RAJASTHAN: Asha Kandara, a mother of two kids, is simply extraordinary. She used to clean the streets of Jodhpur before she stunned everyone in the city a few days back when she cleared the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) exam. She is likely to be posted as a deputy collector. The Mayor and CEO of the Jodhpur Municipal Corporation, where she worked as a cleaner, felicitated her at a special function. They tied a ‘safa’ (Rajasthani turban) on her head, the entire office clapped and cheered for her as media crews vied for her sound bites.
Asha has come a long way; but what makes her story remarkable is that she has singlehandedly brought up her two children after separation from her husband nine years ago and completed her graduation. What made her task tougher is the fact that she comes from the Valmiki caste, one of the most backward castes in our society which has suffered centuries of discrimination.
Barely 17, she was married off, though she had completed her school education in 1997. In 2012, she went through divorce which left her with the responsibility of looking after her two children on her own. Asha completed her graduation in 2016 with her family’s support, but found no decent job.
Asha vividly recalls how the idea of getting into the state civil services stuck on with her. “Everywhere I went, people would taunt me by saying ‘Are you a collector?’ I had no idea what a collector is. I finally Google-searched and found out what a collector really means. From then on, I decided to get into the civil services. Since I was well above the age limit for an IAS entry, I thought I would try for RAS as the exam does not mandate an age-limit for divorcee women,” says Asha.
She appeared for the RAS entrance test three years ago, but 12 days after the exam, she got a job of a cleaner with the Jodhpur Municipal Corporation. While waiting for the exam result, she took the job of keeping the city streets clean. Her main task was to keep Paota Road, one of Jodhpur’s most prominent streets, free from dirt.
Under the rules of the Jodhpur civic body, Asha had to be on job from 6 am to 2 pm every day. Her salary was `12,500, the only means to feed herself and her children. “I realised no work is small or big. What matters is attitude. I ignored jibes and unkind remarks and kept myself busy with the job.”
With no financial or moral support that is usually critical to crack the civil services exams, Asha relied on her hard work and effective time management. She met the RAS challenge with dedication and discipline. “I used to get up at 5 am. After duty hours, I studied as much as possible. From using mobile online applications to getting notes from wherever I could, I studied as hard as my circumstances permitted,” she said. Asha says her two children helped her a great deal in preparing for the exams.
Her 21-year-old daughter Pallavi is a now student of final year graduation and her 19-year old son Rishabh is studying in second year of college. They kept boosting her morale whenever she had doubts about her preparation. “I felt I would not be able to clear the RAS exam since others were studying all day long. But my children always encouraged me and persuaded me to believe that success was around the corner,” says the proud mother.
Asha hopes her success will inspire others, especially single women, to dream big. “We should never underrate ourselves. If we do not realise our own strength, if we don’t respect our own self, we can’t get anything. Hard work always pays,” she says.
Jodhpur residents are also delighted with Asha’s hard-earned success. Mayor Kunti Dewra said: “We are proud that a cleaner from our municipal corporation has become an RAS officer. Asha has always been a hardworking woman. We will be really happy if in future she comes and works as a senior officer in our corporation.”
Over next two years, Asha will train at the Officers Training School in Jaipur before taking up her assignment as an RAS officer. She still dreams of getting into the IAS, which she can probably achieve after 15 years’ experience in the RAS.