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Overcoming Adversity: Meet Lucknow’s Kunal Rastogi, the Son of an IPS Officer Who Triumphs in IAS Exam, AIR-15 (Exclusive)

Kunal Rastogi from Lucknow passed UPSC CSE -2023 with AIR 15 It was his third attempt and second interview  Kunal's UPSC preparation took place in multiple states due to his IPS father's frequent transfers
Indian Masterminds Stories

In the vast landscape of India’s civil service examinations, success stories often emerge from the depths of perseverance and dedication. Kunal’s journey from being the son of an IPS officer to cracking the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) and securing a coveted position as an IAS officer is a testament to the power of determination, familial inspiration, and adaptability. He cracked UPSC CSE-2023 on his third attempt and will now become an IAS officer. 

Kunal’s upbringing was deeply influenced by his father’s career as an IPS officer. Growing up in a household where service to the nation was not just a profession but a way of life, Kunal imbibed values of integrity, discipline, and public service from a young age. 

However, Kunal’s journey to cracking the UPSC CSE was not smooth. Facing setbacks and failures in his initial attempts, he learned valuable lessons in resilience and self-belief. With each setback, he emerged stronger and more determined, refining his strategy and honing his skills with unwavering focus. 

Speaking exclusively with Indian Masterminds, Mr. Kunal narrated his journey. 

Kunal Rastogi, AIR – 15, UPSC CSE – 2023

JOURNEY SO FAR

He started his UPSC preparation in his last semester of engineering in 2020. He made his first attempt at UPS CSE-2021 and was able to successfully reach the interview round. But unfortunately, he could not make it to the final list. In his second attempt at UPSC CSE-2022, he was unable to crack even the prelims.

But in his third attempt at UPSC CSE-2023, Kunar cracked the prestigious exam with All India 15th Rank. He said, “My whole journey has been a rollercoaster ride.”

FREQUENT TRAVEL 

As his father is an IPS and on central deputation, Kunal had to travel with his family now and then. But, for Kunal, every new city brought not just a change in scenery but also unique learning experiences. Instead of viewing travel as a hindrance to his studies, Kunal embraced it as a catalyst for personal growth and enrichment. 

Through efficient time management and prioritization, Kunal struck a balance between his academic pursuits and his passion for exploration.

Kunal’s father, IPS Punit Rastogi (left)

BACKGROUND

He originally hails from Lucknow, UP. His father, Puneet Rastogi, is also an IPS officer of the 1995 batch of the Tripura cadre. Mr Puneet is currently on central deputation and posted as ADGP, BSF, in Delhi. His mother is a homemaker. He has a younger sister who is doing MBBS. 

He did his basic education till 10th grade in Agartala, Tripura. After that, he studied till 12th in CMS, Gomtinagar, Lucknow. Then, he completed his B.Tech. in Civil Engineering from BITS Pilani. 

FIRST TWO ATTEMPTS!

What was missing in the first 2 attempts that Kunal was not selected? Kunal believes that practice makes a difference. He said, “When I gave my first attempt, I did not have much practice in solving test series and answer writings. After that, I focused on answer writing and gave more than 100 mains mock tests. Even this time, between pre & main, I wrote 42 tests.”

UPSC PREPARATION 

His UPSC preparation was mostly based on online learning. He joined online coaching for his optional only, which was PSIR. He never joined any coaching offline. 

As his IPS father used to get transferred, Kunal’s preparation took place in many states. But Kunal managed it well. He attempted his first CSE prelims from Tripura, while at the time of the second prelims, he was in Lucknow. And, he gave his third prelims from Jodhpur. 

During preparation, he always did task-based studying. 

He said, “I always used to give myself a task to study. Then, I had to complete it, be it in 10 hours or a single hour, but until it got done, I would not leave my study.”

Kunal’s parents

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 

His interview was interesting and mostly analytical. He was asked questions about diverse topics; some of them were bouncers for Kunal, which he accepted. There were many hypothetical and situation-based questions. 

One interesting question he was asked about while discussing Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The board chairman asked him, “You are talking about the ‘Twin Pit Latrine System’; tell me when you flush it, how much water poured in?”

Another member asked him questions from a case study on corruption in Administration how would he tackle that?

There were some questions, like, Should there be work from home in government offices? What are the reasons behind mental depression these days?  Which country’s ambassador would you prefer to be appointed? If there is no CPEC agreement, then will China still support Pakistan? 

MESSAGE 

Giving a message to UPSC aspirants, Mr. Kunal has two pieces of advice. He said, “Don’t try to be a material collector. Fix your material before starting the preparation, and keep it limited. Too many sources of study will deviate you and are not going to help you anyway. Second, aspirants should do hard work for answer writing practice and maintain consistency.”

Dashing man: Kunal Rastogi

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