MOTIVATION: Topper’s Story – Nishant Jain, Rank – 13 CSE-2014 : Story of Inspiration and Hard Work
Never never never give up: The Story of My Success
-Nishant Jain, IAS (Rank-13, UPSC CSE-2014)
“When you want to achieve something desperately, you move ahead by following the signs which you get from time to time; then the whole universe holds your hands to help you “. I feel that this message of Paulo Coelho’s famous book ‘Alchemist’ suits very well on the untold story of my struggle and success.
I came out from a small lane of an old city area of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, and I have been able to make my dream true which I saw in my childhood by moving ahead on the path of success gradually and step by step; but sometimes I feel that the journey of my success has been like a dream.
I have never written anything about myself. After contemplating a lot, I am trying to gather enough courage to write about me. I will try to share with you some light-heavy burdens, pains, expectations, pleasures and smiles, which are hidden somewhere in the unexplored corners of my heart.
I was born in a simple family, living in a lane of an old city. My grandfather worked as a Junior Court Officer in the court. He was an extremely honest person. He used to pack his food from home and used to walk to his work place on foot and came back home on foot. My grandmother was not much educated but she very well knew the importance of education and knowledge. My father was second among his four brothers. In short, I grew up in a simple middle class family. My father had somehow studied till Class X, and my mother was a Arts graduate.
It is the story of those days when I used to study in Class 8th or 9th. We used to go to buy groceries at the Government PDS Shop. The shopkeeper often remained absent. We used to hear his made-up stories. I read our yellow ration-card and in the card’s bottom it was written: ‘Food and Supplies Officer’. I thought that if these irregularities and deformities can be corrected by becoming an officer then I too will become an officer. I told this to my parents, but none paid heed to my desire.
At that time Shri Awnish Awasthi, IAS was the Collector of Meerut. I was fond of reading the newspapers in those days too. I used to read daily in the newspaper about the good things being done by the Collector. My young mind was deeply impressed by the initiatives, improvements and work done by him. Now, I was making my mind that I too want to become a Collector. My elder brother told me that in order to become a Collector, you would have to pass I.A.S examination, which is extremely tough. Fortunately, I was good at studies and I was very interested in taking part in the co-curricular activities, like debate, essay, quiz, poetry recitation etc. My elder brother told me that if you wished to become an I.A.S officer, then you should move ahead with your dream.
In fact, I passed my Intermediate in Commerce stream from a Government Inter College. Fortunately, I got the highest marks in my district. Although I liked the sciences and commerce, but was naturally interested in the subjects of humanities, like social sciences, language and literature. On the other hand my dream of doing UPSC preparations was also getting stronger, and it was the prevalent notion during those days , that the students of Arts stream perform very well in UPSC.
On one hand, all my friends were filling the form of C.A. (Chartered Accountancy), while on the other hand I and two of my other friends decided to do B.A. from Meerut College, Meerut. We did not think about taking admission in Delhi or Allahabad University, because residing and studying outside home was a costly affair.
Thus, I did graduation with History, Political science and English literature. The days of Meerut College are very memorable. I remained very busy in my studies and extracurricular activities. During graduation, I took part in dozens of debate, essay, poetry recitation, quiz competitions of National and State level, and got first prize in most of them. I also took very active part in N.C.C and N.S.S. I was the regular student editor of the Meerut College’s magazine. Apart from this, I secured a position in the University’s merit list also.
I never forget my teachers of Meerut College, especially the then Principal Dr. S. K. Aggarwal. To find a dedicated and humble person like Principal Sir is very rare. One can learn the art of giving positive motivation from him. When I and my friends returned to the college after winning the first prize and shield in the debate competition, the Principal Sir not only appreciated us but also distributed sweets to all the staff members and he bore its expenses from his own pocket.
My dreams were big, but there were some economic problems too. I remember that I and my two other friends used to do some part time jobs of proof reading and creative writing after doing the matriculation itself. These small part time jobs taught some big lessons of life. I never forget a major and an interesting incident, which happened during my post- graduation, and sometimes I feel that this incident has become the turning point of my life. There was a senior of mine who was very kind hearted. He always used to motivate me. Once he said to me, “If a light bulb is kept near the ground of a room then how much light it will give, and if the same light bulb is hung on the roof then how much light it will give”. His hint was very clear; if you possess the capability of contributing to society after attaining a high level. Then you should definitely give it a try.
