Places like Rajinder Places, Mukherjee Nagar, Outram Lines, Model Town, Katwaria Sarai and Ber Sarai don’t ring a bell for most, but it’s because of these places that Delhi is called the Mecca of civil services aspirants.
Thousands of students come to these colonies from all over the country with dreams of becoming IAS and IPS officers. “Here, there are as many as a hundred coaching centres to choose from. There is no other city which offers such choice. So Delhi became a natural choice from me,” says Vaibhav Sharma, a student of Vajiram and Ravi coaching centre at Mukherjee Nagar.
A coaching centre is selected on the basis of the past record. “A coaching institute in Chennai did very well in the last two years, but that was only good for one subject and my seniors suggested that in Delhi, one can find the best coaching for all the subjects,” says Manikandan, a graduate from Loyola College, Chennai.
In places like Mukherjee Nagar, one can find students involved in animated discussions about various topics related to the exams. They share notes and study material with students from other coaching centres. “I turn to my seniors for everything. Their advice is invaluable.
It is very reassuring to have so many knowledgeable people around,” says Purujeet of Guwahati, who is preparing for his second attempt at the UPSC exams.
The places around the coaching centres have all the things that civil service aspirants need — and at very affordable rates. “My first attempt at the UPSC exams was from Lucknow. After that I came to Delhi. My expenses didn’t go up as much as I had feared they would,” says Sachin Sharma, who stays in Outram lines. “We know that most people come from small towns to study here, so we sell things which are affordable,” says Girish Arora, a stationery shop owner in Ber Sarai.
Those who don’t succeed in clearing this exam find alternative careers in the city. “I came here with the dream of becoming an IAS officer but I exhausted all four attempts. I have started applying to NGOs and the media. I will also see if I can teach in the coaching centres,” says Abhay Kumar, an MA in history. “When I came to Delhi from Benaras, I was confident I would be able to make a career for myself here,” adds Kumar.
Aspirants also take admission in universities so that they can find a place to stay — and get a degree on the side — while preparing for exams. Says Ashiru Dikho of Manipur, “I prepared for IAS while I was doing an MA, MPhil, both at JNU. Now I have cleared my state services.” But it’s not just about coaching. “I feel good when I go to the UPSC headquarters at Shahjahan Road to submit my preliminary application. It inspires me… I feel I’m closer to achieving my target,” ends Siva Prasad, a medical student.