NEW DELHI: Ensconced on a sofa seat at his austere home in Delhi’s Rohini, Samyak Jain, 26, rubs his eyes in disbelief, knowing it well he suffers from Macular Degeneration, an incurable genetic disease that partially impairs his vision. But, not without the fistful of iron grit and his mother’s writings, he combined to overcome all odds to clear the tough UPSC with an incredible seventh rank.
A visually impaired candidate, it was Samyak’s mother Vandana Jain who wrote the prelims examination for him while one of his friends wrote his main exams for UPSC.
“I am happy with the result. But wow, this was just unexpected. I was not even expecting a double-digit rank. My mother is as much an IAS as I am today because she was my support every time,” Samyak, tells The New Indian, with his eyes moistening.
Vandana gushes similar emotions as they embrace each other once again.
“Samyak aankho ka kaam bhi, kaan se hi karta hai (He used his ears as his eyes),” she tells The New Indian.
Both she and her husband Sanjay work for Air India. While Samyak lives with his mother in Rohini, his father is posted in Paris. His sister works with Apple in the US.
Samyak also credits other members of his family for the success. “The whole family helped me. There was a third wave of Covid and the weather was also bad. My maternal uncle took me to the exam centre and waited in the rain, till the exam ended,” he recalls the day, with emotions choking his voice.
His fight is not complete without more struggles of the past. He cleared the UPSC on his second attempt after appearing for the first time in 2020.
He recalls the discovery of his eye problem in school but says he still comfortably completed his graduation with a Bachelor of Arts in English honours from the School of Open Learning (SOL). He even went on to do a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi. He also did his Master of Arts in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“I did not have any problem with my eyes during my school days. It all started when I entered my 20s. Writing and reading became difficult. I struggled a lot to adjust,” he says
Reading was a challenge for Samyak before he found the Job Access with Speech (JAWS) app, which helps him convert textbooks into audiobooks. He started his preparation for UPSC civil services exam during lockdown (March 2020) when he had a lot of time to study.
While sharing his challenges about the exam, Samyak says, “Mains exam was difficult because I had to sit for four hours and there were two exams in a day. When I came back from my last mains, I was sure that my selection was confirmed.”
While asking about her first reaction, Vandana says, “We both were literally crying when we came to know about 7th position.”
Talking about her own experience of writing the exam, Vandana said, “While writing the Prelims, I was so overwhelmed that I was writing for my son.”
Talking about his vision for the nation, Samyak says, “Government is formulating policies in a perfect way but they are not properly implemented on the ground in the right way. Also, I would love to work on education and women empowerment.”
Sharing his tips for his fellow visually impaired candidates, Samyak says, “There is no need to panic. One can clear the exam with hard work and dedication. Books are available online for free in digital format. The candidates need to prepare well and have confidence. It will surely lead to success.”
Acknowledging the role IIMC, Delhi played in his success, Samyak says, “When I went to journalism, I became aware of the problems of the people on the ground. I felt that the IAS service can give a better opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people.”
In a tweet, Samyak says, “I am what IIMC has made me today… forever grateful!”