It’s not the resources that guarantee one’s success, but rather, their resourcefulness. This is the mantra that Parikipandla Narahari, a 2001-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer has always lived by.
Narahari, the son of a tailor, hails from Basanth Nagar, a small village in Telangana’s Karimnagar district. He studied in government education institutions, including a government UPSC coaching centre. With sheer hard work and commitment, he wrote his own destiny.
Since taking charge as a bureaucrat, Narahari has brought about several grassroot changes — from leading Indore as India’s cleanest city to introducing the Ladli Laxmi Yojana in Madhya Pradesh, which was later replicated by other states, he has earned several feathers in his cap.
Alongside these staggering initiatives, which earned him the tag of being a ‘people’s officer’, Narahari has also been actively helping and guiding civil aspirants across the country. He says he has helped over 400 students crack one of India’s toughest competitive exams.
“I come from a humble background. There’s very less exposure in my village. We faced many financial constraints, and it was hard to find the right guidance. So I tried to become the mentor I never had myself. A little motivation and encouragement can go a long way in shaping careers,” Narahari tells The Better India. He’s currently posted as a Managing Director at the Madhya Pradesh State Cooperative Marketing Federation, and as a Commissioner, Technical Education Department.
‘The power to make things right’
Even as a student, Narahari was always bright and hardworking. He says he imbibed this quality from his father, having seen the latter’s honesty and commitment to people’s needs. This made Narahari realise the importance of serving people.
The seed of joining the civil service was sown by the people around him, including his teachers, whose quintessential response to Narahari’s grades was that he had the potential to become a doctor, engineer, or an IAS officer.
When the district collector introduced an adult literacy programme in his area, Narahari was among the students who were roped in to impart lessons in community halls. “For the first time, I felt like I could make a difference with my efforts by teaching the elderly. I realised a collector’s position had the power to make things right,” he recalls.
However, the question of how he would crack the UPSC loomed over him for a while, because he had very little knowledge of it. Narahari chose to focus on maintaining the consistency of his grades, and then moved to Hyderabad in 1995, after graduating from a government intermediate residential college.
He couldn’t clear his IIT entrance exams, and joined a local college in Hyderabad. From here, his real struggle began, he says, because he was away from home, and clueless about how to prepare for the UPSC.
Since there was no money coming to him from his home, he started tutoring school children, while simultaneously studying for engineering. He discovered a section of students from Osmanabad University who were preparing for the UPSC, and found out about free coaching.
For the next couple of years, time management became crucial, he says. Narahari’s days began as early as 5 am. Despite this, he managed to score high marks in all his engineering exams, and was a top scorer in his final year.
A towering feat
After completing his engineering course, Narahari started working with a private company, while still continuing his UPSC preparations. He says he utilised the study material available at government and college libraries. Thanks to this, he was able to clear the entrance tests for a government-run UPSC free coaching institute, which also provided him free accommodation and food.
“If you are giving prelims, they further provide coaching for Mains, and then for the interview. Support is provided at all stages, and we were even given pocket money to purchase books,” he adds.
This, Narahari says, was a turning point, which enhanced his confidence in being able to crack the exam. All the hard work, sleepless nights, and his parents’ encouragement finally paid off when, in 2000, he cleared his UPSC in the second attempt, with an All-India Rank of 78.
The IAS officer distinctly remembers the day his results were announced.
“My parents were on cloud nine,” he recalls, and adds, “The feeling of achieving my dreams was surreal. I’d had to face so many challenges because I came from a government school, as opposed to those from private ones. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to an individual’s confidence and hard work. One has to have the fire in their belly.”
Giving back to society
Four years after he joined the service, Narahari found himself actively involved in guiding other aspirants from his village. He used every chance he got to visit government schools and colleges to motivate students.
In his capacity as a Collector, he taught aspirants from underprivileged backgrounds at government coaching centres in MP for 10 years. He also helped students get concessions at private centres. Having used government benefits and schemes as a student himself, he always lets his students know about free coaching in their respective states. Many states offer reimbursements on expenses incurred during preparation, if the candidate clears their prelims. Students can avail such benefits from the district administration or social welfare department, he says.
In 2013, he started a Facebook page to assist aspirants from across the country. The page currently has over 2.5 lakh followers, and he receives hundreds of messages and queries from people every day. These range from aspirants sharing their problems to asking questions related to study material, optional subject, time management, and preparation strategies.
Narahari also devises questions for mock interviews and assists aspirants with the answers. “Most interviews are centred around case studies. Narahari sir helped me come up with solutions for local problems in a practical way,” says Prateek Rao, who cleared the UPSC in 2019. He adds, “He never gives answers directly, but helps with how to approach exams and prepare answers. It was his moral support that motivated me through my first three attempts.”
“Most aspirants lack clarity of thought and despite having all resources, they fail to clear the UPSC. I try to answer each question, and motivate them. Most importantly, I advise them on how to take breaks regularly and indulge in leisurely activities simultaneously. One has to remain focussed during preparation,” he says.
Narahari’s drive to make a difference in the lives of other aspirants remains ever-inspiring. Having lacked a figure he could look up to himself, he has ensured that the students who have interacted with him don’t walk this journey alone.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)