This is a continuation of my blog on my experiences as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. If you haven’t read the first part, please do read it here https://ashwinkumar1989.in/2017/05/09/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-one/ .
During my 9th standard, my craze for cricket resurfaced with a bang. India started its World Cup 2003 campaign with a rather laboured and unimpressive win over minnows Netherlands. As our batsmen threw their wickets away (on the way to a mediocre total of 204 all out, batting first) ; I completely lost it and smashed a china plate to pieces. Fortunately for me though, our team then proceeded to massage my ego in a stunning turnaround (after a humiliating 8-wicket loss against the invincible Aussies); winning 8 matches in a row on the way to the final, including a famous chase of 275 against arch-rivals Pakistan.
The grand final was against the no.1 team in the world and defending champions Australia. My father and I went to Hotel Rodas (near our home) where the match was being telecast on a giant screen. There we were joined by many of my schoolmates. It promised to be a great occasion, but sadly turned out to be a fiasco – team India’s performance as well as my behaviour. After our captain Saurav Ganguly surprised one and all by choosing to bowl first on winning the toss, the first over itself turned out to be a disaster; with Zaheer Khan giving away 15 runs including a plethora of wides. I ended up embarrassing my father and my classmates with my display of emotions in public; such that my father had no choice but to take me back home.
My studies too suffered because of this cricket obsession. I failed in totally 12 subjects in the three terms of the year. I was lucky not to be demoted at the end of the year(unlike some of my classmates), after my failure in 5 subjects in the final term. My Hindi tuition teacher felt that there was a need for my social development, but my parents felt that studies was the main priority; and I too agreed with them, though I now feel that I could have thought differently instead. My results improved steadily through the 10th std and in the boards I got 90.5% – when the results came, I was busy enjoying the summer vacation in Bangalore with my sister and relatives and I was happy to hear the news – but my cousin was really(still is, in fact! :D) impressed by my calm (and humble, as he says) reaction to the results.
As mentioned in Part One, my academic inconsistencies came to the fore. I unfortunately decided that I would become an engineer, just because it was the most popular choice at that time. I went for classes for IIT as well as for MH-CET (meanwhile, there was the small matter of the 11th and 12th std academics). It was doomed to be a failure from the start. During the 11th, I got addicted to Pokemon computer games and thus lost my focus. During the 12th, I got addicted to the Internet in general – in particular Harry Potter fanfiction. The end result was that I got 78.83% in the 12th boards – not great by HSC standards; and had to run from pillar to post for admissions to engineering colleges, before I chanced upon the NMAT entrance test and thus got admission to NMIMS’ first engineering batch.
While my academics were up and down, I was struggling with my social development. I very rarely initiated conversations with girls, and while it didn’t seem a big deal during my school days; it was seen as odd during college – especially in a posh co-ed environment like NMIMS. In fact, during the first year, I used to tag along the guys – such that a few of them felt I was ‘gay’ sometimes! From the 2nd year onwards, I managed to develop some friendships with girls as well , though ironically none of them was long-lasting. My academics continued to suffer as I accumulated (and cleared)arrear after arrear in all but the final year. In hindsight, I could have done a B.Com/B.A/BBA instead!
Due to a combination of factors – my average grades, one pending arrear of the 3rd year (which I cleared ultimately along with the regular 4th year-end papers) and my failing to clear interviews(due to my lack of social skills and also a lack of confidence); I failed to secure a placement though the college claimed “100 % placement”. This meant that I had to stay at home and keep trying for jobs on my own. Meanwhile, I also started preparing for the MBA entrance tests, as by then I was keen to do an MBA – I seriously needed a non-technical perspective to my education! Meanwhile, my mother declined a promotion and instead took a VRS so that she could look after the family (she really meant me!).
It was a difficult but possibly life-changing year for me, as I kept failing interviews and giving MBA entrance exams. One day I went into depression and had a fight with my mother and sister; and then my mother took me out and bought me new earphones to cheer me up. I got an offer of just Rs.10000 per month (that too including variable pay) for a pure sales job, and that point my father and uncle wisely decided that it was better for me to focus purely on securing MBA admission; rather than trying for jobs. My father and I went to Pune to meet his friend, a renown academic counsellor in Chennai – he felt that I had a lot of inhibition in my communication and body language, and did not make eye contact while speaking.
By the way, thanks to a huge stroke of fortune; I had managed to get 93.74 percentile in XAT – given that I felt the exam did not go very well for me. Thus, I was called for the selection process by many colleges. However, I was struggling to perform in the GDs(Group Discussions) and interviews; due to my lack of social skills (now I realize it was largely due to being an Aspie). Hence this trip to Pune to meet the academic counsellor friend of my father – I would later go to Chennai to have sessions with him. Eventually, I managed to get admissions into ITM Navi Mumbai and FLAME Pune after clearing the selection processes in both these colleges. However, in the end I got admission to IFMR Chennai (supposed to be a better college than those two) on basis of recommendation from this counsellor; though the interview there didn’t go very well.
As I joined IFMR, I felt free for the first time in years; and younger than I was! For once I was decent (if not great) in academics, and also I had no issues developing friendships with people of both the sexes(again, not all the friendships with girls lasted long, but that is a different matter! :P) ! I fell in love for the first time in my life, and it didn’t distract me from my studies – in fact it inspired me to perform better! 😉 I also made a strong decision to pursue HR as a career (instead of Finance, as suggested by family and many friends), and I don’t regret it to this day.
Unfortunately, the pressure of placements and extremely taxing assignments in the 2nd year got to me. I was staying with my maternal grandparents , and I very often took out my tension on them. I must say that had they not borne my behaviour patiently, I would definitely not have got as far in life as I am now. IFMR is known mainly for finance, so there were not a lot of HR opportunities in the campus. In some of the interviews (for finance roles), I had a bad habit of unwittingly revealing my interest in HR and thereby ending up rejecting myself. I also failed to clear quite a few GDs and interviews, again because of my social skills issue – some of my teachers and friends pointed out to me that I made too much eye contact (staring) and was rigid, which unnerved the other person.
Wow. This was completely opposite to what I had been earlier – not making eye contact! One of the teachers suggested that I fidget more (with a pen or some object) during interviews, to avoid being rigid and stiff. I took her suggestion to heart – too literally in fact, and there is not a single day when I have not been fiddling with objects of all kinds – paper, books, my hair et all! 😛 Anyway, eventually I did not get placed – but I got a job in a HR consulting company in Chennai, of which my uncle’s pharmaceutical firm is a major client.
Most of you readers must be wondering what being an Aspie has to do with all this. Well, read between the lines – and you will (hopefully) understand that it played a significant role in my mental and social development through all these years, all these incidents. By the way, apologies but I am not done even now! There will be a 3rd (hopefully final!) part which covers life from my first job onwards. Stay tuned! 😉