Mohd. Naushad Khan
The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the results of the prestigious Indian Civil Services Exam 2019 conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Nonetheless, it has thrown up several stories of grit, motivation and inspiration with candidates from diverse backgrounds making it to India’s elite administrative service.
One such candidate is Sufiyan Ahmed; a native of Nimbahera, a small town in Chittorgarh district, Rajasthan. He is an architecture graduate from Aligarh Muslim University with a Master’s degree from IIT Kanpur and hails from a well-educated family with two elder academically bright sisters and an equally brilliant elder brother too. Father Imtiyaz Ahmed- a Retired School Principal of repute and mother Shama Nasreen – a Retired School Teacher have always supported and encouraged him to do better in life. Elder brother Bilal Arshad, a QA/QC Pharmaceutical professional himself backed Sufiyan too all along his journey.
From zero knowledge and background in Civil Services to All India Rank 303, it has been one hell of a roller coaster ride for Sufiyan Ahmed. Grandson of an Imam, it was at Aligarh that he first learnt that there was a career in Civil Services. “I used to participate in group discussions revolving between Power and Money and which of the two has the greatest impact on the communities. Thus, I began nursing my dream of joining Civil Services,” said Sufiyan on phone from his hometown. He joined Zakat Foundation of India-funded coaching and later the Residential Coaching Academy (RCA) at Jamia Millia Islamia and cracked the Civil Services Exam in third attempt.
He first sat for the Civil Services Exams in 2017 and cleared both Prelims and Mains but couldn’t make it to the final list. Surprisingly, he didn’t qualify even the prelims in 2018 and felt dejected. “I was devastated after two successive failures, but I analysed my mistakes and told myself that I can bounce back. Sometimes it doesn’t happen alone. You need someone to chip in with you in tougher times and for this no better than my uncle (mother’s brother) Dr. Wasim Ghori, a UK Alumni and Consultant Diabetologist in Mumbai who motivated me to attempt again,” said Sufiyan.
“Since Sufiyan was frustrated at the failure in second attempt in 2018, I invited him over at Punjab Bhavan, New Delhi with the sole purpose to re-instil self-belief and confidence so that he could start his exam preparations with a fresh perspective and a positive frame of mind. Furthermore, I took him to an iftar invitation at the Parliament House Annexe so that he could meet and interact with Bureaucrats, Consul Generals and Ambassadors from different countries. The intention was to silently remind him of his vision for which he had opted for Civil Services in the first place,” recalled Dr. Ghori whose father Abdul Salim Ghori (Sufiyan’s grandfather) had a great influence in charting out the family’s course. “The biggest contribution of my Uncle (Dr. Ghori) in my life is that he motivated me to aim high in life. For him being satisfied with small things when bigger things can be achieved is an injustice to one’s own talents and gifts,” said Sufiyan.
“I am sure Sufiyan will attempt again and improve his rank next year. He is a role model and the “Roger Barrister of his hometown, Nimbahera” said Dr. Ghori.
Sufiyan also reflected that being a full-time resident at the RCA for two years has helped him meet students from diverse backgrounds and interacting with them has shaped his personality. “I come from a small town in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh district and understand the problems rural India face. But living with students from Manipur, Kerala and Kashmir, I understood the diversity of the problems and challenges the country faces and how issues are unique to a region,” he said.
Sufiyan added that the RCA is different from other coaching centres as it has an entrance examination and only those who are serious about the examination are admitted here. “At a private coaching institute, anybody who can pay the fee is in your class and not everybody has the required dedication. I graduated from IIT – Kanpur after studying design and was the only person from my class that did not sit for placements and gave up on a job. This is how serious I was about serving the nation,” said Sufiyan.
Speaking about his achievements, Sufiyan said “when the chips are down talk to someone who lend their ears to you. Keep your ego out and discuss with peers and seniors. Share knowledge and be inquisitive to gain knowledge and the more you do, the more it comes back to you. Surround yourself with people who are optimistic and are ready to have a healthy discussion with you”.
Sufiyan adds that the entire town and family are ecstatic with these developments and understandably so. His father Imtiyaz Ahmed says “I want my son to work with utmost honesty and integrity in whichever services he opts for”. The same sentiments were echoed by mother Shama Nasreen who is delighted at the success of her younger son.
Grand-father Abdul Salim Ghori had encouraging words to add too “Sufiyan has become a source of inspiration to many youngsters; I am sure that he will contribute towards Nation-building and serve the under-privileged sections of our great country India to the best of his abilities”. Grand-mother Zainab Ghori – an accomplished Mumbai-based Retired School Administrator extends her blessings to grandson Sufiyan as he looks forward to serving the nation in the coming years.
The writer is a Delhi based journalist.