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Surabhi Gautam: How a young girl set out to defy the norms and become an IAS officer

Inferiority complex is something that everyone has dealt with at point in their lives. There is something inherently unnerving about facing another soul that aces an activity you are nervous about. Now, imagine having to go up against a million others in what is considered to be one of the toughest selection processes in the world – the Indian civil services exams – all the while nursing an inferiority complex. How would you fare then?

Surabhi Gautam was one of the many students in India who received a Hindi-medium education. Born into an orthodox Brahmin family in the village of Amdara, Madhya Pradesh, Surabhi had an early introduction to inferiority complex. Being a girl-child meant that although her birth was joyously celebrated by her parents, the reception from rest of her family was less than lukewarm. Little did they know that the very same girl would go on to achieve so much in life.

She was an excellent student who realized early in life that good marks brought heaps of appreciation and recognition. Surabhi credits this for her success today and states that the appreciation she received pushed her to study even harder. This was evident in her class 10 Board exams where she scored 93.4 per cent which included a 100 in mathematics and science. She replicated the success in her class 12 Boards as well and made the state list for both her 10th and 12th results.

Hungry for more, our young stalwart set her sights on Engineering. She took the State Engineering entrance exams and cracked it, becoming the first girl from her village to move out for further studies. Part of her hunger was fueled by her desire to give back to the place she called home. Growing up, Surabhi had to contend with the lack of quality services when it came to education, healthcare, electricity and more. This drove the young girl to strive for success and become a Collector in a bid to transform her village.

Her first day at an engineering college in Bhopal, however, introduced the girl from a quaint village in Madhya Pradesh to the start realities of the outside world. And just like that, Surabhi suddenly found herself unable to hold her own. Taught in Hindi-medium since her school days, she now found herself lost in a sea of English letters and words. This gave rise to an inferiority complex which dogged her throughout college. Unable to communicate due to her non-existent knowledge of the English language, Surabhi was close to giving up.

She once stated in a past interview that after the incident all she wanted to do was pack up and go back home. Words of encouragement from her parents and the knowledge that her return would only prove the doubters right, Surabhi set out to master the language. By her own admission, she started learning the language, one small step at a time. She would talk to herself in English and learn the meaning of at least 10 words in a day, repeating them in her head. Word by word, letter by letter, she mastered the art of speaking English and loo and behold! She could now converse fluently in the language and went on to top not just her college, but her University as well, bagging the Chancellor’ Scholarship on her way.

Having mastered the English and sporting a new degree in Engineering, Surabhi set forth on a new journey. She had never lost sight of her ultimate goal and now she would go and get it. Along the way, she cleared the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), The Madhya Pradesh State Public Commission (MPPSC), and the Indian Engineering Service (IES) examination. She had become some sort of a ‘pseudo-celebrity’ in her village by now.

She achieved her ultimate goal on her very first attempt in 2016. An all-India rank of 50 in the UPSC Civil services examination awaited the girl from the sleepy village of Amdara in Madhya Pradesh. She earned her place amongst a select group of people deemed suitable for an IAS officer. Surabhi Gautam is another shining example of how hard work trumps all. As the saying goes, ‘You cannot keep a good man/woman down’. She fought her insecurities and defeated her monsters and is today a role model for millions of young girls in the country.

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Andrew s

Andrew has been in the online publishing industry. After receiving his degree in professional journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, he contributed to multiple websites as a freelance writer and feature editor. Mostly, Andrew tackles controversies and theories that lead to a specific conclusion that either debunk or justify a particular claim. Further, Andrew participates in social developments that aim to simplify every individual's way of life and fight for peace. He is the new Editor-in-Chief of Pressroom Today.

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