My interview happened for 1.5 hours. The interview was conducted by Group Captain, C.P.Joshi. Here is an attempt to revisit the same. I shall denote him as IO, interviewing officer, and myself as S. Also, i shall keep adding to the questions as and when i remember the very few that have slipped out of my memory. And the order of questions were as random as presented. They never were consistent in their theme. However, i confess, this is not the exactly same sequence, though very close.
S- Good Morning, sir!
IO- Good morning, (fumbles with the name)
S- Shubhra-astha, sir (smiling)
IO- Yes, Shubhrastha. Lovely name. Please have a seat and tell me what does your name mean?
S- Shubhrastha comprises of Shubhra or resplendent and pure and Astha is belief.
IO- Hmm. Thoughtful. Hmm. Ok, i have given a document check and have decided to skip asking you questions on current events and happenings. Shall we move ahead to having a frank, open talk, Shubhra(fumbles again)stha?
S- Yes sir
IO- I gather that you appeared for a SSB last time too. What went wrong? Where was it? How was it? When did you appear for the same? And why this time again?
(I kept counting on my finger tips the number of sub-questions shot at)
S- Sir, my last SSB happened at AFSB, Mysore beginning on the 27th of June. It was an amazing and enriching experience. I guess nothing went wrong as such. Perhaps i was meant to improve on myself and come again this time. My non-recommendation last time meant an opportunity to rework on my personality and gear myself in a better way to join the Indian Air Force. Precisely this is why i am here again.
IO- How is Delhi?
S-It is cold at this time of the year, sir. But generally speaking, it is an open world in itself and offers one plenty to choose from its platter.
IO-Did you sleep well last night, Shubhrastha? I am sure Dehradun is very cold. Any problems?
S- Yes sir, i slept well. Dehradun is cold. But more than five years in Delhi have helped me cope up with extremes of weather.
IO- How did you prepare yourself for the SSB this time? And where do you live in Delhi?
S- Sir, i made sure i work on my physical training and jogged everyday to build up my stamina. Last time i left a few hurdles. I made sure that i build up my stamina this time to see me through. Also, rather than on merely reading and learning, i focused on the application part of knowledge. Sir i live near North Campus in Delhi.(I did not want to mention the locality for it is a UPSC hub)
IO- Hmm i see. So how much did you jog each day? And where near North Campus do you live? Where did you jog? And when did you jog?
S- Sir, i have recently shifted to Nehru Vihar. Prior to that i lived in campus and jogged in the campus premises. It is pretty huge and i could cover around 7 kms a day, sir. It was either morning or evening.
IO- Tell me your daily routine. Tell me what do you do on weekdays and what on weekends?
S- Sir, since i have already completed my MA and hence have no classes around, all my days are as free or as busy as a holiday. I get up around 6. Go for a jog. Come back by eight. Have my breakfast. Read up the newspaper, watch movies, catch up with friends, study a little bit, visit places. It is more of a relaxed time with me.
IO- I see. Why did you not consider a job? I mean with your degree i am sure you could easily avail many offers.
S- Right, sir. After a month in the corporate sector i realised that i am not cut out for a 9 to 5 job in a cabin. Meanwhile, my AFCAT results this year and my SSB last year were constant reminders to see me through career worries. Therefore, to engage myself and be self reliant, i have been doing freelance writing and teaching sporadically.
IO- Has your work ever been published? Where do you write? What have you written?
S- Sir, Sahara Times published one of my articles during my last year in graduation. I generally blog. I have written company portfolios, proposals, worked on similar assignments.
IO- Tell me three instances when you felt you might just breakdown. And how did you overcome those?
S- (Thinking) Sir, i generally do not break down that easily. Oh yes! There was a time just recently. It was my MA first semester and i fell ill. Performed really bad in my university exams. But i pulled myself up and saw to it that i improve my scores thereafter. Then, there were my annual exams in standard eighth when my mother fell ill. She had a severe attack of Sciatica and Arthritis. It was the time when i had to manage the household affairs and study. A little testing a time. But then we shifted to my father's school for it would have made things easier and slowly one pulled oneself up. (thinking again) Well, this is what i can gather at the moment, sir. Though i must say that after i landed in Delhi for the first time, i felt very alienated. Missed home a lot. But slowly, adjusted to the ways of the place.
