Yarrows Diaries: It’s Spring in Shimla

I left Shimla for the interservices meet, Sangam, when winter was slowly giving way to the pleasantness of the Spring. However, due to the unfortunate turn of events, I wouldn’t return to Shimla for the next two months.

Yarrows Lawn
Yarrows Lawn

I returned to Kerala post the injury where the sun had already started to show his colours. The two months of April and May was very happening for both the OT’s of my batch and for myself.

While the batch would go on the most fun attachment till date ( atleast that is what my batchmates tell me. May be they want to make me jealous. One of the things most OT’s yearn for during training is going home with leaves very difficult to come by. I would like to think that they are just jealous 😉 ) The attachments that I missed are PWD (Public Works Department) attachment and Treasury attachments. For this attachment, the entire batch was split into two, with one group going to Kullu/Manali while the other group proceeding to Kangra/Dharamshala.

OT's enroute Rohtang Pass
OT’s enroute Rohtang Pass

From what I have been told and the pictures that have been shared, other than studying the working of the PWD and Treasury they engaged in a lot of fun activities like rafting, trekking, paragliding in these areas of Himachal Pradesh. My friend Karan tells me that Lazy Dog cafe in Manali is a chill place to hang out which their group did a lot.

Meanwhile, back in Kerala, I was having even more fun bonding with my son. He had turned 3 months and I had last seen him on my paternity leave. In a way, the accident turned a blessing in disguise. My son, who initially did not recognise me, would smile on seeing me by the time I left. I was able to witness a lot of personal landmarks for him in his growth phase:- He was able to turn around and lie on his stomach, he turned much more talkative and his smile was becoming even more attractive by the day. I was also able to spend our first wedding anniversary with my wife, thereby being able to avoid Lekshmy’s complaint that I was so invested with UPSC that it is my first wife.

Another important landmark was the “Choroonu” of Pranav. It is the custom where a baby is first given rice food. It is usually done in a temple on the 6th month of birth. However, since Pranav would complete 6 months only in June, by which time my leave would be over, we decided to conduct it while I was home. We did it in the nearby SriKrishna temple, and I was on a walker.

Meanwhile, I was also to attend the UPSC interview on May 18th, 2017. The doctor had informed me that I would not be able to bear weight on my leg by that time and therefore I intimated UPSC that I would require wheelchair assistance. The UPSC has to be commended for the prompt reply that they gave. Not just that, the entire UPSC building is disabled friendly with ramps and special restrooms built in the campus.

I had skipped the FC last year after the results, primarily because Lekshmy was pregnant at the time and I wanted to be there with her. It was Lekshmy who convinced me to write the exam again during the time. As a result this attempt was given with much lesser hardwork and effort as compared to previous time. I was also completely free from any stress during all stages of the exam this time. May be getting into the list made the difference. Or may be the fact that I have so much going in life made the difference. I was quite confident after the written exam that I had done well and would get the interview call for sure.

Lekshmy and my mother came with me for the interview. We initially were staying at Kerala House under the adoption scheme of the Kerala Government. Under this scheme, the Kerala government provides travel and accommodation to every Malayali who has qualified for the final interview for Civil Services. The scheme has been very successful in creating civil service awareness in the state and also to boost the morale of candidates who are appearing for the interview. It also saves them from the unnecessary hassle of having to find accommodation and food in Delhi during the interview days. The lesser things to worry about in your mind, the better it is for your interview.

However, since this time around, a lot of candidates from Kerala qualified for the interview, Kerala House was finding it difficult to give accommodation to everyone in double rooms. As many as 4 candidates had to fit in a room. Even though they gave me a double room (because my wife and mother were with me, because of my leg condition), I decided to shift to the CAG Guest House so that other aspirants could be allotted my room.

The CAG Guest House is a big suite which is available to IAAS officers at a very cheap rate of 300 Rupees. If you are on official duty, it is of course free. The food also is available at a cheap rate while not compromising on quality.

My interview was with PK Joshi board, which I believe was just average. My family came with me till the UPSC and my son at such a young age was able t o see off his father to an important interview.

Meanwhile, I was also co-ordinating with my academy on my possible rejoining date. My Course Director was extremely empathetic and understanding of my condition and accommodated my needs to the most possible extent. Tentatively, I was assigned June 2nd as joining date.

A special mention needs to be given to our Prime Minister and his recently launched “Udaan” scheme here. Under this scheme, the government ensures connectivity at a cheap rate to under connected airports in India. Shimla, despite being a State Capital and having a working airport, did not have air connectivity. Kingfisher Airlines was the only airline operating flights to Shimla which also stopped following its shut down. Under the Udaan scheme, a limited number of air tickets was available to the well planned public at a rate which was capped at Rs. 2500.

I booked a ticket from Delhi to Shimla under the scheme for 2nd June. However, my cast was removed on 1st June and the leg was still stiff. So I conveyed it to the academy and my joining date was extended till 9th June.

The UPSC results came in between all this planning and I had made it into the list this time too. A consecutive second time. I secured Rank 312 and would most probably allocated IRS IT. There was not much celebration this time around, as the charm of making into the rank list had waned since the last year. Whether to leave IAAS for IRS IT is another decision that I have to make in the coming months.

UPSC Result
UPSC Result

I set out for Shimla on 11th June (since 10th and 11th are weekends, I had to report on 12th). I reached Shimla on 12th morning. The weather here has become pleasant and all around you, you see life sprouting with mother earth in its full beauty. Beautiful red colours blooming, the yarrows lawn uncovered and stretched out in its full glory and birds chirping and tweeting around you. Everywhere you look, you see curious tourists from the plains who come here to escape the scorching heat.

It’s spring in Shimla. There is no better time to be here than now. I am back to attending classes and learning new things. Meanwhile, we have a trip to Sangla Valley scheduled later this month ( it is the most beautiful place in Himachal according to eye witness accounts), our departmental exams are lined up for early next month, attachments to IIM Ahmedabad, iCISA Noida, iCED Jaipur and a Himalayan Trek about to happen in that order in the next two months.

I look forward to sharing all these experience with you. I believe it would help to throw more light on IAAS for other aspirants. Meanwhile, I would also share with you my decision on the choice of my service and the factors that I weighed in my mind while making the decision once I arrive at a decision.