When Ratankanvar Gadhvicharan, daughter of a vegetable vendor in Ahmedabad, cleared the civil services exam in 2008, she became the first woman from Gujarat to be selected to the Indian Administrative Service in the previous 15 years.
Gadhvicharan’s father Hadmat Singh is a vegetable vendor in Ahmedabad’s Maninagar market and her mother a housewife. It is a lower middle class family that could only afford to send her to an ordinary Hindi-medium school.
"It (getting into the IAS) was not a cakewalk for me. But I never let my background — or the lack of it — dampen my spirits, determination and enthusiasm. With consistent hard work and a focused mind, I have achieved what I always aspired to," said Gadhvicharan, 28, now posted as assistant collector in Lunawada town in Panchmahal district in central Gujarat.
Gadhvicharan had already performed a feat before clearing the civil services exam in her third attempt. She had secured her MBBS degree in Ahmedabad.
Asked why she didn’t pursue the medical profession, Gadhvicharan said she always wanted to be a civil servant.
"My family is from Rajasthan and migrated to Gujarat some 30 years ago. I was born and brought up in Gujarat but as a Rajasthani, the civil service was a craze for me. So I pursued it with all my vigour," she said.
The proud IAS officer belongs to the Gadhvicharan community, which mostly inhabits Rajasthan and Gujarat and is categorised as an OBC (other backward class). Known for their high literary skills, members of this community were poets in the courts of Rajput kings in Rajasthan and Gujarat and were given land as rewards by the royalty.
Perhaps, this was why despite her MBBS degree, Gadhvicharan chose to take the civil services exam with history and Pali literature.
"Hindi is my mother tongue. I decided to write the exam in Hindi as it was my natural medium of expression," she said, debunking the notion that only those educated in English can crack the tough exam.
On the importance of education, she said, "Education is the only way to upward mobility. So, one must study sincerely and work hard to achieve success. It is only hard work and proper education that open the doors to success in life."