Friday, 12 June 2015

Interview Transcript - My friend Sangeeth Kumar

Date: 08/06/2015 (Forenoon)               Graduation: B.E (Civil Engineering)
Board: Madam P.Kilemsungla           
Experience: Nil (2nd attempt – probationer with IP&TAFS)
Optional: History                                
Hobby: Visiting temples of historical significance and making pencil sketches of sculptures.

(Half of the burden was lifted off the shoulders once I came to know that it’s Kilemsungla ma’am’s board)

Ma’am :  So you are a Civil Engineer?
Me       : Yes, Ma’am!
Ma’am : Have you been working?
Me       : No, Ma’am!
Ma’am : Your hobby is ‘….’ Which temple you visited recently? (For I was expecting some question on my service or at least why switch over from a Group A service, this gave a confidence that interview is going to be alright)
Me       : Ma’am! I visited the Mahabodhi Mahavihara at Bodhgaya last month.
Ma’am : What is the significance of the place?
Me       : Ma’am! Buddha attained enlightenment here and went on to teach at Sarnath how to get rid of sorrows of the world. (I was a bit dissatisfied with the answer as I dragged it from Bihar [Bodhgaya] to UP [Sarnath])
Ma’am : What about the revival of Buddhism in India?
Me       : Pardon me Ma’am! I am not able to grasp regarding which era of history you are asking about.
Ma’am : Recently we have revived an ancient university of Buddhist studies… (She went on with a long explanation). What is that, where it is and what is its significance?
Me       : Ma’am! It is the Nalanda University coming up close to the ancient university site at Nalanda in Bihar. It’s significant because we have international cooperation in the revival of the institution.
Ma’am : As an administrator which area you would concentrate on the most to improve the integrity of our country?
Me       : Ma’am! I would concentrate more on education.
Ma’am : Education? (A bit puzzled look) Already a lot has been done on that?!
Me       : True Ma’am! We have achieved a lot in education. But education is not only about literacy. I will be concentrating more on primary education to bring rational thinking among students so that they do not get moved by divisive views on race, religion, language, ethnicity, etc. (I answered this keeping my optional, previous questions and current social issues  like ‘Ghar Waapsi’ in mind).

(Ma’am points at member 1)

M1       : You are a Civil Engineer… What qualities as an engineer especially a Civil Engineer, you believe, would help you in administration?
Me       : Sir! An engineer acquires cognitive skills, of problem solving based on available data which would help me in administration. As a Civil Engineer, I can add to the infrastructure needs of the country. Moreover, Civil Engineering has subjects like agriculture and environmental engineering which gives me a wide exposure in catering to the needs of diverse sections of our society.
(The Board was very good in being patient and allowing me to make my full viewpoint without interrupting my answers in-between)
(I strongly believe that I invited the subsequent question by mentioning infrastructure and environmental engineering in my previous answer)
M1       : Are you satisfied with the environmental protection measures of the present government?
(I was in a catch 22 situation: can’t say ‘yes’ as it is widely reported in the media that NDA Govt is diluting environmental legislations; can’t say ‘no’ too because I will sound more like an environment activist than an administrator. So, gave a ‘diplomatic’ or ‘Kindly please leave me!’ answer)
Me       : Sir! There is always a conflict between development and environmental protection. Whatever is being done by the government is a balancing act. (Yes! A blunt answer. But, I think, it was a safe escape).
M1       : Recently the government has reduced the funds for Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan. (Really???!!! Have not heard such a thing! But didn’t disappoint him by questioning that because that was not his question.) Do you think even after that the scheme will be successful?
Me       : Sir! Based on the recommendations of the Finance Commission, the Central Government has devolved more funds for the State Governments. We can hope that this will further lead to devolution of funds for local governments. As they are the ones responsible for sanitation, we can hope that the scheme will be a success.
M1: But, is that sufficient? What other changes we need to bring in?
Me       : Sir! We need to bring ‘attitude change’ in the minds of the people! (Yes! That is what he wanted out of my mouth! He nodded with satisfaction)
M1       : How will you bring it?
Me       : Sir! With persistent campaigning we can bring in attitude change in the minds of people.
M1       : Is campaigning an effective way of bringing in attitude change?
Me       : Yes sir! The pulse polio campaign is an example. With continuous campaigning we were able to eradicate polio from the country. Similarly we can bring in cleanliness also.
M1       : So, everyone in your village went for pulse polio drops once Doordarshan started showing polio campaign advertisements?! The government did nothing else?!
Me       : Sir! The health workers did come door-to-door calling babies be brought for vaccinating. But, it was the campaigning that created awareness in the minds of the people regarding the usefulness of polio drops and once the call was made they readily responded to it. Hence, campaigning is an effective way to bring awareness.

