Saturday, November 13, 2010

After Math

Distinction in school. Double Major in Math & Physics. Dream of a flying career in the Air Force.

She had successfully done her solo in gliding (winch-operated glider). TheWing Commander (NCC Air Wing, 2 TN Batalion) knew she was good at it, encouraged her to become a fighter pilot and helped her with the preparations. Her senior who had succeeded, also gave her some tips. She had the NCC 'C' Certificate, which was an added advantage.

There were only 3 centres for the PABT (Pilot Aptitute Battery Tests) - Mysore, Varanasi and Dehradun. Though she had opted for Mysore because it was closer home, she was allocated Varanasi as her exam centre. Her family, relatives, friends, classmates, fans (yeah, she had a huge fan following at the University), lecturers to the Chancellor, fellow NCC cadets, Wing Commander, Squadron Leader and more or less the whole of the city geared up for the day when the lady fighter pilot would return with her badge, beaming. One of her friends was going to Mysore to attempt the PABT. They exchanged their good lucks and went their way. Her dad accompanied her, because Varanasi was not familiar territory. It was a long journey, from Coimbatore (in Tamil Nadu) to Varanasi (in Uttar Pradesh), by train.

The hippie culture in Varanasi still existed. There were rickshaw pullers and mule-carts. There was chaos and dirt. Dope and dreams. They found a decent place to stay for the night. The next morning, they headed for the exam centre. There were more than 185 aspiring pilots, from North, South, East and West. The accompanying family members / friends were asked to return to their place of stay. Completely organized and disciplined, the whole process. Candidates were split into groups of three and allotted rooms where they were allowed to settle down. A girl from Orissa (daughter of a high ranking Air Force Officer) and another girl from Haryana were her roommates. Breakfast was served at the Canteen. Then they were asked to assemble in the gallery for a briefing.

First there was to be a Written test (On basic Air Craft Instrument reading), and candidates selected in the Written test would have to go through the Machine test (To judge if the candidate can control simple joy stick and rudder controls). A candidate was allowed to take this test only once in his/her lifetime. Failure in PABT test permanently debars the candidate from appearing for flying branch. And, there would be Physical tests, Medical tests, Group discussions and Interview.

She was excited and looking forward to giving it her best shot. The written test results were announced. Only 20 out of 185 had made it. She was one of them. The other candidates were sent back home, dejected. The twenty 'proud' candidates proceded to take the Battery test.

It was pretty much like a video game parlour. Two different machines. One had a steering wheel which worked just like the ones in a car. There was a moving lead shot and grooves that were placed in a zig-zag lane. The task was to use the steering wheel to veer the lead shot into each of the grooves. Each groove fetched a point. There was a time limit. She was good behind the wheels and was confident on getting this one right.

The second one was quite like an inside of a cockpit with a screen that had a small square and an outer square, a joy stick, 2 rudder pedals under the feet and a lever on the arm of the chair. There was a moving spot of light. The task was to use the joystick and pedals to focus the light within the smaller square which fetched more points than the bigger square. There would be occasional beeps (deliberate distractions) which had to be silenced using the lever on the left arm of the chair. She had maneuvered a glider with ease and found it way too easy, made a mathematical calculation in the mind and came out smiling.

The candidates discussed among themselves their performance. A punjabi girl candidate (who also had a solo wing in gliding) was the one other candidate who was just as confident. All candidates were called to the Gallery. An Officer started 'We are disappointed with the results this year. Only 2 out of the 20 candidates have made it through the Machine test, who will stay with us for the rest of the selection tests...'. There was a lump in her throat, but she was still smiling. Roll number of one candidate was called out. It wasn't her, nor the Punjabi girl's. It was some guy's, who seemed surprised himself. He was son of so-and-so in the Army.

