Dhivya Loganathan is a 2015 batch IAS officer currently posted as Joint Secretary Forest, in the West Bengal cadre. Dhivya attempted the Civil Service Examination thrice and secured an All India Rank of 402. In a conversation with The Better India, she speaks about her motivation for joining the service and shares tips on preparation, especially on how to appear for the interview.
“I was always fascinated by the idea of being an IAS officer, almost since my childhood,” begins Dhivya. “My motivation to join the service was my desire to do something big and be in the cutting edge of service delivery to our country.”
An Experience Etched in Mind
“My father was in government services and he passed away when I was young. My mother was given his job on compassionate grounds and the process that it took to get that job left a mark on my young mind,” shares Dhivya.
The job was important in their lives as Dhivya and her mother had to fend for themselves.
“Getting that job however was not an easy process, and I remember my mother visiting the government office several times to make it happen. During that time there was an officer who finally signed those papers and my mother’s file was moved ahead – that changed our lives and I was able to continue my education because of that one act,” she recounts.
“It was a realisation,” says Dhivya. “I saw how a single signature of a person could make such a difference to the life of a human being. I experienced firsthand the ability of an IAS officer to change people’s lives, and I knew then that I wanted to be one.”
Years later, now when Dhivya meets almost hundreds of people on a regular basis, she does not forget that somewhere someone had helped her.
Her childhood experience has etched a deep sense of empathy in her, and it is with that humility that she approaches her work.
No Easy Days…
Dhivya did not have the luxury of focusing exclusively on her preparations. “While I had always been a good student, through school and college, I did not have the means to focus only on the CSE preparation. I had to work in order to be able to provide for my mother and myself,” says Dhivya.
To that end, after her graduation, she took up a job at Apollo Hospital and juggled both her job as well as time to prepare.
“I would work through the day and study at night,” she says. Nothing works better than making a schedule and sticking to it and it is an advice that we have heard many officers give.
It was no different for Dhivya.
Using Time Effectively
Dhivya speaks of how she travelled by the bus to her workplace each day and utilised that time to get some revision done.
“I carried my books in the bag and very often took an earlier bus just so that I could get a seat. There were many days when I would stand and travel but I still managed to get some revision done.” It took every bit of her determination to prepare for UPSC and this perhaps stemmed from Dhivya’s desire to succeed no matter what.
“Make a plan and stick to it – use the fire in your belly to motivate you and keep you going,” she advises.
Having said this, Dhivya feels that she took herself a tad too seriously. She says, “I should not have stressed myself out so much. I would have perhaps done better if I had managed to expell the stress from my life. My attitude towards the exam was as though it was a battle – it needn’t have been that way.”
How to Tackle the Interview Stage?
One of the first questions Dhivya was asked is why her name was spelt with an ‘h’, when usually the name does not have an ‘h’. Dhivya replied to this saying that her mother was insistent that her name have a Sanskrit tone to it and the ‘h’ was added for the sake of pronunciation.
After being asked about her educational qualification and work experience, the panel asked whether she was following the United Kingdom elections, and if yes, then what she thought about it.
After several questions about the UK which included details about the provinces that came under it – Dhivya was asked to draw a map of the UK. Which Dhivya politely declined.
She adds here, “Please refrain from attempting an answer you have no idea or knowledge about. The interviewers are bound to catch on to it. Not knowing answers to all the questions is perfectly fine. In fact I used ‘NO’ and ‘Sorry I am not aware’ many times through the interview, and yet here I am.”
Dhivya’s Key Tips
Dhivya has two key tips for all candidates:
• There is a limit to what you can know
Do not get flustered if asked a question you have no answer to. Be polite in saying so. Acknowledging that you do not know something is better than making things up.
Be genuine and show an inclination to learn the answer.
• Know your Detail Application Form (DAF) well
The members of the interview panel know nothing about you other than what you have mentioned in your DAF. You should work around your DAF and that in my opinion is your ticket to the finale. You must know everything mentioned in that thoroughly.
In conclusion she says, “The key to cracking this examination is practise and more practise. Never give up, and you will see the results one day.”
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)