I was travelling this weekend during the festival Holi, and started reminiscing about the happy memories about this particular festival. One particular occasion I recounted was when I travelled to Varanasi for Indian Airforce’s SSB (Service Selection Board) for the interview stage of NDA (National Defence Academy). It was in the year 2001, I was done with my board exams, and had got this interview call from NDA. So, while I was waiting for results of college admission exams, I decided to give the week-long process a try. Which young boy’s dream isn’t to join the Airforce and become a pilot?

I am not in Indian Air Force, so you know how the story ends, but it’s still interesting on how the story goes.


This was my first solo travel trip, and I was terrified. Travelling all the way to Varanasi on my own, without any cellphone (it was year 2001 after all). But kudos to Indian Railways, they really make India what it is. Also thankful to Varanasi SSB for sending out a bus to Railway Station to pick up the candidates. There were a total of 79 candidates for this week-long exercise and on Day-One evening 6pm, all of us were assembled in a large room to fill out the initial forms. Communication and presentation by SSB chairman was impeccable and my first impressions were of awe for India’s Armed forces.


After the initial formalities were done, we were set for the week long process and everything about it was managed with class. I enjoyed my time there, and this is what brings me to the actual personal interview. The process requires one to write a 250 words essay on any topic of your choice, along with a 250 words essay on a topic they give. I hadn’t prepared for any specific topic, however I wanted it to make an impact.

In my naivety, I chose the topic of Optimism as title of my essay and wrote about my travel experience to Varanasi, noting my observations of the sheer variety of people I met during the journey. My key point was to contrast that with the future we are to collectively build a happy and prosperous country together. I wrote about my hopes for the future to take our country and its people to new heights and establish a society based on excellence and equality for all. I was only 16 then, and given the unusual topic and content of the essay, it was pointed to me during my personal interview. I explained my rational behind the essay and the interviewer seemed to be content with my answer. This is one point I remember in detail, fourteen years after the actual interview. We have come a long way since then, and there is still a long journey ahead of us, but I am every more optimistic about future.


I have no regrets of not entering IAF at the time, however it would’ve been a dramatically different life for me had I got it. I am always optimistic of the future prospects being significantly better than the past.

Hope Floats.

Best, Umang