“For two years, I sat at home, feeling like a burden. Some said my parents spent ‘too much on a girl’s education’. After a point, I started believing it."
From the first fall while learning to walk, the first game you lost, to the embarrassingly low score you got for the first time in a class test, all our lives have seen failure, and these have defined who we are and formed the blueprint of our successes.
Don’t believe me? Just think about this for a minute: would you even be rejoicing your successes if you didn’t measure them against past failures?
And that is why, in novelist Truman Capote’s words, failure indeed is the condiment that gives success its flavour!
These four inspiring people were aware of this fact and did not let any obstacle pin them down. For them, every hiccup or failure was only an opportunity to explore and excel.
1. Akand Sitra
A bright student who had just graduated from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM), Akand was confident he would crack the Civil Services Exam (CSE) and pursue his dream career.
But, year after year, he kept missing the mark. He took the CSE in 2013, 2014 and then 2015, but failed at them by a thin margin, every single time.
However, the repeated failures were not enough to curb the spirits of this 27-year-old.
“I have taken many exams in the past few years. Much like life, you pass in some and fail in others. But, there is always something to learn. For me, it was the realisation that the objective is not to crack the test as it is just the first step-a qualifier. It is to achieve what’s beyond it: passion and a career milestone. So the focus should be there, as only one path doesn’t need to lead to it. There are many other ways,” says Akand, in conversation with The Better India (TBI).
It was during his preparations that he discovered Quora, where he would write answers to subjective queries around the test, opinion pieces and GK-related topics. His answers gained popularity, and in 4 years, amidst several ups and downs, he rose to become a Quora celebrity, who has answered more than 300 questions and has almost 60,000 subscribers today.
Despite failures, he never gave up and finally in 2015 cracked the Intelligence Bureau (IB) recruitment with flying colours landing himself the position of an Assistant Central Intelligence Officer (ACIO) by 2016.
Now training to be a public policy consultant, Akand believes that an exam is a qualifier, not the destination.
“At the end of the day, UPSC is not the end of the tunnel; it is just one of the tunnels that will lead you to the end. If not that, you have many more tunnels to take!”
2. Poonam Todi
Life was never meant to be easy for Poonam Todi, but she chose to confront every obstacle head-on, with confidence and grace.
However, more than her success, what makes her story extraordinary are her failures and the courage she showed while overcoming them.
She attempted the much-coveted Uttarakhand Provincial Civil Services (Judicial) exam in 2016 and 2017 but failed to qualify beyond the interview round each time. This, however, did not deter her confidence and she worked twice as hard for her third attempt, where she finally cracked the Uttarakhand Provincial Civil Services (Judicial) exam in 2018 and became the all-state topper.
“Although I pursued commerce after class XII, I was always drawn to law. Having seen struggle and hardships from close quarters, I wanted to help those who are economically backwards so that they are not deprived of justice,” Poonam told a national daily.
After completing her masters in commerce and getting an LLB degree from DAV PG College, she is currently enrolled in the LLM programme at Tehri.
3. Jodharam Patel
On 5 June 2019, in Dedawas Ka Goliya, a remote village in Barmer, Rajasthan, history was made, when Jodharam, a local farmer son, became the first person in the village to crack the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) exam.
As a student, Jodharam was decent but did not aspire for a career in medicine, though he wanted to attend college. So in 2012, when he managed to score 65 per cent in boards, he hoped that his father would let him pursue higher studies.
After a lot of convincing and pleading, he moved to the Jodhpur K R Public Senior Secondary School and was exposed to the idea of competitive exams and attempted the NEET exam.
The first time he secured an AIR of 1,50,000 and failed to get admission in government colleges. He tried again, five more times, finally making it in the fifth with an AIR of 3886 in 2019. Jodharam is now completing his MBBS at Dr Sampurnanand Medical College.
“My village and the ones surrounding it do not have good medical facilities, and we cannot afford private medical care. So, I want to make healthcare affordable and accessible,” shares Jodharam who did not tremble at the face of adversity, and continues to work hard to fulfil his dream of using his education for social change.
For this young woman from Mumbai, every roadblock was an opportunity to overcome and excel- a path that took her closer to her dream of becoming a pilot. But, like all extraordinary journeys, hers was not an easy one.
Born in a middle-class family, her dream of becoming a pilot was rather expensive, whereby the course she wanted to pursue cost Rs 25 lakh. Despite that, they managed to send her to the US to pursue the course with the help of a loan. But, after training getting a job was the second hurdle.
For two long years, she remained unemployed fighting every single day to maintain her confidence.
“For two years, I sat at home, feeling like a burden. My relatives made it even more difficult for my parents with taunts like ‘you spent too much on a girl’s education’, and ‘you should’ve made her a doctor.’ After a point, I started believing it too. This was a low phase, but I couldn’t bear to stay at home, so I applied for any position — I tried four times for the air hostess post and failed. The Secret (a self-help book) got me through this — I kept visualising, and on my fifth attempt, I got through!” she says.
In the next few years, she continued to work hard for her dream and moved from being an air hostess to ground staff. From working 15 hours a day to studying in trains, buses, washrooms and even during meals, she gave it her all only because she wanted to see herself in a pilot’s uniform.
After seven years of the constant struggle to become a pilot, she gave the commercial pilot entrance exam and to her delight, aced it and secured a full scholarship worth Rs 20 lakh for pilot training.
“How did I get through it? It’s simple — as pilots, our major training is for emergencies. When everything goes wrong; when the engine fails, what will we do to land safely? In the same way, when everything was crashing around me, I just said to myself — I AM going to land safely, I just need to calmly think of how I’ll do it — and I did it!” says Ankita, reverberating the same principle that has motivated many more to keep at it.
Also Read: Failure Didn’t Stop Gritty Doctor From Becoming Her District’s First to Crack UPSC
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)