The last 10 days of April 2011 were highly eventful for me. On 22nd of April 2011, I got a mail from IIT Kanpur for the interview process, on 27th April 2011, I got a mail from IIT Madras, and on 28th April 2011 I got a mail from IIT Bombay! My worst fears were about the clash of interview schedules of different IITs. The fears turned true when I realized that IIT Madras and IIT Kanpur had a perfect clash of their interview schedules (both scheduled for May 24, 2011), which meant that I would have to sacrifice one of the IITs. While I was still in the anxiety of having lost a chance (upon reading the mail from IIT Madras on 27th April), I received another e-mail with subject “Admissions to M.Tech. Programme 2011-12” from IIT Bombay on 28th April 2011. I was yet to open the mail that I started fearing about a probable clash here as well. But to my relief, there was no clash here atleast, I took a sigh of relief. Upon reading the mail, I realized that the information from IIT Bombay arrived on a really short notice, as my screening for IIT Bombay was scheduled for May 11-13th 2011, i.e just 12 days after receiving the information! I had applied for 2 departments/centres:
a. Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering
b. Centre for Environmental Sciences & Engineering
I had got the call from both of them.
My immediate concern was to book a train ticket (wasn’t financially sound enough to book a flight ticket!). But, getting a confirmed ticked for such a short notice travel was completely out of question! Nevertheless, I booked a ticket in Firozepur Janta Express at a waitlist of above 80 in sleeper class for a journey scheduled to commence on May 9, 2011. By May 8, 2011, the waitlist had miraculously reduced to 12. I had still tried to book my ticket under tatkal quota but to no avail. But, I was almost certain that my seat will get confirmed given the current waitlist being 12 at that time. But, God probably had different plans for me. After charting, my final status was “W/L 1”, nothing could be more disappointing than this! My status was frozen at waitlist 1! And as I had made an online reservation, my ticket got void! In short-on May 9, 2011 morning, the day my journey was scheduled, I had NO TICKET in hand!
On May 9, 2011, I reached New Delhi railway station at 1:00 pm. I enquired about every possible way to get a reserved ticket to Mumbai (current reservation, black, agents of Ajmeri Gate, everything) but I couldn’t get a ticket. During all my efforts, the clock had ticked over 2 hours, and it was already 3:30 pm. Then I enquired about the next train to Bombay and took a general class ticket for a journey till Mumbai (it cost me hardly 250 rupees). At around 4:30 pm Paschim Express arrived at the railway station. I searched for the TT of the train. I explained him my situation, but he said that had there been any sleeper/a.c seat available, he would have offered me the same (but the train was totally booked) with a huge waiting list already. He advised me to take the penalty slip and board the Sleeper class boggy for a relatively comfortable journey compared to the general class. I agreed to his point and paid Rs 430 towards penalty for boarding the sleeper class. Till Mathura station, my journey was comfortable as one of the seats was vacant and I travelled till there on that seat. Thereafter, my only place to sleep during the entire night was the ‘floor of the boggy’. But there was a relief, “I would definitely reach Mumbai atleast, no matter how bad the conditions are”. Throughout the journey of over 16 hours I listened to “Tu Na Jaane Aas Paas hai Khuda” song, somehow it kept purging some support and confidence. I reached Mumbai on May 10, 2011 at around 2 pm and entered IIT Bombay in Powai region at around 4:30 pm.
My Screening Schedule
Written Test for Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering (BSBE): at 11:30 am on 11 May 2011 (Main Building. MB1,MB2)
Direct Interview for Environmental Sciences & Engineering (CESE) at 9:30 am on 12 May 2011 (Interview Only).
The Written Test of Biosciences & Bioengineering(BSBE)
The written test at BSBE was scheduled for 11:30 am. I had sufficient time to sleep well and get rid of all the fatigue. Upon reaching the venue for the test, an announcement was made for segregation of students with Mathematical background and Biology background in 12th. I was amongst those who hadn’t enrolled for mathematics in 12th class, so I was assigned to the group with Biology background. It was told to us that the students with Biology background will be tested for their Mathematical skills and those with Mathematical background would be tested for their Biology skills. It was a sort of surprise for both sets of groups. But all of us appreciated the segregation, as it would eliminate the chances of bias, as well as filter out only the perfectly interdisciplinary candidates.
