Busted: The Curious Case of a UPSC Topper 

Isn’t it quite telling that Kanishak’s girlfriend created more buzz than his UPSC score?

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UPSC 2019 topper Kanishak Kataria.
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The grand alchemy of things has been shaken out of slumber – if not changed – since UPSC topper Kanishak Kataria’s big revelation that he has a girlfriend. Of course, he did not mean for it to be a revelatory leak that would ironically dent the status-quo even in 2019, but you know, c’est la vie ! Kanishak – quite innocuously – thanked his girlfriend, along with his family, after receiving news of his score, and, clearly, we weren’t ready for the whiplash injury that followed.

We’re Indians. Shush. We don’t date.

Okay, we do. But it is noiseless, soundless, and meant to be kept a secret. Till we tie the knot and orchestrate a story about the ‘arrangement’. Think of it –our dating scene was so repressed, even a few years back, that Orkut proved to be the booty call everyone needed.

Anyway, back to our UPSC topper. Kanishak would’t have any of that. No sooner had the boy spoken than the echoes buzzed through our floorboards, the surrogate dahlias – that substitute sex on our screens – wilted with despair, and parental advisories grappled in the dark.

The paragon of academic excellence – a goddamn UPSC topper – had debunked an age-old socio-cultural myth set in stone: Romance is a distraction. 
Kataria with family. 
Kataria with family. 
(Photo: Twitter) 

I once had an animated young fellow summing up – what was definitely his life’s worst decision – the need to keep students away from dating. “Romance leads you astray at that age. Scores over who*es,” he had remarked with a smug smile.

Scores over wh*res.

Leave alone the stench of misogyny – I mean, we had playwrights back in the 15th century saying s**t like, “Oh, woman, perfect woman! what distraction, Was meant to mankind when thou wast made a devil!” – what a terrible way to raise oneself with such a dictum.

Dare I unpack that? What we’re telling kids is this: You are not above your animal instincts , your fuzzy feelings, or your burning loins, so here’s the quick-fix – Prioritise. Scores first, always.

Now, imagine the trajectory that carves itself out, courtesy the 'prioritisation'? Once you’ve aced those tests, brandished those scores, you are free – as an adult – to mess up dates, sexual encounters, and relationships, because, guess what? You weren’t given a chance to learn early on.

It is bizarre how dating and academic excellence are mutually exclusive in the average Indian household.

If there is anyone who gets to play a supporting role in your dreams, it is your self-abnegating mother/mother figure and your favourite S.O.S call – the higher powers that be.

And, mind you, academic success is mostly formulaic.


You are supposed to work hard, not work smart. (That’s for shirkers. Add copious amounts of a milk-based beverage – that burns the night oil along with you – and sappy anecdotes of groggy-eyed all-nighters that kept you inspired. Bam. You've got a success speech that is a tear-jerker.)

But wait…

Kanishak Kataria had no figs to give.

Not only did he legitimise the presence of an unmarried young lady in his life, but also credited her for his success. A woman – historically crowned the 'seductress' – was elevated to the role of an intellectual stimulant.

Can our social compartments bear such upheaval?

If it isn't already telling that Kanishak’s girlfriend created more buzz than his UPSC score – in a world supposedly teetering on the edge of the fourth wave of feminism – what is more disturbing is the humour threaded craftily at the couple’s expense.

None of this dilutes the UPSC topper's hefty blow to fossilised ideas, though. The adarsh balak is being set free – you just gotta wait now for the adarsh balika to mention her boyfriend while thanking the familial clan. That's definitely going to be a tough – but one can dream!

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