My Fears

Many have a notion that only ‘super genius’ can get into Indian Administrative Service’.

The incidents which I am going to share is not the most inspirational story around the world. But definitely Civil Service aspirants will get inspired knowing how much ‘Ordinary person’ I was before getting into IAS and in fact even after getting into IAS.

I was 6 years old at that time. It was Children’s Sunday in my Church and the entire focus of that day’s sermons would be on children. As part of Children’s Sunday, children should go to the altar of the church and sing songs and recite biblical verses which they had learnt in Sunday School.

My Sunday School Teacher in the previous week asked me to learn just 2 verses in 23 rd Chapter of Psalms in Bible and recite in front of everyone. Each of the Sunday School Children had different tasks and as I was just 6 years old, my assignment was just to recite 2 verses.

I memorized those 2 verses the entire week and was very confident. My brother’s assignment was to recite around 10 verses from a different chapter. As he was 5 years older than me, he was given a bigger assignment. On Children’s Sunday,I was sitting beside my mom.The service began and the Church was full because the entire congregation of around 100 people were present. My mom asked me whether I remembered those 2 verses.

If anyone had asked Abdul Kalam whether he knew basics of missile technology how he would have reacted, the same way I reacted.

The proceedings started and children started performing their tasks with lot of applause from the church. After few minutes, Sunday School teacher called my name in the microphone and told Israel would recite verses from Psalms. I got up confidently. I saw entire crowd seeing me. As I moved forward to the altar of the Church, I could see all eyes watching me.

I had an unusual sensation which I later realised as ‘fear’. Once I reached the altar, microphone was adjusted to my height. Once I faced the entire crowd looking at me, that unusual sensation became acute. I could feel the lub dub of my heart. I started reciting “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Next line was “I shall not want”. But seeing around 100 faces in front of me, I forgot the verses. I started repeating “The Lord is my Shepherd”. My head became blank. I could not move forward to the next line. I could see my brother who was sitting in first row, laughing at me.

Again I tried, but nothing came out of my mouth. My Sunday School Teacher realised that Lord had let down Israel. She came forward, adjusted the microphone,completed the verses and called the next name. I did not walk back to my mom. I could hear giggling here and there. I went to the back door of the Church and sat. I felt as if the whole Sky had fallen on me. It was terrible feeling. I was sitting not knowing what to do next. Then I could hear my Brother’s name called. My prayer to Lord was that he should also forget otherwise he would make fun of me throughout my life. As he confidently continued his verses, my confidence declined.


18 years later, I got appointed as a Lecturer in Mechanical Engg Department of Sri Ram Engineering college which is around 30 kms away from Chennai. I was assigned to handle one subject for final year students, 2 subjects for 2nd year students and one subject for 1st year students. That was my first day in College and unfortunately I had to give lecture to Final Year Students on my very first day. I had to handle the 3rd period. During first 2 periods I was sitting in the library and was taking notes for my lecture. Once tea break was given I could hear students rushing out and my lub dub suddenly started.

The same uneasy sensation in my heart which I felt 18 years before again started. It was 10 minutes ‘tea break’ and after that I had to go and give lecture that too to final year students.After 10 minutes, bell rang and I started moving to the final year class.Students were rushing in and my lub dub further deteriorated.Instead of entering the class, I went back to my chamber. My HOD Prof Radhakrishnan saw me on my way and asked me why I had not gone to class. I told I came back for chalk piece.

He then took me to class (may be he would have thought seeing my pale face that i would run away) and introduced me to students as the new lecturer and left the class. I did not know what to start because I was blank. I saw the attendance register. There were around 40 students and in the pretext of introducing to each other, I took attendance and asked each of the student,his schooling, place of birth etc to kill the time. As I was nearing the last 10 students, I was shivering inside with the fear that what I would do next after ‘Attendance’. So I started asking more details for last 10 students like their hobbies, parents occupation etc.I heard the bell ringing when 2 more students were left. It was a great relief as the period got over.

