“During my time in school and college in Tirunelveli, I would often laugh at those who spoke about destiny. But having come so far and the struggles I went through, I will have to admit that I have started to believe in it,” says the gritty 33-year-old Uma Maheshwari who cracked her way through the Civil Services Examination (CSE) in her sixth attempt.
A wife and a mother, Uma did not let the failures get her spirit down. The determined woman had made up her mind, and her perseverance paid off in 2018 when she cleared the CSE.
How the CSE spark lit in Uma’s mind
Uma spent all her growing up years in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. After completing engineering, Uma pursued MBA in her hometown. “During my days in college I had absolutely no idea that I would end up appearing for the CSE. It was my professor, Abu Backer, who almost pushed me to write the exam. The first time I wrote it, in 2011, was without any preparation.”
Incidentally, upon leaving college, Uma had the tag of being the best student along with three offer letters from blue-chip companies.
Life in the corporate sector
“With great hope and a sense of achievement, I entered the corporate world. Life was truly a bed of roses for me until my father passed away unexpectedly. For me, everything revolved around my parents and losing my father and then my mother soon after was a huge shock.”
Uma continued working for five years in institutions like Syntel, Karur Vysya Bank, Standard Charter and also Oracle Financial service.
“All through my corporate life, I continued to write the CSE, though I had no time or chance to prepare for any of them. I gave five CSE examinations while working,” she informs. Unfortunately, Uma wasn’t able to clear any of the prelims.
The sixth and successful attempt at CSE
One would normally give up after facing so many failures, contrarily, Uma just got bolstered with the results. So what kept her motivated? “I saw that everyone around me had given up on me. I needed to clear the exams and prove to not just everyone else but also to myself that I was certainly capable of doing this. It was imperative for me.”
In 2017, Uma decided to quit her corporate job and spend her time in preparation alone. “It was a very tough decision. No one around me saw any reason why I would do this, that too after failing five times before this. Everyone suggested that I keep my job and prepare side-by-side. But I knew that would not do justice to my preparation.”
Schedule during preparation
Explaining how she divided her time between managing her child, running the home, and preparing for the exam, she says, “During the time I was preparing for the prelims I would wake up at 5 in the morning to study till 7 AM and then spend the next three hours getting my daughter ready for school and getting the house in order.”
She adds, “I would then spend time from 10 AM until noon studying again. Once my daughter came back from school, I would spend time with her. Evenings and nights, once my husband returned from his work, he would take care of our daughter so I could study again.”
While she followed this routine for the Prelims, she stayed up from 10 PM until almost 3 AM preparing for the Mains.
When asked about family support, she mentions a very interesting reason that made her husband and in-laws change their view about the exams.
“When the 2018 results were announced and Anu Kumari, an aspirant from Haryana, managed to clinch the second position, despite having a child and family to look after, things started looking bright for me.”
Uma says that Anu’s success gave her in-laws and husband the confidence that it was possible for a young mother to do this.
In her last attempt, in 2018, Uma managed to clear all her rounds. Her interview took place in early 2019 and she now awaits her posting details. When asked what posting she is hoping to be given, she says, “I have given my preference to be in Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS) because I felt that given my corporate experience, I would be able to contribute well to this stream.”
What is ICLS?
Given the rapid pace at which India’s corporate sector is growing, the ICLS is a very robust stream. Officers from the ICLS deal with a wide range of fields related to corporate governance. Until 2008, ICLS officers were recruited only through lateral entry, however, now the officers are recruited via CSE.
In conclusion, Uma says that she was deeply impacted by something that Steve Jobs often spoke about – connecting the dots. “You have to place your trust and belief in something and keep working towards it. It will all somehow start making sense and come together,” says Uma.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)