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They came packed in 20 buses

Shah Faisal made history by becoming the first IAS topper from the Valley, but he is not letting success get to his head as he has learnt to stay grounded reports Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: May 12, 2010 10:31 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

When I was in the sixth standard, my dad made me read Persian poetry. Later, I was drawn to English literature. In fact, literature had no connection to my curriculum but it helps you become creative. You tend to become articulate and it enhances your power of divergent thinking and multiple perspectives. In simple words, it broadens your vision.

Knack for studies
I have always been academically inclined. I have been a topper since I was in Class X. In medical college, too, I secured the top position. My only source of entertainment is books .

After finishing my MBBS, I decided to appear for the civil services exam. But I did not take up medical science as one of the optional subjects. I chose Urdu over medicine and English literature. It was like a challenge (of not taking medical science as the optional).

Source of inspiration
There is no word in English language which can define my inspiration. I call that driving force as junoon, a junoon to do something unconventional from the Kashmiri perspective. People would nurse pre-conceived notions about us (Kashmiris) that we can’t make it big. Clearing civil services exam was considered a goal, which Kashmiri people – it was felt – could not dream of. It used to hurt me no end.

I wanted to break this myth, and it drove me to crack it in the very first attempt. It was already clear in my head that I would not exhaust all four attempts to get through. While preparing for the preliminary exam, I was at my home in Kashmir. After the preliminary results came out, I moved to Delhi in June last year as we don’t get a regular supply of newspapers and magazines back home. Besides that, I needed a few months of focused undisturbed study, which is generally not possible in a family home.

After the final results came out a few days ago, the entire Valley was euphoric. Almost everyone is rejoicing at my achievement. They consider this as their own success. Today (May 9), more than one thousand people came to see me at home. Hundreds of people came packed in 20 buses just to congratulate me. The locals are asking for my autographs. I can’t walk on the streets any more as I get mobbed. I have got a celebrity status overnight. But I remember, my mother has always taught me to be humble. Now, I hope more Kashmirs sit for the IAS, which, inshaallah, should happen.

Success secret
I still remember what my dad taught me in persian, which in English means ‘search for your dreams ...go and explore the world around you before you have to leave the world one day’. My mother has given me robust support in times of crisis — when my father was gunned down. I was 19 then, but she stood behind me and gave me the courage and strength I needed.

To all the students, I would suggest to be creative, versatile, for which they must read books on different subjects and acquire diverse knowledge.
I aim to be a good administrator and want to add value to the governance in my little way.

As told to Vimal Chander Joshi