To Prepare for UPSC Mains Answer Writing in Delhi's Winters, This IAS Officer Used to Freeze Her Hand in Cold Water – Indian Masterminds

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To Prepare for UPSC Mains Answer Writing in Delhi’s Winters, This IAS Officer Used to Freeze Her Hand in Cold Water
Highlights
While many get stressed out and completely drained during the preparation stage of the highly prestigious but extremely difficult UPSC Civil Services Examination, Ms. Krati Raj, who is an UP-cadre IAS officer now, kept preparing for the exam even while dealing with Covid and taking care of hospitalised parents, all the time keeping positivity by her side. She went on to crack the CSE 2020 in her third attempt with AIR 106, and is now posted in her home state, Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking with Indian Masterminds, 2020-batch IAS officer Krati Raj shared details about her UPSC journey.

JOURNEY

Born and brought up in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, Ms. Raj did her early education from St. Francis Convent School, Jhansi. Thereafter, she did her B.Tech. in Computer Science from Bundelkhand Institute of Engineering and Technology, Jhansi.

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“People asked me about my future plan but I had planned earlier on to not end up in a corporate job. I thought that I will probably do something in the government sector after my B.Tech, and work for society,” she said.

Ms. Raj did well well in her graduation and got placement as well. However, she was exploring simultaneously and was trying her hands in GATE and CAT exams, and towards the end, she started exploring the UPSC exams also. “While surfing the internet, I came across an article on Quora related to career in corporate job and in civil services. It hit me hard. I dig deeper and found that this is where I find a kick. Once I made the decision, I decided to burn all the bridges to the corporate sector and didn’t join the company I was placed in,” Ms. Raj shared.

Soon she started preparing for the civil services exam. She says that she started from scratch – from class 6 NCERT books. In the meantime, she started her own NGO. She said that the idea behind starting an NGO was to create her own exposure. Secondly, she chose public administration as her optional subject, so that she could also learn how to go, meet and tell people about the schemes being launched and create awareness among them. 

“Thirdly, being a girl from a small town, I could relate to the taboo issues, people not even talking about certain things. So I started campaigns on menstrual awareness, child sexual abuse workshops. With experience, I learned,” Ms. Raj said.

THREE ATTEMPTS

She gave her first attempt in 2017 but couldn’t clear prelims with 2 marks. Thereafter, in her second attempt, she again couldn’t clear prelims, as the invigilators took the sheet during the warning bell and her answer sheet got exchanged with someone else. Finally, in her third attempt, she managed to crack her mains, interview and made it to the final list of successful candidates with AIR 106.

“On the result day, I was not at all worried about it as I knew that I have done what I had to. My brother who works in Europe saw my result and told me about it over the call. The next minute, I realised that there are so many neighbours outside with dhol and garlands,” Ms. Raj said.

CRACKED WITHOUT COACHING

For her preparation, she had enrolled in one of the coaching centres in Delhi. However, she came back to Jhansi as she couldn’t “identify with the whole coaching thing” and started preparing herself. “I decided to stay away from the hubbub of coaching. Coaching creates a toxic culture and puts a lot of pressure on the aspirants. I get so many calls and messages from the aspirants who develop mental health issues after going through this phase because this exam anyway takes a huge toll on them,” Ms. Raj told Indian Masterminds. 

ANSWER WRITING PRACTICE

Due to Covid, the Mains exam was shifted from October to January, and winters in North India is extreme. Candidates have to write for 2 shifts and for 6 hours every day. “So, during December winters, I used to wake up at 3 in the morning and keep my hands under cold water and freeze them. I then use to write the mock papers for continuous three hours. I was mimicking the whole process, so that I could write the exam in extreme condition,” she said.

Eventually, she went to Bhopal to give her mains exams where it’s not so cold. Ms. Raj said that it became easy for her to give the exam there and she managed to complete everything. “At the end of the day, I realised that I lived up to my expectations.”

COVID TIME

During the second wave, Ms. Raj and her family contracted Covid. Her mother was home quarantined and father was hospitalized. At this point of time, she had to keep her preparations aside to be with her parents. She slept only for an hour for one month in the hospital and was juggling between hospital and home. “Before this, I used to say that the mains exam is the most intensive experience of my life but having gone through this, I knew for sure that this was the most intensive experience and nothing worst than this can happen. Life is so much bigger than an exam,” she said.  

IAS Officer Krati Raj with her Parents

MESSAGE TO ASPIRANTS

Ms. Raj always had a non-UPSC mode to switch to when required. When she studied, she dedicated herself completely to it, but when she didn’t, she used to dance, paint, watch movies, and read books. “It’s a great stress buster, and every aspirant should have a non-UPSC mode.” 

She further advises that one shouldn’t give up and have faith in oneself. “This journey is full of ups and downs. You may work hard, but take care to work smart.” 
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