Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Runup to UPSC Prelims 2009...Part6

Last week before D-Day
Throughout the time I had been at home my focus had been exemplary, atleast compared to my situation a few weeks earlier. I managed to finish all the syllabus of all subjects within 8 days and managed to save 2 days for revision. There were occasional bursts of negative emotions but the soothing atmosphere of home prevailed. In the same week my younger brother was about to go to Italy for his summer internship. Not to mention I also spent 1-2 days in preparation with his tour. It was then that I experienced a new emotion, that of worry and anxiety for a younger sibling who was about to go to wholly strange world. It was only then that I understood why my parents were so worried when I left Dhanbad for my studies and when I went to Jamshedpur for my job. Its the fear of leaving your loved one into an unknown world. I didn't worry when my bro joined IIT Kanpur because I knew the place first hand. There was nothing to worry about. But this time when he was going out of country ( first in our family) I was scared shit less. No matter how hard I tried to hide my feelings there were instances when I got angry on him for being so complacent about several small things, like a road map to Italy, name of places,stations on his way and likewise. However everything turned out well for his journey and I too appeared for my exam pretty composed.
D-Day H-Hour M-Minutes
I was targeting to attempt atleast 105 question out of 120 in Physics paper so that I could be in a safe zone and i don't have worry about cutoffs. However I could not attempt last 10 questions. Just didn't get the time. This was the first paper of my last attempt and such a dismal performance. Getting questions incorrect is a different thing but not being able to go through the paper and that too when I prepared hard is something that is uncommon to me. I was scared. Again! Through the recess I tried to go through 500 pages of Current Affairs in 1.5 Hours in a desperate revision attempt. Normally people don't attempt more that 70-80 questions out of 150 in GS because strike rate is quite low. But I was in a different mood. This was my last attempt and I was not going to fail in prelims itself. So I took my chances. I attempted 105 questions including many half-guesses to compensate my Physics performance and left the rest to God. Time to chill out now.
After Prelims
There isn't going to be much cool-down and I don't want to stay complacent for a long time, no time to lose for mains.
Post exam I have compared my answers with solutions and things seem to be on the brighter side, for now. I am going to take some big steps and will leave nothing unturned this time. The target is still far away. There are going to be surprises. After all THIS IS MY LAST ATTEMPT!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Runup to UPSC Prelims 2009...Part5

11 Days to D-Day...Home Sweet Home
After a tiresome bus journey( they can be treacherous in Jharkhand) I reach Dhanbad. Atleast catching the early morning bus spared me the scorching heat of the day. The moment I step within my doorsteps and touch my mother's feet her face lits up with joy. That look, that happiness, it's priceless. At the same moment my heart feels lighter by a thousand tons. All the turmoil going within comes to a halt. Somehow I forget all that was disturbing me throughout last night, throughout last few months.
Mom brings me a plate filled with sweets and a glass of water. She still thinks I like sweets as much as I did in my childhood. I don't disappoint her. The water is not from refrigerator, but from an earthen pot. Its not chilled but refreshingly cool, more than enough to satisfy my thirst. Refrigerator is only meant to preserve milk and food and for guest who can't do without chilled water. Nostalgia takes over for a few moments. After cooling down I take my bath. When I come out my books have already been setup on my study table. The computer has been packed up. Nobody knows me as well as my mother. Too obvious? Yeah I know its a universal truth. The whole scene reminds me of the days I prepared for IITJEE on this very table, this very room. I have my lunch and get down to business.
Day passes with studies. My focus gets much better if not perfect. I have a chat with my girlfriend and go to bed. Finally when I get down to sleep, I feel happy. Its not the happiness that comes with excitement but with satisfaction and peace. Something that helps your mind to rest and feel good. May be this is it. This is why people get so sentimental about home. No place in the world however cheery can bring you the peace of home. My mind takes a flight to dreamworld. May be this why people would rather die to save their homes than be displaced. May be this the feeling that lies at the heart of patriotism. May be this is where the desire and will to die for one's motherland springs from. I get a calm sleep after several weeks.
Nothing beats the tranquility of home!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Runup to UPSC Prelims 2009...Part4

