Name ....ZUHAIR BIN SAGHIR
Rank in Civil Services..005
OPTED FOR: IAS
Civil services exam (CSE) is one of the toughest exams in the world. Each day we find the competition getting tougher with the number of candidates increasing and the no. of seats showing an almost plateau. The CSE calls for hard work, dedication and sincerity. It is important that the exam is approached with a positive mind and an optimistic spirit. There should be a back-up career available so that the risk factor is minimized and the results optimized. For the prelims, the approach should be exhaustive and broad-based. The mains call for an intensive and selective study while the interview is more general and comprehensive in nature. The prelims call for greater churning of information in raw form, sharp memorizing power and an attitude of clearing the PT and not becoming a topper in it, since the marks in PT do not add up in the final list. This will save precious time. The Main exam requires a more intensive and deep approach. The mantra lies in rapid reading and deep thinking. Since the pattern of exam nowadays has become more generalized and the focus is less on specifics, it is important that the answers too are more generalized. Reading standard books are important, as also avoiding cheap and ‘guide-type’ material. For example, it is good to read books like Bipan Chandra for history rather than reading Spectrum or any other guide-type material.
It was a dream I had cherished since tenth standard - to become an IAS. Achieving the apparently ‘unachievable’ was really challenging. My biggest strength lay in my firm determination, self- belief and confidence in one’s abilities. It is ordinary people like you and me who can do great things. Pain gives way to pleasure and no night is not followed by a dawn. The UPSC exam also calls for tremendous patience and control over nerves. Frustration and desperation are part of the process. Fortunately, I found a strong support system in my family, my close friends and my teachers. They were al with me in times of trials and tribulations. More than in times pf joy and celebration, one needs the shoulders of a close one in testing times.
My schooling hone up my skills, developed in me a love for learning and taught me the value of people, while my graduation years opened up a whole new world for me to explore. Thereafter, the UPSC examination process brought a tremendous sense of self-discipline, balance of views and I kept alive the flame of making into the coveted ranks, with an aim of bringing some transformation in the lives of ordinary men and women.
It is a balanced mixture of hard work, grit and resolve to succeed which opens up new avenues. There are many challenges in the services, especially the IAS whereas the status and prestige it commands in the society is unparalleled.
Secret of MY success in the Civil Services Examination…..
Sheer hardwork, grit, determination and Almighty’s grace.
How much time do you think one requires for serious preparations for this examination?
6-8 months but it depends on one’s capabilities, caliber and grasping power.
Which newspapers and journals have you been reading for the General Studies and other papers?
Hindu, economic times, yojana, Time, FRONTLINE
Q. Do you remember any remarkable incident of your life that motivated or prompted you to go for a career in the Civil Services?
I used to be overwhelmed with the amazing potential the people of my country have. I wish to translate them into reality.
Educational Qualifications :
School : FR AGNEL SCHOOL
College : B. TECH(ELECTRICAL ENGG),( A.M.U, ALIGARH )
University : Any Award, Gold Medals and Scholarship Won : NTSE SCHOLAR, PRIZES IN DEBATES, QUIZZING
Earlier Selections : - CENTRAL OFFICER IN HOME MINISTRY - AUDIT OFFICER UNDER CAG
Experience : LECTURERSHIP IN ENGG COLLEGE AT GHAZIABAD.
Published Works : IN SEVERAL NEWSPAPERS
Q. How did your parents, family and friends contribute to your success?
Their support has been incredible. They have been support pillars all along
Q. Had you not been selected in the Civil Services Examination, what would have been your reaction?
Which other service/career would you have gone in/opted for?
I would have gone for my career in Electrical engg.
Q. How do you visualise your success?
It is Almighty’s grace, parents and well-wishers’ support. It has been a cherished dream, which I have accomplished. A new journey begins for me and I am well aware of the challenges and responsibilities that I would face in the future..
Q. What were your strong points which enabled you to achieve success in the Civil Services Examination ?
My ability to grasp things faster, contemplate and think deep. Rapid reading and Deep thinking is the mantra for success Q. What were your optionals at the Civil Services Examination?
Prelims : Geography
Mains : (1) Geography ----------------(2) Public Administration
Q. How many attempts had you made earlier before you got selected ?
Q. What was your criterion for the selection of the optional subjects?
Availability of resource material and interest in subject
Q. What do you think is a better way of preparation between selective intensive study and wide extensive study?
A right mixture of both. But smart work supercedes both
Q. Is this pattern of the examination appropriate for selection? Would you recommend any other improvement?
The system of selection is absolutely fair, rigorous and merit-oriented. However, there should be SOME gap between the declaration of results and the prelim exam of the following year.
Q. What is your advice to the future aspirants?
Be focused and hard work is the best antidote to all obstacles. Victor Hugo once said, ‘ No power on this earth can stop an idea whose time has come.’ I strongly believe in it.
The essence lies in self-belief and confidence in one’s abilities. It is ordinary people like you and me who can do great things. Pain gives way to pleasure and no night is not followed by a dawn. The UPSC exam also calls for tremendous amount of patience and control over the nerves. Fortunately, I found the support system in my family, my close friends and my teachers. They were all with me in times of trials and tribulations. More than in times of joy and celebration, one needs the shoulders of a close one in testing times.
One should approach the exam with the right attitude. On the lighter side, for prelims one has to become a donkey; for the Mains, a horse and for the interview, a perfect gentleman. I think both kinds of questions are asked in the interview- fact based as well as opinion-based. But the emphasis should always be on the opinion-based ones. IAS demands maturity, balanced personality and an attitude of staying firm in difficult circumstances. Therefore, even if one fumbles in the fact area, it is largely discounted. But if the mistake lies in perception, ideology or vision, it has a greater negative impact.
