Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Development Studies@TISS

The following is a description of my 2nd interview at Tata Institute of Social Sciences for Development Studies [ the first was for Social Entrepreneurship, also posted in Indian Policy ].

15th March, Tuesday:

I reached at 9.30 am but my turn came at 1:15 pm. Was completely exhausted of waiting and hunger. The call came...there were 4 people – Mr. A [South Indian - above 60s ], Mr. B [ Bengali, mid 40's ], Mr. C [ North East - mid 50's ] and Ms D [ wearing a beautiful violet saree, may be mid 40's ].

[ All smiling .... ]

IM: Good Afternoon ... [ trying to look at everybody ...]

A: Indira Mukherjee ?? Sit ..

IM: Thank you..

A: So Indira, what do you do ?

IM: Sir, I am a computer engineer.. working in Tata Consultancy Services.

A: Your subjects are all in abbreviation in the form ? Tell me about you subjects ?

IM: The first year is common to all streams - Physics, Chemistry, Maths. From 2nd year the departmental papers start where we learn Basic Electronics, introduction to Computers. The third years includes circuit theory, Software engineering while the final year is mostly project work.

A: Tell me about your project ?

IM: Sir, we developed an inventory system for a school wherein, the administration can log in all details related to the school infrastructure, say chairs, boards, computers etc and manage the system at the click of a mouse.

A: TCS...hmm....So Indira why TISS ?

IM: [ not again ..Repeated the same story told in SE last day ] ..

A: Why DS ?

IM: [ puro dhop .. ] Sir, this might sound bizarre...but the driver for DS is a quiz contest...TCS Kolkata is very active in Quizzing and a year back, we had a India Quiz. The event was a shocker for me as I was unable to answer very basic things. I did not even know, the number of states in India...I asked myself...what am I doing...I soon realized that the measure of being a responsible citizen is not merely paying taxes but something more. In search of the answer, I started reading a lot about India and gradually my interest grew. But studying over the net only will not help me much in the process of channelizing my aspiration and urge to make a difference to my society. So, I decided to take a step forward.

[ A and D looked at each other - I guess, after a long time they came across a different answer to a very common question ].

A: There is not end to learning right ?

IM: Truly Sir, it is a continuous process.

B: Tell me, you are in IT - how can you contribute to the society after DS ?

IM: IT is something sir, which has revolutionized the lives of millions. Just imagine, few years back, we used to go to the reservation counter to book our tickets. Now, we do it sitting at home, logging on to IRCTC. Can we imagine lives without Broadband ??? No... Such is the importance of It that even the Government has ventured into its concept of e-governance. Even the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Mr Verappa Moily has one report exclusively dedicated to E governance alongside Terrorism and RTI.

ICT is something which is much talked about in studies related to Indian Development. I am confident that my experience in IT will help me to initiate and skillfully drive any such initiative. At least I will know where to start and what will follow. Rest is joint effort and dedication.

[ B, C and D seemed happy .... ]

C: Tell me, what do you want to study in DS ?

IM: Before filling the form, I read about the semester wise electives. Most topics were very pertinent but 2 of them grabbed my special attention :

1) Democracy, State and Civil Society [ D saying to B - "That’s your paper.." ]
2) Women, culture and Society [ B saying to D -"That's yours" ...and they had a laugh ]..

I really want to study these and explore more on them.

D: Bengal has a real good connection with Tata's ...tell me your views on it ?

IM: I believe, you are pointing towards the Tata Nano episode.

D: Yes, tell me, is WB developed much under the Left rule ?

IM: [ ei re.. e to shoja laal r sabuj proshno .. ] Well Ma'am, if we compare with other states...no..but yes, we have made a slow start and are picking up fast.

D: Tell me about the growth under the left Government?

IM: [ You have to praise...bujhe gechi ... ] Last few years, WB has seen development, especially in the infrastructural domain - the number of SEZ's has also gone up. This has reduced unemployment to a measurable extent.

D: Most people who support the left, say that caste based politics is not present in West Bengal ? You agree ?

