Of Civil Services Examination and happiness…an open letter to aspirants
So, UPSC result 2014 is out!! Now some of you are selected and many are dejected thinking their life is finished, right?
Let’s talk about the realities. Today I am here to discuss the blatant truth. Let’s not hide it and talk about it…..
You know this is the biggest problem. We love to make sweeping assumptions. It makes our task easier, isn’t it? Otherwise, how on earth it is even imaginable to address the entire fraternity of Civil Service aspirants through a single letter or lecture or monologue. But we love doing that. Deep within our hearts we know that out there in a dingy room of Rajinder Nagar/Mukherjee Nagar or any place on earth sits a hapless candidate browsing through multiple websites, hopping in between from facebook to PIB, from Youtube and random online retail websites to Wikipedia.
The person sitting in the next room is equally or even more desperate. May be after spending three hours on the internet he will move out of his room and make a visit to the nearest bookshop, immerse himself in the pile of xeroxed copies and emerge with a thick compilation of current affairs only to disown that within two days. You see that frantic desire in their eyes, sort of a search for the ultimate solution that shall keep them afloat in competition and sail them through the rapids to reach their destiny.
While we successfully decode their desperation, we simply fail to understand a simple fact that all their desperation is not borne out of the same reason. Some grow frustration because they are unable to clear even prelims in their third or fourth attempt while some feel agitated because despite appearing for the interview in all their previous attempts they don’t find their names in the final list. Yet others may have different reasons. It may be their girlfriend refusing to commit until they clear the exam or it may be their parents asking them to marry and settle down in their native villages. Despite all these differences and diversity we seek redemption by applying a one size fits all solution. Do this, read that, study Hindu in this manner, must buy that magazine, join this institute, make notes, discuss in groups, practice answer writing, don’t lose hope, do hard work……GOSH!!!! Aren’t we always ready with our piece of advice?
I shall not therefore do injustice to you and to myself. While I type my words, I don’t know who you are, where are you from, where do you study, what is your strength, what are your weaknesses, what is your set of problems, have you just had a break up or the teacher in the class mocked you because you thought Kathak and Kathakali were the same! Yet I take the liberty to tell you something. What I intend to say is truth. This truth is about you, about your friends, about your preparation and about your future. What ensues may not apply to super humans out there but for mortals like me and you they fit perfectly.
Try to remember the last book or the notes that you purchased from the bookshop or ordered online or even saved that pdf from any website. You thought you had just found a treasure. While you flipped through the pages your eyes glittered like gold. Oh! That book had all that you wanted. Immediately you prepared a plan to finish that book in 5 odd days, make notes out of that and put to shame your friends with your newly acquired knowledge. You started out with full of energy, you bought a notebook and started as per your plans.
Then you realized it was taking longer than you had anticipated. You do the course correction, reset your targets and extend the deadline to 10 days. On the third day you find the exercise monotonous. You go out with your friends to the juice corner, try to flaunt your knowledge by asking a question from the topic you had just read. But you are taken by surprise as to how one of your friends answers the question articulately. You bombard him with more questions but he manages them all. In fact he knows more than you on that subject. You feel dejected as you find that there is nothing exclusive or special about your knowledge. You curse yourself and when you return to your room you don’t even bother to study. You feel that there is some lacunae in your preparation.
You want to be the talk of the town. You want your friends to praise you for your analytical abilities and immense knowledge but that doesn’t seem to be materializing now. You then start remembering your school/college days when the entire class used to clap for you. Boy! you were something those days. You remember the teacher coming to your parents and telling them about your potential and suggesting them to make you prepare for the civil services. All that looks like a dream to you now.
It has been so many days that anyone has appreciated you. In the coaching class also you feel like one of the grains constituting a giant heap of sand. You think you have lost your charisma. This feeling sinks deep within your heart and you experience a hollowness in you. The phone rings. It’s your mother that side. She immediately understands that you are upset about something. After multiple inquiries you simply pretend of a headache. She shows concern and asks you not to study so hard and take rest. You have no clue as to how you would start again. And then, all of a sudden the picture of that front bencher guy pops up in your mind. How good he was in communicating with the girls! The kind of English he uses in the class, even the teacher stammers to answer his questions. No doubt, a true intellectual he is! You start wondering is it even possible to compete with such people! You are scared of the fact that only 1000 seats are there this year. Everything starts to appear so difficult, so distant.
