( Report by Nirmal Mangar) : Deepika Agarwal, a resident of Sikkim, recently achieved a remarkable feat by cracking the UPSC examination and securing an impressive rank of 151. In an interview with Sikkim Chronicle, Deepika shared her incredible journey of conquering one of the toughest civil service exams in India. Born to Brahmananda and Mamta Agarwal, she has shown exceptional dedication and perseverance throughout her educational and professional pursuits.
Deepika completed her schooling up to the 10th grade at Tashi Namgyal Academy and then pursued her higher studies at Mayo College in Ajmer. After successfully graduating from Mayo College, she decided to pursue a degree in Commerce from SRCC in Delhi. Her thirst for knowledge and academic excellence led her to further education in finance, and she went on to complete her post-graduation from the prestigious Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.
During the interview, Deepika Agarwal shed light on her challenging journey to crack the UPSC examination. She emphasized the importance of hard work, dedication, and discipline in her preparation for the civil service exams. Deepika expressed her gratitude towards her parents, who provided her with unwavering support and encouragement throughout her journey.
Deepika’s remarkable achievement serves as an inspiration to aspiring civil servants in Sikkim and beyond. Her story exemplifies the potential that lies within individuals who are determined to pursue their dreams with relentless effort. Sikkim Chronicle commends Deepika Agarwal for her outstanding accomplishment and wishes her continued success in her future endeavors.
Following is an excerpt of an interview
Sikkim Chronicle: Could you share your journey of preparing for the UPSC exam?
Deepika Agarwal : During my time in the corporate sector, I attempted to prepare for the UPSC exam, but the demands of my job made it difficult to give it my all. Eventually, in late 2019, I made the decision to take a leap of faith and leave my well-paying corporate job to pursue my lifelong dream. I relocated to Delhi to begin my preparation. In that year, I covered the basic books, but my preparation wasn’t sufficient to clear the Preliminary exam.
However, I was determined to learn from my mistakes and give it another try. I vividly remember the second wave of COVID-19 in 2021 when my entire building was vacant. Despite the circumstances, I remained steadfast and dedicated to my preparation. Learning from my previous experiences, I took numerous mock exams and eventually cleared the prelims, mains, and reached the interview stage. Unfortunately, I did not obtain a rank last year, and I was devastated. I contemplated giving up, but my parents had unwavering belief in my abilities. They encouraged me to write the next prelims (which were just five days away), and my mother gave me the strength to hold back my tears until I had completed the next exam. By God’s grace, I have now achieved a rank in the UPSC exam.
SC: What were the subjects you studied for the UPSC exam?I .
DA: I had to appear for the compulsory papers, which included Essay, General Studies (covering History, Geography, Economics, Environment, Polity, etc.), and Ethics. Additionally, my optional subject was Commerce & Accountancy. I chose this optional as I had a background in commerce during my 12th grade, pursued my college education at Shri Ram College of Commerce, and obtained an MBA in finance from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Commerce & Accountancy is a less popular optional subject due to its technical nature and extensive syllabus compared to other options. However, I had confidence in my subject knowledge and decided to stick with it.
SC: How did you manage to balance your personal life, studies, and the rigorous preparation required for the UPSC exam?
DA; Preparing for the UPSC exam can take a toll on personal life. During this period, I abstained from social media, including WhatsApp, and only used Telegram for notes and YouTube for coaching content. I rarely attended family functions, festivals, and lost touch with my friends. However, this was a personal choice as I found excessive socializing to be distracting.
While maintaining a rigorous study routine, I also pursued my hobbies and passions to stay motivated and healthy. I developed a healthy diet pattern despite living away from home and even enjoyed cooking at times. Additionally, I resumed my Bharatnatyam lessons, which I had learned for a few years, and danced every morning for 30-45 minutes. Dancing helped me release stress and became the happiest part of my day.
I also enjoyed watching old movies, documentaries, and web series in moderation, avoiding binge-watching. Moreover, I prioritized my religious practices and visited the temple every morning to self-reflect. I built a close circle of people, including my mother, sister, and a few friends, with whom I regularly communicated to stay motivated.
While the preparation period was isolating, I embraced the solitude and viewed it as a transformative phase. Maintaining discipline through setting monthly, weekly, and daily targets allowed me to balance my studies while also taking time for personal well-being
SC: What inspired you to pursue a career in the civil services? Was there a specific incident or role model that influenced your decision?
DA: My grandfather, Late Shri Tarachand Agarwal, has been an incredible role model for me. Starting as a trader near the Nathula border, he gradually established his business in Gangtok. Growing up, I heard stories of his struggles, and even today, people from distant villages in North and West Sikkim visit my shop and reminisce about my grandfather.
