Madhu’s is the classic story of many aspirants. He erred many times, but managed to learn from his failures and finally got All India Rank – 392 in UPSC civil services exam – 2014. He worked very hard this time to get this rank. It is not very easy to digest series of failures and then emerge successful. We hope his story would inspire you too to clear this exam in this attempt.
Journey from Nothing to Something
Madhusudhan Hulgi, Rank – 392 CSE – 2014
I never thought I would write an article on my journey from layman to becoming a civil servant. My inclination for UPSC civil services started in 2008 when my friend was studying for this exam about which I had no idea. That’s when this curiosity increased to know what civil services means and what does a civil servant do. I constantly spoke to him about how to start and when to start. After my Masters (from IISc) in 2009 I was so tired of studying that I just wanted to enjoy my life with all the money I was earning. I changed my job for better prospects in my field (chemical engineering). My work place was Hosur (near Bangalore) earlier and then Gurgaon. So I shifted from Bangalore to Gurgaon. I started working but had this urge of doing something more to the society. I mean, I was earning but wasn’t satisfied with money.
This is when I thought I should start my preparations seriously. But the problem was where to start from? I had no idea. During this time, my friend came to my rescue. In my first attempt I was working and I kind of ignored the CSAT preparation and tried mugging up things for General Studies Paper-1. As expected, it didn’t work for me and I missed my ticket to Mains on large margin.
My optionals were Public Administration and Sociology then. I was directionless about these subjects so took sabbatical from work and took coaching for Public Administration and Sociology. I was devastated when I didn’t clear prelims in my first attempt. I continued with my work and took break from studies. Motivation level was too low.
But at any cost wanted to be a civil servant, so started studying again. In my second attempt I changed my strategy and worked on CSAT too. Considering that I would clear prelims I wrote every Sunday mocks in Delhi for my Optional. This time also it didn’t work and I didn’t clear prelims.
Generally when we fail for the second attempt we feel we don’t deserve to be a civil servant. I had weird feeling of dejection because this was the first time I had faced failure for the second time. The same year I didn’t clear KPSC (Karnataka Public Service Commission) Prelims. It was kind of icing on the cake for disappointment spree.
But god definitely has plans. One of my college friend had cleared the exam the same year and I happened to be in touch with him after Mains. He constantly pushed me saying there is an element of uncertainty in this exam so one should never feel bad and should always be ready to bounce back and fight hard. This is when I decided to quit my government job in Gurgaon and left for Bangalore.
I had no place to stay. Then again I got in touch with my college friend who was also preparing for civil services, he allowed me to stay at his place. Here large element of discussions helped me change my thought process. I started having a different approach to each topic.
It was kind of good to stay with my friend because of his habit of criticising, underestimating me. Actually he pushed me more to work harder. (“ always thank people who say you cant do it “) . He had decided that I am not fit for civil services and should be more of an MBA guy. This usually happens when people aim for toughest exam and the opinion would be “don’t do it”, enjoy your life and don’t get all frustrated with failure .
Hence to overcome the negativity I started gymming and hence kept the enthusiasm high . So gymming was a great stress reliever.
In my Third attempt I had worked more than what I worked for the 4th attempt. But as usual the result was the same. Same old story was repeated, wrote mocks for Optional again (Now only one Optional was there). And as usual i didn’t clear the Prelims. This was the heights of disappointment.
I was unable to take the failure. I was depressed for months. Had gone underground, didn’t speak to anyone. I was afraid of criticism. Started getting tough on myself and never gave credits for myself for all the effort I had put in. One most important thing in this process is that people around you appreciate only when they see the results and not the effort one puts in. So the end becomes more important than the means taken to reach there.
I had decided that I wouldn’t give this exam anymore and quit studying. I started searching for job in Bangalore. My parents had given freedom to do whatever I wanted to do, but every time I failed I felt I am disappointing them more than myself. So if at least I work they need not have to face the social stigma of 28 yr old guy doing nothing and sitting at home.
