What do you want to do in life? How do you want to do it? However philosophical these questions may be, answer to these questions has to be practical and each individual tries to find the answer in different ways. Gandhi and Subhash fought for freedom, Einstein wrote theories, Bill Gates quit college, etc. They all did what they wanted to do, they did it in style .
One wish that made me write this article is, my wish to inspire at least one person to come up in life. If you find it interesting, you can read and forward this, if you do not find it interesting, you can still send this for-ward (ward of deletion), in other words, delete it( I was trying to be creative). I promise, nobody would lose anything by ‘not’ reading it!
After I graduated from my engineering, I was eager to get into the corporate world and had many romantic notions about it.( One of them was free internet in office!) it was natural for me to accept a job in software industry and a subsequent job change followed because it provided better brand and salary. Initially I was on cloud nine( don’t ask me why not ten or eleven because I don’t know why people use nine), with evening parties in five star hotels (company sponsored, of course), weekend bashes,.. At the same time I got an irresistible job offer from one MNC, which promised me NASDAQ stocks and US trip.
At the same time I was also thinking about possible options for future studies.
One, MBA when done from premier institutions fetches great salary, position. People like management because, while others ‘Get the work’ from manager, manager ‘Gets the work done’ from others! It is inherent in all human beings to aspire for higher position in the pyramid- be it organization’s or society’s. The space in the pyramid decreases as we move to the ‘TOP’, that’s where everyone wants to be. This is a contradiction, both mathematically and sociologically! No wonder communism tries to create a sphere out of pyramid!
Next option was, to get a MS degree, which fetches a job that remunerates in dollars, and a lifestyle of a developed nation. No wonder, many talented people opt for this option. Process of drain is not new to India. During british period, it was ‘ drain of material wealth’ and now ‘drain of intellectual wealth’. If you ask me, Is it not the individual’s choice to decide where he wants to go? and what he wants to do? My answer is ‘Yes it definitely is’.
For an individual the choice is between monetary(abroad) and emotional(home) security. But the nation does not have a choice! It is not desirable to regulate human capital flow in a globalized world. However, it is a cause of worry to the nation that mostly, she is losing highly skilled and talented men and women by not providing them enough opportunities.
Job abroad also works wonders while looking for a bride, they also become family’s pride! To substantiate this point, you might have observed that ‘average beauty’ of a girl standing at the airport is much more than that of a girl standing at the railway station! If you don’t agree with me, I am agreeing to disagree with you. I know ‘average beauty’ is a subjective assertion and generalization of my assertion would be utterly false.
Let me clarify, I am only trying to hold the lens of empiricism on the society, by describing ‘what is’(the reality) rather than ‘what ought to be’.
Now coming back to the options for future studies, since my father was a government servant, he had many a times mentioned to me regarding IAS as a wonderful option, I had in fact seen, how government service provides an opportunity to interact with people, etc.. I had also seen many minuses- low salary, more constraints, etc.
All I knew(or had heard, to be more correct) about the exam then was, it is tough, tougher for candidates with science background, sleeplessness is needed to be one’s habit, 0.4million people write it, approximately 500 make it through, so level of uncertainty and risk is himalayan!.
One good thing I should mention about this exam is, cost of this exam is just Rs. 150, Rs.50 for 1st round, Rs.100 for the next one (of course, excluding the private coaching taken, if any). Compare this with other exams of the present era, you will know the difference.
The problem with this option is, it is all or nothing up for grabs, without any room for fuzzy logic! Out of 3 rounds of exam, if a person fails in any one round, he has to start all over again with the preliminary round. Mostly people do dedicated 12-14 hours of preparation for months and years. If after 4 failed attempts (max. allowed), candidate does not succeed, previous efforts can be rarely marketed to the outside world profitably (there are many exceptions to this though), not to forget the precious youthful years spent only doing studies sacrificing other desires.
I think, the choice for future studies must be based on one’s passion and interest, as each of the options have both white and black shades to them. I don’t intend to claim superiority towards any of the above options. But ‘Indian’ definitely has the superiority. In our country, the top options IIT/IISc/IIM/IAS all start with ‘I’. I hope the I-factor remains superior, not just as a study option but in other streams of life as well.
