During the 2004 Kumbakonam fire tragedy in Tamil Nadu, young Sivaguru witnessed the efforts of J.Radhakrishnan, the district collector in Thanjavur where he lived. Incidentally, he was the first IAS officer Sivaguru had ever seen, “I was inspired by his relief work and wanted to be like him.”
But becoming an IAS officer was a distant dream. Sivaguru was forced to give up his studies after Class 12, as his family couldn’t afford it. He was from a poor farming family. His mother and sister struggled to keep the family afloat by selling coconut fronds. There was no way they could pay for college.
Sivaguru also faced a lot of resistance from his father who struggled with alcohol addiction all his life, “When I told my father I wanted to become a collector, he dismissed me saying people from a rural background can’t make it.” People around him believed civil services were only for the rich and the smart, and there was no way Sivaguru could pull it off.
But Sivaguru wasn’t willing to let go of his dream. He spent the next four years working at a sawmill to support his family and save up for his education. After graduating with a civil engineering degree, he decided to travel to Chennai and joined IIT-Madras. That’s when he enrolled at a coaching institute to prepare for UPSC entrance exams.
Juggling a full-time job and studies, he attended the coaching class. But his classmates, who had already attempted the exam several times, dominated him. “After I failed my first attempt in UPSC, my classmates would discourage me by saying that I probably won’t ever clear the exams because my English was weak.”
But Sivaguru persisted. Even two more unsuccessful attempts didn’t shake his resolve. His hard work bore its fruit when he cracked the exams in his fourth attempt securing the 101st rank among 990 who made the cut in 2018. He became one of the youngest people to clear UPSC and become an IAS officer.
Sivaguru is currently appointed as the Sub-Collector in Padmanabhapuram District, Kanyakumari.
Mahindra salutes the challenger spirit of people like Sivaguru who reminds us that with grit and determination, we can overcome any challenge to achieve our dreams. #Rise