My first and final shot at the SSB for the Armed Forces.. SSB interiew experience

This very raw write it up is dated 2008, just as raw life was back then, and this was also immediately after my unsuccessful attempt at the SSB. The wonderful experience and the satisfaction of making it this far still made me feel successful, although the results said otherwise. For some ideological reason, I didn't give another shot, and today, I seriously feel that it was a mistake. I should have tried again.

Aankho mein sapne liye
Ghar se hum chal tho diye
Jaane yeh raahein ab le jaayengi kahaan
Mitthi ki khushbu aayi, Palkhoan pe aansu laayi
Phalkhoan mein reh jaayega yaadoan ka jahaan
Manzil nayi hai, Anjaana hai kaarbaan
Chalna akele hai yahaan, Tanha dil, tanha safar..

On 29th Feb 08, I was all set to go to the SSB interview at 21 SSB, Bhopal. After having cleared my CDS Exam (Roll No. 28578), I got the call letter for the IMA (DE)-125 Army Course that begins in July 2008. The orders asked me to be at the Bhopal Railway Station at 1 pm on 3 March 2008. Today was also an important day as there was the college debate competition to decide the debater of the year. I was longing for this event from a very long time. However, things were appearing a little suspicious to me and I was feeling some unease in myself. I was feeling that one person will get the first position irrespective of how that person spoke. The person who is supposed to conduct the debate will cheat everyone. Lets see if this feeling will become a reality.

I got up early and went to the college at 9.30 am. I had a small work relating to LIC on the way and after that, I sat down and prepared for the debate. Then, I moved home at around 12.30 pm and did the final packing and kept things ready. I went back to college by walk. After participating in the debate, I went to the railway station at 4 pm where my parents were waiting with the luggage. Some of my friends too came to leave me. Soon, I waived good bye to all and the train moved. There was a misunderstanding in me that it takes 2 days to reach Bhopal. However, it would take just 1 day and 4 hours. So, I would be 2 days early to the interview. I met some army jawans in the train. We chatted for some time. I had carried all my CA books to study. But I could not do it. At around 8 pm, I went to bed.

The March month began now. I was just lying on the seat all time. I had carried some snacks from home and I ate them whenever I felt hungry. Finally, after a long waiting, I was dropped in Bhopal at 7.30 pm. I was unable to believe for some time that I have really come to Bhopal and that too, for the SSB interview. Where has life brought me and why, from where did this happen, how, whats the reason, am I really going for the interview, etc were some questions that were hitting my mind. I must definitely say that I was very tired with the entire journey and I wanted some rest. I went to a lodge and as the rates were high, I came back to the railway station and accommodated myself in the restroom. It was quite comfortable along with all the basic amenities. Luckily, I also found a person who had come for the same interview. He was a nice person and thankfully, I was a little relieved.

The second day of March was spent at the restroom lazily. I was deeply worried about the financial problems of my family. I was trying to find some ways to solve the problems. Things are very difficult and my survival itself is a mystery.

The 3rd day was an important day as I was supposed to report for the interview today. I got ready for the day. After a bath, wash, change, etc, I packed everything. The bus that was supposed to carry us at 1 pm arrived at 3 pm. We were taken to the 21 SSB, SCC, Bhopal immediately. After keeping our luggage and having a wash, we were asked to assemble at the testing hall along with all the documents in original. The entire documentation process was completed. We were given all the rules, regulations, instructions, schedule, etc that were supposed to be followed. Each candidate was issued a chest number for reference. I was given the chest no. 12. After the process, we had the dinner. The SSBJ feeling returned in me. I was feeling good for it. After a very long time, I got time. I had been working like a donkey all day, all night everyday. And today, after a very long time, I had some time with me to think about me and my life. Though I didn't think much, I just lied down and breathed. Breathed and felt that even I can do it. I made some new friends. One person, Rajeev Ranjan (Chest No. 45) was from MS Ramiah College, Bangalore. He was a classmate of Mallikarjun, my SSBJ friend. Soon, I had a bath and went to bed as I had to get up early.

