The son of daily wage labourers from a remote village in Karnataka, IFS officer Santosha H overcame incredible odds to crack UPSC. He shares his inspiring journey and key tips for future aspirants of CSE.
“Even today, my village, Mudigere in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka, has no access to public transportation. It is like an island which is completely cut off from the mainland. We do not even receive the daily newspaper here,” says Santosha H (29) a Union Public Service (UPSC) aspirant who, having cleared the Civil Service Examination (CSE), has been allocated the Indian Foreign Service (IFoS) stream.
The nearest point from where one can access public transportation is almost 5 kilometers away, if not more, he says. “Since this is how I grew up back then it did not feel like a chore. Now when I look back, I wonder why the village has remained so severely underdeveloped,” he says. Born to daily wage farm labourers Santosha spent his growing up years at his maternal grandparent’s home.
“I stayed away from my parents until I got my second job. That was the only way in which I could be educated and make something of my life,” he says.
If that wasn’t enough, when Santosha was in Class 5 he started noticing some issues with his hearing abilities. A few tests later it was confirmed that he had a hearing impairment that would need treatment to correct. “Despite having an issue from as early as 10 years of age, I did not get it treated fully until I completed my diploma. I was often made fun of because of the pocket hearing aid I carried around,” he says.
This pushed Santosha into finding solace in books and libraries instead of making friends and having conversations with anyone. “Books were my way of escaping reality and the more I read the more curious I got. I would see everyone else play together but somehow I never felt the need to go out and make any friends. I was too shy and conscious of my hearing impairment,” he shares.
‘I have seen the system work and becoming an officer was a dream.’
Once Santosha completed his primary education at the village he moved to a nearby village, which was slightly more developed than his. “I was living in the Backward Class and Minority hostel where there was no access to proper food or even clean drinking water facility,” he recounts. Even though the government gave the hostel enough grants, none of it was being utilised in the proper manner.
“Seeing first-hand the kind of corruption that was taking place I approached the primary school teacher who urged me to formally lodge a complaint with the Lokayuktha,” says Santosha. This was perhaps his first tryst with bureaucracy and law. He continues, “Despite having lodged a complaint, for months I did not hear back. By some sort of coincidence, an official from the Lokayuktha was visiting the hostel and I once again raised my concern in-person.” This time around there was action that was taken and things at the hostel improved to a certain extent. “This incident in a sense reiterated my desire to join the service and find ways of helping people,” he says.
The power that vests in government officials can be put to tremendous use, if done properly and that is what attracted Santosha to the services. Narrating yet another instance from early on in his life, he shares, “My mother had been trying in vain to get her BPL (Below Poverty Line) card made and there was always some issue with it. The lack of survey by the government officials led to her name being excluded from the list. She tried as best as she could to get the card and ultimately it was because of the District Magistrate’s intervention that it happened.”
While Santosha is elated at having cleared the examination, for his parents, life continues to go on like before. “I have tried to make them understand what this means and how prestigious it is to clear the exams as well, but beyond a pat on my back, they didn’t say much. They haven’t understood what it actually means. I will let my work speak for itself and make them as proud as I can,” he concludes.
Tips for aspirants:
1. Believe in yourself:
“There is no greater gift you can give yourself,” he says. It is important to have utmost confidence in one’s abilities and that is what will help in clearing this competitive examination.
2. Have faith and fear in the exam process:
“The examination should instill fear and a sense of deep faith in the aspirants. One must approach it with 100 per cent conviction and be willing to give it a very sincere shot,” he adds.
3. Find a reason for attempting the examination:
“Each aspirant approaches the examination differently. It helps if one has a personal motivation or reason to attempt it. Find that and channelise your energy on making it happen,” says Santosha.
4. Always make schedules and stick to it:
“When it comes to work ethics – one must be very diligent while preparing for this examination. For that, making a schedule or time table and meticulously abiding by it will help. Make changes to your time table until you find one that suits you the best,” he adds.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)