April 5, 2019… One of the most anxious day of my life..!! It was certain that UPSC CSE 2018 results would get declared by an evening..Yet, I could not concentrate on my work in the office that day due to nervousness. I got disappointed even results were not disclosed till 6pm.. I returned home at 6:40pm, got freshened up. I had tea with my husband Sudhakar while checking upsc website for number of times. At 7:15pm, we got that ‘most desired PDF’. Sudhakar opened it in his phone. I expected that he would use ‘search’ function to find my name. Instead, he started to look up from Rank 1. I asked him to use ‘search’ function. In the next moment he replied, “No need.. You’re AIR16.. .!!”
All the emotions were crowded.. I hugged him with smile and tears ..!! My mother-in-law could not understand how to express her happiness..!! My parents, who stay 20kms away, came to my home with the sweets which my brother had bought in the afternoon itself..!! My close friends and office colleagues couldn’t believe in this rank first, though they were sure about my abilities.. They gathered with bouquets, sweets and lot of appreciation..!! My mother couldn’t stop her tears.. Phone got busy for next many days…Media persons also arrived for lot of interviews as I was also declared as Maharashtra topper..!! I have very few words to describe all this celebratory picture..!! It hasn’t come overnight… Lot of hard work, patience, sacrifices and different journey are all paid off..!!!
I am Trupti Dhodmise-Navatre , AIR 16 (UPSC CSE 2018). I originally belong to Solapur District of Maharashtra. However, my parents had settled in Pune due to their jobs as primary teachers at Zilla Parishad. In childhood, I never have been dreamt of becoming an IAS..!! It was just a matter of attraction for me till my graduation.. I have been good at studies and could score well in my 10th and 12th standards.. I studied in Marathi medium because of which I have been strong conceptually.. This understanding helped me in my civils preparation ahead..
Hailing from a normal middle class family, I opted for an engineering to get better livelihood opportunities in future. I got an admission in well reputed institute i.e. College of Engineering, Pune (COEP). I completed my B.Tech. in Production Engineering in 2010. I got job through campus placement in L&T. I joined as a Production supervisor at L&T- Electrical Business group in Ahmednagar near Pune.
My work experience at L&T helped me to explore myself, know my capabilities and trigger a quench to achieve something more.I had a wonderful job profile. I worked as a shop floor supervisor in shift timings.I learned manpower management, machine maintenance, material planning and other resource consumption. There was hardly a day when I have not blackened my hands with oil or grease..!! I used to get an appreciation from my colleagues, superiors, subordinates for my skills in conventionally male dominated area.. I didn’t consider it as a challenge though.. Rather that job proved my capabilities irrespective of my gender..
Along with this, I regularly participated in extracurricular activities at L&T such as cultural programs, gatherings, trainings as well as social activities like teaching underprivileged children, tree plantation etc.
After 1.5 years, I thought that my capabilities should be given justice, these can be utilised in social, administrative arena. My potential can be used for the sake of well-being of common people instead of just an organisation.
Thus I started to look forward to civils preparation. Meanwhile, I got married also. My husband Sudhakar was preparing for UPSC that time. From him, I got to know minute details of this examination. He suggested me an option to leave a job if I want to pursue UPSC. However, I didn’t want to leave my job.
I owed the social status, recognition and monthly pay cheques ? to this job. I didn’t want to lose my financial independence and become a burden on my family for such an unpredictable exam…!! I wanted to be secured always to have financial and psychological stability. Hence, I decided to check myself in this world of competitive examinations through the smaller steps. I started to prepare for state PCS exam i.e. MPSC.
It took two attempts of MPSC-state examination to get Group’A’ service. In 2012, I couldn’t qualify the Mains exam. In next attempt of 2013, I could clear all 3 stages and secure post of an Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax (Now, GST). I cleared State PCS without any coaching or test series and without any leave for preparation. This boosted my confidence regarding competitive examinations. I resigned from L&T after about 4 years of service and joined Government of Maharashtra in June 2014.
I started thinking for appearing UPSC then. However, due to training phase at state services, I couldn’t appear for 2014. I started reading newspapers- The Hindu, The Indian Express etc. I selected basic books according to syllabus and finished it. After training, I was posted in Pune, so I could stay with my family and have stability.
I appeared for my first attempt in 2015. I failed prelims by marginal score. I didn’t feel sad, as I knew my mistakes. I couldn’t solve the previous year exam papers and practice mocks too. For over a next year, I got myself habitual of reading English news, editorials, articles etc.
In 2016, I rectified my mistakes, solved Test papers for prelims. I understood my accuracy level for this MCQtype paper and made my own strategy. I could clear prelims. Then I started answer writing practice from insightsonindia.com, iasbaba.com which I used to do after returning from office. This writing session for 30-40 minutes would alert my brain and settle me for reading next 3-4 hours.I took some days leave before Mains. However, I couldn’t prepare for optional thoroughly. I have been called for an interview due to good scores in GS (435/1000) and essay (131/250). But, poor scores in optional (240/500) and interview (140/275) kept me away from the list by just 4 Marks.
