Tuesday, 2 October 2018

My Journey to Success - Tapan Deka, IRS (IT), UPSC 2017, RANK - 859


Tapan Deka
Rank in Civil Services
Roll No.         
Marital Status
Total attempts in UPSC (including this one)       
Optional Subjects
Literature of Assamese Language
Service preferences Top – 3 (IAS, IPS, IRS etc.)
Service Joined
Schooling Medium (English/Assamese/Hindi/Bengali)
College Medium (English/Assamese/Hindi/Bengali)
Medium chosen for Mains answers
Medium chosen for Interview
Home town/city
Work-experience if any
2 years


% in class 10
% in class 12
Graduation course and %
Name of college, city, passing out year
NIT Surat, Surat, 2011
IIM Ahmedabad
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements
Reading, Writing, Teaching, Playing football and cricket


Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-discussion“ related to civil services.        
Daily hrs spent on WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram study groups
Was done in conjunction with regular study. Time varied, sometimes discussions or MCQ sessions used to happen in those groups
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep/mock test
Depends on the topic being studied on the particular day. I used to watch videos of various topics as well as read up on Current Affairs online, so sometimes I spent a significant time online.
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile           
Laptop and mobile


Did you use highlighters / sketch pens in your answers?
No, due to paucity of time while writing answers. But if time permits, can be a good way to enhance presentation
Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in Geography) If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Yes, drew diagrams and flowcharts in many answers across subjects like Geography, Science and Technology, Economy. Initially with pencil, but shifted to pen in later stages of the papers due to paucity of time
Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
By hand
You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?


1. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

I come from the beautiful city of Guwahati, the capital city of the Assam. I am the son of two wonderful people who have seen a lot of hard times during their lifetime, which contributed in shaping of the person that I am today. Having schooled in Guwahati, I pursued my B.Tech in Computer Engineering from NIT Surat and Post-Graduation in Management from IIM Ahmedabad. I did some brief stints with IBM and FinIQ Consulting. I like to spend my time reading novels and occasionally writing as well. I enjoy teaching and have taken a few classes for students preparing for various competitive examinations. I hope that I shall be able to contribute to the society in a meaningful way in the future.

I have had an inclination for the civil services since childhood. I have always had an urge to do something constructive in life for the betterment of the society we live in, and contribute meaningfully to the development of the hitherto backward region I belong to, and these are my primary motivation for inclination towards the civil services. However, due to lack of guidance as well as misleading information about the difficulty level of the exam by successful candidates, I felt that civil services was something that was out of bounds for someone like me and I somehow didn’t pursue it. However, in my second year of Post-Graduation, seeing another friend of mine taking the exam, I thought of at least appearing in the exam to know about it. 

The first attempt was without any preparation as such. After graduating from business school, I attempted again, this time too without adequate preparation. The experience of the two attempts, albeit without any preparation, made me realize that this exam is definitely doable with the right amount of preparation. And since February, 2015, I began to judiciously prepare for the examination. In the third attempt, I went up to the Mains stage but couldn’t clear it due to poor marks in the optional subject, leading me to change the optional subject. Continued preparation for the exam again and cleared it the next time with a rank of 859. Although expected a much better rank, owing to the preparation and how I fared in the papers, I am thankful to the Almighty for his blessings and my parents for their continued support at all times due to which the success in the exam was possible.  

2. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how do you balance this i.e. electronic material vs. paper material (Books, newspapers)

The best way is to keep resources limited. Choose only one or two sites or groups to follow and focus only on those. Don’t get bogged down by news of new material being released by some XYZ institute or XYZ site. While following Current Affairs, only one, or at max two sources should be followed. Same applies to books and material related to other topics as well. 

Every website or book covers almost the same topics, in more or less depth.  I balance electronic vs paper material depending on availability of material on the topic. While static portion of the syllabus is mostly covered from books, the current topics are covered from online sources. Also, if something is to be understood, can watch a small video on the topic or read from an online source.

3.  Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper? What is your style of preparation and notes making? 

