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Does having a level playing field decide your success?

Mr. Vishnu Auti, partially deaf, son of blind and deaf laborers, cleared civil services / UPSC exam – One of the highest adobe and coveted exam in India and became IRS (Indian Revenue Service) officer.

Please watch a short video on his life journey but don't miss to read his full interview with Inspirational Beings team to know his and his parents hardship, incident which changes his vision of life, how he continued his studies despite all challenges, how he pushed himself out of comfort zone to clear UPSC exam and challenges he faced, and his future plans.

Please tell us about your childhood and personal background?

I was born and raised in a very poor family. My both parents were labors who used to work on daily wages in other farms or on any available task in a neighborhood as they didn't have any permanent income stream. I am partially deaf by birth. My father is blind and mother is deaf. They both are uneducated. I was the third child in 5 siblings, and including my grandmother, we were 8 people in the family. There were times when the whole family used to sleep hungry.

My village was in major drought-prone regions, only the intensity of drought used to be different. My family used to suffer from starvation in the famine. When I was in fifth grade while returning from school, my job was to go to flour mill and collect flour from the floor which would fall while grinding the grains. On some days when there was no electricity, my family used to survive on dry chickpeas, corn and many times we used to get from others' farm as we had no other option. And on days when we couldn't manage that either, we slept hungrily.

In those tough situations, on most of the days, my parents were either starving or survived on the leftovers after we were fed. There was no house in nearby vicinity where my father didn't work, but he never begged or tried to receive sympathy from people by imploring his blindness. And still, my parents used to motivate me to study. My father always told me, "Only books can change your fate."

What encouraged you to complete your education despite being from a very poor family and no educational background?

My father was almost blind but still worked as unskilled labor to feed us. Though we were poor, both my parents believed in the power of hard work and perseverance. One incidence changed my vision of life. One scorching afternoon, my father was having his lunch after exhausting work on the government site, some thoughts struck his mind and he asked his friend, who was also the daily labor on that site, How do officers monitor so many labors like us and how do they manage to pay us our daily wages? What must be their education? Can my son ever become such an elite officer? The friend laughed and said, "At the most, your son can manage to become skilled labor in one of the private industries. Children from higher class background should dream of getting into government jobs and it's foolish on our part even to think our children can become like them" he pointed to their supervisor.

The next day my father requested me to take him to the place from where government officers monitored the work site. When we reached there, from the distance he asked me to watch those officers and mentioned: "If you can complete your education then you can sit and relax in the shade like them, otherwise life will be too hard on you." I didn't understand and asked him how? He removed the cloth he had tied on his foot and I was shaken to see the wounded foot, every day he worked with that foot for over 9 hrs a day. Since he could not afford medication and rest, his wounds were not healed. Because of his blindness, while doing the laborious work, many times he would accidentally hurt himself with the tools he used to work with. I was still lost in my thoughts, when my father mentioned, "You have to make a choice between never-ending pain and comfortable life. The deciding factor is your education. Only and only your education can change your life."

Many people in the society used to mock my parents' deformity but I was amazed to see his foresight. Though we had to sleep hungry some days, my father was dreaming big dreams and he had high hopes despite such a difficult and challenging life. That time I decided, I would take the highest possible education, I would prove those people wrong, who ridiculed my parents for their poverty and for being handicapped.

I completed 7th grade in a school which was 3 miles away from my house. After 7th grade, the school was in different village which was 5 miles away. On the first day, my father accompanied me to school to meet school principal and conveyed to him, "I can only send my son to school, but I am not in a position to pay his school fees or can't even provide him a lunch box." Since I was a bright student, all the teachers wanted me to study further and agreed on contributing to my books, school fees and many times shared their lunch with me. My schoolmates helped me immensely. They shared their food, gave their old uniforms and clothes to me. Since I was partially deaf, sometimes I missed on the instructions or the study orientation. Throughout my education, my classmates helped me in understanding the missing links in school. With my teachers and classmates support, I completed high school and a diploma in education.

Though I had good marks I did not have an option to study further but to start earning to help my family. I took the job of a teacher and worked for 11 years in a primary school. while working as a teacher, I completed my graduation externally from an open university.

As a teacher, I worked very hard in developing students in studies as well in extracurricular activities and in the talent search exams. I used to read various subjects and current affairs. My fellow teachers suggested me to appear for State-level government exams and mentioned: "If you can change the future of a few students by being a teacher then through a state level officer you can transform many lives".

I had seen my parents' fatigue and vulnerability because of being deaf and blind and I had the hidden ambition for helping disabled people in the society which would become possible after becoming a government officer by attempting the MPSC (Maharashtra public service commission). Thus I started thinking seriously about the exam. I started my studies at home and appeared for the state level government exam. In the first attempt, I cleared the exam. When I became a class 1 officer through state-level government exam, I resumed a post of Asst. commissioner sales tax and worked there for 6 years.

So, why did you still think of pushing yourself for Central Government exam UPSC? Many people stop after reaching their comfort zone, but you pursued, what was your thought process?

