Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Civil Services Interview (CSE - 2011)

I was eagerly waiting for 4-4-12 as it was one of those days which can decide my fate. Finally the day had come. My interview was scheduled in the afternoon, so I had to be there at UPSC before 1:15 PM. I reached there before 12:45 PM. There were as many as 20 more interviewees present there at the gate when I reached there.

At 1:00PM the guards allowed us in after verifying our call letters. After checking in and depositing our mobiles there at the desk of the clerk, we were divided into groups of 6. We went to the waiting room, there was a table arranged for each group. There the clerk came to us and took our documents to verify. The formalities took 15 minutes or so. Before the clerk told us anything about the board, we came to know that we would be interviewed by K.K.Paul the name of whose was written on the file the clerk carried. I was bit disappointed because he doesn't give high marks, gives around 150 to most of them. The only silver lining is he doesn't give very low marks like 100 or less except in exceptional cases.

There were 3 people in my group giving interview in Hindi, 3 in English. We were waiting impatiently for the interviews to begin which finally began at 2:05 or so. I was 3rd person in the list. The first 2 persons interviewed before me were grilled for 30 minutes each. The person before is already in Indian Forest Service, and he said that he could answer only 40-50% of the questions. Worse he couldn't answer when UPSC was established, when his institute PUSA was established. His was 4th civil services interview in last 5 years. He already faced K.K. Paul earlier, got 135 marks or so.

Next came my turn. I was called by someone while the interview of 2nd person was still going on. I was thoroughly checked by the guards, no one should carry anything not even a pen or a watch into the interview room. I went and sat on the chair outside the interview room. 2nd interviewee came out of the room. After few minutes the bell rang, the peon opened the door for me to go in. That was around 3:12 PM.

This was completely unexpected for me. According to my script, I would open the door and ask "May I come in Sir?". Next came another surprise. I found that there were no women in the panel. This again was not there in my script. I was cocksure that there would be a woman in the panel, prepared only to say "Good afternoon Maam" and then say "Good afternoon to you all" looking at all the members. My mind went blank for 2 seconds or so. I involuntarily raised my hand as if to wish them, which needless to say is not there in the script.

Before I recovered from the shock, Mr Paul asked me to take the seat. I recovered immediately and wished them Good Afternoon by looking at the panel. I took the seat without disturbing the chair. I sat erect which I normally don't do.

Before I proceed further, let me give some relevant details from my bio-data. I am from Anantapur in AP, I graduated from IIT Kanpur in Computer Science Engineering. My hobbies are 'reading', 'watching movies', 'blogging', 'melodic whistling'. My optionals are Pub Ad and History.

Now the questioning began. I can't reproduce the exact verbatim here, worse I don't even remember some questions. My English was not as good as what I am writing here, but I could convey the message most of the time except in one question.
Chairman - Ch, Members - M1, M2, M3, M4. Members were all old people, two of them had grey hair.

Chairman: What is your name?
Ch: What is your roll number?
Ch: What is your date of birth?
Ch: Where do you come from?
Ch: You did btech in IITK in CSE?

Answered them all.

Ch: Which was the first IIT to be established?
Me: Sir, it is IIT Kharagpur in 1951.

Ch: There was a country which helped us to establish that IIT. Which country helped us to establish that?
Me: Sir, it was USSR. (I knew that IIT KGP was established on our own, we didn't take any help. But going by what he said, and how convincingly he said, I thought I was wrong. So I told him USSR which is wrong. Disaster!)

Ch: No, it was not USSR.
Me: Okay (said it with a long face. I knew it was not USSR.)

Ch: Which country helped us establish IIT Kanpur?
Me: Sir it was USA. MIT. (I was actually going to say 'a coalition of universities of USA led by MIT. But he didn't give me a chance.)
Ch: Yes, it was USA.

Ch: What do you read?
Me: Sir, I read both fiction and non fiction, but mostly fiction. And I read random articles from Wikipedia.

Ch: Which was the last fiction book you read?
Me: Sir, Digital Fortress by Dan Brown.

Ch: What kind of movies do you watch?
Me: Sir, I watch all kinds of movies. Particularly English language movies. (I could have told the genres which I like the most, but I was not given time. Before I utter my next words he asked me the next question)

Ch: What is melodic whistling?
Me: Sir, it is whistling any tune. (he didn't say anything as if he was expecting me to say something more.)

Ch: You see in Kanpur, eve teasing is a big problem. (paused)
Me: Sir, I am not aware of it. (I was smiling while I said this.)

