Rise above Fear

What was I going to do? The numbers were stacked heavily against me. Every year only 5-6 people from my entire town achieved success. And I? I was not even in the top 10 ranks in my school.  This was way beyond me. Why did I kid myself into thinking I could do it? Shouldn’t I instead be focusing on something more within my capacity?  Was I going to lose the bird in hand in quest of two in a bush?

These were my thoughts when I was preparing for IIT JEE exam during my higher secondary.  But then there was a stubborn part of me that responded. I shall not accept mediocrity. I have made up my mind I want to get into IIT and that is where I shall get into. I am not going to hedge my bets. I am going to stake everything on this one thing I desire most and win it. I shall win because I have the determination to win. IIT is the only place I want to get into and it does not matter if I do not get into engineering anywhere else if I fail. I shall give everything I have to this one goal.

With this determination, I abandoned all preparations for the local state engineering entrance exams and went full gear on my IIT preparation.

And then the D-day arrived. I was all shaky. I was soon in the hall – the first paper was Physics. I could make out a few problems I knew how to solve. I began to work on them. The clock was ticking away. It took me 30 minutes to solve the first one. That was way too long. I went on to pick the next and the next. When the final bell rang, I had solved only 50% of the problems. Not sure how many I had got right. Would this be enough? The next paper was Chemistry. That went slightly better. The final paper was Mathematics – that turned out to be a complete disaster. I could attempt only 30% of the questions within the stipulated time. That definitely was not going to be sufficient to clear the cut off even if I had got the entire 30% right.
My worst fears had come true – I had failed! Everyone would laugh at me. How could I even imagine that I would be the one of the 5 people from my town to make it? There were so many smarter people in my town. And how could we small-towners even match the brats from the big cities and metros with the big coaching institutes? These institutes had made a big business out of this whole thing and trained the students rigorously for two or at times even four years. And what chance did I stand with the basic coaching I had received from local professors? I should have understood my limitation and gunned for something lesser like the state engineering entrance. I still had fifteen days. Maybe I could at least now get my act together and prepare for that.

But then, they say luck favors the bold. The next day morning, going over the newspaper, suddenly a heading caught my eye, “IIT JEE exam Cancelled.” I could not believe my eyes. This had never happened ever before in the history of this exam. Was this true? I quickly rushed to the home of our Physics teacher to check up on the news. Yes – those days we still did not even have a landline to say nothing of mobile phones. And of course I was not even aware of something called internet.
Yes! It was indeed true. I was now getting another chance. The re-exam was schedule in 2 months’ time. I was convinced that this cancellation was the universe’s conspiracy for my sake. I somehow knew I would make it the next time. Once again voices of fear raised their ugly heads. You failed once. What is the guarantee you won’t fail again? Why not spend 15 days focusing on state engineering entrance and then start the preparation for IIT JEE again? But I was not going to be distracted. I would burn my bridges and move on ahead. Despite my parent’s pleas, I did not prepare for the State entrance exam and spent my time solving more and more IIT JEE style problems. Then the next months, parents wanted me to take the state entrance of the neighboring state.   That would involve two days of travel to Bangalore and back amidst my preparations. I did not want to lose the two days. So I refused to take the exam. Parents were flabbergasted. But I stood my ground. I had now further upped my stakes by closing all my other doors one by one. It was now all or nothing.  Would I win?

Soon the exam came again. This time also I was scared but I had a steely determination. The Physics paper this time went slightly better. Chemistry was more or less the same as the previous time. Finally I was face to face with my nemesis of last time – Mathematics! 30 minutes passed. I had just solved questions for 10 marks. Another 30 went by. I was now on 18. At this rate, I would not hit even 40. I rolled up sleeves and began to look around for other problems to take on.  There was something on calculus. Yes. That was something I was good at. I went for it. Now I was on 32 with 30 minutes to go. Where were the remaining 18 marks to come from? Something from coordinate geometry gave me another 7. I had 15 minutes left and there was a question on Vectors that looked easy. ButVectors was not my strong area.  I had decided not to attempt any questions on Vectors. Should I go for this or should I take on something else?
I decided I should not let fears and prejudices come in the way of my better judgment. So I went for it and solved the question on vectors in the remaining 15 minutes. The bell rang. I submitted the paper and walked out. I now had to wait for the results came.

The results came. I had not made it - to any of the government colleges and top private colleges in the state! My rank was 8000 in the state. Father would have to shell out his hard earned money and enroll me to a small time private engineering college in a paid seat.  If I did not make it to IIT JEE! Would I or would I not? The IIT JEE results were to come on the same day the counselling for local Engineering admission was scheduled.  I had to travel to Chennai for my counselling. My counselling session slot was at 4.00 pm. My train would land at 2.00 pm. We had 1 hour to go to IIT and check the results before heading to Anna University for my counselling.
At 3.00 O’clock, we were inside the IIT campus. A big list was put up there. Lot of students were standing around and congratulating each other. Was I going to be one of them? I began to go over the names. A number caught my eye – “Reg No. 544063 Rank - 1612”. Hs I seen properly? I checked for the name next to it. Yes! It was me! I had made it.

I wanted to pull out my T-Shirt and throw it to the audience the way sports persons do after achieving some milestone. I wanted to open my mouth wide, pop out my eyes and cover my mouth with hand the way Miss Universes do when winners are announced. I wanted to stand up on podium and show the victory sign to my followers. But then I was still me. I did none of these. I turned to my father with the usual blank stony expression and said in my flat voice, “I guess we can now skip the counselling.”

6 comments:

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

Aha! The tale is finally out. In contrast to you, though from a relatively small town too, I was not even sure I wanted to do engineering, leave alone specifically at the IIT :) Needless to say, I did not get in :)

Cart Hick said...

Those days it was an obsession for me. Didn't know why. Just something to chase after. After I joined, I found nothing great.

Ranjith said...

Congrats ;)

Cart Hick said...

Thanks, Ranjith.

Pankti Mehta said...

Wow. Determination can do wonders as you have proved. I wonder why am I never determined to do anything? :/

PS: In your place, I'd have surely broke out into a dance :P I'm not as stoic as you :D

Cart Hick said...

Yeah, Pankti. Sometimes I get the determination - but not always - my IIM story was a similar one. But then I wonder why don't I get such determination at other times. You know me - I don't even use smileys.

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