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TOPPER’S STRATEGY: Manish Kumar, Rank – 61, CSE-2017 – Post Prelims – The Road is not easy but did you expect it



Manish Kumar, Rank – 61, CSE-2017

Post Prelims – The Road is not easy but did you expect it


So Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am back again. I always write to en-light and teach to enrich, in which continuity is paramount. Last article we discussed how crucial it was to reach to LOC before fighting the real battle. Many of you reached there also and gave a spirited fight till the last bullet you had in your armory. In case you missed the last part, I don’t want you to wander around to search it, time is much more important than money, so the last article’s link is here

To be extremely honest, it was a tough battle in prelims this year with lot of unexpected snowfall happening at LOC, still I am very proud of the way our dear soldiers gave their best in that. No one was coward and everyone gave whatever they knew. Trust me, the most important thing is giving your best. Now comes the trickiest/toughest part of the journey 

  1. Prepare for a fresh battle happening this year again in September post this
  2. If you could not cross the hurdle , convincing yourself for an uphill task again which is not so easy , I will repeat again to emphasize which is not so easy by any means

I fought in 2016 and was a soldier who could just misfired a few rounds of bullets and painfully had to wait for a year to fire my bullets again. The pain of not getting through the line, knowing very well that I had in me to (and I am so much willing like captain America) to give my 100% , but sadly that day was just not any other day. It made me realize two important things in life

  • You can misfire, you will misfire, you are bound to misfire so giving excuse that the enemy was too difficult(read pre paper) or any unexpected snowfall happened will not change the truth
  • Others are also fighting the same battle there and it was not like they had the ideal conditions, so may be the acceptance that I was not actually prepared fully will help you. An honest acceptance is a bliss , a forceful denial may lead to cognitive dissonance

Any ways let’s now focus on the task in hand. The past can’t be changed.  You fought hard and you need to be proud of that fact. Be humble to learn because learning to fail is actually good, but failing to learn is a sin. UPSC has two meanings

Unpredictable Public Service Commission requiring U-> Ur Unlimited | P-> Passion | S-> Strength |C->Courage and Character

And these qualities are like your Avengers to fight Thanos ,You need to control Time like Dr. Strange,  a smart method like Iron man, and most importantly dedicated soldier like Captain America.

Being a working professional and clearing it, I felt the pain and the perceived lack of time and hence thought if there are any cloud of doubts on these things this Hardworking Human should help you. You may refer to my video titled 9 Point someone (Precise and Objective introspection)

In case you are worried about what after prelims you can look to various wonderful articles by Insight Team and many other toppers. I have shared the learning from this journey here

Let’s now discuss about Mains and key things related to it. We generally wait for results and wait for our name in the list, knowing very well that irrespective of that we need to prepare. We should prepare urgently (TURANT a Hindi word for the same)

T-> Targeted | U-> Understanding | & R-> Reading for | A-> Appreciating | N-> New and never ending| T-> Topics/Themes


How to read is the genuine next Question

Consider this example. I walk to my investment bank office from my home every day which is 2 km away. There are 3-4 ways in which I can walk to it, however once I figured out one way, I have developed comfort with it and I use the same route every day. Day 1 when I shifted to Mumbai from IIT Kanpur , I used to take cab/auto. The first day I decided to walk was by chance. I could not find anything. I was very scared, I did not know the route. I had to ask everyone – ok I should take this way, yahan se left, ok thanks didi. And somehow I managed to reach my office, called my parents that yes I have reached feeling relieved. Now fast forward 3.9 years I have walked nth times, have no count of the same. Now I can even walk with earphones, I can observe the roads having lot of congestion, shops which got painted, trees across season, dogs on the street, people eating vadapav, and many more finer details, none of which I observed and appreciated on day 1 when I took the route. Agreed!! Happens with most of us

The day I started my preparation dear brothers and sisters I knew this was how I had to prepare for UPSC as well, using real life learning. Now you can reach to your goal via multiple routes, multiple books, multiple sources, websites, all being ultimately leading to our cherished goal. Now read the walking journey again. You realize the mistakes we make. On whichever road (books/resources) you read at the first go, it will be difficult, you will need guidance to keep on moving, you need to keep moving is the real ask. You will never observe the beauty of the resource forget appreciation at first go..very scared also if you are taking the right path and 73% of us ( a random number ) change the source/ resource and start again on a new journey to the same goal. What it creates is multiple issues

