Determination and hard work combined sound like the perfect formula for success but for this woman of steel from West Bengal, the undying support from her parents became an integral part of her road to victory. Fighting the obstacles together, her dedicated parents dreamed her dream for her before she could.
Hailing from a 28 members strong conservative Marwari family in Bhadreswar, Hooghly district, Sweta managed to get past all the obstacles to clear IAS exams for the third consecutive time with the 19th rank in the country and became the state topper of West Bengal. Daughter of a grocer, she was also the first person to become an IAS officer from Bhadreswar.
To be able to serve the people of her country meant a lot to both Sweta and her parents. She was the only one from her city to have gained this opportunity. Her parents now wear pride and as she waits and hopes for a Bengal cadre in IAS to serve her roots.
Sweta begins her much-awaited journey
Sweta’s birth didn’t cause much delight to her family members who were desperate for a boy to be born. Her parents were urged to give birth to a boy, as patriarchial beliefs command that only boys carry the family business forward. But her parents were happy with their daughter and put all their efforts into her upbringing.
Sweta did her schooling from St. Joseph’s Convent as her parents wanted the best for her. They never got the chance to study in an English medium school but they didn’t want their daughter to struggle. “My parents had grown up with the inferiority complex of not being able to communicate in English, although I often told them it didn’t matter. They were adamant that I shouldn’t face the lack of opportunities they did. When the news that they wanted to admit me to Chandannagar’s St Joseph’s Convent spread within the family, they faced flak and had to fight back,” Sweta told The Better India.
Even in times of poverty, her father being a grocer who earns on the basis of daily wages, worked twice as hard to pay her monthly school fees of Rs. 165 which was a princely sum back in the day. In return, Sweta focused on her academics very seriously, making the most of the education she received.
Sweta always remembered this one instance from back when she was in the 12th grade. She was in a government office where she was made to wait pointlessly for her turn to arrive. She questioned their efficiency and declared that she would become the District Magistrate one day.
“As a child, I was extremely fascinated with the khakhi. The police station was hardly half a kilometre from my home in Bhadreswar. I remember looking up to khaki-donning officers and dreaming about wearing the uniform one day,” she recalled her childhood dream in a conversation with The Better India.
Her parents were now being coaxed by family members to get her married and were told that there was no point in educating her. Sweta left for Kolkata to study in St. Xavier’s College where she topped her class and got a degree in Economics. She went on to do her MBA after which she began working for an MNC, Deloitte India. She had promised her parents that she wouldn’t let them down and was sticking to her words.
However, her childhood dream was still etched on her mind. She quit work after 13 months and began preparations to fulfil her aim of becoming an IPS officer.
Sweta started studying for the UPSC exams, putting months of hard work into it. Though she didn’t clear in the first attempt, Sweta was sure that she could do better the next time. While she battled the competition and changing syllabus, her parents battled family pressures and high resistance against the kind of lifestyle they let their daughter have.
To those asking Sweta to settle, she would say, “I can get married after 32, but I won’t be eligible to write this exam after 32.”
In the next exam, Sweta ranked AIR 497 making her eligible for the post of Indian Revenue Service. She started studying from scratch again, this time securing an AIR 141 to the Indian Police Service. She fulfilled her dream but knew in her heart that she wanted to become an IAS officer.
Sweta Agarwal in her dream-wear
She began preparing for the third time, along with her hectic IPS training. The fortunate day came when she got the fruit of her hard work. She secured an AIR of 19 and topped in her state. She became the first person to be in the top 20 from West Bengal after a decade.
Her strong will and supporting parents helped prove to the society yet again that there is a lot to gain when you educate a girl. Despite struggling from financial woes themselves, her parents made sure that Sweta’s future was a golden one.