(A Brief story of Ms. Elima Kandulna, ALRS)
By Mr. T. Jude Xalxo, for AYIMA


Any big success are an outcome of massive efforts starting with strong will power, perseverance, self discipline, open to learning, with some support/guidance from family, friends, teachers and society as evident in the life of Miss. Elima Kandulna, ALRS from Tezpur, Sonitpur district of Assam. She cleared APSC Exam in 2017 securing 34th position in ALRS at the age of just 23. As a child she was an average student just like anyone of us among Adivasis. However, life started changing at the age of 13 (class 8) due to various factors as stated below from her 1hr of speech to Adivasi youths on 31st May 2021, through AYIMA an Online Platform created by Fr. Bimal Lakra, the Vice Principal of Don Bosco College, Golaghat wherein Mr. Louis Aind IPS (Retired) is the Lead Organiser.


Before their marriage, Mr. Joseph Kandulna and Mrs Dominica Surin, the parents of Miss. Elima Kandulna, had PLANS for their child. If born a girl, they would encourage her to become a Civil Servant, and if boy, he would be motivated to become a great Footballer. It may be noted that many Parents among Adivasis (including the educated ones) do not have plans for their children or a few have some plans in their mind which they barely discuss or plan out. Lesson: A Systematic and meticulous plan is a must for any success. Her parents WORKED/FOLLOWED-UP on the plan till they achieve the plan, (Elima cracked APSC). In initial childhood phase they purchased GK books, story books in place of toys; 3 news papers were made available at home. The difference between Successful and Average people is this (Lesson) – The Successful people take actions on what they think and talk, whereas, the average people think a lot, talk a lot, but never Act on what they think and talk. Elima’s Parents were strict (reward and punishment went hand in hand) at the same time never compelled her; they just facilitated and guided at her own pace. They never compelled her to take up civil services – they believed that the desire to become a civil servant should emerge from her. They facilitated/exposed her to friends who had similar background (Mr. Aind IPS, the DC), facilitated resource materials useful for civil services, gave her freedom to choose Arts stream even when (in 10th standard) she secure second highest marks in Science at state level. Her parents provided her the Right Advice. Elima being interested in Arts had little interest in Science and Mathematics, her parents told her that without these two subjects you cannot make through in Matric exam. Her parents made some Savings over years with an aim in mind to construct a house which they spent for her coaching in Delhi and for other expenses for her preparation.


Ms. Elima is simple, humble, honest, punctual and hardworking at the same time she is very persistent (Jiddi) in her efforts. She knew her strengths and weaknesses. While she worked hard (made improvement) on her strength (Arts stream) she also improved on her weaknesses. Lesson: Successful people follow their Passion whereas average people are lost in their lottery mentality. No one could divert her be it societal pressure, people criticising her or her close friends avoiding her.  She is a Hard and Smart worker – worked for average 10hrs daily with meticulous planning for every subjects and sub-topics. The never give-up and do or die attitude of her resulted not only success but also resulted in mental and physical break down as well. Elima is a Responsible and a Grateful person; responsible for self, the family and the society at large. In 2017 she had to take up APSC because mother was scheduled to be retired in next 3 years time, there was need for an active earning member in the family. She never wasted time; during intervals, she was found in the library, even during bandhs she used to go for her classes. Elima has a competitive mind. In her Graduation days, there was a girl in her class who was the first in merit list of her department and she switched her medium from Assamese to English. The girl was extremely sincere in her studies and this girl was unbeatable by anyone in the department. Elima challenged herself to beat her in scores and worked hard and in the 5th semester Elima scored higher than her friend. During her coaching period in Chanakya IAS Academy, Delhi, Elima met number of candidates who had vast knowledge in number of subjects as compared to her. Initially she had some inferiority complex but overcame that and decided to defeat some of them and she did come out scoring Good marks in the tests conducted in the Academy. Her habit of reading books, newspapers and magazines has contributed much to her success. She made inspirational quotes a part of her life.


There is a saying “water seeks its own level”. Lesson: “Friends matters a lot in achieving one’s goal” said Mr. Aind, the mentor of Elima. Miss. Elima and her parents consciously chose to be friends with people with similar goals/mentality. In her college, Elima had 3 friends who had the same ambition just like her. They all wanted to be Civil Servants. Friends and society also has negative influences which is natural. Some of her  friends and society laughed at her for taking up Art stream, her friends avoided her because she couldn’t give time to them (as she invested all time in preparation for the exam), friends made fun of her after she returned from coaching in Delhi. She accepted all these as part of the journey and remained focused on her goal. The HOD a, History Teacher from her college, seeing her seriousness in studies enquired Elima’s aim in life. On knowing that she wanted to become a Civil Servant, he encouraged and provided ‘The Hindu newspaper’ to read and then return back. Mr. Martin Tirkey, uncle of Elima, introduced her to Fr. Vincent Xalxo, the Parish Priest of St. Joseph Parish, Guwahati, who offered her lodging facility for a month while she was writing her APSC Mains exam. Fr. Vincent told her that very few Adivasis appear for such competitive exams and wished her all success and suggested respecting his offer (lodge) with APSC Passed out result. For interview preparation, Elima’s good friend helped her in preparation for the 1st ever Interview (final stage to clear civil service) in her life.  He prepared for her questionnaire on relevant topics and interviewed her, often cornering her with tough questions. This exercise went on a daily basis for a month and more which was of great help during the actual Interview. 


