The year was 2004 when M Sivaguru Prabakaran first saw J Radhakrishnan. The Tamil Nadu government’s health department secretary was also the Thanjavur district collector at the time of Kumbakonam school fire tragedy and was incidentally the first IAS officer he ever saw. It was at the time, Prabhakaran started harbouring the dream of joining the civil services.
Becoming an IAS officer was still a distant dream, especially after how he was forced to give up engineering after his class 12.
With a father drowning in alcohol and his mother and sister struggling to get through the day making & selling coconut fronds, paying counselling and coaching fees weren’t really top priorities.
But this Friday, this son of an alcoholic father who fought all odds to pursue his education cracked the UPSC civil services examination 2017 and secured the 101st rank among 990 who made the cut.
Hailing from the Melaottankadu village in Pattukottai in Thanjavur district, Prabhakaran worked hard for two years as a sawmill operator and even practiced farming, just in a bid to support his family financially and save as much as he could for his education.
“I wasn’t prepared to let go of my dreams,” he said speaking to the Times of India.
It wasn’t until four years later when he had funded his younger brother’s engineering education and helped his older sister get married, that he went back to education.
He moved on to enroll in the civil engineering stream at the Thanthai Periyar Government Institute of Technology in Vellore in 2008. Even at the time he faced a lot of difficulties since he wasn’t fluent in English, given his Tamil medium education background.
Soon after, he decided to travel to Chennai with the hope of cracking the IIT-Madras entrance examinations.
“A friend referred me to a tutor in St Thomas Mount who trained underprivileged students like me,” he says.
Often with no place to live in Chennai, Prabhakaran would travel to the hillock every weekend to get tutored and take shelter at the St Thomas Mount railway station.
He would then return to Vellore during the week to attend regular college and work during his off hours at a mobile recharge outlet.
Prabhakaran’s hard work bore fruit after he successfully cracked the IIT-M entrance and finished his M.Tech programme with a top rank in 2014 and a 9.0 GPA!
This gritty young man who did not let any failure distract him from his goal, cracked the UPSC exams in his fourth attempt. He hopes his story will help many more individuals from his hometown as well as across the nation to never give up on his dreams.
Others from the state who made the cut include V Keerthi Vasan at rank 29, L Madhubalan at 71 and S Balachander at 129.
We wish all of them the very best!
Feature image in-set credit: Times of India.