We would love to know about your family background and your educational background, schooling, college etc.
My father recently retired from the LIC of India, as Principal, LIC Divisional Training Centre, Bhubaneswar.
My mother is a school teacher. I completed my schooling at the same school and junior college [science].
How did law school happen to you? Was it pre-planned since high school or was it the unexpected call of destiny?
Although I loved Bio-sciences and Physics, I did not want to pursue Engineering or Medicine, despite the tremendous social pressure. So after a decent class 12 performance, I was looking forward to my BSc. and then had plans for an MBA.
Law happened to me by sheer chance. I met my then senior from school, and later at NUJS, Mr. Sushrut Biswal (SA, at SAM, Delhi now) and his parents at a bookstore, who introduced me to the idea of law from a leading law school.
My initiation into a positive expectation from Indian legal education began with the information about NUJS, and to get into the ‘Beliaghata’ law college soon became my singular goal. I am glad I could crack the NAT with a decent rank (#38). I did not bother about any other entrance thereafter.
In any case, I had only filled up forms for the NLSIU and NALSAR, and I would not have done my law degree, if not from any of these places (this was just a juvenile fascination, and probably today, I would not advice anyone to be fixated about just one college. It is a huge risk).
So my dream of an excellent legal education was fulfilled at NUJS.
How was your college life at NUJS, your academics, extra circulars, internships etc? Did you customise your law school profile with civil services in mind?
No, I had no intention of writing the UPSC civil services exam during the entire course of the 5 years. I was fully focused at learning the law, but was determined to not restrict myself to just the law. My idea of a good student is somehow not one with just stratospheric GPAs.
I give heavy emphasis on building and sustaining personal equations, and learning life skills that outlast the momentary glamour. I learnt how to swim, did a crash course in salsa, and did myriad other things, along with my academics, while in NUJS!
I invested my time and skills heavily in all that law school had to offer.
In my first two years, I was mooting, debating, active in the culturals, and outside law school, I was actively participating in debates and volunteering (as law school had too many things to offer, so time was very limited, and often overt emphasis on structures, such as mandatorily becoming a part of the team to represent the University, stifled my creativity).
I can articulate well, and love to speak. But what I really wanted to extract out of law school was the craft of writing well. So from my third year, I started writing a lot. It began with the MagCom, with very inspiring seniors to learn from, then I shakily applied to the NUJS Law Review.
I left everything else when I was picked up for it, and in hindsight, this focused approach towards the institution has been the best thing to do.
My interest in administration and attention to detail, are all a byproduct of my long and cherished association with the NUJS Law Review, under the wise guidance of Prof. MP Singh.
I have interned with most of the major Indian law firms, such as AMSS, AZB, Luthra and Luthra and Karanjawala. I have also interned in Singapore to be able to better appreciate the global dynamics of the legal profession.
I have fond memories of my internships with the German and Spanish Red Cross Delegations, while in my first and second year. The field work and research was a fantastic experience.
What was the inspiration to prepare for UPSC? A childhood dream or a law school motivation?
As said, I have many interests that no corporate law firm job would ever have the need for.
Working at a leading law firm, I realized that though it gave me immense benefits, it took away a lot more from me, and expected me to focus only on one aspect of the law, which would not have been the ideal thing for me to do.
My work is part of a whole, and not the only thing in my life. And continuing would have also meant a lot of changes to my personal lifestyle, be it for networking or anything else.
So I decided to leave at the earliest, and for the first couple of months, just spent time thinking. I wanted to pursue the UPSC exam for all the right reasons and began by eliminating other options such as higher education, litigation, and so on.
Did you start your UPSC preparation while in law school? What were your subjects and how did you prepare for them? Courses, self study etc. Also, which law subjects helped you the most in preparing for the UPSC?
No, I had no intention to write this exam while in law school.
My subject was law, and I prepared my own notes for the basics. Stuck to the base books for each of them and read the bare act well. I did not take any coaching or join any test series for law.
My friends helped me a lot with the notes and concepts in law. They were the sounding board for discussing law related aspects. I owe a lot to law school alumni (not just from NUJS) who are serving bureaucrats, who provided a lot of clarity to me.
The knowledge of law has been an asset in this journey.
Kindly tell our readers about your journey of preparation. Did you take up coaching? What was the mode of study (online or offline or both)? How did you manage law school academics and UPSC preparation? How did you manage time? Any specific daily routine?
Yes, I took up coaching. But was very selective in my approach. I joined Sriram’s IAS in New Delhi for about 3 months, and found a brilliant and caring mentor in Sriram Sir.
I wrote tests with CL, Vision IAS, and other online platforms. In Bhubaneswar, I was mentored by Dr. Sohag Sundar Nanda at Aarohan, and Mr. Santosh Behera for interviews.
UPSC preparation is one which is long and tiring. How did you maintain your zest? Did you face any blues during? How did you fight them?
I used to devote an hour for morning/evening walk and jogging. I used to be very particular about it. Blues, yes. I did not think about it. There will always be chaos and problems, but I always build a fort around myself and do not think about anything else but my goal.
To those around me, who respected me and my goal, I interacted and sought advice. But those (trust me there are so many) who make you feel negative about your decision and yourself, please show them the door. Pessimists not welcome!
Was it difficult to leave your secured profile at a leading corporate law firm and tread on the tricky, uneven UPSC path?
Before taking a step, I consider all possible angles. Once I decide on a goal, I go all out to embrace it, and do not look back.
Would you like to share any advice for all UPSC aspirants out there?
Block all sources of negativity. Retain those things and people who inspire you, motivate and understand you. There will be many who will leave you in this long, and often lonely path.
But trust me, all this is a training for the larger goal of public service that we all have aspired for.
A bureaucrat must first be able to manage his life, before being equipped to manage the public and the nation. So treat every negative as an opportunity to grow, and learn. Everything pushes you towards the bigger goal.
Also, what is your next goal? You must be having something really specific in mind when you decided to ride the UPSC roller coaster?
I want to unwind now! I want to work in the confluence of law, policy and governance.
Thankfully, the bureaucracy will allow me to do this.
Thanks for my NGO Natural Justice for their maximum support and cooperation. They always gave me the space to pursue my goal of the UPSC along with my research assignments with them.