I did not make proper notes, but I feel that note making is very important and would help tremendously. I used to scribble some points on paper itself, which were not in proper notes format, so did not serve me much. Any aspirant should follow his or her own style of reading that suites him or her best depending on availability of time and ease of revision. I used to underline things within books, or PDFs itself which helped me while revising.

4. What was your approach in the exam? 

It depends on the particular paper of the day. In case the aspirant has at least some bleak idea about a question, in my opinion, he or she should attempt that question, since every mark counts in this examination. One should however prioritize the questions to be answered by giving more time to questions they’re sure about. Very good points must be written for those questions. For the questions with very brief idea, they should be attempted towards the end with not much time or effort devoted to those. In case for any question without the faintest of idea, the best will be to leave it as it is, or scribble two or three points ONLY if time permits. They should not be attempted at the cost of the questions one is sure about.

5. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format. 

I followed a mix of point and paragraph format, and occasionally used diagrams and flowcharts. However, it is better to write in point format for better clarity and readability. Also, headings and sub headings should be used within the point format. I judiciously followed the Introduction-Body-Conclusion format.

Yes, as long as the content is strong and presented well, one can definitely write the entire paper in point format. There have been many selections of people following this method, which proves that we need not stick to any pre-defined format of answer writing as such. As long as we are able to write what is exactly asked for in the question, it is perfectly fine.

6. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else? If a new aspirant wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?

My optional subject was Assamese Literature. Initially, I had Management as an optional but changed into Assamese later, for two reasons. I had a good hold on the language due to my occasional writings in the language as well as due to the fact that my parents could help me out in preparing for the optional papers. Also, since I was preparing from Guwahati, I could approach Faculty members in the subject and get their inputs, as well as get notes and material easily from the book stalls and students of M.A. in Assamese.

7. What are the books you studied doing your preparations and your list of recommended books? 

One must be up to date with the current affairs and latest happenings, so use of newspapers and/or online sources for them is a must. One cannot rely only on books for this exam.
I used to revise NCERT books of the subjects pertaining to the syllabus of the exam from Class 6 to 12. Apart from them, some books that I followed.

1. Indian Polity – M. Laxmikanth

2. Geography – G.C.Leong, NCERT 9-12

3. Ancient India – old NCERT

4. Medieval India – old NCERT, Tamil Nadu History Class 11

5. Modern India – Spectrum Publications, Bipan Chandra

6. Environment – Shankar IAS Academy

For other subjects, I followed various random sources, including printed material and online sources. Searching on Google by the keywords given in the Mains syllabus, we can get some very good material prepared by various coaching institutes.

8.  How many months did it take to finish the optional syllabus?

It takes around three months to complete the syllabus of any optional.

9. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success? How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice papers?

Yes, I took mock tests for both prelims and Mains. I feel they are very necessary because they help us practice and get acquainted with the type of questions that may be asked, the difficulty level we may expect and help us self-analyse the mistakes we are making and where to focus our efforts more.

Ideally, we must take mocks a few months before the exams and then revise them before the exam. I had taken a lot of prelims tests before the prelims, and the month before prelims, I had revised them. For Mains, I started answer writing only after prelims, and so I could devote only around two months for it properly. It would have been better if it was started a bit earlier.


1.  How did you prepare for the interview? – (for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level)

1. Made a list of topics based on my DAF (Detailed Application Form) based on my analysis of what type of questions are possible
2. Sent DAF to friends, mentors and sought questions from them
3. Prepared responses to such questions. Did online study on my hobbies, institute, region and followed the newspapers for current affairs
4. Gave a few mock interviews at coaching institutes

2.  Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?


Although the mock interviews try to imitate an actual interview, I felt that interviews at UPSC are much more relaxed and intellectually satisfying.However, it is better to take a few (not excessive) mock interviews to gauge one’s strengths, weaknesses and focus areas.

We must not get bogged down by comments from the mock interviewers, but use our own analysis and act accordingly.

3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

I stayed at Assam Bhawan in Chanakyapuri. I revised my notes prepared for the interview and read newspapers.

