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How the Son of an Alcoholic Went on to Become an IAS

M Sivaguru Prabhakaran had to take odd jobs to support his family, owing to the alcoholism of his father. He spent nights at the platform of a railway station while taking coaching for IIT Madras. He cleared UPSC CSE in his fourth attempt bagging AIR-101.

In 2004, M Sivaguru Prabakaran had to give up on his dream of pursuing an engineering degree as his family was unable to afford the required counseling sessions in Chennai. What followed was an astonishing tale of grit and determination that took the son of an alcoholic from Melaottankadu village in Pattukottai in Thanjavur district to the platforms of the St Thomas Mount Railway Station and the hallways of IIT Madras.

Indian Masterminds follows the journey of Mr. Prabhakaran and takes a look at his noteworthy success story.

M Sivaguru Prabakaran

WOES OF AN ALCOHOLIC FATHER

Hailing from a family of farmers, Mr. Prabhakaran’s family – from his grandfather to his little brother, were doing everything that they could to keep the family running. The major reason behind every family member working in the fields was because of his father’s alcoholism and inability to earn the bread.

His mother and sister used to work in the field during the day and weave baskets to earn a livelihood, at night. Even though life was tough, his mother held the reins of the family and worked hard to provide for her three children and her old in-laws.

“When I was in school, I needed a book for homework. I remember, early in the morning around 4 AM, I was crying and worrying about how to do the homework assigned, without the book. My mom saw me crying and knowing it is for the book, she immediately set off with me carrying a lantern. We walked for over a kilometer and she got me the book,” said Mr. Prabakaran.

To support his family, the officer also took a break from his studies and practiced farming. After a couple of years, he worked as a mill operator, a farm laborer, and then an engineer before finally getting into civil services. “I have worked on the farm, there have been days we have worried about the water for irrigation. I really hope the farmers have a solution to the water issue,” he says.

SLEEPING AT A RAILWAY STATION

Mr. Prabhakaran had always been a bright student in academics and therefore, he decided to pursue engineering at the prestigious college of IIT Madras in Chennai. During his training period to get into the institution, the officer decided to take coaching classes in Chennai to improve his conversation skills and prepare for the examination.

However, neither did he have any relatives in Chennai nor did he know anyone there. In such a case, for close to four months, he used to sleep on the benches of St. Thomas Mount railway station!

“I didn’t know anyone here. The coaching classes were on Saturday and Sunday and I had no place to stay. I used to travel by train and reach on Saturday; attend classes, and then take shelter at the platform where I used to study. The following day I used to go to class and then return home,” he said. This went on till he found a friend in his coaching class who was ready to share rooms with him.

He would return on Monday and work in mobile outlets in the area. He became confident in his abilities after bagging the first rank in the M. Tech entrance examination conducted by IIT Madras. In 2014, he graduated with an M. Tech degree at IIT Madras with a 9.0 GPA and after working for four years as an engineer, he married off his sister. After the break, he decided to resume his studies, but this time to become an IAS officer.

M Sivaguru Prabakaran during his graduation days

THE WAY TO CIVIL SERVICES

Mr. Prabhakaran first witnessed the power of an IAS officer when the tragic fire at the Kumbakonam school occurred in 2004. The then district collector of Thanjuvar, IAS officer J Radhakrishnan portrayed extreme courage and handled the situation promptly.

He wished to walk in the footsteps of the officer and made up his mind to clear UPSC and become an Indian Administrative Service officer. The officer started preparing for the exams but was unable to clear in the first three attempts.

“After every interview, I would immediately start preparing for the next preliminary examination. I learned valuable lessons from failures and used them as an opportunity for future successes,” stated the officer.

M Sivaguru Prabakaran with IAS officer J Radhakrishnan

He finally tasted success in UPSC CSE 2018 when he cracked the examination with AIR-101. His true grit, determination, and perseverance brought results and he became the first civil servant in his entire family.

He dedicated his victory to the women in his family saying, “My mother, grandmother, and sister have been always supportive and it is because of them that I have reached such heights. There is no hurdle that can’t be broken. I used to hit every obstacle harder and harder till it broke. Perseverance and hard work will take everyone a long way.”

From a normal villager to a farmer and from graduating from IIT to now becoming a civil servant, the story of M Sivaguru Prabhakaran is an inspiration to thousands of people today.

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