Altap Shaikh’s triumph in the UPSC CSE 2020 is nothing short of extraordinary, marked by resilience and unwavering determination. His journey to success was paved with a series of 15 failures, each serving as a stepping stone rather than a setback. Altap’s remarkable ability to transform setbacks into opportunities showcases his indomitable spirit and commitment to his goal. The UPSC Civil Services Examination is known for its rigorous and demanding nature, yet Altap’s perseverance remained unshaken. His win serves as an inspiration to aspirants everywhere, proving that tenacity, self-belief, and a relentless pursuit of excellence can overcome even the most formidable challenges. Altap Shaikh’s story stands as a testament to the idea that success often emerges from the crucible of adversity, making his victory not just a personal achievement but a beacon of hope for all those who dare to dream against all odds.
- After facing four unsuccessful attempts in Prelims and one failure in the interview.
- He successfully secured AIR 545 in CSE 2020.
- Additionally, he experienced setbacks with three UPSC Assistant Commandant interviews, six Maharashtra state services Mains, and one UP PCS Mains.
A dedicated fan of films, Altap Shaikh from Maharashtra often draws inspiration from his favorite movie dialogues when reflecting on his UPSC journey. Movies played a crucial role in helping him cope with setbacks, with the dialogues of his favorite stars motivating him to persist in pursuing his goal.
In moments of disappointment from unsuccessful attempts at UPSC CSE, he sought solace in films and Chinese cuisine. The memory of Salman Khan portraying an IPS officer in the movie ‘Wanted’ became a source of inspiration for both him and his father. Since that cinematic experience, his father envisioned him following the path of the heroic officer, cultivating a shared dream.
Despite hailing from a modest background, realizing these dreams posed a considerable challenge. His father, Mahammad Mistry, operated a small two-wheeler mechanic garage adjacent to a scrap shop. Additionally, Altap’s grandmother managed a petite tea stall within this interconnected trio of spaces—garage, tea stall, and scrap shop—that would eventually hold significant meaning in Mr. Shaikh’s life journey.
Speaking exclusively to Indian Masterminds, the protagonist here, Mr. Altap Mahammad Shaikh ICLS, narrated his life story, that is not lesser than any movie, with all its dramatic twists and turns.
THE TEA STALL
During his childhood, he frequently undertook the task of delivering tea to various establishments such as shops, beer bars, and offices. One particular destination for his tea deliveries was a pharmacy. The owner would arrange medicine strips or bottles in front of him, challenging young Altap to spell and read out the names—an early introduction to English.
In a subsequent 5th-grade test, he emerged as the class topper by scoring 49 out of 50 in English, earning recognition from his teacher, who inquired about his name for the first time. “Altap Mahammad Shaikh,” he confidently responded. That evening, filled with pride, he sprinted all the way home to share his English paper accomplishment with his father.
THE SCRAP SHOP
Adjacent to their modest garage, the scrap shop offered a treasure trove of discarded books—some torn, some unwanted, and some intact. Young Altap, whenever he found a moment, would sift through the pile, devouring the contents of these abandoned books with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Not confined to his school syllabus, he even completed a book on Ornithology, exploring subjects beyond the conventional curriculum.
In Class 9, he achieved a significant milestone by gaining admission to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, becoming the sole selection from his area. The accomplishment brought a stream of neighbors congratulating his family.
With newfound confidence, Altap excelled in his studies, securing impressive marks in both the 10th and 12th boards. Despite clearing AIEEE and earning admission to NIT, financial constraints prevented him from pursuing his engineering dreams. His family’s attempt to secure an education loan faced rejection due to his father’s occupation as a mechanic.
Left with only INR 30,000, Altap opted for admission in Biotechnology at a local college in Islampur, precisely matching the available funds. Though he relinquished his engineering aspirations, destiny was guiding him toward a different path.
While working part-time as a librarian at the college, he discovered a study group preparing for the Maharashtra state civil services exam. Despite facing rejection from the coaching class for non-payment of fees, Altap quietly left and turned to the library—a practice reminiscent of his days at the scrap shop. Sitting for the exam, he endured another setback after the bank incident. When the results were announced, only four students from his college had cleared, thanks to a change in the question paper pattern. Altap was among the successful candidates.
