Group Picture - Candidate Mess (1AFSB Dehradun)
A lot of children dream of flying a fighter jet, its just that only a handful set out to achieve this goal. And in this pursuit you have to encounter Indian Air Force Service Selection Boards(AFSB).
I got my chance to undo my failure in NDA five years back at 4AFSB Varanasi. I had to attend AFSB for CDSE at 1AFSB Dehradun. This post just relays my views with a lot of speculations, what works for one doesn't translate for another.
Just when you move from Haridwar towards Dehradun on train a wind of cold and rich air hits you in the face, the quietness of the forest trees of the hills just appears like a wonder to person accustomed to the noise of the city crowd. Soon the fertile fields carved in the lap of hills with all sort of crop growing comes up on the landscape. All this beauty and serenity of the place fills you up with an energy and hope.
We reported at the designated place outside Railway Station , and I could see around 100 people. The Air Force bus took us to the board. After the OIC-Call up addressed the candidates , we were led into to fill some forms, after that the documents were verified and chest numbers distributed. Since some people had cleared PABT/INSB we were led off to Candidates Mess while the freshers were send off to testing. In the meantime we guys sat in the Sun and chatted. One among us was an Airman and he had a lot of tales to tell about the life of an airmen. When the other guys returned, then we had our Lunch and all the people were assigned rooms. We retired for the day since the Screening Test were due next day.
During our chat in the afternoon, I was filled with a bit apprehension about clearing the screening. To me screening appeared just normal, but a lot of talk by the guys like about half of the people to be screened out sort of made me a bit wary of my chances.
Next day lot of guys waked up real early and then wondered what to do till the breakfast is served at 6:00 am !! In the testing first we had OIR(Officers Intelligence Rating) tests, which are a bunch of same booklets since 1970. The test is pretty simple with Verbal and Non-Verbal Questions. It went well and then we were send back to candidates mess to wait for PP and DT(Picture Perception and Description Test) to start.
We were made a group of 10 people and the picture shown to us was a Big smoke in the background with a poor looking man standing and a women and man crouching in the fields. We wrote our stories and then were led to a small room for the GD on it. Soon 3 evaluators came and asked us to narrate our stories one by one and then let the group discuss and come to a conclusion. While the individual narration was going on, I tried to scribble down main points from all stories, hoping it would help in summation. The point I noticed in GD was that obviously everyone tries to say his stuff, but the guy who can direct the discussion of the group by saying like " Lets first decide the age and mood of characters", shows the skills of holding the group together. So try to put forward the points which acts as sub topics of discussion, so that the group can move along these lines, like "Lets first decide the age and mood of characters", "Now what caused the smoke or Fire", "What is the response of the Hero", " What qualities did the hero show by his action", these kind of guidance to the group will definitely be a good performance from you.
We returned back and waited for the results. Soon our DSO(Duty Selection Officer) came and started calling names of people screened in. I knew they will call in DOB order with freshers first and then repeaters, but the wait and anticipation was a bit tough. Finally around half were screened out and we were left with 47 people for the next 3 days.
There was a feeling that we could have the Psych tests on the same day and it turned out to be true. Personally I did not like that because I sort of wanted to have a preparation of Self-Appraisal before I go through it, but now I had no choice.
Just after lunch we were led into the projection room to start with PPDT, WAT, SRT and Self-Appraisal tests. It seemed that the Board had just converted to a automated Software for these tests, but the people were not quite conversant with the usage of the whole system, so we got quite some time between different pictures to write a story.
In PPDT there were 12 pictures like two friends sitting on a Mango tree, a boy opening and Almirah, a boy in in a boat in middle of storm in open sea, a boy siting in a library, a boy following a dark figure in the street etc and the last one was blank. I had not planned this before but as soon as the first picture was shown I got an idea and almost all the stories that I wrote were really me. I just put myself into the situation and wrote the story. Like the friends on Mango tree - one friend asks the other one not to steal and not to injure himself by jumping , the second one - small boy find bad things in his brothers Almirah and stop his bad habits, third one - a boy set out to sail around the world and succeeds and so on. The basic idea being any picture whatever it may be should not reflect a negative idea.
WAT as such is a bit hectic and it is recommend to do a practice of it to make sure you can write fast enough and legibly at the same time. The rule of WAT is that each sentence should reflect your idea about the word not a descriptive sentence, so that the psychologist can understand your personality.
In SRT, I had read somewhere that for any situation who have three options - attack the problem, withdraw form the situation and last one compromise. Again answer behaving like you are a good helping citizen. Going good till it is required and then minding your own business.