(Ma'am pointed to Member 2) (Theme: Secularism!!!)

 M2      : You have chosen History as an optional. What led to your interest in the subject?
Me       : Sir! I grew up hearing mythological stories and visiting temples. Later this developed into interest in art and architecture. With Civil Engineering as my graduation this further strengthened. All these ultimately led to interest in History.
M2       : But mythology has little to do with History?!
Me       : Yes sir! Mythology only led to my developing interest in History. I am interested now in History the most.
M2       : You should be aware of the recent controversy regarding referring to Akbar as ‘the great’. What is it?
Me       : Sir! The Home Minister has made a statement that if Akbar has to be called ‘the great’ Rana Pratap should also be called the same.
M2       : What is your take on that?
Me       : I would beg to differ with the Home Minister, sir! Akbar is called ‘the great’ because his policies especially his religious ones were ahead of his times. So among his contemporaries, only he deserves to be called ‘the great.’
M2       : So, Rana Pratap should not be called so? Was he less in his nationalism?
Me       : Sir! If we consider valour, warfare and protection of one’s own kingdom as a scale, every ruler of India deserves to be called ‘the great.’
M2       : Was that (Akbar vs Rana Pratap) a religious clash?
Me       : Sir! Throughout History, religion has been used as a guise for politics. Many political conflicts were given a religious colour to unite forces and achieve gains.
M2       : Being such a mighty empire, what ultimately led to the downfall of Mughal dynasty?
Me       : Sir! Earlier there was a tendency to blame only Aurangzeb’s religious policy for the downfall of the empire. Now it is attributed to various other causes too like sudden expansion of the empire under Aurangzeb and the associated security and economic problems, incompetence of subsequent rulers and infighting among princes for the throne. Moreover, they had to contend with British who were far superior in their resources and arms.
M2       : So, how long did the empire last?
Me       : Sir! Till 1857 when the dynasty came to an end with crushing of the Revolt.
M2       : Why didn’t the lineage continue?
Me       : Sir! After the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was deported to Rangoon his sons, the princes, were shot dead by the British. The brought the dynasty to an end with the death of Bahadur Shah.
M2       : So, you have read ‘The Last Mughal’ by William Dalrymple? (Though my above answer is even in NCERT books, he attributed it to that particular book. But, thanks to my training institute’s library, I had read that book).
Me       : Yes, sir!
M2       : You have one?
Me       : Yes, sir! (That was a spontaneous lie! But, yes! My answer had its effect. He looked pleased).

(Ma'am pointed to Member 3) (The most problematic of them all. Later came to know that he created problems for all the other candidates. Probably the mild stress element of otherwise cordial Kilemsungla ma’am’s team)

