My Journey. My struggle

Vikash Maheshwari , Last updated: 07 December 2015  

Today I write to encourage those who have lost all hopes…who are dejected…de-motivated and are going through a rough phase. Although I have not achieved anything so big in life that I can be a role model to someone. There are thousands who are much better than me in many aspects. But then we all have a story to tell, a journey to share and I felt like sharing mine of. I am not doing any favour to any one by penning my thoughts, in fact I am doing myself a big favour. Not so long ago ,I too was in that frame of mind where in I thought that this was the end of the world. Nothing seemed to be going my way. I was a failure, that is what I used to call my self-A Failure ..who has let his parents down, a good for nothing fellow.

I come from a very humble background , from a middle class family like most of us. A small town boy, who wanted to make it big in life. After completing my 12th ,I came to Kolkata to pursue further studies. And like most of us, I was not left with many choices, commerce students have very few limited options-CA or MBA ,if I could narrow it down.

MBA was a far cry. I could not speak in front of 4 people, let alone give presentations and also the tuition fee for doing full time MBA was out of reach for me. Naturally I was left with just one choice-CA. But my hardships were just the beginning. Having done my +2 in science, dreaming about being a CA was no less than a sin. For students like us, who have never received any career counseling, it is very difficult to introspect what I was really good at. Career choices are experimental; degrees & education are chosen on the basis of herd mentality. My friends were aspiring to become engineers as they had seen their cousins and others joining dream companies like Infosys, Wipro or TCS. It fascinated me, and then it started. If I would ever write a book on my life, I can surely name it “Blunders of my life”. One bad decision gets the chain rolling.

Opting for science was a horrible decision. But then I was left with no choice ,since I had opted it,I had to clear it if I ever wanted to get out of the mess. I was an average student. Not very brilliant types, but I never flunked. Somehow or the other I used to pass. Just for the official record, I managed to get 59.8% in my 12th.Not bad for a average student, I was more than happy for this. But very soon my happiness turned into disappointment. I was told I was not even eligible to apply to St.Xavier’s college as the minimum criteria to even fill the form is 60%.(Many years later, the 60% criteria came to haunt me again as I was not eligible to apply for RBI )

I was dejected. I wanted to get into one of the best college of India. I tried every single thing. I tried to meet the rector to explain him my situation. I was falling short of just one marks and if he could relax the norms a bit. But like me, there were 100s of other students wanting a favour to relax the norms a bit so that they got into the prestigious college. I even made a few friends there, who were very down to earth. We were shooed away by the guard every day and were even threatened that police will be called if we did not leave the premises of the Rector’s office.

Once I even went to college on the day of strike, when not a single vehicle was plying on road, thinking I would get a chance to meet the rector personally and no one will come on a strike for sure.(apparently during those days Mamta Banerjee was up against Tata plan at singur and strikes & chakka jam was the pressuring tactic used).I had to walk more than 15 kms from my home in broad sunlight. But I kept telling myself ,If I got through, my life would come back to track. Graduation from St.Xavier’s would give my CV a big- big boost. I met the rector that day .It was one of the most saddest day of my life. My eyes become wet even recollecting the scene. A 18 year old lean man, who had not eaten anything since morning, waiting in the lobby to meet a someone  who could change the teenager’s future for better. Who had come walking –sun burnt, with a ray of hope that he will be heard. Luckily that day the guards were not there to threaten. I waited patiently.

The rector came after lunch (They live in the campus premises).I begged in front of him to give me one chance. I cried shamelessly. But my cries felt on deaf ears. He told me 100 of students come every day and cry in front of him ,he can’t take everyone in. He was right on his stand. How can he make decisions based on emotions. He had a reputation to maintain.

But how would an 18 year old understand this. I came back home dejected. My mother was waiting to hear good news. But my eyes said it all. However, like all the mothers of this world, my mother too couldn’t see me dejected. She tried to motivate me .

”This is not the end of the world …there are many other colleges and it’s not necessary that all those who do graduation from St.Xavier’s are successful and all successful people are graduates of St.Xaviers…we will try and succeed“she said.

Her words always encouraged me. She had huge faith in almighty that one day everything will be perfect. But this was just the beginning. Even though I got admitted into so-so college,I had to learn the basics of accounting .This was even before joining CA. How can a guy who doesn’t know ABCD of accounts think of being a CA, world would have laughed at me. The city was new for me, I had no friends there. I was too shy a person to talk to anyone let alone ask for help. Somehow I got a few contacts of local accounts teacher.

This particular incident changed my life .We all have this one defining moment in our lives and I consider this to be my defining moment.

I went to meet one local teacher if he could help me with studies. He told me I can join from tomorrow as the batches have just begun. I was happy that finally I have found a guru. I was ready to put all the hard work. In the flow of happiness of having finally found a teacher ,I told him to give a little background on 12th standard accounts too since I was a science student not to long ago.

