Friday, March 22, 2013

AS IT HAPPENED: MY UPSC INTERVIEW


Name: Prabhav Joshi

Board : Shri Vijay Singh (Ex defense secretary to the govt. of India)

Duration: about 20 minutes

My brief profile
1.     BE Chemical Engg (2011), B.I.T.S Pilani
2.     Hobbies: hockey, blogging, badminton, basketball

20/03/2013
I was the first one destined to go in the afternoon session from my group. A clerk came up to the table and announced it was time. I started walking briskly and noticed that I was actually the first from the entire waiting hall and everyone was looking at me! The limelight made my steps brisker. On the way I asked the orderly about the board and it was to be Shri  Vijay Singh’s . My heart sank (had heard his interviews lasted about only 10 minutes, gave less marks blah blah blah). I put up a smile and told myself to forget all that crap.

 I was asked to wait and sit on the chair outside the chamber. A water bottle was kept there for poor souls like us. Meanwhile, I struck a conservation with the helping orderly who asked me not to worry. He also told me in a hushed up voice that there is a lady member and 5 others. I thanked  him for the strategic information

The bell rang. This time there were no har har mahadev type war cry which I used to make before the mains. The key was to remain calm and composed. I got the feeling similar to entering the hockey field before a crucial match.

 I was ushered in. It was an awkward entrance as I took  one step very briskly and other one was markedly slow (was trying to show respect but it ended up being awkward. Mr Singh noticed it). I was asked to take the chair after the exchange of pleasantries

Key: Chairman: CM; Member 1,2,3,4,5 : M1,2,3,4,5

Chairman (smiling and making me comfortable):  So, Mr Joshi! How do you find the seating arrangement in the waiting hall?

Me: Sir, it was quite good.

CM: comfortable? (And then he said something which prompted me to say what follows)

Me: Yes sir! But sir, I had come about half an hour early (at 12.45) but was asked to wait outside (on the road). We should have some arrangement for that..

CM (interrupting and laughing): Oh! We all also came half an hourly for this interview! (They all burst into laughter and a brief discussion followed amongst them about the traffic jams etc)

CM: So Mr. Joshi! You are a graduate in chemical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science!

Me: yes sir.

CM: you graduated recently in 2011.. what have you been doing since then?

Me: Sir, I prepared for UPSC mains for about a year and since then I have written GATE (graduate aptitude test in engineering) and secured an all India rank of 36. I have interview calls from oil companies like IOCL, GAIL in my hand.

CM: oh! So you shall easily get one of these jobs…

Me: yes sir

CM: so are you still interested in civil services?

Me: yes sir

CM: why? And tell me the reasons apart from social prestige etc. These jobs are also very prestigious.

Me: Sir, basically after graduation as a chemical engineer one has two options. The first one is to go into engineering research and design, which I feel is an interesting and challenging one. But during my college days I realized that research is not my cup of tea. The other profile is ‘operations.’ Sir, here the plant is already built and you just have to operate it. You just have to operate the machine. I find the civil services much more challenging than these. And then there is a factor of job satisfaction also

(Then he asked something which sounded like asking me whether I was inspired by some district collector of my home district. I told him about the illustrious Dr. Samit Sharma and his now fabled generic medicine project (thanks to which everybody in Rajasthan is now getting FREE medicines). He might have then asked one more trivial question which I am unable to recall). CM directs Member1 (M1) to begin

M1: So, You are a graduate from the PRESTIGIOUS Birla Institute of Technology and Science!
(My smile broadened as I nodded)

M1: Tell me about the first law of thermodynamics

Me: Sir, the first law of thermodynamics deals with the law of conservation of energy
(I stopped and looked at M1. It seemed he wanted to listen more. And at this moment I turned blank. I did not know what to add more. And this is one question which I am expected to answer even from my death bed as a chemical engineer. And then, suddenly I found some words.)

Me: Sir, it says du=dq+dw. Where du is the change in internal energy, dq is the heat supplied/withdrawn and dw is the work done
(M! looked satisfied now)

M1: ok. Tell me this. We are 4/5 people sitting in a room like this one. Suppose the chamber is closed. What will happen to the internal energy taking into account the fact that we all are respiring?

Me (after pondering for a short time): Sir, if we take the room as the system there shall be no change in the internal energy. However, if we take the air as the system, then its temperature shall increase due to the heat released during respiration (basically I gave a satisfactory and comprehensive reply)

M1(phrased a long question which meant the following): ok. Tell me the difference between management and administration

(I was caught! I tried blurting something which I myself felt was wrong mid way and stopped it by saying sorry sir I don’t know. CM came to the rescue and ordered M2 to start asking now. M2 was the lady member)

We had a discussion on the geographical spread of petroleum and petrochemicals industry. I explained her well.

M2: do you read ?
Me: NO mam (categorically)
M2: oh absolutely nothing?
Me: mam I read the hindu
M2: oh! How do you find it ?
Me: its very boring!

