Saturday, April 18, 2015


Long time. The blog was dead. I am in the process of writing a book, loosely based on the blog. Thought I would share with you guys. A small excerpt from the as-yet-unfinished work. Ideas and your experiences are welcome. Post it in comments or mail me at If ever the book gets to see the light of the day, the acknowledgements would be due. Here it goes: 

"It's only the idiots who decide to appear for this exam. Look at the probability of success. Of a million who appear, less than a thousand qualify and only a hundred make it to the IAS. If the goal is to be an IAS, you are talking about a probability of around one in ten thousand. And knowing that atleast a third of them are good and deserving, and prepare well while taking up different subject options, it is difficult to predict who would get that one seat. That, my friend, makes this exam a function of sheer chance than any preparation or talent. It is irrational for a young graduate who can start in some decent job to waste years in pursuit of a goal with such abysmal success probability. There is no reason for a rational person to be here." 

The first one opined. The second one scratched his stubble and disagreed. 

"There is a reason. In this vast populous country, life usually ends up in the grind of misery and loses itself in frustrations of living. Mild success and stoic pursuit of linear growth in life can fascinate only the philosophers and lazy, not the restless young who want to change the world. This, the exam that you call unscientific and chance driven, gives a graduate a chance at doing  a lot better in life, probably ending up as someone who changes the course of things for millions. There is a meaning to life, and this exam gives a chance at unraveling it. Your life achieves a meaning and you get a reason to exist meaningfully, while you do good to others as an IAS, being an administrator or a policymaker. That's what attracts the youth to this exam And when you are young, you are ready to fight for that one chance in a million, and by that standard the odds are better here, one in ten thousand. Why wouldn't a reasonable graduate take it?" 

The third one smirked, he rolled his eyes and said, 

"How pompous you aspirants sound. I will tell you the bitter truth. Most of those who appear at this exam have no idea about what else to do. They are mediocre people. They choose such goals with low probability of success in order to justify the failure that they ultimately become. And among the remaining who come across as not-so-mediocre, or even talented, they all are here because they are insecure people. They have succeeded earlier, at IITs, IIMs, their universities, at their private sector jobs or even abroad, but in a very narrow sense of academic achievements or in a cloistered environment cut off from the daily realities of poverty and hardship. They yearn for challenge to satisfy their egos. An improbable goal like civil services, appears to them as something that shall seal their successes and take away their deep seated insecurity about themselves. Ha! They fail to recognize the chimera, yet again. The second types are psychological nutcases, in search of tangible success, to frame and hang it on the walls of their insecure self.  Chance probability and such calculations do not matter to either types. Failure is success for the first types. Success is just another step in the journey of an insecure self for the second types."

Mishraji slurped his chai, and took the next drag. He smiled and said, 

"Don't get so serious kids. This philosophy and theories are fine, but you must understand that there is lot of money to be made on the other side if you become an IAS. Seven generations need not work if you succeed at this. And add to it the prestige in the society. You are mai-baap for your district as an IAS. You are worshipped if you do some good. When you compare to the success, what are two or four years of your life? And look at the alternatives. Slogging as a second grade clerk or behind project deadlines or obnoxious bosses in private sector. Dog's life for paltry money. If you want to escape, this is the chance. What's wrong if all of us are here. Some of us will make it. Most won't. And if you make it and I don't, please don't forget me. I will be your secretary and will help you hide the ill-gotten money. You earn respect, I will earn money for you. He he." And he took another drag. Everyone smiled, but fell silent soon after. None agreed with Mishraji, but couldn't point out the exact reason of their disagreement. They shuffled around. 

The chai was over and they dispersed. Mishraji looked at Sharmaji behind the tea counter. He was putting the second mug of tea to the steam. It was getting colder by the day. A light mist was descending on the surroundings, giving a soft damp smell to the narrow gullies where the IAS aspirants lived. Jia sarai was not a place to prepare anymore. Many who worked at private sector had made it their home. But years ago, this place buzzed with mostly IAS aspirants, especially those who came with engineering background. Mishraji was a relic from that era, though he majored in philosophy. He had hung on, giving attempts after attempts. As one more winter dawned, he was feeling worn out and old. Sharmaji was singing an old hindi song from behind the counter. 

"Duniya banane wale…." 

"Teesri kasam Sharmaji. What a song. Keep it up." Mishraji egged. Sharmaji continued. The song got over. 

