Q. Did you start early, since when you were motivated to be an IAS officer?
Ans: I was motivated during the vacations after 10+2 & thus, chose to go for BSc instead of Engg in spite of good marks.
I studied Mathematics keeping in mind as my 1st opt. but later on dropped it. Therefore, I actually started preparing only after my grad. i.e. in June 2007.
Q. Is there any significant event that motivated you to join civil services?
Ans: I participated in Tsunami Relief & Rehabilitation Camp in 2004-05 with an NGO in Pune named ‘Chanakya Mandal’ run by an Ex-IAS officer. Earlier, I got motivated seeing him around but the camp taught me a lot about ground realities w.r.t. governance in India. I realized how the Volunteer Spirit would do miracles if assisted by the powers of an IAS.
Q. Please tell us about your family background?
Ans: We are a four-member family. My father is an Admin.Officer in New India Assurance Co.Ltd. My mother is the house-minister & My younger sister is a film-actress. It’s all because of the unconditional familial support I’m here.
Q. For how many years you have been preparing for this examination?
Ans: I started preparing exactly after my grad. i.e. from June 2007.
Q. How did you choose you optional?
Ans: W.r.t. 5 criteria-
1. Interest/Liking in the subject,
2. Grasp & scoring ability,
4. Good coaching &/or material available, and
5. Previous years’ question papers.
I took 5 months to decide my 1st optional. (I decided to go for Socio as 1st opt. in Sept.2007!)
Q. Being through in the first attempt, what was your recipe for success?
Ans: I believe in originality & honesty i.e. originality of thoughts in answers & honesty in my studies. Besides, I never got myself bogged down by newer material flowing in the market. I remained faithful to the standard sources only & applied my own mind & logic while writing the answers. Moreover, adapting yourself to the changing patterns/trends of UPSC is a must!
Q. What was your strategy for prelims?
Ans: Prelims is a ‘screening test’ & not scoring test. I got myself assured of 90+ correct ans in optional & 70+ correct in GS. Revision is the key for GS. I did at least 5 revisions each of opt & GS. Previous years’ quetions gave me correct direction. Besides, I practiced solving some papers for inculcating the pre-decided strategy (e.g. how many questions to attempt; which section to tackle first/last in the exam, etc.)
Q. What was your strategy for Mains?
Ans: ‘Thought process’ helped me a lot! I used to think of point-form ans in my mind (in lean time) which I used to write down again while practicing ans. Here too, I consciously adopted the ‘originality’ in my answers. e.g. I did not write a single sentence ‘as it is’ from my class-notes, instead I wrote the answer. only after applying my mind on it, in the MAINS. Besides, a regular study of 10-12 hours (Reading+Contemplation+Writing) is mandatory!
Q. What is your view on Coaching Institutes? Did you join any or referred to their notes? Please tell us about the role of coaching institutes in your success.
Ans: Coaching institutes play the role of a compass. Some good ones can play a crucial role if a person is stuck with basic difficulties in the subject. In my case, I had no background of any of my optionals, hence I preferred joining good coaching for both considering the paucity of time too. But beware of many fake ones running around/mushrooming!
I’d joined- Sociology- Upendra Gaur (UIAS-Delhi); Marathi Litt- Pravin Chavan (Pune); GS- Jnana Prabodhini (Pune).
Q. How did you prepare for Interview? Is there any contribution of the Internet especially this community in it?
Ans: I referred to standard sources like newspaper (Indian Express), Magazines (South Asia politics, Eco-Pol Weekly, The Economist, et al.) I practised communication & presentation skills (being an instructor in Basic Courses in Jeevanvidya Mission helped me a lot!); gave at least 4-5 mock interviews. I used internet especially the Wikipedia a lot! Our interview preparation community helped me think of newer aspects of a single issue.
Q. What was your backup plan in case you failed?
Ans: None. I’m a die-hard optimist! I don’t like to divide my energy with different career plans. Maybe a sound financial background supported my determination. BUT I’d suggest civil services aspirants to have at least one backup plan at least after the second (failed) attempt!
Q. Did you appear for any State PSCs as well? If, yes, of which states? Please tell us about your experience with the State PSCs. Is this option a good backup in case you fail in CSE?