20 Days to Prelims 2009
I drag on with my preprations. Motivation? Minimal! Focus? Haywire! Frustation? Extremum! Will? Non-existent! Yet something continues to propel me towards the goal. May be it is the fear of shame. For long I have believed that getting into IPS is my dream and I have made others believe that too. If I abandon it at this stage without even giving it a serious try, what would everyone think of me. What would I think of myself.
With this convoluted mind I mess up my relationship too. It becomes a vicious cycle. I can't talk to anyone about my problem, With this pathetic state of mind I can't trust anybody.
Finally I have a long drawn talk with her. Tell her all I can. But it helps me only temporarily.
I can't even get a leave from work. One of the employees is on leave and the other one is under operation. I work 14 days without taking a day off because there is no substitute. Someone has to be there in LDC 24 hrs. There goes my preparatory. Finally the one on leave returns. I take my leave. Don't even tell my boss about it. Just like that!

Only 14 days to go. Am planning to go home for more conducive environment.

11 Days to go
I have decided to go home(dhanbad) next day. Still Packing my bags and all the books that I will need to study. Large portions of General Studies and Physics are still pending. Haven't even given a single reading. God knows what am I gonna do. Desperation mounts up.
Its 3 'O clock in the night. Can't sleep. Can't even study because I have got butterflies in my stomach. I don't know how it happens but whenever I have to go out of station I stomach flutters.Weird? I know!
All of a sudden this rapid chain of thoughts take over my mind. May be I should drop this idea of IAS. God, its going to be too tough. Even if I get through prelims mains would be a hard nut to crack. Making even a decent try asks for big sacrifices. I will have to give up my job in the middle of a recession and sit down in Delhi full-time preparing for the exam. And What if I don't qualify. I would be unemployed in times when companies are laying off. Shit this is too scary. If I must drop the exam I must take that decision now. There is no point folling myself and others by going through prelims. But the cost of making that decision would also be high. When I am going through a depression I cannot abondon the one thing I dreamt about so passionately. It may leave me in a worse state of mind.
I feel like a man who is about to commit suicide (drop the exam) and has put the gun to his head but can't pull the trigger. His instincts to live ( passion of IPS) stop his fingers. I was alomst on the verge of making the decision of leaving IAS and saying it out aloud when good sense prevails. I drop the gun and decide to live another day. I go to Mrityunjay's room and blurt out what I was just thinking. He smiles. Says it happens. I couldn't wait till next afternoon to catch the train to home. I catch the first bus at 4:30 AM for Dhanbad. Hope lingers on...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Runup to UPSC Prelims 2009...Part3

Prelims 2009 ( 3 months ago)
The hangover of last Mains exam(2008) had worn off. I was going through one of the lowest points in my life. Frustrated from my desk job a sense of uselessness was all over me. A psychometric test designed to evaluate one's ability to control things threw up such dismal results that I almost wanted to kill myself. This was no free personality test offered over the Internet. And I knew in my heart even before I took the test what the results were going to be. Even then when results confirmed the worst of my fears I could not handle it. That day I understood how difficult it is to confront one's own fears.I was frustrated with everything, everyone, every act of mine. Things as small as the way I rode my bike, the way I socialized ( or didn't socialize) depressed me. I belittled myself and kept reinforcing the negative image I had formed of myself. The anger over myself often vented out on my sweetheart, which took away whatever little solace I could have had and made things worse.
In the middle of all this somehow I had hung on to the hope of making it to UPSC interviews. I kept preparing for interview when in fact I should have devoted time preparing for next Mains in advance. 4th of March, the bad news was finally there. My name wasn't there in the list of candidates called for interview. Desperation prevailed. I was now rethinking my decision to make another attempt. I wasted valuable time in preparing for interview which I should used to secure my chances in next exam. No amount of self-patting could bring up my mood. I brought a crate of beer cans. Had one each each night before going to bed. Helped me stop thinking and get a sound sleep. 10 days passed in vain. This was serious than just an "Identity Crisis". I knew I was going in depression. I could see the symptoms.
Less than 60 days to go for Prelims
Unable to find a way out I started my journey again from square one hoping remnants of last years preparation would help me out. Underlying was a hope of finding a way out of my messed up mind and have some clarity in thoughts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Runup to UPSC Prelims 2009...Part2

