So it was in one of the green-rooms at the RJMCEI auditorium in the old campus. I was 6th or 7th in the list of some 13-15 odd candidates called for an interview in economics area. While I qualified on the basis of CAT (Common Admission Test), there were people with CAT, GMAT, GRE, NET-JRF scores as well. The people going in before me were not very upbeat except one guy. Most of them came out with long faces and did not share any details. So when I was called in, I was totally blank. Nonetheless, so this is how it happened. There were four professors in the panel, whose name I could figure out later that evening during the admission dinner. However, for the moment, I'd call them in their seating order (from L-R) as Profs. RB, RD, SC, and SD.
RB: So why are you here?
Me (very enthusiastically and probably a little too quickly): Sir, I want to be a Professor.
RB: Ok, so what area would you want to specialize in?
Me: Sir, I like international trade.
Me: Sir, I have read that India has no good trade advocates and as a result, we often lose out on the international trade cases.
RB: hmm... so can we ask anything about international trade?
Me: Sure Sir, I will try.
Then RB and I had some long discussion over the Multi-Fibre Agreement (I got one year wrong - 1997 to 1995 - but otherwise, it went well). I knew MFA so well primarily because The Statesman had covered the MFA very extensively with two long Sunday stories. And then, some details of IPRs - that is where SC took over and grilled on TRIPS. The patent regime was in transition and there were some tricky questions to classify product and process patents etc. I remember telling him that in some cases, there is no clarity and WTO is still discussing the same. While I had no clue if it was so or not, SC told me during the evening dinner that I was right and that WTO is discussing the same.
After that, it was RD's turn. RD drew some graphs of a production function, asked about capital intensity vs. labor intensity, and had to cross-check on the last one because we were seeing the same page from opposite directions
Finally, SD started with statistics and econometrics. Although I didn't (and don't) know much there, SD asked me about measures of Central Tendency and dispersion, and thereafter SD (Standard Deviation). I gave him a good definition of SD but when I was asked to write the formula, I offered to derive it for him. The panel was somewhat astonished and probably rejective. I remember telling them precisely that I barely ever remember a formula but I know the principle and I can derive not only SD but also other higher order formulae as well.
So, folks, that is when I think the panel gave up on me - about 17 minutes of disappointments, followed by five more years of the same!
When the interview got over, I was so sure of never being able to come back to IIMA campus that I decided to buy the last remaining tee-shirts as a piece of memorabilia. On March 14, 2005, I got a mail in my spam folder from Raghu in FPM office that I have been selected. I was so sure that it was an actual spam that I did not inform anyone (except my mother) for a whole week, till I received the letter of selection and joining instructions.
When I landed up at IIMA for joining on May 31, 2005, I was the only one for the next two months, who had an IIMA tee-shirt, as the shop was not stocked for a while.