I was very much comfortable with the segregation as I had been thorough with the Mathematics of 11th and 12th CBSE standard during my preparation for GATE 2011, and during my B.Tech. My best guides were the NCERT books (I had studied each and every chapter of the NCERT books thoroughly. As I got the question sheet, I found out that it was a theoretical test. There were 5 questions in the test. First question was on Limits and Continuity, Second was on Integration, Third was on Collision (Physics concept), Fourth was on Trigonometry and vectors and Fifth was from Work and Time. I comfortably solved all 5 of them and exited the hall within 20 minutes. And friends, I must say, I would still thank the simplicity of NCERT books that not only lowered the burden of content but also provided crisp and precise conceptual comprehension. I would recommend every “Non-Mathematical” background student to follow the NCERT Mathematics of 11th and 12th for making themselves sound in Mathematics.
The Result of Written-test and the “4-minute Interview Experience”
Though I was very much confident of my written test, I couldn’t underestimate the performance of other candidates. The result of the written test was published at 4:30pm on May 11, 2011. There was a rush of students towards the list attached to the Notice Board. I drilled through the crowd to have a glance of the list, and a smile embraced my face to see my name at the second number of the list (I have no idea whether the list was according to the performance in the test or it was just a random order), but I was just ecstatic to know that I had made it to the interview level. We were informed that the interview was scheduled for May 12, 2011 at 9:30 am (exactly the same time as Environmental Sc. & Engg.). I decided to give priority to the Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering as it was my core field.
During the night of May 11, 2011, I rehearsed for some expected questions like:
- “Why Lovely Professional University?”
- “What’s your interest?”
- “Why do you want to join us”?
- “Tell us about your project”
I slept around 11:30 pm after setting an alarm for 7:00 am.
Next, day I reached the venue for interview well in time. We were around 50 students short-listed for interview, out of which 20-25 were destined to be selected.
Sub-consciously, I was thinking of the CESE interview as well which I had left for BSBE. It was around 12:30 pm that my turn for the interview came. The interview room was a very small cabin with 2 male scientists sitting in front. An arc shaped table separated the interviewers from the interviewee. They grabbed my resume and immediately asked ,”So, you are from “Lovely” professional university?” I replied yes sir! “. I thought probably I’m going to be drilled on my decision to join LPU, but to my surprise, one of the male scientists (I don’t remember the names), sitting to the right of me, asked “Sunil, tell us about your interest, I see that you have done your major project on Biofuels”. I was well prepared to answer this question and responded ,” Sir, my interest is in Environmental Biotechnology”. And both of them said in sync ,” But here we are offering M.Tech in Biomedical Engineering, didn’t you know that?” I replied, yes sir I knew it, but considering the fact that BSBE has good history of working on Bioprocess and Bioremediation, I though there must be a place for me as well”. Then one of them responded in a tone of concern ,” well Sunil, we used to work on Bioremediation long back, but currently our focus for Masters level courses is entirely in Biomedical Engineering. Well, if you would still like to be interviewed we can go ahead. Do you want to be interviewed ahead?” And some how, a “No” came as an answer from me. Both of them then said ,” Sunil, it was nice meeting you, we will suggest you to go to CESE for an interview.” I thanked both of them, and said that I had applied there but it was scheduled for 9:30 am, so I guess I have missed it”. They said, no it must be going on, you just rush for them (they guided me about the venue). I came out of the cabin in a rush (it hardly took me 4 minutes to go through this First Interview after GATE BT!, and I knew that I had thrown away this chance, but somehow I was content too, as Biomedical Engineering wasn’t my interest at all).
