Two Slaps on the Face of Repeat Civil Services Aspirants

I shall make this short because I am behind schedule on my padhai, and appear to be blogging more than studying these days which is not good so close to prelims. Anyway…

The first slap was smacked right across my face figuratively speaking by Pratap Bhanu Mehta and company; specifically, the editors of the book Rethinking Public Institutions in India. I was perusing the book’s introduction section on the internet, debating whether to buy it as it may prove useful in my optional subject, political science. Then I came across one line which made me decide quite firmly against buying this book no matter what, and the line was as follows-

Changes in the design of official recruitment policies have led to an apparent reduction in the quality of entrants to the IAS, perhaps the result of an increase in the maximum age and number of attempts needed to pass the exam.

As a 25 year old candidate, preparing for her fourth attempt at the civil services exam, benefiting, so to speak, from both the higher age limit and the increased number of attempts, you can imagine how much this sentence stung. Thanks ever so much, Devesh Kapur, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Milan Vaishnav. Just the dose of encouragement I needed. For the record, if the quality of the new crop of civil servants is not always up to the mark, I blame the filter that sifts them through, not the candidates themselves.

The second slap was less stinging, and to be honest was less a slap and more like a wry commentary from the universe at my bemusing situation. Rumours are afloat that UPSC plans to make public the marks of unsuccessful candidates in the civil services exam so that the deserving ones can procure employment elsewhere on the strength of their marks. I shared this information with my father and he voiced my thoughts exactly-

“So what does this mean? You get to boast to potential employers that look how brilliant I am–I only failed by 10 marks, or I only failed by 5 marks, is that it?”

“Yup, it’s a travesty.”





Posted in Exam Diaries | Leave a comment

On the Difference Between Men and Women

Youtube’s comment sections drives you to the edge of insanity for myriad reasons, but chief among them is the blatant ignorance that is masqueraded so proudly as “my personal opinion to be honest”.

So I was on Youtube sometime last month, wasting away the one limited life I have per usual, when one commentator pointed out a valid fact-

Yes, sorry but it is just nature, men tend to be stronger both physically and mentally, I know there are exceptions and the people who have excelled or done anything great deserve recognition and respect, but the general trend still is the general trend, so I will ask you: Why do you think we got the traditional roles of men working and women in the house?

The answer is simple, it got naturally stablished, it is not like men just decided to do it and women just decided to do what they were told to, people were happy back then and I won’t deny there was certainly some domestic abuse, but that model was natural and society progressed in that way, it it just natural to have those views.

So in conclusion I can tell you that men tend to be stronger and while exceptions exists that is the truth.

To which I replied thusly-

The stark contrast between the duties of men and women was definitely “naturally” established in ancient times. But it is wrong to conclude that the difference between men and women is therefore “natural”. The actual difference between any oppressor and subjugated is of TECHNOLOGY.

All of history is witness to the fact that the conqueror possessed better technology than the conquered, be it guns, biological weapons, ships etc. Once the other side got hold of same or better technology, the difference vanished. Today women have access to various technology like contraceptives, abortion, tampons, etc. which nullifies historical disadvantage, and renders them equal to men in all respects.

Except I don’t think he noticed or cared about my reply, but I feel that it’s terribly important that the world should know my opinion on the matter, and youtube flotsam is not a promising place for my opinions, so I have transferred said opinion to my blog. Yes yes I realize the irony of demolishing other people’s opinions only to voice my own, but…my blog, so deal with it.

Under that same video, but in a different comment, another enlightened soul took the pains to point out that-

Technology only does so much, and women in war are proven to not be as effective as men. Women in construction and other jobs as such still have a harder time simply because of nature. Physical strength tends to give advantage in many activities. I disagree that physical strength is irrelevant in work and war.

Which is again pretty valid. I did not bother replying to this particular comment on that video, but if I was going to, I would make the following three points-

  1. I question if prowess in war and fighting is something that anybody should even aspire to anymore, be it man or woman or anybody. 
  2. If brute physical strength is still a criteria in deciding success in any activity, that only means it is a failure of technology, not final proof of women’s inferiority.
  3. Brute physical strength continues to be valued in various activities like sports or war because it historically evolved that way. If nimbleness, dexterity, light-footedness or flexibility had been valued historically, women would clearly be enjoying the ‘physical advantage’ right now. Nothing is inherently inferior to something else, but thinking and valuing it as such makes it so.


