Ch: âYes, please come inâ
Me: âGood afternoon maâam. Good afternoon sirâÂ (looking at all the board members)
I will never forget that moment, whatever the score i get in my interview. Each of their faces were so calm, so serene. I completely forgot everything that i had been thinking for since the past 20 days. My mind went blank. Not numb. But blank. A clean slate. All i could see at that moment was 5 elderly people sitting there.
With a nice smile perched atop their faces. I felt like a child who is absolutely carefree in front of his grandparents. Never for the next 25 minutes did the thought of me being in UPSC Â interview cross my mind. Not even once.
Ch: Please have a seat
Me: Thank you maâam
Ch: Nameâ¦ Roll Numberâ¦ DoBâ¦Â (replied)
Ch: Name some religions of the world.
Me: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism
Ch: Aur bolo
Ch: Aur bolo
Me: The religion which the jews follow, am unable to recall its name though
Ch: Aur bolo
Me: Sorry maaâm, no other name comes to my mind as of now
Ch: U could have said Jainism
Me: Did i miss that maâam?Â (though i thought i had said them)
Ch: Yesâ¦ Buddhism
Me: Sorry for interrupting you maâam but i believe i said Buddhism
M3: Yes, he did say Budhismâ¦ (Ch was satisfied on hearing this from him)
(i believe this was done by her to startle me and check how i react, something she did again as well)
Ch: Name some languages of the world
Me: The maximum number of people on earth speak Mandarin Chinese
Ch: Â (interrupting)Â I didnât ask you to enumerate them in any particular orderâ¦ But maximum number of people on earth speak English, not Mandarin Chineseâ¦
Me: Am sorry maâamâ¦ but as far as my knowledege goes maximum number of people speak Mandarin Chinese, not English
Ch: Ok, go ahead
Me: There are 22 languages enlisted in the Indian Constitutionâ¦ Shall in enumerate them?
M2: (interrupting) Name some languages from outside India
Me: Ok sirâ¦ And then i started naming ine language after anotherâ¦ I recalled the map of europe and named about 5-6 languages of the countries thereinâ¦
Ch:Â (interrupting)Â Russianâ¦ Arabicâ¦
Me: yes maâamâ¦ Persianâ¦
Ch: ok.. (now is to follow the lowest point of my interview)â¦ Name 5 private banks in Indiaâ¦
Me:Â (i was blankâ¦ completelyâ¦ the names which were coming to my mind, i wasnt sure whether they are private or notâ¦ i decided to play safe thereâ¦.)Â Am soory maâamâ¦ but i wonât be able to answer the questionâ¦
(at this point, all the members came closer to meâ¦ full of surpriseâ¦)
Ch + M1 + M2: Whatâ¦ you donât know thisâ¦ reallyâ¦ how come?
Me: My mind has gone blank maâamâ¦ the names that are coming to my mind as of now, i am not 100% sure whether they are private or notâ¦ therefore i thought i should let go of this question maâam (all members and chairman acquired a sudden sympathetic tone and everyone started naming private banksâ¦ )
Me:Â (in between the comotionâ¦)Â Hdfcâ¦ Caneraâ¦
Ch: Arreâ¦ Its not a private bankâ¦
Me: Sorry maâam, but as i told you, i am not sureâ¦ i was precisely for this reason that i was refraining from guessingâ¦
Ch: How come you donât know thisâ¦ Donât you watch TV?
Me: The place where i stay right know during the course of my preparation, i donât have a TV thereâ¦
Ch: But you were in a hostel beforeâ¦
Me: Yes maâam..
Ch:Â (interrupting)Â Come on now, donât pull a fast one on meâ¦ i too have stayed in a hostelâ¦ in between u get a chance to go homeâ¦ u surely must be watching TV thereâ¦
Me: Am sorry of my reply gave such an impression maâam but i assure you that such wasnât my intention at allâ¦ yes, i do go homeâ¦ but these trips of mine to home are few and far betweenâ¦ (she seemed to have calmed down now)..
