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UPSC is the most coveted civil service exams in the country. We had our reporters ask this year’s UPSC 2nd topper Athar Aamir-ul-Shafi Khan some tough questions, and he answered them with such elan.
Sep 25, 2018 at 00:00

Q: Do you think maintaining a distance from social networking sites helps while preparing for UPSC, or other competitive exams?

Well, I did not maintain a distance from social networking websites, I used them, but not excessively. Social media or social networking must never become a source of wasting your precious time, we may chat with our friends and spend a little time on our socials but, what must be kept in mind, is that we must not cross that fine line and start misusing social networking sites.

Q: What do you think are the positive implications of social media?

Social media stands as an important and independent source of information for the youth of today. It helps people develop opinions, give their feedback to the social issues, government problems, schemes and policies of the government and thus it becomes a very important means of empowerment of the people as well.

However, as an individual, one must not forget to prioritise and not overuse social media. A right balance is the key!

Q: How does it feel to have cleared UPSC twice in a row, considering its pass percentage of 0.1-0.3%

It's a matter of great pleasure and happiness, I really feel blessed, not only because this is an extremely prestigious service but also because the kind of opportunities and possibilities, that come your way as you join the service, are immense.  Also, the immense diversity in the kind of work you do and the kind of responsibilities you hold, make the feeling, all the more wonderful.

Q: After appearing for your exams, were you confident about the positive results or did you have nervous jitters?

I was fairly confident that I would be in the top 50 or maybe top 100, but I had never imagined that I would secure the second position. Perhaps, the scale of the competition is such, that it becomes really difficult to predict the rank that one would score, and thus the results really took me by surprise.

Q:What is the one advice that you would give to other aspirants?

The only advice that I would like to give is that, there are no shortcuts to success and that hard work is the only key. All the while, one must also understand where to put in the hard work, one must not work mindlessly but be mindful of every second that they spend. It is of utmost importance, while preparing for UPSC or any other examination, to have a strategy and a study plan. Also, time is of the essence, and therefore one must carefully use this resource while preparing for UPSC.

Q: Students are often advised that it is impossible to prepare for UPSC while pursuing a degree or doing a job, do you think this is true?

No, this is absolutely not the case, there are many examples, where people have cleared UPSC while working in a corporate firm or while pursuing their degree course. Yes, the UPSC course is extremely wide and it takes a good amount of time to cover it, it doesn't necessarily mean that one should drop everything else.  What must be kept in mind is, that whatever time one can manage to take out from their daily routine, must be spent in preparation.

Q: What was your routine while you were preparing for UPSC?

My routine varied, while I was still an engineering student, I had to devote time to my regular studies as well, but once I was done with my graduation, I could give more time to the UPSC preparation. However, I did not miss out on playing games, hanging out with my friends, watching movies, or listening to music, I opted for a balanced approach.

Q: What inspired you to  become a civil servant?

My grandfather has been my biggest inspiration. He is an illiterate farmer, but his hard work and his passion for education and educating others has always inspired me. While I was still pursuing my graduation, I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to become and how I wanted my future to be, that is when I realised that I wanted to be a civil servant. The service itself is an inspiration in the kind of responsibilities and the opportunities that it provides.

Q: What are some of your hobbies and how did you take out time for them while you were preparing for UPSC?

Some of my hobbies include trekking, reading, fiction especially; I like to write and I love listening to music.

As I said earlier, I opted for a balanced approach, if I had dedicated eight hours to studies, I would study for that duration religiously, but afterwards, I would always find time to read a few pages of a book or write a few lines, or listen to a song. I made sure that I stayed in touch with my hobbies, which refreshed my mind after a strenuous study session.

Q: Do you feel that the civil services are a better career option than the private sector?

I don't think it is fair to compare, one is as important as the other, and their roles are equally important as well. Moreover, each individual should chose a career path that motivates them the most, without any bias about a particular sector. Both, the civil services and the private sector, have their pros and cons, ultimately it depends upon the individual and their personal preference.

Q: What role do you think a parent should play in order to help their child, while they prepare for UPSC?

First and foremost, the parents must not thrust their choice of  a particular career path, that they deem appropriate, upon the child. The child should be given the freedom and space to explore their own interests and inclinations, and then choose and a career path for themselves.

Also, the parents must support their children morally as well. They must instil an assurance in their child that they would love them, when they get a good result and even when they get a bad result. No child should feel that their parents would love them less, if they score poorly in a test or an examination, and it's the parents' duty to make sure of that.

Q: What difference do you want to bring about  through your work and how important is it for you, to bring about that change?

There are a lot of changes that I hope to bring about, through my work. What irks me the most is, that unfortunately there is a huge communication gap between the people and the administration. I aspire to bridge this gap, and make it possible for the people to come up to the administration with their problems and get a solution. We need to transform democracy from mere procedures to more participation from the people, where everybody has a stake in the core government's process. Furthermore, we have issues like corruption, red tapism etc. where a lot can be done by the administration. 

Q: What is the one thing that you would like to tell our readers?

Always be inquisitive! Be an eager learner, keep learning about newer things. If someone tells you that IAS is a good career option, don't believe them, find out for yourself, never let the thirst for knowledge die. And once you have set your heart on something, give it your best shot. Leave no stone unturned and you will surely achieve success.


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