Book Review: Once Upon an IAS Exam by K. Vijayakarthikeyan

Book Name: Once Upon an IAS Exam

Author: K. Vijayakarthikeyan

Publisher: Rupa

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Book Blurb: Vishy’s worst nightmare—failing the UPSC’s Civil Services exam—has come true. He is plagued by insecurity, fear and doubts. The mother of all competitive examinations has rejected him and he needs a reason to live. So, what does he do? He tells his best friend Rithika, ‘I love you… Will you marry me?’

In Once Upon an IAS Exam, twenty-five-year-old Vishy tries to overcome the uncertainty and confusion about his future and figure out ways of convincing Rithika to marry him. Things turn even more interesting, funny and emotional as Vishy reattempts to conquer ‘Mount IAS’. As he tries to take his academic and love life towards safety, he seeks refuge in the world of IAS coaching centres.

Picture Credit: Rupa

Picture Credit: Rupa

Set in the bustling Civil Services exam coaching hub of Anna Nagar in Chennai, this book is a hilarious account of the actuality, stress and struggle faced by millions of candidates who prepare year after year for one of India’s toughest exams. Join Vishy as he sets out to prove his mettle to the world—and himself. Will Rithika accept the love of her best friend? Will Vishy overcome his sense of failure? Will there be a happily ever after?

Review: Once Upon An IAS Exam is a tongue in cheek account of one man’s quest to conquer the most coveted exam in the country- the Indian Administrative Services.

The tale is about Vishy and his close circle of friends who are all trying to clear the IAS exam. It is considered as one of the most toughest exam in India and requires a lot of preparation.

The book captures the fatigue, frustration due to continuous failures and heartbreaks during such competitive exams very well. The language is pretty ordinary but what the author lacks in language and plot, he makes up for it in other departments such as sprinkling it with liberal doses of humour and this is the highlight of the this book. This is meant to be a not very serious account so colloquial language works fine. It has been written candidly and in a racy fashion. Vishy’s tryst with a love interest make for a very interesting read. The trials and tribulations of his friends are also well-documented.

Even the names of coaching centres are deliberate and sure to make you laugh. So while Vishy studies at Great Minds Coaching centre, there is another Super Best coaching Centre down the road. The learn by heart culture of Indian education is also regularly mocked.

“But before Vishy could get up, he was interrupted by an answer from the first row which was an exact NASA definition.”

The nexus of the coaching institutes and mock question paper providers that charge a lot of money for such preparation have not been spared either. Read this one to get a fascinating insight into the world of competitive exam preparations and to find out if Vishy succeeds in the end or not. Although its written primarily from an insider view of the Civil Services exam, the situations faced by candidates holds true for any other such exams in India.

The book could have been expanded more but the author has written a very concise account. This is a subject matter that requires more discussion and a full length novel would have been a better idea. Or maybe, he could work on a sequel and satisfy his readers. An insight into the Civil Services after Vishy joins service could be a good starting point.

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