Every year, approximately 11 lakh aspirants embark on the challenging journey of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination, with hopes of achieving their dream of serving the nation. However, the harsh reality is that only a fraction, less than 0.01 percent, manage to succeed.
While the journeys of UPSC toppers and achievers are extensively celebrated, the struggles of those who falter at the last hurdle often go unnoticed.
In 2019, out of over 8 lakh students who applied for the prelims, a mere 11,845 made it to the Mains, and only 927 individuals entered the esteemed realm of civil services. These figures dwindled to 761 in 2020 and further down to 712 in 2021.
The relentless pursuit of success leaves many aspirants disheartened and questioning their abilities. The struggles they endure during the arduous preparation phase and the consequences of not achieving their goals often remain untold.
Psychological And Emotional Baggage
A survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reveals a concerning statistic: approximately 12-13 percent of students across India suffer from psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues. Among those seeking counseling, many are aspiring UPSC candidates.
The pressure to succeed leads some aspirants to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as turning to drugs. To address this concerning trend, professionals emphasize the importance of accepting that the UPSC exam is not the be-all and end-all of life. Seeking support from mental health experts is crucial in managing the emotional aftermath of failure.
Dr. Praveen Tripathi, a psychiatrist at Noida-based Renowa Care, highlights the loneliness and isolation experienced by those who fail the UPSC exam. Their sole focus becomes clearing the exam, leaving little room for anything else.
These aspirants often find themselves living in seclusion, detached from friends and family, and trapped in a cycle of unhappiness. While there are numerous groups and platforms dedicated to exam preparation and study materials, there is a distinct absence of support networks for individuals who didn’t achieve success and are trying to move forward in their lives.
Amit Kilhor’s journey towards cracking the UPSC exam spanned an arduous eight years, characterized by dedication, perseverance, and a relentless pursuit of his dreams. As a teacher with Study IQ, Amit was well-versed in the intricacies of the examination, yet he faced numerous challenges along the way.
Despite his extensive preparations and commendable efforts, Amit experienced the disappointment of not clearing the exam multiple times. The weeks following the release of the results were filled with a sense of despair, as he grappled with the realization that his dream had yet to be realized.
However, in the face of adversity, Amit found the strength to rise above his disappointment and regain his determination.
One of the challenges Amit highlights is the financial burden that unsuccessful candidates bear. With each failed attempt, the pressure to seek more financial support from their families increases.
This aspect often goes unnoticed, as the focus tends to be on the achievements of those who successfully clear the exam. Amit’s poignant remark, “Every failed attempt increases the pressure to seek more money from home… No one thinks about the students who have gone through the rigors of this process,” sheds light on the struggles faced by those who do not achieve immediate success.
The UPSC examination demands not only rigorous preparation but also financial resources to sustain the lengthy process. Unsuccessful candidates often find themselves in a difficult position, needing to rely on their families for continued support.
This financial strain adds an additional layer of pressure, making it even more challenging for candidates to persist in their pursuit of success.
Rajat Sambyal’s journey in pursuit of clearing the UPSC exam is a testament to his unwavering perseverance and the uncertainty that often accompanies such aspirations. Coming from a civil engineering background and hailing from Jammu, Rajat’s dream of joining civil services led him to Delhi, the hub of UPSC aspirants.
For years, Rajat dedicated himself to the rigorous preparation required for the exam. Countless hours were spent studying, analyzing previous years’ question papers, and engaging in group discussions with fellow aspirants.
However, success seemed elusive as he faced disappointment with each attempt. Despite the setbacks, Rajat remained determined, refusing to let failure define him.
Living in Old Rajinder Nagar, surrounded by roommates who were also preparing for the UPSC exam, Rajat experienced the harsh reality of a highly competitive environment. The recent release of the results in May further deepened his sense of disappointment and isolation. Overwhelmed by emotions, he chose to retreat from social interactions, seeking solace in his own thoughts.
Recalling his state of mind at the time, Rajat says, “I was numb. I did not talk to anybody. I posted that tweet and went to sleep.” His words capture the profound impact of failure on the mental and emotional well-being of UPSC aspirants. The weight of expectations, the years of dedication, and the uncertain future can take a toll on even the strongest individuals.
However, amidst the disheartenment, Rajat’s journey is a reminder of the resilience that resides within him. Despite the setbacks, he refuses to give up on his dreams. While he may be uncertain about the path ahead, Rajat’s determination to find a new direction shines through. His journey is a testament to the fact that failure does not define a person; it is merely a stepping stone on the path to success.
Priyamvada’s journey towards cracking the UPSC exam was not solely defined by academic challenges but also by personal battles that intertwined with her pursuit of success. As she strived to conquer the demanding exam, she found herself grappling with depression and societal pressures that added an extra layer of complexity to her journey.
Alongside the rigorous preparation for the UPSC, Priyamvada faced the weight of societal expectations, particularly the pressure to marry. These external pressures often compounded the already immense stress of preparing for such a competitive exam. However, she refused to let these obstacles define her and persisted in her pursuit, determined to achieve her dreams.
To cope with her personal battles, Priyamvada sought solace in medication and embarked on a transformative journey. In 2020, she made the bold decision to move to London for further studies, recognizing the importance of personal growth and seeking a fresh perspective. During her time abroad, she not only expanded her knowledge but also found the strength to confront and overcome her depression.
Returning to India, Priyamvada embarked on a new chapter of her life, dedicating her efforts to making a difference in her country. She joined the World Wildlife Fund, driven by a passion for environmental conservation and a desire to contribute meaningfully to society. Through her work, she seeks to create a positive impact and inspire others to take action.
Priyamvada’s journey serves as a testament to the power of resilience and the indomitable spirit that lies within individuals. Reflecting on her experiences, she emphasizes, “But life doesn’t end there. No single thing can be larger than your life. I fought hard with it and now I am living life fearlessly.” Her words encapsulate the transformative journey she undertook, overcoming personal struggles and emerging with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.
Solutions Of The Problem
Recognizing the need to address the emotional turmoil faced by unsuccessful candidates, then-UPSC chairman Arvind Saxena recommended in 2019 that unsuccessful candidates who reach the interview stage be considered for jobs in other institutions.
The government responded positively, and institutions such as the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) opened their doors to these candidates, providing them with alternative opportunities. While these initiatives offer some relief, the underlying issue remains—a scarcity of job opportunities in the country leaves a large number of aspirants disheartened and struggling to find their place in society.
The path of a UPSC aspirant is fraught with challenges, sacrifices, and the ever-looming fear of failure. While the journeys of successful candidates are widely celebrated, the struggles of those who stumble at the final hurdle often go untold. It is crucial to recognize and address the psychological toll that failure can have on these aspirants, providing them with the necessary support and resources to rebuild their lives.
By creating an environment that acknowledges their efforts and offers alternative opportunities, we can help UPSC aspirants find their footing and pursue new dreams beyond the realm of the exam. Let us not forget the dreams and aspirations of those who falter, for their resilience and determination.
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