With a brimming smile, Tina Dabi welcomed me to her Gole Market home. On a hot Thursday afternoon, here I was in central Delhi, chasing like most other journalists and camerapersons the topper of this year’s UPSC examination.
Comfortably seated on a brown couch, relentless media interviews did not seem to have tired Tina out. She was too overwhelmed by the recent happenings. A 22-year-old, Tina shot to fame almost as immediately as the UPSC results were announced on Tuesday, grabbing frontpage headlines and becoming the most popular face on primetime TV.
“I still have not been able to digest the fact that I’ve not just cleared UPSC but topped it. All I wanted was to get a good score but this is not something that I’d even thought of,” says Tina, bubbling with joy.
“Meeting people, answering phones is all that I have been doing since the day of the result. So as of yet I haven’t been able to quite figure out what has happened. It is like a dream — being on TV and in newspapers, meeting the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and a few Union ministers who congratulated and blessed me,” she adds.
With a career in civil services being the sole ambition that Tina has had since school days, she made sure to not waste a single day after topping her graduation exams from Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women. “Civil services give you a platform to work with people while being a part of the system. It’s the pleasure of helping others and the continuous connect with people that made me opt for the UPSC examinations. And of course, not to say, the perks and prestige that come with the job,” says Tina.
“I decided to be a civil servant when I was in class 11. I remember speaking to several people regarding it and realised that this is what I really wanted to do. Working with people is something that gives me ultimate joy and satisfaction,” she adds.
“Civil services give you a platform to work with people while being a part of the system. It’s the pleasure of helping others and the continuous connect with people that made me opt for the UPSC examinations. And of course, not to say, the perks and prestige that comes with the job.”
Tina has opted to become a part of the Haryana cadre, an unusual choice since generally people opt for foreign services after scoring so highly. “I selected IAS over IFS as I prefer being in the country and working with and for the people here,” says Tina.
Getting top rank is not new for Tina, as she was also a CBSE Class 12 topper with 96.25% from Delhi’s Convent of Jesus and Mary. “I’ve always been studious, so studying for several hours at length is not something that bothered me ever. In fact, I plan to study further, and would love to get a PhD. For I think, a good education is something that not just broadens your mind but also shapes one’s personality,” says Tina.
When asked what message she might want to share with aspirational civil servants, Tina says, ”I think we all have a different method of studying. Some people can study for five to six hours and cover a lot while others need eight to ten for the same. At the end of the day it depends from person to person. So if I tell anyone on how to go about preparing for these exams, it wouldn’t be correct. All I can say is that if someone really thinks that working for people is what they really want to do in life, this is the best way to do it. So put your heart and soul into it.”
We are all well aware of the painstaking, almost “depressing” procedure of civil service examinations. On asking Tina to shed some light on this exam that often takes a toll on those preparing for it, sometimes for over several years, cut-off from friends and families, cooped up in their PG accommodations in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar and Rajendra Nagar areas, the newest IAS officer says, “These exams are really tough for just the process takes a full year and add to it, the year one spends studying and preparing for these exams. Thus, a two-year ordeal of loneliness and extensive study is what it takes. I’m really glad that my parents and friends were there for me for almost every third day that I would undergo a breakdown and didn’t want to continue. It is their unconditional support that kept me going. At the end of the day, I suppose it’s the people around you who inspire and push you to be the best.”
Besides being passionate about civil services, Tina has also all along harboured a love for painting. The living room of their apartment in Delhi has several of her Madhubani paintings. After induction, Tina plans to work with departments that work around women and children. “I would prefer an assignment with a government department that works around women and children for that is something that really needs to be worked upon. No matter how much we work towards these issues, it is always less,” says Tina.
Tina’s success story is not just one of patience and will-power but also one that speaks volumes about a support system that stood with her through thick and thin. Himali Kamble, Tina’s mother, cannot thank her daughter enough for always making her family proud: “Being recognised as Tina’s mother is something that makes me feel great. I’ve always been proud of her but this is something that will stay with me forever. She is my hero and will always be.”