4. Who was the chairman of you interview board? How long was the interview? 

Chairman: P.K.Joshi

Duration: About half an hour

Yes, there is definitely a lot of scope of doing social service from private sector as well as in an individual capacity. However, I feel that a civil servant is able to touch the lives of people more closely than any sector. The ability to co-ordinate with various administrative departments is another added advantage. However, it ultimately boils down to one’s personal preferences and one should contribute in the manner that suits them best.

5.  Describe the formal-dress worn by you on the day of your interview.

I wore a dark blue coloured suit with a light blue shirt and a purple coloured tie, with black shoes with laces.

6.  Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  

Interview was more or less on expected lines. Questions asked were not exactly what I prepared for, but the preparation for the interview helped me in tackling those questions.
The interview transcript is attached below.

7. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?

UPSC is quite a flexible organization with helpful staff. Before the interview, it is clearly mentioned what documents and photos are to be brought for the interview. However, in the case of a document not being available at that moment, one can give an undertaking of providing it within a certain time period by post or in person.

8. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview.

Board: P.K.Joshi
Date: 04-05-2017 (Afternoon)
Position: 3rd
Panel Members: Chairman, M1, M2, FM1, M4

Me: May I come in Sir
Chairman: Please come in
Me (enter the room, walk a few steps, stop and greet with hands behind the back): Good afternoon Sir. Good afternoon Ma’am. Good afternoon Sirs
Everyone: Good afternoon
I wait for them to ask me to take the seat.
Chairman: Please take your seat
Me: Thank you Sir
Chairman: (Reading from my DAF) So you have done your Engineering from XXX College in XXXX year, then you did your MBA in XXXX, then you worked as Business Analyst in XXXX, but you left it in only 8 months. After that you have worked as Faculty in XYZ College, your salary has drastically dropped to just 5000 rupees. Why such a change?
Me: Sir, I had left my job to prepare full time for civil services. I was invited by the Director of that institute to take a few classes and I was paid 2000 per class. I was only a Part Time Faculty and did only a few classes, so over a span of 8 months, it came out to be 5000 per month.
Chairman: What was your role as a Business Analyst in your company?
Me: Sir, the company is an IT firm in Financial Services. My role was Sales – pitching for new clients, client management and people management. Based on requirements of the client, we develop modules for them. I was involved with a client Bangkok Bank Limited for developing an FX system. I had a team of 25 people under me to develop the system.
Chairman: What did you teach in XXX College?
Me: Sir, I took classes on HR, OB, Operations… Sir, I mean Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior…
Chairman: And what did you teach at XXX University
Me: Sir, it was a 50 day crash course to prepare students for UPSC and State service examinations. I took classes on Economy, Art and Culture and Aptitude.
Chairman: Ok, I will give you a problem. Suppose there are 2 companies A and B. Both have the same capitalization, and both have same earnings in a year. Company A is paying dividend, but company B is not. Company A’s dividend per share is more than company B. Why do you think this is happening?
Me (forgetting the last statement): Sir, dividend decisions of companies are dependent on factors like shareholder interests and future expansion. Company A might be wanting to assure their shareholders of good returns on their shares, so paying dividend while company B is retaining that money for future expansion of the business or for operational purposes for next fiscal years.
Chairman: But why is company A’s dividend per share higher than company B?
Me: Sir, the Present Value of the cash flows should be the same in both cases
Chairman: I had said their capitalization is same, so what constitutes capitalization.
Me: Sir, debt and…(interrupted)
Chairman: Yes, so debt is also a part right. So one company may have higher debt
Me (realizing my mistake, but still kept cool): Yes, Sir
Chairman: So what is Capital Gear?
Me (I heard capital gain): Sir, Capital gain is the increase in value of an asset. For example, if I buy a painting for 100 today and two years later its value becomes 150, it will be capital gain of 50.
Chairman: I asked about Capital Gear
Me: Sorry Sir…(1 sec pause) I am not aware of that
Chairman: Do you know “some management term I have never heard, and don’t recall now”
Me: No, Sir. I am not aware of it.
Chairman: Suppose there is a company and it has estimated the cost of production of an item as 60000 rupees per unit, and selling price as 72000 per unit making a profit of 12000. Now, after production, it was found that the cost came out to be 80000. How will you present your case to the manager?
Me: Sir, it would depend on the costing methodology used whether same method was used for both. If marginal costing method will be used, we will be considering only the variable costs and the cost will come out to be less. I think we have a higher cost value because we also took the fixed costs
Chairman: Fixed costs will be there for a lot of items, so how will you separate fixed costs from it
Me: Sir, we will have to reduce the values of land, property, machinery from the costs to get the variable costs
Chairman: Is it the same as Standard Costing?
Me: Sir, I am a little confused if standard costing is same as Absorption costing. If they are same, we will be taking the fixed cost values too.
Chairman: You have cleared NET also. Why don’t you go for teaching?
Me: Sir, my first priority is civil services.
Chairman: Have you heard of HR Accounting?
Me: Yes Sir
Chairman: How can you account for the work that people do?
Me: Sir, we can different metrics to measure the amount for HR. For example, in IT companies, there can be metrics like numbers of hours billed to client, number of modules created in certain numbers of working hours.
Chairman: Ok, (indicating to M1 to ask)

