An interview of Debasweta Banik, who has been selected in Civil Services Exam., 2012. She has achieved 14th rank. She deserves all admiration and our heartiest congratulations on her splendid success. This important, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview is being presented here its original form.
—Achieving a top slot in the CS Examination is no small feat; accept our heartiest congratulations on your splendid success.
Debasweta—Thanks a lot.
—Were you confident of your success in this examination and how did you react to this news?
Debasweta—I tried to give my best throughout. As I crossed each stage of the examination, from Prelims to the Mains to the Personality Test, I kept gaining confidence. Looking at my Mains and the Personality Test, I was confident and hopeful that I would get a rank that would fetch me IAS. My reaction on seeing the result was that of relief and elation.
—What preference in services have you opted for ?
Debasweta—My preference is IAS. This is because it provides diverse opportunities to work at every stage of governance, the tremendous work satisfaction and the scope to work at the grass roots level.
—What were your optional subjects ?
Debasweta—Optional Subjects :
—While making final choice for optional subject / s, what’s important and what’s not?
Debasweta—The most important factor while choosing optional subjects should always be one’s interest and aptitude in them. Next come availability of good quality study material and guidance. Choosing optionals solely on the basis of their popularity isn’t always wise.
—Give the basis of selecting these optional subjects?
Debasweta—As I have already mentioned, my biggest consideration for choosing my optionals was my interest in those subjects and my familiarity with them. I felt that both Psychology and Anthropology were substantially correlated with each other and would also be of immense use to me in administration since both deals with the study of human beings. Moreover, I did not wish to depend on any external help for my preparation. My elder sister, who’s a Gold Medalist in M.Sc. Anthropology from Delhi University, could guide me the best in these subjects and this was a major factor behind choosing them.
—In how many attempts have you achieved this success?
Debasweta—This was my first attempt.
—You must have read IAS Toppers’ interviews in newspapers/ magazines; what inspired you the most?
Debasweta—Yes, I have been reading Interviews of toppers and each one of them has been a source of inspiration. It gave me an opportunity to get to know their varied styles of preparation which aided me to customize a method of study which suited me best.
—As the Preliminary Examination is staged with the new pattern, how did you manage to face it and what different strategy did you adopt to prepare for the new-look Prelims?
Debasweta—To get a good understanding of the new prelims pattern, I went through the 2011 Prelims question papers thoroughly. For Paper-II, in the limited time I had before Prelims, I tried to practice some questions on Comprehension and Decision Making to increase my speed and accuracy.
—What was your approach towards Paper-I (General Studies) and Paper-II (Aptitude Test) during Prelims preparation? How much time and effort did you divide for each?
Debasweta—I did not break up my General Studies preparation into different stages—Prelims, Mains etc. Rather, I adopted a holistic approach for its preparation. During Prelims preparation, almost my entire focus was on GS. I started with the basics in all the conventional areas—History, Polity, Geography, Economy etc. and focussed on conceptual clarity since the questions in the Prelims Paper-I focus more on basics. I read the newspapers daily for current affairs. For Paper-II, I practised some questions on Comprehension and Decision Making as I felt that they would be decisive areas in the paper.
Father’s Name—Shri K. S. Debasweta
Mother’s Name—Smt. Sujata Debasweta
10th—2006, C.B.S.E., Delhi Public School, Noida (96%)
12th—2008, C.B.S.E., Delhi Public School, Noida (91%).
B. A. (H) Economics—2008-11, University of Delhi, Miranda House (67-6%).
—How did you manage to tackle the ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims?
Debasweta—I did not hazard wild guesses for questions that I did not know in Paper-I. I first marked those questions I was completely sure about, then I went for those questions that required me to think a little and finally I took a few educated guesses. I did not face much problem in Paper-II. I started my paper from the Comprehension and Decision Making portions, and then went on to the reasoning questions. I could solve almost all questions with reasonable accuracy.