I started preparing for UGC NET-JRF Examination in Hindi Literature, and fortunately I cracked it in my first attempt. Besides, I also gave M.Phil. Entrance examinations of the University of Delhi and JNU and qualified both the exams. I took admission in D.U., and finally reached Delhi with the hope of making my dreams true. I used to feel nostalgic and homesick. Although late, but still I had left home for the first time in my life for doing my studies (although Meerut is not very far off from Delhi). I feel that I have learnt so much (during one and a half year period) from the academic environment of University of Delhi.
At the same time, in the year 2013, I appeared in the Civil Services Prelims Exam of the Union Public Service Commission as well as in the PSC prelims exam of my home state Uttar Pradesh. My preparations were good and my motivation level was also very high. Till today, I had passed each and every academic and competitive examination with good marks, but this time, something else happened. I failed in both the exams by a margin of 2 to 5 marks. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I had tasted failure. For some time, I felt that all my dreams were shattered. I was losing hope and started feeling depressed. Perhaps I was unable to handle my failure. This was the most difficult phase of my journey.
Confusion was increasing continuously and I was feeling that my career had gone into doldrums.
But in these hard times, my family, especially my elder brother Prashant and some of my friends, appeared before me like saviors. They gave me emotional support and also encouraged me. I can say that my family and well-wishers had more confidence in me than I had in myself. I gathered some courage and on the other side, I heard the news of my success in another examination (Translator in Lok Sabha Secretariat). After submitting my M.Phil. Dissertation, I joined this job in Parliament House.
This job not only taught me many things but also increased my confidence. Along with it, I became tension free about my career. I feel that despite of the business of this job, it helped me in doing UPSC preparations without any tension and pressure; it also helped me in writing my exams in a calm manner. In 2014, I once again gave the prelims exam of both UPSC and UP PCS. This time fate supported me, and I passed in the prelims exam of both UPSC and UP PCS. This time I was not prepared to take any risk, therefore, despite of the fact that there was a gap of only one month between the mains exams of UPSC and State Public Service Commission, I appeared in both the exams. This time very few people knew that I was appearing in both the mains exams. I was totally satisfied after giving both the mains exam, and I was almost certain of my success. This time I had followed all the three guiding principles of my life, i.e., Nishkaam Karmayoga (Geeta), Anekantavad (Jain Philosphy), and Middle Path (Buddhist Philosphy) and gave my examinations with full concentration.
I got the interview call from UPSC. In the interview board of Prof. H.C. Gupta, my interview continued for about thirty five minutes. During the interview and after the interview too, my mind was calm and cool. On the other side, the result of UPPCS Mains was still pending; therefore, I appeared in the prelims exam of UPPCS, 2015 which I had qualified too.
Now I was eagerly waiting for my result. To be on the verge of the final selection gives a different feeling altogether. Sometimes I used to get scared by thinking that if I do not get finally selected then what will happen to me. Will my life really change one day? Such questions and confusions continuously came in my mind, but I always pacified my mind by saying that I had failed to pass even the prelims exam in my previous attempt. This time I had appeared in the interview, it is an achievement, and I need not to worry as I already have a job.
It was a sunny afternoon of 3rd July, 2015. I had gone to Allahabad to appear in the mains exam of UP PCS. However, I had got the interview call for the previous year’s PCS examination. After visiting Sangam, when I returned back to Delhi, I came to know that tomorrow, i.e., on 4th July the final result of UPSC Civil Services Examination is going to be declared. As it was a weekend, I decided to go to Meerut and see my result at home. I took a bus in the morning from Anand Vihar Bus Terminal for Meerut and reached home. In the afternoon, I came to know that the result is going to be announced any moment now. My family was more nervous than me. Around One o’clock I got a phone call, and I was told that I had got the 13th rank and had got first rank from the Hindi/Indian Languages medium. Thereafter, wishes started pouring in. Later on, when I saw the mark sheet, I came to know that I have got the third highest marks (851 marks) in the mains exam. Besides, I got 160 marks in the Essay and 313 marks in the Optional Subject which were possibly the highest obtained marks in these papers till date. I got 124 marks in the Ethics paper too and I got total 378 marks in the General studies. My overall marks were 1001 which was nothing less than a good omen for me.
