Today, over 8 lakh take the contentious UPSC Prelims. Many of them have spent hours preparing in ‘libraries’ in the Capital’s Old Rajender Nagar. Little more than rooms with chairs and desks, these are the spaces that provide them comfort in their search for a level playing field by Kaunain Sheriff M photographs by Ravi Kanojia
In a 15×20 ft room, about 75 young men and women sit in rows partitioned by wooden planks, their heads bent over their books, some furiously making notes. It’s all quiet. Pin-drop silence as in a library. And that’s what it is: ‘Vision IAS Library’. But this is no ordinary library. In fact, it’s not even a library. There are no books, no book shelves; it’s a quiet space in a city where both ‘quiet’ and ‘space’ are at a premium — and it’s exclusively for civil services aspirants.
While elsewhere in the Capital, civil service aspirants took out marches for weeks last month, sat on hunger strikes and hung out of bus windows shouting slogans against what they said was an exam system biased against aspirants from non-English-medium backgrounds, the ‘library’ in Old Rajender Nagar in west Delhi was a world far removed.
With the Preliminaries beginning on Sunday, August 24, the exaggerated sound of the ticking clock reminded them that they could afford no distractions. They hardly looked up from their books. When they did, it was to put their weary heads down for a shut-eye, step out for a cup of chai or to discuss a vexed problem from one of the sample papers.
Old Rajender Nagar is the Capital’s study centre, that other big draw for civil service aspirants besides Mukherjee Nagar in Delhi. Seen in isolation, Rajender Nagar seems like a pop-up city set up just for those aspiring to join India’s elite services club. There are billboards and posters for coaching centres, advertisements for paying guests, and small eateries where young men and women hurriedly down hot paranthas and chai. Over the past two years, several reading rooms such as Vision IAS Library have come up to cater to continued…