Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Upsc interview experience 2013 cse 12.03.2013

My interview for Civil Services Exam 2012, at UPSC, New Delhi.

Board – Chairman P K Mishra (CP), three male members (M1, M2 and M3) and a lady member
(LM). I was fourth to be interviewed. Interview lasted for 32min to be precise. I took help of uncle
who came to call me, to note down the time. He obliged.
Name: Yogesh Mehare
Optionals: Sociology and Political Science and International Relations
Hobbies: Writing Poetry in Marathi and Reading
District: Wardha
Home State: Maharshtra

…. …and the bell rang

Me: May I come in, sir?
CP: Yes, yes, come in Yogesh.
Me: Good afternoon sir (looking at the CP). Good afternoon madam. Good afternoon sirs (looking at
other male members).
CP: Please take your seat.
Me: Thank you sir.
CP: (looking at my DAF) oh interesting! You have two patents. What are these patents about?
Me: Sir these two patents are for the two novel processes that we as a group at HUL, developed for
extraction of a molecule in black tea, which has health enhancing properties.
CP: What is the second patent about?
Me: (I thought I answered this in the previous question itself) Sir, both the patents are about
extraction processes for same molecule called theaflavins, well known antioxidants naturally
occurring in black tea. The processes are different but the final outcome is the same sir. It is
purified theaflavins. So these are process patents.
CP: But I have heard that green tea has antioxidants?
Me: That’s right sir. Green teas have antioxidants called catechins and in black tea they are
theaflavins, fermented products of catechins.
CP: Ok. Ok.
Me: Yogesh, tell me how can these patents be used for societal good?
CP: (a bit puzzled, it being property of a private corporation, can it do any societal good, but then
thought that I would not be answering the question if I mention this aspect) Sir, antioxidant and
other health related properties are very well reported for these molecules i.e. theaflavins and if
a tea product could be made with enhanced level of theaflavins, it has a potential to address the
issues of obesity, blood pressure… (interupts)
CP: But you said you are extracting the molecule from tea the how would you enhance its level?
You are actually decreasing it, aren’t you?
Me: You are right sir, by extracting the molecules we are taking out the molecule from tea. But this
extraction is done on low grade material and the extracted molecules are added back to other teas,
thereby enhancing levels of the said molecule. This is one approach sir. There is another approach
too… (interrupts)
CP: What is that approach?

Me: Sir, this approach is about in-planta bio-chemical intervention to enhance the level of
theaflavins as opposed to in-process approach which have got us the patents.
CP: Ok. Ok. (looking at my DAF again) Poerty writing in Marathi (my hobby)? (looks at me – do I
look like a poet or not? J) Yogesh, have you heard about ‘Anandmath’?
Me: Yes sir. It’s is one of the most famous literary works…..
CP: Do you know its author?
Me: Sir, I am not very sure but with your permission I would like to make a guess.
CP: Go ahead…
Me: (All I could recollect was that it was a Bengali stalwart), Sir was it Gurudev Ravindranath……
(sensing I was wrong, interrupts)
CP: No no. It was Bankimchandra Chatterji
Me: (with a large smile) Thank you sir.
CP: (again looking at my DAF again) Reading (my hobby)? Yogesh what do you read?
Me: I read mostly non-fiction, sir.
CP: What kind of books in non-fiction?
Me: Sir I like to read self-help books, autobiographies, biographies. I also read books on
spirituality… (intrupts) (this is what they seem to have taken very seriously as quite a few questions
came from religion).
CP: Oh spirituality? What books have you read about spirituality?
Me: Sir, I have read books by Swami Vivekananda and Sri Paramahansa Yoganandaji..
CP: What? Ramakrishna Paramahansa?
Me: No sir. Sri Paramahansa Yoganandaji…
CP: did u read the Autobigraphy of an Yogi?
Me: Yes sir. I’ve read it.
CP: Good. Then have you been to abc (he named some place, I knew that it related to swamiji’s
Me: No sir. Not yet. But I would love to visit it some day for sure.
CP: Do visit. It’s a nice place. Yogesh, you mentioned you read Swami Vivekananda too?
Me: Yes sir.
CP: Did you read his entire work? All eight volumes?
Me: ( Luckily I had searched this pack of eight volumes on flipkart recently, so was aware of these
volumes and one of them being on Yoga’s) Sir, I’ve not read all the volumes but I have finished
reading a part of them on Yoga’s (I had read this one book long back).
CP: Good. Yogesh tell me what is spirituality?
Me: (had never thought of a precise definition of spirituality but sometime back I’d written an essay
on similar topic where I did try to define spirituality. Taking a few seconds to think) Sir, I believe
spirituality is about individuality, so each person’s definition may differ and at the same time it’s
about universality. To me it’s your feeling about your souls connection to its very source, its origin.
(I took long time to answer this. I was thinking before I delievered almost every word. They were kind
enough and showed patience. Also that the answer did not come out as it will look while reading this
transcript. It was filled with long pauses, fumbling, grammatical etc)
CP: But Yogesh, are you not aware that spirituality comes from the word spirits? (he looked at me.
I had kind of confused expression on my face. He seem to have sensed what I was thinking.) No. no.
I am not referring to the wandering spirits and ghosts. (a little laughter followed). I am talking
about the good spirit. The energy, of which we are all parts.

