A series of health scares forced Taruni Pandey from West Bengal to drop out after two years of MBBS.

Later, while pursuing her Master’s in English Literature from IGNOU, her brother-in-law — a CRPF commandant, was martyred in Srinagar in 2016.

The death of her brother-in-law meant that she had to accompany her sister to various bureaucrats and politicians’ offices to talk about her sister’s job.

Here, she found her second calling in life. “I realised how much good one person can do by being in the system.”

So, she started to prepare to be a civil servant.

Taruni secured Rank 14 in the Consolidated Reserve List in the UPSC CSE mains, 2021. What makes her victory even more special is that she did not attend any coaching classes.

“Since I didn’t have a choice, I had to develop an ultra-smart strategy to clear the exam. I prepared my notes by watching YouTube videos. I didn’t read from the standard books as I simply didn’t have time,” adds Taruni.

She says she worked on a strategy to eliminate the wrong answers.

“The important thing is to mark the right answers and I studied accordingly. I kept on revising and re-revising the notes that I had prepared. I would keep a target of finishing X number of chapters per day, and I finished it, whether it took two or 10 hours,” she says.

“Finally, my hard work and destiny played a role, and everything just fell into place,” says Taruni.