"You know Sharmaji. None of these idiots will make it. They are too theoretical and serious. You need to be practical and easygoing here. Come, read the relevant stuff, practice, write the answers in a certain way and go out successful. There is no point hanging around and philosophising. And none of them thought of being an entrepreneur, doing social work, excelling in their own fields and so on. They clung to this exam and are theorizing about reasons to do so. Its as if they themselves are not convinced about the reason of being here. They all will end up as failures." 

"How do you know Mishraji? How can you judge others like that?" Sharmaji asked. 

Mishraji took a while to finish his cigarette. He didn't speak. He threw the butt on the ground, rubbed it under his feet and started walking. He stopped, looked around at Sharmaji and said, 
"Because Sharmaji, I was just like them." 

Friday, December 10, 2010


Just wanted to inform the junta that I figure in the supplementary lits of successful candidates for civil services main exam 2008. I don't just figure there  but 'top' that list. A lot of comments on my earlier blogs asked me this question and I believe it's my duty to reply. Hence this post. The 51st one.
The supplementary list was released by UPSC a few months ago. The description of the list was in a pdf file, in comic sans font, mocking the entire idea of success. Anyway, the names were in Times new roman and I sucked unto it when I saw my name topping the list. 
So, based on the helpful hints from my fellow supplementary candidates, I came to know that I will land up with a service that's called Indian Trade Service, ITS. I am awaiting the service allocation by DoPT.
Have been wondering how this would sound. K.V.Tirumala, ITS. 
A private joke between me and my Punjabi biwi is that T stands for Tatta. Whatever it means.
Anyway, my job in private sector is going well. Airbus is an excellent organization to work for when it comes to challenges at work and balance between work and life. Tough things to provide to an employee, especially for the ones like me and I found Airbus a good place to be.
Someone in Sansad bhavan, upper house, asked the PM when would these supplementary people get their jobs that's due to them for years. The answer was, we are following due procedure and in due time it will be done. 
And so I wait, in the meantime, for the due babus to take due action and roll the due procedure so that some dues to me in life are set right. Will keep you posted. 


Sunday, October 25, 2009

In retrospect....

A difference in time and place can help one gain different perspective on things and events. I never thought I would ever revisit this blog, atleast not this soon. Anyway, here I am.
I am months away from the time Civil services meant everything to me and I am thousands of kilometers away from Jia Sarai, sitting in increasingly cold weather of Hamburg in Germany. I have been seeing quite an amount of world in Europe recently and that puts things in perspective for me. I just want to say, in retrospect, nothing matters.
I spent a lot of time wondering why I didn’t make it to civil services. I thought I will carry the burden of this failure all my life and will never get over this. In fact, that’s the reason why I never dared to visit this blog.
That’s not so. I moved on. Quite well to my own surprise, I must say. In retrospect it looks so stupid of me to even think that I failed. I now look back with a smile at this blog and wonder what I was upto at jia sarai. It must have been fun while it lasted.
So, I decided to visit this blog once more and let all those who are attempting this exam know that in the long run it doesn’t matter. Great if you succeed, greater still if you don’t. You will get a chance to see the world, like I am doing right now. And you will enjoy it all the same. I now work in the field of aerospace with one of the biggest aeroplane makers in world, and I am proud to be an engineer.


P.S: There was one more reason why I wanted to write this one last post on this blog. This post will take the total number of posts on this blog equal to 50. That's a nice sum to round up and retire. All the best

Friday, May 22, 2009


I struggled with the algebraic loop. Somewhere the logic was wrong. Matlab/simulink cannot tackle algebraic loops properly. I was getting restless in office. There was something that bothered me in the back of my mind. Is it the air-conditioner? Or is it the irritation at not being able to move at this step of performance check. It was looping in the mind, avoiding direct cognition.

Then it struck. It was the feeling that I didn’t make it to the list of successful candidates in civil services exam. I thought I had tackled and buried the ghost of it in the one week period after the results came. But it doesn’t look like I have done it completely. It loops inside. It nags. Sometimes I know it’s nagging, and sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, it irritates.

I feel like L K Advani. A man who fought and lost and has no more time left to take one more shot at it. He is old. So am I, in a different way. The difference is that I still have more than 30 years to fight out in life. He doesn’t. If this is how much failure hurts me, I cannot imagine how Mr. Advani is feeling.