M2:Â (interrupting)Â Donât the students watch news on TV in hostels
Me: No Sirâ¦ All that they watch are live matchesâ¦
(he gave a sad expression, thinking probably about how disinterested the student community was in day to day happeningsâ¦ and i reciprocated his expressions on my face as well)
Ch: Okâ¦ Tell meâ¦ when was the rupee symbol launchedâ¦
Me:Â (confused between 2011/2010)Â I dont remember exactly maâam, but perhaps it was some time in early 2011
Ch: No, it was in July 2010
Me: Sorry maâam, i didnât remember the same.. i was confused in 2010 and 2011â¦
Ch: In fact, it was made by a person from your institute
Me: yes maâamâ¦ it was designed by D Uday Kumar from IIT Bombay
Ch: No, he was from your institute, IIT Delhi
Me: Again, sorry maâam, but as far i know, he wasnât from IIT D
M3: He is rightâ¦ he wasnt from Dâ¦ was from B
Me: Thank you sir
Ch:Â (she talked about the countries which have a currency symbol and then started enumerating the nations or group of nations which have a symbol for their currencyâ¦ i too spoke their names alongside herâ¦ )
Ch: One final questionâ¦ Which is the only currency whose symbol is represented in its currency note?Â Me: i am not sure maâamâ¦ perhaps it way be dollar, but i donât know for sureâ¦
Ch: its pund sterlingâ¦ it has that (started drawing the symbol in air) kind of symbol
Me: yes maâam, the L kind of a symbol
Ch: Yesâ¦ Okâ¦ Now tell meâ¦ Last question this one isâ¦ Which places on earth are not represented in UNâ¦Â (her words were slightly different and confusing)
(i was flummoxed by the usage of the term placesâ¦ and i later realzed that she had meant countries)
Me: Palestine maâam, it has been recently trying to acquire membership
Ch: Goodâ¦ aur boloâ¦
Me: though i donât know for sure maâam, but i donât think Vatican City would be represented thereinâ¦
Ch: Yes.. you are very rightâ¦ its not represented thereâ¦ aur boloâ¦
Me: I am unable to understand as to what all this question entailsâ¦ should the list also include places like Tibet which arent autonomous at present, but are trying to gain autonomy and once successful, they will get representation in the UN
Ch: I am not asking about Tibetâ¦
Me: Sorry maâamâ¦
Ch: named a few more placesâ¦
Me: Thank you maâam.. i didnât know thatâ¦ (She indicated M1 to start now)
M1: You have won the World Environment Day Debate Competition
Me: Yes sir, it was held in the Indian Institute of Petroluem, Dehradun in 2009
M1:Â (he a very long question which included many sub parts about pollution, causes etcâ¦ the last and the most important part wasâ¦)Â what is the major issue with environment?
Me: Sir the major issue is the environment versus development debateâ¦ (and then i went on and on for at least a couple of mins if not more about the problem of pollution)
M1: So what should we choose, environment or development?
Me: Definitely environment sirâ¦Â (and then i went on for a min on the topic of sustainable development et al)
M1: So how should we strike this balance between environment and development?
Me: i was having a discussion on similar lines with he friend of mine who works in a refinery just a couple of days backâ¦ he told me about the concept of green refiningâ¦Â (expained what it was and then corelated it to what the answer he was looking forâ¦)Â i spoke at length about planting trees, protecting environment etc
M1: Ok Â (he looked very satisfied with the response and passed on the baton to the next member)
Me:Â (just at that moment, i added, on my own prerogative)â¦ but this achievement of balance is easier said than done sirâ¦
M1: Yes, very right.. Goodâ¦
M2: So Abhinav, what is your mother tongue, Bhojpuri or Maithili?
