Joydeep Moitra, Rank 295
THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
7:15 pm, 5th April, 2019: My name, roll number and a rank of 295 in the UPSC Civil Services exam, was all that my laptop screen was showing at that moment. Finally, a journey spanning almost 6 years had eventually come to an end. No, it wasn’t a mega-outburst of emotions. But a heavy sigh and a couple of minutes of silence in honour of the process that moulded me into a different human being altogether. Since that moment, life has indeed changedJ.
It was 1st September, 2013. I still remember the day vividly as I began my long, long journey of more than 5 years to convert myself from a fresh UPSC aspirant into someone who has his name in the hallowed pdf J. During this long journey, I learnt step by step on as to what it means to actually become a civil servant one day. Being a pass-out from a reputed engineering college (NIT Durgapur), and getting a job (with an impressive package of close to 40000/month) in my early 20s naturally convinced many in my friend circle and my relatives that I had achieved enough. To be very frank, that wasn’t exactly enough according to me.
While I was doing a job for a private company in the town of Sarni, Madhya Pradesh, I felt for the first time what my calling was. My job of a field engineer in the construction sector ensured that I interacted with all sections of the society. Before that, I had always lived in a protective atmosphere which never quite ensured a fuller understanding of life, and the learning it holds for each and every one of us. I still remember two things from those days really well.
One was one of of the workers in my site asking me one day, ‘’Sir, aap itne bare engineer ho, itna kuch jaante ho aap, aap jaise log agar prashasan ya raajneeti mein rehte to baat ban jata.’’[Sir, you are such a big engineer. You have so much knowledge. If people like you had been in administration or politics, it would have been so good]. Another was one of my seniors always telling me, ‘’Tumhara bohot potential hain, jiske bare mein tumhe khud abhi maloom nahi hain. Aap desh ke liye bohot kuch kar sakte ho apne buddhi aur talent ka istemaal karke. Public service mein jao isse pehle ki bohot der ho jaaye.’’[You have a lot of potential, about which you yourself are not aware of. You can do a lot for the people of your country using your intelligence and talent. Go for public service before it is too late].
These and many other happenings had inspired me to eventually join civil services one day, and well and truly achieve what I really could. Now, coming to my journey during all these years, I learnt a number of things. They would be as follows:
- Awareness: A civil services aspirant needs to be extremely aware, not just about himself, but also of the people around him and of all that is happening. My desire in the initial days, from 2013 to 2015 was compounded by a lack of awareness to an extent. I did not have a full-time internet connection (which I have today), but a rather patchy one. In fact, I came to know about the world of online portals like https://www.insightsonindia.com/ as late as late 2016(Nov/Dec). Another major area where I faced a constraint in my awareness section was that I did not have the privilege of making myself aware using the awareness of other people. In my hometown Chinsurah(WB), no one in my friend circle was preparing for this exam. I knew no topper whom I could consult. I couldn’t afford to go to Delhi due to some serious problems in my family during all those years. Even today, I own a single feature phone( a strange principle of mine during these years that I won’t let any distraction come in my way, and phone was a big distraction for me during my college days, hence the decision :)) As a result of my experiences, I would say that awareness is absolutely key to a civil services aspirant. You cannot afford to stay cut-off from the world and carry on your preparation. Do not be too strict with yourself, and attempt to live life to the fullest despite the demands of this examination. The world and even your syllabus are way too dynamic today for you to afford that luxury.
- Coaching and note-making: All through these years, I relied on complete self-study, without separate external guidance, even during those years when I was seeing failure after failure. Therefore, I would say that even without coaching one can clear this exam. All you need is the strength of mind, the determination, and the tenacity to hang on till the end. However, I would say that online test series, and materials available online in portals such as Insights is extremely valuable. It is just one step forward towards smart preparation in times such as these.
