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Toppers Talk – Anu Kumari | AIR-2 , CSE 2017

In the second attempt of Civil Services Examination, Anu Kumari attained 2nd rank all India level in the examination. Her primary source for the exam preparation was Internet which She developed the aptitude of filtering the relevant content.

Congratulations from the Study IQ Team for your exceptional achievement. We are delighted that your efforts have been rewarded in a grand way.

  • What is your background and how was your childhood and nurturing. Because in women’s context, the childhood and early stage of life play a pivotal role.

My early education has been done from Shiva Shiksha Sadan, at Sonipat, Haryana, it is a private school. From k.g. to 12th class, I have studied in the same school. Father’s salary was not enough to educate all four of us. Albeit, parents usually don’t put any question in the education of boys but some questions are always raised in girls’ education.

But, my case was a bit different. I used to top in every class from the beginning of my school, so I and my younger brother were in the same school. But, later on when some financial constraints met the family, father shifted my brothers to other schools which were bit cheaper in comparison. So, parents should indispensably not differentiate among children for the education.

My School also helped me in my education. On the request of Angrez Singh, who happens to be my uncle, my school waived off school fee of my full 11th standard. My family supported me a lot in my early education. I used to get involved in sports easily. After the school, I used to first play then head for my homework.

I have always been an early riser, used to rise up around 4AM. Father used to only call one time and I got wake up, family’s environment was something like this. I was involved in other things also like painting, dancing, singing etc. and I also won an scholarship in the school which helped me a bit on finance.

  • When did you think of UPSC that you want to go into the administration? Was it because parents told you to do so, or it occurred to you in early days?

In the childhood days, I used to hear a lot about these services, so the thought had taken a rise in those days that yes it is very prestigious job and I too want to be an IAS officer.

But, since there are some harsh realities in life also, so I had to back up the family on the financial front. After completing my graduation and MBA, I took up a job, got married in 2012 and till 2014, I had a son. So, meanwhile in balancing the job-family life, civil services aspiration got lost somehow.

  • Then, who do you take inspiration from? And was there any incident which ignited the aspiration again into you?

Swami Vivekananda has inspired me immensely, I have read his most of the books and I think nobody can take his place. There can be no incarnation of Swami ji on earth. For, the civil services, it wasn’t any person who inspired me, rather during the job it occurred to me that I am not living that life which I have ever thought of. There was no internal satisfaction within me, which I get after doing something better the people and I started to feel meaninglessness in life.

I couldn’t gather the courage to leave a proper job to prepare for the civil services. For this predicament, my maternal uncle (Atar Singh) and my brother encouraged me for this preparation. My uncle (mama ji) sent an sms message to me that if I leave the job and prepare for the civil services then he will completely take care of my son. Although, I never asked him for this thing, but that message worked like a precipitating point for me.

My younger brother (Vinit Kumar) convinced me to leave the job and do prepare for CSE, in fact, he also filled my 2016 exam form.

  • Where is Vinit Now?

He has been selected as an auditor in Jammu and Kashmir. Right now, he is working in a bank and he will leave the bank’s job to work in Jammu and Kashmir.

  • You might have probably been met to several girls after your results and they might have expressed their aspirations also that they want to be an IAS officer. So, what message you want to send those girls?

For girls, there is huge space in my heart. I have been raised in a society like Haryana which makes me fully aware with those constraints which girls usually tackle every day. I have only one message to every girl to come above of the ‘victim image’.

Don’t undermine yourself by perceiving a concept that the whole society is against the girls and we have to face lots of hard situations. Take those hard situations and weaknesses as your strength. Think in a way that if anyone wants to draw us back, and then we’ll show them how to get above of these things and succeed.

There is very prevalent narrative among the people about the women, “She have paid the duty of mother also and simultaneously cracked exams also and succeeded.” Here, I want to clarify one thing that I have neglected many responsibilities in these past 1.5 years for the exams. So, one has to pay a price somewhere in order to gain something. In fact, my mother took care of my son totally.

One more thing, you can’t be a superwoman that you can achieve each and everything in life. List out your priorities, be self-sufficient for yourself. Being economically independent has become very important for women nowadays. Don’t neglect your career after marriage or coming into motherhood. Try to grab support from your family and friends.