On 4th of March, the interview process began. I got up at 5 am and got ready in formal dress. All were asked to pack their luggage and keep it in a common room. The first day is called as the screening day. Whoever fails the screening is sent back immediately and that's why we were asked to keep the luggage ready to avoid unnecessary delays. We were about 86 of us attending the interview. The tests began at 6.30 am. We wrote 2 intelligence tests. The intelligence tests contained about 60 questions each that were be to answered in 30 minutes. There were questions of all types that were designed to test the basic intelligence, the IQ. Immediately, there was a thematic appreciation test. We were shown a picture and asked to write a story on it. After writing the story, we were divided in groups. There were 14 in my group. All the persons were asked to read out their stories individually. After that, we were asked to do a group discussion and come to a common conclusion and devise a common group story. Everything went fine. Though there were good number of arguments, we could come to a common conclusion in the given time. Soon, we were sent to lunch. After lunch, all were asked to stand outside the testing hall. All were asked to return the chest numbers. And then, the people who cleared the screening test were asked to come inside the testing hall one by one. 50 students were screened in. The remaining were dropped back to the railway station immediately. And yeah, I was screened in!!!Yet, I was not happy. There was no much excitement in me even at this point. I was still confused. And now, more confused as I was unable to understand what was actually happening in my life. Hmm.. let see where fate takes me. I always believe that a human being cant control 2 things. He has no right or he can in no ways decide about his birth or death. God does it. And even during lifetime, God decided 2 things for man. Irrespective of whatever happens, only God can decide these two things. One is the person who we marry and the other is, whether we join the Indian Army or not..We were given new chest numbers and an identity card too. My new chest number was 11. We all were immediately given a PIQ form (Personal Information Questionnaire) that we were supposed to fill. We were given the information about filling it up and asked to put up the necessary documents in support of the same. We moved to the barracks and occupied our new beds in serial order. I got the second barrack which was meant for chest no. 7-12. Soon, I filled up the PIQ form and attached the documents. Then, we all wet back to submit it. By 6 pm, all this process was over. We were also given the travelling allowance money. Whatever I got (850 odd), I deposited into the ATM as it was necessary for certain reasons. I just moved around the campus with my friends. We had some discussions about our lives. After a lot of chatting, we had dinner and were soon, of to bed.

On the 5th of March, the psycholgy test was scheduled. During the psychology test at 6 am, all were supposed to stand up and tell their chest number, name and date of birth. I said that when my turn came. But then, no one even knew that today is 5 March. The psychologist knew that. She wished me from the stage and the entire group wished along. Soon, the psychology tests began. The first test was the PAT (Picture Appreciation Test). In this, we would be shown a picture slide for 30 seconds and then, we would be given 4 minutes to write a story on the picture. In the same way, we were shown 11 pictures one by one continuously. There was a 12th blank picture to write our own story. It was seriously tiring exercise. Writing stories was a tough task. Yet, I did well. Immediately, we had the next test, the WAT (Word Association Test). Here, we would be shown a word for 5 seconds and asked to write a sentence on it within the next 30 seconds. The same procedure was continuously done till we made sentences using 60 words. Even this was a good experience and I did well. Immediately, the next test, SRT (Situation Reaction Test) began. Here, we were given 60 different situations of life and asked to write down our reactions. There were very good and interesting questions. The time given was 30 minutes and I could answer 50 questions only. After this entire psychological test processes, we were told that the interviews will begin today. In SSB, there are 3 types of tests conducted by 3 officers. The Psychologist, the Group Task Officer, the Interviewer. Our psychological tests were over now. And today, the interview would also get over. But then, due to lack of time, my interview was postponed to the next day. I felt within myself now that my interview will not go well tomorrow. The reason being unknown. I resisted the phone the whole day and did not use it. However, I used it in the afternoon when I got to know that interview was postponed. A few wishes came from home, friends and all. Soon, I had my dinner. The next day was the first GTO (Group Task Officer) testing day. For this, we had to be in whites and whites. I just kept the necessary things ready. And knowing that I would again need to get up very early in the morning, I went to bed immediately. Before I could get sleep, I felt that this was one of the worst birthdays, forget birthday, this was one of the worst day of my life. The whole day went waste. The tests got over early morning. And from morning till now, I waited for the interview which never came. I couldn't even do other activities as the interview call would come any moment. Hmmm.. Changes are common.. Lets move on..

