Superman… Signing Off…

This would be my last post on UPSC. It is a sentimental moment for me – for the association which started 3 years ago and gave me my life defining moment is going to end. But the time has come to move on.


Yesterday, the National Police Academy gave me farewell, and next week, the LBSNAA calls. In the past two months and even before, I have given to the aspirants all I had to give. To carry on would be futile. My years as a young derivatives trader in the financial world firmly taught me that we can excel only when we do something purely because we love to do it, and not when we mix any other reasons in it. If we bring in other reasons, then slowly the pure love gets diluted and so does the quality of our effort and output. I excelled in the IAS exam because I loved to study and not because I wanted anything out of the service. I excelled in the Economics paper even more because I loved it even more (in fact, some day, would even do a PhD in it). That is the reason why I said yesterday I would never make any money from my writing. I love to write and I don’t want money to end this love affair.


And so, my love affair with UPSC ends here. But alas, a collateral casualty has been my blog. For what started as a medium where I expressed myself freely to my friends and readers, it has now become a UPSC blog. It was a Sunday morning in early 2010 when I wrote my first blog post to impress a girl, who I had a crush on since the MBA days, with my writing skills (she was into blogging as well). Hehe J. But soon I began to love writing. I began to write on my experiences in the financial world and my learnings J. That fateful night of May 6, 2010 when Greece shook the world for the first time – gosh, it still thrills me when I read it even now (Read Here). It would surely be a hell of a story for my kids should they get into the financial world J. When I quit the job, came back to India and started preparing for this exam, the nature of my blog changed too. You can almost see the blog evolving as I was evolving. The posts changed from dealing with the financial world to dealing with the social – economic issues around us. (You won’t find all now as I took out some of them dealing with controversial issues when I joined IPS). Then the number of UPSC posts starts increasing as I get more and more into the exam mode until the Big Bang on 12 June 2014!


The blog has changed with changes in me as a person. I could have done it this time as well – as I get out of the UPSC mode into the other things which life has in its store for me, I could have simply stopped the UPSC posts and started writing about the things which I will be seeing now. But… I think its impossible now. Its impossible to express myself freely again with the burden of the weight my name now carries. Public life has its perils and in the real life I will constantly have to deal with this burden. But here, in the virtual world, I want to give my creativity and originality a clear flight. I don’t want the chains of being an IAS topper tied to my feathers. I want to fly. I want to live – free. So I must shut this down and start a new blog under a new pen name, where I look forward to connect with my new readers. I want people to read me because I write well and not because I am some topper.


Similarly, I will have to shut down my facebook account also. Anyways, facebook had never been a “happy b’day” and “looking cute” kind of thing for me and unfortunately I can’t do anything more there any longer. So I will open a new account, under some new name and no pics of mine and connect with my old friends J. Haha, they will know its me when they see a friend request from me and I ll behave like old days again J.


But I do realize the value of the contribution I can still make for the aspirants. I have nothing left to say regarding the broader aspects of UPSC preparation and so I won’t be writing any more posts on this blog. But I will keep alive a channel of communication via the comments section where the aspirants can leave their specific queries as comments and I’ll reply to them. Many of the students had sent me long answers for feedback and I am extremely sorry I could not reply to them. But I will try my best to give feedback on answers. If somebody is hesitant to ask a query in public, he/she can still email me on . Request you to kindly write “UPSC Guidance” in the title / subject of the email. Also, since there are already a lot of preparation related things on my existing facebook and public page, I won’t deactivate them, but I will just not open them again. They will lie there until facebook decides to take them down.


Before parting, some of my final words as “Superman” J.


The Story Behind “Superman”



Many people seem to think that I chose this pen name after this year’s selection. But this is not the case J. There used to be an orkut community of IAS preparants. In my early days i.e. in late 2012, I used to be very active on that community. But as it grew into an addiction, I deleted my orkut profile and quit that. After writing the mains of 2012, I wrote the essay which I had written in the exam, on my blog. I knew I had natural readers on that community, so I had to publish my blog link there. For this, I needed a new profile and a new name. I chose “TheSupermanReturns” just like that and this display pic. And then I liked the name so much I changed my blog pen name too to it. Now this is entirely a different case that somehow after selection this name suited more J.


