By Shivashankar E:
It was during my class 9th summer holidays that one day my father asked me to manage the welding shop for a day, as he had to go out-of-station. That evening when he returned and asked me how much money I had earned, I showed him Rs 20. Looking at this, he said, “This is what one makes per day in a welding shop, I don’t want you to suffer in this shop like me, you have to study well and become an officer.” This was when I first dreamt of becoming an IAS officer.
With this in mind, I secured 94% in my 10th standard and 92% in the 12th.
In the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (CET), I secured 404th rank in engineering and 418th in medicine. Everyone advised me to take up the latter as I was good at academics. However, my father suggested Engineering which takes only four years and I’d be done with it by the time I turn twenty-one. This was the turning point in my life. My father had already inspired me to become the youngest IAS officer in the country.
I am proud and lucky to have such a father, who can think of my future with such clarity (despite himself having studied only till class 9th).
December 17th, 2012, was the first day when I started preparing for civil services. I referred to almost all UPSC civil service portals and visited almost all IAS coaching centres in Bangalore. I was not in a position to afford the coaching fees that the institutes asked for. However, I did know of a few books that were a must read for civil service exams.
Then, I visited government libraries where aspirants prepared for civil services and I interacted with them. Some interaction was helpful. However, many did not entertain me. Like this, I continued till August 23rd, 2013. Until just the very next day on August 24th, 2013, I met Vinay Kumar – the director of Ethical Minds Academy in Bangalore.
The interaction with him turned the entire course of my preparation. I had found my breakthrough. He was the one who told me about the demands of the civil service examination based on which I prepared for the general exams through a straight stretch of a little more than four months.
Now I was left to decide and prep for the optional paper for which I had planned to take mathematics. However, I felt uncomfortable with my own choice and decided to change the subject.
For this too I had only Vinay Kumar to thank as he helped me finalise on Geography as my optional subject, teaching me as well as helping me understand the strategies that I needed to know to clear the optional paper. My friend, Chandana Vasanth, also helped me a lot with Geography.
I graduated as an engineer in June 2014 and attempted the preliminary exam on August 24th, 2014, clearing the paper with relative ease. Then I cleared the civil service mains examination and attended my interview. On July 4th, 2015 my dreams of becoming the youngest IAS officer got shattered as I scored very low in the interview – just 135 out of 275. I missed a rank by a just two marks. It was heartbreaking. To say the least.
As I was moping about my civil services result, Mr Harish YN (IRS, 2015 batch), advised me to appear for the Indian Forest service exam and I decided to leap at this opportunity. With some, guidance I was able to clear the UPSC Indian Forest Service exam at the age of 22 becoming one of the youngest IFS officers in India.
One question which changed the course of my interview was – “tell me some problems encountered by forests in India.” My answer to this was – “Sir, I have not seen any forests as I did not get any opportunity to visit one, so I cannot explain you the practical problems encountered by Indian forests.”
Following my answer, the panel put across another question – “Then why do you want to join Indian Forest Service?” My reply to this was – “I’m from a lower-middle class family, It’s very hard for me to see my father toiling all day in a workshop. I want to make sure I have a respectable job and plan to help my parents lead a stress less happy life.”
I think this was the answer which fetched me a score of 210/300, the second highest score in this year’s IFS interview (highest being 213/300).
My journey to achieve my dreams, to reach where I wanted to, to be the youngest person to clear the UPSC exams were all impeded with practical problems. None of it was a miracle. I failed, mistakes were made but I kept trying. I spoke to people, took advice and acted upon what was available to me. That, I think, is what helped me the most.