It took him a lot of effort to extract from her mother, where his father is. They would hardly meet as she would toil at ICDS centre in Doda and he would study in a Srinagar orphanage. Almost 21 years later as Gazi Abdullah cleared KAS, he says his mother is happy for the first time, reports Khalid Bashir Gura
The lunchtime for Gazi Abdullah, 24, who qualified Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS-2018) with 46th rank in the open merit list got prolonged. He cracked the coveted civil service examination in his very first attempt. A phone keeps buzzing, unending line of guests, friends did not stop at home. They come to see him and he attends them with a smile and hugs.
Gazi is among the 70 qualifiers and fourth in the Resident of Backward Area (RBA) category. A resident of remote Gundna village in Doda, Gazi recalls his interaction with the second topper during interview day as they were in the same group.
“As he emerged from the interview board he was confident. His confidence was infectious,” said Abdullah. In an interview, he was asked about his subject, his home town, hobbies and other questions which he easily answered. “All the while I was confident of myself.”
Despite being at the lower end of the merit ladder, Gazi’s success is not an ordinary one. Up till now, Abdullah was not told where his father is or what happened to him. Born in 1996 his father Mohammad Abdullah, a private school teacher, died in 1998. The truth that his father had joined militancy before being killed in an encounter was revealed to him when he forced his mother to divulge.
“My mother Nagina Begum never disclosed it to me. She always said I should not think about it,” Abdullah asserted
Having lost his father when he was barely two years old, Abdullah was sent to an orphanage when he was nine years old. “It was a struggle as I like others had to wake up early, be in the queue for food, and always under strict supervision. The orphanage taught me to live a disciplined life,” he said.
Abdullah regrets that he could not get his mother’s love as the family facing harsh days was compelled to admit him at an orphanage in Srinagar. “I did not enjoy childhood,” he admitted as a matter of fact. “One can get mentally degraded at such places. The wardens are not trained and are not real parents. They can beat mercilessly at times. I was patient as my mother had no option and means to raise me.”
“My mother worked as a helper at the centre of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). She used to get a paltry allowance of Rs 1200 per month.
“I studied and passed the fourth primary from Rafiq Memorial Academy in Doda. After that, I was sent to an orphanage called Welfare Educational Institute in Srinagar where I spent seven years,” he said. According to Abdullah, quality education in orphanages is missing and their services should be assessed beyond shelter and food. He was sent to the orphanage in Srinagar. Abdullah said that due to the educational system he like others had to mug up and cram.
After twelfth class, Abdullah returned home and started giving private tuitions in his neighbourhood. He did his graduation from Doda in life sciences and then PG in Botany from the Aligarh Muslim University.
Abdullah said he used to bunk classes at the university to prepare for civil service examinations in libraries and study rooms as the reading culture enabled and helped him. “Giving tuitions helped him prepare the basics as he remained in touch with basics.”
“I am thankful to the people of Kashmir as it is through their donations I have been able to accomplish something in life,” admitted Abdullah, whose mother does not know what exactly he has achieved but she is happy because he is happy. When he was growing up bureaucrats used to visit orphanages and that is when he decided to be like them. Initially, he was attracted by their persona but the diversity of opportunities civil services provide to serve society is immense and that motivated him towards the journey.
“I was confident about the demands of the examination and I had a feeling that I had it in me like leadership skills, empathy and other basic that the job requires,” Abdullah said. “Many people have the mindset that they cannot qualify examinations as they are tough and one has to study a lot but I did it without any formal coaching.”
Even though his resources were limited, he prepared in the hostel during post-graduation days. Every day he used to select three hours consistently for studies and reading newspapers from the department library. He had adopted double o, double e approach i.e. he focused more on his optional subject consisting of two papers i.e. botany, and ethics, and sEssay. These papers consisted of 1000 marks while other’s focus more on subjects where benefit ratio cost is less.
“I had lost 100 marks in Botany but other subjects compensated for it,” admitted Abdullah.
What greatly helped Abdullah was he stayed away from social media, not completely though. Abdullah used to watch motivational videos on YouTube. Besides that, in order to relax, he used to engage himself in origami.
Abdullah said he used to make his own notes and did not rely on readymade. “It is better to focus on one book as multiple books on the same topic can confuse the candidate. One should focus on standard books and readings recommended by UPSC toppers,” and read newspapers for diverse topics.
As the internet is seen as critical to one’s preparation, he says that it depends on the user how they choose to use it. “It should be clear to oneself that what is important and what is one’s priority. Inevitably one will not indulge in triviality,” he said. As social media is unregulated, Abdullah believes there is a plethora of misinformation on it and examination demands factual and correct information.
Used to hardships since childhood, Abdullah remained steadfast all through his journey. The adversities of life had made strong enough that not even once the thought of giving up crossed his mind.
“Sitāroñ se aage jahāñ aur bhī haiñ , abhī ishq ke imtihāñ aur bhī haiñ,” is what Abdullah replied when asked what are his future plans. “I am thankful to almighty Allah as he has always answered my prayers. It seems my mother who has been through a lot in life has got a life. She is happier than me,” he says with a smile.
Some of the teachers who knew him while preparing for the examination said they knew he had the capacity to do it. “He prepared at his own level, no coaching,” one teacher, who knew him, said. “However, we made him part of the mock interview system and that gave him a lot of confidence.”
Abdullah had gone somewhere in Jammu for the mock interviews where he had felt a sort of tensions by the questions which were posed to him. “That had frightened and confused him but once we started interacting we gave him the confidence that experts ask about knowledge, not their frustration.”
Most of his mock interviews were conducted in Srinagar at Initiative for Competition Promotion (ICP) run by a group of civil servants. This year, almost half of the candidates who passed the KAS-2018 were somehow linked to the ICP.