Posted in Personal Musings | Leave a comment

The Real Reason Why The New French President’s Wife is Controversial

All these news outlets on the internet are waxing eloquent about female sexuality and patting themselves on the back for espousing such a progressive feminist cause and I am sat here face palming away. I tried to write to these news outlets about why they’ve got their concepts all wrong but no one was willing to publish my letters. Then it struck me that I have my own blog where I can write as much diatribe as I please on whatever I please, and I set out to do exactly that. I am trying not to think about how this post is most likely reaching a measly audience of five.

Anyway, here’s the crux of the issue. All these progressive news pieces are indignant about the double standard and public shaming employed against a much older wife, whereas much older husbands are usually lauded on their conquest of trophy wives.

These news pieces without fail are quick to make comparisons between Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron, both of whom share an age difference of nearly 24 years with their respective wives. Only difference is, Trump is older than his wife and Macron is younger than his wife. The progressives lament that no one put Trump under scrutiny for his age difference with his spouse, whereas the fact that Macron’s wife is under so much hostile scrutiny only points to the double standard in our society regarding male and female sexuality. Older women, they say, are thought to be sexually repulsive and undesirable. And that’s so unfair, they conclude righteously.

I agree with the theory wholeheartedly. What I don’t agree with is that this theory applies to Macron’s wife. And that is for two simple reasons –

  1. She courted Macron when he was a minor and she was a fully grown adult.
  2. She courted Macron when she was his school teacher and therefore responsible for protecting him from harm.

Why isn’t anyone focusing on these two disturbing facts? Why isn’t this upsetting bit of history focus of news instead of their perfectly acceptable present relationship? I know they are both older now and visibly happy in matrimony, but any adult sexually or romantically pursuing a minor is unacceptable and reprehensible. And that is the only reason why the age difference between Macron and wife is significant.

No one cares about her being attractive or not. Or, no one should care, anyway. And I don’t care two hoots about the age difference. Hell, I even thought Harold and Maude was a good movie. Also, I do believe the Macrons are entitled to privacy in their private lives. But if you are going to make such a hullabaloo about something, dear media, then at least pick the right cause.

Sometimes the mainstream media gets on my nerves over how they peddle an angle to a story which is more often than not, never the complete picture. It erodes my trust in them and it definitely erodes their credibility.

(I know I keep referring to her as the ‘wife’ and not by her name, that is intentional)


Posted in Personal Musings | Leave a comment

Dilbar Mere Kab Tak Mujhe Aise Hi Tadpaoge…

Continuing in this series of UPSC as my muse and me as the miffed lover, here’s another song that makes me think of my hopeless situation with the Civil Services exam every time I listen to it. Except, the song goes “ek din ayegaaa…pyar ho jayega…” but my mind automatically makes it “ek din ayegaaa…pass ho jayega…”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking I am a Kishore fan? Well sort of. I like Muhammad Rafi more though. Anyway, enjoy.

Posted in Songs of UPSC | Leave a comment

Gearing up for fourth attempt

It’s been more than a month since my soul crushing, dream shattering result came out. I have made my peace with it. Actually no, I have not made my peace with it. I should have cleared that exam. It’s really not a difficult exam to clear at all. That’s why I am giving myself an ultimatum. This is going to be my last attempt at it. I won’t sit for it again come what may. Four years of my life are enough to flush down the drain for this exam. If I don’t get through, I will accept it as a sign from the Universe that it wasn’t meant to be. I am a great fan of the Universe by the way. I have regular conversations with it on a daily basis as I tuck into bed ready for sleep. And this is what I have come to believe from all those enlightening conversations –

We are all made of stardust essentially. Billions of years ago there was a loud explosion and then particles accelerated to all corners of the unknowable abyss at unbelievable speeds to make what we know as the Universe. Those particles made up the stars and the moons and the Earth and the humans on that Earth. We are not only in the Universe, but I do believe we are the Universe.

“The Universe has a strange sense of irony in that we are the Universe experiencing itself. We are no more than a thought”

Every sentient being on this planet is simply a vehicle for the universe to experience its own glory. But the Universe is not content experiencing one story, it wants to experience every type of story there is. It wants to know what it feels like to be Mahatma Gandhi, Houdini, Che Guevara, Kate Middleton, Sonia Gandhi, or a Kaziranga rhino. The point is, the universe is omniscient and omnipresent, and we are but mere vehicles enabling its omnipresence. Whatever we think and feel in our lives, we are simply the instrument or vehicle enabling the Universe to know what it feels to be us.