Ans: State PSCs are far below an aim! I always aimed high & that helped me strive relentlessly. Besides, honest preparation of UPSC itself increased my potential & stamina too! I still reckon that this is all subjective w.r.t. everyone’s individual capacities & likings.
Q. What is your opinion about necessity of going to Delhi for CSE preparation?
Ans: Going to Delhi has certainly become a fad! I too went to Delhi but I had a crystal clear plan & vision in my mind. I went there for Sociology & did only that! Nothing else. Besides, Delhi has its own benefits & disadvantages too! One should actually sit down & ponder upon what he/she really needs from Delhi & what Delhi actually offers to you. Research the concerned institute(s) well, ask the seniors, meet the concerned teachers before joining it. But, if you can do better on your own & have a good start with the subject, then no need to join any coaching.
Q. Tell us about the books you referred for 1) GS, 2) Sociology and 3) Marathi Literature.
Ans: For GS-
History – Spectrum (Modern India),
Polity – Wizard, NCERT-Indian Consti. at work,
Economy – Eco. survey, 11th std. NCERT, Chronicle mag. for current Eco. affairs,
Geography – NCERTs (8th-12th std.), Atlas,
Sci.- NCERTs (having a sci background, i need not do much herein),
Mental Ability- Quantitative Aptitude by R.S. Agrawal,
Statistics – My own B.Sc. books,
Current Events – Newspaper (Indian Express), Chronicle mag.
For Sociology –
TB Bottomore (first 80 pages),
Ritzer &/or Coser (Thinkers),
Social Movements in India – MSA Rao,
Bipan Chandra or Sumeet Sarkar,
SC Dubey- Social change,
Yogendra Singh- Modernisation of Indian Tradition, Social change, Social change & stratification,
MN Shriniwas- Caste-Its 20th centuary avatar,
Nadeem Husnain- Tribal India,
Madan & Muzumdar- Intro. to Social Anthropology,
Population Studies- Bhende & Kanitkar
Horton & Hunt- Sociology (for basic understanding & chapter on ‘Common sense & Sociology’),
Robert Stern- Changing India,
BA IGNOU Notes (Prelims only),
MA IGNOU Notes (Mains only),
Oxford + Scott Sociology Dictionaries,
Any authentic guide for ready reference (Unique Public or MP Singh-Jawahar Public)
Newspaper – Social issues (facts & other data).
For Marathi Litt. –
Class notes of Pravin Chavan sir,
Pradakshina 1 & 2,
Prescribed texts for paper 2,
Weekly published Book Reviews in newspapers
& some ‘other’ countless books for extra inputs!
Q. Tell us about the magazines and newspapers you read and how much time did you devote to it daily.
Ans: Newspapers- Indian Express; Hindu(1st page & International issues only).
Magazines- Chronicle, Wizard (Select Articles- for Essay prep.n only), The Economist, South Asia Politics, et al.
I devoted an hour & half daily for both combined together.
Q. How did you manage time during preparation? Can you give a glimpse of your daily and monthly schedule? For how many hours did you study?
Ans: I’m a creative kind of a person. I never followed a pre-set schedule! Still, i made sure that I study for at least 8-10 hours a day on an average. I even went for some good art movies & dramas every alternate week as I love them.
Q. Tell us about your hobbies and how were you able to integrate them to your preparation.
Ans: I’m a follower of Jeevanvidya Philosophy. I do take part in its various social welfare activities, spreading the knowledge of Jeevanvidya across villages, towns & cities. This has tremendously helped me mentally, physically & spiritually too! A tenet of Jeevanvidya says ‘Love work honestly, bless all sincerely & you’ll be blessed by God according to Laws of Nature’. I’m following this philosophy & getting good benefits out of it. In a nutshell, it has become the oxygen of my life!
Q. Sum up your tryst with UPSC in a couple of lines.
Ans: I’m grateful to UPSC for helping me find my own unknown potentials throughout this preparation & thereby helping me know myself better! With all the loopholes prevalent in the system, it’s still a service worth putting your life for!
Q. Give a small motivational message to the community especially the newcomers.
Ans: ‘Love your work honestly, Bless all sincerely & you’ll be blessed by God according to laws of nature.’ Always remember that ‘You are the Architect of your destiny!’ A universal prayer has helped me keep myself positively charged always, it’ll help you too! All the very best!