Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad, attained 131st Rank in 2nd attempt in Civil Services Examination-2017

“Equanimity, hard work and intelligent time-management are the secrets of my success.”                                                                               -Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad

      “Pratiyogita Darpan” arranged an exclusive interview with Ms. Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad who has been selected in Civil Services Examination-2017. She deserves high admiration and our heartiest congratulations on her splendid success. This important, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview is being presented here in its original form.

PD—Achieving top slot in the coveted CSE is no small feat; accept our heartiest congratulations on your splendid success.

Ms. Vallari—Thank you very much.

PD—In how many attempts have you achieved this success?

Ms. Vallari—2 sincere attempts.

PD—You achieved the desired success in this attempt; how do you visualize your previous attempts?

Ms. Vallari—I started my serious preparation only after having completed post graduation in law. After preparation, I missed clearing Prelims by a narrow margin.

        In my next i.e., 2017 attempt, I corrected all my mistakes and solved umpteen number of mocks to set my risk taking strategy right. I finally succeeded in clearing all the three stages in this attempt.

PD—What was your optional subject ?

Ms. Vallari—Law.

PD—While making final choice for optional subject, what’s important and what’s not ? Give the basis of selecting your optional subject.

Ms. Vallari—Well, speaking for myself, since I’d already pursued law during graduation, it made complete sense to me to choose law as my optional.

PD—What preferences in services have you opted for and any particular reason for that priority ?

Ms. Vallari—My first preference is for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) followed by IAS and IPS respectively. All the services are unique and unparalleled but personally, I’m very zealous regarding the IFS.

        There are many reasons for that order. First was that I have always been enamoured by the IFS and its work profile. During my preparation, there were many instances where I read about how our diplomats have been handling foreign affairs and thought it to be extremely critical to raising India’s position in the world. I was convinced that I could use my legal knowledge and especially that of International law coupled with the advocating skills in me to defend or safeguard India’s interest.

        Getting the chance to experience other cultures, travel the world, meet personalities, learn different languages were all bonuses that attracted me more towards the IFS. And that dream of mine has come true !

PD—‘Success is sweet’ Were you confident of your success with top ranks and how did you react to this news ?

Ms. Vallari—My written exam and interview both had gone well, so somewhere I knew I would make it to the list, but getting the service you desire was more important for me and was like a dream come true.

        My first reaction was that of unadulterated relief. Not because I wouldn’t have to give this exam again, but because I’d decided for myself that this was going to be my last attempt and hence hadn’t even filled the form for the next attempt.

PD—Today, IAS Toppers are icons and lots of media coverage makes them popular. Before your success, what was your opinion about these toppers ?

Ms. Vallari—UPSC is rightly called the mother of all exams and the top rankers deserve every bit of praise that’s showered on them. What I realized was that they are ordinary people in flesh and blood who’ve gone the extra mile and achieved extraordinary things. This only strengthened the belief in me that absolutely anyone could do what they’ve done, provided we are ready to put our sweat and tears into it.

        I must admit that the previous toppers’ interviews and videos helped me to better my strategy and to learn from their mistakes.

PD—Can you recall the exact moment when you realized the importance of Civil Services ?

Ms. Vallari—There wasn’t any such exact moment. An IAS officer is often called as the king of the District, so the power he enjoys and the respect that bureaucracy commands is common knowledge. But it was only after my post graduation that I desired to have an extremely productive career. Civil services seemed to be the right platform.

Name—Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad

Father’s Name—Shri Mahendra Gaikwad

Mother’s Name—Mrs. Uma Gaikwad

Educational Qualifications

B.S.L.-LL.B. ILS Law College, Pune.

LL.M. in Constitutional Law (Gold Medal) Department of Law, Pune University.

Ms. Vallari
—My father did sow the seeds of CSE quite early in life, but the actual desire and the plan to step into this was entirely my decision. Parents wholeheartedly supported me in all my endeavors.PD—Was CSE your planned decision or your parents’ wish?

PD—Did you keep in mind some time-frame for the examination preparation ?

Ms. Vallari—Yes, like I’ve mentioned before, I’d decided that this would be my best and last attempt. I’d left no stone unturned in this attempt and hadn’t even filled the form for next attempt.

PD—‘Time Management’ is a key factor while making preparations as well as in writing examination papers. How did you manage things ?

Ms. Vallari—Managing factor is an extremely important factor for any competitive exam. especially for UPSC mains examination. While practicing answers at home, I always timed myself with a stop watch down to every second. The one thing I’d decided before entering for mains exam hall, was to complete the paper in time, no matter what. For this, I’d divided the minutes I’d be devoting to each answer and I used to wrap up answers to every question in pre-decided number of minutes. So, I always had one eye on the watch !

PD—The first step is the most difficult; from where did you get the right advice ?

Ms. Vallari—I agree. An excited novice aspirant without proper guidance can be like an unguided ballistic missile ! I had been extremely fortunate that I found a good mentor in Krishnakant Bhoge Sir (Retd Divisional Commissioner) in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

        As I have done complete self study staying at home in Aurangabad, the discussions on issues that I had with him really helped me shape both, my perceptions and preparation.

