UPSC Interview & Success Story of Shri Abhay K. (IFS)

UPSC Interview & Success Story of Shri Abhay K. (IFS)

I read Ignited Minds by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam prior to the Interview. It was an inspiring and strength-giving book. I kept it with me at all times those days. I kept reading it while waiting for my turn at the Interview chamber at the Dholpur House. I felt strong and motivated. Finally my turn came. I entered the Interview chamber. I wished all the board members a very good morning.

There were five persons inside. The chairperson of the board was Mr. A.K. Banerjee. He sat in front of me across the oval table. There were two members sitting on his left and two on his right. A lady was sitting on my left. She was watching my body movements carefully. I rightly guessed she was a Psychologist. They all asked me to sit down and I thanked them.

The chairperson started-‘Why did you come from Nalanda to Delhi for getting a graduation degree, why did you not study at Patna?’

I replied- ‘Sir, Nalanda does not have a University any more as it used to have the reputed Nalanda University centuries back. The Universities in my home state do not complete the courses on time, exams schedule gets
delayed, publication of results is also delayed and students lose a lot of time in such circumstances. For example a three year degree course takes four to five years to complete. Besides, the standard of teaching has gone
down. The college campuses are highly politicized, as a result a lot of quality time of students is taken away from studies.’

He was not very satisfied with my answer. He asked me to speak more on it. I could not think of many other reasons.

I told him- ‘Sir I always wanted to study in Delhi University.’

He shifted to my hobby- Transcendental Meditation or TM in short.

He asked-‘What do you do while you meditate, just go off to sleep?’
I said-
‘Sir, meditation is an active process, very different from sleep. It’s sleep-like but person who meditates is conscious. A train of thought passes through his mind. He does not focus or stop at any one thought.’

He asked- ‘What is TM?’
I replied- ‘It is a special form of meditation developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is very easy to practice. It can be practiced any time of the day for a duration of fifteen to thirty minutes, at any place, even while
travelling. At first a person silently repeats a chosen word several times. Slowly the person gets lost into a thought process, loses that word and gets lost in the train of thoughts running in his mind. After some time even these thoughts disappear. An absolute calmness descends on the person. The body feels relaxed and peaceful. When the person wants to come out of this state he starts increasing his breathing speed. After a while the person returns to his normal state.’

He asked- ‘What happens after that?’
I said- ‘It is like a mental bath. All thoughts that clutter one’s mind are washed away. Mind feels fresh once again.’ He looked satisfied with my answer and moved to another question.

He asked his colleagues on his left to ask me more questions. He looked at the information I had filled up in the Mains written form. He asked me about my debating experience at the World Universities Debating
Championship in Manila. He asked me to speak for and against any topic of my choice. I chose to speak for and against the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq. He looked satisfied.

He continued asking- ‘Where did democracy appear for the first time in the world? What kind of system did it follow?’
I answered- ‘The world’s first democracy appeared in Licchavi located in Vaishali district in Bihar. It had a system of Sabhas and Samitis for governing the republic’.

Next question he asked me- ‘What do you prefer ‘democracy without development or development without democracy?’
I said – ‘For me democracy and freedom is as important as water is for the fish, I can live without development but not without democracy.’

He cited the example of China that was growing fast because it was not a democracy and did not have to deal with political consensus before taking decisions.
I gave the example of India that had so much diversity and yet a functional and developing society because it had chosen democracy.

He did not ask me any more questions and looked at the person sitting next to him.

He asked – ‘Can you tell me the name of the celebrity who is associated with Transcendental Meditation?’
I answered – ‘Yes, Sir Paul McCartney of Beatles.’

He looked happy from my answer and continued asking- ‘Why did you opt for the Indian Foreign Service?’
I was expecting this question to come up during the Interview. I had prepared its answer well in advance.
I replied- ‘India’s rising profile in the world demands that this civilization-state pay greater attention to global issues that affect the future of the whole mankind. I believe that Indian diplomacy can play a vital role in making
the whole world a better place to live. As an Indian diplomat I can actively participate in this historical process.’

He looked satisfied with my answers and continued asking me more questions.

He asked- ‘Are democracies perfect and is there any perfect democracy today in the world?’
I replied- ‘No, democracies are not perfect and there is no perfect democracy today in the world. Democracy is not a point but a continuum. Somewhere it reaches, let us say, up to eighty five percent on the continuum while in other places it is, let us say, below twenty five percent. Continuous endeavour should be made in making them more democratic. It should not be forgotten that every society defines democracy in its own way and each could become more democratic without losing one’s own unique qualities. There is no democracy today in the world that does not have the scope of becoming more democratic.’

He looked happy and looked at the lady sitting on my left. She appeared to me as a Psychologist since the beginning. She was closely monitoring my body and hand movements since the beginning.

She asked me- ‘Please tell me one principle or theory of Psychology that you have applied in your life?’
I replied-
‘It is Maslow’s Theory of Motivation. Although

I have not fully applied it in my life, I am in the process of doing so. My physiological needs are already met. My next need is ‘to belong’. If I get an opportunity to join the Indian Foreign Service, my this need will also be
fulfilled. I’ll give my best each and every day to the Service. One day I may achieve ‘Self Actualization’ this way.’

The answer took her and the rest of the board members by surprise. I realized only after finishing that it was a master-stroke on my part. The lady did not ask any more questions. She was more than satisfied. Now it was the turn of the last board member.

He asked me- ‘What is the length and breadth of India?’ He asked a tricky question in the end which I could not answer. The Chairperson said it was a googly and answered himself.

My interview ended with that.

I felt satisfied and walked back to the waiting room smiling. Candidates waiting there asked me about my interview and I narrated to it them. Soon I got out of the building and came to the Shahjahan road. I took a
deep breath looking at the high central dome of the Dholpur house. I had always been in awe with it. Today I had come out of it feeling triumphant. I took an auto rickshaw and left for JNU.

I waited for the final result. The final result of the Civil Services exam was out on Thursday, the first of May 2003. I was nervous. I had not made it to the final list last year. I could not gather myself to see the final result. I requested my friend to check the result for me.

Finally the phone rang. My friend cried with joy telling me - ‘You’ve got the seventy first rank in the final list. You have made it. I am so happy you have made it’. I was exhilarated and thrilled. My body felt a strange
sensation. I had tears of joy in my eyes. I immediately ran to my brother to tell him the good news. I tried to call my parents immediately. I could not get through them due to poor telephone connection. It was an evening
unlike any other evening of my life. I had no hunger, no thirst. My body felt so light. The world seemed like a different place. I felt at the centre of it. Truly it was my day. I knew coming mornings would never be the same.
Success was taking time to sink within me.

Abhay K. (IFS)

Excerpts from Book: Becoming a Civil Servant by Abhay K.