He was not only a social worker but also a visionary who, despite coming from a conservative community, wholeheartedly supported and encouraged me whenever I achieved academic success. His legacy of social work and dedication to public service have inspired me to aspire for a greater impact through the Civil Services examination.
SC; What are the key qualities and skills that you believe contributed to your success in the UPSC exam?
DA; Several qualities and skills have played a crucial role in my success in the UPSC exam:
- Discipline: I adhered to a strict routine and never deviated from it. Once I committed to completing a certain portion of the syllabus, I persevered until the task was accomplished, even if it meant sacrificing sleep.
- Openness to feedback: I valued the feedback provided by my teachers and mentors and actively implemented their suggestions. For example, after facing failure in my first prelims, I received feedback to improve my test-taking strategy rather than solely focusing on revision. I incorporated this advice, which greatly benefited my subsequent attempts.
- Selective engagement: While social media can serve as a useful source of information, excessive exposure to it can lead to information overload and confusion. I chose my mentors and teachers wisely based on their suitability and maintained a close circle of 1-2 friends with whom I discussed answers throughout the 3.5-year preparation period. I also avoided seeking advice from every person claiming to know “how to crack UPSC,” ensuring that I stayed focused on my own path.
- Analytical approach: Instead of relying solely on rote learning, I strategically analyzed the syllabus and past year papers. Understanding that the UPSC exam aims to assess analytical skills and the ability to present ideas effectively, I focused on developing these competencies rather than simply memorizing information.
SC: As a woman in the civil services, what unique perspectives or contributions do you believe you can bring to the field?
DA; Women’s participation in any sector brings heightened attention to women’s issues, and the civil services are no exception. In particular, as a prospective officer in the Police Services, I am committed to addressing crimes against women, especially in the digital age. I hope to contribute to creating a safer environment and combating gender-based violence. Moreover, I believe that a woman’s perspective is essential in areas such as problem-solving, investigation, policy development, and community engagement, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society.
SC: How do you envision making a positive impact in your role as a civil servant, particularly in addressing gender-related issues or promoting gender equality.
DA: As a woman officer, I strongly believe that I can make a significant difference in addressing cases related to violence against women, dowry, and other gender-related issues. By ensuring sensitive and supportive reporting mechanisms, I aim to empower women to come forward and report incidents without fear. Moreover, I will strive to implement gender-sensitive policing practices, where empathy, understanding, and unbiased responses are central.
Additionally, I plan to actively engage in awareness campaigns, educational initiatives, and policy development to promote gender equality and women’s rights. Coming from a state known for its empowered women, I aspire to bring about positive change at the national level and contribute to building a society where all individuals, regardless of gender, can thrive.
- To aspiring female candidates who wish to pursue a career in the civil services, I would offer the following advice:
- Believe in yourself: Have confidence in your abilities and believe that you can achieve your goals. Don’t let anyone’s doubts or negative opinions deter you from pursuing your dreams.
- Be dedicated and committed: The civil services require hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Prepare a study plan, set goals, and consistently work towards them. Stay focused and motivated throughout the journey.
- Build a strong support system: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support your aspirations. Seek guidance from mentors, join study groups, and connect with fellow aspirants. Having a strong support system will help you stay motivated and overcome challenges.
- Take care of your mental and physical well-being: The preparation phase can be mentally and physically demanding. Take regular breaks, engage in activities that help you relax and rejuvenate, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Prioritize self-care to avoid burnout and maintain a positive mindset.
- Stay updated and informed: Stay updated with current affairs and the latest developments in various fields. Read newspapers, magazines, and relevant books to enhance your knowledge base. Being well-informed is crucial for both the preliminary and mains exams, as well as the interview stage.
- Practice effective time management: Civil services preparation requires managing your time efficiently. Create a study schedule that allows for dedicated study hours while also allocating time for relaxation, hobbies, and personal commitments. Effective time management will help you maintain a work-life balance.
- Develop strong writing and communication skills: Clear and effective communication is essential in the civil services. Work on improving your writing skills, practice answer writing, and participate in group discussions or debates to enhance your communication abilities.
- Be adaptable and open to learning: The civil services demand continuous learning and adaptation. Be open to new ideas, perspectives, and approaches. Embrace feedback and learn from your mistakes. Cultivate a growth mindset and strive for self-improvement throughout the journey.
- Stay positive and resilient: Ups and downs are inevitable during the preparation phase. There may be moments of self-doubt or setbacks, but it’s important to stay positive and resilient. Learn from failures, celebrate small victories, and keep moving forward with determination.
- Lastly, remember that you are capable of achieving great things. Your gender should never be a barrier to pursuing your dreams. Embrace your uniqueness, stay true to yourself, and make your mark in the civil services with your knowledge, skills, and passion for serving the nation.