Saturday, May 13, 2006

None can make you work, you’ve to do it yourself
Gurneet Tej, the girl who stood second in the civil services, shares her success mantra with Geetanjali Gayatri

Full of beans, effervescent and glowing with the colours of success, Chandigarh girl Gurneet Tej’s almost walking with a new spring in her step since the results for the civil services came in. Placed second in the country in one of the most coveted services, her performance, she says, was unexpected.

This was the moment she had longed for since she stepped into her teens. It is the realisation of a dream “Chutku”, as she’s fondly called at home, had cherished.

“Around the time I was in Class X, our city had a string of women officers as Advisers to the UT Administrator. They were forever in the news and that proved to be quite an attraction to me as a little girl,” says Gurneet, her house flooded with flowers and congratulatory messages from well-wishers and friends.

Her hands are full as she tries to juggle interviews, attend phone calls and pose for pictures. “The toughest part of the examination has been handling this celebrity status and eating mithai. I don’t know how to manage the two but this too will pass.”

With economics and psychology as her winning combination, Gurneet wants to join the Punjab cadre and make a difference to “her state”.

She maintains, “It may sound too idealistic but I want to do something for society and for Punjab, primarily focusing on the exploitation of labour and women as also the skewed sex ratio. These are going to be my priority areas and I hope my efforts will make an impact.”

Almost caught napping when the results finally came in, Gurneet says a friend called her up when she was having a siesta and broke the news of her achievement.

“It was unbelievable. I thought I had not heard correctly but she insisted that I had stood second. I told my mom who was at home at that time and we called up my father in his office. He confirmed the news for us. Since then, celebrations at our house haven’t ceased, the flow of friends hasn’t stopped,” she chirps, the ear-to-ear smile never leaving her face as her parents look on dotingly.

Her father, Surinder Singh Tej, a senior journalist with Punjabi Tribune and a man of a few words, too, can’t hide his elation.

“Before she was born I told my colleagues that if I was blessed with a baby boy, I would give you a tea party; if it would be a girl, I would treat you to drinks. Today, I am so proud of my little girl. She’s made us so proud, we’re walking a few inches taller. I have no words to express my delight,” he quips.

His wife, Tajinder Kaur Tej, a teacher in Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 33, Chandigarh, and the more vocal of the two, chips in, “We never imposed our desires on her, just let her be. After scoring a high percentage in Class X, she wanted to do humanities. We just let her follow her heart, only telling her to be the best in whatever she did. She has lived up to our expectations, in fact gone way beyond our expectations. We are basking in the glory of her success. It is the ultimate feeling for any parent. We could not have asked for more.”

A postgraduate in economics from Panjab University, Gurneet who did her schooling from St Anne’s, emphasises that consistency, regularity and sincerity are sure winners in any examination. “Nobody can make you work. You have to do it yourself, be the master of your destiny. Between studies, whenever I was tired, I would take 15-minute naps but sleep well in the night. No movies, sticking to schedules and limited outings also helped,” she explains, back after greeting her grandma who has come from Ludhiana to see her grand-daughter.

Something that she really missed during the two years of preparing for the examination was reading fiction. So, the day after her Mains exam was over, she read her favourite author to unwind.

“Reading just lifts my spirits. It’s an exhilarating exercise,” she says sitting in her favourite place in the house, the library.

Celebration in the Tej household has just about begun and is likely to continue for a few more days as a steady stream of visitors continue to pour in. Everyone makes the same observation as they are ushered inside — that Chutku has grown up to be an amazingly bright girl. We leave the place realising that the civil services are certainly not for bookworms but for people of substance, for those who believe they can and they do.