“To change the system, you have to be a part of it,” were the words of a friend that inspired Dr Aditya Prakash Bharadwaj, then a practicing doctor to apply for UPSC civil services exams. His decision, however, was not supported by his parents who wanted him to pursue medicine. “When I was growing up, we had only two options — either to be an engineer or a doctor. I had to fight with my parents to pursue UPSC. I moved to Delhi and invested all my money in a coaching centre only to discover that self-study was more crucial,” he said.
Hailing from Narnaul, Haryana, to make ends meet in Delhi, Bhardwaj took up night shift on weekends as a doctor in a local hospital which got him Rs 5000 a month. He claims to have cracked the UPSC CSE in 10 months and ranked 250 in his first attempt in 2015. Bhardwaj is currently posted in Faridabad and on weekends, counsels students in rural areas. He also owns a YouTube channel where he has shared learning content for UPSC aspirants.
Since his posting in Faridabad, Bhardwaj claims to have visited over 60 schools, but had to discontinue due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, he then started a campaign to make people aware of social distancing norms, health protocols, mental well-being issues among others.
Looking at the success of the campaign, he has decided to launch ‘Wecare Pathshala’ — a school for those who missed out on formal education, including the differently-abled, economically backward, or anyone who had to drop out of school. The aim of this campaign is to teach basic English, Hindi, and Mathematics. “If they learn to calculate and read, it would be really empowering. We will start the initiative from an orphanage in a village of Sikri. We will first teach mentally differently-abled kids. I am currently looking for volunteers who can teach, maintain social distancing and also be sensitive towards these kids, and hopefully, these weekend classes will be expanded further,” he told indianexpress.com.
Even though education is not his specialised area of work, Bhardwaj feels he can relate to these students. “I had first read English when I was in class 6. I had to put my whole mind and soul into learning the language. Having completed my primary education from a rural government school and being the son of a teacher – my father who was the only breadwinner – I had a humble beginning. If I could crack UPSC, anybody can. Children in these areas are talented but they do not know about the array of options available to them. I just wish to make them see their own potential,” he said.
During his preparation for UPSC too, Bhardwaj had to struggle a lot. His parents refused to speak to him for a couple of months. Days before his Mains, his mother had to undergo a surgery which he decided to miss, despite being the only doctor in the family to focus on his exam, because he was aware that it was his last option.
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He had shifted from studying at a coaching institute to taking only mock tests from there. He rented a tiny room in Delhi’s Shadipur. He focused more on self-study and had a strategy. “When looked at the syllabus for the first time, I got a bit apprehensive. But then I analysed that even the toppers get around 50 per cent marks so I did not have to study everything. The topics which I knew I could not do, I left and rather than reading 10 books, I read one book 10 times. For some subjects, I referred only to NCERT. I also prepared a list of the pros and cons of every topic. This helped me not only have an opinion on things but also prepared unique notes,” he told indianexpress.com.
Unlike most who think UPSC is a test of knowledge, Bhardwaj said that it was a test of creativity. “I had been writing since college days. I would pen poetry, short stories, essay writing etc. I know that if you are not able to hold the reader’s attention in the first paragraph, they might not read it through. The same goes for your answers in UPSC. Being creative is the key. The evaluators are also tired of reading the same ‘copy-paste’ answers and if you write differently, the evaluator would read it. One should also make a flow chart, the diagram in the copy.”
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