I am probably the only person on this planet who took the IIT entrance thrice, despite passing it every time!
I got into IIT Madras the first time, after my class XI. I had my trunk packed and then got cold feet. I gingerly approached my father and told him that I didn’t feel like going. He said, what do you mean? I loved science but not necessarily engineering. By seventh standard, I had a sophisticated chemistry lab at home, had already built a microscope that could magnify things to a 1000x. I spent a worrying amount of time on the roof taking photographs of Saturn! My interest had come from my dad, one of the earliest and brightest scientists at Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), an extraordinarily bright mathematician and a Sanskrit scholar. He, like very few others, was indulgent of my decision to opt out of IIT after my first attempt. “Okay, there is always a next year,” he said.
The next year, after my 12th, I took the exam once again. I didn’t do so well this time. Then, I took the third attempt, got a fantastic rank and went for the field of my choice.
My formative years were spent in Chandigarh, where we moved to when I was in the third standard. I grew up in the shadow of a very talented sister, Malini, who is six and a half years older than me. She had many friends, always ranked first in class and won every prize. I was shy, mediocre in studies and terrible at sports. My mother, a homemaker, used to worry about me.
In class IV, I ranked 11th in a class of 33. Terrified, I didn’t return home that day and instead went home with the rickshaw-wallah who picked me and my friend up from school. My parents called the police and there was much hullabaloo, but I returned the next morning with Ram Lal. The poor man got an earful!
I can’t forget the incident, after all, I lived the first 47 years of my life as programmed by my mother. She had said, “Hard work leads to achievement, achievement leads to recognition and that&r