(Upon this, she burst into laughter. She said she finally found someone who did            nt like the ‘THE HINDU’. I felt like giving her a high five! Then a discussion followed on why I read ‘the hindu’ despite it being boring and how would I keep myself well informed as a civil servant If I were to  stop reading the newspaper after clearing the exam)

 Then she asked me about chemicals used in chemical weapons of mass destruction

M2: I hear that there are many chemicals which can be used in/as weapons. Some of them can be made in our kitchens!
Me: yes mam! A petrol bomb is very easy to make! (I excitedly chipped in)
M2: oh! Not only that..
Me: yes mam we have this gas called phosgene.  And we have these chemicals (weapons ) used by the US armies in the Vietnam war called defoliants which caused the leaves of trees to fall. This helped US armies (helicopters) to get a view of the enemy armies hiding in the forest
M2: oh so they can be pretty dangerous!
Me: yes mam. But the real danger from chemicals (industries) is environmental pollution

(we discussed a little.  And then M3 was asked to take charge)
M3: so you are from the reputed Birla Institute of Technology and Science!

I smiled again.

Then he asked for my comments on something apart from the academics at BITS (don’t remember the wordings as such)

Me: our physical infrastructure is not as good as the IITs (I know BITSian junta wont spare me for saying this, But I had the condition of the hockey ground in my mind. I now feel I should have spoken about some of the outstanding features of BITS Pilani)

M3: have you seen BITS’s library?
( I was shell shocked! And then somehow managed to smile and say..)

Me: yes sir! Its very beautiful!

M3: did you use to go there for reading journals etc?

Me: not often sir (at this point I wanted to tell him that it was only the lovebirds who used to go to the library but somehow resisted the temptation)
Then he asked me about the hockey India league and what I thought about it. I gave a monologue, straight from the heart.

M3: ok. What are you other interests?

(I was startled at this as I did not know regarding which field he was asking. I blurted environmental engineering and went on to explain the Deptt. of Science and Technology , Govt of Rajasthan sponsored project I had done about gainful utilization of the marble slurry )

M3: There is a shortage of sand these days. What alternatives have been found for use of sand in the construction industry.(the question seemed poorly framed to me. I politely replied that I did not know. My friends say that the answer could be fly ash. If it were so, the question was terribly framed)

Now M4 takes over and asks about blogging (my hobby). Usual question followed like the number of followers, kind of posts I write, the website on which my blog is hosted. I told them that I just write about my personal experiences and that there are only 14/15 followers. (Now, I think this was too  defensive a strategy to use. Should have prepared an issue from one of the old posts and let the discussion run on that topic)

Now finally, it was the turn of M5. M5’s question was probably based on my reply to chairman’s question regarding why I wanted to pursue civil services. The central theme of my answer was that civil services were much more challenging than an ‘operations’ profile

M5(in a thoughtful voice): you said you like challenging roles. But in civil services about 30-35 years of your life shall be spent in reading files and papers. It’s a very mundane and boring job. How shall you manage then?

Chairman( interrupts): and its much boring than reading ‘THE HINDU’.
(and everybody starts laughing. I too join them)

M5: no no sir! I am not joking. It’s a very valid point. (and he reiterates the question to me)

Me: Sir, if such a work can bring a smile to someone’s face, I don’t have any problems with the boring nature of the work

M5: oh no no! Not that kind of work.. Stuff like passing someone’s leave application, passing someone’s TA/DA bills etc

Me: Sir, to be very honest I won’t enjoy such kind of a role, but I also understand that I cannot have everything according to my wishes
Chairman seemed to be very happy at this point. He said it was a good answer (or did he say it was a VERY good answer??). He was about to declare my interview as over but the lady member (M2) interrupted and asked me to tell her more about the marble slurry project. I explained it in detail.

M2: then what happened? What was the final result?
Me: Mam it was technologically feasible but economically not L
M2: oh! That’s the problem with all these waste utilization projects
Me: yes Mam

At this, the chairman declared that the interview was over. My feeling was: arey Sir gappe ladane mein itna maza aa rha hai.. thodi der aur batiyaate hain naa!!

Overall, It was a very pleasant experience. I was smiling most of the times; not because XYZ coaching walla had told me to do so but I was genuinely pleased at the way things were going! The best thing was the chairman’s compliment in the end. If what we read in psychology as ‘recency effect’ is a valid phenomenon, I should be handsomely rewarded 

PS : I ended up with a measely 160/300 in this interview :(

5 comments:

  1. A very fine interview.. you will be handsomely and beautifully rewarded :D

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  2. rewarded very beautifully,,, hats off on your great feat...

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  3. Am from the field of dentistry.. I wonder what they may ask in interview.



    but to be honest, your way of dealing the interview confidently is simply mind blowing.. kudos

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  4. Sir I need your guidance for my optional paper, Psychology. How can I contact you?

    ReplyDelete