Ch: People whistle before the women, girls passing by. No, I am not accusing you....(He was smiling when he said this)
M1: It is melodic whistling. (He was grinning, there was a wide grin on the faces of all the members. I too was smiling sheepishly.)

Ch: Eve teasing is big problem in North India.....(He give a long list of all the cities of North, which I don't remember.) What do you think are the reasons behind this evil?
Me: It is a patriarchal society. Earlier women were confined to their homes, now they are coming out. They are mingling with the men. Men were not habituated with this. Women are being looked like some kind of sexual objects.

Ch: Why are they being looked like that?
Me: (Repeated the same thing with few changes. My mind was not working properly. Added something else to my answer to escape from the trap. )
Me: Sir gradually men will become accustomed with the presence of women in the public, at work places, at colleges and eve teasing will subside.

Ch: Do you think it is only a transition phase?
Me: Yes sir, it is only a transition phase, gradually things will change. In the meantime, women needs to be protected by the police from eve teasing. (I really don't know what I am saying.)

Ch: Passed on to M1. M1 noticed chairman's gesture only after 2 seconds.

M1: Your name is XXXXXX. Do you know anything about Amarkantak?
Me: Yes sir, Amarkantak is the originating place of Narmada. Recently, a few years back, it had been declared as a National Park....a Biosphere reserve. (first said national park, immediately corrected it to biosphere reserve. I didn't say that it is pilgrim centre of devotees of Shiva, which I knew, which I should have said. Anyway, this question is something I didn't expect.)

M1: Which state is it in?
Me: Sir it is in Madhya Pradesh.

M1: There was a foreign invader who invaded India for 17 times. Who was he?
Me: Sir it was Ghazni....Muhammad of Ghazni. (As a history student, I knew that Ghazni invaded India only 5 or 6 times. But a layman knows only this number 17. So I didn't want to argue on that.)

M1: He looted a temple. Which was that?
Me: Sir, he plundered many temples, but the most famous one was Somnath.

M1: Where is it?
Me: Sir it is in Gujarat.

M1: Do you anything about the slave dynasty? When was it established and who established it?

Me: Sir, it was established by Qutubuddin Aibak in 1206. Flourished till 1451. Iltutmish who was son-in-law of Aibak, succeeded Aibak. Later his son. Later his daughter Razia. (As a history student this was a cakewalk. I told 1451 because in that year Afghans led by Bahlul Lodi came to power. Till then all the dyansties were slaves including the Khalji, Tughlaq, Sharqi. This proved me costly.)

M1: Who was the first lady to sit on throne of Delhi?
Me: Sir, it was Razia Sultana.

M1: How was she related to Aibak?
Me: Sir, she was daughter of Iltutumish, who was son-in-law of Aibak.

M1: So she was grand daughter of Aibak?
Me: Yes sir, she was grand daughter.

Ch: Sorry to interrupt here (said this to M1). (looking at me) You said it was up to 1451. But by that time not even Tughlaqs were in power.
Me: They were Turks and.......(before I utter any word, chairman continued with his flow)
Ch: But Khaljis and Tughlaqs were not slaves. Slave dynasty ruled before Khaljis.
Me: Till Balban and his son. (I wanted to take the control, so I said Balban. But chairman didn't give me any chance to say after that, he immediately turned to M1 and asked him to continue.)
Me: (Before M1 could say something, looking at chairman I just said...) Thank you sir for correcting me.

M1: What is Sasaram associated with. You know Sasaram?
Me: Yes sir, I know it. Sasaram is famous for Shershah Suri's tomb.

M1: Yes. It is the birthplace of a famous personality. Who was that?
Me: I don't know sir.

M1: It was Babu Jagjivan Ram.
Me: (Nodded my head in affirmation. I know that Jagjivan Ram was born there, but I couldn't recall it at that time.)

M1: Which king was associated with Buland Darwaza?
Me: Sir it was Akbar.

M1: Passed on to the next member M2. M2 was sitting almost besides me. M2 and M3 could observe me from tip to toe, my body language from close.

M2: You did your btech in IITK. What was your branch?
Me: Sir, it was computer science.

M2: What is the difference between ipad and personal computer?
Me: ipad is portable, it has less processor speeds than normal personnel computers and so they can't be used for some tasks.

M2: Anything else?
Me: ipad has touch screen. Normal computers don't have touch screen monitor. (He nodded.)

M2: Do you know about Aakaash? Some company is manufacturing it.
Me: Aakaash is a tablet PC being manufactured by Datawind. Our government is distributing them to students and youth at subsidised prices.