Self-Appraisal is the part in which you write about yourself from the view of your friend, parents, teachers and your own view, what would you like to improve in yourself and what are your aim in life.
Maybe doing too much preparation of the last component can lead to a divide between the conclusion about your personality derived by the psychologist from the first three sections and what you are telling about yourself from the last section. Just have in mind what the above persons really think about you and don't overdo this by adding a lot of bogus things but a few negative traits could easily be skipped.
We were quite tired till the time this whole thing got over and it was also late, so everybody just roamed around here and there or played the indoor games , some watched TV etc. Some time later the schedule for the next day was put and I was a quite happy to find that I had nothing the next day, meaning the whole day off. Some people had Interview starting others had Group tasks lined up.
Before our Dinner started the DSO again turned up and we were handed two copies of PIQ(Personal Information Questionnaire) to be filled. The form is basically about your Education, family , Hobbies, Achievements, Previous SSB attempts etc. It goes without saying that honest is the first thing that you should keep in mind while filling the PIQ, because one copy of it goes to Interviewing Officer(IO) and other copy goes to maybe Psychologist.
After dinner we watched some TV and slept a bit late and also waked up late.
During the Call-In the next morning I got confused seeing people in full Formal Dress for the interview, ranging from Full Sleeves Shirt, with a Matching trouser and Laced Shoes and thrown on top a good looking tie with a shining belt around the waist. Now to be frank I sort of half expected that but way in no way prepared for this. There I was with one formal Trouser and nothing else from the above list. My problems increased when we were told that people who had no task could have interview if the current one got over early. I tried to Book Out as soon as possible but that did not happen and finally the time just passed by and I was out of danger for the day.
As soon as the testing for the day was over we booked out for the first time and went out to explore the town. The first stop was the Tibetan Buddhist Temple , which is at a walking distance from AFSB. The temple was really good, the garden surrounding on all sides was nicely laid out, inside the temple all the possible wall spaces were covered with painting from the Buddhist Mythology, just as we had entered there were preperation being made for the evening prayers. The prayers are a spectacle in themself. The low humming voice of head priest , something like pronouncing a single syllabi creates a environment of meditation, then periodically the drums type instruments are hit softly producing a sound further reinforcing the sacredness of the rituals. It was really a place to see and the realization that the ancient tradition of Tibetan Buddhist is continuing unhindered and peacefully in India , thousands of miles away from the native place of The Forbidden Palace - Lhasa, just says how great our Nation is after all.
Sometime soon I started off to Paltan Market in search to buy some Formal Dress and Shoes, for the intending Interview. It was then I noticed that in Dehradun the ratio of females seems much higher as compared to any other metro, city or town I had been to. In this city it being the state capital there are many Colleges and a lot of boys and girls from several places come here to study and this contribute a lot to the young crowd in all the places in Dehradun.
After coming back we looked up our schedule for the next day and I had the bulk of activities, starting with Interview at 8:00 am , then Group Tasks from 10:30am. From the other guys it was found that one of the Interview was basically about PIQ form that we had was asking questions like you your friends, your friends view about you, etc. Though I should have prepared answers for these but I didn't. After dinner all of the people in our room got together for a kind of mock GD. It was more fun that discussion and we had regular uncontrollable bouts of laughter thrown in now and then. Our Airmen guy had major roles in the whole thing and one of his incident was that in any discussion that he had nothing to say, he would say "Gentlemen, I think this is because of the lack of Education". To maintained sanity of discussion we asked him not to say that in the GD or else we would all be rolling in laughter in front of GTO.
The next morning I got ready to face the Interview and with a borrowed Tie and Shoes dressed up smartly and raring to go. At 7:40am the peon called my Chest Number, and led me to the office of IO. Now the schedule time was 8am but fortunately I was ready before the call came. On reaching the office , I was asked to sit down outside on a chair and my documents including resume were sent inside. A minute later I was called and we exchanged pleasantries and then once I was comfortable, the IO started asking questions. The very first one was a rapid fire. I was asked about my education, what all subject I studied, which one I liked most, which one I disliked most , my favorite professor, one professor which I did not like, what were my extracurricular activities etc. I tried remembering all these but while answering I forgot a few. Once I had stopped, the IO asked is that all and then repeated the questions that I had missed. Then he asked about my friends, what do they have opinion about me, what do they do , how do I spend my free time on a normal day , on a holiday etc.
Somehow though I am not convinced about the effectiveness of this method, It seems that when you are asked about opinion of other people, what you say reflect your own personality.
Later he asked my views on Telangana issue and the Women Reservation bill. With a little more chit-chat, he wrapped up the Interview and send we off warmly. The whole thing lasted around 40 minutes and I was quite satisfied overall.