Lots of things are common in aspirants, first of all the kind of pressure they face from society because of the failure and then the usual comparison with their children and making you feel low. This is all I have faced throughout this journey. (But I would say ignore all these my friends)
But one fine day, my dad called me up and asked me what you want to do in life. I was like, I want to be a civil servant but UPSC isn’t letting me to write the Mains. So he said “ it’s not about how hard you get hit but it’s about how hard you can take the hit and keep moving forward, you have come a long way and have worked enough , so at least for my sake give one more attempt” (Similar to Rocky movie dialogue though! 🙂 )
Apart from my dad there is one more person that is Ambrish Pujari, he too asked me to give one last attempt. Both this conversation happened on the same day and both wanted me to do it for one last time and they had promised me that in case I didn’t clear Prelims again they would not force me again to write this exam. At the same time I met this wonderful person , Deepika, she was a big moral support for me throughout this period. She has been one of those people who stood by me thick and thin throughout this journey.
So I took some time and started getting preparing for this exam. But I thought let’s try other exams too, so I filled forms for CAPF, NABARD, RBI Grade B, SSC CGL. I mean I have written all those exams which allowed me to write based on certain eligibility. But I failed in all of these exams. I never cleared even first stage of these exams. In fact the SSC Tier 2 was so easy even that I failed. Probably god had some other plans for me.
But what could be done was to change the strategy in this attempt for civil service so I studied having broader perspective in mind with respect to every topic, started asking questions to myself and started looking for answers. It took time in the beginning but didn’t give up. This helped me to understand why certain things happen in government/society and what can be the feasible solution.
I never prepared for Prelims and Mains separately. Worked simultaneously for both. But I made it a point to revise the week long work at the end of the week. This way I was able to remember and I need not had to put in extra effort to remember things. I didn’t want to ignore CSAT so worked on comprehensions and maths, practised with timings.
Then I wrote 4th Prelims, but this time I had told my dad and Pujari not to have any expectations. So I had this lesser element of pressure before the exam. As usual I started preparing for Mains immediately after Prelims.
This is when I came in touch with Vinay sir through my friend Kiran. I got to know about Insights through this way. But I was late because most of them had enrolled earlier. But somehow pestered Vinay sir to let me write mocks and had told him I won’t let him down. He trusted me and gave me chance to write the exam.
I was pathetic in writing but Vinay sir (from insightsonindia) kept pushing me to improve everything in writing. I was bad in everything, with respect to content, articulation, word limit, relevance etc. I banked a lot on Insights’ strategy. One of the best things about this mock was that there was stepwise improvement in writing , for example, it was 1 hr 10 questions and subsequently 3 hr 30 questions. This eventually helped me to first improve speed then content and finally word limit and articulation. In mean time we got Prelims result and when I cleared this time I felt as if I had already joined the civil service! 🙂
This is when the effort had to be doubled and accordingly Vinay sir kept on giving me inputs to improve with respect to relevance and word limit. Finally things were falling in place.
He even allowed me to write essays keeping in mind the points’ he had told earlier. He helped me to improve the introduction and conclusion of the essay. This continuous evaluation helped me to improve and work harder. In mean time I was also supported by my friend Kiran regarding how to improvise essay.
These 4 months (Sept to Dec – 2014) of Mains preparation helped me change the facet of my work and I felt I could do it. Immediately after my mains I searched for job because this uncertainty was still troubling me and my parents. So I took up a job in April – 2015.
In the mean time when results were out and when I was given a chance to face interview I again looked for Vinay sir for help. He helped me out with how to prepare for interview (I scored 179). What should be focussed upon and how to have a balanced opinion, body posture etiquettes to be followed etc.
Finally I made it into the list.
When I look back, I feel, I made it because there were certain people who bestowed this unconditional support throughout this journey, my parents (GOD), my Pujari, my Vinay sir and few friends Ibrar, Sajag, Surendra, Deepika, Rajesh etc. I moved all the way from nothing to something at the end of 4 years. The moment I am living today is worth the every pain I took for these 4 years.
I would like to say one thing to all the aspirants “ work hard and never give up, every time you fall down, get up and say I can do this – that’s how this win could be made. Never compare yourself to others because each individual is good at something, so work on it and you will find a way and if you have faith in yourself then nothing is impossible.”
Note: Madhu will be getting IAS under ST category. We are very happy for him. IAS needs people like him.
We will notify admission details for Mains Offline Batch soon after Prelims – 2015. Now, admissions are closed. Please mail us only after the notification. Thank you for your support.