This post is not to grieve over Mr. Advani’s defeat. It’s about me. It’s about how I failed and how I am coping with it. Biwi corrects me every time I say that I failed. She says “You didn’t qualify, that’s all, and you didn’t ‘fail’.” One way or the other, it means I am not in the list of selected candidates. I scored 1173 out of 2300. And I heard they took guys who scored above 1175.

My fling at the exam began with my intention to do something more than what I was doing. I was doing what I loved doing. Designing and developing products for the industry. I was doing that for 3.5 years after my engineering. I thought I could design better policies and help in developing India in a better way. I felt I can be a scriptwriter in the success story of making of a modern India in a globalized world. That’s ‘why’ I quit my job to take up a career in civil services. I quit when I was doing extremely well in the industry.

When I started, I always dreamt about what I would do once I am a civil servant. I failed the first time. That’s when things changed. Thereafter, I was more concerned about how to clear this exam than about what I would do once I have done so. The question as to ‘why’ I wanted to be a civil servant was relegated to some back corner of my mind. It was the exam and it was me. Years rolled by. Until this happened. I was too old for this exam and out of attempts.

I am back in industry. Doing what I do best. Luckily for me, I had added few months of experience while preparing and had found my life partner. Rather, my life partner found me while I was preparing for this exam. Either way, we got married. And now we have a baby girl. By the time the results came, my life was busier than ever. There was not much time to look back and grieve. And Biwi was there to support me.

I am doing reasonably well in the industry now. My career is progressing well. Biwi and baby are fine. Life has changed. Priorities have changed. And I am moving on.

Bulleting back from work, in the chaotic traffic of Bangalore, when I switch off my Bullet at signals, and look around and see fellow techies, I realize that I am now one of them. The job, the workload, project deadlines, cafeteria, cubicle, bitching about the HR policies and the wait for the next weekend. It’s all there. However, there’s one difference.

I had the courage to risk it all. I once did. I lost the bet. And I know that I have the courage to build my dreams once more. Brick by brick, I will build. I believe this is my takeaway from this exam, where I didn’t, ‘qualify’.


I have changed the logic, and now the model is without algebraic loop. And it’s working fine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My marks: Total 1173


Saturday, April 04, 2009

The song continues...

I was in Jia sarai for the interview. I stayed with Rahgu and Ravi. Ravi is working with an upcoming internet site in the field of marketing. He sells a site called to the coaching institutes. He asks them to advertise on the site. With a name like that, I, for once, wouldn't if i ran a coaching institute. 
Raghu, an ex IBM employee is now preparing for civil services. He quit his job and came here. 
Ravi and Raghu smoke like chimneys. My nicotine level automatically increased to their levels when in their room as they smoked inside. I didn't mind as i too was once a smoker. 
Ravi is the leanest person i have ever seen. Bare bones and skin, no muscles. In the morning, he was flexing himself. As ravi is from koraput dist of orissa, I took a dig that he is a living proof of the poverty level in his district. He countered saying that he is a karate expert. I bought it as that's the only sport where you can get away even with a lean body. And there was no reason to disbelieve. 
Anyway, I walked around Jia Sarai. I met some old faces. The shops were the same. The faces too. Just that somehow i was finding it difficult to relate myself to all that. It was difficult for me to believe that i stayed in the hellhole for so long. The stinking latrine in the building almost made me puke and the bath too was not different. When i was here, i never cared. 
The filth on the lanes is the same. It doesn't matter to anyone. It didn't to me once upon a time. 
Ravi got me a bottle of baba ramdev brand hair oil and shampoo in the evening. He told me that it would help me stop hairfall. Well, neat way to say that i am losing hair. We boozed the night after interview. Boozed a lot. Mishra ji joined us. With his stories of his friends who had succeeded in the previous years. Only that those friends do not recognize him any longer. 
Many of my friends who prepared with me have left the place. Some made it, most didn't. None died in the process though.
The song continues, the dark bylanes sing the blues. Of failures, of successes, of the hunt, of the hunters, of those who dreamt, those who aspired and those who still stay there. With the fire in their hearts, to warm those winter nights when chai sutta alone cannot keep one warm. To urge one to go on with their preparations. To never give up. I was once there. Living my dream. 