One day, as young Altap immersed himself in a book within his father’s garage, the district SP arrived to have his old two-wheeler repaired by Altap’s father. Observing the boy engrossed in reading, the SP remarked to the father, “I am impressed that instead of placing tools in your son’s hands, you have placed books.”
He proceeded to advise Altap to excel in his studies for a brighter future. Both Altap and his father took this counsel to heart. The SP, none other than Ashok Kamte, later attained martyrdom during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The words of this IPS officer echoed the sentiments of Altap and his father, reminiscent of their favorite movie ‘Wanted,’ where Salman Khan portrayed the role of an IPS officer. The dream that their son would one day become an officer, akin to the hero in ‘Wanted’ and real-life IPS officer Ashok Kamte, became a cherished aspiration for the father-son duo.
However, like every aspirant discovers along this journey, Altap faced the challenging nature of the UPSC process. Despite enduring repeated setbacks in the UPSC CSE, he never contemplated giving up. There were moments of profound despair, enough to make him contemplate abandoning life altogether. Yet, each time, he rebounded, driven by the last promise he made to his late father while he rested in his grave – “I promise to fulfill your dream of seeing me as a civil servant.”
Even with a stable job in the Intelligence Bureau, Altap continued to participate in UPSC Civil Services exams. After five failures, he succeeded on the sixth attempt, securing AIR 545 and being appointed to the Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS).
Today, Mr. Altap Mahammad Shaikh ICLS holds the position of Assistant Director (OT) in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, New Delhi. Seated at his official chair, he imparts a straightforward piece of advice to all UPSC aspirants: “Whenever you fail, just go back to the basics.”
Inspiring UPSC Stories (part) 6 FAQS
1. Who is Altap Shaikh, and what makes his UPSC journey unique?
Altap Shaikh is an individual from Maharashtra who faced and overcame significant challenges to secure AIR 545 in UPSC CSE 2020. His journey is characterized by perseverance, overcoming multiple failures, and finding inspiration in movie dialogues.
2. How many times did Altap Shaikh face failures in UPSC CSE?
Altap Shaikh faced four failures in Prelims and one failure in the interview before successfully securing AIR 545 in UPSC CSE 2020.
3. What were Altap Shaikh’s setbacks in other competitive exams?
Altap Shaikh experienced setbacks with three UPSC Assistant Commandant interviews, six Maharashtra state services Mains, and one UP PCS Mains.
4. How did movies influence Altap Shaikh’s journey?
Altap Shaikh, a dedicated movie buff, drew inspiration from his favorite movie dialogues during challenging times in his UPSC journey. Movies played a crucial role in helping him cope with failures and persisting toward his goal.
5. What is Altap Shaikh’s advice for UPSC aspirants?
Altap Shaikh, now an Assistant Director (OT) in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, advises UPSC aspirants to “Whenever you fail, just go back to the basics.”
6. How did Altap Shaikh’s background influence his aspirations?
Hailing from a modest background with a father operating a two-wheeler mechanic garage and a grandmother managing a tea stall, Altap Shaikh’s journey reflects the challenges he overcame to pursue his dreams.
7. What role did Altap Shaikh’s father play in his aspirations?
Altap Shaikh’s father, inspired by a movie where Salman Khan portrayed an IPS officer, envisioned his son following the path of the heroic officer, fostering a shared dream.
8. How did Altap Shaikh’s early education contribute to his journey?
Altap Shaikh’s early experiences, such as delivering tea and interacting with a pharmacy owner for English lessons, played a role in shaping his educational journey.
9. What challenges did Altap Shaikh face in pursuing higher education?
Despite securing admission to NIT, financial constraints prevented Altap Shaikh from pursuing engineering. He opted for Biotechnology in a local college, working part-time as a librarian.
10. How did Altap Shaikh approach his UPSC preparation after setbacks?
Altap Shaikh, despite having a stable job in the Intelligence Bureau, continued participating in UPSC Civil Services exams. He faced five failures before succeeding on the sixth attempt.
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