I came across civil services during my 3rd year of graduation in SRCC. I was already doing CS along with BCom(Hons). But the feeling to do something for society & choose a platform by which I can contribute towards people’s welfare was backing me from the subconscious. So I thought of attempting to appear in civil services. The opportunity it gives to work for the nation & connect to masses & society, that is unparallel !
When I discussed this idea with my parents, my father had those little apprehensions. The All India services are cadre based, so he was worried about service, cadre etc, but then finally he agreed. Belonging to a middle class family based in Haryana, I grew up in an atmosphere of, if I may say so, conservatism and orthodoxy and the real for me was grim. The real expectation for me was that women are supposed to be behind the scene, taking care of their homes, helping their husbands, nurture children and if some of them so desire they can pick traditional jobs. Similar was the reality expected for me, but I am thankful and fortunate I was born to a father who was very progressive, who thought ahead of his time. Our parents allowed us - me and my one sister my one brother - the flexibility to choose a calling of our own. My parents helped me to explore a different real, a new reality, and be a changemaker, despite having not so conducive environment from society!
My father suggested that I have a fallback career option. Therefore I decided to do Llb from Delhi University after my CS was over. Then I started my preparation for civil services along with Llb & part time job as Company Secretary in 2004-2005. I joined an organization as Part time CS in Manesar & then at Gurgaon. My Optionals were Commerce & Public Administration. Being a BCom(Hons) & CS, I was comfortable in Commerce. Taking Public Administration as a subject has helped me after joining Civil services. I am a believer in self study, but undertook some coaching in Delhi for orientation towards examination patterns .
My parents & family were the biggest support system during the civil services preparation. In my case my husband’s support has been very crucial and also of my parents. During my serving days of more than a decade in Tripura & in Haryana, the support system has been critical for my success. My husband resigned from his private sector job & appeared for civil services. In 2013 he qualified for IRS(C&CE) and the same year our daughter was born. Now I am the blessed mother of two young kids. Much has been the grace of God which has enabled me to sail through the tough times. Life has been a balancer & an equalizer.
The day I cleared Civil services to now, Life in bureaucracy has been full of experiences & learnings both in Tripura & Haryana. As I look back, I see, there are various factors affecting public service delivery, like political will/ influences; public expectations, limitations in the system in infrastructure & resources both financial & human, pressures from the press, citizens / more so after e-Governance & digital interventions; everything in public domain. There is an increasing Impact of social media, moving towards G2C & C2G governance.
However during my 13 years of service, I have realized that right intentions are supported sooner or later- your own subordinates / team will help you, people will support you. Ultimately if you want to change the system, you have to be part of the system.
The journey has been full of experiences & learnings with contentment to a large extent, ofcourse with some realizations as to few situations could have been handled in a much better way. So I just appeal to the Youth of our nation to make that conscious decision, follow your dream, give your 100% and contribute to society.
Those were the days of struggles, various choices to be made, a kind of ‘self-quarantined’ life, wherein it was a commitment to oneself. I was fortunate enough to stay with my family, unlike many aspirants who stay away for their studies & preparation. But those years weren’t easy for me. From managing intensive study hours, to attending law classes, to part time job, it was a challenge I had given to myself. My parents did ensure I had a convenient environment to study, proper meals, especially the morning tea at 6 am by my Dad before I could take a nap (I used to study whole night & sleep in early morning). My study room was full of reminders & targets I had given to myself.
India is the youngest country in the world & youth is making the country proud globally. My appeal to youth is to contribute towards the nation's progress in whatever capacities u can. Believe in your dreams and with your hard work & dedication you will definitely achieve your target; Even Impossible says I am Possible..
It's an opportunity in the true sense to directly serve the people. In spite of having some limitations, civil service officers across the country are making a difference, so much evident during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Empathy, compassion and dedication are the tenets that always remain hallmark of civil services. Let us be mindful of the change we need and aspire to bring about. Be leaders, Be Entrepreneurs, create employment opportunities in society, Be those Change Makers !
Let us all empower the Young India.
“You can be the YOU of your dreams if you show sheer dedication and perseverance!
Sonal Goel IAS