Twenty year milestone

Twenty years ago this day, I woke up in sheer nervousness. Did I pass? The million dollar question after writing my CA Final exams in November 2001! It was perhaps the first or second time that results were being announced on the internet. We had a dial up connection that didn’t work that morning. Not a lot of friends had internet at home back then. So I called one friend Vikas Pawar – it had just been a few months of acquaintance at the firm at that point, gave him my roll number and asked him to find out my marks. He called me back and read them out one by one, 8 subjects, …. and I could focus on the point that I managed to pass them all! But also the aggregate had to be made – and …. you’ve passed both groups he said! I cried out with joy while my mom cried literal tears. Whoo! I was a CA. At 21 and a half, it was my biggest achievement. My closest friend in the CA Final journey Rakhi Munot called me. We excitedly exchanged news of both of us passing. We need to celebrate, we decided. Sometime later, she called and said ‘Poorvi, I got a rank. Can you guess which one?’ – ‘First, I said jokingly’ – ‘Yes it is!’ she said. This was delirious. My one study partner in CA final had gotten the first rank in the country! And the weeks and months to pass had so many celebrations -cakes, flowers, parties and a great feeling of victory. I passed within my 3 years of articleship, a dream feat and I had to pinch myself to believe it had happened.

Today I let my mind race back to the memories of my CA student and articleship days. The gruelling hours, first experiences, the struggles of studying, traversing the city, meeting new people… I thank all my family, friends, colleagues, mentors, my principal Sekkizhar Balasubramaniam, everyone that hung around with me during those years. I’d study for hours at the CA institute chapter in Red Hills before each exam for a couple of months. I’d set myself hard targets like ‘sugarcane juice at 3 pm if I completed ‘x’ number of chapters since morning’. I discovered many areas in Hyderabad as I travelled the city for various audits. Fancy new MNCs with swanky offices and old school manufacturing companies. Since I was barely 19 when I started, most people looked at me as a kid. The entire journey unfolded… I had no idea what the course meant, what audits were, what an industry was. I had never done most of the things I was doing. Yet, the fact that I was getting paid already used to make me feel good. The fact that I was a Science student, learning about the new world of commerce made me feel competent. The rush of goal-setting for exams kept me going. The hope that one day I’d make my family proud kept me going.

What a journey it had been. Back in late July 1997, I signed up for a course that was unknown to me. Just enrol and try it out, said an uncle who is a CA. You just missed the deadline for the May 1998, but you can attend few classes, try out CA Foundation in Nov 1998 he said. As a Science student, I didn’t know the C of commerce, so to speak. I still remember the first day I went to ‘try out’ a class, walking into the Badruka College campus where CA classes were taught at 6 or 6.30 am. One of the favourite accounting teachers of our time, Mr.Narasimhan, was teaching ‘Rectification of errors’. I took my place in the last row of the class. He dictated ‘journal entries’, while I had no idea what a journal was. I was writing English sentences of whatever he dictated. I still laugh when I think of that day.

I later officially joined CA Foundation, and then enrolled for B.Com. Since my college started earlier in the morning, I had to join the afternoon batch of classes for CA Foundation. I’d change 2 buses to get to college and back, 2 more to get to CA classes and back. Passing CA Foundation was not tough, I had more than a year to prepare. I wanted a rank but didn’t get it. The next thing I needed was a firm to do my articleship at. I went around with my marksheet and my ‘resume’, and am immensely grateful till now for getting an entry into S.B.Billimoria & Co with Sekkizhar Balasubramaniam’s kindness. He took a chance on a wide-eyed girl with a sound academic record, and little else. The most intense phase of my student life soon started. 5 and a half day work shifts, early AM classes for the next level of CA (Intermediate), navigating office politics, travelling to clients locations all over town. My mom would wake up an hour earlier to get my food packed, and I’d use a combination of two-wheelers, buses and hitching rides with co-workers each day. I’d be home around 6 most evenings and study after coming home mostly.

A big setback was my degree final year. Since I started my articleship at a Big 4 firm, I didn’t attend my final year and my college refused a hall ticket for my B.Com final year. I had a nightmarish few weeks until I figured out I could write the exam as an open student for the University and not from any particular college. For some reason, for several years after I still had nightmares that I didn’t finish my college degree. May 2000 was my CA Intermediate. When the results came out July 2000, I had passed both groups. What was better, I got a national rank! This put me at the highest possible stipend I could earn, and enabled me to fund my entire CA course fee and tuition!

The last leg of the journey with CA Final. My partner in crime, Rakhi Munot and I attended all the classes together. Badruka for regular classes. Once those were done, we went to KJ Rao for Cost Accounting, we did an Indirect taxes workshop few months before the exam, and went to Buchhi Reddy in the evenings for accounting. I’d nod off in so many classes, and then make up by making Rakhi teach me when I could focus again. ‘Not sure how she passed aunty’, she remarked to my mom the day of our results. ‘She slept through all the classes’! My third year of articleship I was assigned on an accounting stint that changed my calendar -I was working late nights and travelling long distances. The firm granted me an additional 15 days over norm and I was blessed to have the 3.5 months study leave. Would I do it? Could I do it? It was the toughest time for me. 8 subjects, about 12-14 hours of gruelling study most days. A fear of having to repeat the act. The people who helped me during my struggles with CA Final are most precious to me. Calling and visiting and following up to see if I was on track!

So much has happened in the last twenty years. There were several times when I struggled with the identity of being a CA. But in the more recent years, I have realized and understood that life ends up exactly how it should. This is who I was meant to be. The life I have today, the family -including my husband, and so many of my current friends happened as a result of that journey I took as a CA. And I took several minutes today to be grateful, conscious and thankful for my life experiences leading me to this day. I could not find a little album I have somewhere, with pictures of weeks of celebrations after I finished, so for now, I just put a then and now (the now being today morning), and tag the few people who are active on Facebook and still connected to me after twenty years!

A sincere student
A wise woman