Earlier it was said and believed that if a graduate isn't preparing for IAS his life is not worthwhile. To talk about IAS 'latest scoring subjects'to talk about trends of question papers, to talk of distant uncle, nephew or poor cousin who has made it to the coveted IAS was the in thing. To attempt IAS examination is a national hobby. No computer application course can match the swiftness coupled with glamour which goes with these three magic words. No doctor or engineer, however eminent he or she may become, can match the unmatchable IAS ,for they know even if whole life they prescribe superfluous pathological tests or keep liberally mixing sand in cement they can not ,just can not amass the wealth an IAS can manage in one posting alone.
Having failed twice to clear my Higher Secondary examination, I set the lofty goal of IAS for myself. After having passed my B.A. Pass course in I division with 'two bodyguards' from an obscure college, I declared at home 'I want to become an IAS'. My father embraced me with all the warmth at his command. Addressing my mother he choked ,'See! whose son he is 'didn't I tell you he'll make it big in life'. My mother was no less in emotions she immediately gave five rupees and twenty five paise for 'prasadam'. My brother and sister were giving me strange looks. Fully aware of my 'potential' they were amazed what has come upon me. I asked my father for thick registers which my father gladly lifted from his office and brought very next day. Beautiful paper covers were put on registers and appropriate indexing and serial numbering of pages was done using different color sketch pens. My mum had increased the quantity of milk supply, after all sonny was all set to enter the arena 'an arena more demanding than WWFs. From washerman to postman everyone in the locality was officially informed 'Our Ravi is preparing for IAS 'so ensure that his clothes are properly ironed'vegetable should be fresh and greener'bring dak little early...don't ring the doorbell too often, it interrupts the chain of thoughts. All close and not so close relatives were intimated by sending letters to them lest they chose to visit us during these days. Not that we had much of visitors in our household, but that was my father's way of proclaiming to his small world.
I had instructed my younger brother to be on lookout for the UPSC ad for two reasons, one,I love India and its Rajbhasha so in English newspapers I don't read beyond the page which informs what film is running on which theatre. Two, preparing for IAS I would be too lost to the world to glance at any ad whatsoever. I understand, before match fixing cricketers were fond of Chewing gum for enhancing their concentration skill, I too tried but in vain. Then a senior IAS attempter chided me for comparing and thereby lowering the twice born IAS to a cricketer. He advised me not to emulate these worthless cricket boys who in any case are no more than matriculates or at best college drop outs. It is nothing but media and modern stupid girls who make hero out of them. Since then I stopped watching cricket matches'though I loved cricket. Instead I settled for Pan masala and pan. I started chewing pan and pan masala like there was no tomorrow. I didn't hesitate to send my father on errands to fetch pan for me. I had no time to waste. It was the question of life and death for me. My mum will wake up in the middle of night to prepare tea for me. At home folks would walk softly, talk in hushed tone so that their conversation didn't disturb me. Some cheapie magazines which were cause of my getting bashed up at my father's hands were now regularly coming'reason'you can never trust these IASwallas, they may ask anything under the sun, second, after reading heavy stuff, light reading was necessary to warm down your brains. Dishes only of my choice were cooked in the kitchen .My love for ladyfinger left everybody else eating pickles or sandwich with ketchup. Kitchen cabinets were flooded with butter, chayawanprash, fruits, almond...you name it. Cream of the milk was solely my monopoly. If any brother got even little cream by mistake, he would honestly refund it to mum to be given to me. A 'do nothing' of yesterday about whose future papa was so certain that he would either make it to a shoeshine boy or at best a bicycle-mechanic had become a VIP.I had arrived and was wearing my attitude so very flauntingly.
And what I dreaded most had to happen. The ad came out. My brother whom I had instructed to be on lookout for the ad had gone beyond his brief and bought the form blank instead. Reading the form left me giddy. More I read the 'Instructions for candidates' more I got confused. Though the form was bilingual their Hindi was as incomprehensible as their English.