Message to the Next Topper


There is a tradition of “passing on the baton”. Each topper passes on his / her message to the next. I found out about it only after the result. So my dear topper! Although I would contact you personally next year after your selection, but wherever you are, if you are reading this, I would tell you only one thing. Being a topper in this exam is God’s will. There are 1000s others who might have worked as hard or even harder than you. So topping is not important. What is important is what you choose to make out of it – what you choose to do… after topping. May you do well in life and serve the people of this country!


Message to the Aspirants


Although UPSC, with its ever changing patterns, will soon render the material on this blog and, infact, myself obsolete, there is one message they can never make irrelevant. And that is, do what you love to do. If you love to study Economics or mechanical engineering, take it as an optional – don’t listen to the person who says it is not scoring or it won’t help in GS. If you want to write in Hindi medium, by all means, write in it. If you want to write in point format, please write in points and forget the people who say you should not write comment / critically analyze in points. Its only your love for the subject, my friends, which will take take you past the finish line.


Before signing off, just want to share here some of my final pics associated with UPSC and also my long due and promised writeup on interview preparation + Preparing GS Economy + message by Kunal Angrish (Rank 2, IFoS) on preparing environment which he has been so kind to write on my request.


So good luck my friends and fare well!


Good bye.





Last Pics Associated with UPSC


Note: These pics could be photoshopped ones, so please don’t read anything from them. Its simply for fun.





My Message on UPSC Interview Preparation


Disclaimer: Everything said below is my personal opinion based on my interview experience. I have no special knowledge about UPSC board. May be all this is entirely wrong.


Please find my main points here:


Some additional points here:

– UPSC interview preparation actually starts from the DAF filling stage itself. What you fill in there, would be what is asked. So the areas where you want them to ask questions from, fill them more prominently. Take a look at my DAF below. Economics is my strong point. See how it is the most prominent thing in my DAF.





– One of my friend (gave interview twice to 2 different boards) always got factual questions asked. I, on the other hand (gave interview twice to 2 different boards), didn’t have to face many factual questions. Why did it happen? One can say luck, type of board etc. All these do matter but there is an additional thing as well which I think is more important. Interview is essentially an intellectual exercise. It has to be primarily based on intellectual things. So your DAF must have some intellectual things which the board can pick up and ask. If you don’t put any such thing, the board WILL HAVE TO ask you factual questions from here and there. And then you would cry, luck… luck…

For example, suppose you want them to ask questions on street food so you mention it as your hobby. This is an interesting hobby, board will definitely pick it up and would ask some questions from it. But it is not an intellectual thing, so your entire interview cannot be based on street food eating! If you don’t give board enough material, they would pull you in their own turf and ask questions.


– Once the intellectual thing is taken care of, 70% of your interview would be on that intellectual thing. But what about the remaining 30%? Do you want the board to ask random factual questions even in that 30%? No right? So leave some other stuff in your DAF as fillers. This other stuff has to be general enough and also interesting enough so that someone from the board might ask questions from it. For instance, as you can see in the above DAF, I have football, blogging, dumb charades, jogging and movie making as fillers.


– One more thing I realized this time is that in our form, only our birth town appears and not the ‘real’ home town. So the board thinks this is our hometown and so, the birth town needs to be prepared thoroughly like a home town.


– It is obvious that one has to prepare all aspects mentioned in the DAF (all states, cities, services etc. etc.) but the question is what to prepare on these! People who are taking the interview are not themselves giving the interview and so don’t need to prepare for it. They will ask what the commonly known things are in that topic. For instance, in case of my home state Rajasthan, obvious questions are on Rajput history, tourism, backward economy, poor HDI etc. etc. In case of economics, questions would be asked on whatever current is going on. In case of IPS, it is going to be police reforms, Supreme Court judgement etc. Thus, while preparing for the interview, sit down and think of what all questions are possible on each topic and prepare them. It is especially useful to be on online forums like “Interview Prep 4 IAS” community on erstwhile Orkut (its probable successor is . Here many people come and discuss possible questions, give their transcripts etc.


– Many a times it is seen that when the board asks general questions like what will you do when you become an ias or how to remove corruption or what will you do for the women of the society, one is taken aback. One tries to think of some rockstar-ish points to speak so that she can make a good impression on the board. But when no such brilliant points come to her mind due to interview pressure and ticking of the clock, one panics! And then comes out an answer containing fewer, below average points and the answerer lacking in confidence. Bad…

In the interview, more than what you speak, what matters is how you speak. Nobody is expecting some grand points from you in those 2 minutes you have to answer. Just say the average points, but speak in a pleasant, confident and composed manner.


