Review of Once upon an IAS exam


Vishy’s worst nightmare-failing the UPSC’s Civil Services exam-has come true. He is plagued by insecurity, fear and doubts. The mother of all competitive examinations has rejected him and he needs a reason to live. So, what does he do? He tells his best friend Rithika, ‘I love you. Will you marry me?’

In Once Upon an IAS Exam, twenty-five-year-old Vishy tries to overcome the uncertainty and confusion about his future and figure out ways of convincing Rithika to marry him. Things turn even more interesting, funny and emotional as Vishy reattempts to conquer ‘Mount IAS’. As he tries to take his academic and love life towards safety, he seeks refuge in the world of IAS coaching centres.

Set in the bustling Civil Services exam coaching hub of Anna Nagar in Chennai, this book is a hilarious account of the actuality, stress and struggle faced by millions of candidates who prepare year after year for one of India’s toughest exams. Join Vishy as he sets out to prove his mettle to the world-and himself. Will Rithika accept the love of her best friend? Will Vishy overcome his sense of failure? Will there be a happily ever after?


Once upon an IAS exam is a hilarious, motivating read by Dr. Vijayakarthikeyan. It tells us the struggles of a UPSC exam aspirant and the hardships they go through to achieve success. The protagonist Vishy alias Vishwanathan is introduced as a person who is in serious search hunt for a good UPSC coaching center after having flunked the prelims. He goes about the streets of Annanagar,one by one of each coaching center and finally settles to getting admitted to one- Great minds run by husband and wife duo Geetha and Natarajan.

They are themselves staffs who handle one of the optional subjects in the coaching center. He also confesses his feeling to his long time BFF from school Rithika. Rithika is a typical girl next door kind of character, who seeks a time out to think of and decide if she’s in love with him. They part ways and continue with their own life. Time and again their thoughts cross each other but respect each other’s privacy and understand their primary goal and stay away. Rithika took up the usual job in one of the top MNCs in the city.

Vishy became friends with Vinod and Ashok who are also IAS aspirants from the same coaching center. Ashok and Vinod stay in the hostel sharing room, which is primarily a storehouse for their books and they actually spend a lot of time in terrace. All three spend a great deal of time with each other having fun and also study together. Vinod is love with Neena from the neighboring coaching center which is at arm’s reach from their classrooms. After constant support and courage from Vishy and Ashok , Vinod finally opens up his feelings in a hilarious and silly way to Neena

Rithika, on the other hand has a bunch of friends- Sid, badri, harini and dharini who makes her workplace fun. There comes a corporate singing competition where in all of them except Sid participate. It’s also the time Vishy loses track of where he kept his hall ticket for UPSC prelims. Rithika though is one of the finalists for the competition leaves it and makes sure she finds his hall ticket and helps him reach the examination venue with peaceful mind. Rithika not only stops here but also does another wonder, which takes everyone by surprise. At one point where everyone is cursing her, she blurts out the surprise leaving everyone awestruck.

It becomes a ritual that Vishy’s father unknowingly gets hurt every time before his exam and which proves successful for him, that is something like a lucky charm. What his father does when he is about to turn up for an interview is a wonderful gesture.

The book has its elements of humor, pace, seriousness, friendship, bromance, romance and perseverance being portrayed in a beautiful manner. The characterization of everyone including the protagonist is etched to perfection. Vishy would now stand as an inspiration of person who had never ending belief to achieve success. Ashok, never shows out that he is the son of business magnet, leads a simple life and also aspires to clear UPSC. Babu(you will know once you read) will definitely be a role model for every UPSC aspirant.

The writing style is crisp and clear and couldn’t find any mistakes in editing. The author has made the serious subject of clearing UPSC a wonderful read by mixing elements of romance and humor in it.


  • Paperback:142 pages
  • Publisher:Rupa Publications India (20 October 2018)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:9353045959
  • ISBN-13:978-9353045951


Cover: 3.5/5

Title: 4/5

plot: 4/5

Writing and Presentation: 4/5

Overall: 4/5


The author is the current Commissioner of Coimbatore Corporation, who has drawn from his experiences of becoming a civil servant. He has authored three Tamil bestsellers, Ettum Dhoorathil IAS, Adhuvum Idhuvum and Orey Kallil 13 Maangai.