IM: The state elections are due in a month. There is a party for 33 years [ told them a line about Operation Barga ] while there is another which talks about change.

I would say, both yes and no to your question. No, because, there is no visible attempt like that of distributing colour TV set etc based on caste. But Yes also, because there have been incidents very recently, where conducting a puja on a site claimed by muslims led to the death of few people. This was used by both the parties in WB and debates were conducted instantly. Recently, Muslins were given a 10% reservation in Government jobs. This compels the common man on the street to think that whether to stick to the current and stable or give the "new" a chance. Only, time will say.

[ this one, I believe was the worst answer that I gave to anybody in a long time…I could have answered this better…don’t know, what went wrong then … ]

D: Do you know the percentage of SC and ST in WB ?

IM: [ thinking... ] Sorry Ma'am, I can tell you about India as a whole not for WB separately.

B: You draw a very good salary. After DS, your salary will not be this high. Do you know about that ?

IM: I took 4 long years to decide upon finally changing my career track. It is an extremely conscious decision. I understand that money is important but at the end of the day, you will have to love what you do. If that does not happen, it is better to earn less but be happy.

[ A, B and D telling C to asking something...]

C: I have 2 questions - why is your pic in black and white ?

[ All laughing ...even I laughed .. ]

IM: No Sir, I was late in submitting the form and this was the only one which I had at hand. Moreover, I am a fan of Michael Jackson ...

[ All laughing ...D said – “B/W shows she is from Bengal”..  ]

C: 2nd, you have mentioned your experience as 4.3 years. Does that mean 4 years and 3 months ?

IM: Yes, Sir. Actually there was not enough space to write down years and months separately.

C: But is that representation correct ?

IM: [ grinning ...] Its kind of a norm sir..but I understand your point...and will definitely find out why we write like that ..[ no point in arguing ..]

B: Are you aware of any rural development schemes launched by the GOI ?

IM: In our budget, Pranab da has allocated a lot of money to Bharat Nirman, more than MGNREGA. It is a program which encompasses 6 areas of rural development namely, Housing - Indira Awas Yojana; Roads - Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana; Telecom - Telephone/Broadband; Irrigation and electricity – Grameen Vidyutikaran yojana.

[ C nodding his head ..I wanted to talk about PURA and NREGA but he cut me short ..]

C: OK Indira, it was nice talking to you.

IM: Thank you..

[ All smiling ... ]

Today I met students from all parts of India - Ranchi, Assam, Delhi, Karnataka - there were students from St Xaviers, St Stephens etc. I assume my chances of clearing are very slim with only 20 seats open. However, this was a big learning experience and I have truly realized how much of a challenge, an interview of this sort can be. It is very important to stick to known topics and not mention any single word which can be picked up by the interviewer to grill you.

Looking forward to my trip back home tomorrow.


  1. Impressive!!! and lucky :P . IT and E-GOV example is quite impressive . If im right i too attended same panel. South indian asked me too many questions,my answers were ambiguous and politically biased, had few arguments as well :). compared to me u did v well. All the best .

  2. Thanks...E-Governance was the only thing that came to my mind at that moment...but finally, I did not get through...

    TISS missed a golden opportunity :-)

  3. i have just applied for the same course..kindly help me out!
    me too from engineering background :afraid if the candidates from economics base will have an advantage..

  4. Hello Indira,
    It's really heart-warming when people share their personal experiences (^).
    I am Sumit Kumar, I have recently completed my Undergraduate Course.
    My Aim is to become a civil servant one day.
    I joined Vajiram for General Studies but left midway because it was too vague and monotonous . I thought of doing a Post-graduation right now would be ideal. I always knew about TISS Development Studies as it is one of the few courses in country which give a practical aspect for the preparations of the Exams.
    Luckily, I have got a Call For this course and my hurdle is PI/WAT round.
    So as you have already experienced this whole situation, Therefore I need your valuable advice for the preparations for my next round.
    Only Doubt is that : How should I really start my preparations ?
    Please Help.

  5. your description of the interview board members is interesting .... South Indian Bengali NE ... 1. are u sure about their origin and no 2. their back ground impacted your merit?