Q. After your success in the Preliminary examination, do you feel you could have scored better by introducing some changes in your method of preparation?
Yes, I did feel that. I realised that it was more important to focus on certain key areas which are strong than studying all. For example, if one is better in say, history and weak in geography, the focus should be more on history and there should be more emphasis on scoring in history.
Q. What is your advice for the preparations of the Preliminary and Main examination?
I would say, for prelims, the preparations should be more broad-based and all-inclusive while for mains, it needs to be selective in some areas and extensive in other areas.
For mains, my preparations began earnestly the day I cleared the prelims. Since, the trend for main exam in UPSC is becoming more general in nature, the focus is becoming less on specifics and more on developing interlinkages. All the subjects in GS have to be interlinked with each other and with the optionals.
Papers I & II —General Studies
For GS, I referred to Bipan Chandra for history, DD basu for polity, economic survey and Rudra dutt sundaram for economy. I was also catching up with foreign affairs and current developments from magazines, newspapers or the internet. For science, I used to read the Science section of Hindu on Thursday and for statistics, I felt no need to read anything special, since my background was engineering.
Paper III — Essay
I had a habit of wide reading since my early days. Therefore I had some views, concepts and a strong vision. All these helped me tremendously in the Essay paper.
Paper IV — English
Nothing at all. I was always educated in English medium, so I had to devote no special time for it.
Paper V — Indian Languages (100 words)
Hindi is my mother tongue. So, I did not have much difficulty in handling the paper.
Papers VI, VII, VIII & IX — Two Optional Subjects (200 words each)
For optional papers, my approach was selective and intensive at the same time. I divided my time in such a way that 60% of my time went for optional and the remaining 40% for GS.
Q. Now that you have succeeded in the Main Examination do you think that with some changes in your study plan you could have achieved still higher marks ? Suggest the changes.
Yes, I think I committed a number of silly mistakes in the GS paper, which I could have easily avoided.
Q. What is your advice for achieving success in the Main Examination?
A focused approach, selective study and hard work can bring out the best from you.
Before the results of Mains came, I was keeping track of the current developments and continued to do so even after the results. I used to read one newspaper and watched TV and browsed the Internet for getting latest updates. Along with it, I also used to discuss over certain key issues with my friends. On receiving the interview call, I was elated but I was quite optimistic about the call anyway. My Mains had gone well and was expecting an interview call. My interview was scheduled on 4th April at 9 am. I did expect to get a call for the interview, since my Mains had gone quite satisfactorily.
For the interview, I made sure that I was in touch with the current developments with the help of newspapers or television. I also discussed a few key issues with my friends. The preparation for the interview however, cannot be done in a few weeks. It is actually the test of complete personality which one has nurtured over the past so many years. On the interview day, I was dressed in dark blue trousers, a navy blue shirt and matching tie. I bided my time by having an informal with fellow candidates. I made sure that I remained cool, calm and composed. As I entered the room when my turn came, I was brimming with confidence. There were 5 members in the board and it was chaired by Mr. B N Nawalawala. The first question was asked by the Chairman himself about my background, Electrical engg and that how could I use the knowledge of electrical engineering in administration.
On 4th April, I reached the UPSC at 9 am. I bided my time by having an informal with fellow candidates. I made sure that I remained cool, calm and composed. As I entered the room when my turn came, I was brimming with confidence. There were 5 members in the board and it was chaired by Mr. B N Nawalawala. The first question was asked by the Chairman himself about my background, Electrical engg and that how could I use the knowledge of electrical engineering in administration.
The interview lasted about 45 minutes. I was asked questions pertaining to a number of fields including my bio-data, my engineering background, my work experience as well as Indo-Bangladesh relations, purpose of establishment of the AMU at Aligarh, water management in India, cloning etc… there were also questions related to my priorities as a District Collector.
The most challenging question was related to ‘big dams’, where I had to justify how water resource management was region-specific and localized.
The last question pertained to my priorities as a District Collector. The questions were generally spread over various fields and were related to Indo-bangladesh relations, water management in India, cloning, purpose of establishment of AMU in Aligarh amd my hobby (Ghazals). The members did not ask any question abruptly, I was given full opportunity to answer each question, although there were times when a discussion ensued over certain issue. Overall, the Board was very cordial and made me feel at complete ease. The question pertaining to ‘big dams’ was quite challenging. I had to justify how water resource management was region-specific and localized. My responses to certain questions convinced me that the interview had gone well.
Overall, the interview was on an informal note and at no point during the interview, did I face any kind of stress. Going by the expression of the board members, I was quite satisfied with the interview.
MY BIGGEST MISTAKE
My biggest mistake was the paucity of time for Mains preparation. I started off preparations late and also could not utilize the time available with me in an optimum manner. Infact, I began preparations just 4-5 months before the Prelim examination, which was a little inadequate. My first attempt thus was more of a half-hearted attempt, although I had managed to reach the interview stage. Ideally, 8-10 months should be available for preparation before the prelim exam. This mistake was rectified by me in the following attempt.
THE FINAL WORD
I would say, have faith in the Almighty. It is God who gives us patience and the enthusiasm to work. The zeal comes from within. Motivation to be sustainable has to be internally driven rather than extrinsic. The process of learning has to be enjoyed and that gives the impetus to perform. Have a commitment to yourself, the society and the country. If the desire emerges out of bringing a subtle transformation in the country, it surely would create an impact.
At this juncture, I would like to say to all the aspirants of the IAS that, no defeat is final until you have lost the zeal to achieve success. A right blend of hard work, determination, luck and blessing works up a magic and shall lead you into the coveted realm.