Now the time had arrived, I had to decide upon accepting or rejecting the MNC offer (as previously mentioned). I decided to ask myself, what do I want to do in life?, After 20 years, if I look back, which career path would give me better satisfaction? The answer was, I wanted to serve this society, wanted to change many things in the society, work among the people. One practical means to satisfy these desires was to join higher civil service( I know all of you may not agree with this) . The decision was taken, I rejected the MNC offer. There started ‘Mission IAS exam’.
The reasons, apart from lack of interest why most people do not take civil services exam (IAS exam as it is popularly known), one, the perceived professional hazards like lack of autonomy due to external interferences, immense pressure from society( many who do not enter government service by their choice or due to lack of chance, console themselves by recollecting these hazards) two, not everybody is ready to risk their precious youthful years, for something where nothing much is guaranteed in return ( apart from ‘best of luck’ from peers and heavy doses of knowledge after cramming all the books). A person who can get Rs.30,000 per month thinks one bird in hand is better than two birds in the bush, when he knows there are thousands of other hunters all over the country, who are simultaneously aiming at the bush!
Out of approx. 4 lakh candidates, nearly 500 make it to the final list, rest 3,99,500 fail in the attempt. Accepting failure is more difficult than accepting success. However, majority have the difficult task cut out.
With so much of uncertainty hovering around, to overcome the fear of failure, I told myself, ” that after 20 years, I should not regret of having not done something which I wanted to do. If I try and fail, that’s more acceptable than to have not made any effort towards my dream. After all, the journey of chasing dreams is not a bad one.( I read ‘Alchemist’, saw ‘Lakshya’ to reassure myself!) Even if I fail in my journey, I would end up becoming a better person with all the knowledge that I would have gathered with attempts in civil services exam. Any day, career in software industry would assure me my bread. For now, other things in life can wait.” In simple words, ‘Suhas, follow your dreams’ was my conscience call.
We( class mates from NITK, Surathkal ), who mostly had the same realm of thought regarding IAS exam, got together in a house near Indiranagar in Bangalore, the place was equidistant from our software companies, which were at two ends. The next day after entering the house, my roomy exclaimed, ‘There is a library next to our house’. I probably did not share the same excitement at that time, but later that library turned out to be a citadel our preparation (especially mine).
Our time table was pretty simple. Get up, Go to the company, Comeback, Study, Sleep. One of the challenges was after coming home from the company, to switch to a totally different mode, from algorithms to constitution, from C program to Government program, One CS to another CS(Computer Science to Civil Services) and the like.. To do that, I had said to myself that the moment I pass out of my company gate, I would forget all that happened inside the gate (believe me, its easier said than done, but definitely doable). The other challenge was we had to believe that we can compete and beat others, in spite of lack of complete dedication (because of work), which is considered to be very essential to IAS exam. One of my roomies, who is a genius in cracking exams, seemed to have that belief right from the beginning (it helped others to strengthen theirs). No wonder today he is an IPS officer.
If you were to enter our house with 2 bed rooms, you would find 3 beds lying on the floor in the hall, and a rack in the room with books. Pretty much that was all our possession. We wanted to watch football world cup at home, but had no TV! We took a portable TV with very little control options for rent (rent hours between 7pm to 7am, we had to return it every morning!). We had very little choice regarding lunch, dinner due to lack of restaurants. We had no girl roomy, so cooking was anyway not our forte! Girls, please excuse me, I am not being a male chauvinist, but only complementing female species for the expertise. 2 half-teas for 2 rupee each, every 2 hours was a crucial fuel for our brain engine. Many times discussion about our crushes, topics like love, movies starting midnight going on till 2-3AM (23-24 is peak time/age for crushes, isn’t it?) also helped to reenergize. I still remember a day, after all the studies in the evening, we went to the terrace and started dancing at 2AM in the morning! Looks like an eccentric life, huh! But the bottom line is we enjoyed what we did.