M1: Let me ask you, do you know about Strategic CSR?
Me: Sir, I am not exactly aware of the term, can I make a….
M1: Yes, please
Me: Sir, I think Strategic CSR will be those CSR activities which are planned for a long term purpose unlike what is done currently. For example, if a company plans to construct a school instead of donating to NGOs for carrying out their activities
M1: When this idea of CSR was introduced, CII, ASSOCHAM and others opposed this move. They said why doesn’t the Government take that 2% and do these activities themselves instead of asking the companies to do. But two years later, they have begun to praise it and are not criticizing it anymore Why is it so?
Me: Sir, because companies have realized that it is good for the company as it creates value and helps in their business
M1: What is this value that is created?
Me: Sir, value as in terms of goodwill for the company. For example, ITC has this thing written on the back of their Classmate notebooks that 1 rupee from it is going for the education of the poor, so it helps in creating a positive image of the company in the minds of the customer.
M1: So you mean to say that it is aligned with their larger business interests?
Me: Yes, Sir
M1: Ok, so this is called Strategic CSR when you align your CSR activities with the vision of your business
Me: Yes, Sir
M1: What is Soft CSR?
Me: I am not aware of it Sir
M1: Nowadays we are seeing a lot of young startups and they are also receiving a lot of investor funds. You have Amazon, Flipkart who are running into losses, but the investors are continuing to invest in the startups. What is the reason behind this?
Me: Sir, the reason behind investors investing despite losses is they are trying to create a user base first and to wipe out competitors so that only a few players remain in the market. For example, in the cab business, we have seen a lot of investments in Uber and Ola, and they are currently the two major firms operating in the business with others being removed…
M1: So what are investors seeking? Are investors looking at exit or entry?
Me: Sir, currently investors are looking at entry. They are investing more and more in the startups to create user base and remove competitors (I don’t know why I repeated the same words I used in the previous answer again)
M1: Have you heard of the current VIP and EPI issue
Me: Sir, I am aware of the VIP beacon issue, but I am not aware of EPI
M1: It’s Every Person is Important
Me: Oh, Yes Sir Yes Sir I am aware
M1: So how do you make every person feel important
Me: Sir, there is a gap between the bureaucracy, politicians, ministers and general public due to the perception that they are not approachable. We will have to increase accessibility of officers for the general public. Only when people will know that they can come and directly meet officers will they come and seek redressal of their grievances.
M1: What else can be done?
Me: Sir, like the red beacon on cars have been banned, we can also have policy of banning official vehicles and promoting use of public transport by officers, ministers. They will be able to interact with common people, and also people will feel close to them
M1: What else?
Me: (thinking for some 4-5 seconds): We can have community meetings. Also, we can have some dedicated days for organizing some forums where people’s grievances are noted like some Tuesday, or Thursday…
M1: I will give you 3 statements, you answer me in Yes or No
Football is sport
Football is business
Football helps in peace and building relationships
Me: Ok Sir
M1: Football is sport?
Me: Yes Sir
M1: Football is business?
Me: Yes Sir, nowadays it is becoming a business
M1: It helps in maintaining peace?
Me: Yes Sir. (his face seemed like he wanted to get something more, so I continued) For example, in ISL, we have our team called North East United FC. Despite the hostility and problems between the North Eastern states, whenever the team plays, every one of us cheer for it. So, it has helped in promoting peace among the various communities and build relationships.)