      Other than that, the role of internet cannot be overstated. It is the biggest boon especially for people in remote places doing self-study.

PD—What was your approach towards Paper 1 (General Studies) and Paper 2 (Aptitude test) during Preliminary Examination preparation ? How long time and how much effort did you divide for each ?

Ms. Vallari—For Paper 1 General Studies :

        Since I couldn’t qualify Prelims the first time, in my next attempt, all my efforts were focussed on Paper 1. I made sure I was thorough with absolutely all the NCERT’s (especially History, Geaography) and I worked on my weaker areas by taking lessons from my previous attempt (Art and Culture, Medieval, S&T). I also revised all newspaper notes and Vision IAS booklets on current affairs apart from solving hundreds of mocks at home along with the usage of apps like Telegram which also have a lot of content and questions.

        Paper 2 Aptitude Test) : Didn’t do any practice since it’s only qualifying and I was comfortable at both, the math part and the comprehension part.

PD—How did you manage to tackle the ‘Negative Marking’ in prelims ?

Ms. Vallari—I had been extremely careful and alert so as to not take unnecessary risks in questions where I had no idea. In others, taking intelligent educated guesses almost always works and elimination technique is of a big help. I always attempted all the analytical type of questions as the chances of going wrong there are lesser than in the complete factual ones.

PD—What shift did you adopt in your strategy for Main Examination (Written) ?

Ms. Vallari—In main examination, having conceptual clarity of issues becomes more important, because only after understanding an issue can we analyse it. My focus was on building up on fodder points and in content enrichment. I kept a separate diary which had all facts, figures, reports, statistics etc which could supplement my answers.

        But the most important thing in mains is actually fulfilling the demand of the question within the stated word limit. Hence my primary focus was on writing precise, to the point answers and thus addressing what has been asked in the question rather than writing what I knew about the question! Completing the paper in time and attempting all the questions is equally important.

        And lastly, the presentation part. I followed the normal Intro-Body-Conclusion format. But the good content cannot make up if it’s written in scrawly and illegible handwriting or even if it’s too ornate stuffed with heavy jargon ! I think what they expect is simple, clear, neat and straight-forward methodical answers and so that’s what I worked upon.

PD—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for ESSAY paper ?

Ms. Vallari—Didn’t do any special preparation as such, apart from keeping a separate diary filled with stories, case-studies, events, quotes of personalities, dialogues/ citations from my favourite movies/ books etc which I’d thought could be used in essays. My focus was on sticking very closely to the subject and maintaining a natural flow throughout.

        I’d picked up the following two topics :

(a)   Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms.

(b)   We may brave human laws but cannot resist natural laws.

PD—How did you prepare for the Personality Test ?

Ms. Vallari—I had my interview on the third day itself, so didn’t really get much time to prepare. I only made sure I was thorough with my Detailed Application Form (DAF) and brushed up on current affairs.

        I genuinely feel UPSC interviews test the overall personality of a candidate, something which cannot be prepared for in a matter of a month.

        The CSE journey itself moulds us into stronger characters. I focussed on giving honest and succinct answers and on maintaining my calm and composure.

PD—Were you preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for CSE ?

Ms. Vallari—I did qualify the MPSC (Maharashtra Public Service Commission) Mains exam but didn’t appear for the interview as I’d only given that exam as another experience and wasn’t interested in that service.

PD—How do you find Pratiyogita Darpan ? Do you find it close to your expectations ?

Ms. Vallari—Pratiyogita Darpan is a magazine my father used to get since I was in 10th standard. I liked the way everything was covered comprehensively in it. I especially referred to the Economy edition of PD as it starts from the basics and goes into depth while sprinkling many questions from other competitive exams here and there, which was a treat to solve !

PD—What is the secret of your success ?

Ms. Vallari—If I have to pick a word, it’d be ‘Equanimity’. Maintaining that balance, physical, mental and spiritual and on not compromising on exercise, hobbies at the cost of studies.

PD—To whom would you like to give the credit for your success ?

Ms. Vallari—At the risk of sounding cliché, it would have to be my parents. They were my mental cushion and my strongest support system. Despite both being working parents, they have been positively involved throughout my journey.

PD—Any suggestion/advice which you would like to give to the future aspirants.

Ms. Vallari

  1. Know the syllabus. Know the previous years’ questions.
  2. Read from limited sources.
  3. Consolidation of information is important. Revise more.
  4. Solve many mocks for Prelims.
  5. Choose your optional very carefully.
  6. Ignoring Newspaper can be fatal. Make newspaper notes (gist) in your own words.
  7. Do read instructions before beginning the exam. UPSC is unpredictable. For e.g., 2017 Mains, the pattern had changed. Be alert !
  8. In interview, speak from your heart with all honesty and don’t bluff.
  9. Sometimes the journey is more beautiful than the destination! Enjoy the process.

PD—Thank you very much and wishing you all the very best for your future endeavours.

Ms. Vallari—Thank you.

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