The biggest day of my life was the day when my felicitation ceremony was graced with the presence of Hon’ble Lok Sabha Speaker and Secretary General in the Parliament House’s Convention Centre. In the convention Centre, all the officers and staff of Lok Sabha Secretariat were present with whom I was working for the last two years. I feel that this honor was not my honor as an individual person, instead it was the honor given to the achievement of an aspirant who came from a normal background.
Today when I recall these golden memories, then sometimes, I feel that many things have changed but sometimes I feel that nothing has changed at all. The only thing that has changed is that I will not have to fill forms again for the employment. My family has become tension free about my career, and naturally there has been a certain uplift in my social status; but there are certain things which has not changed and I wish that they may not change i.e., the desire of continuously moving ahead and doing something better in life, remaining continuously progressive, doing continuous hard work and trying my level best to face the new challenges.
I feel that I got a high rank in UPSC because of the three factors: my accumulated knowledge and experience, my writing skill and my comprehensive and balanced view. Besides, I also feel that my every job, every educational institution, every teacher and every friend has taught me so many things. My friends used to say that, ‘My preparation was silent, but my success was stupendous’.
Really, success is not a destination, it is the beginning of a new journey instead. A poet has given the same expression in the following manner:
“Whether I get my destination or not,
I do not give it a care,
I am satisfied with the fact that
I am in the Caravan searching its destination”.
I just want to say that, wherever you are, however you live, whatever you do, do it happily, keep yourself engaged and keep enjoying. Do not lose hope by listening to the words of a pessimistic persons. At last I would like to share the following four lines of Dushyant Kumar, a renowned Hindi poet, which have always motivated me in the journey of my struggle:
“The cold breeze does come from the current of this river,
Although the boat is feeble, but it challenges the waves.
Go and find a spark from somewhere my friends,
There is still some zeal left in you, try to light it”.
CSE Prep : A Holistic View
In my opinion, Civil Services Examination requires a certain level of maturity and approach. Some students achieve this level at an early age like 22-23 and some achieve it very late. All this depends on our whole upbringing, studies and experience.
In present scenario, when UPSC examination question papers have become very dynamic and innovative, aspirants are also supposed to develop some skills and qualities in them like:-
1. Integrated Approach
2. Balanced View
3. Respecting other’s views
6. Writing skills and command over language
7. Self confidence
8. Communication skills
9. Well-arranged thought process
10. General reading habit
So far as my understanding and area of interest is concerned, I had a keen interest in some areas like-language, literature, culture and philosophy since my student life there principles of Indian philosophy became my life changing principles:-
1. Nishkam Karma Yoga (disinterested action) from Gita
2. Anekantvad (non-absoluteness) from Jainism
3. Madhyam Marga (Middle Path) from Buddhism
These three great principles not only help us in our everyday life but also in our UPSC preparation.
Let us talk about prelims first. Preliminary examination of Civil Services is the toughest examination in fact. But it can be handled with some certain techniques like:-
1. Remaining calm and stress-free on and before this one day examination,
2. Again Nishkam Karmyoga helps a lot, when you focus on your action only and don’t get attached with the result, you have a psychological edge over other candidates.
3. Handling negative marking is the key to crack the prelims. There is no substitute of practice while preparing for this phase of Civil Services Examination. Please take help of various test papers.
4. For qualifying this phase, a candidate must be a keen learner. Diversified study and awareness pays a lot. When we make our area of study comprehensive and become able to connect various segments of General Studies with one another, we get an edge over others.
5. Always try to learn and attain knowledge. For example, while travelling in metro or on roads, don’t ignore government advertisements like on education, health and taxes etc. Likewise, we must be familiar with AIR, PIB, Rajya Sabha TV, India portal and other Government media.