That one visit to the juice corner ruined your day. From a hungry, confident aspirant, you have just become a listless and disheartened soul. The world has turned upside down. That one visit triggered a series of negative bouts in your mind and heart. Ask yourself this simple question – is it wisdom? Is is wise to wash away all your confidence and enthusiasm so easily? You see yourself slipping away in the swirling waves of negativity helplessly. My dear friend! You need to stop doing this to you. With all my experience I can safely declare this trap of negativity as the biggest hurdle of an aspirant’s life.
We are all grown ups and not school kids. A sincere candidate will always find the best strategy to study and deliver. But even the brightest and the best aspirants are destined to be doomed if they are not able to cope up with this negativity. Be rest assured that an unhappy and frustrated soul can never qualify this examination or for that matter any test of life. You must learn the art of being happy before you embark or reembark on the path to your goal, be that Civils or anything else.
Stop getting disheartened by the looks of those random citizens with big beards or that girl from Stephens. A grown beard or sophisticated English is no guarantee of good marks in CSE. I have seen people too loud and extra confident about their preparation but flunking eventually. I have also seen the modest ones doing exceedingly well at the same time. We try to imitate the stereotypes we think are worthy of selection in this examination. In this process, we lose our own identity and persona. We stop cultivating our hobbies and think that the only way to succeed is to become a frustrated monk. The feel good factor is lost in the shabby corners of Rajinder Nagar. You desperately wait and dream of the day when you would see your name in that holy list. You try to save all the joys and fun for that day thinking that moment would define rest of your life. Alas! If this were true.
You might be thinking that your selection is the panacea for all your troubles and the climax of the long ordeal you have been subjected to. But life is never as simple as a ‘lived happily ever after’ thing. You know, the joy of being selected remains for a while and when the party is over, you again have your own set of problems. You may not be satisfied with your service or cadre or posting or training. You will again start cursing your fate – had I got 20 more marks, I would have gone into the IAS or had the board been more generous to me I would have gotten home cadre instead of Manipur.
With my experience, let me tell you that this cribbing never stops. Your happiness is intrinsic to you. Externalities can only affect your life momentarily. Life goes on irrespective of who you are and what people think about you. Believe me the grass looks greener on the other side but the reality is different. The life of a bureaucrat is as frustrating as yours or even more. The IAS fraternity cries about cadres and postings, the IPS guys complain about work life balance, IFS recruits show discontent about the lack of facilities abroad, IT employees talk of smaller support staff, Customs and Excise taxmen fear about dilution of power after the introduction of GST and what not. You see everyone has his share of problems even after getting selected. The same holds true for all the other jobs in this world. Clearly, CSE is not the ultimate solution to all your worries. We prepared and you are all preparing to invite bigger worries.
In scenario like this, the only thing that saves you is you yourself. Do whatever you want to but try to maintain a balance in your life. An austere life is no guarantee to success. Don’t loose your prime youth in undue worries. Don’t become premature uncles and aunties at such young age. Work hard, play harder. Never feel guilty in attending a party or playing cricket. Watch movies with your friends, visit your family members, go on date with your partner. Half the job is done if you succeed in making yourself a cheerful and happy soul. People say CSE is half hard work and half luck, I say its one third hard work, one third luck and one third your ability to divorce negativity and remain joyful.
Guys you have got a great opportunity and it has come your way in the form of this platform where you got to interact and guided by the real experience holders. Nothing differentiates between you and us. We are the same as you are. Differences are created by the efforts we have put in. Who else can guide you when you are guided by defaulters within you, who make plans, strategies and commit but falls prey to him/herself or other diverting individuals or institutions (not to mention the names- you are learned enough).
It is the time and opportunity for you to take this platform to the next level of new learning experience. Leave your inhibitions, forget about your past efforts and come join us for the sake of qualitative and innovative learning. Your support and participation is the key for the tireless back-end work IASbaba will be doing till you are there. Let’s make a difference and show the world. Who you are? What you can do? Let’s clear the air that has belittled you. you are no small!!!
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