M3       : Who is Swami Vivekanand’s guru?
Me       : Sir! Sri Rama Krishna Paramahans.
M3       : Do you know where his temple is located?
Me       : (Was clueless!) Sorry sir! I don’t know. But, may I take a guess?
M3       : Yes, you may.
Me       : Sir! Probably in the Dakshineshwar Kali temple where he was a priest.
M3       : Aren’t you contradicting yourself? You are calling it a Kali temple and then claiming it as Parahans’ temple. (I had answered thinking about the possibility of some sub-shrine; so, just smiled)
M3       : Ok, do you read world History?
Me       : Yes, sir! But, only a little! (That is one my weak zones!)
M3       : Do you know which queen of England was beheaded by her own husband?
(What….!!!! Totally taken aback. My knowledge of world history is very much confined to the UPSC syllabus)
Me       : Sorry sir! I am not aware of her.
M3       : What are your other hobbies?
Me       : Reading books.
M3       : What kind of books?
Me       : Sir! Books on art, architecture and iconography. (Unintentionally tried to make him ask about iconography. But, he refused to budge. Appeared he was not much moved by the answer, as I was not taking him to a different or intended field)
M3       : Don’t you play any sport? (The column was next to empty in my summary sheet!)
Me       : Occasionally I play chess for timepass sir! (Just didn’t want to say ‘no’)
M3       : Who is the first grandmaster of India?
Me       : Sir! Sri Vishwanathan Anand.
M3       : (Asked about a world famous, much talked about chess tournament. A very lengthy question it was. Enough!  I didn’t want the topic to continue further)
Me       : Sorry sir! I have no idea.
(Thankfully his time ended there. Later, I learnt that he asked a candidate why he isn’t playing basketball despite being tall and another candidate regarding some local hockey club who played barefoot and made some remarkable achievement. Too crazy-a-sports fan!)

(Ma'am pointed to Member 4)

M4       : Name some famous Civil Engineers of India.
Me       : Mokshagundam Vishveshwaraya and E. Shreedharan.
M4       : Name some famous civil servants.
Me       : Former CAG, Vinod Rai and Aruna Rai, behind the RTI movement. (Oops! No Mr/Ms/Shri before any of the names)
M4       : Were they engineers?
Me       : Sorry sir! I’m not aware of their educational backgrounds.
M4       : You were elaborating on the qualities of engineers (to M1). So, are you saying that only engineers can become successful civil servants? (OMG! When did I say so?)
Me       : Sir! Every stream of education provides the graduate with some special qualities which could be utilized if the person becomes an administrator. Likewise, engineering gives those particular qualities of usefulness in administration.
M4       : You belong to Tamil Nadu. A scientific project is being opposed in a southern district of Tamil Nadu. What is it?
Me       : Sir! It is the India based Neutrino Observatory project being proposed in my own district (I hail from Theni).
M4       : What is the project about?
Me       : (Elaborated on the stuff available on net; once he interrupted asking for the dimensions of the cave which I was not able to recollect and apologised for the same)
M4       : Why there is so much opposition to the project?
Me       : (Projected the misconceived notion of nuclear radiation and the justifiable fear of fall in ground water table affecting agriculture).
M4       : What are the other countries where such facilities are located?
Me       : Sir! One such facility is in China. I am not able to recollect the names of other countries with similar facilities.
M4       : As a civil engineer, which temple you like the most?
(I had gone to the interview with a decision that if they ask me to point at a temple, will mention the Tanjore temple because I’ll be having sufficient points as I had attended a conference on that temple conducted by IGNCA at BVB, Mylapore. Still, pretended to think and answer because I hope UPSC likes those who make weighed decisions!)
Me       : Sir! The Bruhadeeshwara Temple at Tanjore. (For which the entire board asked in unison ‘What?’. Probably they were expecting a more common name like the ‘Big Temple.’ I repeated my answer).
M4       : Why?
Me       : Sir! Because of its structural stability. Several ancient temples of India have to be restored to their present form from ruins by ASI (I had Mahabodhi temple which I mentioned first in mind for it was in shambles before being restored). But, this temple did not even develop what we technically call ‘settlement cracks’ due to the lowering of the foundation. So, I would favour that temple.
M4       :  Really? Hasn’t the temple developed any cracks?
Me       : No Sir! (Of corse minor cracks are there. But not any to the extent of affecting the structural stability at least in the main shrine).

(M4 looked at Ma'am. I was expecting finishing questions from her. But she informed me that my interview is over and thanked me. I thanked her and the board members and walked out).


  1. @Sangeeth Sir- It was pleasure reading your interview transcript :).
    Your hobbies are quite unique and interesting !!
    5-6 months back, during random browsing on facebook, I happened to see your pencil sketches, they were awesome Sir :) :).
    All the best to all of you. I am sure all of you will join together coming batch at LBSNAA :) :)

  2. mughal lineage still continues its just that they are not given the due recognition . i guess 2 prince were spared of imperial slaughter one of them was the jawan bakht .
    overall good script
    i wish you all the best

  3. Good job brother