Friday, 18 January, 2008

Life in JNU Part 1

Disclaimer: This is just a funny piece of writing and not meant to be derogatory or mean nor is the purpose to insult someone!

I wrote 'Life in JNU' in a series of emails to my friends while I was studying and staying in JNU. These writings are pretty funny so I am putting them up here.
This particular piece talks about UPSC examination craze which inflicts 99.9% of the students in the campus.

With the summer break starting half the campus has gone home, the other half left are almost all UPSC candidates, or people like me doing projects or senior research fellows whose guides give them strange looks if they hear these people are going home.
UPSC/ Civil Services is a major thing in JNU. Almost all the North and South Indians come to JNU with the big dream of becoming an IAS, IPS etc. Many times people suspend their regular career for the dream of cracking this examination. And mostly all aspiritants stake their personal lives. Cracking this examination is a major obsession not only among the JNU students but there are pockets all over Delhi like Jia Sarai just next IIT Delhi campus where students from all over India come to prepare for UPSC. Even though I have never been to Delhi University (yes even after staying 5 years in Delhi!) I am told it is a major obsession there also and there are specific areas like the Mukherjee Nagar where students cluster and prepare.
There are students who keep giving this examination for the maximum number of times they are allowed. Some make it, mostly majority do not. And again there are people who simply keep on repeating the examination for the sake of improving their ranks until they become the “IAS”. I know of many who on first try got 200 something, on 2nd try 150s, then on 3rd 100 and at last 30s/40s. Just imagine giving this tough exam (I think it is the toughest in the world) four times! just to improve your rank! I certainly cant!
First you have to clear your preliminary examination among 12/13lakh contestants, of whom they choose about 2/3 thousand who go on to give the main examination, out of them 500 qualify for the interview, finally 200 something qualify. The syllabus is like everything under the sun for general studies irrespective of whether you are science or arts student, 2 languages, two optional subjects where you have to be masters in both. And the worst part is that many people get chucked out in the interviews and then they have to start all over again from the preliminary examination. It is a bit like the 'snakes and ladder' game we used to play as kids. Even after bypassing all the hissing snakes you reach 99 and then you are hit by a snake and bham you go down right to 1 and dash goes all your dreams of reaching 100!
I have looked at the preliminary examination syllabus. I know I’ll never make it in a 100 yrs. Actually Bengalis do not sit for this exam much, on the whole preferring to go abroad for their Phds. Now a days Beharis crack this examination a lot, or at least they used to when I was in JNU. And the effort they make for this examination is worth seeing! They study like mad and really know how to work hard. There is a common saying in JNU “ behari jaisa par sakte ho to upsc laag jayega” (if you can study like a Bihari then you can crack UPSC). From what I saw people who crack UPSC are not brilliant just smart and hard working. Many give their final interviews in Hindi.
An immediate senior of mine in M.Phil cracked UPSC and became a celebrity overnight in the campus. She was from some rural village where female education was an unheard thing. Her school teacher father went against the entire village and educated her. She came to JNU for her masters got sucked into the UPSC mania. The first time she sat for this examination she got 231st rank, on her 2nd try came 31st. Since she is an OBC finally went up to 20th. She was telling me that the final interview is the toughest, with people waiting all being very nervous. The interviews all go on rather haphazardly with someone being interviewed for 20 minutes while another person 1.30 hours. She was saying at one point the tension becomes so unbearable that people start throwing up, some even faint and the atmosphere crakles with tension.
Soon after I joined JNU my mother and my uncle started to egg me to give this horrifying examination. I refused outright on the ground that I don’t have any capacity for hard work, my sincerity is dubious, my motivational level keeps going up and down and hardly steady, i do not any any tenacity ect etc.
One of the amusing stories doing rounds in the campus is that one aspirant got so agitated studying hard that instead of sitting in a chair, he istarted sitting on his table to study because someone advised him that is a better vastu position. Another one is running all around his room and studying! I don’t know how far all this is true but with so much at stake if they go a little mad, no one can blame them!
The preliminary examination is held very year in the stifling heat of May on a Sunday. JNU students union arranges for transportation so that students dont have to worry about reaching their examination halls.
Well here is wishing all the best for all the brave hearts who plan to sit for this examination in future!


  1. thanx loved a pretty idea about jnu..pretty smitten by upsc. thanx a lot.


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