The Universe doesn’t put in much thought to who gets to be which vehicle. At least, I don’t think so. It just randomly decides Kate Middleton gets to be the fairytale princess vehicle and Amal Clooney gets to be jet setting lawyer vehicle. With equal randomness, it has decided that I will get to be the eternal UPSC aspirant vehicle. The Universe was like, “I wonder what it feels like to fail civil services exam three times in a row.” And bam. It has been my sad lot to play out that experience for the Universe to savour.

I wouldn’t mind being this vehicle really. I love studying. My only problem is that this exam requires me to study the same books every year. It’s like I am in Class 11 or 12 at school, and I keep failing, and each year I have to drag out the same textbooks to read, even though I know them so well. In other words, I am in a rut.

That’s my only grudge against failing repeatedly. That I am making no progress in life. I am 25 years old in body, but I am still 21 years old in mind. Each year since I was 21 years old I have woken up in the morning, read my books dutifully, solved my practice questions diligently, and cursed that year’s UPSC topper ardently. That continues to be my fate this fifth year running. I have no other achievements or landmarks to show for these years gone by.

No more of this I tell you. This is my last attempt. If this fails, I am going to go do a PhD somewhere.

“of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these – it might have been!”

I don’t want to be a might have been civil servant. I’m going to give this my best shot yet.


Posted in Exam Diaries | Leave a comment

Taking stock of what I did for two months while waiting for mains result

I basically wasted away all my time, as evidenced by my previous blog posts on the subject. Rumours are adrift that tomorrow the 17th of February the result might finally be declared which means all my hopes can be shattered in the single click of a button or if the heavens are kind then my dream might have a fighting chance of realization after all.

Anyway, to feel like I wasn’t totally wasting my life these past two months, I thought I’d make this list – more to reassure myself than for anything else.

Books read-

  1. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  2. Readings, by Michael Dirda
  3. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  4. Green for Life, by Victoria Boutenka
  5. The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith
  6. The Scope for Happiness, by Vijay Laxmi Pandit
  7. Scrolls of Strife, by Pradipta Borgohain
  8. Conquering Heart Disease, by Harvey Simon

Movies watched-

  1. La la Land
  2. Florence Foster Jenkins (two times)
  3. The Fundamentals of Caring
  4. The Way Back
  5. Marmaduke
  6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (third time)
  7. Notting Hill (fourth time)
  8. Sense and Sensibility
  9. Unbroken
  10. The DUFF
  11. As Good As It Gets (nth time)
  12. Fukrey
  13. Sicario
  14. Daddy’s Home
  15. Ex-machina
  16. Annie
  17. The Godfather (second time)
  18. Zombieland
  19. Man Who Knew Infinity
  20. Pawn Sacrifice
  21. Braveheart
  22. Father of the Bride
  23. Hacksaw Ridge

TV shows binged-

  1. Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
  2. Veep
  3. Mom (a couple of seasons)
  4. Stranger Things
  5. House of Cards

Places visited-

  1. New Delhi
  2. Guwahati

Pizzas Eaten- 3

Hair masks experimented- 3

I guess not a bad use of a couple of months after all.


Posted in Personal Musings | 1 Comment

Aimless, listless drifting

I wake up at 7:30 am everyday. There’s too much activity around and I’m a private person. I don’t like anyone watching me sleep, even if it’s a glance in my direction. So I wake up when the maid is about to enter my room. Usually I’m pleased if I am able to jump out of bed when she enters the house, but at the very latest I jump out when she enters my room.

My first trip is to my study table to check my email and make sure UPSC did not release the result at night during my fitful sleep. Then I drift into the kitchen where my mother hands me my cup of tea – sweet and milky in the winters, light and black in the summers. I sit in the drawing room with that day’s Indian Express, just glancing through the headlines. I usually like ginger biscuits to dip into my tea, but my family has raided my stock, so today I have to settle for a Parle G which inevitably breaks and settles down in a lumpy mess at the bottom of my cup. Gross.

I put on my shoes to accompany mother on her morning walk. We leave the house with my sister, who has to walk a little to the end of our lane to catch her school bus. Mother and I proceed to the park and talk about how difficult it is to raise my sister, what with her tantrums and defiance. With my college-educated wisdom, I patiently give my mother tips on how to raise a difficult child. We do some stretches, pluck a few Tulsi leaves from the plant in the park, and return home.

My morning chores include making the beds and packing my parents’ lunches for work. It doesn’t sound like much, but takes up a half hour. I make my own breakfast – cheese tomato sandwich with olives and capsicum, and mustard and barbecue sauce. It’s quite delicious actually and I feel very healthy eating it. I think to myself that I want to transition to becoming vegan, for the sake of the environment, and it would be easy except I don’t know how to give up butter. Cheese I could still force myself to, but butter is life. I make sure to feel extra appreciation for the sandwich in my hand, which is buttered on both sides.