Me: Its neither sir, its Hindi actually
M2:Â (with an expression of surprise)Â but then why did you opt literature of Maithili language as your subject?
Me: Sir, there are three reasons behind the same. First of all, i am interested in reading literature and at the beginning of my preparation, i was sure that i would be opting for a literature optional. Secondly , I have grown up in Bihar, hearing Maithili language. Opting for this subject gave me a chance to study the literature of a language to which i was culturally close to. And to be honest sir, there is a great paucity of time in the preparation of civil services. The syllabus of Maithili literature is more manageable in comparison to the rest of the options, and therefore it was a pragmatic choice as well.
(at this moment i saw Ch giving an expression which said that yes, students opt for it because of the third reason most of allâ¦ and at that time i thanked my stars for having been truthful for she for sure would have interrupted had i given the third reason a miss)
M2: So Maithili is a very sweet language, right?
Me: Yes sir, very
M2: and Bhojpuri tooâ¦
Me: No sir, Bhojpuri aintâ¦ it has a harsher toneâ¦
M2: in comparison or in generalâ¦
Me: in comparisonâ¦definitely sirâ¦ and even otherwise in general sirâ¦
M2: so what are you doing at this momentâ¦ you working somewhereâ¦.
Me: No sir, the only work i am engaged in at this moment is preparation for civil services
M2: So what kind of quizzing have you doneâ¦Â (my hobby)
Me:Â (i went on and on in this questionâ¦ i described the quizzing in school as dry quizzingâ¦ then plus two mein quizzingâ¦ then collegeâ¦ inter hostel activitiesâ¦ than i talked about how activities like dumb charades, pictionary etc etc have become a part of quizzing making it much more fun nowâ¦ i also talked about questions being asked to connect things, pics etcâ¦ so even when one doesnt know the answer to a ques, one can work on clues in a team to get to the answerâ¦)
M2: You take part in a lot of outdoor activitiesâ¦
Me: As it must be very well evident, hardly so sirâ¦
M2:Â (he, along with a few other members started laughing on hearing this, and my response was meant to cause laughterâ¦ i got a gr8 feeling at that timeâ¦)Â So you think outdoor activities are useless?
Me: Definitely not sirâ¦ They are of great importance and play a great role in developing the character and personality of a personâ¦ It has been a lacunae on my part not to have taken part in themâ¦
M2: But its never late, rightâ¦
Me: Yes sir, i have been trying to, and am sure i will be able to bring about this much needed change in meâ¦
M3:Â (he had been my saviour all alongâ¦ twice had he defended me from the Chairmanâ¦)Â I will ask you only one questionâ¦
Me: OK Sir
M3: There has been acute labour shortage of lateâ¦ what is the mains reason behind it?
Me: Sir, there was a newspaper report published recently which talked about the shrotage of agricultural labour in Haryana due to dip in migration of people from Bihar on account of them getting jobs in their home state due to the launch of MGNREGAâ¦ so the launch of MGNREGA is the immediate reason behind the sameâ¦
M3: Only migration of Bihari labourersâ¦
Me: Not only sirâ¦ but labourers from Bihar used to migrate there in large numbersâ¦
Me:Â (added on my own prerogative to better explain)Â Not only in Haryana or other states sir, even in Bihar, farmers have reported the shortage of agricultural labourers esp in the season at that time of the year when the crops are to be cutâ¦ so this problem is affecting every place, not only a state in particularâ¦
Me: okÂ (he looked satisfied)
M4: (he praised my academic career and performance and then askedâ¦) so what is this process engineering.. is it different from chemical engineering?