Her heart was now beating in her ear and she could hardly hear anything. The second roll number was called. Thud, she landed on the ground. It wasn't hers. It was the Orissa roomie's. The Orissa girl had said that she had barely scraped through the written test and had no hope of getting through the machine test, because she couldn't really figure out how it worked. She was daughter of so-and-so in the Air Force.
She (back to the protogonist of this 'real' story) was disappointed. She hadn't tasted failure. It tasted bitter. She didn't like it one bit. Her mind was racing at supersonic speed. What next, since there was no second shot! She got out of the hall to see her father waiting for her. No words between them. The emotions were running high. Dad tried to make small talk, console her. But she was lost in thought. The journey back was tough and seemed to take forever. She had to get back home with nothing, just a shattered ego and nothing more left of the dream. The aftermath was tough to handle. She wasn't ready for this. But nothing would jerk the tear out of her eyes.

There wasn't going to be a flying career, unless of course she wanted to consider getting a CPL (Commercial Pilot License). Her Wing Commander gave her a choice between CPL (50% sponsored by NCC) and Air Force SSC (Short Service Commission) Officer. But she was dejected. She wanted to be a fighter pilot and had failed. She suspected if there was some favouritism / bias, because it just didn't add up how she could have failed. She had made her decision. She shot down the option to get into the Air Force. She heard there were many pilots with CPL in their hands and no job, so she ruled out that option too.

She was at the crossroads. No more of Math or Physics she had decided. She didn't want to be an academician nor a scientist nor a researcher. She met her friend who had attempted PABT at Mysore. She didn't make it either. By sheer coincidence, they both chose advertising. They did their Post Graduation in Advertising & Communication Management. A soaring career in advertising took her to greater heights. The aftermath wasn't too bad afterall. God has His ways! She can now fly a jet plane with her feet on the ground :)


sujata sengupta said...

You are flying high girl!! way to go!!

Insignia said...

Awww everything happens for a reason and the reasons are always best....I am sure you are soaring higher now :-)

Chandrika Shubham said...

Fly high in the field of advertisement.
Best wishes. :)

Sandeep Kodam said...

hmmm....there are lots of myths and tales surrounding this pilot training test you mentioned.No,I haven't been through one of them,but my classmates have(I dropped out after 10th).Boys usually apply for NDA and I'm not sure how girls do it.Surprisingly,the results are always baffling!!!
hmmmmmmmm,nothing...I'm glad you are happy :D

Nethra said...

RGB is a girl or boy? Sometimes we don't get to do what we want and we do something else. Later, we are happy with the something else more than we would be with what we didn't get to do, right?

Ashwin Wilson said...

I am sure the advertising industry is glad it has you! :)

Destiny's child... said...

God has His ways...and more often than not, they turn out to be a blessing in disguise :)

Rama Ananth said...

It is to be appreciated that you had reached to that level.You must have been so determined and dedicated.
Sometimes we are led to another path and we are more happy there. This is what it means Serindipity.
All that matters is you are doing well, you have a family, an equally challenging job, and you are happy.
There is no room for regret.

Rajlakshmi said...

you sure are talented girl and with such talent you have made your mark :)
God has his own ways :)

Kavita Saharia said...

I echo Sujata ! way to go girl !

Nona said...

Who is she? :)

I'm disappointed to learn that merit has nothing to do in such places too!

Rachna said...

Wonderful! Life has a way of working out to your advantage, when you are confident of your abilities. Way to go, girl!

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. What we desire rarely happens, but what happens is most of the times way better! Good Going! :)

Neha said...

this is life. and you have to fight your way out. you did just the right thing by not making it an ego issue. we all get our share of what we deserve one way or the other. you rock girl :)

R. Ramesh said...

all that happens happen 4 good they say. u rembr the story na: king was beaten badly, lost his finger and minister said all hapns 4 good. king put him in jail. later king went hunting, tribals pick him up and were about to sacrifice him, when they realised his finger missing. they let him go saying u r unfit for sacrifice..heh all happn 4 ya like story? geniuss na RR!!

