Civil Services Exam: Gahana opts for IFS, dreams of becoming ‘India’s face’ abroad

Gahana Navya James. Photo: Manorama/ K Abhijit

Keralite Gahana Navya James who secured All-India Rank 6 in the Civil Services Examination, 2022, wishes to be India’s face to the world. Planning to join the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Gahana says that her world-view was shaped by reading newspapers.

Incidentally, Gahana cleared the Civil Services Examination without attending coaching classes and explains how she carried out the preparations.

Clad in a T-shirt with the logo ‘Space Invaders’, Gahana who is a native of Mutholy, near Pala in Kottayam district, also speaks on her plans, which extend all the way to the universe.

Why are you keen to join the Foreign Service?

I liked the Foreign Service from the beginning of my preparations for the Civil Services Examination. I am also pursuing research in International Relations at the School of International Relations and Politics at Mahatma Gandhi University on the topic, space security.

Ensuring security in space is crucial in the future and presents several challenges. Private firms too are now involved in the sector and India has made giant strides.

What made you choose the Civil Services?

I liked a Civil Service career since childhood. While in high school, we were asked about out our ambitions and I replied ‘Civil Service.’ But on joining college, I also developed an interest in research.

I had attempted the previous Civil Services Exam, but could not clear the Preliminary. Still, it was a big lesson as I learnt how to effectively prepare for the exam.

My uncle Sibi George Podimattom is an IFS officer. He is currently India’s Ambassador to Japan. I have learnt from his work schedule also. However, I did not inform him about my Civil Service attempts and called him only after the result was announced. We were so happy!

Have you observed India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar who is a former career diplomat himself?

Jaishankar’s speeches on international platforms reflect his experiences. When an experienced person speaks, you can notice his world vision.

How effective was your self-study?

I love sitting alone to study as it helps me develop my own method. In school, I had attended some tuition classes, which were not helpful.

When other persons give you instructions on how to study, they may not have considered your strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, self-study boosts your confidence. I did not prepare any timetable for my preparations for the written exam and studied as per my wish.

My younger brother Gaurav Amar James helped me to prepare for the interview. He was my ‘mock interview board’. He asked me questions and I answered.

You spoke about the importance of reading newspapers. Can you elaborate?

You can gain wide knowledge by reading newspapers. I read an English and a Malayalam newspaper thoroughly every day. Reading a newspaper helps you learn about many matters and prompts you to explore deeper. Moreover, we need to know what all things are taking place in our country.

While reading a newspaper, I also ponder over how to respond to a situation and where to gain further knowledge.

How do you view the recent changes in the world as well as in India?

The world order has altered drastically after the COVID-19 crisis, posing huge challenges. Even though massive economic changes took place, India could hold on its own. In fact, the Indian economy has improved with capital investment and higher domestic production. All these are good signs.

Which is your favourite book?

I love reading about diverse topics to develop a world vision and there is no special book.

How do you see more female students clearing the Civil Services Exam?

It is a matter of pride. This year, all the top ranks have been won by female candidates and I wish more women would join the Civil Service. When girls receive good education, their horizons and they reach greater heights not only in Civil Service but also in other sectors.

How were your Civil Service Exams this time?

I felt confident after the Preliminary as I had performed well. I also could shine in the various stages of the interview, where I faced questions such as on the duties of an executive magistrate.

What is your advice to Civil Service aspirants?

Each candidate should identify the method which is suitable for them. If you are unable to engage in self-study, follow the methods of others. But, what is important is that you should have belief in yourself.

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