I told ‘thank you’ to students and rushed out. I went straight to my HOD’s Chamber and told that I was going to resign. He smiled and asked me to sit and asked whether students teased. I told no and and explained how I managed taking attendance.He laughed for next 10 minutes. Then he gave me a cup of tea and started giving me lecture. Like Lord Krishna tutored Arjuna, for next few hours he tutored me on how to manage “stage fear”. The focus of his advice was, everyone including PM of India would have fear in their maiden speech but they manage the fear positively.He canceled my classes for next 2 days and tutored me whenever he found time.He gave me very practical tips on how to capture the attention of audience.I gained lot of confidence and when I went for next class I had the lub dub but I managed it effectively. I started using the tips he gave. Within few days the lub dub stopped totally and I became a popular lecturer among students, thanks to Prof Radhakrishnan.




After working as a Lecturer for some time, I got qualified in Civil Service Exam and got IRTS and later IAS. In Railway Academy (Railway Staff College,Baroda) and IAS Academy(LBSNAA,Mussorie) the trainee had to do presentation invariably once in every 10 days on some topic or other. So I became seasoned and I totally forgot this ‘stage fear’.

But once I started working in West Bengal as Sub Divisional Officer(SDO), a new problem arose. It was ‘language fear’. I could read,write and speak in ‘Bengali’ language but I had a fear to address public gatherings in Bengali language. Speaking with common man in Bengali is different but once we address in ‘stage’ we should follow certain grammar and I was not good in it. So whenever I was invited to any public function, my first condition was that I won’t address the gathering and I used to take a deputy magistrate(State service officer) who used to address on behalf of me. I managed this way for more than a year in Bengal.

Almost after a year, things changed. I was to launch a new tribal health programme called ‘Jeevan Jyothi’ in one of my naxal affected blocks called Belpahari block.Few days before the launch,I invited my ‘District Magistrate’ to inaugurate this scheme. The then District Magistrate was Mr.Narayan Swaroop Nigam IAS, who was a young, honest and efficient officer. He was a mentor to me. Happily he agreed to be the chief guest for the occasion. On the day before the programme he asked me to send the programme schedule by email. I did not include my name in the programme because the tribals would not understand a speech in English and I cannot make a speech in Bengali.

Once DM saw the programme schedule he called me and asked why I was not addressing the gathering. As if I was too generous I told,”Sir I want to complete the programme within a short time so that tribal people can return to their villages before dusk”.

He told that my speech of 10 minutes won’t make a big difference and he told that he would reduce his speech by 10 minutes so that I could address the gathering. I was taken aback. I tried to give few more lame reasons but he told that I had to address. I did not know what to do.I decided to tell the truth and told him about my problem in addressing the crowd in Bengali. He told,” Israel, I knew it even before you telling me.I don’t want my SDO to avoid giving speech in Bengali.You are like my younger brother.You have to start learning instead of avoiding. So tomorrow you have to give speech in Bengali. Its an order”.

My first reaction was to fall sick and avoid next day’s function but I knew it wont work with my DM who was a very good person by heart but was also a very strict officer. I did not have any option. I called one of my deputy magistrate Mr.Maity and asked him to prepare a speech. I then started memorising till 3 am in the morning. Next day was a tensed day for me. In the function when my turn came, my long time ally ‘lub dub’ and unusual sensation in my heart started. I was sweating like anything in that cold hilly place.

I don’t remember what exactly I talked.Somehow I managed and completed my speech. The entire gathering including DM clapped for next 5 minutes. Once I got seated after my maiden address in Bengali language ,my deputy magistrate came and told in my ears,”Don’t worry sir. Only you and me know that you have forgotten 75% of speech. Anyhow,speech was not bad”.

P.S – I gradually picked up public speaking in Bengali language within few months because I did not have any other choice.

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By Israel Jebasingh

AIR 59, IAS officer of 2004 batch | Worked as Lecturer in Sri Ram Engineering College before joining IAS | Resigned from IAS and started "Officers IAS Academy" for coaching IAS aspirants in Chennai.

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