Me: Yes sir. That is right. This makes it about being good and doing good for we are part of one
CP: Right. Right. Yogesh, do you understand Hindi?
Me: Yes sir I do.
CP: I will give u a line and You have speak or comment on it. Ok.
Me: Ok sir.
CP: It goes like this - 'dekh tere sansaar ki haalat kya ho gayi bhagwan, kitna badal gaya insaan".
Me: Sir, may I take a few seconds to reorganize my thoughts?
CP: Yes. Yes. First, you tell me the lyricist of these lines?
Me: (a long pause) sorry sir, I am unable to recollect.
CP: No problem. It’s Kavi Pradeep. (another member added that Pradeep was singer as well for the
song.) Comment Yogesh.
Me: (after a long pause) Sir, with time we as a society and individuals, are becoming more and
more self-centred, individualistic and isolated. We suffer from lack of compassion and empathy
for the needy and the poor. Sir, I believe, it is these things that have led to the degradation of our
values. Technology is also adding to our isolation and alienation. We find comfort within four
walls of our home and community life has…. (interrupts)
CP: is it all that bad Yogesh? (before I could say anything he added) You are right. What you said is
the idea of the song. But is it all that gloomy?
Me: Certainly not sir. The very fact that the World is going around in normal fashion despite all the
bad things is a testimony to the fact that we have many good people too.
We have WMD’s, we have terrorist tendencies, we have extremism and so on and yet Word
manages to go around shows that a lot of good people are doing good work. So the brighter side
is not absent. (the answer did not come out as good as it may look while reading this transcript. It
was filled with long pauses, fumbling, grammatical mistakes and bad sequencing of sentences but the
essence was same.)(Mishraji kept nodding affirmatively almost throughout.)
CP: Have you heard of ‘xyz” (he said some name).
Me: Sorry sir, I have not come across this name.
CP: Oh you do not know Tendulkar?
Me: Sir, I know Tendulkar….
CP: No no. Not Sachin Tendulkar!
Me: Sir, Vijay Tendulakar I am referring to.
CP: Yes, he is also known as ‘xyz’.
Me: Thank you sir.

CP handed the baton over to the next member (M1)

M1: “Swaraj is my birth right….” Have you heard of this?
Me: Yes sir.
M1: Complete it and name the person who said it?
Me: “Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it”. Sir, It was Lokmanya Bal gandadhar Tilak who
said it.
M1: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world”. Who said this? (Seeing that I was
thinking, he added) have you come across this quote?
Me: Sir, I’ve read the quote.
M1: Who said it?

Me: I am confused between Aristotle and Plato. (Socrates came to my mind only after came out of
the interview room. Wrong answer!)
M1: (Smiled and moved to the next question without correcting me). Have you heard of tax? (is this a
question to ask? So just wanted to be sure that he said ‘tax’ only)
Me: I beg your pardon sir.
CP: Yogesh, he said ‘tax’.
Me: Thank you sir. Yes, I am aware of it.
M1: You may be aware that govt has imposed a cess of 10% in the recent budget.
Me: Yes sir, it has been imposed on what they call ‘super-rich’.
M1: Now, tell me the difference between tax and cess?
Me: Sir, I am not sure about the exact technical difference but if you permit I would like to hazard
an educated guess.
CP: Go ahead... (Mishraji was being too nice, wasn’t he?)
Me: Sir, imposition of tax needs change in law but I think cess does not need that as it come
with cabinet’s decision. Secondly sir, cess is of temporary nature but tax is generally a long term
CP: Yogesh, cess also come from the parliament. Your second point is correct. Cess is an ad-hoc
Me: Yes sir but I am not sure if it needs change in law. (Glad I had taken permission to make a guess.
I wasn’t sure about this bit).
M1: (he added one more point of difference. I fail to remember that)
Me: Thanks you sir for the information.

