Sriram was on duty at the Intensive Care Unit of SCB Medical College at Cuttack in Orissa when he received the good news. The 26-year-old from Kochi had secured the second rank in the all-India Civil Services examinations. Sriram V., studying for his MD in General Medicine at the college, called up his father to convey the news and went back to work.

At his home ‘Krishnalayam’ at Rama Iyer Colony near Ernakulam South, a crowd of visitors gathered to congratulate Sriram’s proud parents on their son’s achievement. Neighbours who came out of their houses to see what the commotion was about, broke into smiles when they heard that the boy next door had brought a coveted Civil Services rank to Kerala.

“He was always a good student,” says Sriram’s mother Rajam, who works at the State Bank of India at Vyttila. “It’s not that he secured ranks when he was at school. But he always got good marks and was determined about his studies,” she says. Sriram is also a basketball player and played for the team at Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir, Girinagar, and Government Medical College at Thiruvananthapuram, where he did his MBBS.

The topper’s father P.R. Venkitarman puts his son’s success down to his method of preparation. “He told us after the interview that he’d performed well. So, we knew he would get a rank. But this is even beyond our expectations,” says Mr. Venkitaraman, a retired zoology professor of St. Albert’s College in Ernakulam..

Sriram first became interested in the Civil Services when he was doing his MBBS house surgeoncy. “Some of my friends were preparing for the Civil Services and I also became interested,” says Sriram. “I joined the Civil Services Academy at Thiruvananthapuram. I didn’t make it the first time I wrote the exam. This was my second attempt.” Some of Sriram’s friends who prepared with him have also cleared the examinations. Haritha, the examination topper from Thiruvananthapuram, is an acquaintance of his.

“Many people who study medicine become restricted to cities. I see this as a way to see the other side of the country as well,” says Sriram.

Mr. Venkitaraman, who now conducts career guidance counselling for students, also sees his son’s achievement as the beginning of a good trend for Kerala. ]

“I’ve seen students from different States during counselling. Students from Kerala are the most brilliant among them. What they lack is confidence. There is this great fear that the Civil Services exams are an unattainable dream. But we have three top ranks this time. That should motivate others from the State,” he says. Sriram’s achievement, he believes, is down to his systematic preparation. “He didn’t even go for coaching before his second try.”

Sriram, in fact, is an avid movie-goer. “He has to see every film on the first day itself. He was saying the other day that he misses many Malayalam movies when he is in Cuttack,” says his mother Rajam, a Mammootty fan just like her son.

Another topper

Muvattupuzha resident Alby John Varghese gave Ernakulam district another reason to celebrate when he secured the fourth rank in the civil services examination. The rank came as a birthday gift for Alby, who turns 25 on Saturday.

The son of John Varghese, a farmer from Muvattupuzha, and Salome Varghese, Alby is a doctor at the Primary Healthcare Centre at Kunnukara near Paravur.

By clearing the Civil Services test in his first attempt, Alby fulfilled a childhood dream of his to make it to the services.

He completed his schooling from St. Thomas Higher Secondary School at Pala and studied medicine at Jubilee Mission Medical College, Thrissur.

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