After this we kitted up in PT overalls for the GT of the day.First task at hand was Group Discussion and Military Planning.
In first GD, the GTO(Group Task Officer) gave us two topics - India's Participation in International Summit - useful exercise of waste of exchequer money and The breaking Social fabric of Indian Families. We agreed on the first topic and the discussion started. My group was quite knowledgeable so points kept flowing, I was also active in the contribution and since all were give arguments how the participation was a good thing, to explore the other side, I presented some counter points. I feel that usually in GDs there are always some angel or some points which are not covered and this gives a good opportunity to make your mark.
The second GD was on Riots because of Anti-social elements, judiciary failure or (something ....), the GD went on as the previous one, just when the discussion was going on as usual, our Airmen guy popped up and said "Gentlemen , I think this is because of lack of education". There was a silence for a second, I looked around to see any signs of smiles breaking out, but fortunately people holded on and a tragedy was averted :).
Next came Military Planning , in which we were given a sand model of some villages and a situation to avert like, a hurt tractor driver, prevent a robbery, stop a train and get back to hostel by time. Everybody wrote down their solution to the problem and then we were given the 10 minutes to discuss and come up with a common solution.
The discussion started I immediately knew that other people had nice ideas so rather then pitching up my own ideas I tried to moderate by first pointing all the situations to solve, how to solve each one of them and how many men to depute for each task. Apparently finally at the end, some people were of the view that the Military Planning was ok, others said that maybe everybody got exited because of me, well so this test also ended and we were led to the PGT (Progressive Group Task). Since it was quite late that day we were only able to finish this.
Before the PGT, GTO gave us a piece of advice that whatever ideas, you come up with go through them completely and don't waste time in new idea. The general rule of engagements, I had got from the books is that just keep in the front, be active, volunteer for anything, if you are not getting the ideas, then support the ideas of others.
In the PGT, when we started it is usually the general perception that the guy who first gets hold of the Plank or balli will put them together and get up on the front in the obstacles, but I noticed that the guy in our group who was in the forefront was not really implementing his ideas, or proposing one, he was just doing what other guys were deciding, so that kind of thing does not really help. One guy was always in the end , just not happy that the whole group was just doing what everyone was wishing. I was not really getting all the ideas,so I just kept going along the group, sometime in front , sometime at the back and continuously doing something or supporting others and so on.
Accidentally at the end of very first PGT one of our guy jumped and his foot landed at an angle and it swelled pretty badly so he was out for the rest of PGTs. The guy was immediately send away in Ambulance for Medical Care.
We people somehow finished the PGT and were left off for the day.
In our Batch we had a lot of guys from Punjab, these guys were a real fun, though most of the time we didn't understand the jokes in Punjabi , but still it was a great fun in the company of these guys. When people talk a lot of speculations and experiences of the guys who have attended earlier are shared. Like the Interview of one of the guy was taken by the President of the selection board itself, it turns out that maybe the guy who scored really good in the OIR, is interviewed by the President. We have had several anecdotes like someone told that there was one guy, who in his Group Task was given to dispose a mock bomb, since the task was not complete and the time was about to get over, this guy say to the group "Gentleman, everybody like down , the bomb is about to explode" , well that definitely shows presence of mind and taking good initiative. We got to know that the officers who do really well in there SSBs only get a chance to become GTOs or IO later in their service. Since one of our fella had got injured , we felt that the people who still hold out and do their tasks have a much higher chance of getting Recommended from the GTO. Our guy showed courage and managed to do his Command Task and some Individual Obstacles and that got him through.Though it is believed that the three evaluators GTO, Interviewer and Psychologists don't talk about the candidates before conference, but we found out that to the contrary when our GTO asked one of the guy, why did he ask a particular question to the Interviewing Officer !!
The next day we were to complete with our Group Task ie Command Tasks, Lecturate, Individual Obstacles and Final Group Task.
We started off with Command Tasks. Before my turn cam I was called as helper by two guys, this gave me some idea about the tricks of doing the tasks, and also how the GTO evaluates. One of the speculation by guys was that people who get hard Command Task are being evaluated closely by the GTO and have a good chance. In the command task, the GTO puts a constraint and keeps of changing the situation like the rope is not there or the support is given or the balli is broken etc. The trick is that just proceed with what you have got, just standing frozen does not give a good impression to the GTO. And it is definitely a good idea if you utilize your helper as most as you can, but I have seen people doing quite a lot of work in their own command task. A grave mistakes I committed was that I was helping a lot more that the guy was asking me to, and on this the GTO cautioned me. In my own Command task, I was called up and the GTO asked a few questions about me and then the task started. I started off well with giving clear instructions to my helpers, then the GTO cautioned me that I was breaking a lot of rules(maybe he wanted me to come under stress) and then he also scolded me on one of the approach I was taking, I went on the next approach without any pressure or getting worried, with a little hit and trial I achieved the goal and that was the end of it.