M2 is asked to take the charge now.

M2: You are from Maharashtra. You have bollywood in Mumbai. You may be knowing that in last
10 years, Hindi has got affected due to influence of Marathi? Do you know about the trends?
Me: (failing to understand as to how I am supposed to know this, I began saying what I knew). Sir,
bollywood being in Mumbai, has led to Marathi words being incorporated into…. (interrupts)
M2: Let me put it this way. Are you aware of the grammatical and pronunciational changes in
Hindi due to impact of Marathi?
Me: Sir, all that I am aware of is that bollywoods presence in Mumbai has led to heavy import of
Marathi words in Hindi movies and my knowledge about this ends here. (I said this with larger
than normal smile).
M2: (reciprocating smile) Ok. Leave it. Now tell me, where all in the World did colonialism arise,
where all did it spread, why did it arise and why did it die down in the end?
Me: (well, it took me no time to realize that it was a 60 marker. Lol. But then I knew they would not
have the patience to hear an essay, so decided to say whatever little I knew about it), Sir, I will begin
with India. Sir, in India, the colonizers started coming in the 16 th century but it was only in 18th
century that they had started making their presence felt as colonizers. (Interrupts. I was glad. This
is what I wanted. World history is an anathema to me)
M2: why did it arise in the first place?
Me: Sir, the coming of industrial revolution led to machine-made production in Europe resulting
into surplus goods. So the Europeans needed new markets to sell these goods. They also needed
large amounts of raw materials to feed their machines. It was this need for raw material sources
and markets that made Europeans to look out for new lands which became their colonies.

CP: (nodding positively) That’s correct. (Mishraji, continued to be nice and encouraging)
M2: Who was the biggest coloniser?
Me: Sir, I am not very sure?
CP: What? (My feelings - Did I disappoint you sir? Let me try to correct that)
Me: Sir I think it was the Britishers for they were called the superpower of 18 th and 19th century.
CP: Yes. That’s right. (Prompting M2 to ask the next question)
M2: Who all were colonisers?
Me: Sir, Britishers…. (before I say anything he stepped in)
M2: Next?
Me: Sir, the French
M2: next
Me: Sir, the Portuguese
M2: Next?
Me: (a long pause thinking about who next) Sir, the Dutch
M2: Next?
Me: (with a long smile, I felt like laughing at this moment) I am sorry sir, I am unable to recollect
any further names.
M2: That’s ok. Now tell me, why did Germany not have a colony?
Me: Sir, I am clueless about this. (He smiled. Don’t know whether at using the word ‘clueless’ or
feeling satisfied that he had asked such a good question.)
M2: Can you guess a reason?
Me: Sir, did it relate to their incapacity in sea navigation? (I should not have answered by putting a
question J)
M2: (He said laughingly) Yogesh, I am asking you? (Hope this did not offend him. Did not look like
that to me but never know.)
Me: I am so sorry sir. That is the only reason I can think of.
M2: How do the fundamental tenets of Hinudism, Christianity and Islam compare?
Me: Sir may I take a while to think about this? (Mishraji permitted me to do so with a hand gesture.
Thank you sir.)
Me: (wondering where all did this come from all of a sudden, I choose to say what I believe in)
Sir, at very fundamental level, all these religions are about the good, about brotherhood, about
compassion. I don’t see any difference in them as far as their fundamental principles are
concerned. Sir….(interupts)
M2: That’s right. But let me rephrase my question. What are fundamental underpinnings of
Hinudism, Christianity and islam vis-a-vis nature?
Me: (Please sir, I am not an expert in comparative religions. Again I thought for a while. I could only
make some connection between Hinduism and Nature but was clueless about other two religions.)
Sir, I don’t think I can answer this question.
M2: (laughingly) Ok. I think I should not stretch you on that. (Thanks for being so considerate sir J)

Mishraji asked the next member to take over now.