His words still pinches me today. He said “Mere pass faltu ka time nahi …pehle basics seekh k aa…” More than the words , his way of delivering the message hurt me the most .I cried a lot after coming back home that day . My mother cried along. This made my heart sank. After crying my heart out, I wrote to my self, I will succeed one day. The letter is still with me, it still has tears imprinted on it and it makes me emotional to this day.

I took it as a challenge upon myself. I bought 12th standard accounts book “Haneef & Mukherjee”. But then old habits die hard. Being a science student, I wanted to understand each and every aspect of accounts. I started with the first chapter. I had given my self a target-“One chapter One day”. First chapter ”History of accounting”. It was boring but then boredom was not an option. Somehow I managed to finish few theory chapters. No one was there to guide me and tell me to prioritize chapters. I would memorize things, but then forget it the very next day. Things were going no where .Lesson learnt-Hardwork is meaningless unless backed with smart thinking and need to prioritize things.

The second twist came in when I met Amit. He was my neighbor but like I said, I seldom mingled with people. I was an introvert. On the contrary he was very confident, out spoken and a guy full of life. He was just one year junior to me. He knocked on my door one day and told me that my mom had requested him to teach me few of the chapters of accounts. My ego would have never allowed me to ask for help. But then second lesson learnt-Keep your ego aside and ask for help when needed. You do not become small if you ask for help. His friendship changed my life. This was the best thing that happened. Suddenly positivity entered my life. Although he was not so good in studies, he was a champ in accounts. He taught me the basics and after gathering enough confidence ,I took the plunge and enrolled for CA.

PE1 was what the first level was known back then. The battle had just begun. Now I was part of the huge aspirants of CA students. I joined classes for guidance ,made few friends there. My first official teacher ,Mr.Vikas Beri (If anyone knows him,will know what a great guy he is) was a gem of a teacher. His sense of humour was just amazing. I looked forward for his classes. I aspired to become like him someday. To this day he is my role model. I would give full credit to him for helping me let go my fear of public speaking. He had this unique style of making people come on time for classes. He would ask the late comer to sing. Once I was late and I had to sing in front of a jam packed eyes watching my every move .I took that as a challenge and that broke the ice. I would not say  my fear of public speaking  vanished like a miracle that day but it made me realize that it is not that scary either.

Days passed like second. I was becoming stronger day by day. Exam day was approaching. Even though I had prepared well, I was not very confident .Tag of being a science student always ran on some corner of my mind. Those days unlilke CPT,we did not have MCQs. It was all paper-pen examination. November 2005 was my first attempt of PE1.The two months wait for the result was killing.

The result day feels just like yesterday. My mother was doing household chores when someone called me about the results being declared. Me & my mom rushed to the nearest Net Café. I logged onto the site ,there were already a few students who had come to check there results as well. I said a small prayer to God and keyed my roll number.”Not Found” , the message popped on my screen. I was all dejected.  Tears rolled on my eyes ready to burst.  My mother couldn’t believe this. She asked me to check once again. With heavy heart I looked at the screen again. I had typed my roll number in the merit list. Surely I would never top. My eyes saw the general list. I clicked there and typed my roll number.

The results were in front of me. My mother could not read but when I jumped and shouted ,she understood that I had cleared.

253 I scored. A huge-huge win for me. I was on cloud nine. Everyone was staring at me but I wouldn’t care. Tears in my mother’s eyes. But this time, these were the tears of happiness. I wish someone had made a recording that day. The biggest day of my life.  I was a relieved man.  A very happy man. I slept peacefully that night,  little did I know the battle had just begun.

PE1 was just a trailor.PE2 was a different ball game altogether. From simple maths and accounts and economics,Taxation ,advanced accounting ,Auditing ,law ,costing was introduced. I was now back to reality. It was not going to be easy. Hard work alone was not sufficient. (I would love to share my preparation strategy if anyone’s interested, can leave me a message in my pm).I was all charged up and confident. November 2006,exactly a year later, my first attempt for PE2. I knew it was going to be very very tough. Those who have reached this level would surely put in their blood to clear. I had to think out of the box. I strategized my  preparation. I had learnt a great deal about life in the past 2 years thanks to wonderful teachers I had. Success did require hard work but smart work and priority was also very important if I had to stood out. During that time, we did not get any break in between exams and after one point of time, your mind becomes numb. But then it was a do or die battle for me. Somehow I finished off the exam and now it was time for a long wait.

