Photographs: Umar Ganie Mukhtar Ahmad
Dr Sarvjeet Soodan from Jammu and Kashmir cracked the UPSC examinations recently. He tells Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar what it took to manage to make in the top 100 and more.
For Dr Sarvjeet Soodan, the entry into the country's elite civil services has not been a cakewalk.
He had to take his chances and learn things the hard way. It was only after his fourth attempt he made it to the 97th rank of the IAS and allied services select list this year.
"In 2007, I appeared in the civil service exam for the first time. It was out of ignorance that I appeared in the exam and then I realised how difficult it was. I had appeared believing that the civil service exam was just another exam I had taken in my life. But it was not the case," Soodan says looking back at his four years long journey to make it to the select list.
"In 2008 I appeared for the exam again. This time I knew how difficult it was. I prepared and did well but missed it by just 10 marks. At the time my father was seriously injured in a road accident and remained in hospital for two long months. I was by his side during that time," he said.
'Remember, you are competing in a country of over a billion people'
Soodan tried his luck again for the third time in 2009, but came down with typhoid during the mains.
"I was down with typhoid fever and remained on double dose of antibiotics for nearly two months", he recalled.
Finally, during his fourth attempt both hard work and luck favoured the unrelenting aspirant.
"Last year everything went well and I finally managed to prepare for the exam and got into the civil service with 97th rank", he said.
Soodan had earlier graduated in veterinary sciences from the Sheri Kashmir Agriculture University Jammu in 2006.
Looking at the civil services exams with his experience, Soodan has some good advice for other aspirants.
"It is a very tough exam and one should prepare well. After all, you are competing in a country of over a billion people. The competition is cutthroat. I passed it but my advice to those aspiring to join the civil service is work hard otherwise it is just impossible.
More candidates from J&K are now making it to IAS
I got constant encouragement from my sister who is working as airport manager in civil aviation then of course my parents.
It was because of their prayers and encouragement that finally I got through.
They always wanted me in the civil service," he said.
Soodan also spoke of his desire and reason to join the top job. "I want to serve my people and hopefully I will be allotted state cadre".
Encouragingly, more and more candidates from Jammu and Kashmir are now making it to the most sought after civil service of the country.
Last year, Shah Faesal, a local doctor belonging to the remote border district of Kupwara brought laurels to his state by topping the civil services.
Shah has been allotted the Jammu and Kashmir cadre of the IAS and his one-year on the job probation begins here in the middle of June.