“It still feels like a dream so I am scared to wake up right now,” says 24-year-old Riddhima Srivastava, who secured the 74th rank in the UPSC Civil Services exam, topping the Tricity. Riddhima, whose father is an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, and mother an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in the Punjab government, graduated from Punjab Engineering College (PEC) in 2017 before deciding to sit for the UPSC exam.
As for what motivated her transition from engineering to an aspiration of becoming a civil servant, Riddhima states that the aspiration to join the services had “subconsciously already existed in her”, because she was influenced by her parents’ achievements. “I always looked up to them as achievers in their field and hardworking people, but they had never forced me or influenced me to sit for UPSC exams. This was entirely my decision,” Riddhima says. “Engineering was something I was interested in while I completed my degree, but somewhere down the line when I weighed more options, I realised this career path is a good fit for me,” Riddhima says, adding that she hopes to inculcate leadership qualities in herself as a civil servant, and help bring some positive change in society.
Apart from Riddhima, an MBBS graduate from Mohali too cleared the final stage of the coveted Civil Services exam by securing the 80th rank. Dr Darpan Ahluwalia says while waiting for her results, she hoped for the best but was prepared for the worst. “I was preparing to sit for the preliminary examinations again in October if things didn’t work out this time round. I was determined to move on if need be because I have attempted once before in 2018 and didn’t get through to the final list,” says the 26-year-old Civil Services aspirant.
Dr Darpan, whose father is a government official working as the Joint Director in the Department of Animal Husbandry in Punjab and mother an economics academic who is currently teaching children pro-bono, has always been inspired to work in the social sector. She says that her aspiration to pursue medicine and the civil services was borne of the same desire to effect social change. The doctor, who completed her MBBS and internship from the Government Medical College in Patiala, is currently working in a Tricity-based NGO spearheading a campaign on “Breast Carcinoma Awareness”.
“Even while I was completing my MBBS, I knew I could do more fruitful work in the social sector, in public health and improving social determinants, rather than becoming a specialist. That is why I decided joining the services will give me a platform and the power to more effectively bring about social change,” Dr Darpan says.
As for preparing for the examination, Dr Darpan’s is a self-proclaimed proponent of self-study. “There was a time when my mind was split on whether to pursue an MD or take the dive into UPSC preparation, but as I began taking mock examinations, I realised I was doing well and my confidence was restored. This took a lot of hard work and resilience. I would sit for 12 hours a day preparing, but it paid off in the end!” she says.
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