One in a Hundred: AIR 72 holder Dilip Pratap Singh Shekhawat
Magna Mishra | Jul 29, 2019
“IAS”- This 3 lettered abbreviation gives goosebumps to any Indian, young or old. Acceptance into the Indian Administrative Services comes with its array of honour, credit and responsibility. This year NITR has the proud opportunity of being the alma mater of Dilip Pratap Singh Shekhawat who secured AIR 72 in the UPSC CSE 2018 examinations. An alumnus of the 2015 batch, he completed his bachelors in Chemical Engineering before moving on to the public service sector. He credits his success to his never dying love and respect for his nation. A self credited patriot and a sports enthusiast, his life resonates with all those who have lived the NITR way. Read on to find out how he turned his life around and went from being a chemical engineer to a budding diplomat.
Monday Morning (MM): Tell us something about your days before joining NIT Rourkela.
Dilip Shekhawat (DS): Being from Rajasthan, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about moving halfway across India to study in the east. A new and different culture, language and climate awaited me in Rourkela. But once I entered the NIT campus, it felt like amazing and Rourkela became my second home. A part of NITR still survives in my heart.
MM: Share with us your experiences in the erstwhile NIT Rourkela. How deeply do you think the NITR years impacted your life, professionally and personally?
DS: To sum up my experience at NITR, I can say that those years taught me how to be happy in life. Since then, I am on my way towards enjoying every phase of this wonderful life. Four years of college made me an imperfect person with a perfect vision for life. Having interacted with some of the finest people of the country - my batch mates, my colleagues, my teachers - I developed a pan India vision. The vision is to make my country the best among all, where aspirations of all Indians shall be fulfilled.
MM: What led you to the decision to become an IAS officer?
DS: Honestly speaking, academics wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t have a very good CG and I was often found outside the class as my professors could not tolerate me inside. In those days it felt like a win-win situation for both me and my professors.
I want to confess that I had never thought of becoming an IAS officer, not even in my wildest dreams. But my involvement in social service from the platform of Lions Club helped me to develop a zeal to serve my country and society with the best of my abilities. This attitude helped me to make the toughest call of preparing for IAS after graduating out of college.
MM: When did you start your preparation? How to get started with the preparation?
DS: After graduation, I moved to Delhi to start my preparations. I wasn’t aware of the meaning of “bureaucracy” in my college time. I feel that one must prioritize their academics during their graduation and they should not compromise it for IAS or any other endeavour. Striking the right balance between studies and extracurriculars in college is the key. As far as UPSC aspirants are concerned, they can start by reading newspapers (The Hindu or The Indian Express) along with reading the NCERT books relevant for UPSC preparation.
MM: How did you tackle the pressure of academics and placements at NIT Rourkela while you were aiming for UPSC CSE?
DS: I didn't want to be branded as unplaced. I was done with that pressure once I bagged an offer in TCS in the initial phase itself. I feel that it made it easier for me to enjoy my last year to the fullest.
MM: What can a UPSC aspirant do during his/her four/five years at NITR that could be helpful in the UPSC Preparation?
DS: First read UPSC Notification for IAS Exam to get acquainted with the pattern of the exam. Then memorize the syllabus. As I said earlier, they can start by developing a habit of reading the newspaper daily and covering the NCERT books from Class VI to XII. Extra-Curricular activities such as sports play a very important role in personality development which plays a crucial role in cracking the UPSC exam. I was involved in extracurricular activities like social service and cricket, which shaped my personality by imbibing qualities like confidence, hard work, perseverance and humility.
MM: What according to were your key elements in your preparation strategy that helped you to achieve such an amazing rank?
DS: I believe that my motivation to serve and enrich my country pushed me towards the public service. That is why without a strong family background, a strong academic background or a strong support system, I achieved a good rank and got into the Indian Administrative Services.
MM: What were the mistakes you learned from in your first two attempts?
DS: In my first attempt in 2016, I failed in the Prelims (first stage of the Exam) itself. From this failure, I learned to take every stage of this examination with full preparation and sincerity.
MM: How did a typical day of your preparation look like?
DS: My day used to start at around 7 AM. The first step was to get refreshed. For this, I took to reading the newspaper. Following this, I used to list out the tasks of the day (all related to UPSC preparation) and then spent my entire day finishing all of them before I go to sleep.
MM: Did you join any coaching for your preparation? How important do you feel coaching classes are for securing a good rank?
DS: Yes, I joined a coaching institute. Since I had absolutely no idea about UPSC Exam, coaching helped me to get a hack of the syllabus, booklist, strategy, etc. This helped me to streamline my preparation in the right direction. If a candidate is provided with the above things beforehand, coaching is unnecessary to clear the exam.
MM: What was your Optional for the UPSC Mains Examination? What was the preparation strategy for it?
DS: My optional subject was Public Administration. As far as my strategy is concerned, I had read fewer books, revised more and practised the skill of writing answers regularly via previous year questions and test series.
MM: This has been a trend where applicants from Engineering backgrounds are securing great ranks in UPSC. Do you feel engineering gives an edge over other candidates?
DS: This is just a myth. UPSC gives every candidate an equal opportunity to prove her mettle and succeed in this exam. Since several candidates appearing for UPSC are from Engineering background, hence statistically their selections are more. Also, with the increasing trend of Engineers clearing this exam, candidates from other backgrounds may have an inferiority complex, which may impede their chances of selection.
MM: The journey for UPSC must be full of difficulties. What motivated you during the days when you felt low? Did you engage yourself in some hobbies or recreational activities?
DS: My motivation to serve my country and society served as a rescue mechanism to rise from my lows and bounce back stronger. Along with this, I hadn’t detached myself from my hobbies and interests like meditation, jogging and body fitness, etc., they served as a conduit to release the pressure of this examination.
MM: What will be the major sectors you would like to work for after your training at LBSNAA when you serve as an IAS Officer?
DS: An IAS Officer is a generalist administrator who has to undertake the all-round administration of an area under his command, hence I have no preferences. But to build a strong and resilient Bharat, the human resource must be developed holistically and comprehensively, the foundation of which has to be laid by developing health care, education and by empowering the women of this nation.
MM: What would be your message to the UPSC aspirants and our readers at NIT Rourkela?
I want them to know that the four/five years they spend in this institution will influence their life to an unimaginable extent. Hence, every student must emerge themselves in exploring as many domains as possible, especially sports and cultural activities- to develop a strong and dynamic personality. As a sports enthusiast, I believe and endorse the phrase “Khelega India toh Khilega India”.
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone takes an enormous amount of guts. Achievements like this show that every individual can channel their inner mettle. Team MM wishes all the best to Mr Shekhawat for his journey as a bureaucrat.