Me:Â (i again gave a very long answer to this.. i told him about JEEâ¦ getting into the Dual Degree programâ¦ both the degrees are therefore not separate entities bu in effect, one follows form the otherâ¦)Â Process Engg and Design is more like an applicative aspect of Chemical enggâ¦ for example, if your have two mix two chemicals in a lab, you can very easily stir and mix themâ¦. however, if the same is to be done on an industrial scale, a huge stirred would need to designed since the quantity of chemicals that need that are to be mixed now is hugeâ¦ a lot of considerations would need to factored inâ¦ a lot of design work would become involved hereinâ¦ so, in effect, what i want to say is that process engg and design can be understood, at a basic level, to be the applicative aspect of chemical engineering while working on an industrial scaleâ¦
M4:Â (looked satisfied)Â i will quiz with you nowâ¦
Me: Ok sir
M4: Which city was established in India by Britishers around 350 years back?
Me:Â (I wanted to say either Madras or Calcutta eve though i had no idea about the answerâ¦ but, i refrained from guessing)Â I donât know sir
M4: Its Madras
Me:Â (hearing this, i silently cursed myself for not having said the name of the two cities aloud earlierâ¦)Â M4: Ok, tell me, how many languages can one find on the currency note of India?
Me:Â (it had been asked in KBC onceâ¦ i remembered thatâ¦ but didnât remember the answerâ¦ cursed myself againâ¦ and i also wondered why this board was so obsessed with currency notes)Â I dont know sirâ¦
M4: Why, havent you seen a rupee note..
Me: I have seen it sir, but not so minutelyâ¦.
M4: But still, tell me, how many do you think should be there?
Me: Going by this diktat Sir, Indian constitution enlists 22 languages and all of them should find a representation thereinâ¦ But i am not sure whether this is the answerâ¦
M4: Anywayâ¦ tell meâ¦ Britishers helped established 3 colleges in Indiaâ¦ which were they?
Me: I am not sure about the answer sirâ¦
M4: Still..Â (he was trying to put pressure on me hereâ¦)
Me: Though i am not sure, i feel one of them must be Presidency College, CalcuttaÂ M4: Yes, you are correctâ¦ which were the other twoâ¦ where were they established?
Me: Again sir, i dont know their namesâ¦ butâ¦ if i were to guess the places where they established the other two colleges, i would guess Madras and Bombay Sirâ¦
CH: Yes, you are very rightâ¦ in fact they did establish them in Madras and Bombayâ¦
Me: Thank You maâam
M4: Okâ¦ One final questionâ¦ What sort of cultural activities have you taken part inâ¦
Me:Â (i again spoke at length about the various clubs in which i had been active in my collegeâ¦ English Debating and Literary Clubâ¦ Hindi Samitiâ¦ Quizzing Clubâ¦ etc etcâ¦ and i also addedâ¦)Â Since my first year in college, it had been my dream to take part in a playâ¦ but, i was never able to get a chance to do so since am a terrible actorâ¦
(at this point, M3 suddenly turned towards me and started looking into my eyesâ¦ his sudden movement made me stop for a split secondâ¦ i turned towards and said)Â yes sir, such was the caseâ¦Â (and then turing back to M4)Â but when i was in my final year, i had a story idea which i discussed with the students in my hostel who used to act in playsâ¦ they quite liked it and asked me to convert it into a scriptâ¦ i wrote the script and the play was staged in the inter hostel competitionâ¦
M4:Â (interrupting)Â you are a good scriptwriterâ¦ you can go to Bombay thenâ¦ get a job thereâ¦
Me: I donât know how good a scriptwriter i am sir but at this moment of time, i want to become a civil servant more than anything elseâ¦Â (hearing this, all the 5 members started laughingâ¦)
Ch:Â (trying to control her laughter)Â that will be allâ¦ you may go nowâ¦
Me: Thank you maâamâ¦ Thank you sirâ¦Â (i looked towards all of them once and left the room)
And thus ended perhaps the most important 25 minutes of my lifeâ¦ I had gone in expecting a terrible performanceâ¦ And the first feeling that I had after coming out was that it wasnât as bad as i had expected it will beâ¦ And this was a hugely relieving feelingâ¦ I collected my bag and strolled out of the campusâ¦