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Komal Panwar

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This Quintessential ‘Sharma Ji Ki Beti’ Tells Us How She Managed To Crack UPSC In Her First Attempt

  • IWB Post
  •  March 2, 2017


Every parent, at some point in their life, has wanted their kid to be an IAS officer. The thought of taking that path could be like walking on fire for many of us.

IAS ki padhai humare bas ki nahi hai! And, while we try as hard as possible to stay far away from the heavy GS books of UPSC, there are others who continue to ace the exams and manage to clear it in their first attempt. Do you know who they are?

Sharma ji ke bachhe! I caught up with the quintessential Sharma ji ki beti, Arushi Sharma, CSE 2015, AIR-292, to see how she was doing it differently. *wink*

Well, mom, you were right, Sharma ji ke bachho ko finally dekh liya.

Me: 3 IAS prep stereotypes that you shattered during your prep time?

Arushi: The thing about stereotypes is that they are meant to be broken! I came across so many of them during my preparation that it became almost impossible to keep count of them. My most favorite ones that I think I did a good job with breaking included:

You need to become a social pariah to clear UPSC: I had my friends and family with me all the way, I don’t think I could have done it without them.img_1

“You study just 6 to 8 hours daily, there is no way you can clear the exam till it’s at least a 12 or 14!”: Wait, what?! I am just a human being, not a robot.

It is tough to clear the exam in your first attempt: Well, it really isn’t. People should stop spending so much time being scared of the exam and just start preparing!

Me: How did you land on the decision of attempting UPSC?

Arushi: There is a joke in our family that the day I was born my dad’s first sentence was not “it’s a girl” but rather “She will become an IAS officer.” I guess that was somewhere in my subconscious.

 When I came back home in August of 2014, I was an engineer who had decided to skip her college placements. So I was jobless, staying with my parents and trying to find a job in a field I had very limited experience in: the social sector. I had decided towards working for this area, thanks to my 6-month internship in a social sector enterprise in Bangalore. I searched hard but could not find any suitable job coming my way. I knew I had to work in the social sphere, just exactly how was not clear. At that time, I was reading a civil servant’s autobiography, and the thought of attempting UPSC struck me. The rest is history!

Me: What social restrictions do you have to comply with for being an IRS officer? We recently spoke to one who said that getting drunk at a party is a no-no now!

Arushi: I do believe that the social restrictions you should ever have to comply with are the ones you put on yourself. The only difference that I have noticed in my life since I became an IRS officer is that now when I speak, people sit up to listen. My opinion on anything and everything matters. And we all know, with great power comes great responsibility! So yes, acting responsible is absolutely necessary.

Me: Talk about the fun at your training session in Mussoorie?

Arushi: Oh, Mussoorie was, most undoubtedly, THE most amazing time of my life! The foundation course (FC) is literally like living 3 years of your life in 3 months. A normal day would begin at 5:45 a.m and stretch till 12 a.m easily. I felt like I was in school all over again. I participated in debates, performed a play, attended lectures by the who’s who of the country, went on a Himalayan trek, lived in a village amidst the villagers for a week, danced in DJ nights and to top it all, lived in Mussoorie – the queen of hills! So yes, it did seem like the fruit of all the hard work that we put in to clear the civil service exam.


Me: What’s more to that picture of Yoga at McLeodganj?

Arushi: Haha! There is more than meets the eye. The picture was clicked after a whirlwind of events, and I still managed to strike a pose. Right before that picture, my friends and I had been stranded in torrential rain for almost 2 hours. 4 people trying to cover themselves under 1 umbrella, in the middle of the jungle! Finally, we were rescued by a tempo that had come in our direction to carry wood. The picture was clicked after he dropped us close to a nearby cafe where we nicely dried up


Me: I can see your love for sarees in the pictures? How many did you get from your mother’s wardrobe?

Arushi: My mom will be so happy to read this question. Right before I left for training, I flicked an entire suitcase of my mom’s sarees. So any saree that you have seen me wear, at any point, is one of my mom’s sarees. She is still quite upset that I took away all her nice sarees!


Me: “The fool didn’t know it was impossible, so he did it,” is a quote your story is inspired from? Tell us more about the fool.

Arushi: Yes! I absolutely love this quote, and after clearing Civils in my first attempt, I can relate to it as well. It makes you feel like a winner when all the odds are against you.

I am really bad at “tell us more about yourself” questions so I m going to go right ahead and use my Quora bio here! 

“I am 25. I can’t really drive. I love creating archives. I try to listen only to my internal drive. I can sing the entire Mambo no.5. I know how to dive. For happiness, I strive. I cannot dance the jive. Old friendships I love to revive. Quick wit and creativity make me alive. Trying in life to thrive!” 

Such creative spurts happen to me rarely.

Me: Talk about your study circle during the IAS prep.

Arushi: I was lucky to find a few close-minded people during my prep time at my coaching. Most of our conversations through my prep time were discussions on current affairs, cribbing about the UPSC syllabus, making strategies for the next test we had to face and discussing our optional subjects. They were a great support system for me. Rather I would strongly recommend that anyone who is preparing for Civils should have such a close group of friends who are all preparing together; it helps in getting through the hard days.

Me: …and your cheat days?

Arushi: They were more like “reward days” for me! After achieving a particular target that I had set aside for a week, I would hang around Connaught Place with my friends or go eat a nice meal at a fancy restaurant or watch a movie. You have to have such days to avoid burn out.img_6

Me: 3 things you need to walk in with to be able to clear the exam?

Arushi: Confidence in yourself and the Universe. Optimism. And at least two pens to write your answers (If you are writing mains, make it 4).

Me: One UPSC moment when you wanted to give up?

Arushi: When I scored poorly on my first prelims mock test. I still remember how bad I felt looking at my name in the 65th percentile. I had been extremely disciplined for the 6 months preceding that test. I had worked really hard and studied my mind off. I was expecting an easy 90th percentile, so seeing my name down those sheets was a real shocker. I was devastated, heartbroken and extremely skeptical about clearing the exam. I thought I wouldn’t even clear the prelims let alone get a rank. But then, as they say, success is all about getting up from failure one more time. So, I spent an entire day sulking, watched a few episodes of The Simpsons (this was my favorite cheat time during my civils prep), realized that life is not to be taken so seriously, woke up the next morning and again got back to making newspaper notes!


Me: Long-term goals for the future?

Arushi: As of now, I m only focussing on my training. It keeps me so busy that I hardly get time to think about anything else. But yes, on some free days, I do imagine myself as a crazy cool IRS officer going around busting tax evaders. Hoping that dream becomes a reality.

Photo Source: Arushi’s Facebook

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