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Why Learning Discipline Early in Life is Important for UPSC Success

IAS officer Pooja Elangbam from Manipur credits her parents’ grooming for her UPSC success.
Indian Masterminds Stories

“Any other child in my place, given my parental moulding, would have achieved what I did,” said Ms. Pooja Elangbam, in all humility, after cracking UPSC CSE 2017 with AIR 81 and becoming an IAS officer of 2018 batch.

Ms. Elangbam was introduced to Civil Services at home.  She grew up in the shadow of her IPS officer father, Mr. E. Priyo Kumar Singh, who went on to become IGP of Manipur. Similarly, she was no stranger to focussed studies at home, as her mother, Mrs Amita Laishram, is the Principal of Sherwood School, Ayangpali, Imphal. That’s why she talks about ‘parental moulding’, that helped her achieve her UPSC goal easily.

Indian Masterminds presents her success story today, a story that brings home the importance of discipline and the right kind of environment to achieve success in UPSC exams.

GROOMING BY HER PARENTS

Ms. Elangbam is presently posted as Assistant Commissioner in Imphal West. Whenever this Welham (Dehradun) and St. Stephen’s (Delhi University) alumnus gives interviews to media, she doesn’t miss out talking about the superb grooming by her parents and their influence on her worldview. Her father used to take her along on his official trips to broaden her outlook and grasp on matters concerning the outside world, while her mother introduced discipline at home which would later see her through the CSE preparation days.

“I grew up watching my father, an IPS officer, work very hard, and that for me was motivation enough,” she says.

Ms. Pooja Elangbam

Miss Elangbam studied till Class VI in Maria Montessori School, Imphal, and was, thereafter, admitted to the famous Welham Girls’ School, Dehradun, where her all-round personality development took shape. She scored 95% in Class X and 96% in Plus Two finals. She topped in all subjects in Plus Two exams. She took up History (Hons) in St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, where she was a Gold Medalist. She topped this up with Master’s from JNU, Delhi.

RIGHT MIX OF STUDIES AND RECREATION

Her brilliant academic graph notwithstanding, Ms. Elangbam says that she wasn’t bookish and never followed a back-breaking routine. She always balanced studies with recreational breaks.

“I found out that I had to engage with my surroundings to be able to stay positive. I would also exercise every day and that helped me stay focused. Long study periods did not work for me, and I would sit for two hours at a stretch and then take a break,” she had said, while speaking to media soon after her CSE success.

She says that on an average, six to seven hours of studying in a day is sufficient. “More than how much time you spend studying, one should keep an eye on how much of the syllabus is being covered.”

Her hobbies include watching Sherlock Holmes movies. In fact, she found clues to figure out solutions to a conflict situation through the detective episodes. She never risked her health in her preparation for the exam. In between study hours, she used to go for a walk with her sister or played badminton with her brother. To keep herself fit mentally and physically, she took nutrient-rich stuff and did yoga, too.

MOM CONDUCTED MOCK INTERVIEWS

In 2016, she had cracked the state MPSC exam to get into police service and joined the training. However, she felt that the physical strain in the service, and the fact that she would be confined to only law and order, would limit her scope. She knew what a police officer’s job was like, having seen her IPS officer father’s work very closely. She wanted to diversify and go for a profession that would enlarge her horizon. So, she began to prepare seriously for CSE and sat for the exam in 2017. 

Ms. Pooja Elangbam

After cracking the Mains, her mother held mock interviews for her. Ms. Elangbam disclosed that 70% of the questions her mom took up in mock interviews featured in the UPSC interview.

She came back from her UPSC interview with a bundle of books bought from Rajinder Nagar, Delhi, thinking she would have to make another attempt. When the results were declared, a friend informed her that she had secured AIR 81. She didn’t believe it at first, and cross-checked and found her name!

HER PREPARATION STRATEGY

Ms. Elangbam did not take up any coaching and studied on her own. She admits that while she had decided to enrol in a coaching centre in Delhi, she was infected with dengue. Forced to stay home, she decided to prepare by herself. “Given that almost all the content that one uses in the coaching centres is available on the internet, one can decide to use that and chart out a study pattern for themselves.”

She dug out the latest study materials from the internet and made her own short notes. To save time, she noted down the key word through which the whole topic would be recollected by a glance. To upgrade herself on Current Affairs and GK, she read the first page of newspapers and the editorials.

For Pooja, her mother was her biggest supporter during this time. “My mother studied alongside me, just so that she could keep me motivated. She would also check the answers I would write and give me constructive feedback on it.”

ADVICE FOR ASPIRANTS

To aspirants, she had this to say: “It is not a difficult exam to crack. What one needs is to be consistent in their preparation all throughout. It’s like running a marathon, so prepare for the long haul.”

According to her, aspirants would need to find the reason why they wish to appear for the exam and every time they find themselves wavering, they should revisit that. Writing the exam because of family and peer pressure will not help in the long run.

“Also, look out for coaching videos put out by toppers of the previous year, which gives you a good idea of how to prepare.”

She herself spent a considerable amount of time reading the blogs put out by toppers to understand what strategies worked for them. Ironically, today, aspirants search her out on the net, to know her inspirational UPSC journey and pick up preparation tips from it!


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