The 6th day of March was the first day of GTO tests. I got up very early and got ready. We had the breakfast and were present in the grounds for the tests by 6 am. Soon, our group (10 of us from chest no. 11 to 20) were introduced to our GTO who would be conducting the tests for the next 2 days and would assess us in his ways. Our GTO was Lt Col Sameer and he was a very nice and humble person. He explained us everything about today and the next day. Soon, we began the day with group discussion. We were given 2 topics. Firstly, What is more important for India's development? Manufacturing, Infrastructure or FDI? And secondly, The pros and cons of Tata Nano. We chose to speak on the first topic. Everything began well. I was the initiator of the GD amidst big attempts by all. We spoke on all points and it was a very meaningful and good discussion that we had. I added some valuable points wherever possible. Soon, things came to an end and immediately, we were given a topic to speak- "The reasons for increasing divorces. Woman is becoming ambitious or Stress at work or Male dominant society." The discussion on this topic too went very fine and we covered some good points. Although I felt that we all were doing a good job, I felt in my heart that Chest No. 19 has a chance to get selected. After this, we had a mini break for 2 minutes. I was feeling very good and was happy with my performance. The next task that was before us was the Military Planning. In this, we were given a situation of problems. And we were supposed to solve it. There were many problems and all had to be solved at the same time. Each person was asked to give his solution in writing. After this, the written material was taken back and we were asked to discuss as a group and give the common solution. Things went a little crazy here as one person began and never stopped. Finally, the GTO himself had to stop him and say that its a team work and not an individual play. Soon, we all discussed. And we were about to come to a common conclusion but were interrupted by other members. The process went on and by the time we could arrive at the solution, we were too late. After this, the next task was the Progressive Group Task. Here, we all were given a obstacle that we had to clear using some helping materials like a plank, rope, etc. There were some rules that we needed to follow. The task was to move from the start line to finish line without stepping the red lines and without using the blue lines to keep the material and using only white lines. No jumping was allowed. Use of plank and bamboo was permitted. There were 4 such obstacles to clear. Yet again, things were not moving. No head worked properly. The task was too difficult to crack. Soon, somehow, we got a solution to the first obstacle. In the second obstacle too, a solution was found. In fact, we were advised not to make bridges. But still, we created a bridge and went on. The GTO didn't say anything as we didn't have other solution either. But, he would have definitely marked it in the records. I was not able to involve myself in this as the number of people was very high. Somehow, we reached the 3rd obstacle. And after this, we were asked to stop. We were divided into 2 teams. And the fourth obstacle would be our next test, the Half Group Task. We cleared the fourth obstacle too. Then immediately, the most exciting event of the GTO, The Snake Race, began. Here, all the 10 people were supposed to carry a big snake across the obstacle course. All the 10 people were needed to hold it all the time except while clearing the obstacle where 3 would be sufficient. There were many obstacles from horse jumping to eight crossing to rope ladders to wall jump to double wall pit, etc. Our group performed excellently well. Immediately, we were all called for the next task, ie, the Lecturette. Well, a real tiring day. But funny too. And yet again, me being the 1st person in my batch, I was supposed to give the first lecture for 3 minutes on the topic given. I was given 4 topics out of which I chose to speak on Health care services. I spoke well and everything was fine. Immediately, everyone completed. And we were asked to go for the interview. As i was the first person, I was asked to go on the same dress. I reached the hall and then, I was given 5 minutes to change and be back. I was back in formals and the interview began. The interview went very well. All was superb. I was very happy. But I also got to know one thing for sure, I will not get selected. The reason, I don't know, I felt within myself that I was perfect in all but imperfect for army. And as already told, God has written whether I am going to be in the army or not. And at this point, I believe, God has not written that for me..Soon, I decided to enjoy the small stay here. I gathered everyone and convinced them for a Bhopal tour. We all hired a taxi and went on. It was a lovely experience. Seeing the railway station of Bhopal, I never felt that Bhopal had anything in it. But on seeing the city today, I was amazed. The Bhopal Lake that lies in the centre of the city is the most attractive part. We visited the lake, Birla Temple, Museum, New Market, Zoo and many other places. We had a great time. Soon, we were back. And after the dinner, we all gathered together and had a lot of fun. 2 biharis (Chest no. 22 and 27) got together and looted the entire group. We had great fun sharing our experiences and it all went up to 1 am at night. It was another lovely experience.