Harish P I said...

it may sound a cliche, but the saying 'when going gets tough, the tough get going' seems very true.

Deepa said...

My dad says ' No craving is given in vain'. I always thought that it meant you are able to achieve your craving. But with ahem!...wisdom gained over the years I see that the craving may have been given to help you learn something. Or make some choices which you never thought you would. As Frost put it:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

sm said...

well written
nice story

Susan said...

wow...that you even went that far is credit to your capability and tenacity. I'm sure you wonder abt the 'what ifs' in life...but going by experience, I think life has better plans for us, than we can ever fathom!

Unknown said...

aww..hota hai..after all,destiny does have a hand in it no?

Jon said...

so r u keeping a cropped hair in remembrance of a lost dream...

Jon said...

There were two friends in my class... One of them was so obsessed in being a fighter pilot.
He got many medals in NCC and took the test for AF. then the docs came up with a strange diagonsis that he had a heart problem
Infact it was the doc's mistake.

But the second guy was nt nuch ambitious...he was just lookin out for a job. He didnt win any medal in NCC
And he is in AF now!!

Balachandran V said...

Woman proposes; man-God disposes!!

Bikram said...

I remember the PABT i am not sure if i rmember it right but is it in two phases dont we do one in ncc and then when we go for SSB, I rmeember something we had to go to Hisar to give it and i gave the one where u sit and click on lights and then keep that drum between the lines etc at dehradun,

WE had gone for more of masti to dehradun, others had alreayd passed, so the moment it finsiehd they come and give u the result i was hoping i pass else i wud have to go back home that very day only I passed yayyyy

and RGB I tell you one thing as you mentioned who got through Two guys got selected when i went for SSB one was the son of Admiral Paschrichia and other was a Sikh boy manjit who refused to go into a temple sayings it a HINDU temple..

I lost faith then and there , And let me tell you , you are far better now beleive me , I have sulked at this not getting through for long and I am better off telling u the truth..


dr.antony said...

Life is full of unexpected.I also believe that nothing happens by chance. Fly high!

Gayatri said...

- Wow! :)
- Am impressed gal...:D
- Really sad the system isn't a system anymore!
- Totally glad you bounced back ...and at what height! :D

radha said...

In the copy department. I like the title?

walk2write said...

Isn't it the truth, though? It's not what you know but who you know that counts. The ones who were chosen are really to be pitied. They will have to carry the burden of knowing that favoritism rather than skill propelled them onward. You will always have the upper hand, psychologically and spiritually. I believe you made a wise decision, career-wise. Your writing will take you places they can only dream about.

The Holy Lama said...

And you have flown at greater heights.:)

RGB said...

First of all, I apologise for the delay in responding to your comments. Had a hectic week with my sis & b-i-l in town :)

@ sujata,
Thank you :)

@ Insignia,
Right. Everything happens for our good :)

@ Chandrika Shubham,
Thank you :P

@ Sandeep Kodam,
Yeah, heard that a superior ranking IAF officer had actually failed the test, but managed to sneak in, and only years after retirement did it come to light! Such is life, where the truly deserving get sidelined. But I guess, I made it good even otherwise and I shouldn't be complaining much ;P

RGB said...

@ Nethra,
RGB is a girl who was this tom-boyish person with a dream to become a fighter pilot. Advertising chose her instead. The good part is (sour grapes!) they dropped women fighter pilots after that year.

@ Ashwin,
I'm glad too :)

@ Destiny's Child,
Blessing in disguise, sure it was!

@ rama,
Agree. I'm content with what I have, and what I am :)

RGB said...

@ Rajlakshmi,
Thanks for the compliment :) I guess it is failure that is the stepping stone of success :P

@ kavita,
Thank you :)

@ Nona,
'she' is RGB is me ;P
Same reason why I was disappointed. Totally unfair. It's either caste or influence or money that seem to speak in most places!

