1 AFSB Dehradun, 2016

AFCAT exams are unique in one way. You get to choose your own interview centre. Dehradun features as the favourite for most aspiring candidates. Be it the scenic beauty, the people or the very fact that you get an exclusive tour of IMA, you always want to go back to Dehradun.

My interview was on the 18th of July, 2016. I took the Dehradun Shatabdi from New Delhi on the 17th morning and reached in the evening. The tunnel on route to Dehradun from Haridwar was blocked due to water logging. It was raining quite heavily that day as well as the day before. There was a delay of three hours! This is the only disadvantage of taking the train route to Dehradun; everything else is quite comfortable. On reaching Dehradun Station, I did a quick recce – located the MCO and headed towards the taxi stand. I asked one of the taxi drivers to take me to a nearby hotel thinking that he must have done the same for other aspirants coming to the station. This is where most of us go wrong. Never ask the taxi drivers. They get a commission and most of the time, take you to expensive hotels with not so good facilities. I ended up in a non ac room which had seepage all around and which cost me 1000 bucks. Always search if the place has gurudwaras or Tibetan refugee ghettos as I found out later. Gurudwaras have resting places for anyone who wishes to stay overnight. They are quite clean and cheap as well. For 200 bucks a night, you get free lunch and dinner (from the langar) and clean mattress and pillows for resting. However, if you want a more hotel like ambience, Tibetan refugee ghettos are the best. And there is one just a kilometre away from the AFSB centre in Dehradun. For 400-500 bucks a night, you get clean rooms, linen and hygienic food although non ac. How do I know?.. ‘cause during the free time at the AFSB centre, I visited one of these hotels.

I got screened in on the first day. There were 6 groups with 10 candidates each. I started socializing after the room allotments were done. We got along quite well with each other. After a while lunch was served. I was surprised at the arrangement that was made for us. We were seated according to veg and non veg preferences. The food was being served to us rather than self service. No one was allowed to enter the mess without proper attire. Everything was quite professional and it made us feel that we were already in the Air Force. After lunch, we retired to our dorms. Come evening and many of us made full use of the sports facilities available. There was Badminton, Volleyball, Snooker, Pool, Table Tennis and Basketball.

Next day was psych test. First up was WAT. I went overboard and wrote a quote for each word I came across. I guess I was trying to show off but that actually proved contradictory. Next was story writing and self assessment test. My SAT went horrible. I was not able to complete in time and left out the ‘what i think of myself’ part.  SRT was after that and I was able to complete a satisfactory 50. The day’s proceedings ended soon after and we were left with the whole evening to wanderlust. This is when I discovered a range of cheap Tibetan hotels at the refugee colony just a stone throws away from the centre. Thereafter, we went for a visit to the nearby monastery. It was quite calm and peaceful there. The view of the long Buddha statue, overlooking the surrounding area, was just mesmerizing. On our way back, we stopped at one of the restaurants, Ghonzen House, for some Tibetan delicacies. I had one of the best fried pork in my life there. The meat was so succulent and juicy that I was licking my hand (and not my fingers) at the end. We had Tingmo(kind of a Tibetan bread) to go along with it. My friend had a chicken Thukpa which was not so good.

*To be continued…..

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14 SSB Allahabad, June 2015

Please note that this was my first SSB. So the ‘travel and eat’ part does not apply for this post. I’ll be simply writing about my experience as a candidate

Ah! Allahabad. Scorching at 48-degree celsius, it is the city where the Yamuna and the Ganga meet, vis a vis, Sangam. It is also the city through which the IST(Indian Standard Time) meridian passes. With munitions shop set up almost everywhere, Allahabad brings back some interesting memories.

My interview was due on the 3rd of June. I went a day ahead. Took the Northeast Express from Anand Vihar in the morning and reached Allahabad Junction in the afternoon. Did a quick recon of the place. Was surprised by the cleanliness of the station and the facilities available. There was free Wi-Fi although you had to sign up for it. The bathrooms of both the first class and the general class waiting rooms were, however, filthy. Found out the MCO and then headed for the auto rickshaw stand. I had researched about hotels in Allahabad the day before. Hotel Samrat had good reviews and hence I booked a room there. For a 1000 buck with AC and a very clean bathroom, it was quite a pleasant stay.

I woke up early in the morning next day. Went out looking for a toothbrush as I had forgotten to pack one. Most of the shops were closed, so I stretched my legs for a kilometer and a half. As I approached a T-Point, a subtle feeling of fear mixed with anxiety gripped me. There were several munitions shop set up on both sides of the main road. It may seem normal to some but for a person like me who has never seen a gun shop in his life (yes, I love the armed forces.. Don’t judge), it was quite a site.

