Thursday, December 27, 2012

Preparation: Some Personal Reflections

Strategies apart there are times when studying and preparing for the civil services can really take a toll on you, emotional, physical and mental.  So I thought I would share some thoughts on what I went through during the preparation. I don’t know if this will be useful, but I just felt like writing. Partly to relieve the nostalgia of my days of struggle, partly to just write and hopefully to inspire.

 I began my preparation with all earnestness in October 2008, two months after I got my degree from the Chief Justice of India. I came to Delhi to attend coaching classes at Vajiram and Ravi for General Studies and for Public Administration from Synergy. I had decided that since I did not take up a job and wanted to do this full time, I may as well take up coaching. (However as a disclaimer considering this blog is read by aspirants I want to make it clear that coaching helps but is not a necessity, as there are many who without coaching get though the exam)

 Further, the fact that my father lived in Delhi helped plus the fact that my closest friends from Law School were in the same city.  So with all earnestness and a lot of luck I got admissions in Vajiram and Ravi (after standing in the queue for about two hours in a line that stretched to two blocks and after a friend called at 3 AM in the morning telling me to hurry and get to Old Rajinder Nagar because people had started standing in the queue from 12 AM). Nowadays the admission process is simpler, being online.

So I based myself out of ORN taking a house near Shankar Road.  My days in Old Rajinder Nagar in Delhi would begin typically by reading the newspapers the first thing in the morning. Tea and breakfast would accompany newspaper reading. I can still recall the fresh smell on print ink from the pages of The Hindu and The Indian Express. For me this was the best part of the day because unlike text books, the newspaper had always something interesting to say. Interspersed between the pages were ads for coaching classes, tiffin services both North Indian Food and South Indian. I read the newspaper hungrily trying to grasp whatever information I could get.  At first I would even take cuttings, based on what the syllabus prescribed and also on what I felt important. However after a point this got tedious and tiresome and I soon found out that I lot of time went in this laborious task. Studying economics for the GS paper and being reminded on the concept of marginal utility reinforced this point and so I stopped taking newspaper cuttings, instead maintaining a small notebook where I jotted important facts in brief. So about an hour of newspaper reading and then the mornings from about three hours I spent studying law, reading Shukla and Starke and the bare acts – the Contract Act.  My studying would involve reading the text books and then making my own notes after about two readings based on the previous years question papers. In my time, Prelims exam still had optional papers so I first covered those portions of the syllabus which was common to the Prelims and Mains syllabus.

After lunch, my classes would begin in Vajiram at 2:30 and then from there I would again rush to Karol Bagh after 4:30, to just make it to class at 5:00 PM at Synergy with Mohanty. Being late and considering the enormous size of the classes I would end up sitting in the backseat.  It was difficult at first to concentrate, but after a few days I began to love to last benches. It gave me a sense of anonymity I felt and also a bird’s eye view of the entire class. I could concentrate better, thinking to myself that the words uttered by the teacher took a longer time to reach me and hence digested better in my head. The fact that my friend H, also sat with me helped because we could chat or laugh to rid ourselves of the monotony sometimes.

Then I would be back in time for dinner, tired and exhausted. After dinner it was impossible to get down to books again but in my head I tried to recall and revise some of the things that were taught in class, going through the thick spiral notepads, which everyone in ORN seemed to possess. 
This went on for about six months with classes ending in March.  I was tired after the coaching was over, but this was only the groundwork and there was more to come. I kept telling myself the civil service exams was like a marathon and till now I had only done the ground work, the  warm up exercise which an athlete has to necessarily do. The first race was still two months away in May, the elimination round and I was happy that I still had two months to prepare.

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