Ansar Shaikh made headlines after he cracked the competitive Union Public Service Commission exam in his maiden attempt and secured an All-India Rank of 361 in 2016. The young lad encountered poverty, lack of money, and unstable family conditions. Yet, he fought with a warrior’s mindset, and his strong aspiration gave him this accomplishment.
Going beyond odds
Ansar Shaikh is the son of Yonus Sheikh Ahmad, who runs an autorickshaw in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. According to reports, Ansar’s father struggled with alcohol addiction and his father married thrice, Ansar’s mother, who usually works on farmland is his second wife.
The Maharashtra lad grew up watching domestic violence and child marriage. His sisters were married off at a very young age of 15, and his younger brother, Anees dropped out of school in standard six and worked in a garage to support the family and help Ansar to prepare for the IAS exam. And even though he was two years younger than Ansar, the latter considers him bigger than himself in ways more than one.
Not willing to follow up in his father’s profession, Ansar took a new way which created a history today.
“My relatives would ask my parents why there was a need for me to study. When I was in class four, my parents approached my teacher and said that they wanted me to drop out, but my teacher refused. He told them, ‘Your son is a brilliant student, look after his education. You will not regret it. He will turn your lives around.’ For my uneducated parents, a teacher saying that was a big deal,” said Ansar.
And since then, his parents decided to give education to him. He proved his worth when he scored an impressive 91 percent on his Class 12 boards.
The struggling days
He talks about about the struggles of studying in a Zilla Parishad School, saying, “I loved eating chicken, but of course, it was a luxury in a home where a three-time meal was difficult. Sometimes we would spot worms in our mid-day meals. So this vegetarian food would automatically turn non-vegetarian,” he laughs.
It was during his first year in College that his teacher Tukaram Jadhav introduced him to UPSC. But the big question was how he would arrange the coaching fee which was somewhere about Rs 70,000.
“I spoke to Jadhav sir and told him about my situation. He was generous enough to accept me into the course and agreed to give me a 50% privilege because he believed I had a will. When I entered the class, most students who came there were in their late 20s and 30s and had given two to three attempts. I was the only 19-year-old. I would often get discouraged and found it difficult to interact. I would sit in the back and hurt my neck.”
The UPSC challenge
In between the course, Ansar started becoming more curious and began interacting with others. He states that the spirit of asking questions is essential to a UPSC aspirant.
“I was often teased when I would ask ridiculous questions. But I never really stopped doing that. There were days when I would survive on vada pav and didn’t have the money to buy primary materials. I use to borrow it from my friends and make a photocopy of the notes. I pushed myself very hard. I used to study for 13 hours a day because I knew that I couldn’t afford failure. I wouldn’t have the resources to give a second attempt,” he says.
After serving himself with the necessary knowledge, Ansar devoted himself to the Civil services exam and there he scored 199 out of 275.
Ansar said, “If you think your rivalry is with other lakhs of aspirants who give the exam, you are wrong. Your only competitor is you. So get rid of all of your doubting thoughts, and success will come your way.”
He still remembers his interview with a retired IAS officer who asked him about Muslim youth joining radical organizations. They even asked him if he belonged to the Shia sect of the Sunni sect. Ansar’s response really impressed the interviewer, he said, “I am an Indian Muslim.”
About his success, Ansar Ahmed Shaikh IAS said, “There is no alternative to hard work. As I struggled earlier, my friends helped me a lot mentally and financially and even my coaching academy waived a portion of fees due to my poor financial condition”.
“Please remember, poverty and success have no correlation. All you need is hard work and determination. What background you come from, doesn’t matter. Marks might not define your intelligence. But for some, it is their only way to pull themselves out of the abyss of poverty. It is not easy and requires rigid hard work to arrive at those grades and shouldn’t be ignored,” he concludes.