– Many students have a tendency to go on speaking until the interviewer stops them. This is bad… very bad. Just speak your answer in just enough words. Stop… Let them ask questions if they want. Anyways, the more you speak, the more are the chances of committing mistakes.


– One very important thing, in the interview, one doesn’t have the luxury of speaking for 10 minutes on a question. When a question is asked, one just has 2 sentences or 30 seconds max to capture the attention of the board. If you speak well in those first 2 sentences / 30 seconds, you will retain the attention of the board for rest of your answer and they will have a pleasant feeling about you in the end and give good marks. On the other hand, if you don’t do well in those 2 sentences / 30 seconds, the board will simply switch off, and not remember what followed in your answer. In the end, they will remember you didn’t answer anything particularly well and would award poorly.

Now the question is, how to do well in those first 30 seconds? When I say “speak well”, I am not referring to speaking fluently or dashingly. All I am saying is that one should be very structured in the first 2 seconds itself and hit the bull’s eye. From these first words itself, the board should know that you are a subject expert. These words should reflect your deep analysis and understanding of the problem. I am not saying show off your knowledge. I am saying show them you understand the issue well and are not bluffing / beating around the bush.


– Finally, an interview is just like a normal conversation you are having with some elderly, respected person. Just show that you are intellectual, calm, composed and polite. That’s it.. nothing more, nothing less.



Preparing GS Economy


I have received many queries on how to prepare GS Economy, all the more so because my optional was Economics. I had no satisfactory answer to them. For I had developed my basic concepts from books such as Dornbusch and Samuelson and following central banks like US Fed, ECB, RBI etc. and trading currencies and derivatives. Obviously, a typical UPSC aspirant can’t do all this. So I went through a few sources and can say today that the old NCERT textbooks of Class 11th and 12th (can be downloaded from ) are good for basic concepts. Then Mrunal himself ( ) has been doing some wonderful, quality job in making current economic issues simple for the students. So would recommend these to students.



Kunal Angrish (Rank 2, IFoS) on Environment Preparation


Note: These are his words. I am merely hosting it.


Prelim, 2014 is over. The exam had quite a few surprises up its sleeve. As far as paper-1 is concerned, emphasis on environment, ecology and bio-diversity was clearly evident. Over the years this topic has figured prominently in paper-1 but now it seems to have gathered as much importance as the conventional areas. There were about 18 questions from environment, ecology and related topics in this year’s prelim. It seems that there is still not much clarity on how to go about this area of syllabus atleast not as much as the conventional areas of history, polity etc. Many of us either leave this topic or do it vaguely. Following is an effort to dissect this area of the syllabus and work out a strategy. Also mentioned in italics, are the sources from which different topics can be studied.

If you see the UPSC notification, this topic can be divided under four broad headings. These are:

  1. Environment
  2. Ecology
  3. Biodiversity
  4. Climate-change

It is easy to infer that these topics are inter-related. Let’s just take up each of them one by one;

  1. ENVIRONMENT- very broad subject but if u see questions from last few years, they basically come from the following areas:
    1. Natural Resources– renewable and non-renewable (questions on non-conventional energy resources have become a surety in last few years, so it should be done rather comprehensively)

      * Two questions in prelim, 2014; relating to solar energy and shale gas & coal-bed-methane.

      (SourceErach Bharucha’s Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Courses)


    2. Pollution – a thorough understanding of Air, water, noise, soil, nuclear, thermal,e-waste.

      *one question in prelim, 2014; relating to pollutants of steel industry.

      (SourceErach Bharucha’s Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Courses)


    3. International Efforts –just basic ideas about:
  • United Nations Environment Program (UNEP),
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),
  • Global Environment facility

    *question asked in this prelim, 2014).

  • World Wildlife fund for nature (WWF).

    *question about WWF’s ‘earth hour’ appeared in prelim, 2014.

  • NGOs like Conservation International, Greenpeace etc.

    (Source- all these organizations have their own web-pages, can google-search and read).


  1. India’s Efforts – get basic ideas of:
  • Environment protection act-1986

    *question on eco-sensitive zones figured in prelim, 2014. Eco-sensitive zones come under Environment protection Act.

