The Known Stranger – Vani Dayal Sharma, Class of 2023, IIMB

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Every time someone asks me to share my story or to introduce myself, I freeze a little. It’s incredibly difficult for me to open up and just tell people about myself. But when I realized there might be many people like me, I to finally give in and share my journey with you all. Because everyone needs to know that they are not alone and that it’s ok to be a quiet person. So, here goes nothing.

I was born and brought up in a joint family of 7 people in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. Since childhood, I had been an above average child and my family had high hopes for me. When little girls wanted to be doctors, lawyers or engineers, I dreamt of being a CEO. This is the only dream I have seen and this is the one I’m trying to realize. It might sound vague, but there is a whole plan behind being in a position that your decisions can change the lives of people. I completed my graduation in 2018 and joined L&T. The job was incredibly fun and exactly what I wanted so I became a bit satisfied. That’s when I received a wake up call from my brother taking me to a rude awakening that I can’t be complacent. That’s why I gave the CAT 2019 exam unprepared. I fared quite well but not good enough.

So, I started preparing for CAT 2020 in April 2020. Those were tough times, due to the lockdown, WFH changes and the merger that my company was going through. I used to work from 8 AM to 8 PM to meet the utterly closed up deadlines and then studied from 9PM to 1AM just to get in line with all the others. I divided the whole course day wise and tried to complete it in the deadlines I set for myself. I know that it’s hard but, believe me, it’s not impossible. The office work kept increasing due to Day 1 criticalities of the merger. There was a time in September when the merger was at its peak, I got infected with the virus and I had to study as it’s the optimal time to get yourself ready for what’s to come. I lost a month due to extreme exhaustion and weakness.

It’s natural to lose hope at such a time. And I did lose hope, but my family gave me motivation to keep moving forward. I worked harder from October and finally gave the exam. I was not satisfied with my performance and lived in constant anxiety till the day I got my percentile. I had scored 97.59 percentile. It was not up to the mark but I couldn’t back down now. So I prepared a lot and filled in as many applications as I could. Some of them helped me with my interview prep by being a real time experience and some of them were serious options in my list. I couldn’t
believe it when I got the interview call from IIM Bangalore. It was like a dream come true, but only partially. I then sought help from Sreeni and realized the things I needed to do, to completely realize this dream. The interview prep was not as difficult as actual CAT prep but it requires you to be observant and quick. I cracked IIM Bangalore’s interview and still can’t believe that I’m going to pursue my MBA from there.

I am told that the main motive of sharing our stories is to help the incoming batches. So if I had
to give you suggestions, I would say a few things.

  • First, be sure of what you want. Know what rocks your boat, the thing you need to do, the thing you will do with happiness and satisfaction and pursue it like it’s your last day on earth.
  • Next, find a hobby you’re passionate about. I love writing and manage my own blog. Now, you might think of making it your career. But what I’m suggesting is, treat this hobby as your go to place. Go dive in it when you feel overwhelmed with the actual world, so that you always have something to look forward to.
  • And lastly, not just for CAT prep, but for life, work on your emotional intelligence. Because it helps a lot in navigating
    situations and coming out winning.

Rest assured, if you’re set to achieve something, you will. So work towards it and don’t give up until it becomes a burden. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the consequences.

So, this is my story and this Known Stranger is here to help always!

Here is a snippet of one of my writings. I hope you find peace in reading this and resume the work for your goal with double the enthusiasm:

“You’re tired. So am I. This messed up world with a continuous need to bring people down is scary. And we are a part of it. So take a break. Come with me. Let’s lie down on the brownish green grass and look at the sky. It’s so full of clouds, yet so empty. The shapes, although unintelligible, look so beautiful. We can talk if you want to or we can just lie in utter silence. I know your spirit feels broken and you still wear a smile like a uniform. You know about my
cluttered mind and the things I say in silence to myself. But we both still move. We might cry every night, begging for help, but every morning, we get up. Right now, you don’t have to. We can just lie and look at the blue tint of the sky, the yellow warmth of the sun and just soak it in.

We can rest. We can set our mind free of this cage made up of unnecessary worries. We can just hold hands and lie here for as long as you want. The clouds are getting darker and subtle drops of rain hit our content faces. But we won’t get up. Today we’ll soak in this rain instead of our worries. And it’ll be fine. Let’s just stay here until we’re ready. We’ll get up when we want to and resume our chaos. And this time, with feeling!”

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