—The first step is the most difficult; from where did you get the right advice ?
Debasweta—I had decided before-hand that I would not take any coaching during my preparation and this decision helped me save a lot of time and energy. I went strictly by the syllabus given by UPSC for the Mains examination, and collected good quality standard text-books in all the areas and started reading them. I have graduated in Economics but took Psychology and Anthropology as my optionals since I had a very keen interest in them. Also, my elder sister Subhasweta could ably guide me in these and I wouldn’t have to depend on any external help in preparing them.
—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for Essay Paper ?
Debasweta—No there was no special effort to prepare for the essay. Extensive study for General Studies provided enough ingredients to write a good essay. Reading the newspapers daily, especially the editorial columns were of immense help. I also extensively infused relevant ideas from my optional subjects in my essay.
I chose the topic—”In the context of Gandhiji’s views on the matter, explore, on an evolutionary scale, the terms ‘Swadhinata’, ‘Swaraj’ and ‘Dharmarajya’. Critically comment on their contemporary relevance to Indian democracy.” I decided to write my essay on this topic since I found it quite unique and I felt I could express my original views in it. Also, the topic itself was very clearly elucidated, which made it easier to stick to the point and write my essay in a logical sequence.
—’Time Management’ is a key factor; how did you manage things ?
Debasweta—Yes, proper time management is a necessity. I had chalked out a rough timetable for all the stages of the examination and made sure I fulfilled my targets on a daily basis. While writing the exams as well, I stuck to the word limit, wrote clear, concise answers and did not leave a single question.
—How did you prepare yourself for Interview ?
Debasweta—I did not do apy special preparation for the Interview. Since it’s a Personality Test, I feel it’s quite fruitless to try to develop an ‘ideal’ personality in such a short time. Rather, one’s personality is a culmination of all the experiences, from school to college and later that one has acquired. I just continued with my habit of reading good books and newspapers everyday, and brushed up my awareness about the details I had written in my Mains form. Mr. S. K. Mishra (Retd. IAS) gave me valuable guidance. Also, I have been an active debator in college and have held the post of President of the Debating Society. This proved helpful since I was confident while speaking and tackling tricky ques¬tions in the Interview. I faced Mr. P. K. Misra’s board. It lasted for around 45 minutes and questions were asked on a varied range of issues—from Dyslexia to debates in our Parliament, current economic situation, the Budget, empowerment of women, leadership qualities etc. There was not a single factual ques¬tion posed to me, and I was mainly asked to express my views and opinions. The board was extremely cordial and the entire experience was very satisfying and enriching.
Favourite Person—My father.
Strong Point—I always enjoy whatever task I’m doing. This keeps me calm and composed even in demanding situations.
Weak Point—I have the habit of doing any topic from multiple sources and original texts. This sometimes takes up too much time.
Hobbies—Parliamentary Debtaing, playing Violin, Bharatanatyam, creative writing.
—Were you preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for your ultimate goal i.e. Career in Civil Services ?
Debasweta—No, I did not seek out any career opportunity apart from the Civil Services. I believe in giving my 100% to one thing at a time, and was preparing with single minded focus. In fact, I did not even appear for any entrance exam for Masters in Economics as earlier planned. I did not think of any plan B because I was determined to succeed in my ultimate goal.
—While the changing eco¬nomic environment offers immense lucrative career opportunities in various sectors, still what kept you motivated towards Civil Services ?
Debasweta—Civil Services pro¬vide one with diverse opportunities at work, and the scope to serve at the grass roots level. The services hold the promise of a life full of challenges and immense job satisfaction. More¬over, one gets to serve impositions of authority right from the beginning of one’s career.
—In your opinion at which Educational Level should one start preparing for Civil Services and what should be the minimum period of time required to prepare for Civil Services Examinations ?