M1: (handing over the baton to M2 through a hand gesture)
M2: How do you find ways to fulfil your interests?
Me (confused as to what did he ask): Sir, I didn’t get you
M2: How do you find ways to fulfil your interests? You have indicated quite a few interests (pointing to my DAF page). Do you devote time specifically for them?
Me: No Sir, I do not give dedicated time for them. Most of my interests happen unconsciously. Like I have this interest of collecting boarding passes… (interrupted)
M2: Yes yes I am coming to that. So you do not give dedicate time for your interests?
Me: Yes Sir. They happen as and when the time comes, like I collect the passes when I travel
M2: Do you get frustrated when your interests are not fulfilled?
Me (a bit confused, but still didn’t show that): No Sir
M3: You realize if you become a bureaucrat, you will not be able to undertake an airline travel maybe for the next 7-8 years. I don’t think you go about asking people for their boarding passes in the airport because that will be a very wrong thing to do (he said this with a big laugh, I joined in with a slight laugh too saying “No, No Sir definitely not”) So not able to travel, not getting hold on to them, will it not frustrate you
Me: No Sir (with a smile). Infact I… (interrupted)
M3: Are you sure you will not be frustrated?
Me: Yes Sir. Like I have a liking for cars, but I don’t not get frustrated when I see a high end car, and that I am not able to get behind the steering wheel.
M3: But you wish you were behind the wheel, that you had purchased it
Me: Sir, I hope that I will be able to purchase one one day and I believe that I will be able to do so.
M3: We have some good colleges in India but we fail to get into the top rankings in the world. One thing that is continuously mentioned is the lack of research. We have Professors from IIMs devoting a greater part of their time in teaching executive programs, consulting assignments. Do you think they should do consulting assignments? Instead shouldn’t they just go for research?
Me: Sir, I agree that research is a bit low in our institutions. But I think doing consulting assignments is also good as it helps them in getting inputs which can help in research. Also, since they contribute a part of their consulting fee to the institute, it helps keep the fees low.
M3: But consulting fee maybe constitutes only 30% of the total earnings of the institute. They also say that Professors tend to do a lot of executive programs. Should Professors devote a lot of time for executive programs?
Me: Sir, executive programs are attended by people who have gained sufficient experience in their fields, of 5 years, or 7 years, or 9 years. So their inputs also help in Professor gaining inputs which can be used for their research.
M3: Executive programs fetch the maximum money, so Professors want to take more of such classes. The per-class fee is very high. Research is neglected don’t you agree
Me (nodding slowly but kept silent)
M3 (after a period of silence of 5-6 seconds): Do you know about sterilization in context of RBI?
Me: Yes Sir. It is an operation…whenever a lot of capital flows in to our country, dollars and other foreign currency, we need to supply rupees for those currencies which increases money supply in the country which may lead to inflation. To check that, RBI does an operation to stabilize money supply. This is called sterilization
M3: What are these actions that can be taken?
Me: Sir, one of the ways can be to go for limited convertibility. Like we convert only 60% of forex into rupees, rest 40% goes into our forex reserves.
M3: But that will infuriate the investors. They will want their entire FDI to be converted to rupees
Me: Sir, we already have this system of limited convertibility…
M3: Ok, what else?
Me: Sir, we can use the forex to finance our exports (damn  )
M3: If you finance exports with that forex, won’t that be counter-productive. Your currency is appreciating, which will harm your exports. You are negating your own statement.
Me (thinking for 3-4 seconds): Yes Sir