IO- Why did you not continue in Army School itself for your plus two? Why DPS, Bokaro? And why do you feel alienated in Delhi?
S- Sir, my AISSCE results were petty good to see me through the admission process at DPS, Bokaro. The school is among the top five in India, close from my place in Patna and offered a good exposure. Plus, my father was pretty keen to send me out for higher studies considering the law and order situation in Bihar then. So, this became an obvious choice. Sir, i said i felt alienated in Delhi when i came. I am completely at ease now. Have friends here and life has become too busy to brood over unproductive thoughts now.
IO- Do you mean to say Army School was not good enough to provide you an exposure? And do you feel there are no good schools in Patna?
S-Absolutely not sir. Patna has changed for a better scenario today especially after the regime change post-RJD. But in 2004 when i passed out, the situation was not very good. Hence, that decision was taken. Army School is undoubtedly a very good institution. In fact, most of my debates at regional, command, cluster and national levels happened there. I am proud to be a part of its legacy. The year i passed out was the first year that the first batch for twelfth appeared for their boards. DPS, Bokaro, in contrast, is acclaimed for its academic reputation. Hence, one chose the latter. Sir there are plenty of good schools in Patna; St. Joseph's Convent, St. Xavier's, Notre Dame, St. Michele's, Don Bosco being a few famous ones.
IO- You said you do not have a boyfriend? Why is that so?
( I am alarmed. I did not mention it anywhere. He never even asked!!!!!!!)
S- Sir, i do not remember having mentioned it.But yes i have no boyfriend but i have loads of friends among both the genders.
IO(smiling)- Name some friends.
S- Jagdish, Amit, Rupali
IO- And you are sure Jagdish is not your boyfriend?
S- Yes, sir. Pretty sure.
IO- How so? Have you talked to him about it?
S- Sir one never felt the need to. Amit and Jagdish are very close friends and we are so friendly with each other that the question of romance does not even figure anywhere. Besides, Jagdish has a girlfriend(i said this to avoid any further query on the same.)
IO- Ok, Shubhrastha, tell me why did you feel lonely in Delhi? And don't you think having a boyfriend would have made life easier for you? How did you cope up with the loneliness? Did you not feel that any of your male friends would have made a good boyfriend for you? Why are you so against relationships? Do you think that they are bad? Has anybody ever proposed to you?
(!!!!!!!!!!!!I took a deep breath.)
S- Sir, i believe that relationships happen at their own pace and that emotions either figure or don't. To make oneself feel better and hence indulge in manipulating a friendly relationship into romance is something that personally i am not comfortable with. Though, i believe that love and relationships are good for those who can handle the same. So, no i do not think they are bad at all. I felt lonely in Delhi because when i landed there, teh city appeared too huge and similarly the exposure especially when i resided on my own for the first year in college. At DPS, Bokaro, my mother used to frequent between Patna and Bokaro but in Delhi such visits were rendered infrequent. However, i got so engrossed in my debates and classes within barely a month that i had no time for such thoughts later. Also, because i was busy, did not have time for relationships. Yes, sir. A couple of guys did propose to me. But i never felt like accepting any proposal.
(OH MY GOD! Phew!)
IO- Why did you not take any coaching for SSB? I assume that you did not. Or did you? Do you not think the officers in Delhi who train the candidates are very efficient?
S-Yes sir, your assumption is correct. I did not coach myself for SSB. I am sure that the officers who train candidates are very efficient and capable. But my past experience in Mysore and my stint with a couple of blogs on the internet strengthened my belief in the fact that SSBs are all about a psychological testing field. And it is best to be natural with one's response than give standard, repetitive, coached answers.
IO- How come your mother frequented you in Bokaro? Did you not stay in a hostel? (Reading the form closely) Hmmm, it says you were a day boarder there. Ok.
(I am puzzled whether it is question or a self-addressed monologue!!!!!!!)
S- Sir, DPS, Bokaro has no hostel of its own. So i had to stay out. Plus, my mother used to freqently visit me because the distance between Patna and Bokaro was not that great.
IO- Then, how did you manage food? How did your father, and your younger brothers manage the same? Wasn't it stressful for your mother? Don't you feel responsible for so much of tumult?