When all the doors are shut on your face you seek shelter and solace in the divine. I too declared at home that before filling up the form, I want to undertake a pilgrimage. Folks at home were visibly impressed and liberally increased my pocket money several times over.
The application form submitted, second phase of my blissful enjoyment commenced. Now I had bought a second hand book of General Knowledge. An IAS aspirant should not only appear but but should also appear to be appearing in IAS. For remaining books I had convinced my folks that these are rarest of rare books and not available in open market just like that. Therefore, Public library is the best place. Now I could go out and remain out for hours together'no questions asked. My father would tell everybody 'Raviji has gone to library'. A would-be Collector has to be addressed with suitable respect. If folks at home do not give you the requisite respect befitting a would-be Collector how the hell you expect others to hold you in awe. Evenings were spent with 'do-nothing' friends seeing films, discussing girls and their little known flings, often imaginary. I was wondering if IAS attempter's life could be so cozy what will become once I am an IAS, My parents would make it a point to namedrop in functions they attended '..oh Raviji is busy.. studying...couldn't make it to this function.'
A friend of ours was living in Meerut. His parents had built a farmhouse there equipped with all the luxuries minus the parents. I disclosed a 'state secret' to my parents that government this year plans to enlist more and more IAS from Meerut centre'reason...not very many IAS are there from the region and coalition government is under pressure from its allies to give more representation to keep both, the regional balance and the government of the day going. Hearing this, happiness of my parents knew no bounds. Enjoying life unabated at Meerut I wanted to eat Chinese food from my favorite restaurant in Delhi. I rang up my mother and shared my last wish before the exam. No sooner my brother brought choicest Chinese dishes all the way from Delhi on his two wheeler scooter. This time they were careful and never wanted to let me shift the blame of my incompetence on them or Chinese for that matter. We have already blamed China for more things than one. Once I had conveniently attributed my failure in clerk's grade exam to ever erratic Electric supply of Delhi and got away. No power'no lift'so I had to carry the heavy typewriter all the way upto third floor. My arms got jammed and fingers cramped. Just couldn't type a word'why me ? none of the candidates could type out a thing.
Come the exam day. I set on two wheeler to exam centre.Two-wheeler I had procured after sweet-talking my brother into the essentiality of it for my mobility when he had last come to deliver 'Chinese'. I was as fresh and transparent as morning dew. I had absolutely no tension. I hadn't prepared or memorized anything. So there was no tension of forgetting anything. Blessed is he who doesn't expect for he shall never be disappointed. No expectation, no frustration. Thank UPSC on two counts, one,they don't give question paper to you lest anybody at home crosschecks what have you done and starts agonizing you all over again. Two, questions are objective type. So only ticking on paper and no ticking on brains.
I knew my result as soon as I came out of the examination hall. But at home I narrated a tale of my narrow escape from death in a freak accident. My narration of supernatural was far more ominous and credible than shown in the episodes ofAahat'on television. 'I was driving my scooter at a moderate speed suddenly an old frightening hag appeared from nowhere and stood right in front of my scooter. I applied brake but too late. Scooter overturned. I fell'scooter first'old hag disappeared. I was badly shaken'just not in the right frame of mind which went blank after the harrowing accident...nonetheless I have done well...but mom you can understand...can't you ?' My mum more than agreed with me and cursing that hag she went to heat up milk for me mixed with turmeric powder for turmeric powder is known for its properties which can turn you 'fair and lovely'. I was scared should anybody raise the basic question whether I was carrying knowledge in my head or some liquid in a container that it fell on road and could not be retrieved. But my script was no less melodramatic than Salim-Javed's and often I wonder should I start writing cine script, I could give them a run for their money.
Currently, I am contemplating whom shall I blame for my next failure. Afghanistan...Bin Laden...Coalition'Dawood. I plan to go systematically and hence, alphabetically.