Cracking OJS: Interview with Sharon Bastia

For Today’s interview we have Sharon Bastia with us, who cracked Odisha Judicial Services 2019 in her first attempt. She lets us get a peek into her preparatory days and debunks the forever hustling judicial aspirant stereotype. In this candid interview, she tells us in great detail how she prepared for the exams as well as the mistakes she made, and the advice for every other aspirant out there! Enjoy!

Sharon Bastia

1. Congratulations on cracking the prestigious and much coveted judicial services! And thank you for your time! Would you mind introducing yourself for our readers?
Hello and Namaste to the future Judiciary Aspirants. At the outset, I would like to thank Puralika for giving me this opportunity to share my experience which I shall cherish forever while preparing for this prestigious exam.
I am Sharon Bastia, I have complete my 5 years B.A. LL.B (Hons.) Course from University Law College, Bhubaneswar and I am currently pursuing my LL.M degree from KIIT School of Law with Criminal and Security Law as my specialization. As far as my schooling is concerned I have changed almost 7 schools as my dad was a Bank Manager before he decided to settle in Bhubaneswar. I took up Science as my core subject during my 12th Standard as my father wanted me to be a doctor but I took up the career which my mother had wished for herself to pursue but couldn’t as she got married. But nothing gives me immense pleasure than to say this that, I am glad for hurting my dad’s aspirations because law is where my heart lies.
2. Before we get to the preparation part, I must ask the quintessential questions – why law?
I always grew up watching my maternal Grand Dad, who isn’t present amongst us anymore but I am sure would have been really proud, surrounded by books, and always glued to his chair with his specs on reading these fat colourless books. I once as a kid walked up to him and asked him what he was reading to which he replied that he was going through the Consitution of India and as a lawmaker how the constitution is the backbone of all the rules that governed us. As a young child, I couldn’t understand a thing he said back then but with the passion, he said those words did invoke a feeling of pride and passion that he loved his job as a legislator more than anything. I joined in law because I wanted to be an IPS officer but as I grew, I got intrigued by different facets of law and its application every passing day which diverted me to get into the Judiciary.
3. Why did you decide to prepare (read slog for thousands of hours) for judicial services when more lucrative options are available in today’s legal industry? Especially with the enhanced temptation of the corporate life?
Money and its charms are too materialistic, I believe and short-lived, it is the fame and your worth that would lead you to get peaceful sleep at night and make your life worth living. Every job has its shine and dims but it is the job satisfaction one seeks, for me being of service was always the ultimate motto of life, which is why corporate life never charmed me in the first place.
4. Having made up your mind when did you start preparing for OJS?
To be very frank and honest August 2019, when I completed my 5 years B.A. LL.B degree and was sitting clueless as I couldn’t crack CLAT 2019, was when my father and my best friend Aseem sat me down and reminded me of my goals of getting into Judiciary. However, during the 5 years of me being a law student, keeping my fundamentals clear and strong has definitely helped me a lot during my preparation. I can only say that the earlier you start the better it is but the first point would always be to ask yourself this question that “Are you really passionate about studying this Subject?” if the answer is “yes” half of your preparation is already done.
5. Do you believe coaching is essential for cracking the exam?
There is no harm in getting some extra help especially when you have no one to guide you whatsoever. But is it essential? NO
6. How did you go about your preparation? Is the age old formula of making notes – cramming – mock test still as good as gold?
So, I shall tell you a funny story here readers, and every word that I say is my reality. When I first filled up the OJS 2019 form I never had in my mind of getting through this exam this year because I knew I wasn’t following the “Requisite Extra Preparation” that one had to do to crack this exam because it is tough and has a huge pool of brilliant minds competing against you. So from the month of September, when I joined in my coaching till February all I did was going to coaching coming back reading what was taught there that’s all. Even that didn’t take more than 4 hours including the hours I spent in the Coaching class. Our Prelims exam was on the 2nd of February and I was unprepared as usual as I had set in my mind that this is an exam which I am giving as a “Trial Basis” or “1st Chance” which is why I had a pretty laid back attitude of just passing the exam by scoring 40 out of 100 marks which as per my calculation I wasn’t complying with. I was pretty sure of not getting through the 1st stage and was so shocked that I could even pass the Prelims with the bare minimum preparation of going through bare acts, to be completely honest I had not even solved the previous year’s questions or any mock tests per se. But the LL.M preparation and the coaching did surely help brush up my fundamentals. When I got the information that I had passed the 1st stage I thought that No m gonna work hard for the mains and give it my all. But corona happened and I started on my Procrastination Journey, ya would start from Monday for sure no the next month’s 1st day is when I am gonna make a complete U-turn in my life and start preparing. Truth be told, nothing of that sort happened and the D-day arrived I being unprepared as usual went and sat for the exam with the mindset that yeah “1st chance” this is just for the experience I would burn the papers the next time I give it. I