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  • Sonal Goel

The Day It Was...

Updated: May 27, 2021

16th May, 2008


As is with all Civil services aspirants, the day when I cleared civil services examination- 16th May 2008, is still afresh in my mind. One of my friend called me from UPSC breaking the news of result, that time not much of social media, so I looked at website of UPSC on internet on my desktop computer. My father & mother were at home & the feeling of Joy along with satisfaction swelled upon all of us with tears as it was a day dreamt & yearned of since long, which was culmination of efforts of years together, the sacrifices or I would say the choices made at different points of time. Sincere gratitude & thanks to the Almighty is what we all conveyed. While the joy had just started sinking in, with innumerous congratulatory phone calls, along with media approaching for some interviews or bytes, it was also in back of the mind as in ‘kya bahut jyada bada kuch kar diya India mein’, with AIR 13th in exams. That whole night I remember I could not sleep in thrill & joy. It was my flight to immediate ‘Little Stardom’. But as they say every success comes with sense of responsibility. The society tempts to keep you on a higher pedestal of respect & recognition.

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 expected for me was that women are supposed to be behind the scene, taking care of their homes, help their husbands, nurture children and if some of them so desire they can pick a 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 change maker, despite having not so conducive environment from society!

My father suggested me to 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 alongwith 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 pattern . My parents & family were the biggest support system during the civil services preparation.

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 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.

Many aspirants do ask me whether academic excellence is pre-requisite in clearing civil services examination. However I feel, you need not be meritorious or high marks scorer, but yes you need to be hard working, you need to be focused & committed towards your goal. There is no shortcut to success & ultimately your glory arrives when you bask in your own sweat. 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 system in infrastructure & resources both financial & human, pressures from press, citizens / more so after e-Governance & digital interventions; everything in public domain. There is 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 system.

As I reflect, I admit, balancing your service and personal life is equally important, especially being a female officer, there are some things which as a mother only I have to do. Many a times your career & family life doesn’t support eachother and both are equally demanding. But with family’s support, in my case my husband’s support has been very crucial and also of my parents. During my serving days of more than 7 years in Tripura & now in Haryana, the support system has been critical for my success. My husband resigned private sector job & appeared for civil services. In 2013 he qualified for IRS(C&CE) and same year our daughter was born. Now I am 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. From a girl who had always stayed in the conservative protected environment of home to a woman serving the people in different parts of country, this is the rediscovering reality for myself, This is ME!

When I reflect, I don’t feel I could have been better placed in terms of service I belong to at present, all thanks to the Almighty! 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 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.

As we know, success is not final, failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that matters. As Paul Coelho said- When you aspire something genuinely from heart, the whole universe conspires & enables you to achieve that. The 3 C’s — Courage, Conviction & Consistency shall help you sail in all situations of life and enable you achieve your goal.

I always recall a prose — ‘Tum samay ki ret par chhodte chalo nishaan, dekhti tumhe zameen dekhta hai asmaan’.

Love what you do & Do what you Love. I enjoy being in civil services. 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 COVID19 pandemic.

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.

I shall always feel blessed for 2 days- 16th May 2008 when I qualified for civil services & 1st September 2008 - date of formally joining civil services.

Reflections by: SONAL GOEL, IAS

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