"In 1998 my sister met with an accident. She urgently needed medical attention. But the nearest hospital was three hours away and we had no transport. She died in front of our eyes as we watched helplessly. Subsequently, during the 2000 summer vacation, two of my friends were coming to meet me in the village. The boat they were traveling in capsized in the Godavari river and the duo died." said Mutyala Raju Revu, this year's IAS topper.
These traumatic events shaped the mind of the young boy then to become district collector and do something to improve the conditions in his landlocked island village, Chinnagollapalem, in Krishna district, that still lives in the medieval times. Since then he doggedly pursued the ambition, culminating in success in his third attempt.
When in college, almost all his friends had one ambition of going to the US for higher studies and get a green card. But he decided to opt out of that route as he wanted to solve the problems of that village.
During his last attempt he was selected for IPS and given the Rajasthan cadre, but his heart yearned for IAS and that too Andhra Pradesh cadre and now he has achieved both. He has also ended the 35 year drought for Andhra Pradesh, by topping the civil services.
"I am very close to achieving my dream," an effusive Raju told HT soon after the results came in.
Raju, who is the first member of the fishermen community in Andhra Pradesh to get into IAS, had to work amidst heavy odds to reach the goal. His village has only one school and both boys and girls drop out after high school as the nearest college was two to three hours away out of which one hour is spent in crossing the turbulent river.
So soon after school he shifted to a nearby town, with the urging and financial help of his two paternal uncles. He topped the entrance test for polytechnic in the state and studied electrical and electronics course from SMVM Polytechnic, Tanuku.
Then he went on do BTech from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal and subsequently ME from IISc Bangalore. He also appeared in the Indian Engineering Service and secured the All India first rank and was posted as a railway engineer.
Though traditionally a fishermen, the family is into farming. The family owns one acre of land and cultivates another three acres on lease. Raju's father and two brothers are engaged in rain fed agriculture. He is the only person in the village of 300 households to study beyond intermediate.
Since the news broke out on Monday evening, there is a beeline of people to Raju's house. Fishermen folk from nearby villages as well as political leaders of all hues are descending in the village to share the family's happiness. There were also some with marriage proposals for the most eligible bachelor in the community.
Raju's success has spurred other families to look beyond their fishing/agriculture. "We are thinking of sending our children outside so that they can study and achieve something in life," said one villager, Shankaraiah.
Whether Raju gets posted in his native district and is able to solve the problem of the village is the moot question. Last September the District Collector Naveen Mittal spent a night in this remote village as part of the "Palle Nidra" programme. The villagers told him the main problem was communication and they wanted a bridge be built to link the isolated village with the main land.
"After spending one night in the village, I became sick and remained bed-ridden for four days," said one district official who attended the "Palle Nidra" programme.