  • You have used the internet in a frugal way which is very much important in today’s scenario. News came out recently, that a coolie has cleared the state public service commission examination. So, you didn’t go to any coaching institute so how did you filter the information over the internet?

You have raised a very significant point. Today, people living in the hinterlands and extremities of India can improve themselves and achieve by the help of technology. So, don’t consider it as a constraint if you can’t come to Delhi for the preparation. I can give you my example. I had not joined any coaching institute and I have done my preparations living in village.

Since, it was proving hard doing the preparation with my son, so my mother took his responsibility and I went to my aunt’s house which is situated in village. The place was quiet and serene, and there maximum part of my preparation was done through the internet. English newspapers were not possible in the village, but the Hindi newspapers could be available. So, I started reading the current affairs online.

So, here the twist arises because there are numerous websites over the internet. Someone explains with audio, another one with video so there are multitudes of information over the internet. If one wants to cover from different sections of the internet, she/he can get lost meanwhile.

Decide just one or maximum two source for the preparation and stick to those sources. Be it any website or any channel or any other digital medium, judiciously decide those channels and just stick to them. Don’t go to multiple sources, it will kill your time.

  • What will you say to the newcomers who are inspired by you and other IAS toppers? Where should they start in this preparation?

Don’t copy any strategy of any IAS topper or the one who has qualified it. Everyone is different and unique and everyone adopts a different ploy. The kind of capacity he/she had during his/her preparations may not converge with yours. His/her circumstances, mental capacity, background are different than the rest of the world. For me, this success was somehow possible because of my interdisciplinary study.

My MBA was from finance and marketing and I have also worked in the corporate for nine years, so I had already studied those topologies and terms related to the finance and marketing, so it helped me. If a science graduated person tries to study finance from just one booklet, won’t be quite freeway.

Joining any coaching institute is not a necessity. There are several candidates who have cracked the exam without the help of any coaching. But, at the same time, it is also not convincing that those who do join any coaching institute are just wasting the money. Coaching institutes guide you in the preparations of the exams. Those institute can resolve your problems if you get ever. I couldn’t go to anyone if I ever had any kind of doubt, but the person studying in a coaching institute can ask to the mentors and teachers.

Ultimately, it is your hard work, which can land you to the success. Know your strengths and weaknesses, don’t copy anyone’s strategy directly. For the starting of these studies I would recommend to go through the NCERT first. They are easy to understand, read them and solve the questions based on them. Attempt the MCQs, by this one will be available to know that how much part of it she/he is able to grasp. If you’re not able to imbibe in much amount then join any coaching institute.

  • What was your strategy for Mains exams? How did you check your written answers?

There is section over the insightsonindia.com called, ‘secure’. The site put 8 questions daily of all the four papers: 1, 2, 3 and 4. The website asks the students to write answer and practice according to them. So, I used to watch those questions and used to write answers based on them and I did this for the whole 5 months, every single day without skipping any day. It infused the full writing practice in me, that how to construct the answers: intro, body, conclusion and I have done this by self-study.

  • So, did you evaluate them by yourself?

Yes Sir, I evaluated them by myself. It was clearly visible sometimes. Because in the beginning, I used to write for two and half pages for the 150 words’ questions, means that I was way off the target. People used to upload their answers over that platform.

  • You mean, during the preparation, one must watch the surroundings also??

Yes, you have raised a very rational thing. If one is doing preparation all by self, by isolating yourself from rest of the world, then it is much important to take notes on the competitors you are going to face in the examination. So, you must know that who you are going against to.

Because I also used to score 60-65 questions, but the competitors score around 140-150, sometimes even more. So, one must be aware with the fellow-competitors. So, even if you are preparing all by self, don’t get into a cocooned environment. You have to aware of your surroundings.

  • You have opted English in the examination. What about those candidates who have opted Hindi language in their examinations? Their numbers of selection are very much less. There are some platforms which are trying to translate the essence which The Hindu and The Indian Express have. What you have to say on that?