S- Sir, I cooked or dined in the common mess or depended on tiffin delivery system as per my requirements. The rest of the family did the same. Regarding my mother, i am sure, this was stressful but she has always been this determined lady who believes in fulfilling her roles well. Even if anyone of us intervene, she suggests that individuals should be left free to follow their will. And no sir, i do not feel i am responsible for any tumult for there has been none. It has been a phase of time when the strength of a family is tested and all of us have been thoroughly enjoying this experience.
IO- Who are you the closest to in your family? Tell me about your family.
S- Ours is a five-membered family. My parents and three siblings. I have two younger brothers. I am the eldest among my siblings. Our family is pretty close knit. We are very open about our lives and hence close to each other. But yes, the levels of connection is different. The same thing told to my dad is different in tone and quality than when shared with my brothers.
IO-(laughs) Shubhrastha, do you abuse? How often? Do you feel it is right to abuse?
S- Sir, i have a pretty controlled verbal response in the most trying of situations. So, i do abuse but in very very extreme situations. Regarding whether it is right or not, (i smile), it is totally circumstantial, situational and subjective.
IO- Explain. When did you abuse last? And what do these heavily loaded adjectives mean(laughing now)
S- Sir, i can not recall the latest instance of my abuse. But a fresh memory is when i was eve teased and could not control myself. Regarding the latter part of your question, (smiling) as a person being interviewed by an Air Force Officer in his cabin, i personally will not abuse however 'testing' the circumstance and situation.
IO-(laughing loudly) Do you want to abuse, by the way?
S-Absolutely not sir. I am really enjoying the interview. Plus, let me confess. For the lack of a better example on feet then, i chose to say that.
IO-Just joking, i get what you mean. Ok Shubhrastha, you said you have lot of friends. Are they males or females? Whom do you find better.
S- Sir, i have friends across ages and genders. But yes i gel more easily with boys than girls. Though, i have some very good female friends.
IO- You have been this law abiding person throughout. Tell me something. Your friends must have been easily irritated by you for this habit. How did you tackle that?
S- Sir, i believe that the very fact that i have been a law abiding person has helped me receive lot of respect from my friends which is quite an achievement. Yes, they have had minor bouts irritation by my disciplinarian attitude at times but in the long run, i feel that they too acknowledge the fact that the person i am is defined partly by the values and ethics i believe in. Plus sir, i believe very firmly that rules and regulations are core principals of an efficient society, however big or small, however free or bound. Therefore, while in school, one needs to abide by institutional rules to learn to value codes of conduct unquestioningly and inculcate a respect for order within, in college, the very same foundation allows one to swear by self imposed regulations when there are on strict rules on behavior and conduct by and large. Freedom does not mean chaos, after all.
IO- Do you never chill out with your friends? How do you chill out? Have you never done anything beyond rules? Are you always within regulations?
S-Sir, i always have fun time with my friends. In fact, i am a very jolly person in my disposition around them. We hang around a lot, chat, laugh, watch movies and do fun things together. By and large, i have not broken any major rules or regulations, sir.
IO- Why can't you gel well with females? Are they jealous of you? And why more with males?
S- Sir, i gel well with females too. In fact, i have lived in a girls' hostel for five years and have made some good friends there. I think i get along easily with male friends because i feel freer with them. I understand that it is all a cultural, social programming that guys are more spontaneous than girls in our society. But yes, i guess that is a reason why i am more comfortable with them.
IO- What do you talk with your female friends and what with your male friends? Is there something that you would rather discuss with your male friends than your female friends?
S- There is nothing that i can not talk with either of them. (thinking) I guess if i have to discuss politics, and entertainment and sports and trip plans simultaneously, i would choose my male friends over female ones. I would choose to share my post-depression phase with them. For emotional turmoils, i would go to my mother who is my very close friend.
IO- So, are you saying that girls are frivolous?
S- No sir. Absolutely not.
IO- Hmm you do not discuss politics with them.
S- Sir i said would choose male friends over female friends if i have to discuss a couple of things together. And it just may be that i have not met many girls who are as spontaneous and open. May be, i shall have better luck with female colleagues later.