I was shattered by this failure. The margin of 4 marks had haunted me the most. I couldn’t imagine myself working hard once again. The 2017 prelims was due after 18 days. Unfortunately, I couldn’t overcome the pain of failure in this period.
On the day of prelims, I thought how rude this exam was. Even if we could reach interview stage earlier, we have to reappear preliminary stage to clear next attempt. While writing the test in examination hall, my mind was crushing itself in previous failure. And that was the big blunder that I ever could do with myself. I committed some silly mistakes. Obviously I couldn’t qualify 2017 prelims. The resultsheet after an year showed that I failed just by 0.66 marks. That means, evenif I wouldn’t have marked one wrong answer, I might be able to write the Mains..!! The game of psychology actually works..!!
These failures in span of 2-3 months made me believe that I was not made for this exam. I thought that I was unnecessarily stretching myself and my family for such brutal & unreliable exam..!! I had isolated myself from social groups and worsen friendly relationships to focus on this exam. Thus, I decided not to appear again and enjoy the life which was already well settled & happy.
In July 2017, GST had been rolled out. This overburdened me in the office. I stopped reading newspapers which I earlier used to do for hours. I focussed on my personal and professional routines. This continued till the next notification for CSE 2018 got published..
Honestly, I was not sure about this 4th attempt, as I had already put a barrier in my mind that I am not good enough for this exam. But my husband Sudhakar convinced me to have a thought to reappear. I rechecked myself by resuming newspaper reading and ensured my interest in reading current affairs, editorials, articles etc. I became confident that I could proceed with similar dedication again for next 8-10 months. At the same time, I warned myself that this one would be the last & best attempt..!!
In this last attempt, I worked upon my past mistakes. First, I kept myself cool and calm throughout the preparation. This was the lesson of 2017 prelims. I kept myself patient even after seeing one of the toughest prelims paper in 2018. I could qualify this prelims with good margin in GS (108).
Second, between prelims to mains, I intensified the answer writing practice and joined various Test series (online mode to save time). I enrolled at VISION IAS for GS and at GSSCORE for Essay-Ethics.For optional (PSIR), considering my weakness, I joined two Test series at The Unique Academy, Pune and at Shubhra Ranjan. I took 2 months unpaid leave before Mains to focus my preparation. Though Pune has become hub for competitive exam preparation, I preferred isolation which suited me. I had left no stone unturned to gain maximum score in Mains.
For interview, I worked upon my DAF, joined Whatsapp group under guidance of IPS Mahesh Bhagwat Sir and appeared for mere 4 mocks. I had been interviewed by Ms Sujata Mehta Panel which I found very nice. After going through all these phases, I was quite sure about double digit rank. On the result day, the happiness surged because of the fulfilment of that self-assurance.!!!
In summary,my journey was quite different in many aspects. I didn’t start during my college days. I never left my job or even took it casually. ( I have work experience of 4 years in private sector and 5 years in government.) I landed in Delhi only for UPSC interviews. I never joined any coaching, though enrolled for Test series according to the needs. I preferred English medium to write this exam despite my education in Marathi Medium. I have not been a part of any study group or library despite the availability in Pune. There is not a single government officer even in my distant relatives (except me) from whom I could have inspired. Finally, I never consider my marital status as a limiting factor to my dreams. The credit goes to my supporting husband and in-laws…!!
I carved out my own path to clear this examination. I played safely in this game of UPSC. I have been stable & independent financially due to my jobs (9 years); I have been happy & settled because to my marriage (8 years). I didn’t need to compromise my major life decisions for the sake of this unpredictable and painstaking exam. I took time to decide for this journey, as I was not sure about my capability to perform as an IAS officer at that time. My journey has been slow, steady & evolutionary as I was solving this exam puzzle while exploring myself..!!
The best achievement in this journey was I could remain motivated throughout..!! External motivation thorough family, friends, mentors and motivational videos help to certain extent. But reliable source is inner motivation. You should be very clear why you are pursuing this goal. The reason itself is a trigger to inner motivation. Apart from this we can set some simple motivational triggers according to our nature, interests, experiences etc. One of my favourite triggers was performing Lawani (I love this Maharashtrian folk dance) on the stage of LBSNAA..?!! It seems childish thing, but this imaginary picture pushed me to work hard to achieve my dream irrespective of my different situations…!!
Finally, we need to keep in mind that everyone is different in social, economic, educational, psychological aspects.. However, UPSC doesn’t discriminate. This exam gives an equal opportunity to us to chalk out our own path irrespective of the adversities ..!! That’s the beauty of this exam..!! I enjoyed this beauty while devising my strategies. That’s why I could love this entire process & give my best to come out with this shiny success..!!
At the end, I would like to advise the future aspirants,
“If you are determined enough, don’t give any excuse. Try to learn from adversity and convert it into your strong one. Your focussed & well directed efforts wouldn’t go waste.”
“Even if you could not make it, don’t leave to love your life. Because Life is too big to be defined by UPSC.”
Be inspired.. Be inspiring..!!
Best wishes always..!!!?