The 7th of March would be the second and final testing day on the GTO grounds. Its almost the end of the SSB interview process today. The last part that would remain after this would be the conference that is scheduled for the next day. Yet again, I had to get up early and have a quick wash and breakfast to be present in the ground with everyone at 6 am. Well, it was a big challenge today. We had to perform the individual obstacles now. There were about 10 obstacles that we had to clear in 3 minutes. I have grown too fat and I really doubted if I could clear them. The obstacles included balance bars walking to pit jump to criss-cross balancing to Burma bridge to double jump from top to hanging rope on which a swinging jump had to be taken to a rope jump to cross 2 pits to commando bridge among others. Well, yet again, I was the first person called to perform this too. It was really a tiring work. I was able to clear all but one which I forgot. It was really a great experience. I had never ever done anything of this sort in the past 4 years. Jumping and catching a hanging rope and swinging across was a really wonderful experience. Though I felt happy at my performance, I am sure that the GTO would not be happy as I was unable to clear all the obstacles. It demanded a lot of physical stamina which is not available to the extent it was earlier in me. Soon after this, the next one was the Command Task. Here, we were supposed to take command of any two people among the group and take them through the given obstacle course using the given helping material. I was unable to get the ideas to move across the task. I somehow cleared 60% of it by a lot of effort in a lot of time. For the remaining 40%, I was clueless and could not complete it. I felt a little sad. Further, I was not called by anyone for their command task. This was a real negative point for me as this would indicate to the GTO that I was not friendly with the group although that was not the case. Anyways, I had to accept it all now. Moreover, by now, I was sure that I am out. So, I didn't bother much. And then, we came to the final task of the day, the Final Group Task. In this, we were given another obstacle which should be cleared by the group using the helping materials. Generally, this is conducted for formality and entertainment. Yet, nothing can be said seriously about it. We were asked how much time we needed to clear it. We said 20 minutes. However, the GTO gave us just 5 mins and guess what, we cleared it in 3 minutes. And then, we all gathered and had an interaction with the GTO. He gave some important information. He was a friendly and nice person. He gave some advice for life. After this, we came back to the barracks. I, immediately, collected the contact information of everyone. After lunch, everyone planned to move on with a movie. I don't why, I started feeling somewhat uneasy. Everyone moved on to the movie and I stayed back. I was feeling a little lonely and ignored too. I felt hopeless and my heart told me again that the army is not for me. I have always had miserable experiences in spite of the valuable contributions that I make. May be, sometimes, people cant digest the fact that someone is better than them because all these people are under the feeling that they are the best. I don't know what all ran on my mind but ultimately, the thought was to go on with commerce and finance. I have always held my head high in this field. My efforts have got me results and recognition too. I decided to go on with a bank job and simultaneously make in big in insurance and mutual funds sales. Lets see where life takes me now. To kill this boredom, I went on to an Internet parlor along with a new friend, Mayank (Chest No. 2). I created the orkut community for our batch P-CSE/72278 ( Soon, I was back and after dinner, I packed everything and kept the luggage ready for the next day and went to sleep.