M3 handing over baton to FM1
FM1: The questions I would be asking, you would not have prepared
Me: :o
FM1: You have so many optional choices (pointing to the educational details table in DAF) why did you take Literature?
Me: Ma’am I had Management as optional in my last attempt, but had changed it to Literature this year
FM1: Because you felt you did not get adequate benefits out of it?
Me: Yes Ma’am
FM1: So it means you do not have genuine interest in Literature?
Me: No Ma’am, it’s not like that. I like Literature. Assamese was the first language I learned in school. Also, my parents are graduates in Assamese, so I could get a lot of help from them.
FM1: (exact question I don’t remember) Something regarding my own interest in Literature
Me: No Ma’am, I write in Assamese too. So I chose.
FM1: Tell me the difference between theme and plot
Me (taking some 5-6 seconds to think): Ma’am, theme will be the overall feel of the written content. Like a novel on crime would have crime as theme. A plot will be how the story is…carried forward (my voice came in bits and pieces while answering this, a bit of nervousness was easily observable and hand movements were prominent)
FM1: Tell me the difference between rhythm and “don’t remember the term”
Me (thinking for a long time, tension evident on face, forgot the second term asked there itself): Sorry Ma’am, I don’t know
FM1: Tell me difference between unity and uniformity
Me: Ma’am uniformity means painting everyone with the same brush, and unity means collection of different things to form a whole.
FM1: Tell me difference between equity and equality
Me: Ma’am, equality means treating everyone on the same platform. Equity means giving opportunity to the weaker group to be able to compete with the stronger on the same platform. Like if we have a poor man and a rich man, giving concessions to the poor so that he is able to compete with the rich is equity.
(A bit of fumbling was evident in the “tell me the difference between” questions)
FM1: What type of stories do you like to write, character centric or story centric?
Me: Ma’am, I like character centric stories, and my writings are also mostly character centric,
FM1: Tell me one author who wrote character centric stories
Me: Ma’am, Shakespeare
FM1 (gave an expression of disapproval)
Me: Ma’am, his plays like Macbeth, Hamlet…
FM1: But Macbeth has a very powerful story line
Me: Yes Ma’am, but if we look at the naming of his play Macbeth, and also his other plays, they are mostly on character names
FM1: Tell me one other character centric author
Me: Ma’am, Walter Scott

FM1 handing over baton to M4
M4 (pointing towards pencil and page in front of me): Write
I write them down on the page
M4: What are these?
Me: Sir, NPTEL is an initiative started by IITs to provide online classes for the public. MOOC is Massive Open Online Courses is similar to NPTEL where online classes for different subjects are available for viewing for free by public. If one needs a certificate, they will have to pay a certain fee.
M4: Do you think they can replace class room teaching?
Me: No Sir, I think they can supplement class room teaching and not replace them.
M4: Why do you think so?
Me: Sir, a lot of people like the feel of studying in a class room situation. Also, online classes do not provide for doubt clearing sessions. Also, since online classes can be watched anytime and anywhere, there is a lack of seriousness as there is no supervision or nobody to reprimand
M4: You might have also bunked classes in college…
Me: Yes Sir (with a smile)
M4: So you could study those subjects without the teacher
Me: Yes Sir, but for doubt clearing…
M4: For clearing doubts, you can have a separate online session
Me: Yes Sir, but clearing doubts in real time is liked by many
M4: Ok, you have mentioned your hobby as football, tell me what is the role of a captain in football, when the game is being played? I see no role of a captain in football
Me (thinking for 4-5 seconds): Sir, a captain can determine the formation during the game, he can assign players who they need to guard
M4: But formation is decided by coach before the game, and who will guard who is also decided before the game. Even who goes in and goes out is decided by coach
Me (silent for a few seconds)
M4: Can you relate this to the teacher example
Me (thinking for a few seconds): Sir, like a teacher, the captain can act as a motivator for the players, and also reprimand them if they are not playing well…
M4: Ok. What is the relationship between Lakshminath Bezbaroa and Rabindranath Tagore?
Me: Sir, Lakshminath Bezbaroa had married in the Thakur family. His wife was the daughter of the second son, or third son, no Sir second son of Debendranath Thakur (I said Thakur instead of Tagore). So she will be niece of Rabindranath…
M4: Ok ok so you know their relationship
Me: Yes Sir
M4: What is Environmental Racism?
Me (thinking about it for 2-3 seconds): Sir, I don’t know
M4 (still looking for an answer)
Me (stay silent)
Meanwhile, Chairman Sir indicates to M4 to end the session.
M4: Sir, final two questions
M4 (turning towards me): The other states of the North East allege that Assam is more developed than them. Do you agree?
Me: Yes Sir
M4: What do you think that is the case?
Me: Sir, the first glaring difference is in infrastructure development. Assam is mostly a plain area so it has roads, railways developed but the others states are hilly… (interrupted)
M4: Ok infrastructure I understood, what else?
Me: Sir, the discrimination faced by the people of the other states is also more, due to their physical features. People of Assam also face discrimination, but a lot less than the other states
M4: What else?
Me: Sir, in terms of economic opportunities that have been tapped. In Assam, oil, natural gas, plywood they have been exploited, but the other states, despite having a lot of natural resources, they have not been economically exploited
M4: What else?
Me: Sir, I think the reference to Assam’s organizations get more prominence than the groups of other states. Like people outside Assam know about ULFA, NDFB, but are not aware of Kuki Liberation Front, GNLA… Garo National Liberation Army due to the scale of their attacks…
M4: Ok (indicating towards Chairman that he is done)