As mentioned above Miss Elima’s parents had a plan before their marriage and implemented their plan once she was born. Elima started her preparation when she was in her 8th standard. One fine day she had the opportunity to meet the Deputy Commissioner of Sonitpur District, accompanied by her Dad. She was inspired by the DC, so she spoke out heart to her dad enquiring what was required for her to become a DC. Her dad told her “you have to study very hard and at your current effort pace (she uses to fail in few subject in the middle school) you will not be able to become an IAS officer". He also reminded her of his plan to see her as a Civil Servant, also because Mr. Joseph, her father himself could not clear APSC due to lack of proper guidance and material resources. This experience of meeting the Deputy Commissioner became a turning phase of her time. Henceforth she worked hard and she did very well in the school and secured 75.33% in her matriculation, 81.00% in Higher Secondary and 7.9 CGPA Grade in her Graduation.


Prelims, Mains & the Interview
Chanakya IAS Academy, being one among the Good IAS Coaching Institutes in the country, Elima joined the institute in year 2015 and completed her coaching for Prelims and Mains in 9 months time. In her coaching period she woke up early in the morning, cooked food from 4am to 5am, then took bath and then attends classes for 8am to 5pm. She never wasted her valuable time in the Institute. In the institute she interacted with number of candidates who had very good hold in number of subjects, in news paper reading, in answer writing. Comparatively, she was no one in-front of them, yet did not felt low rather she got inspired from them. After 9 months of coaching, Elima returned to her hometown. In 2017 her Dad suggested her appearing for APSC exam despite her preparing for UPSC. Keeping her dad's request she started preparing for Prelims from February 2017 to July 2017 keeping aside her UPSC preparation.


The Prelims and  Mains
Given number of reasons mentioned above, Miss Elima prepared and appeared for APSC Prelims and wrote two papers, one General Studies and the optional paper "Political Science". Immediately after the exam, her conscience told her that she can clear it. She did not waste any time and started preparing for the Mains Exam for next 8 months with average of 10hrs of preparation daily and she avoided all social and entertainment gatherings. For Mains exam, she had to remain in Guwahati for a month where she was offered good environment for preparation by the Parish Priest of St. Joseph Parish. She wrote the Mains Exam and as usual felt very confident of clearing it. She immediately started preparing for the final stage “The Interview”.


The Interview
Facing an Interview is always an anxiety for any individual. Even Miss Elima was not an exception to this. She realized that she should have prepared for Interview from the time of preparation for Prelims. Never the less, her determination made her face the challenge and she worked on Communication Skill, sensitive issues, personality traits – about self, desires, goals, hobby, preparations made for exams and the interview. During the Interview preparation she was guided by the advice of her friend who told her to prepare in such a way that the interview period would be in her hold. She spoke about Munda tribe, their population in the country, their distribution in the state. She was asked to translate in Mundari which she did although she is not fluent in Mundari. Her preparation in Mundari helped her a lot. She was also asked questions on sensitive topics as the panelist tried cornering her and the interview lasted for 35 minutes. As she was walking out of the interview room, she was called back and to her utter surprise they asked – “how did the interview go as per your opinion?” She understood this as a green signal from God. 


Strategy Used in Preparation
Miss Elima did meticulous planning for each and every subject and every topics/sub-topic was given allotted time. All the plans were written down in a diary which she referred frequently to ensure that she complied with. She gathered 10 years previous year question papers for every exam. She also collected mock questions from as many coaching websites as possible. She analyzed all the questions and its pattern in which they were set over the past years; questions that were repeated, questions that were not repeated and also looked into relevant topics that were never asked past years and accordingly she did her preparation. For General Studies (Political Science, History) she revised the 10th standard NCERT text books, for Environment subject, she referred books used in Higher Secondary and for Science and Technology she depended on Current Affairs. For APSC, Assam History by S.L. Baruah, and other information based on Assam from The Assam Year Book. Along with hard work, smart work helped her a lot. She practiced Speed Writing form the 10th standard which was of great help. She practiced writing pseudo exams for 3-5 hours prior to writing actual exams. No questions were left unattended. As a result of all these strategies she could complete writing all papers ahead of time (from 10 to 30 minutes ahead).


Challenges / Mistakes / Lessons
During her preparation for exams, Ms. Elima came across many challenges. She became anxious, depressed and developed migraines. This affected her studies and indeed she lost some 45 days in her mains preparation period. She overcame this with yoga, meditations and prayers. It is very important to have a balanced approach (mental and physical) during civil service preparation, she says.  She also faced seclusion and criticisms from friends and the society at large as she was different from them. Being from English Medium School, she took English paper as less important, which she realized was a big mistake. She started preparing for the Interview at the last stage which she considers as a mistake. She suggests preparing for the interview much earlier say from the time of preparation for the Prelims. No questions should be left unattended while writing civil service exams. Speed writing must be practices at very early age. Above all meticulous planning with schedule for executing the plans is mandatory for any success


Way Forward
Ms. Elima’s dream does not end in becoming Assam Land and Revenue Service Officer. Her plan to become an IAS Officer is still on. She is preparing for UPSC and we hope to see her as a very effective IAS officer. She also wishes to guide any Adivasi aspirants for civil service exam.