Home Interview Kuhoo Garg: Inspiring journey from international sports to bureaucracy!

Kuhoo Garg: Inspiring journey from international sports to bureaucracy!

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By ARUN PRATAP SINGH

Kuhoo Garg, from Dehradun, is a well-known name in sports. Now she has passed the UPSC examination, adding another feather to her already illustrious career. An International Badminton player of repute, she has 56 national medals and 18 international medals to her credit. She has represented India at many global competitions. At the peak of her sports career, which was halted to a great extent on account of injuries, her top World ranking in Mixed Doubles has been 34 and, in the country, it has been Number One.

Daughter of a top IPS officer, Ashok Kumar, who recently retired as Director General of Police, and Dr Alaknanda Ashok, who is presently Dean at College of Technology, GB Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, she has cracked the UPSC in what she considers her first serious attempt. She had appeared for the preliminary examination once before but without much preparation. She has managed to secure 178th rank in UPSC this year and has qualified for the IPS Cadre. Like her father, she is ready to be a police officer and serve the country to the best of her abilities. Her father Ashok Kumar has also been a keen badminton player and is now serving as Vice Chancellor of Sports University of Haryana (a Government of Haryana University).

Kuhoo has done her schooling from Welham Girls’ School in Dehradun and Sanskriti School in Delhi. She then graduated from the famous Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi with Economics as her major. She will be among a handful of players, if not the only one, who has been ranked so high at the global level in sports before clearing the UPSC Civil Services examination.

She spoke exclusively to Garhwal Post in Dehradun even as she prepares for the future course of life, to spend the initiation course of three months at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie and then proceed for her police training at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVPNPA) in Hyderabad. In response to a question, she admitted that attempting to qualify the Civil Services might have been at the back of her mind but, for so many years, she never considered this as an option. Always having a keen interest in sports, particularly in Badminton, she wanted to excel and bring as much glory as possible for the country in sports. However, due to a knee injury requiring major surgery, which she underwent two years ago, she was advised by the doctors to take adequate rest for full recovery. It was then she considered seriously attempting to crack the UPSC examination. She utilised her time off sports to prepare for the Civil Services examination. It required her to prepare for a year and half to be able to make it.

Changing course of life is challenging

In response to a question regarding sudden change in career after a very successful innings in the sports arena, Kuhoo says that her first major break from sports came at the time of the Covid pandemic. During that time, she just kept training and waiting for when she could play again. However, later, due to the surgery and then needing time to fully recover, she chose to consider civil services as her future career option. She says that while playing Badminton at the level that she played, probably she could not have seriously mulled on changing the course of her life from a sports person to a bureaucrat, as sports is a very demanding career and the mind usually remains on a single track – how to excel further and maintain the form in the game. However, a forced break in her sports career provided her an opportunity to consider other options. She also thanks her parents for allowing her to choose sports as a career. They considered sports to be an integral part of life and necessary for holistic development and, for them, sports versus education kind of thinking was not important.

Father’s career has been a major inspiration

In response to a related question, Kuhoo Garg admitted that, since her childhood, she has been watching and getting inspired by her father and other IPS officers around him. She observed her father serve the people and focus on victim oriented policing. Kuhoo said she seriously wanted to serve the country. First, she did that in sports. Then she thought that, if she gets a chance to do something for her country like her father, she would definitely take advantage of the opportunity. She adds that having watched her father serve the people and impact many lives in a positive way every single day as part of his work, she was motivated and thought that Civil Services were a great option for her to serve the people and give back to society. She also adds that, though she was a daughter of a bureaucrat father and an academician mother, there was no pressure on her from their side to try for the Civil Services. It has her decision, but it was fully supported by them.

Kuhoo emphasises that her father has been a role model for her in more than one way. He comes from a humble rural background having studied in government schools. He, however, qualified for IIT and then also qualified for the Civil Services. Even as an IPS Officer, his career has been an illustrious one.

She said that earlier she was serving the country by representing it at major International tournaments and now she will get a chance to serve the country as a bureaucrat.

Achieving Success in Civil Services is great feeling

In response to a question regarding how it felt to have qualified in her first serious attempt, Kuhoo says that, her first attempt at the Prelims was made only just after preparing for a few weeks and obviously that was not enough. Post her surgery when she was in rehab, she undertook serious preparation for one and half years and was also lucky to qualify the Prelims, the Mains and then the Interview in one go. She says that she is very thankful to God for this achievement as there are many external factors beyond one’s control and hard work that determine one’s success or failure in the Civil Services examination. Achieving success or failing to succeed is highly unpredictable in UPSC. She adds that she experienced almost a similar feeling after qualifying for the Civil Services as she used to feel after bringing medals for the country in sports. She also adds that given the time and opportunity she would like to pursue sports as well! Badminton is her first passion and she has dedicated more than a decade of her life to it. In some or the other way, she would love to follow that passion.

Mostly prepared for Civil Services at Home

In response to a question regarding her preparations for the Civil Services Competition, Kuhoo says that she did join coaching classes for a while but she mostly prepared for the examination at home. She further adds that having been a professional sports player, she had to miss regular classes at school particularly during Classes 11 and 12. The school allowed her to miss the classes to allow her to prepare for the competitions. So it was not easy to study long hours while beginning to prepare for the civil services. At the beginning, she studied 6 to 8 hours each day. She also took online coaching to improve upon the routine for the studies and build momentum. She also admits that her father helped her a lot, especially to work out weekly, monthly and even yearly plans. He also helped her prepare for the Interview. She further states that some of her friends had qualified and took tips from them. She realised that it was not just hard work but smart work which was required also to prepare well.

Social media is not a major distraction

In response to a question what she felt about the discussion on policing reforms in the country as a budding Police Officer, Kuhoo says that administrative and policing reforms are a requirement of any evolving society, but it is an ongoing process. In response to whether she will like to serve in intelligence agencies as an IPS officer, she says that given an opportunity, intelligence services seem to be an interesting option but it remains to be seen what works out. She also does not agree that social media was a distraction for those who are serious about a professional career and adds that social media and internet provide an opportunity to learn a lot.

Speaking to Garhwal Post, both her parents, Ashok Kumar and Alaknanda, expressed great satisfaction and happiness at the success of their daughter, Kuhoo, and hoped she would continue to serve the country even in future, albeit in a different manner now!

Pics: Bhumesh Bharti