Those two months were the longest wait of my life. Speculation about result date, passing percentage and the debates would be never ending. Finally after a long wait ,result was declared. A very good friend of mine called me to inform that results were declared and as expected ,he didn’t make it. My heart sank. He was so good at studies. If he didn’t make it ,it will be stupid of me to think I will pass. My mother insisted me to go and see the results my self.The cyber café guy asked for 30 rupees to check the  result. Unlike today, smart phones with net was a rarity ,and those cyber café guys knew to cash in the desperation of students. I had no option but to oblige.

I typed my roll number . Unlike last time I did not go to merit page. Results flashed in front of me.

Group 1 –PASS..Group 2- PASS. My joy had no limitation. I ran out of the café. A guy who was a hopeless student not so long ago was in CA finals. I was on cloud nine. My hard and smart work had paid off in style. I enrolled my self for article ship and now studies had taken a back sit. I always wanted to see my self working in a CA firm. The first year, I did not even touch the book. I was over confident back then.  And this was the beginning of my downfall. I did relatively well at work place but I forgot that I had the final leg –CA final examination to clear before I breathe a shy of relief.

By God’s grace ,my sir was a very kind and helpful person. He would share his experiences and guide us learning the practical aspects of the profession. Each audit done with him, each banks visited with him helped me learn new things. By the end of my articleship tenure ,I had become more of a mentor to my juniors. He was lenient towards me allowing me to take tuitions during non auditing season or peak periods. It was one of the most tiring times of my career. Tuitions in the morning, office at day time. Sometimes I had to travel far to do audit assignments. The summer heat was not helping either. The weekend classes were all jam packed and bit costly too. By the time I would reach home after all the day’s hard work, I had absolutely no energy left to open my eyes let alone open book. Many a times I thought of giving up. But then I was not alone. Everyone had to go through this journey. In fact I was lucky enough to have reached here in one attempt. Finally my first attempt for CA final arrived.

June 2009(Examination was held in June because of assembly elections in West Bengal).I was not at all prepared but my confidence was sky high as I had cleared the previous examination in one attempt. Exams came and went by. The wait for result was not so long unlike last time as I knew I would not clear. I had taken finals too lightly. And as expected I did not succeed. Second attempt I gave my heart. I managed to clear group one but I got 38 in Costing and I flunked group 2.My heart sank. I was pretty hopeful of getting through.

After a long time I cried. I felt helpless. It was end of the world for me. I had given everything. I couldn’t have done better than this. Today when I look back,  I feel it was very much needed that I tasted failure. I actually understood the value of success .My friend Amit tried to cheer me up.  We actually celebrated failure. We played cricket. Went to a restaurant, had good food,  he even gave me dairy milk to taste the sweet taste of failure. I learnt a big lesson that day. Never let complacency take over.  Over confidence has taken big shots down. Failure is also very important in life. The way you deal with it defines your character. If I had managed to clear in one attempt, am sure I would never have become the person I am today. Amit taught me to celebrate failure and learn from it. Introspection was what was required.

I had lost touch with my true self-the strategist Vikash who would strategize studies.  These failures made me come back to the reality.  Getting marks in costing was tough, but I needed 40 marks to pass. However ,getting just 40 would not suffice. Minimum 200 in the group was required. Which meant I had to compensate from other subjects. Luckily my practical aspect of Indirect Taxation was bit good, thanks to the hard work put in during articleship. I liked the subject too. I tried to blend in things learnt during practical training to my answers. I researched on case studies. When results were declared, I was a proud man. I finally managed to succeed scoring an impressive 82 in IDT which helped me cross the final leg. I was finally a Chartered Accountant. All the hard work had finally paid off. It was not a easy battle. I have matured a lot from being a teenage guy .Along this journey I have learnt a lot about life. All of us go through this journey .We all must stop and introspect. We must never get carried away by success or weakened by failure. Geeta Saar written thousands of years ago holds absolutely true .. the true purpose of life is to work hard without the greed for results…

I know it is human psychology to anticipate success in return of hard work but along this small journey so far, I have understood that God has bigger and better plans for all of us. Success & failure are not final.  He wants us to learn beyond that. I may sound philosophical but this is the truth,  some where someone is watching over us. He wants us to make a difference to this world.

I owe a lot to many people…I owe a lot to my parents..what ever I am today I am because of their blessings..I owe to my CA students and friends ,many of whom are in the same stage where I was not so long ago. I owe them to share my experience. My write up may be lengthy but if it inspires even a single person, I consider my work successful. Am sure many of us have similar stories to share .. I humbly request you to share your stories..

And just to end this in a very positive note, sharing a small skit I performed at my office few weeks a person who could not talk in front of 4 people ..boosting with confidence…and please don’t misunderstand me for a guy patting his own back..I am sharing because I want to show those who have lost hope and confidence in them selves…if I can do it …anyone of you can do it..May God Bless us all!!

The writer is currently employed with a Global Multinational Bank