The civil services exams are considered to be most challenging. Indians have been trying to crack it for the past over hundred years. Success in these exams ensures that the aspirant gets a secure job with the Government and also enormous respect in the society. The power and influence enjoyed by civil servants have been legendary. A number of good civil servants continue to be remembered by the people of our country. Earlier the Indian Administrative Service was known as the Indian Civil Service and horse riding was part of the curriculum.
The English ushered in the civil services in India and they made it open to the natives too! A number of youngsters worked hard to clear the exams and many of successful ones served the country in a big way. Most of the ICS officers were honest and did not indulge in corruption. A number of English ICS officials are remembered with respect in Coimbatore. One senior ICS officer Morris continues to be remembered as Morris Gounder in Coimbatore. The former Chief Secretary of Coimbatore Sabanayagam interned under Morris in Coimbatore. One senior ICS officer V.Ramakrishna who had served in the southern districts of Tamilnadu became a very big industrialist later in his life by establishing the KCP group of companies. Some of the ICS officers became Diwans of Native States before independence and did yeoman service during their tenure. A number of Native rulers like the Gaekwad of Baroda sponsored the education of a number of ICS toppers.
The Western Tamilnadu region produced a remarkable ICS officer those days. S.G.Sengodayan ICS was the intelligent officer who was snatched away by the cruel hand of destiny even while he was in his thirties during the year 1934. S.G.Sengodayan ICS was the son in law of the famous freedom fighter V.C.Palaniswamy Gounder of Vellakinaru and he was very well known to Sir Chinthamani Deshmukh who happened to be the Finance Minister and also the Chairman of the University Grants Commission. He probably knew the Marshal and Pigeon cover to cover. Its fascinating to learn that he reached Cambridge from a rustic village in the Coimbatore region over eighty years ago.
S.G.Sengodayan decided to do ICS even as a boy and his steely grit made him the School Board examination topper in the whole of the Presidency . His credentials secured him a scholarship at the Presidency College and he stood first in Mathematics in the Presidency and received one more honour in the form of the Stuart and Marsh prize. He was perhaps the only one to secure this distinction and this helped him get admitted into the prestigious Cambridge University.
The bright youngster joined the Emmanuel College and won several laurels at Cambridge. However he was a very humble gentleman who put his success at the feet of God. Sengodayan was conferred a rare honour - A Wrangler B Star by the Cambridge University. He even stood first in his Mathematics Tripos. He secured a rank in the ICS examination and was awarded the Bhavnagar Medal. The exam was in fact cleared by him within a record period of nine months ! Sengodayan was a workaholic and worked overtime all his life. The father of the reform movement, E.V.R.Periyar accorded a reception to Sengodayan on his return to India. He made a mark as an administrator due to his honesty and capability. Sengodayan despised corruption and while serving at Narasapur as Sub Collector for over four years he secured homes for the poor. The place came to be known as Sengodayanpettah. Unfortunately Sengodayan died very young and the famous biographer Nilkan Perumal had in fact mentioned that the whole circle of bureaucrats and leaders mourned his passing away. They felt that it was a vacuum which could never be filled. Sengodayan may have excelled in many ways and would have become the most respected and decorated civil servant in India.
The life and times of S.G.Sengodayan will continue to motivate aspirants who wish to take up the civil services examination in not only Coimbatore but the rest of the country as well.