2nd Exam (2008)
3 months before the exam of my second attempt I had even forgotten the syllabus and the which books I needed to mug up. I somehow started with some advice and tips from friends who were already in the business. I had taken it on my ego to pass the exam this time. My boss went on his honeymoon in the month before the exam (there went my preparatory leave) and I had to make do with night shifts in my office to squeeze out whatever little time I could for preparation.
Nevertheless I was in a much respectable position both during and after my exam. I evaluated my performance and found my scores marginally on the higher side of expected cutoffs. Such was the joy of being able to take the first step that I forgot there was a second step too and tougher by a few order of magnitudes than the first one. And for that I had almost no preparation. With 9 subjective papers to take, consisting of 2 subjects, Physics and Sociology ( to be prepared up to Graduate Honours level) and plethora of social sciences for General Studies, a 1200 word essay I was nowhere near the stage of preparation. When prelims results came out, I had less than 60 days in hand. On top of that our company was preparing for Deming Award Challenge and everyone were working feverishly for it. Jobs were at stake because no department wanted to fail the challenge and disappoint our MD. There was no question of any leave. So I struck a deal with my superiors that I would stay and work till this Deming thing gets over and then I would leave for exam (however long it may take). So tense was everybody for Deming that they agreed to it. On 3 rd September, I left for Delhi after consultations with Smarak. He was already there preparing for his second attempt. Within 2 days, he got me admitted to a GS crash course and I rented a small room as a PG. For the next 40 days I mugged doggedly. Only entertainment available to me was my FM radio and my pack of cigarettes. I mugged up whole subjects in days (u can guess the quality of retention I would have had). I must thank Smarak for keeping my tempo up whenever I was overwhelmed by the size of syllabus.
I filled up the form of UPSC Mains in such a rush that I forgot to fill my choice of centre in it. Thankfully UPSC allotted me centre in Kolkata (near my permanent address) rather than rejecting the form.So 2 days before the exams I rushed with all my baggage and books (over 100 kg) to home( Dhanbad) from where I made trips to Kolkata on exam days. The exam itself was stretched over 24 days with nice long gaps in between that allowed me to revise whatever I mugged up. However stress was taking a toll on me. By the time I was taking my last paper I was so pissed off that all I wanted was the bell to ring and to get over with it. Last Paper ( Physics) screwed up. Not that I expected to perform great but sure as hell I didn't expect total catastrophe.

Nevertheless I was happy and a sense of contentment pervaded my mind. I was happy with the fact that when shit hit the fan, I didn't run for cover. I was able to put everything at stake and went for what I wanted. These are times when your character is put to test. I didn't qualify the exams but was happy that I was able to restore my faith in myself.

Runup to UPSC Prelims 2009...Part1

This was my third and last (most probably) attempt at UPSC Civil Services Exam and it again started with the prelims exam. I am astounded as to how the run up to and the aftermath of this exam have varied through the years. In my first attempt in 2007, I along with 3 other friends who had TATA STEEL with me took the exam. The preparations before exam were as much serious as the manner in which we filled the application form. I had been so engrossed in my project work at the company that I hadn't even read a newspaper in last 3 months (there went my General Studies paper) and I was still banking on my physics knowledge acquired 5 years ago during preparation for IITJEE to clear my Physics paper. So the four of us rode bikes to Ranchi (140 KM away) a day before the exam. We booked a hotel room for 2 days and did a tour of Ranchi at night, looking for good bars. We didn't drink because we were there for exams and not for partying. Next morning an hour before exam we were looking for stationery shops to buy HB pencil and erasers without which we could not mark the OMR sheets. So far so much for the preparation.The exam itself went as good as I was expecting. I could not even read the whole of Physics question paper and in GS I had no clue to 80 % of the problems. In the evening we went to a good bar (as good as it can get in Ranchi) and had some drinks to ease the post-exam trauma and finally returned to Jamshedpur next morning to get back to work. I didn't evaluate my performance afterward and the only time I thought about it again was when I was told by some friends that the results were out. Fortunately I had still had my roll number saved in my cell, others didn't even bother for that. All of this happened when IAS was still my dream job.