Twenty-two-year-old Tina Dabi woke up from a nap Tuesday evening and discovered she had topped the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) civil services examination in her very first attempt. The rest of the evening, at the family home in BSNL Colony on Kali Bari Marg near Gole Market in the heart of New Delhi, was taken up by interviews to the press, congratulatory phone calls and visits from friends and family.
“I was sleeping when the results came. I knew they would be out today but there’s usually no particular time. When my phone started buzzing repeatedly, I realised the results had been announced. Since then we have been so busy that I still haven’t had time to actually register what has happened,” Tina said.
Congratulating Tina, Northwest Delhi MP and Dalit leader Udit Raj tweeted, “Napoleon said that without opportunity ability can’t be cultivated. Dalit girl topped IAS & this could not have been possible 40-50 yrs back.”
Tina has opted for the IAS, with Haryana as her cadre preference.
“I opted for Haryana because it presents such an interesting example, where you have a lot of economic progress but when it comes to social indicators you are lagging behind, and that is a very big paradox.”
“What is actually holding Haryana back is its patriarchal mindset and the gender inequality, which is a subject very close to my heart, since I am a woman from a progressive family and have also studied in a college that lays great emphasis on gender equality, so that is something I want to change about the state,” she said.
Born in Bhopal, Tina moved to Delhi with her parents and younger sister when she was in Class VII. She completed her schooling from the Convent of Jesus and Mary, opting for humanities in Class XI, by which time she had also started seriously considering attempting the civil services examination.
Himali Dabi, her mother, trained as an engineer. Father Jaswant Dabi works in the Department of Telecom.
“My parents were the ones who suggested I consider a career in the services. They felt this was something I had a flare for, that I had the requisite qualities required for a bureaucrat, and could master the field. They were the ones who encouraged and guided me to consider it, and when I did some research myself, I realised this is what I wanted to do.”
A graduate in political science from Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University, Tina spent a year attending coaching for the UPSC examinations, waiting until she reached the eligibility age of 21.
She studied for 8 to 10 hours a day and gives the credit for her success to “strategy and planning”, placing emphasis on “having a schedule, weekly targets, and being disciplined and focused”.
“You feel lonely and you feel depressed because this is such a difficult exam. Other parts of your life become almost non-existent, so patience I think is also key.”
A painter of Madhubani art, a voracious reader, and a “big Jane Austen fan”, Tina gives most of the credit for her results to her mother, saying, “I’ve never seen anyone give up so much, make so many sacrifices, to fulfil my dreams. She is my role model. I’ve never seen anyone more humble, honest, sincere or hard working.”
Mother Himali said: “We are absolutely delighted with the results. We knew she would come in the merit list, but we never ever imagined she would top. As a parent I am very happy she is doing what she wants, that is all that matters. Great results are wonderful but that is not the main focus.I would say let the children do what they enjoy doing. There shouldn’t be any parental pressure on them. We hear of so many children going to places like Kota and being under so much pressure. This should not be the case.”
The youngest member of the Dabi family, Riya, describes her sister as her “hero” and intends to follow in her footsteps. “With her results, I am starting to feel the pressure, but I am very proud of her. She is an inspiration,” said Riya.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also congratulated Tina on Twitter: “Congrats to Delhi girl Tina Dabi, topper of UPSC exam. I wish her a bright career.”
While Tina stood first, the second position was secured by Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan from Jammu and Kashmir, and the third position by Jasmeet Singh Sandhu, also a Delhi resident.