Debasweta—For me, my perfor-mance in the examination was not a result of intensive study for just one year. In fact, all my experiences from school to college, all academic and extracurricular activities that I ever did, though not keeping Civil Services in view then, served an important purpose. Having said that, around 8-9 months of serious pre¬paration is needed. I started prepar¬ing right after my graduation.
—What is your opinion regarding the general view that Science subjects have better chance to score than Humanities ?
Debasweta—I do not think scoring has too much to do with a subject being from the sciences or the arts. If one has a firm grasp over the subject and is able to answer all questions in a logical and concise manner, good marks would auto-matically follow.
—What is the importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE ?
Debasweta—Any medium in which one is comfortable expressing their views should be preferred. Ultimately content is king, and thus UPSC itself offers candidates a scope to opt for a medium of their choicfe. However, certain mediums like English are sometimes preferred more due to greater availability of books and study material.
—Can you recall the exact moment when you realized the importance of Civil Services ?
Debasweta—It is difficult to point to any particular instance. However, I always wanted to have a job where I could contribute, how¬ever little, towards building a just, equal and enabling society in our country. The Civil Services, I felt could provide me this opportunity.
—Finally, at what point of time did you make up your mind to make career in ‘Civil Services’?
Debasweta—I was attracted towards the Civil Services from school itself, though I had a very vague idea about it then. It was during my final year of graduation that I decided to appear for the CSE to fulfil my long cherished dream, keeping everything else aside.
—Was CSE a planned decision or your parent’s wish?
Debasweta—Being a part of the Civil Services it was a long cherished dream of mine. My parents and my elder sister always stood by me and guided me by holding my hand through all the highs and lows. It was therefore a collective wish that was fulfilled.
—Does the educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant have any impact on the preparation ?
Debasweta—Superficially it may seem like these factors have a big role to play. However, at a broader level single minded focus, conceptual clarity and honest, clear intentions play a more important role. From personal experience, I can say that it is not necessary to spend lakhs of rupees and enroll in coaching insti¬tutes to succeed in this examination.
—In your opinion what role do the Competition Magazines play when you are preparing for an examination like Civil Services ?
Debasweta—Though I personally could not read any competition magazine during my preparation due to lack of time, they could become a useful tool of preparation since they provide relevant information especially in Current Affairs in a crisp and concise manner.
—How do you find Pratiyo- gita Darpan ? Do you find it close to your expectations ?
Debasweta—Pratiyogita Darpan is an extremely helpful magazine and perhaps one of the most read amongst all the competition magazines. I have heard a lot of praises for PD amongst CSE aspirants, especially for the special issue on Indian Economy. I solved a few practice papers from PD before my Prelims examination and found them quite useful.
—As, a reader of PD, do you read IAS Preparation related articles written by Atul Kapoor and did you find these constructive ?
Debasweta—Articles written by Mr. Atul Kapoor provide a lot of useful information to aspirants about the right approach to CSE prepara¬tion. I feel they could serve as a good sounding board for them, especially beginners.
—What is the secret of your success ?
Debasweta—Sincerity, intelligent hard work and the unwavering support of my family are the secrets of my success. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire process of learning and that kept me motivated and in a positive frame of mind throughout.
—To whom would you like to give the credit for your success?
Debasweta—My father, mother and elder sister deserve all the credit. They are the wind beneath my wings. They have inspired me, by example, to give my best in everything I do in life. Above all, I am grateful to God Almighty for converting my endeavours into a good result. I am aware that there are many candidates who might not have made the cut but are equally deserving. Thus, I feel humbled and determined to make the best of this opportunity given to me to serve my country.
—Any suggestion/advice you would like to give to the future aspirants.
Debasweta—I would only say that to turn any dream into reality, the most important thing that’s required is to stay positive and have faith in oneself. There are no short¬cuts to success and sincere, honest and intelligent preparation is sure to bear fruit. Coaching centres are not indispensable and self-study can compensate adequately for them. I would take this opportunity to wish all the future aspirants a very bright future.
—Thank you very much and wishing you all the best for your future endeavours.