The next task was Lecturate, we each were given a time of 3 minutes to prepare our thoughts on a topic and the speak for 3 minutes. For me it did not really go off well. I deduced that to give a good Lecturate, just think a brief introduction of the topic, 5 pro points and 5 cons point. Then the most important thing, whatever you say , speak short sentences so that you put your point across well rather than trying to speak a lot and ending up speaking quickly which nobody end up understanding.
After this came the 10 Individual obstacles, my strategy was start with the toughest and with maximum marks , so I started off with Rope climbing , tiger jump, burma bridge, monkey crawl and so on complete 7 obstacles worth 44 points. Later heard some guys did all 10 obstacles in the 3 minutes , so that's also achievable.
But after the Individual Obstacles everybody was dead tired with air pumped out of their lungs still the GTO called us up for the Final Group Task(FGT), since none of us was in a condition to talk a lot , we progressed mechanically with what we were supposed to do and the task was completed with everybodys satisfaction.
With this our SSB testing got over, except for the Conference the next day. We booked out and decided to visit a "Tankeshawar Temple". In the evening when we returned back our DSO cautioned us to take good rest for tomorrow and be ready for the Conference. His advice was to maintain a sense of mind and give proper answer to the questions of the Board.
The next day we were once again dressed up in formal clothes and ready to face the music :).
All of were made to sit in the conference room and waited till our turn came to be presented before the Board consisting of The Board President, all the GTOs, IOs, 2 or 3 psychologists, in total about 8-9 people. Slowly one by one the candidates were called to face the board. All of us knew that if you are not asked anything in general and just pleasantries are exchanged then either you are in or out, but in case you are asked questions like SRTs or some other dimensions, then you are a border-case, with these questions, the Board want to get a clear idea about some of the doubtful areas of your personality.
Finally after due wait, my turn came. Somehow wearing Formal Dress bring out the smart person in me and I was quite confident with a bit of pride that I will be ok. I went into the room and wished the Board a Good Morning and stood still. It was just a mere second after which the President asked me to take my chair, but that small time difference does show your etiquette. Surprisingly I was not able to just have a glance at all the members of the board. All I could see in my Tunnel vision was the President and the OIC. Once seated the OIC immediately came straight to the point and started asking a few personal questions like give an instance when in Leadership role, you made decisions contrary to other people ideas ...., name some of your good friends, why did you not play lot of sports and so on. Then I was asked about my group, was the Group Task difficult or the Group was difficult etc. I once remember that when I had answered one such question, the OIC looked at my GTO, maybe I had given a proper reply to a question about which my GTO had doubts about me. My conference ended and I came out without too much hope or any letdown.
We all sat together with the guys waiting for the Conference to end and the results to come. Some time later the DSO came with a piece of paper. We Falled In and then after a bit of usual talk, the DSO announced the names of people who passed in PABT/INB. Most of the guys had cleared but still a few didn't. Then finally the Big Moment arrived and he started announcing the Chest No of people recommended. It is funny to remember that I was blank minded till the time my Chest No was called. I walked to join the people who had been Recommended. Though I had quite expected it, that feeling to pump in the air, feeling overjoyed did not happen to me. I was very normal and surprised about being this way also. Maybe somewhere at the back of my mind the fear of getting struck in Medical was present. I didn't wanted any premature celebration. Then when the DSO went back, we congratulated each other and our mates who didn't make it. In total 16 Guys were recommended that day :), the people ranging from freshers to one guys in his 12th attempt.
We picked up our belongings and moved to fills documentations. I knew it would take a long time, but this long ? We started the process at around 2:30 pm and were finally done at 8:30 pm !!! In between this we had to fill a few dozen forms and declarations.
Finally before we were led off, the OIC addressed all the candidates. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable why I was not very excited, but it was soon to go away, when the OIC said "Take care of yourself, your life is more valuable to the Nation now, now you are almost a National Property !!! " that statement made my day :) :) :).
Before being led off to the Bus Stand, we were handed over a gift of a T-Shirt with Su-30MKI poster on it :D :D and dinner packets to eat.
This is how this memorable event ended. Just wishing to clear Medical Examination and be on my way to Airforce Academy(AFA), which is incidentally in Hyderabad itself.