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UPSC Teaches You How to Gain from Failures, Says A Topper

Indian Masterminds Stories

Preparing for UPSC CSE can be a long and tiring journey with lows and highs along the way, leaving one mentally exhausted. However, this journey teaches valuable life lessons and equips one to handle failures well. After all, failures make one humble and widen the perspective.

The same happened with 2019 topper with AIR 8, Mr. Abhishek Saraf, who started off his UPSC journey with failure, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After his first attempt at CSE failed, he made three more attempts and succeeded in all of them, eventually getting a single digit rank and cadre of his choice.

Indian Masterminds presents his journey from civil engineering to country’s premier service – IAS.

LOST FATHER TOO SOON

Mr. Saraf belongs to a middle-class family of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He lost his father when he was just 10 months old. Raised by a single mother, he and his brother faced many hardships but learned to never give up. During an interview to media, he had said that in the early days, it was his maternal family who supported them, and later, his brother took all the responsibility of the family. For him, his mother and brother are the biggest inspiration.

Mr.Saraf with his brother and mother

Since he was good in studies, he cleared 12th and then IIT with flying colours. He studied civil engineering in IIT Kanpur and was involved in several national and international research through the college.

I WAS NAÏVE, UPSC WIDENED MY PERSPECTIVE

He was so fond of civil engineering that till his completion of graduation, he used to believe that everything else other than engineering is useless, as the world is made and run by engineers. Appearing in Indian Engineering Services and getting AIR 6 was the result of this thought and his love for civil engineering.

After clearing IES, he joined Indian Railways as Assistant Executive Engineer. During the training at National Academy of Indian Railways, Vadodara, he met several other Indian Railways probationers who were IRTS, IRPS or IRAS. “I interacted with many of them and got to know about their thought process. To my surprise, that they had a very vast and deep understanding of almost every matter. I was inspired by them and for the first time I thought about UPSC. They made me realise that it is one of the ways to directly impact the society.”

FAILING THE FIRST TIME

In 2015, Mr. Saraf made his first attempt at CSE but couldn’t even clear the prelims. It was a shocker for him as he had not failed in any exam before. He marks that event as the biggest turning point in his life. He took a break for one year and prepared. In 2017, he cleared it with 402 rank and got Indian Defence Account Services.
In 2018, he again cleared with 248 rank and got Indian Revenue Services (Custom). He joined it but gave another attempt in 2019 and was able to secure AIR 9.

BRING SOMETHING NEW TO TABLE

Mr. Saraf says that UPSC demands consistency and positive attitude. You must surround yourself with positive people as you need a good support system. While his family was always there for him, his friend, an IPS officer, also helped in finding out his shortcomings and helping him prepare better every time.

About the interview part, he says, “UPSC is looking for humble and honest candidate. So, one must present themselves in the best possible way with honesty. Any kind of fakeness don’t work there. One also needs to focus to bring something new to the table. Your unique idea is going to separate you from the crowd and that is what is needed.”

He also advises the candidates to write their answers in a way that looks presentable. “One should use pointers, flow charts, diagrams, etc. These doesn’t only help you to distinguish yourself but also helps the examiner to understand your point of view correctly.”

From his advice, it is clear that one needs to be unique and real at the same time, to present the best foot forward in UPSC. Just like he was. A cut above the rest. He didn’t let failures dampen his spirits. Instead, every failure fuelled him more to push ahead with renewed determination and grit.


Indian Masterminds Stories

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