There is a problem with Hindi that content available in Hindi is very much less than that of English. Online education platforms are also maximum of them are in English. That essence which The Hindu and The Indian Express possess in English can’t be the same in Hindi. I can only say that one must know some basic English to understand the articles of these newspapers. But, I want to say it emphatically that Hindi medium students should not deject themselves. Hindi opting candidates can write their Mains answers in Hindi and also the Interview in Hindi.

……. One can also write in his/her native language. Last year an Oriya candidate wrote his paper in Oriya language and secured 3rd rank.

This is totally commendable thing. Very much appreciable thing it is for sure. And do not misperceive the interview panel. The panels give you the choice of language, but since all the terms of English can’t be spoken in pure hindi so they recommend to adopt for Hindi + English. They are very comfortable. In fact, those candidates who have written their papers in English, they can speak Hindi in interview.

  • How was Your Interview? Tell us about your experience in Interview?

I got 187 marks in the interview and my corporate background helped me a lot in this as I have 8-9 year of experience in the corporate world. I had experience of many interviews before, so I was not scared for the interview at all. In fact, I was very excited to face it.

I had given multiple mock interviews in various institutes before attending the final interview. I was expecting a very good score in the interview. But I didn’t score to my expected level.

While giving mock interview I was told that I am going to score 200+  marks in  the interview and even  if I score 230+ also then it would not have been a surprise. But, I scored 187 in the interview. Interview score was very less this year, 206 was the highest.

  • What kind of questions you were asked in the interview?

Since, I am a married woman, one of the female members of the panel asked me regarding the fact that why today ’s girls/generation are not ready to live in joint families. Do you agree or not?

  • Joint families are getting disintegrating why?
  • Why students are committing suicide?
  • What are the flaws in our education system?
  • Our budget has recently launched a national health protection scheme(insurance scheme), what are its  drawbacks? Will it be beneficial in the coming year?

Many questions were asked from me regarding my corporate experience of 8-9 years.

  • What is Unethical practice, the measure to stop these practices?
  • As you have worked in the private sector for so long what will be your approach in the public sector? How will your outlook change for it?
  • You have been in the corporate sector for 9 years, what kept you motivated?
  • What have you learnt from your 9 years of corporate service?

Many questions were asked regarding the current affairs. Like our 40 Indians were killed in Iraq by ISIS. What is your take on the fact that government handled it.

Many interesting questions were also asked.

Like one panelist asked, “Many pink pajama are flying on red fort today what is your take on it?”

I didn’t know the answer for this so I said, “Sir, it sounds very interesting, but I don’t know anything about it.” But from pink, I knew it is related to women empowerment.

So, Sir gave the proper explanation for this that it is regarding the women empowerment, as women are coming up in every field.

One of the members asked me that do I consider myself as an empowered woman, which I replied, yes, I see myself as an empowered woman.

Further, sir told me that I have served in the  corporate sector for 9 years and now I am  coming to serve people, this is women empowerment.

Since I had filled in my DAF that painting and dancing are my hobbies. So one of the panel members asked me, we say the  artist has a third eye, what is your take on this, Do you have a third eye?

Interview peoples are very cordial. They know that since you have cleared the examination so a good amount of knowledge you possess. One shouldn’t be nervous at all in the interview. They want to see your approach in life, whether it is positive or negative. They want to see whether you are solution oriented or problem oriented. In the case of pressure, how will you tackle the situation?

  • How many questions you were asked and how many questions you couldn’t answer, if there were any??

In total I was asked 25/26 questions, from which I didn’t answer 3 questions.

  • First was Pink pyjama.
  • Second question was recently we have a new minister from Hindu college, they asked me to tell his name which I didn’t know, and
  • Third question was what is the difference between Gurgaon metro and Delhi metro on ground level? So, since I had not travelled in the Gurgaon metro so I can’t answer on the comparison of these two metro.

It was a normal discussion. They didn’t grill or cross-questioned much. If they pressurize any candidate they only want to check will that person displace from her/his stand or will adhere to it? They just want to know you. In fact, in the starting of the interview, they ask you some light things, like tell us about your normal personality. Just reveal your personality to them.