Interview at Centre for Environmental Sciences and Engineering (CESE)
I reached the venue for interview at CESE in a state of restlessness and anxiety. I was wondering if I would be entertained at all or not. I was relieved to see a bunch of students there, they guided me to an administrator who was registering the details of the candidates. I immediately rushed to him, he checked all my documents and asked me to go to a room where my interview will be taken. I didn’t find time to even understand as to what all was happening to me, and directly knocked at the door where I was asked to go. There were two female scientists sitting in the room. Both of them asked me to have a seat. I was literally panting at that time. They asked me as to why I was panting. I narrated my entire experience of BSBE to them. They seemed disinterested by my experience. Then one of the scientists asked me:
” So, you are from Lovely Professional University? We have seen a lot of ads of this University”
I responded , “Yes, mam, I’m from LPU. And, yes they do spend a good amount of money on publicity. I guess it’s a part of business plans of most universities these days, LPU is no exception”.
Then a question came that almost shattered my hopes of having a good interview,:
“So, there are ACs in all classes? How are the floors of your university? Made of marble?”
I was in a sense of shock. I looked at their faces for a couple of seconds as if trying to convey that ,”are you really going to ask me such questions?”. And then in a hard tone I responded ,”Yes Mam, there are ACs in every class, the chairs and tables are of supreme quality, floors are made of speck white marbles; and most importantly all my teachers were from IITs”. There was a silence in the room for atleast half a minute!
My response probably conveyed my annoyance. Following that, I got some technical questions fired at me:
“Sunil, derive the formula for half life of a radioactive element on this piece of paper”
I was extremely comfortable in Bioprocess Engineering, and my knowledge of growth kinetics came to use that day. I just derived the formula for “Doubling time” of a biomass, and represented it as the formula for half life by amending the boundary conditions. It hardly took me 10-15 seconds to do so, and they liked the quick response.
Then they asked a trivial question to test my analytical skills. How much time it will take for a 50 gram protonium piece to reduce to 25 gram if it takes 10 ms for a 1 gram piece to reduce to 0.5 gram. I immediately responded ,”Same time mam”
Then the question came ,”Why Carbon monoxide is harmful?“
For a student of biology background, this was another trivial question. I explained in detail about the high affinity of carboxyhaemoglobin for oxygen, as compared to that of haemoglobin. Presented some extra details and they seemed content with my answer.
Their next question seemed to test my basics ,” Why do we exhale Carbon dioxide“?
I thought for a couple of seconds to decide whether I should give a biological detail or keep it simple. Assuming them to be non-biology people, I decided to answer in a very basic way. “Mam, the food we eat is used to derive energy. It acts as a fuel for our body. But to burn this fuel, Oxygen is needed. So we inhale oxygen for burning this food to combust the food taken in and derive energy. But the food we take-in is actually an organic compound. And as we know, the combustion of every organic compund ultimately leads to production of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water). It’s this CO2 which we ultimately exhale through a series of biological processes.
They seemed to have liked my answer. Their next question seemed more towards confirming whether I would really join them or not. They asked, Ok sunil, what would be the preference of choice between CESE and BSBE for you. I replied, Mam, I have already denied to get interviewed by BSBE.
Their next question was, “You didn’t have Mathematics in 12th class. How about your mathematical skills?”
I responded, “Mam I was supposed to appear for test of Mathematics by BSBE. I had cleared it and made it to interview. If you want to test my mathematics skills, I’m open to another written test.” They smiled and said ,”It’s ok”.
Their next question was , ” Do you want to say anything?”
I said , ” I have a deep interest in Environmental Biotechnology, in-fact I have a project plan with me (I had made a project plan on Chart papers about MFCs, and I showed them the same). If given a chance, I would love to work on it here, either with a faculty or even independently. I hope my candidature will be seriously considered”.
They said, “Thank you Sunil, you will get to know the results in a couple of weeks. You may leave now”
I smiled and thanked them both for interviewing me.
Bursting of the Pani-puri (Golgappa): Result of IIT Bombay Interview
On 27th May, 2011, I was enjoying Pani-puri in the streets of Faridabad with my internship friends. A message came to my mobile. I was holding a pani-puri in my hand and checked the SMS. It read ,” Congratulations! You have been selected for M.Tech in CESE at IIT Bombay. For more details check IITB website.” And that Pani-puri that I was holding got crushed in excitement! All my friends crushed their Pani-purees and we cheered the news together! The memories of that evening are still fresh in the mind and heart.
Hope you liked the experience. For any queries feel free to share your comments.