UPSC Interview Transcript by Divyanshu Jha (Venkatrami Reddy Board)

 
 
Interview Board: Venkatrami Reddy
Name: Divyanshu Jha
Interview Date/Year: April 2014
 

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Interview

I won’t be dramatic. This is how it happened

T minus 4: Seated outside the room on a solitary chair outside the Office of Sri Sri 108 Sri
Venkatrami Reddy. Shares wan smile with similarly placed candidate 10 feet away, awaiting his own guillotine in the form of the fiery Mrs Rajni Rajdan.

T minus 2: Earlier candidate comes out, looking slightly dazed. Omen not particularly
promising. Without a sideways glance or an encouraging “What ho!”, he flies away leaving in his wake a quivering jelly like mass bobbling on the chair.

T minus 0: Peon outside the office, with an ominous “Chaliye! Aapka samay aa gaya hai” not
unlike what Yamraj would quip on his regular rounds through an ICU, beckons me. Damned
fellow breaks my practiced routine by holding the door open. I was supposed to knock twice followed by a crisp “May I come in, Sir?” , now I have him standing with his head right where my first knock was supposed to land. Nonetheless, I had practiced far too well, so I knock him on the nose – rat-a-tat so! And utter a “May I come in Sir” so feeble, it died right there on my feet. Inside, the Chairman (hereafter CM) lip-reads my request and says, Come In!

I walk in. At first I was alright, then I thought – Am I walking confidently, upright with suavity and poise?- at which point I promptly became conscious of a thousand different things and it was a wonder I didn’t collapse on the carpet then and there in a heap of entangled legs and hands that didn’t know where to go.

With effusive “Thank yous” all round for no particular reason, I seat myself in front of the panel with my coat tails awkwardly sticking behind my back. However, I had committed myself and was in no position to fidget.

 

CM (smiling): So, Mr DJ(my contraction, not his), Are you working right now?
Me: No Sir

CM: IITK that too computer science so difficult to get in and yet now here you are. Can you justify this?
Me:

CM: No, no but is that enough?
Me: Sure as hell seems to me, dumbass.
I might be living my fantasies in my answers here and there. Wherever
they are used, it is up to the reader to take them in the right spirit

Member 1 (I nicknamed him “Manhoosiyat ki Moorat” for no reason): So you like Wodehouse?
Which one would you want to be Jeeves or Wooster?

Me: Bertie Wooster, Sir.

M1: Why? He was a good for nothing, who did nothing but get drunk and fell in love?
Me: Some quips about values of chivalry and pure hearted spirit, helping friends out at times of peril.

M1: No no, jeeves was all that and he was clever 

Me: Something along similar lines, more real, can associate with him more 


M1: Ok! Let’s leave that! Talk about the north east India, do you think we have done enough in terms of integrating into mainstream?
Me: Lots done, lots need to be done. Said about NEC, DoNER, 6th schedule, handling of
secessionist movement and resolution, democratic polity etc but there are gaps

M1: No no, but tell me if minor gaps or major gaps You are technical person
Me: Yeah the gap is 20cm by 30million light years. What the hell is a technical person any ways?

Should I answer in O(log n) notation?!
But then I answered – sir the gaps are in this this this area


M1: last 5 years mein what have we done for the North east?
Me: Physical connectivity, transit rights, industrial growth through setting up plants, central
universities etc.


M1: No no, we have done nothing for the North east!
Me: Sure, whatever!


M2: What is holography (Interest in Physics)
Me: Said something – 3D recreates images, phase information created


M2: No, no you are technical person, something about encrypted information
Me: I didn’t really understand what he wanted me to say, perhaps about security features but I gave this a pass


M2: Alright, you come from Bihar. Question about its water situation – drought, flood etc.
Me: Answered in detail – Nepal, embankment system, zoning, afforestation, groundwater
recharge, rainwater harvesting, Interlinking projects, groundwater planning. Here i missed
mentioning the use of WUAs and community ownership of water, but my answer was getting
too long so i decided to give that a miss.


M2: Drip irrigation why is it not being adopted?
Me: Initial costs, new tech adoption by farmers, blah blah

M2: 2 breaktroughs in Computer science and computer technology each
Me: started with our very own AKS algorithm, but was cut short


M2: No no, where are the patents, the chips?
Me: Fabrication techniques, talked of ESDM policy, but was again cut short.


M2: 2 or 3 more short questions, I forget what
Me: 2 or 3 more answers


M3: Jolly chap, started by asking me about IIT suicides, cheerful no?
Me: Answered – said something about reasons perceived or otherwise, counselling service etc.


M3: Criminalizing suicides? Do you remember the IPC? Never mind what do you think about it?
Me: Tried to remember, but he didn’t give me the time to even ask if it’s ok to guess. In any case, I gave that up as a lost cause and made a case for decriminalizing suicides.


M3: Then he asked me about coal thefts in bihar (which is now jharkhand;s problem)
Me: Totally messed uo this answer first i tried to answer based on scio economic deprivations
suffered by tribals in mining areas which led to this phenomenon of them ferryin coal illegally.


M3: No no i am not concerned about the small scale thefts, i am worried about large scale thefts when train wagons full of coal are stolen
Me: I told him organized corruption in regulatory sytems lead to illegal mining, not as sytemic
as was found in karnataka, can be resolved by strong implementation of the law blah blah blah.


M3 : No no no, i am not even talking of that. I am saying when the coal is on the trains, then they are stolen by people

(Seriously, WTF! I had not even heard if this was such a major issue!)
M4: Kindly jumping in, perhaps what he is looking for is the solution of covering train wagons for the transport of coal, but (looking at M3) other than that, there is not much to it.

(I think he agreed with me that the question was not really that relevant or important in the larger scale of things)
M3: Yes yes, true.

M4: Cheerful guy, started with some questions on PGW, which one was my favorite, how I
started reading him (I think like any Wodehouse fan, he was psyched to find a fellow
Wodehousian), and the Berlin broadcast issue about PGW.

 

Then he asked me what other authors belonged to the same genre. When I replied with the names of Douglas Adams and James Thurber, he seemed a tad disappointed but suggested that I read Jerome K Jerome, and that I will certainly like it. Very chummy!

Then a discussion on the issue of overloaded trains in the hinterland, why are people travelling on train tops, would I allow that to happen (I answered on long term and short term basis), would I allow that to happen (again, immediate answer to which I said “No” it’s for their own safety), at which he asked “so why aren’t all these DMs not taking action” to which I saidsomething or the other. Decent exchange, I would think.

No major faux pas.


Then it went on to IIT and recent reforms in admissions, autonomy to be given to the institute,
all answered satisfactorily, if a bit summarily.


CM: Ok, you may go now. Your interview is over.

At which point I hauled ass, and profusely thanking everyone (again for no particular reason), I fled the scene

Overall rating – 3 stars

Positive: Wodehouse and answers on Bihar’s irrigation/flood/drought management,
criminalization of suicide

Negatives: Not much asked by the chairman himself

Tips for others – There are no point preparing for it. They will not ask anything that you have prepared extensively for, or are your core strengths. Why bother!

Oh right! Sorry, ek aur question tha on the state of education and how would I motivate kids,
then on to UWQ syndrome and how to address that, an interesting question was if I supported
education for education sake or education for problem solving , in which I vouched for the latter.


I was asked to explain this. Went well, this part!