Before 3 days of the interview I was not able to sleep properly. Not because of the tension of the interview, I was very excited. But, that was a very turning point of my life which will make or mar my career because I had taken a twist with my career.

Candidates should not worry about interview at all. If they are nervous it is all natural. Be confident and take care of your health.

  • What was your optional subject?

My optional was Sociology. I didn’t attend any coaching for my optional subject sociology. I prepared for it from home, I bought notes from the market. I have searched a lot regarding my optional subjects online. I read blogs of UPSC ranker 55 and  followed the Booklist it’s book list.

As I am from science background it was difficult for me to follow subject of humanity. In the beginning of the study, it was all greek and latin to me sometimes. But after taking multiple revisions of the subject them many things were clear to me and I was getting interested in their reading.

As I finished my Pre UPSC exam I enrolled myself in the Mains test series. Many of my queries were solved by the test series.

My Marks :

I got 318 in sociology optional which are among the highest.

In GS:

Paper1- 102

Paper-2 -129 (among highests)

Paper 3- 134

Paper 4 -101 (among the highests)

I prepared a lot for ethics as I am very much interested in reading the thinking part. Because I love to read regarding Swami Vivekananda so the Ethics paper was the paper wher you can use all the quotes of Swami ji or other legends. I prepared from – G Subbarao which I enjoyed in reading.

I read several thinkers, and cleared about the differences Integrity, aptitude, sympathy, apathy and case studies from this.

  • What are your preferences in the civil services and what cadre you would chose?

It is 1st – IAS, 2nd- IFS, 3rd – IPS. Chosen Cadre – Haryana.

  • You have a child of 4 years, how did you manage this mother-child relationship in this preparation?

This was the very hard decision for me, to live away from my child. Earlier, I decided to start my preparation here only (at my mom’s house), but the library use to get to close around 5 clocks in the evening. After coming home, from the library I realized that my time from 5 in the evening to the 10 in the evening used was not getting utilized. I also had the constraint of the age. Both things (living with my child and preparing for UPSC) cannot be handled hand to hand. This was a time for me to decide my career priorities. My mom has taken care of my child very properly, I might myself have not done that properly. It was very difficult for me to keep my child away from me.

So, whenever I used to open whatsapp or facebook, the thought of my son used to light into me and I used to shut it down immediately. I had deactivated from whatsapp, facebook and all these virtual platforms. And this thing I am also watching in today’s youth that they are highly distracted because of these virtual platforms.

  • Any message you would like to give?

I would like to say that, please make women safe around you, whether you are women, girl or boy, please make women feel secure everywhere.

Create a safe environment for women. Keep big dreams and hope  for yourself. Our scholars and great scientist have said very important things to it.

One quote of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam would like to assert:

“Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep.”

2050: India will be developed cause its youth who have maximum potential.

Hope this aspiration will be energizing for our youth. We all have someone to aspire us,

In the case of Anu – her inspiration was her parents.

Father – Sh. Baljit Singh, Mother – Smt. Anto Devi

A viewpoint from her parents:

  • To Baljit Singh : How you are feeling about this?

Father: How much happiness we are feeling, we can’t express in words that how much we are happy with our daughter’s achievement.

But, I am very sad about the things that are  happening around girls I feel very sad about it. We keep reading in the newspapers and also listens the surroundings and it used to make me angry. I can’t do anything for this, but I feel bad for this. My daughter has worked very hard  for this and she has achieved it.

  • Sir, as we see nowadays that parents often impose their dreams onto their children and may be this is the reason that youths get also somehow distracted. So, have you ever pressurized your daughter for civil services examination?

Baljit Singh : You have raised a very good concern. I personaly feel that my dautgher has neither imposed her wishes onto us, nor we have done to her. She was very talented among all of my kids. I have never done any comparison among my kids whether he is a boy or girl. I have provided education for all of them.

  • To the mother: It is a rational fact that mother watches the daughter more closely than rest of the world and maximum time children are nurtured by mother. So, please tell us about your feelings for your daughter.

Smt. Anto Devi : She has been very  intelligent since childhood. She never gets tired of studies. If she used to get bored in studies, she used to read Swami Vivekananda and listen to religious songs.

Thank You