Interviewee: Mr. Srutanjay Narayanan, IAS
Interviewer: Juvairiya Farsana.M (GT)
Srutanjay Narayanan is an IAS officer and alumni of CEG from the Geoinformatics department (Batch of 2015), who placed AIR 75 in the coveted civil services exam.
GT: Can you share some fond memories of your life at CEG with us?
Srutanjay: My interest in geography led me to choose Geoinformatics when I was first joining CEG. At the time I was over the moon because I got to study in the same college as one of my role models, Amitash Pradhan of Velai Illa Pattadhari (VIP) fame. Apart from that, I had several fond memories of exploring my interests in music and theatre during my time in CEG, making a lot of great friends along the way. It still feels like a magical experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.
GT: Your father, Chinni Jayant sir is a well-known figure in Tamil cinema. Were you ever at any point inclined towards pursuing cinema?
Srutanjay: To be honest, I’ve never given it much thought. My dad has attended all my plays so far and given my friends several words of encouragement but I’ve always felt that cinema never on my cards. For me, theatre meant enjoying the rush of going on stage and expressing myself, while meeting new people and making friends in the process. As far as cinema is concerned, I’d only like to maybe go as far as singing a song for a movie sometime.
GT: Did you enjoy your course in CEG? Tell us a little about your life after graduation.
Srutanjay: I think Geoinformatics is a wonderful field where you get to learn a little bit of everything due to the application based nature of the science; in that sense, you can compare it to studying for UPSC. I chose not to sit for placements when I was graduating because an interesting programme known as Young India Fellowship (YIF) was started in Delhi by Ashoka University around that time. So I decided to take part in it right after I graduated from CEG.
GT: How did you react when you got to know you were one of the top hundred rank holders in the examination process?
Srutanjay: Honestly, it took a couple of days to sink in. Before the exam, I kept convincing myself that whatever would happen would be for the best and gave it my best shot. As soon as the results were released, I was bombarded by calls and heartfelt messages, which made me feel incredibly grateful for my family and friends who supported me up till that point.
GT: Was there a lot of encouragement from your loved ones?
Srutanjay: I’d like to think that I’m an optimistic person who’s ready to accept support from anyone: be it my parents, teachers, friends, colleagues or even cab drivers. I was preparing for my second attempt at UPSC while working at a start-up, and they were kind enough to give me breaks in between for preparation. Even my friends used to come home now and then to make sure I didn’t feel isolated. So, I’d say I’ve received a lot of optimism from my close quarter relationships and they are the ones who helped me get this far.
GT: What was the optional subject you chose? How does it help improve your overall marks?
Srutanjay: During my time at Ashoka University, I was surrounded by prominent sociologists like Andre Beteille, Amita Baviskar and A.F.Mathew. This prompted me to take up Sociology, a subject that gave me deep insight into the working of social institutions and processes and let me see the world from their point of view. It is very important to be confident about your optional subject because it gives you some leverage when you are aiming for a high rank.
GT: How important were the interview rounds?
Srutanjay: Interviews in general are really important obstacles that everyone has to put in the effort to overcome. You need to make the best impact you can on the interviewers in just 20 minutes. In times like these, it is even harder to get positions so I urge everyone to take some time and prepare specifically for interview rounds so that they can have an edge over the rest of the candidates.
GT: What's your biggest takeaway from your UPSC journey till now?
Srutanjay: The biggest lesson I’ve learnt so far is implementing PCP – Practice, Consistency and Patience. When I didn’t clear the prelims during my first attempt, I didn’t take it very well immediately, but it proved to be an important learning experience for me in hindsight. I urge everyone to keep negative experiences like this in mind and get right back into the process as soon as they can, to keep gaining knowledge because consistent practice compounds upon itself. While this isn’t something specific to UPSC, applying this philosophy gave me a huge boost in confidence.
GT: With so many resources available out there for UPSC preparation, how should aspirants go about choosing the right ones for them?
Srutanjay: There aren’t specific resources that I can universally recommend to everyone, you just have to figure out what works for you. I joined coaching because no one in my immediate circle had any experience with civil service. I needed someone who has experience in the space to validate my progress, so once I got started I kept having conversations with mentors and friends with similar aspirations. My mother was instrumental in guiding me towards a method of preparation that suited my personality and thanks to her, I made a lot of great friends along the way.
GT: What was your study routine like during the preparation phase?
Srutanjay: Back when I was in coaching studying full time, I studied around 5 hours in the academy with an additional 5 hours of self-study at home. When I was working at the start-up I did around 4-5 hours of self-study daily and worked night shifts. Right before the exams, I’d say I was effectively studying for around 10-12 hours a day. It’s important to remember to take your tests on time, without procrastinating.
Another thing to remember is to ensure you take care of your diet and physical fitness during preparation; I used to do yoga or a light workout routine every day to stay healthy.
GT: With current affairs being such a vital aspect of civil services preparation, how did you keep up with everything?
Srutanjay: To get a hang of things I used to go through topical videos online. There are a lot of good compilations out there that can get you up to speed when you’re starting off. Once I was familiar with these, I moved on to skimming newspapers to get an idea of all the current happenings in different areas at the time. I’d even say writing the tests is a really good way to familiarize yourself with current affairs. With the exams only getting tougher, you can’t predict the pattern of the paper anymore. You need to have enough knowledge to be able to eliminate the incorrect answers without any delay.
GT: Given that the competition is so tight of late, are there any final tips you would like to share for people aspiring to be in this field?
Srutanjay: You need to be aware of what exactly is required for the exam, so it is important to go through the syllabus. I’d recommend being thorough with all your fundamentals first before going through the previous years’ question papers. There are also several insightful blogs on the internet that can be of some use during self-study. Having mentors you can contact, never hurts as well and can help in keeping yourself motivated throughout the process. Overall, I’d say that you just have to trust the process and be patient with it.
The Guindy Times thanks Mr. Srutanjay for sharing his insightful experiences with us and wishes him well in his future endeavours.