After a hike of almost 2kms, I came back to the hotel; brushed my teeth,got ready, checked out, had my breakfast and headed for the railway station. Reporting time was 1340 hours.I reached almost an hour early. Once at the MCO, I noticed that there were some 30 odd candidates waiting. I started an impromptu conversation with the candidate sitting right beside. He too, like me, was from Delhi and studying in Delhi University.

At exactly 1400 hours, we were taken to the SSB. Once there, documentation started immediately and the day ended in that manner. In totality, we were 50 candidates. We retired to the candidate lines where we were divided into two groups and allotted two rooms. As night dawned, all of us started familiarizing ourselves with each other as well as the facilities provided in the lines. Fall in was at 1930 while dinner was served at 2000 hours.

Reporting time next morning was at 0730 hrs and the selection process started half and hour after that. The first test was that of general aptitude . The booklets were quite old and the same were used over and over. Most of them had several rough works which were matching the answers. Obviously, they were done by previous candidates(High time DRDO comes up with fresh booklets). Next up was the PPT or picture perception test. I was able to identify the main characters as well as their moods  in the picture properly. In the group discussion that followed, everyone put their points in a calm and composed manner. After a brief recess, the results came in. 38 candidates got screened in of which 8 were from my group. It was a moment filled with joy and happiness when the GTO called out my chest number. All of us, screened in candidates, were so busy congratulating each other that we had completely forgotten about those who were not. And by the time any of us could realize that, they were routed back. That felt bad.

We got busy with our PIQ. Everything was finished by 1500 hrs after which we had our lunch. The day ended with all of us retiring to the lines; none of us ventured out that day. All started making acquaintances while I  got busy ironing my  shirt for the day after( It was only on the day of the group tasks that i realized how important it is to make friends at the lines)

Next day was the pysch test. Some were busy revising their WATs (Word Association Tests) and SATs( Self Assessment Tests) while most of us didn’t have the foggiest. I didn’t even know that you could prepare for these (as so boldly mentioned in the advertisement). Some were even preparing for the SRTs(Situation Reaction Tests) which was very ironic. As a first timer, my pysch test was average. Was able to complete only 25 SRTs and I also missed out on some important points in my SAT.

Testing ended at 1245 hrs after which lunch was served. The rest of day was available for sight seeing. I was down with high fever and hence stayed back. The fever became worse during the night, so I payed a visit to the MI room. Army doctors have a reputation of being average at their jobs and I couldn’t agree more. The MI prescribed one paracetamol tablet, one separate anti pyretic and anti inflammatory for the night. He asked me to take two paracetamol tablets in the morning after and 2 more in the afternoon. By the time my interview was over, the next day, all I could taste was paracetamol, even when I took a bite of the mutton curry that was available for lunch. And to top it all, my fever had still not resided. My interview went fine. The president of the board was my IO. He made me feel so relaxed that an hour long interview felt like 10mins. He asked me the usual rapid fire questions and some gk towards the end. I got stuck when he asked me to name the capital of Lakshwadweep. That was quite an embarrassment considering the fact that my PIQ was filled with quizzing achievements in the ECA section. I still had a mild fever on the two group task days. I was able to perform only in the GD, GP and ‘ lecturate’. Other tasks went horrible, especially in the individual task. I slipped while grabbing a hold of the rope in tiger leap – injured my hand badly and wasn’t able to compete the other obstacles. Half Group Task and Final Group Task were below average as I wasn’t able to contribute anything. The command task was equally bad as I was talking to my friends instead of commanding my subordinates! All in all, the group tasks went really bad for me.

Conference was on the final day. It was quite clear that I wouldn’t be recommended. It was a brief conference – the usual ‘how was your stay?’, ‘any suggestions?’ questions. After a half an hour break, the results came in. 4 got recommended – all truly deserving. 1 was from my group. He too was sick on both the group task days but the commitment he showed and the way he performed in all group activities was commendable. I hope he went on to become an officer.

On introspection, back home, these are some of the mistakes I believe(cause it’s not upto your belief..it’s the OLQs that get you recommended) I had made : – 

  1. Never underestimate yourself. Never! 
  2. Never give up in the individual tasks, even if you have deep cuts and peeled off palms. I gave up after I completed the Tiger Leap which was my 7th task. I regret it to this day!
  3. Always contribute in your GTs, as much as you can. Don’t shy to bring forward ideas.
  4. Command like a real commander in your Command Task but don’t be rude to your subordinates.