Parents insisted that I shouldn’t put all eggs in one basket. Increasingly defensive position of dedicatedly preparing for one exam for three years with not even an interview call to show for it made me reluctantly agree to try my hand at other competitive exams. Filled up Staff Selection Commission form last year only to later realize that it was for clerical positions. Decided would much rather spend life as unemployed bum than take up a clerical job which would simply hurt pride too much to be worth any of the concomitant perks.
This year Ma showed the newspaper advertisement for SBI PO recruitment and requested I consider applying for it. Consider I did. Parents reassured me they didn’t expect anything out of it – go with a free mind, they said. That’s what I did.
My preliminary thoughts on the exam – it isn’t difficult, but it’s really lengthy and requires way more than the one hour allotted to complete the paper. It is also crazily competitive – while around 11 lakh apply for UPSC civil services every year, around 30 lakh apply for SBI PO every year. Lastly, it doesn’t require too much by way of preparation. I gave it two days of prep, but I think two weeks or so would be sufficient. The strategy is to increase your speed for the types of questions you are already comfortable with. And to wisely leave alone questions that would take too much time to solve.
I don’t want to spend the next thirty years of my life being a banker. I have the consciousness of being me for a limited lifespan ( a few twirls around the sun, as Mike Spencer Bown puts it), and then I will be dead forever after, and I don’t want to spend the greater chunk of that precious consciousness in the experience of being a banker of all things. I know SBI hasn’t laid out a red carpet for me or anything, and there’s no guarantee I am going to clear it, but still. (Later Edit: I cleared it comfortably) There has to be more adventure to life. I mean, everyone wants to read “An Autobiography of a Yogi”. Who wants to read about the life of a banker?
All I want in life right now is to clear the civil services exam. It is my Moby Dick and I am Ishmael. I am obsessed.
My dad waited outside the center for me as I finished the preliminary exam. He said tentatively, there’s an officer in one of my branches whose son appeared for UPSC interview this year. He changed his optional from Geography to Philosophy which he believes was instrumental in helping him clear mains. Do you want to consider taking Philosophy this year?
All I said was, I have already filled the form for this year, no changes can be made anymore, so there’s no point discussing it right now.
It turned out that I cleared the preliminary exam by a hair’s margin. I had less than two months for the main exam. I decided to spend one day prepping for it, not because I have any confidence in my abilities but because it was only two weeks before my Civil Services Preliminary Exam which occupies a more important place in my life.
There are five sections in the SBI PO Mains Exam. The first section is reasoning. You have to figure out stuff like who is wearing the red shirt among a group of five friends attired in different coloured clothing, or the blood relations between a set a of people based on certain information. I am really good at reasoning actually. As long as things don’t involve numbers, my brain is super logical and rational. The second section is English, which I think I did really well, and if I scored less than stellar marks in that section, it’s because the folks at SBI need to brush up their English, not me. The third section was “Data Interpretation” which just had a lot of probability sums that I am really bad at. Needless to say, I tanked this section. The fourth was Banking Awareness, which thanks to my extensive GK preparation for Civil Services, I was comfortable with. The last section was my forte – Essay Writing, and this was what I was relying on to get me through.
I did not have much hope of clearing but I remained optimistic, mostly because I am very condescending towards any exam that is not the civil services. I waited for two excruciatingly long months and found out in August 2017 that I had cleared the second stage as well. Now all that remained was the interview, and most of you readers have not met me in real life, but you can take my word for it that I am exceedingly competent at interpersonal communication. I can be charming even, if the situation warrants. And this interview certainly warranted charm.
My interview took place in the middle of September, and again I was pressed for time because my Civil Services Main exam was in October. So I didn’t have any time to prepare for it and decided to rely solely on my charms and confidence to breeze through. Since I am writing this post in November I do not exactly recall the details of the interview, but all I remember is being an asshole about it. What I mean is that overtly I was humble and smiling, but internally this douchebaggy thought was running in my head – I am a civil services aspirant, therefore I am likely more informed and aware about current events than my interview board, and so I answered all questions with a supreme confidence that bordered on delusional. I think it paid off because the interview board didn’t do too much cross questioning. Everything was very perfunctory.
I met some nice people at the interview, other candidates who were my age, and I realized how starved I have been for company of other people my age. The only other people I hang out with are Smriti and Khushboo, and they might as well be my clone because they live my life exactly – isolated, civil services aspirants eking a millennial existence in their parents’ houses. So they don’t exactly count.
Three days before my Civil Services Main exam the interview result came out and although I was borderline confident of clearing, nothing is certain till the search result shows a 1/1 match with your roll number in the list of successful candidates. Now I am officially a Probationary Officer in State Bank of India. I am not proud enough of this fact to tell a lot of people. I have only told people that I interact on a regular basis. And of course, I am telling people who read this blog.
I have been living in my parents’ house for two years now as a 20-something year old and so it feels unreal and surreal to think that I am going to be leaving soon to set up my own household. I leave on the 28th of December, and I only hope adventure awaits. I can’t help thinking about what PM Modi said once about the unemployment problem in India. The fact is that there are plenty of jobs available for the taking. And there are plenty of job seekers out there as well. The rising unemployment is not because there are no jobs, but because snotty faced privileged brats such as myself think it beneath them to take up those jobs. We would much rather languish in our parents’ houses than condescend to do jobs that are below our skill set. I am ashamed to say that SBI barely qualifies as a job that I would take under any other circumstances. But I am 26 now and slightly desperate.
Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to life. The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. You deal as best as you can.