will stand on its own two feet as a symbol of a very normal story, made meaningful not as much by the ending, as it was by the men and women who touched it, on its way there. There are pillars of excellence on which this forum stands and great people have graced this place with their stories of undying spirit and hope and resilience. And although this pales in comparison, this is a working class documentary of what happens when there is belief, not only in your own abilities but also in the nature of all things real. In a pantheon of greats, this is the ordinary one, maybe quietly exemplifying in its own way how courage isn't always the loudest voice in the room, how sometimes it is the one that can stay still, the longest.
I won't waste space telling you about me. All that's needed for now is that I am a General Engineer Male Fresher from a non-IIT/NIT with a dismal Graduation score. Talk about ghosts of your past coming back and haunting you. I remember deciding that I wanted to appear for CAT at the fag end of 2017, bright eyed and what not. Prep material is always available and I found the syllabus to be kindof doable. All was okayish till I saw a few of the senior batches get their CAT 2017 results and it dawned on me that the best calls I could realistically get were C, XLRI and FMS. The rest required me selling my soul to Armstrong's daughter and going to the moon or something before they'd call me for an interview.
In football, they teach you to play to the final whistle. It isn't over till its over and it had barely even begun. The mock series started slow. No proper companies meanwhile came for recruitment so I decided to put all my eggs in the MBA basket, Kipling playing in my head with:
"If you can make one heap of all your winnings.
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss.
And lose, and start again at your beginnings.
And never breathe a word about your loss... "
I've found more often than I would like, that the wisest of words die down in the face of adversity. The same happened here too. August, all was a blur. Too close to the picture, I could barely make out one thing from another. It was then that I, like many a weary, lonely traveller, stumbled across PagalGuy. That changed everything and I say that with the certainty of a beggar who has one ticket only and sits at a railway platform, waiting for his train. I was there, I know. For first timers, CAT can be a very, very frightening journey. With my profile, you need to shoot things out of the park left, right and center. Gradually though, things picked up. One of the greatest motivations in life is to strive to be better than you were and to constantly keep at it, relentlessly doing what you want to do. No traffic on the extra mile, we are told.
I won't bore you with the pettiness of the details but those were tough days. Not as tough as many, and tougher than many. But tough none the less. Churchill floats back to my memory, rising and speaking - "If you're going through hell, keep going".
Again, some mocks were good, some weren't. Without the benefit of experience, it became very difficult to detach my mock scores from my level of preparation. One bad mock meant one day wasted. And there were only so many of them left. I remember at the end of September, I made a folder on my laptop to store all CAT/XAT material and named it "Only Once". I was going to do this only once for I had not the patience or the perseverance to go at CAT again. That is why I respect these people here who have had the guts to take this examination head on even after all the chips have been down. There is glory at the end of the tunnel for all these bravehearts. I, though wasn't in that league. If it was going to be, it had to be now.
Things like that bring on added pressure. As CAT approached, I had no plan B. Ladies and gentlemen of the house, I urge you to always have a plan B. And a C and a D if necessary. You can't always account for the unpredictability here. I remember seeing my CAT center at a faraway place that needed me to travel 5 hours to reach. Morning slot. We went there a day ahead, stayed nearby and I then went for the exam. I also remember cheekily telling my mom infront of the main gate before entering that no one in that center was going to get more than me. Typical arrogant yours truly. Whether that was the case or not, I will never know.
When the paper ended, it felt like a mass disaster. Like someone had socked the living daylight out of me. I felt broken when the quants section ended. It literally ached for a while. The unpredictability played its part and my inexperience shone through the cracks. There was no Leonard Cohen to make poetry out of my misery. There never is.
It was then that Dream Team '18 was formed. Men and women who had walked the same hallowed sheets came together in a batch of the most talented people I have ever seen in my life, bar none. The answer sheets and response sheets were released. We calculated, hoped, prayed, called on all the gods we never even believed in. Days passed in hurried fights on various forums. "Slot 2 > Slot 1", "You're a stupid so and so", "Your mom is a so and so". We saw it all, one glorified cheap shot after another. Normalisation is a female dog. Sadly it is no one's pet female dog.
And then there was the leak (whatever that sounds like). I spent my days leading up to the XAT in a literal frenzy, Nothing made sense anymore. Were the results right? Was there going to be more normalisation? Eventually the final result came in. I was disappointed, a tad bit, knowing that it could've and should've been better had I not panicked. But such is the nature of the game. You fumble, you lose out. My scorecard stood something like:
VARC: 99.86 || LRDI: 96.96 || QA: 99.18 || OA: 99.79
My parents were pretty happy. So that was a relief. The calls came in. As expected A, B and L looked at my grad score and told me to go stand facing the corner. The rest called me.
Then XAT happened. I remember sitting for the exam and a pretty lady sitting next to me as we chatted about our CAT results and everything. And then she proceeded to asking me quant questions when the test began. I wanted to flush her down the toilet, I remember the exact emotion. There were cameras all around. Anyway barring that bit of annoyance, XAT went alright, given the fact that I had zero prep going into it. The results were pretty quick:
XAT: OA - 99.731
Beggars and marks. A love story.
The one thing I knew about the interview phase was how that was somehow tougher than the written and so I prepped. Given the sins of my past I was bound to be grilled on the mishaps. Countless hours were spent on possible questions, news, static gk, personal questions, trying to learn how to tie a tie and knot being successful (wink). But there was prep. More than the written part. In times like these when there is only one chance, you try to smash and grab. C was the target but again without diversity and work ex, I was already fighting for a sinking ship. The interview season was challenging but fun at the same time. From being cheeky at C to being emotional at XL BM to questioning my parents for making me, at K, the journey pretty much encompassed all that is bright and foggy about this wonderful saga.
At the end, C waitlisted me at a number that was just out of reach. For all the pain I thought I would have, I had no regrets. I'd done what I had to do. I'd done all that I could've done. I was proud. XL BM/HR, Kozhikode, Indore, MDI and all of those went through. By the time FMS came, my mind was already made up and I made the mistake of telling them that I'd converted XLRI. They wouldn't have me and I don't blame them. All said and done, this random GEM F with dismal acads will join XLRI BM this term, flirting with possibility, again.
The Dream Team meanwhile was a constant source of encouragement. There is no telling how far a person can push themselves if there are people around who merely believe in the same things as they do, strangers in the night who refuse to stop seeing the best in you, no matter how many skies have fallen, In the face of such unwavering inspiration, you start believing in yourself. If I start taking names, we'll run out of internet space so there is no point in even trying. The greatest thing I have taken from this league of extraordinary people is that when it counts the most, when it goes down to the wire, there are people who will become your family and fight for you, no matter what. There is invincibility in his and I have felt it.
As a parting note to all my fellow beings, remember no amount of hard word can change your past but no amount of hard work ever gets lost in the mail of this universe. It all comes back to you, the good and the bad. So just don't let go. It will be very, very tough but you will come through.
They say find the one thing that truly makes you happy and hold on to it for the rest of your life. So go ahead and do that. This journey shouldn't stop you from being. Enjoy every moment of it and try to find others like you in this supposed darkness. You'll find it is a lot brighter, together. And when it eventually fades, we will all be footnotes in this unending journey.
What do they say about us all being stories, again?
As Tennyson in the Ulysses says,
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
XL BM (19-21)