My parents leave for work, I shut the door behind them and go back to check my email for any word from UPSC. None. I think to myself what I should do. Invariably, I open Youtube. I scan through that day’s recommendations. They mostly consist of American talk shows with myriad celebrities, some UPSC prep videos with annoying toppers from last year, and beauty and lifestyle videos which are my shameful indulgence. I open my selection all in new tabs and settle down for the next hour to watch them each in turn. The American talk shows are funny these days on account of Trump. The UPSC prep videos are tired and repetitive. The lifestyle videos allow me to daydream of another world where I have all the time in the world to worry about my hair and my skin and what I eat and what I wear. I love my hair though, so I do take out time to take good care of it. It’s not the best hair in the world, there are more than a few greys on account of all the stress I’ve been under. But I love them locks.

I glance at the clock and it’s 12 noon. I’m a little hungry so I go raid the fridge. Our house is south facing so the balconies are always flooded in sunlight. I take my snack and go out to the balcony. I tie a scarf around my hair to protect it from the sun and sit down on the floor. For the next hour I think. I think about how great life will be in LBSNAA. I think about all the interviews I will give (and some which I will refuse) upon clearing the civil services. I try and draft a speech I will make to future aspirants and the tips that they should keep in mind. More than anything else, I dream about how my life will finally begin once this exam is over and done with. John Lennon’s words creep to mind – Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans – but I dismiss them out of hand. Sitting idly on a balcony, eating a carrot, staring into space like a hobo cannot be my life. This cannot be it.

Before I know it, it’s 2 o’ clock and time for my sister to come home. This is the part I despise, when I have to heat up lunch for both of us, but it’s part of my daily chores. My sister rattles on about what all happened in school that day. I try not to think of what I did all day (nothing). After lunch, she has to take a nap otherwise she gets her dreadful headaches. I return to my computer to quickly check the UPSC website. Nothing. Nada. I return to Youtube. But everything interesting I’ve already watched. So I go switch on the television. Bruce Springsteen’s song comes to mind – 57 channels and nothin’ on. I switch off the TV again.

I return to the book I’ve been reading – The Scope of Happiness, by Vijay Laxmi Pandit. I hope to follow in her footsteps some day. She was the first woman President of the UN General Assembly. I daydream about becoming the first UN Secretary General from India. That would be one for the school textbooks for sure.

The maids come and I have to give them instructions, passed on from my mother. Once they leave, I wake my sister and give her a glass of milk as her evening snack. I take one myself. I’m going to turn vegan soon, I tell myself. Better to stock up on all the calcium now to avoid getting osteoporosis in old age. We eat some buttered bread along with it. Switch on the television in the vain hope of finding something interesting, but no luck. My sister is on her phone, scrolling through Instagram, telling me about the latest Internet sensation (“I can’t believe you haven’t heard of Bea Salt yet! There are so many memes about him!”) I walk around the house, restlessly, aimlessly. I know I should start studying, but I cannot bring myself to it. I check for my result again. Finding nothing else to do, I send a quick, innocuous email to Khushboo, which says a lot but means nothing. It’s just a bait to hear back from her and feel for one minute like I am doing something.

My parents come back late at night, around 8-8:30. They are bankers, which means they are the front line soldiers dealing with demonetisation. I ask them about their day. My mother asks me what I did all day. I mumble a lie about how much I studied. She accepts it but I can see it in her eyes that she is not wholly convinced. But she understands. She’s waiting for the result too.

9 pm is my favourite time of the day. i don’t know the name of the channel but it’s 816 on Tata Sky and the program is called Raina Beeti Jaye. It plays old Hindi songs for the next three hours, with a very elegant commentary from two hosts who speak very polished Hindi. I love listening to them and I love watching the songs.

My chores at night include cooking the rice (we have an automatic rice cooker so it basically means pouring the rice and water in it and shutting the lid), laying the table, and filling up the drinking water. We then sit together as a family at the dinning table and eat dinner together, watching TV. My sister sometimes interjects to talk about her day, and my parents talk banking jargon, but I mostly sit quietly, speaking only when spoken to.

I was at an airport recently and came across a book called the Happiness Project. I read the first 10 pages of it I guess before keeping it back. It was a B-grade book, not worth the attention, but something it said struck a chord – “The days are long but the years are short.” I contemplate that line as I eat my dinner. Another long day gone by. Another to look forward to tomorrow.

And still, no news from UPSC.


Posted in Personal Musings | Leave a comment