Unless and until you let out your thoughts, they kill you. Will they kill you or will you manage to kill them and keep your ethic alive is the test known as OLQ.

Officer Like Qualities.

My papa had a dream the morning I was supposed to leave for Kolkata, that I am an officer in Railway. And I still went to give an SSB for the Indian Navy. Destiny. I was meant to lose.

Before this journey, I went to the south, I got in, finished all physical tasks with ease because I had exercised regularly for two months, giving me abs and shoulders that could hold on to a rope. So I did not study for the psychological tests and the interview.

The best SSB websites suggest that it is a personality test, the recommended candidate interviews quote, “you don’t need to prepare for them except some general knowledge which relax, they are not testing you for, it is your confidence and calmness for which they are checking you out.”

I am a wise person. I accepted the googled advise and got conferenced out. Even the Natarajan book didn’t help. Maybe the officers have read it too, very famous.

But I was my natural self.

What an excuse! My sleeping sub-conscious finally woke up after I wrote half a page. It told me to stop putting garbage in my mind, it has to puke out so many words.

I will start at the beginning. It was the autumn of the year 2018, the rains had just stopped and Priya was tired of her forever dirty glasses and shaking confidence. By sheer coincidence, she read about lawyers in army and was surprised, she did not know that Army had lawyers, why would she? She had an image of fighters, fliers, sailors and engineers in her mind whenever she imagined the people in the uniform.

But childhood stories of her papa’s dream of being an Indian Army officer had never faded. He had never been covert but it was known in the family that he had cleared an exam but needed funds. His mother had no concept of his ambitions, only her elder daughter’s death, her husband’s subsequent shocked silent staring at the walls for years and dwindling riches to rags debts had her attention. When she got wind, she told us she would have done something for him, arrange the money somehow, he should have told her.

She applied for JAG 22 and got in. The preparations began in full swing. Which means buying good clothes, night suits and an eye laser surgery. The call up letter clearly stated one night stay between the reporting day and the screening test day.

On her last visit to her nana’s home in December 2018, she was excited to watch the passing cantonment again. She will finally have answers. What was inside the cantonment, who lives there, what happens behind these tall walls.

She never thought beyond that. She lived her dream. We all do.

But that one disciplined night in the Allahabad SSB Center with new friends, watching men in uniform walking briskly to the main gate at six in the morning, leaving for their respective duties, giving a performance under pressure and then listening to so many female advocates not quibbing about clients and judges but discussing their stories of how they came to be here, where will they go from here and they must go boating in Ganga Jamuna Saraswati.

As soon as the day ended and the results were out, Priya wasn’t disappointed, much. She had seen the desperateness in many eyes, having no idea that she will be desperate too, in a few years.

Departing from her new friends after watching the sunset at Triveni sangam, she reached the hotel where her parents had stayed. Return train was full of taunts of the expenses she incurred for the trip. She had always been a private person. She could not share her thoughts where they would not be listened to or made a joke of. So instead of telling them about the undying respect this journey had created inside her for the Indian Army, she told them she only wanted a vacation, she didn’t ask them to tag along.

That night in train to home, she read a gifted book she had since childhood, Tuesdays with Morrie.

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

The journey to making decisions, for yourself, by yourself is like asking for a new government. The old government: parents, relatives and their advisors will not appreciate it.

It may take years of falling down and climbing up the wall, but once you start hanging on the edge, you are still hanging but you can see the skyline.

They will accept that you have grown up when they hear good things about you from their own network, not yours. Yes they will. It’s psychology so don’t argue. I am an advocate.

And that is what SSB needs from a candidate, one who does not want to fall down under pressure.

I gave up on a silly dream, being a part of the Indian Armed Forces.

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