I was quite good at studies and always stood first. Coming from a poor family, I had only one ambition in life — to get a job as fast as I could and help my father in running the family. My father got Rs 4,500 as salary and he had to take care of the education of four children and run the family, which you know is very difficult.
So, after my 10th standard, I joined a polytechnic college because I was told I would get a job the moment I passed out from there. When I passed out with 91 per cent, there was a chance for me to get entry to a government engineering college on merit. So I decided to join the Thanthai Periyar Government Engineering College to study mechanical engineering. My father supported my desire to study further.
Even while doing engineering, my ambition was still to get a job. If you look at my background, you will understand why I didn’t have any big ambitions. Most of my friends in the village had studied only up to the 10th standard, and many did not even complete school. They worked as auto drivers or coolies or masons. I was the only one among my friends who went to college.
I understood the importance of education because of my parents. My father was the only one in his family to have completed school, so he knew the value of education. My parents saw to it that we children studied well.
It was in Bangalore that I started thinking about my village and my friends. I wondered sadly why none of them studied and worked in good companies. Because they had no education, they always remained poor. There was not enough money to buy even proper food. There was no opportunity there; the only place they could work was the tannery in the nearby town. If they didn’t get work at the tannery, they worked as auto drivers or coolies. In short, there was no one in my village to guide the young generation.
I thought would I be able to help my villagers in any way?
I resigned and went home to prepare for the examination. I never thought resigning was risky because I had the confidence and knew I would do well.
My father also supported me wholeheartedly. He had just got a bonus of Rs 6,500 and he gave me that money to buy study material. I sat in my village and studied from the notes I received by post from Chennai.
I had taken mechanical engineering as my main subject. That’s when I met Uma Surya in Vellore. He was also preparing for the examination. He told me that if I took sociology as an option, it would be easy.
Even with sociology as the main subject, I failed in the third attempt. But I was not disappointed. I knew why I was failing. I didn’t have proper guidance. I started reading newspapers only after I started preparing for the examination! So you can imagine from what kind of background I came from.
Because I got tips from those who passed out, I passed the preliminary in my fourth attempt. We were given free accommodation and food only till we wrote the main examination. After that, we had to move out. I didn’t want to go back to the village but staying in Chennai also was expensive.
I tried to get a job as an engineer but my efforts turned futile. I then decided to look for a part time job so that I would have time to study.
I quit the job and joined a private firm to teach sociology to those preparing for the UPSC examinations. While I learnt the other subjects there, I taught sociology. Many friends of mine in Chennai helped me both financially and otherwise while I prepared for the examination.
While preparing for the interview, I had written an examination to be an officer with the Intelligence Bureau and I was selected. I was in a dilemma whether to accept the job. I felt if I joined the IB, once again, my preparation to be an IAS officer would get affected. So, I decided not to join and started preparing for one last time.
The interview was in April, 2008 at Delhi. I was asked about Tamil Nadu, Kamaraj, Periyar, Tamil as a classical language, the link between politics and Tamil cinema etc. I was upset since I did not wish the interviewers at the start and they did not respond when I said thanks at the end. Both the incidents went on playing in my mind. I just prayed to God and walked back.
I went to a playground and sat there meditating for a while. Then, I started thinking what I should do if I passed and what I should do if I didn’t.
I had only one dream for the last seven years and that was to be an IAS officer.
I felt like I had a won a war that had been going on for many years. I felt free and relieved.
The first thing I did was call my friends in Chennai and then my parents to convey the good news.
Just take my example. I could come out of a poor background to this level only because of education. I didn’t get any guidance when I was young. So I want to give proper guidance to the youth in the villages. They have the ability to go up but there is nobody to guide them. I want to be a guiding force to such youngsters. As I come from that background, I understand them best.
Now that I am going to be an IAS officer, I will move to the creamy layer in reservations. My children would be from a background that is totally different from what mine was. If I continue taking the benefits of reservation, I would be doing injustice to society. So, I will not take the benefits again.