Amidst all our journey, there were few companions who had become one amongst us in our room, the two pens which were always lying on the table (our house owner had gifted us the table temporarily! ), beside the pens, there he was, the cockroach. He was a part of our life, thanks largely to typical bachelor’s untidy room. I had promised my friend that I would not forget him (the cockroach) in my article.
Pages in books had to face separation because of book sharing. IAS exam requires sharing of knowledge, which would create a win-win situation. As the days moved on, we also moved on from page to page, book to book, Ashoka to Akbar to Ambedkar to Archimedes to Auricles to Algebra to Algeria to Al gore to Auroras,.. the journey seemed never ending, illustration is only ‘A’ tip of the ice berg.
November 10th, 2006 was a crucial day, the last day of my exam( second round, which spans for a month) and I had to write answers for 6 hours that day. The night before, i did not get sleep for more than an hour and as I was about to leave my house for exam, I started feeling sleepy, discomfort crept in to my head. Mr.Fear was staring at me. Before entering the exam hall, to keep my ‘body’ awake I took 2 wet kerchiefs, and to keep my ‘mind’ awake I took the ideals of freedom fighters, and many great people who had fought greater odds and had come out with flying colors. I thought to myself, this is the day, this is the hour that could change my destiny. It did. I got selected to Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Among all papers, I got highest score in Nov 10th paper. If you cross Mr.Fear, you will see Ms.Victory. Believe me, she is beautiful. The lady is worth fighting for, and worth waiting for.
I had my share of felicitations, media space, etc. I gave my first autograph recently! A 75 year old person, who came to know about my success in IAS exam called to congratulate. Before this, he and I were two unrelated men on this planet.
Success is really sweet with all the adulations, praise, nice words, and the like.
People ask me, did you dream of becoming an IAS officer from childhood?
My dreams were different. My initial days at Dudda, a remote village in Mandya district where my father was posted, from where i was traveling to Shivalli, a nearby village for Kannada medium school via bullock carts. Dream then was to play in paddy fields, fly in an airplane. As I was from a village and studied in Kannada medium, I was denied an admission to 5th standard in an English medium school in Tiptur, a taluk in Karnataka. Same denial repeated at Shimoga, my hometown for same reasons ( in spite of good previous academic records). Finally when I got into English medium in 8th standard, the first English class seemed as a strange Italian movie! I could pull it off somehow, as i was lucky to have good guidance and enough opportunities, with the support of my father who had more confidence in me than I had in myself. This paragraph is not at all written to boast about my past achievements( because I know many people who have come out of far more tougher situations to do a lot more), but to give some confidence to people who might have faced similar situations and to tell the world that sadly such things do happen even today.
There is a tremendous gap in quality of teaching, access to resources between a city like Bangalore and a village like Agumbe. So the amount and type of skill differ between a Bangalore boy and an Agumbe boy( though born with same chromosomal abilities/IQ ). While the former (with the help of coaching, knowledge of English, etc.) can reach upto CEO of a company, the later’s skill becomes only good enough for a low paying industrial job or for a job in agriculture. Please note, I am not envying the former, but only empathizing the latter.
One, When a person fails, we blame him or her, but do we anytime blame the system that played its part?
Two, Successful people should be thankful first, proud next. Warren buffet asserted that, if he were born in Congo or Rwanda, he probably wouldn’t be as successful as he is today. His investment capabilities were more than useful in a capitalist country like America, he would have needed different capabilities to succeed in Rwanda!. When the second richest person makes such an admission, I can stop going to others to confirm the same.
Life takes us to places, gives us success, failures, joy, sorrow, etc. It has certainly for me, from Shimoga to Stutgart and from Mandya to Mussoorie. The same society which once denied me opportunities has given me a chance to be in the higher echelons of administration, it has done the same for many others. In the ‘journey of life’ , We have to search answers for two questions, What do you want to do in life? How do you want to do it? This search drives the choices we make, decisions we take. I believe, there is no one best journey. As I begin my journey to mussoorie( where the training academy is located), I still pinch my arm to confirm IAS- ‘I Amn’t Sleeping(dreaming)’!
- Suhas L Y
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