genuinely had tears and utter disbelieve when I had cracked mains by not giving my 100% and just going through the previous year’s question paper, forming a strategy that I knew had the slightest chance of working out. For the final stage, I had my LL.M 1st-semester exams going on by the sides. On 25th February I had the same thought that this is a Trial exam but there was an added determination that this is Do or Die so I am gonna give it all. That’s what I did I gave it my all but even then I didn’t have the faith of getting through this exam because as usual, I thought I would do better the next time. Dear readers, Do not follow my path, have that faith and confidence in yourself to give it your all from the very beginning. Your attitude decides your winning chances and trust me your rank as well. The only regret I have to date is not having faith in myself from the very beginning which affected my Rank which I would not want my future colleagues to follow.
7. How did you remain consistent with your preparation during the entire period leading up to the final interview?
As narrated above that’s my entire story but yes I was consistent as far as it came to reading newspapers daily, being updated with the major case studies from the past 5 years, the legal happenings in and around the globe, etc. Even the year that I took off to prepare for CLAT LLM 2020 helped me a lot with my Judiciary preparation.
8. What was your reaction to the result?
SHOCK AND UTTER DISBELIEVE, because I knew that I had done pretty pretty bad in my Viva and not that good in my mains either. So yes, I went blank when my friends called in to congratulate me I genuinely asked the 1st caller “congratulations for what??”.
9. How did you memorise the sheer overwhelming amount of laws required for the exam?
There is a very simple trick that my dad had taught me which is to find out the key points and remember them which is easier to recall in exams than the entire sentence. Every section, article, Rule has a structure to it and has few key words know those key words remember them by making mnemonics, flow charts, tables, etc., and viola. You do not have to write the exact words of the bare act that is not what they are looking for in a candidate but it is the understanding of the law that they want to test.
10. One of the major things that aspirants spend a lot of time on is wondering how to start, where to start, what to do? Did you encounter this problem? If so, how did you solve it?
The day you set that this is what you want to do when everything ends that is enough motivation for you to start. The day you decided to be a law student that is the day you start, getting derailed few times here and it is absolutely fine but when you have set your heart on something no matter what your entire body would automatically function in achieving the same every single day, even without your express consent.
11. On a daily basis, how much time did you devote to the preparation?
1 hour of coaching, 1 hour of revising what was being taught in coaching, and 2 hours of self-study for 6 months that I was enrolled in the coaching institute. But before that for the past 5 years every single day for at least 1 hour, I would make sure I studied some aspect of law FOR FUN! This is why on the days I didn’t feel like studying, I would watch videos on Youtube dealing with some aspect of Law or read articles on various websites or read case studies. Once, everything got over that is my college and coaching I would invest at least 2 hours a day every day just to be in touch with the subjects, and on the days I was totally motivated to study I wouldn’t know when the entire day would pass by.
12. How did you unwind and rest after a long tiring day of studies?
Anyday I felt like studying was a burden I would call in a BREAK-FREE Day. Studying should be Fun not a task. A break shouldn’t have to be on weekends only, any day you feel like your mind and body needs a break take it. Go do what you would want to do. For me breaks always meant traveling to Puri or else eating Pizza and the best of it all SLEEPING.
13. How did you look after your health during the preparation period since there are many aspirants that keep falling ill during this strenuous period?
Health has never been an issue but yeah I have Examphobia (I hate Exams) so I would freak out like anything and take all the world’s stress on my shoulder before an exam which was something that now looking back could have easily been tackled by not procrastinating and meditating.
14. How did you make your notes? (If you did, that is)
I would not have the patience to sit and write notes for hours and then study them. Dive in and remember as you are studying has always worked out for me. So never made notes whatsoever.
15. Often those who prepare for competitive exams, quit technology and social media. What is your thoughts on this?
I did take a break from social media from 2019 to 2020 the entire period that I was preparing for Judiciary along with various other exams. I would say that has been one of the most peaceful phases of my life because I had contacts with all the people who genuinely mattered to me minus all the toxicity that social media throws at ur face which would make you feel so negative inside and would make you question as to what are you even doing with your life. I am anyways on and off of social media these days.
16. Would you like to give a parting message to aspirants?
To all my fellow aspirants. Enjoy this phase because this is the one phase that is completely under your control and this would decide if you can make it or break it. Consistency is the key which doesn’t mean u have to sit with law books every day for a certain period of time thinking it’s a task, be innovative when it comes to learning new things and happenings around the world. Last but not the least fall in love with the subject, it is enough driving force to help you get out of bed every single day and strive to achieve your goals.

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