IO-Did you not lose weight after your jog schedule?
S-Sir, i did not check. I am sure i am fit and healthy, though.
IO- Tell me two weaknesses in you.
S- I am short tempered with impunctual and irresponsible behaviour. I tend to be over analytical towards my failures.
IO- Is the latter a bad thing?
S- When it begins to leech onto one's productivity, it is.
IO- Do you know how to deal with it then?
S- Yes sir, i try to keep myself as busy as possible to evade such questions for long.
IO- Shubhrastha, tell me one instance where you have actually chilled out with friends. Like climbing up a tree and jumping.
(What the hell! I mean who does that? Anyway, i was prodded on to share a moment with him! God! He is so insistent on prying!)
S-Well, sir i have moved out with friends and had a round of booz.(May be this should placate his nerves!!!!! Was a little perturbed for i used the very informal 'booz'. But then he too used 'chilled out'. Anyway, i quickly added...) Sir, sharing a couple of drinks is, i am sure, not a very unusual thing to do and raise eyebrows at this age. But that sitting out and doing so at a public place when one is below the legally permissible age is what made it adventurous.
IO- So you do break rules. (Grinning by now)
S- (Smiling)Yes, sir. Within my self imposed permissible limits i have broken them.
IO- So, did you check out booz points in Dehradun?
S- No sir. (A) Primarily, because it is not a trip to chill out, however memorable the stay and group of friends i have made here. And (B) because i share drinks with a very select group of people.
IO- Why the Indian Air Force when the world is out open for a candidate like you?
S- Sir, there are different ways of achieving a target. One chooses how one goes about it. I want to serve my nation. And wish to do the way defence personnels do it - being at the thick of adventures and protecting the nation so that the others function in safe zones. To provide security and safety so that the nation prospers is a life style that demands discipline and commitment. I wish to follow that lead. And hence, the Air Force, sir.
IO-Then, why did you not apply earlier?
S- Sir, if you notice, i wish to join the education sector. And in order to do so, i needed to complete my post-graduation. Immediately after i was eligible to apply, i promptly did so in the final semester of my MA course.
IO- You have lived in Delhi for quite sometime now. Did you face any uncalled for sexual advances? If you did, how did you tackle that? If you did not, why do you think you did not?
S-Sir, i have been fortunate to have not faced any overt incident till date. While i do recognise that such incidents are common and most of the times unpredictable, it is also true that personal sense of safety and security always helps one avoid most of the cases. I have an ability to keep people at bay with my body language and demeanor. In case of small, almost insignificant incidents to be mentioned as sexual advances, i have resorted to making a very strict appearance and taking advantage of the other person's vulnerable situation on a back-off mode, i have escaped to a safer zone. I believe that a lot can be prevented by keeping oneself alert and conscious towards any such untoward situation, in however mild a form.
IO- Do you know what does your work demand? What kind of works would you do here?
S- Sir, the work here demands an unfettered zeal and energy. It involves risk taking abilities and ways to counter testing situations. Not just hard work but intelligent work is required in the profile i opt for. Sir, as an Education officer in the Indian Air Force, i shall be expected to participating in the training of cadets, management of Air Force Schools, conduction and management of various exams and all such works that comes under the broader ambit of education.
IO- That is all right. But then why not serve the nation by doing the same thing anywhere else? Say as an educationist.
S- Because the nature of work profile and environment offered here is unparalleled. I do understand that with the degree at hand, i can be a pure educationist. But i wish to expand my horizon. I wish to do things beyond lectures and seminars. The strict discipline, alertness and sense of valour attached to the work here is unmatched. Sir, i shall be an educationist and full stop at some place. But i shall be an educationist and many more here.
IO- Where would you like to work? In small places or big cities?
S- Anywhere. I am open to serving anywhere. In small places, to work from the scratch is a temptation to excel and be creative. The number of challenges are huge and hence enriching in the experiences they offer. On the other hand, big cities offer better access to opportunities and technology. That is a unique experience in itself. Any place which requires my service, is my preference, sir.
IO- Shubhrastha, what kind of people do you hate?
S- People who waste time and people who do not know what they are talking.
IO- Thank you, Shubhrastha. It was a pleasure talking to you.
S- Thank you, sir.