What was your first reaction when you found out your result?
I was very confused because the very first time I saw the results; I couldn’t find my name in it. Someone had sent the pictures of the result and as such, I didn’t get the pdf of results; I was like CHALO YAAR NAHI HO PAYA. When I finally saw my name, I was relaxed. My ultimate ambition was always getting into administration but somehow I couldn’t till then, but now that I am going to, it feels good.
Tell us something about yourself, your family and your academics.
I hail from Patna and have been brought up in Dhanbad. I did my schooling from DPS. After completing my 12th, I qualified JCECE and landed up in BIT Sindri. I did my B.Tech in chemical engineering and after graduating in 2013, I pursued M.Tech in chemical engineering from IIT BHU. After that, I took a leave for about 2 years to prepare for UPSC in Delhi. Afterwards, I got into teaching through TEQUIP-III (NPIU) and have been in this profession for the past 1 ½ years. It was during this time that I gave the MAINS of BPSC, as well as the interview and qualified with the rank of 311. My family was very supportive of all my decisions.
You have done your B.Tech from BIT itself. What was your experience here as a student?
BIT will always remain very special to me for I spent the initial 4 years after teenage here. When I was in school, I was a geek. I used to read but was not into other co-curricular activities, it was in BIT that I started getting into co-curricular activities. I was a part of the Model Club and I used to be a persistent writer in Sarjana also, (you can find my stories in 2009-2012 editions of Sarjana). I started taking part in other recreational activities and also made a number of friends in BIT. Hence I will always remember BIT for the friends made here and the number of co-curricular activities that I took part in.
Any specific activity or incident that you’d like to share.
I was always interested in co-curriculars but I never took part. In my first year, I don’t know what got into my head, I participated in the dance competition. I finally gathered the courage to be on stage. I took part in an event called ZENIUM ’09, organized by Rotaract Club, where I participated in a beauty contest too. To my horror, I won it too, somehow. Mind you, I was your MISS BIT for the year 2009. (smiles) From the second year onwards, I was more into the technical events. I used to get a lot of acknowledgement for my technical activities- Technical paper presentation, Technical quizzes, there was this SEEDHI BAAT in GRS, Debates in Sarjana etc. Those events and the associated memories are one of the best-cherished memories of my life.
How does it feel to be on the other side of the table as a professor?
Strange as well as connected. It feels strange because I always thought it was very difficult to be a teacher or a professor, for the suggestions that you give to others, should also be implemented by you. Therefore, before suggesting something to the students, I always believe in implementing them myself, and that is a tough task. Connected, because I was a student of BIT and I understand the issues and the problems faced by the BITians. So when I got into this side of the table, I was very much aware of the negative aspects. I’m trying to convert those into positive ones now.
When and why did you plan to enter into the civil services?
My father was actually serving in Bihar Public Services. In 2000, when the state got bifurcated, he got the Jharkhand cadre. So, I had seen my father working. I have seen him trying hard for the betterment of the general masses, sometimes he used to miss family occasions because of that. Initially I couldn’t understand as a child, but later on, I realised that he used to love his work. He understands the quality of the work and the responsibility that the job brings in. So I started liking the profession. For me, the administration has the power to change or influence people. I wanted that because I think I can. I was in 9th or 10th at that time.
What was the reason that a chemical engineer decided to take up an administrative job? Wasn’t your engineering background a hurdle?
See, the issue with the general masses is that of perception. In general, people think that the subject or the stream that you are educated in should be your source of livelihood. If you’re educated in chemical engineering, then that particular trade should be your job. That is the biggest issue. believe one can get educated in any stream but must always follow one’s passion at the end. When your profession becomes your passion, you start enjoying it even more. See, if I’m a chemical engineer, I’m cultivated in this field. I can use this knowledge in some other field too. It shouldn’t always be my concern that I have to earn my livelihood by being a chemical engineer or a professor. See, I’m not saying that it’s not a good profession, but I’m saying that it’s a more diverse field. My knowledge of chemical engineering won’t be underutilized, that I am sure of. If you are in administration, you still have to get into technical institutes, you can provide your input there, provided you are well read and educated. What you study should not always be what you use to earn. It is just that it gives you an insight into one of the various fields out there, that’s it.
Isn’t it that arts is considered to be the basic subject for civil services?
Yes, it is. I studied it too. I think I should be a better candidate because I am equally informed in both technical and non-technical sections. So I don’t think that should be an issue. It’s always about how you see things. It’s not that those from engineering background cannot go for other fields. People generally think that you’re wasting a seat if you don’t wish to pursue a career in the field, but I disagree. If you have the knowledge, you’re well versed in a stream, use that knowledge to do something else.
