Backpackers Tokyo

Communication has become quite easy for our generation thanks to several inventions such as the internet and smartphones. However, this wasn't the case when our parents were young. 

Communication was definitely a problem in 1997 and Samrat Mukhopadhyay, a professor at the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Mohali, Punjab shared how he had to get through that to reach his dream interview. 

In a Twitter thread, Mukhopadhyay narrated how he finally reached Bangalore from Calcutta in time and qualified with flying colours. He started off by saying how excited he was for an integrated PhD programme at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore. After his graduation from Jadavpur University with high marks, he was sure to make it to the prestigious institution.

My performance in BSc (Jadavpur University) was quite well my MSc admission was guaranteed there (and I already got into some institutions including IITs). But it was a dream to pursue integrated PhD at IISc (that was and is still the top choice for students after BSc) (2/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

He was so sure of getting admitted to the university that he booked his train tickets beforehand. “I reserved my seats on the trains quite early. There was no direct train from Howrah (main station near Kolkata) to Bangalore – Howrah to Madras (now Chennai) by Coromandel Express and then Madras-Bangalore Mail (total travel time including a stopover in Madras ~ 36 hours),” he wrote.

I reserved my seats on the trains quite early. There was no direct train from Howrah (main station near Kolkata) to Bangalore – Howrah to Madras (now Chennai) by Coromandel Express and then Madras-Bangalore Mail (total travel time including a stopover in Madras ~ 36 hours) (4/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

However, even though he was quite hopeful, he never received the call letter for the interview. So he got disappointed and cancelled his train reservation. 

The interviews were scheduled to start on June 16, 1997. On the 16th morning, I was at home and was totally frustrated. My dream to study at IISc had shattered. I was unable to accept this was preparing myself to continue at Jadavpur University or join an IIT for my MSc (6/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

And just when he thought all was lost, fate had other plans for him. He did receive the letter on the day the interviews started. Although he thanked the postman for the letter and understood it was a postal delay, Mukhopadhyay admitted, “I was even more disappointed to receive the letter”.

I thought I had missed a big opportunity. Interviews have already started and it would take nearly 2 days (~ 36 hours) to reach Bangalore. Then I looked at the letter carefully; my interview was scheduled for June 18 at 9 AM – I had about 45 hours to reach Bangalore (8/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

 Even though he thought he had missed the opportunity he still opened his letter. Only after looking at it carefully did he realise his interview had been scheduled for June 18 and that he still had about 45 hours to make it.

I was out of my home within half an hour headed to the station – my sister telephoned my parents. I reached Howrah Station; my parents arrived from their offices. The problem was I had canceled my train reservations. I had a railway pass but no reservation (10/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

I got into the coach and my excitement percolated into my fellow passengers. They all inspired me and cheered me up throughout my 28-hour train ride to Madras. I arrived in Madras (Chennai Central Station) on the 17th quite late in the evening (12/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

  Even though he had cancelled the train, he got more time to fix things after the train got delayed for over 3 hours. However, things weren't easy for him. The first train got delayed, making him lose his connection train in Chennai. “Madras-Bangalore Mail had already left. I was going from pillar to post to find out how to travel to Bangalore. There was a severe storm and a power blackout,” he recalled.

Finally, I located a train called Guwahati-Bangalore Express that was stranded on a dark platform almost isolated from the main station. In the midst of lightning, thunder, and tumultuous rain, I managed to board the train (14/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

But the slow speed continued to worry me throughout the night. In the morning it sped up a bit and someone told me we’d arrive in Bangalore before 8 AM. Every stop made me worried about whether I’d be able to make it to IISc before 9 AM. It was going down to the wire (16/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

  However, he did find a spot on another train, the Guwahati-Bangalore Express, to take him to his destination. With severe rainfall, however, the train did not start for several hours and he was still stuck in Chennai. Finally, when the train left the station its slow speed only increased his anxiety and fear.

I reached near IISc gate at ~ 8:55 AM but now I was unable to cross the busy intersection of C.V. Raman Avenue. 😃 I requested traffic police to help me cross the road. He stopped all the vehicles and helped me cross the road (18/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

To his relief, the train sped up a little and he reached Bangalore - only 30 minutes before his appointment. Huffing and puffing and armed with all his luggage, he somehow made it before the interview panel. “My interview went on for ~ 40 min and I did very well. It couldn’t have been better,” he wrote. 

There were several professors (~ 15) on the interview panel and they must have been a little surprised to see my backpack and I was short of breath. My interview went for ~ 40 min and I did very well. It couldn’t have been better (20/n).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

The interview panel was highly impressed with my performance and I was asked to appear for the final round of interviews on the 18th afternoon. The final interview went very well and I was offered integrated PhD admission at IISc – I was ecstatic and triumphant! (22/n)

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

PS. Younger colleagues/students: This was a pre-email pre-internet era. Air travel was almost unimaginable even for the well-off. In fact, I didn't know there was an airport in Bangalore 😁. After this incident, IISc started telegram call letters the following year (1998).

— Samrat Mukhopadhyay (@SamratLabMohali) June 7, 2022

He told the committee why he showed up late. But his determination clearly made him stand out. Eventually, he did make it. “My life changed 25 years ago. I don’t know what I’d have done had I not made it to IISc. Whatever I have done in my life, I owe it to IISc,” he concluded.

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