The 8th day of March was the last testing day of our batch. After this, only those who clear will stay back and the others would be dropped back at the railway station. Though there were no tests today, there was the conference. In the conference, each candidate would be called in individually. And all the officers and assessors would be sitting in the conference with their uniform on. This will be first time that we will be seeing all of them in uniform. All these days, they did all the work in civil dress so that the candidates are not under pressure seeing the person in uniform. There were about 10 to 13 officers who sat in the hall. Usually, before the candidate enters the conference hall, the decision of whether to recommend him or not is taken. And then, he is invited inside and just asked small questions about the stay, food, etc and if he has any suggestions, etc. In some cases, when there is a biased opinion on a candidate, the officers may ask some extra questions to confirm their assessment and then decide. Well, the day began early today also. Initially, we had the address by the deputy president of 21 SSB who told us all about the kind of people that they were looking for. Some sentences that he spoke were a little confusing for me. He said that they are not looking for leaders. He also said that they don't want brilliant people either. Well, irrespective of whatever he says, I was sure that I would not be selected. Soon, the conference began. One by one, each person completed and my turn came. I was called in and asked how was the stay. I said it was good. I was asked to rate it on a scale of 10 and I rated it at 8.5. Further, when asked for suggestions, I asked them to provide the candidates with a certificate/report that would contain all details like date of attendance, course applied for, batch number, board number, etc. This will help the candidate who will go for the SSB again. It will also act as an evidence that can be shown in the college by the students claiming leave. However, they did not consider this saying that there is no need. Hmm.. the need is felt by the needy people. Not by them. The next suggestion that I gave was that the candidates must be given an individual feedback about their performance. Even this was put down by them saying that we must assess ourselves. Well, if this was the case, what was the need to conduct the SSB interview and appoint others to assess us. We would have assessed ourselves and given an underwriting that we are fit for the army. Well, I just finished and came out. I did not bother much. We were sent for lunch and after lunch, we assembled in the hall again. The results were announces. Eight out of fifty of us had made it and I was in the majority party. We soon congratulated them and moved on. Some were heartbroken whom we consoled saying that they are the future engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Soon, the bus arrived and we were dropped at the railway station. Yet again, a new problem arose. The train to Hubli was at 1 am in night. And it was full. I spent some time across and tried to get a reservation. All effort was in vain. Soon, I found a couple of friends who were going to Pune by the train at 11 pm. I decided to join them till Pune. And then, take a train/bus to Hubli. As decided, I got into the train. I found a gap below a seat. And somehow pushed myself below that seat and went to sleep.

The next day around 3 pm, I was at Pune. The train to Hubli was at 4.30 pm. And it was the same train that was coming from Bhopal at 1 am. I got on to it. And after another tiring journey, I was back to Hubli on 10th March 2008 at 6 am. And yet again, the adventure was on. I got down at the Unkal stop right in front of Sai Baba Temple thinking that I will catch an auto and move home. My search for an auto never ended till I reached home. I was totally exhausted. But again, the race of life has not kept anything for me called as rest. I had a quick bath and soon, got ready to move to college where I was supposed to attend the internal exam and also some shocks..

The SSB experience was indeed an awesome value addition to life. It came at the right time in life. Though I would not join the army even I had cleared the SSB, the main reason why I went there was to see if I was fit to join the army. Many a times, it so happens that people keep on telling me, had you joined the army, life would be settled, etc. Even I feel the same sometimes. And now, there is no chance for me or for people to brood in the same way. Because the decision and result is out now and it clearly stops me from joining the forces.

I met some good people and all became good friends. This short friendship might not last long. The reason being that, we were just knowing each other and we are already separated. They are again busy in their life and we, in our life. I have made an effort to keep in touch with them. Lets see how far I can succeed.

I am happy that these few days were added to my life's experience and I am thankful to the God for this.


  1. Informative and well written puneet.
    Hope it helps many aspiring for SSB.

  2. Very well narrated.. as usual it has the stamp of Puneet! Meaning you cant stop reading till the very end.

  3. Bhai, great write up. Enjoyed every word of your RAW story.

    My SSB interview days recherished at same time.

    Keep writing, bring more smiles ahead :)

  4. Such a detailed narration about SSB interview, really mind blowing. I too had been to SSB interview in 1976 to Bhopal. Now I vaguely remember all that happened there.
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  5. Astounding blog entry! I discovered exceptionally valuable data in this blog. I think you are an expert blogger. Your composing expertise is awesome. You're the best for this blog.
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