Varanasi's Arfa AIR 111 left an IT job to become a civil servant

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 20-04-2024
Afra usmani posing in front of the UPSC office in New Delhi
Afra usmani posing in front of the UPSC office in New Delhi


Dr. Sanjeev Mishra/Varanasi

The morning of Durga Ashtami, a festival in celebration of feminine divinity, brought a gift of happiness to Aslam Khan and his wife Mehnaz Usmani, residents of the Mukimganj locality of Banaras, UP.

Their daughter Arfa Usmani had called from Delhi early morning. Mehnaz picked up the phone. “Amma, I have cracked UPSC,” Mehnaz heard her daughter's voice and felt as if a bouquet of happiness had dropped in her lap.

Arfa Usmani of Banaras has cleared the Civil Services Examination with 111th rank, which is like a dream for any lower middle-class Indian family.

Aslam Khan, who sells crockery at his shop nearby, remembered the day when Arfa was born and she was given a name. Arfa means height and today Aslam Khan feels his daughter has lived up to her name literally. She has achieved her ambition.

The couple is happy as congratulations pour in from friends and relatives over the phone.

Mehnaz, who is a homemaker despite being a postgraduate in psychology, also went down memory lane and remembered her daughter’s childhood. Arfa studied at the St. John's School in Mehrauli. She was a topper all through her school days.

Afra Usmani with her mother Mehnaz and brother Shadan

Mehnaz taught her children that the life path could be found only through education. Her son Shadan studied at the IIT Roorkee and later IIM Kolkata. Thereafter he got admission into America's Columbia University.

Arfa topped the district in class 10th and joined the five-year B.Tech-M.Tech course in IIT, BHU, Varanasi in 2013. 

Arfa finished her M.Tech in 2018 and was among the top three students in her department and got a job through campus placement. 

While working in prestigious institutions like Intel, Arfa realized that she could earn a lot of money in this job, but the way to contribute to the nation and societywas through civil services.

Arfa started preparing for the civil services examination in right earnest and reached the mains of Civil Services Examination in the second attempt and the interview in the third attempt. Arfa secured 111th rank in the fourth attempt.

Arfa considers her mother as the source of inspiration as she had always prioorotised her children's education. Arifa said she would like to become a role model for the Muslim girls of the country.

Arfa’s success is the result of sustained hard work and determination. At the outset she had resolved to prepare for civil services without taking admission in any coaching institute. When Arfa cleared the mains in her second attempt, friends advised her to join coaching, but she did not agree.

Arfa Usmani with her mother drinking chai at a roadside kiosk

Arfa said that a large number of people also prepare for civil services without coaching as they could not afford it. “When they start with the confidence to succeed, why can't I also do the same,” she told herself.

Arfa realized that there is just a gap of a few marks between Arfa and success and she worked towards bridging it and was successful.

Congratulatory messages on phone and by people visiting her home have not stopped. Those visiting her home told Arfa that her success was special in many ways. “You are a Muslim woman that too from the Prime Minister’s constituency.”

Arfa says, “I have grown up in the Ganga-Jamuni culture of Banaras. It is the specialty of our society that we take everyone along. I am fortunate that I will be able to pursue this by joining civil services.”

Arfa does not like to be reminded that she is a Muslim and also a topper. Arfa clearly says that all communities are working towards India’s progress and Muslim youth do not lag in this. Those who are lagging have a long way to go.

On her aspirations, Arfa says, “I will become a role model for girls, so that their hesitation to move forward in life.’

How she perceives her new job? On this Arfa says a civil servant has to execute law of the land but for that it is important to have a ground sense and understanding of the problems of the people.

“There are laws to be implemented, but first change should be brought at the ground level. A civil servant has to understand the psychology of people, then only the implementation of the law will be of help.”

Arfa had completely distanced herself from social media to study for civil services. She exited from all social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even deleted the WhatsApp from her phone. 

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On the use of social media, she says, it was her choice to distance from it but she realized that it may not be so for others. “The Internet has indeed given positive results like startups from many small towns. Youth should positively channelize their creativity, only then there be benefits, otherwise, there are many disadvantages,” she says.