M2: Some public servants say, they are acting in 'good faith'. What do they mean by 'good faith'?
Me: Sir, it means acting in the interest of the public unmindful of the consequences. (oh shit, I could have said acting without any malice. I couldn't get that word malice. I blame my self, I couldn't convey exactly what I wanted to say. But he nodded as if he was satisfied with my answer.)

M2: Can the public servants claim immunity if they are acting in good faith?
Me:  (paused) No sir, they can't. They can be investigated, and prosecuted in the courts if something goes wrong. (He nodded.)

M2: Do you know anything about NRHM?
Me: Yes sir, National Rural Health Scheme. A central government scheme aimed at improving primary health care in rural areas. There is provision under it to deliver primary health care with the help of ASHAs. (he didn't ask me to say the full form, but I could not say the full form.) This scheme is going to end in 2012, began in 2005.

M2: Any corruption case related to NRHM?
Me: Yes sir, a minister of UP was arrested recently in a corruption case related to NRHM, some people were murdered.

M2: He passed on to M3.

M3: Tell us some e-governance initiatives by the government.
Me: Sir, in 2006 central government came up with NeGP - National e-Governamce Plan. Under it there are many e-governance projects which government is taking up.....(he interrupted me.)

M3: Tell me some specific initiatives.
Me: Sir, in my state, there are some initiatives like e-seva under which people can pay public utility bills online. There are around 66 public services being delivered online through this. At the central government level there is a bill pending about the public services which can be delivered electronically......(he interrupted me again.)

M3: Tell me about the initiatives related to land records.
Me: Land records are being digitised in many states....(interrupted me)

M3: What is the status of the initiatives?
Me: Sir, in some states like AP, Karnataka land records have been fully digitised. In many states work is still going on.

M3: What are the hurdles?
Me: Sir, the land records which they are digitising are old records, land surveys being conducted long time back. So there are many errors in them which makes them not very useful. Another hurdle is e-readiness of the people, many are computer illiterates. (I didn't say anything about the problems in business process re-engineering, lack of broadband connectivity to many villages which I knew.)

M3: Who are patwaris?
Me: Sir, they traditionally maintained the land records at the village level.

M3: What will be impact on them? In this digitisation initiative, a central database will be created.
Me: They may be rendered useless sir. (He nodded as if I am correct. But I felt that I was doubtful about my answer.)

M3: He talked about the Natural Language Processing initiative of the government, which I was aware about. I tried hard, but I could not understand what he was asking me as it appeared to me that he was not asking me a question but just explaining me something.
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that. (Just to avoid falling in any trap, even though I knew that there is such thing. One of my professors in my college was working on the project which he used to tell us.)

M3: Passed on to the next member M4.

M4: What are the reasons behind our dominance in IT sector?
Me: Sir I think there are two reasons behind that. One is there are lot of engineering colleges which are offering computer science courses, there is lot of low cost man power. Second is there is lot of demand from western countries for our cheap services.  (I could have explained it better I thought. After coming to my room, I asked the same question to my friend. He talked about the small size investment which is required for setting up the company, how not having good infrastructure is not a hurdle. These things which I knew, I could not say as I could not recall at that time.)

M4: What are the challenges India is facing in this sector?
Me: Sir, India is facing competition from countries like Philippines, Bangladesh, even China is catching up with us. (I didn't say anything about the protectionist measures of USA, lack of domestic market for ITeS in India which are important. I have to blame myself for that.)

M4: What should be done?
Me: Sir, we need to concentrate on KPO as against BPO. KPO is knowledge and skill intensive, and these countries can't compete with us. We need to focus on skill development of our youth. (I could have talked tax incentives etc, which I didn't.)

M4: Many people are leaving IT sector to pursue career in civil services or MBA. What are the reasons?
Me: Sir, I think that is because of the monotony of the job, lack of job satisfaction in IT jobs.

M4: What should be done to prevent them? Should they be left like that?
Me: (His intention was as if to prevent them from entering civil services.) Sir, nothing should be done sir, they should have freedom of choice. (I was smiling when I said that. Later I realised that I should have told them about what should be done to eliminate the monotony and increase the job satisfaction. But M1 was nodding as if he was in agreement with me.)

Ch: He pointed to M2 and said "You want to ask something?"

Now the disaster started. He took around 3 to 4 minutes. I felt that this 4 minutes were the low point of my interview.

M2: What is the difference between rule of law and rule by law?
Me: Sir rule of law means equality before law, no arbitrary application of the law, checks and balances......I think there is no difference between them sir. (Later when I was taking my breakfast the next day, when I was thinking about this question, I suddenly realised the difference like an Aristotle. The difference is he said Eureka!, I said Oh shit!.)