  • We never completely take one route to goal and never appreciate its beauty. Most of us say I read this book but it was not sufficient. Wait before making such statement understand your one reading is not sufficient. Make notes and now start reading your notes from it again and again. The inner intricacies and beauty will now appear. That is the moment of MAGIC which many of us don’t wait to happen. But most toppers (again generalizing without having exact data) do. They keep insisting trust your sources and keep re-reading

When I first started reading Insights secure for Mains I was like , really the toppers say that this is legendary, isse niklega kya mera upsc, isko padha tab to nipat jaunga , whenever I say people to just follow secure sincerely now I can see the cycle of life, people are like dear brother are you sure this is it. I don’t feel bad now. I say no this is not it, read it 2-3 times then you will appreciate it. Mark my words things are very hazy in beginning in anything and everything you read and post 2-3 readings of same (yes same) source you start getting confidence. 

It takes less time to finish again as you are familiar with road | you know the inner details which makes your answers better than others| You start loving it | You can micro manage it ( I can walk fast slow to reach my office in 15-25 min) | And it gives you one confidence that this much I at least know properly.




What also happens with us is reading from multiple sources we never finish any source and we never reach the goal, and we start feeling restless. We never know which is the best source and the best road taken. Time is very critical, this is actually called as smart study but the only smartness you needed to show was not get fooled by multiple sources and just show faith on 1-2 and keep reading it again and again

For Mains my only two sources were – INSIGHTS SECURE ( FOR ALL PAPERS of last 7 months- due to paucity of time), I really had 25 days in hand else I would have read for last 2-3 years as MAINS Q are now asked even from events that happened 2-3 years back like NJAC. And the second source was MAINS 365 Vision


I just kept seeing same Maternity bill, same urban heat island, and Banking reforms, backed up what I was reading and showed faith on people who had created this content. The two things you can do which I could not do as I had actual crisis and was focusing on highest productivity of my hard work (marks in exam/ hour spent in preparation)

  • Take a test series to gauge that the things you read , did you really understood it ( it is like you are a rock star bowler like Kamlesh Nagarkoti but you need to test against the best batsmen in IPL though personally I am very critical of how now a days coaching people check papers)


  • Read Indian Express/ Hindu in case you have time and you want to read anything for yourself, not because your flatmate is reading. The intent is the key, why you do something what you do. I read none as I can’t read newspaper when I know I am already fighting a battle in which all have already completed 5 km out of 7 km in the race and I am just starting. Yes I did read sometimes First post and News In shorts


  • Test series will be a waste if no mentor / guide gives you the perspective where things are going wrong. You might be bowling 145+ but still getting hit for sixes , may be you needed a bit of reverse swing which a very good coach would help you to figure out. Vinay sir (Insights) is regarded as one of the best in business. I have heard even IAS BABA mentors are decently good. So until and unless the Q paper is discussed, and you actually learn from it ,it will be a waste of time except the fact you will get a good writing practice.


  • I took a personal decision not to join any test as you would have now realized what was my situation, too many things and too less a time, and wrote 5 Q once to realize can I write even, showed it to my parents only, they gave constructive comments and I will write in exam, I have to read first things. There was no choice, I will have to write, I will have to fight. And I used to say every day to myself, I am doing all the answer writing (mentally) but come the day, I will write like it was my last day of life , give the last bit of flexibility I would have in my fingers on paper.


Key Things to Note:

Improve your speed | Handwriting | Develop your comfort with Diagrams | Underlying | Different pens | Whatever you want to try, please try with honesty as when D DAY comes, you are ready to fire all ammunitions

For Psychology (my optional) -> Read just 2-3 books (you should read less things to feel syllabus is limited) else you know gaining knowledge has no end

Paper 1 : NCERTS + Baron / Ciccareli ( I read the second one)

Paper 2: Smarak Swain + NCERTs (11-12th)

There are many books which many toppers read and this is a very good article(here) by Mittali ma’m last year on psychology

I used to read all article on Inisghts just to understand the key message- which to me was ->