What was your optional paper? Why did you choose that?
Sociology was my choice of optional, the reason being that it would fetch maximum marks in minimum time and this eventually turns out to be the crucial plank in the boat. Since I was from a technical background and to get the maximum possible score in a non-technical subject, I needed a subject that was precise, concise and still easy to read. The second thing was, sociology is a subject that gives you an insight into society as general. If you want to go into administration, it’s very important to know how the people feel, because you won’t just be amongst them, you’d be representing them. So you should know what their feelings are and what they want. In order to understand that, you need to know the history and the present lives of them. Sociology covers everything- it starts from the medieval time and covers everything that the society has been up to. That’s the reason why I chose sociology.
What was your preparation Strategy?
My preparation strategy was very clear. In the initial days, I decided to go for hard work completely. I got acquainted with the subjects as much as I could, history, geography, economics, which took me about 1 ½ year. For the rest 6-8 months, I applied that knowledge smartly to work out the questions. So I think it is a combination of your hard work and smart work that helps you succeed in any field of competition.
At any point of time, did you ever feel like giving up?
I actually did. Initially, when I couldn’t crack UPSC, I thought that maybe I’m not the right fit for it. I moved on to the second thing that I was good at, chemical engineering and became a professor. The thing was, I always wanted to be in administration and I continued with it. I gave it up just for the time being but then again took it up and here I am, having finally cleared it. It happens, sometimes you lose patience and I think you should always know when to switch. Switching is not that you should completely leave it. You can go for other jobs, which can give you the kind of confidence that you can be good in some other task also. First love is always very special, you can never forget it, that’s what administration was for me.
It’s said that the civil services interviews are the toughest. Tell us something about your interview.
My interview went quite well. I think the reason behind it is that I was at ease with the board and the board was also quite comfortable with me. I had 3 panellists- A chairman and 2 members. The interview for civil services is not about how much you know but how well you present yourself. It’s your personality that speaks volumes. Clearing mains and prelims shows that you are good at academics. My interview was more into like asking for the hobby: “What is your hobby? Do you think your hobby is correct?” I said kathak was my hobby and I had basic training in it. Kathak dancer and administrative officer are like two poles. So they were very inquisitive about whether or not would you like to continue with that. The second thing they asked me was about my optional: ” How did you prepare for it? Where did you prepare for it? Why did you choose it?” and they went on to ask random questions like What is the difference between law and rule? Describe the colour of all notes between ₹10 and ₹2000. If you are a professor, how do you deal with students? Sometimes you may have very naughty children, you may as well find students hooting in the class, there may be some so silent that they cannot even question you. So how do you deal with them altogether?”. But I believe the board was extremely cordial. For the interview, it’s your personality that speaks, you don’t have to prepare too much. You have to be what you are and it will be reflected in your actions.
You prepared for the exam while working. So how tough was that?
See, I had already prepared for the civil services for about 2 years before I started working here. In the initial days, I did a lot of hard work, reading every book that I could in different courses. So when I had to prepare for exams while working, I went for smart work. I solved the previous year question papers, circled those questions which I thought would be relevant in the coming exams and then prepared my own answers. Somehow I gathered more facts and statistics. I had my previous notes also. I continued reading them. When I went for the exam, I was confident that I could write because, after 2 years of hard work, I just had to write it down. I was confident with it, no issues. It was very clear to me that I had to present myself well in the answer sheet.
Would you like to share some aspects that could be the reason for the fall through of the aspirants?
I think what I found out was that many of the aspirants couldn’t do well. Interviews are a big reason for that. What happens in the public services is that people give more weightage to the mains rather than the interview. However, this time around, the interview has taken the front seat. In your interview, the most important thing is to present yourself well. I am a chemical engineer, they knew it. They knew that I was already working as a professor and so I already have a job. So it’s obvious that the panel will think that why should they hire me when I already had a job, a career, why wouldn’t they prefer someone who was more in need and eligible as well. It is important how well you defend yourself. Always remember that the interview is the most important thing that can make you succeed and the major reason failure of the majority. Otherwise, I don’t think that prelims and mains are such a tough task. The battleground is somehow the writing section in mains and the interview.
Many people think that choosing an optional paper is very important. So how can one choose?
