Interviews and anxiety pangs
We have looked earlier at the various customs and practices prevalent with regard to the assessment of suitability of spouses.
We have looked earlier at the various customs and practices prevalent with regard to the assessment of suitability of spouses. Being 'interviewed' as a prelude to the selection to a position is a very common experience for persons looking for employment, as well as opportunities to start a business or service. Occasionally, it may also be for selection to a particular course of study in an academic institution.
In what follows, I shall share with the readers some of my own experiences. One of my earliest experiences was when I had applied for taking a course in a university in France for a diploma in international trade. I was hoping that my possession of a diploma (although only at the junior level), in French language would prove a plus point. It is precisely that confidence which let me down in what followed, and I drew a complete blank in the language test at the French Embassy in Delhi.
It was sometime later that, following an application made by me, I was called for an interview in IIT Madras for admission to a PhD course in Mathematics. I was in free fall for all those days, as I had finished my post-graduation, and was generally looking around to select an appropriate career. The childhood dreams, of wanting to be an astronaut or a test cricketer, having finally been decided as rightly belonging to the realm of fantasy.
The choice lay between academics, the civil services and a job in a financial institution, such as a bank or an insurance company. Hence the Chennai interview. Having an honours degree in Mathematics from Delhi University and a first – class - first post-graduate degree (with distinction) from Osmania University, under my belt, I was feeling fairly confident as I entered the interview hall at the hallowed precincts of IIT, Madras.
The person who took me on was no less than the formidable Dr. Nigam, a force to reckon with in the world of mathematics those days. He fixed me with a steady stare and, in the most casual of gestures, turned a paperweight on its side and pushed it towards the edge of the table. The paper weight wobbled, rolled unsteadily, and fell to the floor over the edge of the table, where it moved erratically, hither and thither before finally settling down. Nigam looked back at me and, with an amused smile, said "the equation of motion please".
I simply gaped him dumbly. I had not even attempted such a thing before in my life. Not in my wildest dreams. Visions rose, in my mind's eyes, of the dozens of people who had learnt mathematics from me, the gold medal Osmania University had awarded me, for a record-breaking performance, and the esteem in which teachers, and colleagues, held me in both the Universities. I had been to, "Come on" I told myself "the Kandas are made of sterner stuff. This is but a small challenge. Go for it."
For the following 45 minutes I was lost in a world of symbols, alpha numerals, transformations and equations. When I stopped, I looked at my work and made bold to offer it to Dr. Nigam. He took one long look at my calculations, and the final result and, without even looking up from the paper, said "we shall be in touch with you."
By that afterno on my name was on the noticeboard, at the top of the list of people selected for the PhD course! It is adifferent story that, upon being consulted, my father stubbornly refused to let me join, and ordered me to return to Hyderabad, and complete my preparations for the civil services examinations.
It was during the days that followed that Hindustan Lever (India), called me for a selection process at, again, Chennai. Even in those days, thousands of people must have applied along with me when I reached the venue, I found myself among another 200 or so people in the beginning. We were asked to sit for an examination. A couple of hours later, nine of us were asked to appear for a personal interview, that afternoon, at the celebrated LIC building in Mount Road, (as it was called those days).
The Chairman of the Board of interviewers really got my goat when he asked me whether I would like to jump off from the ninth floor (where interview was being conducted), if I failed to make it. I had to tell him, quite bluntly, that the interview was one of the milestones in my journey towards a career, and that I was enjoying the experience much more than the anticipated result which, I had to rub it in, was of no consequence to me.
My having originally been born in Chennai must have had something to do with the sequence of events I was going through as, very shortly thereafter, I was called to my birthplace once again. It was Air India this time, for the post of a Station Manager which, I had applied. Once again there was an examination in the morning, a shortlisted group for another exam in the afternoon, and a list of five at the end of the day. And the five of us were told that, of all things, that the next step was an interview in Bombay the next day, to which place we were being flown in an Air India jet that night!
It was a truly memorable experience, as wonderful as it was totally unexpected. And the icing on the cake was the talk, during the flight, when the plane experienced acute turbulence on account of a thunderstorm, that there was a possibility of a landing at Karachi! Just imagine! My first flight and to land in an exotic foreign destination! That was to be another experience for the sake of experience as nothing tangible happened in the direction of final selection.
(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)
(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)