When I was working as an officer, I used to get mocked in a government office for being deaf and due to my low socio background and vernacular education. When I heard about The Civil Services Examination which is one of the most difficult competitive examinations in India conducted by UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) I got curious to know more about it.

When I spoke to few seniors and with people who had appeared for UPSC, they mentioned Civil services exam widely known as UPSC, is the toughest public service exam and can be cleared only with the private tutoring in big metros, only rich people who have a good hold on English can clear that exam. Children of top government officers generally attempt UPSC exam, as one needs constant financial backing for studying in metros and for the private classes. The mentoring, guidance and support in studies for clearing UPSC exam is most imperative.

I started thinking, I have already reached a professional ladder by clearing the state level exam which itself is a big pride for my family but still, I should be attempting this exam. Though, I can't shift to metro cities for attending the private classes, but I could try hard. I also wanted to prove, myself and others who mocked me, that a son of labor can get through in the toughest exam of the country which has a passing rate of only 0.1%

Finally, I thought, if I couldn't qualify these exams, then there is still a cushion of steady government job which I have, and I must try and break all the stigma and myth around this exam by clearing it. I made a decision of appearing for civil services examination /UPSC exam

What are some of the key challenges you faced in walking on this route and how did you achieve this goal?

I decided to attempt the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) Exam, one of the toughest exam of India but the path was very difficult.

I was low on self-esteem and confidence because of my poor socio background, my vernacular medium, education in public school, my weak English & deafness. Many people used to feel and talk openly about the impossibility of me qualifying for that exam. People also mentioned it was impractical even to think about that exam without studying in private classes at the metro location. Moreover, I was the only earning member in the entire family, it was unfeasible to take leaves from office and spend money on study preparation or private classes.

I was still determined to attempt the central government exam, I took a loan of INR 200,000 and took 5 months of leave from a government job. I started preparation at home. The exam was in 3 stages, preliminary, mains and interview. Exam passing is depended on the aggregate score of all the 3 levels. In the first year, I cleared my prelims, mains and appeared for an interview but couldn't clear the required aggregate score. People started mocking me for my incapability and dreaming high. My confidence was at rock bottom. I was thinking of why I attempted this exam in the first place. My family and my wife Savita supported me and said, "Students prepare for this exam for many years; they go for private tutoring and still the result is 0.1 %. You studied only for 5 months without any tutoring. Please don't lose your heart and please start your preparation for the next attempt.

Again I started preparation, this time taking leave from office work wasn't possible, but I used to study after coming from the office. In the second year, I cleared prelim and mains but again got disqualified during the interview. This time, I started losing heart and was in plight whether to continue or quit. On the same day of my exam result, my daughter who was in grade 3 asked me: "Dad why are you thinking so much, you must have missed on few topics, please start your study and complete those topics and you shall surely clear your exams".

At that point, I decided to appear for a 3rd attempt and finally, I cleared the UPSC exam and became an officer in Indian Revenue Service.

Which are the best and worst experience are till now in your journey and what have you learned from them?

When I got to know about me clearing UPSC exam, I called my father and told him "Nana (father), I became an elite government officer. He was immensely happy, and couldn't talk a word but only cried on the phone. Later he used to tell everyone that my son became a top officer. I was happy to see ecstasy on his face. The best moment of my life was seeing my blind father and deaf mother getting felicitated by great social activist Anna Hazare, this ceremony was arranged by villagers of Ralegan Siddhi, the village of Anna Hazare, after I cleared my UPSC exams. The feeling of converting the broken and tough life of my family into a peaceful and protected life gives me immense happiness.

During my journey, getting mocked by people for being disabled and poor was a tough and humiliating experience but those incidences gave me the best learning of life and taught me to stand tall in any difficult situation.

How do you keep your motivation up in your low time, when you felt like giving up?

In tough situations, I used to remind myself of the tough situations in which my father' fought his life battles and his wisdom – you can change the situation by my work and efforts.

My father used to tell me, we must fight the situation and live life with dignity in any challenging situation. Work in a way where you will be the inspiration for everyone around and for doing that, you must not quit.

What's your future plan?

I have seen my parents being mocked due to their debilities and their suffering, I Want to work for disable and special needs peoples and help in living them with dignity.

Though I am not a teacher anymore, I want to support rural students who get deprived of basic amenities and infrastructure in whichever ways I could.

What's your message to our readers?

Treat everyone equally, do not mock anyone. Like every flower has a different essence, everyone is unique and great in their own capability and way. Your family will be always with you in your good times as well as your bad times. Always take care of your family and stay united.

If you want to achieve anything in your then do not give excuses. Everyone has challenges in their life, and you need to find ways to overcome those challenges. You have always a choice, and life is all about choices we make.

Mr. Vishnu Auti has published a book in Hindi and Marathi languages, "Nana, mi Saheb zalo" which means "Father, I have become an officer" on his life journey to inspire others who want to achieve their dreams.

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