@ Rachna,
True. At every turn, I feel that way. That we're all destined to 'be' someone, 'do' something.

RGB said...

@ Jyothi,
It all happened for the best I guess. Anyway, at least I got to choose my career. There are many who are forced to become "doctors" or "engineers" because their families or societies wanted them to!

@ Neha,
Yeah, we all pick up life's many lessons along the way. And it only makes us stronger :)

@ R.Ramesh,
Ha, ha...everything sure happens for a reason. And thank God I didn't have to lose my finger to learn that ;D

@ Harish,
I sure have emerged tougher and can now take success and failure with a smile.

RGB said...

@ Deepa,
That is true...People who don't fail are perhaps the ones who don't try at all!

@ sm,
Thank you. Yup 'Udaan'!

@ Susan,
Once a while I do get into the "what if" mode, but fact is, I'm happy being what I am and thankful for life's many opportunities and experiences.

@ Madhu,
Yeah, and I'm glad my destiny has given me so many good things to cherish for a lifetime :)

RGB said...

@ Jon,
Short hair - yes. But not for the reason cited. I've not been too successful in my attempt to grow my hair even to shoulder length (there, another failure!). Ah, many such experiences... Just proves that God had other (better) plans for us!

@ Balachandran V,
Yeah right!

@ Bikramjit,
Me too. I sulked for a while, and then snapped out of it realizing that it wasn't worth the sulking. God sure had better plans for me :)

@ dr.antony,
Pleasant surprises. And I'm enjoying the flight thus far :)

RGB said...

@ Gayatri,
Thank you. Yes, looks like my life has turned course for the better :)

@ radha,
Yup, basically a copywriter, now heading the creative division of an IT Company as Creative Director. Glad you like the title :)

@ walk2write,
Right. Wonder how they can live with that 'guilt'! But, everything happens for good. So here I am, trying to make the most of what I've got :)

@ The Holy Lama,
Yup. With my feet firmly on the ground :D

Ellen said...

Flying and soaring are two different things. One is technical. But the other one is --- the spirit of man. You soared where others simply flew.

Blessings to you and your family.

RGB said...

@ Ellen,
That's such a beautiful thought. And thanks for your warm wishes :)

Ugich Konitari said...

Flying is flying
when it is free,
and based on
well grounded basics...

You are only a kite
if you fly
with someone on the ground
pulling strings....

Unlike the kites,
You define
your own sky,
your own wingspan,
your own soaring takeoffs
your own smooth landings
and your own passengers
at various points in your life....

Be proud of that, RGB.

(Enjoyed reading this post, and I am sure glad you reacted the way you did. What great standards to pass on to your family ....)

Sandhya said...

Whenever I read your posts, I seem to get emotional RGB! I have not come across a person like you!

Now, you have got your own family with kids. Because of the current job, you must be able to devote more time to your family unlike an Air Force Pilot.

I admire your father and you, RGB!

vineet said...

really thats d spirit,who gvz a damn,inspirational

RGB said...

@ Ugich Konitari,
How inspiring! Thanks very much, does make a lot of sense:)

@ Sandhya,
Thank God there's just one of this kind LOL! Yeah, like they say, everything happens for good :)

@ vineet,
Thanks for stopping by. Glad you like it :P Hope to see you around more often.

Anonymous said...

Trust HIM...God always knows what is better for us...

I am happy that you or the girl got over the aftermath...

R. Ramesh said...

sweet as sugar candy? hey hey buddy..when r u coming to dubai? u deserve a party hahah

Neena Sharma said...

God has His ways! True to the core. Go fly that plane girl!

R. Ramesh said...

hey boss...when is the next post coming here?

RGB said...

@ Stranger,
Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it was tough, but the girl (that's me) has emerged much tougher!

@ Neena Sharma,
True, true. Flying high, no regrets :P

@ R.Ramesh,
Long due, I know. Work has been hectic. Hope to have something posted sometime soon!