M2: What is the difference between Public order and Law and order?
Me: (I knew that there is a difference between these two, I read that in 5th report of ARC. But I didn't recall it correctly.) Sir if only a small area is affected by a problem it is a law and order problem. If a large area is affected, then it is a public order problem. (I was not able to convey properly what is going on in my mind. He was smiling.) (After coming to the room I thought my answer was exact opposite of the correct answer, but when I am writing this post, I looked into the report of ARC, and realised that what I said was correct. But the problem is whether he got what I said.)

M2: What is the difference between fundamental rights and human rights?
Me: Sir all human rights are fundamental rights....(he interrupted me)

M2: Or is it the other way round?
Me: It is 'all human rights are fundamental rights'. (Oh my god, what did I say! I was in soup. I gave examples in the next minute contradicting myself. I was embarrassed.)
Me: For example, equal employment opportunities to all and religious freedom to all are fundamental rights but not human rights. For example, good health is a human right but not a fundamental right. (What the fuck did I say just now! Equality and religious freedom not human rights? Hell! I knew I messed up big time even before I was saying the next sentence.) Sir, human rights are something very essential for living, where as fundamental rights are not very much necessary, people can live even without some fundamental rights. (By now I was literally pleading God to help me come out of this mess.)

M2: No, those rights you were talking about are essential for living. Religious freedom is absolutely essential. You were born into a religion......(he said something else which I don't remember which prompted me to say something.)
Me: Sir, people have choice to become atheist. (I don't why I said that.)

M2: He was continuing with his rights thing. The moment he gave me chance to say something I said....
Me: I may be wrong sir. (I was smiling when I said that. I just wanted to get out of the quagmire. He got the point, he asked me the next question.)

M2: Is there any way human rights can be enforced?
Me: Sir, there are DPSPs which guide the actions of the government regarding the human rights but they are not enforceable.

Now the peon came into the room with some snacks. I was so engrossed that I didn't observe him entering, but I noticed him when came in between me and M2.

M2: Any other way?
Me: (Now I got the clue.) Sir there is judiciary and there are human right commissions at national and state levels. They fight for the protection of human rights.

M2: Any international institution?
Ch: You can leave. Your interview is over. (What the hell? Before I answer the question? I felt he was in a hurry to eat the snacks. But I answered before saying thank you.)
Me: Sir, it is UNHRC. Thank you sir.

Got up, took 2 steps back and left the room.

It was 20 minute odd interview. My immediate reaction after coming out of the room was disappointment at the way it ended. The last 3 topics on which questions were asked were some thing I could have answered if I was given some time under normal circumstances. I have to blame myself for the soup I got into with the last question.

All the time while the members were asking the questions, and I was answering them, K.K.Paul was scribbling something on the paper. God knows what was that about. But I think he was attentive to what was going around him, because when the peon came in with the snacks he noticed that. :-)))

Overall I would say, I am not satisfied with my performance. The questions were very easy, most of them were factual, I could have done a lot better than what I did there in the room. The only silver lining is my body language. I was not tense when I was answering the questions. My voice was not low at any point, I was sitting erect, I smiled many times, I was looking at all the members of the panel while I was answering the questions (which I never did in my mock interviews.)

Lets see what I will get.


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    1. I just hope KK Paul is not so irrational to give me 95 marks :-)

  3. you answered most of the many of them you even showed your wittiness...and moreover you were confident and in my opinion you will get 70-80% of of luck...enjoy..:)

    1. 70-80% OMG!!!! :-)

      I am expecting around 150 marks, just 70-80 marks less than your prediction. :-)))

  4. a rational person wont give anything less than 170.

  5. it seemed, Last 3 Q's were delibrately planted by M2 in consonance with Paul Sir. Asking Difference between 2 similar terms they have done with me in my interview, which they used me to streesed me like anything. check out the first portion of my Interview (could be because of common IIT factor)

    Otherwise i still feel ur overall interview is good. Feeling of disappointment is obvious as the way it ends. I m hoping U will get smwhere 170 marks. All the best dude :)

    1. Thank you for the feedback. To answer that 'differences part', one requires cool and sharp mind. I too hope you get what you expect. :-)

  6. Strangely I got 186 marks in the interview which is more than what I expected. In fact 186 is good marks in KK Paul board since he gives more than 170 only in rare cases, more than 200 in rarest of the rare cases. Thanks KK Paul! I dont know what you have liked in me. :-)

  7. 186 is for your knowledge part,i believe!you showed very apt knowledge about history and computer science.besides,you could get 210 easily,if you wont' have made those silly mistakes.