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[ Topper’s Strategy] Ms. Sahitya Pusapati, AIR 24 , UPSC CSE 2021

 

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

 

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

 

C.P. CAVAFY

 

This has been the poem I would frequently refer to during uncertain times of my preparation and otherwise as well. I hope this poem finds a way to bring meaning and excitement to any of you going through moments of difficulty.

I am Sahitya Pusapati and through this article I would like to share my journey of 7 years and what helped me to tackle UPSC CSE and what pulled me back number of times.  From my journey, one can mostly learn what should not be done!

MANY MISTAKES OF MY PREPARATION AND HOW I CORRECTED THEM:

  1. Not understanding the demand of exam: Through excessive focus on studying from different sources. Not being precise about note making and taking false pride in reading fancy books. In the end what worked for me was bringing simplicity to my preparation. Supplementing my notes with RUSHIKESH REDDY’s( AIR 95, 2019)  notes for several topics across the GS papers. DK BALAJI’s text book on ethics has been a huge help in GS 4 as well.
  2. Choice of OPTIONAL: Zoology has been the love of my life before I had taken it as my optional. However, during the initial years of preparation it had turned into a night mare! Eventually I understood the pattern and how to manage the huge syllabus. It was rewarding in the end, not purely on the basis of marks but many other ways as well. I did study the basics of zoology concepts from different standard text books and supplemented it with handwritten or printed materials for zoology available in the market. I also took help from KAJAL JAWLA’s (AIR 28, 2018) online notes. Please be wise in choosing your optional.
  3. Focus on PRELIMS at the cost of MAINS: This is perhaps common to many aspirants like me who are not well versed with the style of CSE. Until my fourth attempt, I was jittery about prelims and would endlessly focus on it. So, please don’t do it. Integrated preparation of prelims and mains is possible and go for it. In this aspect, course correction happened naturally for me. Each day, solving quizzes for prelims, writing or at least thinking about two or three questions can help you build your competence. Of course joining a test series and solving full length papers once a week can be of great help, for both prelims and mains.
  4. Seek advice at the right time from right people: overtime you will understand who means business and who doesn’t. If things aren’t working, then please seek guidance from right people who have your interest on their mind. Do not assume you know everything and act like a know-all. Also drop any kind of inferiority complex and approach people who may give you that one tip which might turn the tide in your favors.

 

HOW TO SUSTAIN INTEREST IN PREPARATION DESPITE MULTIPLE FAILURES:

You have only to remain quiet and firm in your following of the path and your will to go to the end. If you do that, circumstances will in the end be obliged to shape themselves to your will, because it will be the Divine Will in you.

Sri Aurobindo

After a point of time, this preparation can get exhausting and difficult. So each person has to devise a method that can keep their discipline optimum. It is discipline that can get things done rather than motivation. At least for me, that was the case. For that you have to make the process enjoyable. I would explain the concepts to family and friends. I would dramatize a situation and learn rather than being monotonous about preparation. Reverse engineering, which is learning through questions can be beneficial. The classic brainstorming exercise before taking up a topic can be a very useful thing. Discussions with peers can be helpful. In the end, pick a method that suits you. Ultimately your desire to live a life of your dreams will help you sail through many- many uncertain times.

 

ROLE OF INSIGHTS ON INDIA AND VINAY SIR:

I have always admired the quality of prelims questions, essay topics and meaningful posts of Insights. Their 75 day plan before prelims and secure initiative has been helpful for me like millions of other aspirants. I was also an OGP student of 2019 at Insights. During this period, I learnt to make my essays effective, improve my intuition in prelims, method to study zoology (through peers). It was during this period that my interest in International Relations increased and I understood what it means to be thorough and systematic in a subject. Daily current affairs have been my guide for many years.

Needless to say, Vinay Sir is the captain of ship. He is brilliant because of his perception and simplicity. He has got an extraordinary sense of wit and humor and this was helpful in understanding what it means to be ‘educated’ in a true sense. Like thousands of other aspirants, I have benefitted because of his interview guidance. You will witness this first hand, once you will be giving your one to one mocks. So let me not take that suspense away!

I would like to thank the entire team of Insights, the staff, administrative team and everyone who contributes to it. Cheers to their amicability and accessibility and professionalism.

BOOKLIST: I am referring to the books that I have referred to which are not commonly referred to. GAZETTEER ON INDIA, SN SEN for history and art and culture. SUBHASH KASHYAP for Polity( Our Constitution and our Political system), ERACH BHARUCHA for environment.

 

ZOOLOGY:

OVERVIEW: HICKMAN

VERTEBRATES AND INVERTEBRATES: RL KOTPAL

PHYSIOLOGY: TORTORA

BIOCHEMISTRY: SATYANARAYANA

GENETICS: HARTL AND JONES, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF GENE( PEARSON PUBLICATION)

DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY: GILBERT

CELL BIOLOGY: LODISH

 

Please note that these text books can be exhaustive and one has to be selective in their reading. I took the help of online or printed materials or hand written notes available in the market. IAS ZOOLOGY.COM has been of good help as well.

I would like to end my long post( just like my long preparation period, haha!) by the following quote:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, suffering, loss and have found their way out of depths.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

I sincerely hope to see such beautiful people across the society irrespective of their choice of career. Such people can create something that lasts forever. For that kind of a legacy, you need to be brave and energetic. So brace yourselves and get ready for your Ithaca. After all who doesn’t want these Ithacas in their lives?