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A Dream Born In A Mumbai Slum: Dockyard Worker’s Son Becomes IRS Officer  

Indian Masterminds Stories

It is very important to re-strategise after every failed attempt. This was the strategy of 2022 UPSC CSE qualifier Hussain Sayyed, who failed four times and cleared the exam in the fifth attempt. 

His preparation journey started in 2017, and he passed the Prelims every time but got stuck in the Mains. In his fifth attempt, he could finally clear the Mains and then the Interview as well. And, thus, made it to the list of successful candidates with AIR 570.

Speaking to Indian Masterminds, the Mumbai boy, who is undergoing training for Indian Revenue Service now, gave details about his life before UPSC, how he turned all obstacles on his path to his advantage, and how he prepared himself to keep a positive mindset even when success evaded him.

FROM MUMBAI SLUM

Hussain Sayyed was born and raised in a slum off P D’mello Road in Mumbai’s Wadi Bunder. He calls it the “basti”. He is one among four siblings. His two elder brothers work in the dockyard where their father also works while his only sister works in Godrej. Both his parents never went to school but they ensured that their four children got good education. 

His home

Hussain went to a nearby primary school, then joined a Convent. It was the Convent education that made him fluent in English, a reason why he did well in the Interview. 

Their house is made of tin, just like most of the houses in Mumbai slums are. “We have enough space for all of us. It’s just that the noises made it difficult to study,” he said. 

So, he started studying in the most unlikely of places. A nearby park sometimes, a mosque at other times were his go-to places to find a quiet corner. 

UPSC GOAL

Hussain’s mind was made up from quite a young age. He knew he wanted to become a bureaucrat after seeing IAS and IPS officers and the power and prestige they wielded. And his father fuelled this ambition further by encouraging him all the time to become like those officers. 

So after he graduated in commerce, he started preparing for UPSC, from 2017. His father had some savings which he gave to his son to take up coaching in Pune. However, after being unsuccessful in cracking the exam, Hussain decided to move to Delhi. 

Studying in a park (left); (right) with his father

He also started taking online coaching for aspirants which provided him with an income. He got into Jamia’s coaching for UPSC aspirants and studied there diligently. 

My exam centre was Mumbai. So I had to keep shuttling between two cities. I stayed in Delhi for coaching and went to Mumbai to give the exam and came back to Delhi again,” he said.

PREPARATION STRATEGY

The only strategy he strictly followed was to re-strategise every time he failed. He did this after a lot of self-introspection and self-motivation. “Two things you would need plenty of in the UPSC journey,” he said.

After every failure, he would keep himself motivated by reading biographies or watching documentaries of great personalities. “And I would hold on to a positive mindset as if my whole life depended on it! Even if negative thoughts came, I would immediately brush them aside and start thinking about good things.” 

His Optional was Public Administration. In the initial months, he used to study for 15-16 hours daily. “However, in the countdown weeks, I used to cut down the hours to 5-6 maximum.”

He used to revise at least 10 times. “I used to set targets for myself and work hard to achieve them.” 

DELETED SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS

As soon as he made up his mind to set off on the UPSC path, the first thing he did was to delete all his social media accounts. “I did this to avoid distraction. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts and also WhatsApp. But, later, I rejoined the messaging app to be in contact with a study group. As for my family, I preferred calling them up as messaging takes more time.” 

FARED WELL IN INTERVIEW 

When he cleared Mains for the first time in his fifth attempt, he knew that he would clear the Interview, too. “Having studied in a Convent, my English and presentation were good. Also, the fact that I took online classes for aspirants helped me to communicate well in the interview.” 

The initial questions were mostly from his DAF. However, later, there were off-the-track questions too. “I am from a commerce background and I was asked about renewable energy and nuclear energy. So, I had to tell them that I was not comfortable answering those questions and they quickly veered off to another topic.”

Sayyed with his study group. Almost all got selected by UPSC

He gave the example of a tricky question that was put to him. “I was asked which city was safer. Delhi or Mumbai? I replied that financially, Delhi was a safer bet, while when it comes to women safety, Mumbai was a safer place.” The panel seemed satisfied with his answer as he was let off without further gruelling.

ADVICE FOR ASPIRANTS

From his experiences of overcoming failures, Hussain had a very important advice for all aspirants. “Always be in the company of positive minded people and become a member of a like-minded study group. This way, you will be able to stay on your course and maintain a positive mindset even if you fail in an attempt. And, re-strategise as many times as you fail, till you achieve what you had set out for.”


Indian Masterminds Stories

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