M3: Yogesh, you are from Maharashtra? Have u heard of Bombay high?
Me: Yes sir. It’s known for its petroleum refineries.
M3: Refineries? Are you sure? (there was a big question mark on his forehead)

Me: Sir, I admit that I am not very sure. I think it has oil reserves and not refineries.
M3: Reserves? (again a big question mark on his forehead)
Me: I am sorry sir. I must say that all that I recollect now is that Bombay high is related to
petroleum. Not sure exactly what of petroleum.
M3: Yogesh, it’s known for its oil wells. (He wanted to hear this word ‘wells’, but how is that
different from reserves? But he did succeed in confusing me. So victory for him.)
Me: Thank you sir.
M3: You have done diploma and degree in chemical engineering? Tell me how will you use your
chemical engineering knowledge for social welfare?
Me: Sir, I am not sure if my technical knowledge of chemical engineering would be of much
relevance when it comes to the administration. But chemical engineering or any engineering for
that matter, does teach you rationality, objectivity and scientific approach. I believe these are the
attributes that go into making a good administrator. To that extent I see it being useful. (this is not
what he wanted to hear for he was coming from a very different angle, which is evident in his next
question, my answer and his response to it.)
M3: What you said is correct but I will put the question differently to you. See, you have in your
biodata places like Nagpur (board for SSC), Mumbai (Board for Diploma), Pune (Graduation
university) and you may be aware that there are large barren lands around most of these cities?
Me: (barren land did the trick for me, I picked up the clue and got a bit impatient too. With a large
smile I said) Sir, I see your point now.
M3: (he kindly reciprocated with as big a smile and said) Let me complete my question?
Me: I am so sorry sir. Please…
M3: So you have barren lands. You are an administrator there and you know chemical
engineering? Now, tell me how will you use chemical engineering knowledge for social welfare?
Me: Sir, I would promote ‘jatropa cultivation’ on these barren lands. (It seems that this is precisely
what he had in his mind as can be seen from his response to this.)
M3: (with a very happy expression on his face) Yogesh, please repeat that a little loudly to all the
members. (I followed his instruction and repeated ‘jatropa cultivation’ looking at Mishraji. He now
added) now please elaborate your answer. (Seems like a guy from environmental background)
Me: Sir, we are an energy deficient country. So we need domestic sources of energy. Also that
energy alone would not do, given the constraints of emissions. So we need clean energy. Jatropa is
being looked at as a promising raw material for production of biodiesel. Jatropa thrives on barren
lands which are otherwise not suitable for productive farming. So it presents a kind of win-win
situation. This way, I can promote social welfare by making non-cultivable land productive for
farmers. (Mishraji looked happy as he kept his gesture of nodding intact.)

Finally, came the turn of lone lady member.

LM: You are from Maharashtra, right?
Me: Yes, mam.
LM: You have bollywood in Mumbai. Tell me how has bollywood impacted the image of women in
last 10 years?
Me: Sir, I am so sorry! Mam, In the context of bollywood, I would say that in last 10 years,
comodification of woman has happened.
LM: Comodification, why do you say so?

