This year’s essay paper for UPSC Mains was the opposite of last year. Last year’s paper was a play on English language and abstraction whereas this year it has been more conventional. The topics for the essay were the expected ones.
For example – The best time to fix your roof is while the sun is shining, it is from the family of quotations and proverbs. The youngsters would have thought about their childhood, getting good ideas from it, and must have penned down mark-scoring essays.
Similarly, use of best case studies for economic excellence, talking about efficient use of resources, beating scarcity, interdependence, sustainability, etc. Many students have thought on these lines while preparing for the exam in detail.
Another topic was about Narayan Moorthy, founder of Infosys’s quote “A ship is safest at the harbour, but that is not where it is supposed to be.” This is about entrepreneurship, taking risks, overcoming challenges, and students have been contemplating these topics as well during preparation.
The quotation by an ancient Greek Philosopher Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice..” is about nothing being permanent. The idea here is to discuss that change is the only constant and the challenges which come with changes. This was also an expected topic.
Similarly, poets being dreamers is the substance of the essay topic where it is said that poets are the undeclared, unacknowledged, unsung legislators. For instance, William Wordsworth was celebrating the French revolution, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heavenly”
Another essay topic – History is the advance of science or romanticism. Romanticism is like being a tourist, visiting places, and being superficial, not getting in-depth about it. Whereas, science is an art, a collective effort. Science triumphs over romance as it is about catching the material reality, the bull by a horn. Science has been prevailing.
For the candidates who like to explore more behavioral or interpersonal topics, they could pick – Smile is the best device, is often the device that hides ambiguities. In this topic, we can dissect smiles, the variety of smiles, their purpose, what is the social decorum of it which can make your smile infectious. We have a lot of folklore about smiles. And since the topic mentions about a smile being a device that is used to hide ambiguities, that’s explorable socially, behaviourally, and psychologically. So many candidates would have surely picked on that.
— The article is written by Sriram Srirangam, Founder & Director, SRIRAM’s IAS