Interview: GNLU’s Debanjali Ambuly [ UPSC Civil Services Rank 212]

Interview by Deepshi Singh.


1.Tell us about your family and educational background?

I am from Agartala, Tripura. My father is a retired IAS officer. My mother is a Rabindrasangeet singer and occasional writer. My elder brother is a functional consultant at Deloitte USA.

I studied at Kendriya Vidyalaya Agartala and passed out from 12th in 2007. I graduated in B.A, LL.B (Hons.) from Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar in 2012 and have been working in Coal India Ltd. since 2013.

2. What encouraged you to take up Law for your undergraduate studies?

I took up Law solely because I was hugely inspired by law based movies like To Kill a Mockingbird, Philadelphia, My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde.

The idea of somebody’s life depending on arguments in court fascinated me. The dynamic nature of the subject hooked me and I knew that was what I wanted to do.

3. When did the idea of preparing for civil services strike you? Anyone in the family who inspired you?

The idea of preparing for civil services kept flowing in my thoughts since college, but I could not sustain it because I was more busy enjoying college.

In hindsight, I think I was mentally unprepared for the responsibilities which preparing for the exam needed. After joining Coal India, I started preparing finally. My inspiration was my parents.

My mother kept assuring me that I could be a good civil servant and that if I set my heart to it, I can do it for sure. Having seen my father at work, I knew the potential that this service had to have an impact on people and society at large.

4. How was your college life at GNLU, your academics, extra circulars, internships etc. Was UPSC in your mind as you planned all of this?

My college life at GNLU was amazing for all the fun I had and the friends I found for a lifetime. I was good at academics and was in the top 10-15 of the batch, but only by paying attention during exam time, sadly. I participated in quizzes and won some.

My internships were very short and not serious enough because I wanted to stay at home and have fun.

It was a bad stunt, and I have been extremely fortunate to have been blessed with good career opportunities after college inspite of it.

UPSC was not completely in my mind at that time. But I definitely knew that I did not want to work for law firms or corporate houses. That is why leaving out internships was easy for me.

5. Did you receive any kind of support from the college for preparation of civil services, any special courses or programs?

I was encouraged to appear for this exam by some faculty members at GNLU, and they were very helpful whenever I approached them with any doubts.

6. What were your subjects for the main paper and how did you prepare for them? Courses, self study etc. Also, which law subjects helped you the most in preparing for the UPSC?

My optional was Law because that was the only subject I was comfortable with. I prepared for it by reading the bare acts and understanding and simultaneously memorizing the important sections.

In the exam hall, no notes or books help as much as the actual bare act, I can vouch for that.

I completely depended on self-study with the timely guidance of my soon-to-be, who is an Advocate practicing in Delhi.

The law subjects that helped me the most in preparing were Constitution (for the polity portion), International Law (for the International Relations portion).

While these two helped in General Studies plus Optional, Contracts, Indian Penal Code and Torts helped in Optionals.

I scored 261 in Law which helped push my overall greatly, and I have Law to thank for that.

7. What was your study pattern, the mode of study (online, offline etc). Please mention some of the books you referred to and how did you go about preparing for each stage of the exam?

I studied along with having a job, so it was difficult to devote a lot of time. Even on holidays, I never studied beyond 5 or 6 hours.

I depended primarily on offline sources, but used the internet generously for current affairs (Mrunal, insightsonindia and The Hindu website only).

I referred to very basic, standard books like Laxmikant for Polity, Ramesh Singh for Economy and Bipan Chandra for History. I never read more than one source for any topic.

Throughout the exam process, I just kept revising the same stuff, except current affairs for which I solely depended on the Hindu. I also read Visionias booklets as and when required.

8. Was there ever a stage during your preparation phase where you felt like giving up? How did you keep yourself motivated during that time?

I never felt like giving up at any stage. But the wait for results after every stage was certainly a challenge.

Throughout the process, I kept watching my favorite comedy shows, listening to music and reading comics to unwind myself. I kept myself away from exam related discussions. I did not exactly keep myself motivated.

I just took time out for fun activities to divert myself from the anxiety related to results, and to remember that results are not within my control, but peace of mind certainly is.

9. How was the support from family and friends during this journey of yours?

My mother was the biggest support during this journey. She has herself taught me all my life for all exams, and this exam was no exception.

She made notes for me, read to me when I was bored, and single-handedly prepared me for the interview by taking my mock interviews for 40 days, and preparing topics which I could not.

Three questions that she asked me some days before the actual interview, were fortunately repeated during the actual interview (I was thanking her inside my head while answering).

I got the 3rd highest marks in interview (212), and I only have her to thank for that. My father supported me by checking my mock answers for Ethics paper before the mains exam.

My soon-to-be supported me in my Law optional. My brother and sister-in-law kept encouraging me throughout. My best friend from college and some friends from my office also kept me motivated.

10. Was it tough to not get tempted by fancy corporate jobs?

It was easy for me to not get tempted by fancy corporate jobs and firms because I always knew that I wanted to work in the government sector. I always loved the Constitution more than any other law, and never really understood corporate laws. So I knew where I was headed and was happy and focussed about it.

11. Do you have any advice for UPSC aspirants?

My only advice to UPSC aspirants is- Enjoy the process, and find out what method suits you. Don’t go blindly following what toppers did. Every person has his own journey.

Also, don’t read tonnes of things. Read selectively and keep revising them.

After you are done with each stage, wait for the official results. Don’t go by every answer key or paper analysis available online. And lastly, trust your own instincts and have faith in God. Good things will happen.

12. And lastly, how is the feeling? What is the plan ahead?

I am extremely happy and the feeling is yet to sink in. I am going to join Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) which was my second choice after IAS.

I plan to do good work and contribute to the country to the best of my capacity.

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