Me: Mam, I say that because if we look at the way woman is presented in movies, especially in item
songs, it can be seen that the lyrics are about womans body and sexuality, the picturisation is also
about womans body and her sexual gestures in large number of such songs. And why is it that it is
always Munni – jo badnam hoti hai and not Munna? (…a big laughter. Since Mishraji had asked me
something in Hindi I thought it alright to say a line in hindi. I realize now that I moved into gender
inequality from comodification when I mentioned Munni.)
LM: but you must still be watching a lot of movies?
Me: No man. I am not a movie freak.
LM: Oh, you don’t watch movies?
Me: No mam, I do watch but very selectively and when I like a movie I watch it multiple times.
CP: (Mishraji got curious) Oh Yogesh, what are the movies that you watch multiple times?
Me: Sir, for example, I like chak de India, I saw it thrice. I liked Lagaan, I saw it twice. Sir, I liked
Mohabbatein too and watched it twice.
CP: (looking at a male member) Mohabbatein! (He responded with a smile, so did I.)
LM: But how would you know if a movie is good or bad if you don’t see it?
Me: Sir, I am sorry (I erred on this once more J). Mam, I get to hear about movies from my friends.
My wife too is a movie fan and watches a lot of movies. She also informs me about movies.
CP: Oh, so you get movie reviews in-house? (I just smiled and he prompted the lady member to
LM: what does your wife have to say about it? (I think she was referring to woman’s image)
Me: Mam, frankly speaking, she is a very happy-go-lucky kind of a woman. She loves movies,
watches them and forgets about them. J (a big laughter followed. I did not know it would create
laughter but was happy it happened.)
LM: Maharashtra has a strong Marathi policy, which is parochial. Tell me how will that impact the
larger picture? You must be aware that English is the language of the commerce….. (and she said a
lot in that direction.)
Me: (Not having understood what she wanted to ask), Mam, will you please clarify your question? I
am unable to…… (Mishraji interrupted)
CP: She is saying that how would a strong Marathi policy affect national politics etc?
Me: (Looking at mam), Mam, I would first respectfully differ with you on strong Marathi policy
being parochial. A strong language policy is not an issue per se. Almost all states have a policy
promoting local language.
CP: (Mishraji intervened and said) yes yes Karantaka, TN etc have such policy too.
Me: (since there was a silence I continued) The issue is rhetoric being created around language
issue and attempts being made at deriving political mileage out of language based discrimination
as can be seen from the activities of some political parties in Maharashtra.
CP: So Yogesh what should be done about such tactics?
Me: Sir, language based discrimination is unconstitutional and must be dealt with sternly.
CP: (He again nodded affirmatively. This time it was more pronounced.)
Me: But Yogesh, it is only recently that they have introduced English from first standard, right?
Me: Yes mam, very recently. I am a product of old system where we learnt A,B, C, D in 5 th standard
but now we have English from 1st standard. This shows that Maharashtra is not against non-
marathi language at all. It is only a few political parties who resort to politicking on language
based issue.
LM: Are you aware that there is a liquor ban in Wardha district?

Me: Yes mam, it is due to presence of Gandhi in 1930’s and Vinoba Bhave, both of whom were
against liquor consumption.
LM: but there is open sell and production of liquor too? Isn’t that hypocrisy?
Me: Mam, you are very right that we have both liquor ban and blatant violation of such ban taking
place on daily basis.
LM: So is it hypocrisy or not? Why not get rid of the ban? You know what happened in USA when
there was a ban? What happened in Gujrat? It’s there everywhere in bus, trains etc? Have you
heard of Americal liquor baron abc (she named somebody)? (I kept listening patiently for I had no
idea where she was going and where I needed to begin while answering...)
CP: (Intervening Mishraji said) Yogesh, just take a stand. you don’t have to be so cautious. All of us
have opinions. There is no right or wrong opinion. Say whatever you have in mind.
Me: (was this a trap? well, can’t help it if it indeed is) Mam, I believe that gross violation of a law or
inability to implement a law can not be a ground for removing the law. If we go by this logic, our
tax laws are one of the most violated ones. So I think we should try to improve implementation.
CP: you are right Yogesh. (Thank you sir for being so nice, hope it reflects in marks J)
LM: No, but what is the point if we can’t see it being implemented? I think we should get rid of
such bans? What do you say? (now things got a little uneasy. I thought I had answered it but she
Me: I agree with you mam that if we have policy in place, it must be implemented in its letter
and spirit. And only if there is conviction beyond doubt that it can not be implemented, should
we think of removing a policy. (Well, I said this but I think I could have handled it a little better by
adding that we need to change our implementation approach from top-down to bottom-up. But all
this good ideas come only in hindsight.)

CP: Ok Yogesh. Your interview is over.
Me: Thank you sir. Wishing you all a good day.

PS: There were a couple of more questions here and there, to which my answers were ‘I don’t
know’ and ‘I am clueless’. I must also admit that this transcript looks much better than the actual
interview. The idiosyncrasies like ‘I know’ (I have this one) etc get eliminated in a transcript. I’ve
tried my best to reproduce the interview as such but I don’t think I succeeded in doing that. Some
refining of language naturally occurs for you don’t remember exact sentences.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Yogesh for ur blog, hope it will help me in preparing my interview.