Meet Manish Gurwani, a small-town lad who became an IAS officer with an all-India rank of 18
Though Manish Gurwani was born and brought up in the small town of Nohar, Rajasthan, his dreams were big. His aim of bringing about a positive change in the society led him to achieve an AIR of 18 in the 2017 UPSC exam.
Characterised by torrid heat waves, gushing winds, and winding dunes of sand, Nohar is a quaint town located in the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan. Manish Gurwani was born and raised in this very region before becoming an IAS officer and holding the highest rank in the civil services space. Manish, 27, was just like any other lad while he was at school and college, eyes brimming with enthusiasm and heart overflowing with passion. However, the aspect that set him apart was his conviction to contribute to the welfare of the society.
It is said that every calamity is to be overcome by endurance. And Manish went on to do just that. Since Nohar did not have any institute where the medium of instruction was English, he had no choice but to study in a Hindi-speaking school until Class X. After having a tough time in understanding people’s wordplay, he kept his nose to the grindstone and started learning English. The challenges did not end there. During the course of his childhood, Manish’s mother kept having bouts of ill health. Despite that, he kept making headway in his life.
“The year 2003 marked one of the most difficult phases of my life. My mother was diagnosed with two tumours on her back. For a certain period, I was unable to focus on anything. A couple of days later she underwent two major surgeries to get the tumours removed," Manish says.
Even during times of adversity, Manish’s aim of making a difference in the community around him led him to achieve an All India Rank of 18 in the 2017 Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam.
“Just like any other IAS aspirant, I worked really hard. I used to study for six hours every day and then gradually scaled it up to 10. But the only thing that kept me going through all my rough patches was the faith I had in myself,” Manish Gurwani tells SocialStory.
After accomplishing this feat, Manish received training at Mussoorie and Jamnagar before being appointed as an Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. He presently holds the position of Assistant Collector and Sub Divisional Magistrate in the Bhuj municipality of the Kutch district of Gujarat.
An exalting journey
Manish was born into a middle-class family in the Land of Colours, Rajasthan. His father, Pitamber Lal, is an Ayurvedic doctor working with the government of India, and his mother, Gopi Chandani, is a teacher in a government school. Manish studied at a Hindi-medium school called KDP Secondary School in Nohar.
He then went on pursue Class XI and XII from a coaching centre in Sikar in the form of homeschooling. The turning point came about in 2008 when he got an admission for a dual degree programme in BITS Pilani.
“I pursued both an MSc in Mathematics and a BE in Electronics at BITS. Since I was a child, I was inclined towards becoming an IAS officer, and this notion strengthened during my third and fourth year of college. I always wanted to bring about a positive change in the society and in the livelihoods of people around me. What better way to realise this than to be in the civil service space! In addition to this, since both my parents were working with the government, I had a good understanding about how the institution functions,” Manish recollects.
Another factor that shaped Manish’s thoughts was his stint with the National Service Scheme (NSS), the government-sponsored public service programme conducted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India. All the students at BITS had an option to volunteer as part of this scheme. And, Manish was more than happy to take up the role.
He stepped ahead to organise several cloth donation drives, health, and blood camps in rural Rajasthan. That was not all. He also took to teaching subjects like Mathematics, English, and Science to all the children of staff members working in the college canteen after classes.
“During the course of my teaching over a hundred children, I realised the kind of gaps that existed in our education system. Till date, I am keen on working towards bridging them. To start with, my plan is to focus on training teachers since the quality of education is directly dependent on their knowledge and delivery,” says Manish.
He took up the Indian Engineering Service as well as the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) exam before kicking off his IAS journey. The first time he attempted the UPSC exam, Manish secured the 322nd rank and was offered a position in the Indian Revenue Services. However, while working in the revenue department he kept preparing rigorously to write the exam again. Manish’s efforts paid off in 2016 when he obtained an All India Rank (AIR) of 18.
“As soon as I got to know my results, I felt lighter and tears of joy kept rolling down my cheeks. My journey was not easy. Since I studied at a Hindi-medium school, I could not completely understand all the lectures that were being delivered in college. I found it incredibly tough to even converse with people in English. Then, gradually, I began picking up the language by reading more and more,” says Manish.
How it all fell into place
Manish had a strategy in place to crack the UPSC right from the beginning. Among the many competitive exams in India, the civil services examination is considered to be one of the toughest to clear. The success rate of passing with flying colours is only 25 percent.
So, what did Manish do to make it to the cream?
“There is a slew of sources one can refer to while preparing for the exam. More often than not, many of the aspirants get confused easily. However, I would suggest that they stick to a limited set of books and read the newspaper daily. I too did the same. Another thing that really worked for me was revising everything just before the exam and solving the previous years’ question papers. Sometimes, it so happens that despite the best of efforts, one might not make it to the top. In such situations, people should not get dejected. If not civil services, there are a hundred other ways to work towards the welfare of the society,” quips Manish.
When asked to name his role model, Manish said,
“My mother is my role model and source of strength. Even after having multiple health issues and undergoing almost 20 surgeries, she kept going. I have always admired her ability to stand up again. And, I want to imbibe this from her.”
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)