Regarding note-making, I would like to say that I personally never made notes (not a single one) during all these years. I had faith in my ability to remember and a lot of trust in my conceptual and analytical skillsJ. However, I would rather suggest that if somebody really feels that notes should be made, he/she should not hesitate. Making notes is like an art. You should be comfortable with your own creation and must be able to assimilate its virtues quite easily. Therefore, if one wants to prepare notes, the ground rules are simple. Simplicity, comprehensiveness, compactness and specificity should be the key.
- Physical and mental health: A civil services aspirant can only ignore this aspect at his/her own peril. In fact, once Gautam Buddha had told his disciples: ‘’ To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. ‘’
This statement is so very true. A civil servant needs to stay fit and healthy not just for himself, but for the society and country at large. Therefore, an aspirant with a strong mind and healthy body is an asset, investment in which is bound to give success sooner or later.
- Negativity: I am sure each and every single aspirant has encountered negativity during some stage or the other. A serious aspirant would always desire success in the very first attempt itself. But, it is not always the case for thousands who have to toil year after year to see their name in the merit list. In fact, even I have faced my share of it, considering the fact that I had made a hattrick by failing in Prelims 3 times in a row, and then failing in the Mains stage. But, where I did not fail was when it came to having faith in me. I knew I can do it one day, and no obstruction or difficulty can come in my way.
Aspirants usually rely on quotes by famous people to drive them forward. My strategy was completely different. I relied on negative quotes and gestures which I often heard year after year, to motivate myself. My sincere thanks to all those who helped me fight negativityJ. Examples:
‘’You need a job first, your dreams can come later on.’’, ‘’Every one cannot clear this examination.’’, ‘’Learn something from your failures and choose another alternative.’’, ‘’Arre, IAS officer has come (coupled with giggles and gestures)’’. Well these came from those who actually claimed they wanted to support me, so these quotes were all the more important J. From miscellaneous sources came, ‘’It’s not your cup of tea’’, ‘’Politicians will make your life a living hell’’, ‘’Stop wasting the money of your parents.’’, ‘’Engineers should spend their life with nuts, bolts and screws.’’
Negativity and struggles are a part and parcel of everyone’s life, and a civil services aspirant is no exception. Failures may be a stepping stone towards success. But before you step on it, one has to make it submit before oneself. So, do not submit before failures. Rather, make negativity and failures succumb before you so that you can step on it and move one step closer towards success.
- Books: Well, I won’t write much for this section as I feel that aspirants who have been able to access the internet really well and have been visiting the concerned online portals are well-versed in what to read and what not to read. Still, I would suggest some books and sources about which I believe the word needs to be spread:
- http://www.nbtindia.gov.in/books_detail__8__india-the-land-and-the-people__1012__indian-folk-arts-and-crafts.nbt——> Indian Folk Arts and Crafts
- Indian Polity by Spectrum Publishers.
- John Green’s crash course on World History topics, which you can find on YouTube.
- India After Gandhi, by Ramchandra Guha, which can be really useful to understand the first 50 years of post-independence India.
- Ancient India by Romila Thapar(old NCERT)
- International Relations by Spectrum Publishers.
- The report on Crisis Management, from 2nd ARC.
6. Support: An aspirant always requires a constant source of support and motivation from individuals who truly desire their success. Well I had a fair share of it too. A lot of thanks in this respect to my parents who have given me everything they could have since my birth, my school friends Saptarshi, Debdinnya, and Krishanu, a very special friend from Mumbai who is my oldest friend till date( 12 yrs of friendship). And a special mention for one of my best friends till date, Mamta ji J. You stood by me through thick and thin, and I will always stay indebted to you for whatever you have done for meJ.
In the end, I would like to conclude by saying that nothing is impossible if you really desire to achieve it. So, buckle up your seats, and get ready for 2nd June, 2019. I would like to finish this write-up, quoting Shahrukh Khan from the film Om Shanti Om:
‘’ Kehte hain agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaho … to puri kainaat use tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.’’
[ If you truly desire something from your heart, the whole universe will conspire to make you achieve it.]