Mains Examination is the key to achieve final success in this Civil Services Examination. One cannot rely upon Interview but one can give his best for Mains Examination to make the dream come true. I would like to suggest some techniques for Mains also:-
1. Respecting Other’s views:- When we are open minded and we believe that other’s views are also correct to some extent, then the chances of improving quality of our answers rise for sure. This approach is relevant for all the mains papers including GS- IV (Ethics) and Essay.
2. Integrated and Comprehensive Approach:- Remaining dependent only on text books and coaching notes will not help. Our approach must be comprehensive and multi-dimensional. Looking things in totality and trying to find a relation among them, pays a lot.
3. Writing Skill and Command over language:- After 2013, Mains Examination pattern is changed. Question papers are very less traditional and more dynamic. Merely following text books does not pay much. In this situation, the importance of writing skills and language has drastically risen. I have found this thing common among maximum toppers that they had command over the language they opted as their medium and they had excellent writing skills also.
I would also like to add here that if you opt Hindi or any other Indian language as your medium, please make sure that you have command over that particular language and you are able to write reasonably well in that language without common grammatical errors.
4. General Reading Habit:- In this age of information revolution and media, our general reading habit other than text books has fallen drastically. If one wants to score extraordinary marks, one must expand his area of reading like reading books or magazines of general interest. Through this way, our answers become more diversified, comprehensive and interesting particularly in Ethics and Essay.
5. Essay and Ethics are the game changers:- When you analyze the mains mark sheets, you find that these two papers; GS IV and Essay give marks that are very fluctuating. In Essay, one can get only 50 marks and other one can fetch even more than 150 marks also out of 250 marks. Fortunately, I got 160 marks in essay paper which is probably the highest score. This makes a huge difference. Same is with GS IV. Some candidates get 60-70 marks while some others get 110-120 marks out of 250. It is very clear that if you want to get a good rank, you will have to pay due importance to both of these papers.
Unfortunately, candidates ignore these papers. Some students write their first essay directly in the Examination hall. Please don’t do this. Try to practice more and more for Essay and Case study (GS-IV).
(i) Essay must be systematic and a well arranged thought process must be reflected in it.
(ii) There must be a flow in whole of the essay. There must be a clear connection among the two consecutive paragraphs.
(iii) The range of an essay must be wide and comprehensive. Various aspects like-historical, social, economic, cultural, geographical, philosophical and political, must be discussed during the development of the essay.
(iv) There must be a visionary introduction in the beginning in one or two paragraphs. The Essay must be concluded with a clear conclusion. The another angle of the topic must also be discussed before conclusion of possible.
Finally, I would like to share some tips for Interview:-
(i) You are what you are. So don’t try to become like others. Be natural remain calm.
(ii) Never bluff. Don’t try to befool the board at any cost.
(iii)Listen to the board with patience. Start answering only after they conclude their question.
(iv) Again try to follow the principles of middle path and respecting other’s views.
(v) Be humble and a keen learner so that they may identify whether you are trainable or not.
For Hindi Medium Candidates:
I have felt on many occasions, that candidates who prepare with medium of Hindi or other Indian languages, feel lack of confidence. I would like to suggest some points for them:-
(i) Please don’t loose confidence. Think well, write well and answer well without any hesitation.
(ii) Please try to improve writing skills. For this, command on your own language is required.
(iii) Linguistics and Psychology say that studying in your own language makes you understand the things better. You have original ideas and thoughts. Use them and have edge over others. Fortunately, I got 851 marks in Mains which is the third highest score.
(iv) Please avoid grammatical errors in your language.
(v) English is not such a language which is too difficult to learn. Please don’t make English a barrier in your journey. Try to remain in touch with English sources like newspapers, TV/Radio discussions and websites.
(i) Have confidence in yourself.
(ii) Never, Never, Never give up!
(iii) If possible, try to gain employ-ability before entering into this long preparation process so that you may join any respectable employment in case of failure in the Civil Services examination. This also helps in remaining a person pressure-free during the preparation.
(iv) Your family and friends play a very important role in your life and your preparation. So don’t ignore them. I would also advise to remain in touch with those persons who have a positive energy and motivational force in them.
(v) Try to retain the things which you have studied and revised. “It is better to read one book for ten times than to read ten books for one time.“
(vi) “Your life is your message to the world. So, try to make it inspiring.“
Links of my books on UPSC Prep-