The exam has three pillars -> LEARNING -> MEMORY -> PRESENTATION” people spend 70% time in just reading and learning but the other two important pillars are equally and critically important to sail through

I will come up with one thing that worked me in this exam – my most imp article may be “ How I thought at first go only that if I write this in Mains I will get just 3-4 Marks , how do I make sure I increase it to 4-5-6-7 and being real enough to know that if I don’t do value add , this cycle will never end, I need to not for me but for all stakeholders (my parents and everyone who loves me) . And how one can do answer writing mentally which will help one to score marks


The last bit before I say until I write again , when I give away my treasures of my preparation – which brought a hardwroking human at par in preparation with all the superhouses who were ready to launch their tankers in just 25 days. A brief glimpse of the same :

If I used to get any Q on social issue : my answer was fixed ZEBRA


Some more in other Qs

COW -> C- COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION | O-> with the OBJECTIVE of | W-> Welfare of society

HBS -> Horizontal and vertical linkages | Backward and Forward Integration | for SOCIAL benefit of farmers

DGP-> Decentralized | Governance | using Panchayati Raj

BOGUS -> Bedrock of Organic Growth ultimately leading to sustainable development

SURE-> Sustainable Utilization of Resources for Ecological protection

And many more …………….about 100s of them

One as a treat for my dear brothers and sisters

ALL SDGs can be combined like

PHHEEWS GEWS ACE DEWAI KHAKE ………rest next time when we meet here on beautiful insights portal

Poverty -> Hunger->Health -> Education -> Gender equality -> Water and Sanitation-> Affordable and Clean Energy…

Note:These were just one pillar of my preparation. I had 6 such weapons to fight out with all the talented superheroes. We will discuss them in detail in next article

Lastly just one note I used to go to big bazaar in my childhood with parents and say to them papa / mummy ye bhi achha lag raha..this is also looking so good, let us take this , take that , the tendency to take everything which was there in the shop but do we take them all, my mummy used to say beta ghar ka situation pata hai naa..papa ko utna paisa nahi milta..even when everyone had TV videogame , we could not afford it , we did not have even money for a good BAT as it was considered as a luxury product and used to play cricket till class 12 with a wooden piece. These have done MAGIC in my life . I have learnt three things

  •  You can’t have every resource in world and one should be happy and try to OPTIMIZE everything with minimal resources. In my PREPARATION I DID THE SAME. Else market me 100000000 materials are there. Just read those dear friends which you can AFFORD TO READ AND COMPLETE..Trust me on this


  • The more you had pain initially , the more you start appreciating Life and enjoying it . UPSC Preparation is like your gf/bf . You can’t have the best way to start with, no one has, the more the time you spend with them , the more you will start knowing the subjects and more you would be loving them. You know they are not the best in world (read your preparation) however you have to show the belief in them and show trust on them. They will appear more beautiful to you then. The more you invest in them , you will have maximum returns. I used to say to myself , hey psychology I love you a lot from my bottom of heart and irrespective of in/out I will keep loving you like this..Like a true lover and was determined that simran ka hath babuji mere hath me (read good rank in Civil services) de denge if my pyar was pure . The idea is ,is your love pure and honest toward this exam..then no one can stop you

I would in my next article provide you the ammunitions people who love me are waiting for. I don’t believe in writing strategies and sources (you can read other excellent articles of other toppers (avengers) on this)  as every soldier more or less know who is the enemy and how do we get close to it. But when the real war starts they need the weapons to actually save mother India..I will come up with those weapons directly. 

PS: I also teach underprivileged kids and last day only received a call from one of the mothers who said her daughter has topped in school . She used to get <20/60 marks in Maths but then began the journey of hardwork and now when everyone is enjoying her success, i was remembering how beautiful and painful was the journey . Do check out if you need any motivation.

The hardworking human will be back, till then be honest with preparation | Till then I will observe the small rain drops touching the feet of mother earth in Mumbai

Any positive feedback/ constructive criticism is always welcomed………………Jai Mahismati

Hardworking Honest Human | CSE 2017 AIR 61 | RBI AIR 49 | CFA | Creator WYFY (With You for You campaign) | | Investment Banker – Deutsche Bank