Chairman: Ok, your interview is over
Me: Thank You Sir

The Miscellaneous Ones

1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

I would have re-joined the private sector if I did not clear the examination in this attempt. However, I would have continued preparing for the examination while being on the job.

2. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear about ‘profile insecurity’. 

I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this? Did you suffer from such insecurities? What is your message to these candidates?

I did not suffer from these insecurities as you mentioned, but I had some other insecurities of my own on somewhat similar lines related to education or work experience. From my experience of interacting with hundreds of civil servants and aspirants, I can definitely say that there is no English medium bias or big college bias in UPSC.

 Every year, aspirants from diverse disciplines, work experience, family or financial backgrounds are selected which prove that it is only the merit in the exam that matters, not one’s previous experiences

3.  People, most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?

My parents were my pillars of strength during this period. Mood swings, frustration and desire to quit are inherent about this exam and I believe, overtaking those obstacles and emerging a better, persistent person is another attribute of this exam not experienced anywhere.

We must take regular breaks daily and on periodic intervals to break and monotony and stay consistent. Staying focused on the main goal is essential to remain motivated. In this, online groups on WhatsApp, Telegram also helps as well as your study groups to keep you consistent in your studies.

4. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is your message to the new aspirants? Many hardworking candidates have failed in  Mains/Interview. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

I have learned that this exam is not a difficult exam to clear, the only things required are right study, consistency and ability to stay focussed for a long time. The support system for this exam is very important and this is where the role of family, friends and loved ones becomes important. They should be patient, supportive and motivating. 

Aspirants should not be bothered about frequent taunts or curiosity by relatives, neighbours about you wasting your time by sitting at home/hostel/PG and should not allow the social pressure to show results affect their preparation.

However, ultimately, there is a considerable luck factor involved as well, and despite the best of preparation, some people may fail to clear this exam. In such hard times, it is important to get hold on oneself and try to rectify the mistakes made and work on them and hope for the best.

5. Behind every topper are many people who stood by during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?

I would like to mention about my parents, my girlfriend and my dear friends Mridul, Subhajit and Pranav who were my constant sources of motivation and support.

Tapan Deka with his parents

Thank You for taking the effort to fill this questionnaire. Your effort will go a long way to guide someone in their preparations and fulfill their long cherished dream of becoming a civil servant.

Part 1 published in The Assam Tribune

Part 2 of Interview published in The Assam Tribune


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