  • Various pollution related acts (Air pollution Act-1981, water pollution act-1974 etc.),
  • Environment Impact Assessment.
  • Indian institutions and organizations like BNHS, Animal Welfare Board of India, NGRBA (*all three figured in a question this year), Centre for Science and Environment, TERI, Central Pollution Control Boards etc.

    (Source- Google search and read them, best option)



  1. Current happenings – reports, issues, discoveries.

    (Keeping an eye on The Hindu’s Thursday science page can take care of most things here. Don’t go for every small piece of information coming from various research groups, just some important ones coming from national, international platforms).


  1. ECOLOGY- questions here are easy pickings if you just go through the basic ecology. Areas one can cover here are:
    1. Structure of ecosystem (biotic-abiotic components, Producer-consumer-decomposer concept),
    2. Types of ecosystems (grasslands, mangroves, estuaries,
    3. Food chains and food web (*question asked in prelim,2014),
    4. Ecological pyramids,
    5. Biogeochemical cycles,(*question asked on carbon cycle, prelim 2014)
    6. Ecological succession,
    7. Biological interactions (mutualism, parasitism etc.)
    8. A glossary of ecological terms.

      (Source, any basic book on ecology will do the needful).


  2. BIO-DIVERSITY- here one can go for a mix of theory and the present International and India’s efforts:
    1. Theory
  • concept of bio-diversity (genetic, species, ecosystem diversity),
  • threats to bio-diversity (habitat fragmentation, desertification, poaching),
  • Conservation of biodiversity (in-situ and ex-situ conservation),
  • Bio-diversity in India (hot-spots, world heritage sites of natural importance).

    (SourceICSE board books on environmental studies, class-IX, X ; Erach Bharucha’s Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Courses).


  1. International Efforts – get basic ideas about;
  • Convention on bio-diversity (CBD)-history and current events/decisions.
  • Cartagena Protocol,
  • Nagoya protocol (and Aichi targets),
  • IUCN Red list (its various categories, important additions to it in last year, especially from India),
  • Various conventions like Convention on migratory species (CMS), Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), Ramsar convention (* 2 questions in this year’s prelim) etc.

    (Sources- Basically just go to ‘Convention on biological diversity’ page on Wikipedia, read both the article as well as the links at the end of the page, given under ‘See Also’ heading).


  1. India’s Efforts– basic idea of;
  • Wild-life protection act,
  • Forest conservation act,
  • Bio-diversity Act, 2002 (and National Biodiversity Authority),
  • Protected areas (biosphere reserves, National parks, wildlife sanctuaries – names and states in which they are located, protected areas known for particular animals {e.g. Kaziranga for rhino}, protected areas that have been in news, protected areas notified recently)

    * two questions were asked this year.

    (questions on protected areas is a certainty every year,; there is no alternative to memorizing them; repeated revision and use of maps can help).

  • Conservation efforts (project tiger, project elephant, rhino vision-2020 etc.)
  • Concept of Genetically Modified Organisms (or Transgenic organisms), current debate on it, institutional mechanisms in India.
  • Environmental clearance, National Green Tribunal.

    (all the above topics are easily available on google search)


  1. CLIMATE CHANGE- again can be divided into theory, International Efforts and India’s Efforts;
    1. Theory– basic understanding of
  • Global warming; ozone layer and its depletion; Acid Rain.
  • Implication of these events on climate

    *one question figured in prelim, 2014.

    (questions from this area are common)

    (Source- Erach Bharucha’s Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Couses).


  1. International Efforts
  • UNFCC- history (the convention, Kyoto protocol, Bali Road map, Cancun Agreement, Durban Outcomes, Doha climate gateway, Warsaw outcomes), current happenings/decisions (COP deliberations).

    (Source background/items/6031.php)

  • IPCC- crux of its recent reports.


  • Vienna Convention, Montreal protocol.


  1. India’s Efforts
  • National Action Plan for climate change, its various sub-planes.
  • India’s stand at international platforms.
  • Various policies/projects/schemes.

    Economic Survey Chapter ; India Year Book chapters)


As is clear there is a greater use of internet in studying various topics since nothing is available at one particular place. You can compile your notes/material in the manner described above and keep adding on to it as and when you find or read something. Also, there is greater scope of using common-sense in environment related questions. Many times an intelligent guess backed by logic can make up for lack of precise knowledge. It goes without saying that at the end it’s about retaining what you read and applying it during the exam.

Best of Luck.




162 Replies to “Superman… Signing Off…”

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