My Last Civil Services (UPSC) interview

I was in Delhi a day before the interview. Jia sarai had not changed physically but the number of students preparing for civil services exam had considerably come down. 
I got Mr. K K Paul's board in the interview. The interview didn't go well. The chairman started by telling me that i have lost age advantage and went on to ask questions about evolution and history of civil services in India, a dark area in my knowledge base. Anyway, here are the questions I was asked this time:

Chairman: You passed out from college in 2002, this is 2009, what were you doing after that.
- I recounted my experience from wipro, infosys and eaton after college and told that I am working currently in aerospace industry in the field of actuation and control systems as a senior engineer with a leading aerospace organization.
Chairman: What is your nature of work?
- I explained
Chairman: You have already crossed the age limit for civil services and I don't think you will grow to the highest level of civil services with the remaining number of years of service. Why then should you come into the services?
- I gave an elaborate explanation
Chairman: Ok, then tell me about the evolution of civil services in India.
 - I somehow tackled it. But I was very poor with facts here
Chairman: You don't seem to know much about history. Do you atlest know something about Bhagat Singh? 
Chairman: Tell me why Bhagat Singh was arrested? Where? 
Chairman: What is the difference between UPSC and other commissions like Human rights commission, competition commission etc?
 - I answered these questions but not to the satisfaction level of the chairman (I might have read him wrong....hope so)
Then chairman gave it over to other members
Member 1: Why did you take Pali as an optional?
Member 1: Can Pali be used to understand Indus valley civilization? How does it help?
Member 1: Do you blog? (my hobby). What do you blog?
Member 1: What is 2x, 3x, 5x in pyschology? (I didn't know this)
Member 2: Do you read MS Swaminathan's articles? What does he say about the level of food consumption coming down an all that. By what value it has come down in last decade as per his view?(I didn't know). 
Member 2: What is the population density of India?
Member 2: How would you compare the density of India with China? Which is higher and by how much?
Member 2: What do you know about Biofuels? Do you think it will solve the fuel problem in India? What is your opinion on it?
Member2: Did Buddha believe in God? Did Buddha think that God is required to attain Nirvana?
Member 3: If Pali is interesting as you said, then so is maths? Why didn't you then take mathematics?
Member 3: When did the Fort williams college operate in India? For how long?
Member 3: How do you ensure that the facts that you read are authentic? (he asked me this as one of my answers was wrong and upon asking where did i read it, I told him that i don't remember but it must be in one of the books)
Member 3: If a student is doing a project in which he has to refer internet, what suggestion would you give in order to ensure that he uses only authentic material?
Member 4: What is G20? Is India a member or an invitee? Why are they meeting this week and where?
Chairman: Your interview is over now. You can leave. 
I got up and wishes all the board members a nice day. Only one board member replied by saying that you too have a nice day.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When it rains, it pours. That's what is happening to me. I got more than one job offer and finally joined an organization in the field of aerospace actuation systems (so clever of me, I skipped the name!). 
Then the doctor told that we might expect the baby to arrive on 1st of april. The kid must be like me, looking at the expected arrival date. 
Then UPSC declared the results of mains. I qualified. 
And then I got the letter from UPSC. My interview is scheduled on 30th of March, followed by a medical test on the following day. Now, that means a lot of things. It might so happen that I am out there attending the interview and the medical test while biwi delivers the baby. I want the interview to be over before the baby comes. I am afraid the baby might come out and say "What pa, you still writing exams!!"
But that's not the major worry. The probability that i might have to stay away from biwi during the most important moment of our lives seems high and that makes me worry. It's pure 'emosanal atyachar'. 
Anyway, lot of probabilities playing in my life. I caught sinus yesterday. In fact, i thought i had caught cold and when the doctor called out 'SINUS', I was afraid. I had heard that word from many and i always thought that sinus problem is only for unhealthy sickos who don't exercise. Biwi was very happy. She had predicted that I had sinus and her prediction had come true. She was happy for the prediction. She did a little jig outside the doctor's room and said "Dekha, I told you that you had sinus". She didn't know how hard i had to suffer to make her happy about her prediction. Incidentally, the doctor too mentioned the same medicines that biwi had prescribed. That boosted biwi's confidence "I could have been a doctor", she muttered to herself. 
Anyway, with my busy schedule at office, I don't have any time to prepare for interview. I now believe that "You cannot prepare for a personality test, it's just a measure of what you are, and you are not built in a day or week"
That thought is so soothing. 
I am on leave today from office. So thought of taking out some relevant stuff and read. And then i thought i should blog. I have mentioned it under the hobby/interest list in the mains application form. And that's how this blog popped into the world. Rather in this season i must say, I 'delivered' the blog.