It’s one’s own comfort that is important in choosing the subject; like somebody may be very good in economics or may be very good in memorising facts and figures, so they can go for economics. Sometimes people have great memory power and they have good technical skills too, they can go for Geography. Some people like to read political things more, so they can go for the subject of Public Administration. So it’s completely one’s own choice. I was more into social issues, I used to work for Prayaas India. So I was more into what is going on in society, how do people react to some situations. So that made me choose sociology. So it’s one’s own thing, you have to choose your quality. And while you are choosing a subject, read its syllabus. If NCERT books are available, try to read the NCERT books. If not, try to read some other materials, like those available online before choosing the right subject. Your choice would be the most important thing in the exam.
Most of the people go for higher scoring subjects. So shouldn’t that be the choice?
No, if you are going for the higher scoring subject then there would be more competition. You won’t be the only one choosing that subject. In the BPSC, there’s a subject called LSW (Labour and Social Welfare). It is the most preferred subject in the BPSC Mains. The number of candidates in that subject is extremely high and that’s why the competition is extremely stiff. So that also becomes a reason for your failure because when thousands of people write the same paper, you have to write relatively. If someone is better than you then you’d be marked lower than them. It is not an absolute marking. So always be cautious about choosing the subject that will give you marks as well as is not the most sought after subject.
Civil services are one of the toughest examinations around. As such many don’t get success for 4-5 years and even after that they don’t take the failure lightly. How can one tackle this?
It’s not about just civil services, rather any exam. The thing is when you are trying, you give your 100% because you might have a day when you may not get that also. Every person knows his/her limits. Suppose after 3 attempts you are not getting success, it’s better to go to some other field and continue to work for your goal rather than to sit alone. When you are sitting alone, your head is just crumbling, you are not doing anything. Keep trying sincerely but if you are unsuccessful, try to get into something else and if the desire is still there, continue with it. Don’t lose your heart and get depressed. The problem is that people tend to make qualification in exams a matter of life and death for them. It is just a part of life.
Isn’t there a need for something to fall back upon?
Absolutely. That is one’s own responsibility. I did my M.Tech not because I needed something to fall back upon but rather because my technical was good. I knew that my ultimate desire was to go into administration but first I wanted to be good in chemical engineering. I went for M.Tech, studied well, scored very good marks in BHU and then decided it’s time to give my 100% for the civil services. For 2 to 2 ½ years I tried hard, but when I couldn’t succeed, decided it was time to switch back. Because you need to grow on a personal level. When I was in B.Tech, I gave my 100% to it and tried to balance it at the same time. Wanting something is easy but performing or taking responsibility is a tough task. Prepare yourself for everything and plan it accordingly.
What would be your message to the students?
I always believe that you should try to get what you like, otherwise you have to like what you get. That’s the worst thing happening in India currently. So always try to work on something you like because eventually, we will work for it throughout our life. If you are not getting it, start liking what you are getting. There’s nothing wrong in that. Ultimately your work will speak at the end of the day. So never feel disheartened by your failure. Maybe you might not deserve the position you have been aspiring for. You can excel in other fields too. I think the best thing is persistence, keep on trying. Work hard as well as smartly but keep on trying. If you cannot achieve your goal, switch it, get back to something else because you might be famous in something else also. Failure in one field doesn’t mean that you have failed for life. You should always know when to stop. If you are trying for 3-4 years in any field, CAT or MBA or something else and you are not getting success, then apply your brain to something else. Consistency doesn’t mean trying for 6-7 years, it means trying till the point you realize you are not made for something.
Some tips for the UPSC aspirants.
- To start with, one should read the syllabus of the exam that one targets,deeply. Once you are done, go ahead and study the previous years question papers in detail.
- For civil services / BPSC ,start your preparation with polity or history preferably as these will take more time.
- To get an insight into the different subjects, read NCERT first, from class 6th-12th.Then go ahead with standard books like for polity – Lakshmikant and history- spectrum and Bipin Chandra .
- For economics, one can refer to the online videos by MRUNAL. Amongst books one can refer sriram IAS notes and Ramesh Sharma
- Geography can be covered from NCERT books easily.
- Reading newspapers should become a habit on a daily basis. Refer to newspaper like The Hindu, Times if India and for BPSC- Dainik Bhaskar, Prabhat khabar.
- For online help, refer to the websites of Insightsonindia,IASbaba, onlyIAS etc.
- For your optional subject, choose a subject based on your interest,capacity and syllabus and material available. Also check its previous year question papwrato get an idea about it.
- Focus on sticking with 1-2 books per subject rather than putting efforts in reading numerous publications. Keep revising ur targeted book again and again to develop command over it. REMEMBER -REVISION IS THE KEY TO A STRONG MEMORY.
- For mains, practice writing answers in a concise and precise manner rather than stretching it too much.
- For interview, your personality should reflect your attitude, So use the different platforms in your college and elsewhere to present yourself onstage and gain that confidence.