Dr Syed Sehrish Asgar from Kistwar has topped the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) examination held recently. She shares her success with Kashmir Life correspondent, Ikhlaq Qadri
Kashmir Life: What prompted you to choose Civil Services?
Dr Syed Sehrish Asgar: As soon as I joined Batra Medical College in 2003, I decided to opt for civil services. It was a long thought process and I found my aptitude best suited for civil services. Though already trained as a doctor I thought that I am capable enough to handle the administration better. Administration is the field where I can serve the society on a much larger platform. It was a process of self actualization in my college which brought me here.
KL: Can you recall the exact moment when you realised the importance of civil services?
SS: It was not any particular point. The process continued throughout my college years. I believe It is better to treat elements of society rather than the elements of a single individual and give me opportunity to be part of decision making and policy formulation which would affect thousands of people.
KL: To whom and to what do you give the credit for your achievement?
SS: I would definitely attribute my success first of all my parents, brother, sister and also to my friends and teachers.
KL: How should one assess him/herself before deciding to go for civil services as a career?
SS: I think it is very important that one realises that he/she has an aptitude. If you have aptitude then only opt for it. It is not just merit and academic background. You should have burning desire. It a is long drawn process which takes one or two years. You have to be motivated. You should have patience, perseverance and be ready to put in hard work. Important requirement is to have right assessment of your optional subjects and never lose hope. Keep on struggling.
KL: When should one ideally start the preparation?
SS: I think during graduation years. When I was in 3rd year, I started looking out for the material. You should know what you are aiming at. Otherwise you start looking haphazardly at things.
KL: The first step is the most difficult; how to prepare? Which optional? When to read? How much to read? From where you got the right advice?
SS: As I told earlier, it was during my graduation. I talked to many people who already qualified the KAS and UPSC examinations and under their guidance I formulated my plan. I had discussions with them about the kind of subjects and the right approach to achieve the target.
KL: What were your optional subjects and why did you select these?
SS: My optional subjects were sociology and political science. I had a bent of mind towards macro studies. I want to do study at level of society. I chose these subjects firstly because they interest me and secondly that they are subjective and one has a scope to elaborate.
KL: Does the place of preparation matter?
SS: Place of preparation matters but not that much. More than that it is about the zeal because nowadays internet is available everywhere. It has been a great help. I myself was stationed in Jammu.
KL: Is strategy more important than hard work?
SS: I think planning is very important. Planning without execution is futile. Hard work without planning is equally futile. It has to be a combination of both.
KL: What was your strategy for optional papers?
SS: I read all the material I had. It was mainly a text book study.
KL: Did you draw any extra plan for general studies?
SS: It requires thorough study. It has seven subjects and you have to study them all.
KL: How many hours one should devote to crack this exam?
SS: Basically it is quality of hours what matters rather than quantity.
KL: Can you share with us the names of books and other material you read?
SS: The books are same to everyone but what makes difference is to have an extra edge to go in details. For history I read Rajeev Aheer, Bipin Chandra, Laxmikant. For political science it was Malhotra.
KL: In the course of preparation one is faced with many problems, family expectations, peer group pressures etc. How did you overcome that?
SS: My family has been very supportive. It is a long drawn process and need support and encouragement at all levels. The family plays an important role.
KL: Had you not been selected?
SS: I have been preparing for UPSC. I would have continued to do so.
KL: Any suggestion you want to give to future aspirants?
SS: I want to suggest specially to female aspirants to be patient. This demands lot of hard work along with patience. If you want a miracle be a miracle.