As I was reading the article by Subhashree before publishing, the cliched quote came flashing in my mind,”Winners never quit and quitters never win”. Yes, surely, but success always comes the hard way in life !.
Read a captivating story of her life in her very own words.
“I was always a child who wished to paint the canvas of my life with my own set of colours, yet life can throw up strange and unpredictable circumstances for people of all ages. Unannounced death of my parents made me somewhat resilient and aware of the harsh realities of life. However, amongst all the commotion, I always found a reason to smile.
It was the hope at the bottom of the Pandora box.
Apart from studying, I found solace in dancing, sports, writing and voracious reading.
Ongoing financial constraints meant that my adolescence was far from normal. Without the support of my elder siblings, the transition wouldn’t have been possible. My effort towards tutoring little girls in Odissi and a teaching stint helped me learn financial discipline from a far younger age.
Though I assume, I’m supposed to speak about my success, yet I also prefer to cite instances where I erred.
After twelfth, I dropped a year to prepare for what I thought I was meant to be, a doctor. During my AIl India Pre-Medical Test mains, I knew I hadn’t done my best. This realization, instead of pushing me for an aggressive performance in the State Entrance test, led me towards an under confident attempt which showed up later as a narrow escape from the qualifying list.
Lesson 1- To assume a victory before a war is a big mistake but still a bigger mistake is to assume defeat before fighting it.
Struck by my own failure and ego, I joined engineering. Those four years might not have metamorphosed me into a bright engineer but it did expand my horizon and skills. To quickly pay off my educational loans, improvise myself for future dreams and be a company to my differently abled sister, I took up a job with TCS in Bhubaneswar.
In between the job, I was beginning to be sure that this was not where I could see myself years down the lane. Awareness, ambitions and urge to work on a bigger, diverse platform and make a direct difference in the lives of the people had swelled my desire to join the Government Administration. I failed in my initial attempts and quit my job realising that my preparation needed a full time focus.
Lesson 2: Always have a realistic analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.
With whatever I had summed up financially and with the biggest support of encouragement from my brother, I began the task of preparing for the exam “UPSC, Civil Services”.
As I was taking my first mains, my health condition was pitiable. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (which still haunts me intermittently) which meant unbearable pain in the neck, shoulder, back and a tennis elbow. Half my day was spent taking physiotherapy sessions so that I could study the other half of the day and take the exam eventually. As luck would have it, I missed the cut off by a single score.
Lesson 3: Health is a very big priority when you are preparing yourself towards realizing greater goals.
The next year I had prepared myself well. Regular physiotherapy and medical attention had taught me to manage health and studies. I had set up a disciplined lifestyle for myself. Most of my lessons were also audio-taped just in case I fell sick like earlier and couldn’t sit-up and study. I had even decided to flee to Delhi like other aspirants for a better chance at winning. My dwindling cash, half spent on my medical needs, led me to join MA in Sociology in JNU. JNU meant an economically viable place, healthy environment and safe for women campus (though I continued borrowing from my brother). Just before leaving for Delhi and the UPSC mains, the state PSC declared the dates for its mains. I was reluctant to take it, afraid about a different pattern and use up my little available time before the larger UPSC mains examination. A push from my brother’s friend (my mentor and guide) and God knows what good sense prevailed, I was convinced to stay back and take the state civil services examination conducted by OPSC.
Lesson 4: Always design a good backup plan.
Right before the UPSC exams, some un-precedented situation and my constant involvement in them under my social obligations took away the little available time I had to give in the best shot.
Lesson 5: Your career is always your own responsibility. Stand up for the cause.
To my relief, God’s grace and perhaps ongoing efforts all the while, I had made it into the penultimate stage – the interview. But every step has its own challenges. May be I wasn’t as focussed, or failed to prepare in the right direction, I knew my interview had not tested me to my fullest potential. When the final list was out, my name was missing. The published mark sheet revealed disheartening marks in the interview leading to a few marks short of the final cut off despite a good performance in the written round. May be a few extra marks could have covered the losses of the interview.
Lesson 6: Success demands unadulterated dedication.
In between, I had shocking revelations and utter chaos in my personal life. I was never prepared for this eventuality. My mind was preoccupied with anxiety, stress and depression at the same time. I tried hard to focus on the next prelims exam, but concentration was a luxury with little peace of mind. Consequently I failed the next year right at level 1.
Lesson 7: It’s important to focus on the vitals of life.
Towards the fag end of the year, I knew my life was totally in a mess. Failed, lost and lone in the huge JNU campus abound with people and beauty of nature, I felt lonely in the crowd.
I had very wilfully put my exams in the backseat. The result was obvious.
Until 2017 i.e. the earliest I could succeed in the UPSC examination, I had nothing I could look forward to.
As God sometimes brings miracles along or perhaps even a reward of past efforts, OPSC had its list out shortlisted for interview despite an ongoing litigation in the high court. I knew the opportunity was God sent. My brother called me over to Pune with all my belongings to study under his supervision and vigilance.
He put in all his efforts to see me through this time. We sat up late at nights (though he had to wake up early), practising answers, discussing current affairs and deliberating on issues.
As I came back to Cuttack, I ran about for my mock interviews etc, interacting and taking guidance from seasoned bureaucrats.
My interview was an utter delight. My gut feeling said, my answers couldn’t be better. They had the necessary clarity of thought, speech and opinion. Composure and agility of thought helped me remain confident and display tact while answering the interview board.
A few days later, I had my name read aloud by people in newspapers and wishes came pouring in from all factions.
Lesson 8: Nothing can beat the desperation to win. You just need to leave no stone unturned.
I have narrated every bit of my life (almost). This is because success is not a single factor theory. It needs managing everything unequivocally — your strengths, objectives and efforts and right upto your apprehensions, fears, health concerns and unforeseen, uncontrolled setbacks.
I have never had an easy life right from the start. Yet God’s grace has always dawned upon me during clamorous times. Even during my preparation I was always in a situation where I had to handle responsibilities, troubleshoot problems and make things work.
I have loved myself for being inclined to laugh at my troubles and retain my jovial personality despite it all.
Had I given up, it might have been a reasonable response as a result of everything I had encountered. But I never wanted to be defeated by my challenges. Challenges were the building blocks of my personality. It would only hurt my self-esteem as a person and as a woman.
I know I succeeded because I fought it all, but I feel I failed too because I haven’t yet reached as far as I had initially set out for. But these feelings don’t just make me a human; these feelings also fuel my ambitions.