CSA- Civil Services Academy, the dreamland for so many of the nation- certainly lives up to the mark and more. As I start jotting down my thoughts into words, here in Serena, Quetta, on my Country Study Tour, I think back to the time when I was on a scavenger hunt for any information regarding the life that awaits us at CSA. To be quite truthful, I did not find anything more than what any previous commoner would tell you if you gave them a total of two minutes to explain their experience at CSA. You will find words like tedious, tough, busy, over-worked, under-pressure, boring, and to my great astonishment, some went on to say “Monotonous”. Nonetheless, this article is to bring forth the fact that life at CSA is anything but all that. You might also find that the official site mentions something on the lines of “the campus offers sports facilities, clubs to polish the hobbies of the probationers, and various chances to polish their skills”. These lines, I’m dreadfully sorry to say, are not enough to capture or to portray the zealous level of activities and energy when on campus. Now as we wait for this beautiful experience to end, as we wait for the last 15 days to unfold, I am compelled to tell all the new comers, what people won’t tell them about CSA; and also to appreciate the effort put in by the entire administration, the management, the faculty, and all other members of the campus, to bring to life, an unforgettable experience.
Where should I start from; the first ever thing that took me by surprise was the vastness of the campus, the beauty of it, and sure we had read all about it on the official site of CSA but since when does an official site do justice to such things. The whole campus is an expert combination of greenery, buildings, lawns, and flowers. Since the academy starts somewhere in mid-October, the probationary officers get to witness nearly all of the seasons. Be warned that it is the campus that you will fall in love with at first site. Be it a glorious sunny day, a foggy night, an afternoon filled with rain, the campus will present a picturesque image of absolute and enthralling beauty. Taking longs walks, running along paths, walking to and fro, will be a charm in itself.
Before moving onto the less obvious things, let me first divulge information about the more obvious facilities, things that are mentioned but not defined properly. When entering from the gate, the big green board that says CIVIL SERVICES ACADEMY over whelms you every single time; the guards at the gates will eventually start recognizing you and will pay their regards, strengthening the feeling of belonging even more. The parking lot reserved for the vehicles of the probationary officers is what you see next along with a massive, lush green ground, and buildings that house the male probationary officers. There is a long path that then leads to the academic block and the library. The Jinnah Auditorium and Café 24 will fall on the way and so will Mehran hostel, and again, vast lawns. Beyond the academic block lie the mess and the housing facilities for the female probationary officers conventionally known as Fatima House, standing right next to the library, pathways to which remain lit till 11 p.m daily. You will initially get lost specially if you are a female since the female lodges are at the very end of the campus which spans a total of 64 acres but it will not take more than two weeks for you to know you way around.
There are things that you will hear your seniors whining about, like the discipline, the rules, the timings, the curfew, and all. Remember that it is your own option whether too look at the silver lining or the dark cloud. Yes there is discipline, but when more than 200 people follow the same rules, how tough can it be. Yes there are timings, and the “scary” bio-metric machines, and yes we were expected to be on time, and yes we were marked late for even a second beyond the notified time BUT it was not as bad as it sounds. It was, more often than not, fun to watch people rushing to the biometric machines and hearing the machines say “Thank you”! There are days when you would most likely retort by saying “You are not welcome” but these are very few I assure you. The day you see a probationary officer running to the machine and nearly falling on their face to make it on time, it will all be worth it.
The environment inside the classrooms is another thing altogether. The one thing that stands true and is given as advice to all the new comers is that if you listen during classes and take down notes, you will NOT need to cram before the exams. During classes, and in every sub-group, there are students who are very witty and would remark at the slightest of things. Once your group dynamics are up and running, there will be mockery (which is not limited to the officers), there will jokes, and then some sleeping. You might find an occasional paper ball falling on your head or whizzing past your face but come on, who says we are all born mature, right?
As for groups and sports, the whole batch is divided into four groups and there are inter group sports and group activities and before you know it, these will drown you so that you have absolutely no time left for yourself. Inter-group games are egged on by supporters from both the participating houses with their respective Additional directors cheering on. You will find probationers hooting and shouting slogans, an occasional officer would be busy photographing the event although an official photographer would always be there. Then there are Barbeques, held within the groups in the football courts. The mess steward and staff offer their services most graciously for this purpose and throughout CTP there will be one party after another. There will be academic group diners and barbeques; there will be occupational group diners, diners by seniors, diners for the seniors, parties to celebrate the winners of the inter-group competitions and so much more. These parties carry on till late at night and the next day, everyone is dressed up and ready for classes at 8:30 in the morning. The administrative staff will never stop the probationers from having their parties rather they would gladly grace the occasions when invited.
The parties do not stop here, not until I tell you all what goes on in Café 24. This pretty little cozy café was a gift by a senior batch to the campus and it houses a cafeteria that will offer a wide variety of stuff throughout the term. Most of the informal gatherings and birthday parties are held here. This café is totally on the mercy of the probationers to use as they please. Let me warn you yet again, especially those who think that CSA is boring; there will be nights when you will have a birthday invite for Café 24, a barbeque invite in the football court, and a rehearsal deadline for which you need to visit the auditorium, ALL AT THE SAME TIME! So to say that CSA is not boring is an understatement.
Since I have taken the liberty to mention the Jinnah Auditorium let me take this opportunity to further elaborate how the hall is used. There will be various guest speakers who would lecture all in the hall we love to call “the Audi”, the syndicate presentations would be held there, the debate style speaking would be held there. Before I move onto the less academic uses of the Audi let me tell you that all of the sessions I mentioned above are not as monotonous as they sound. There is a series of good lectures, depending on an individuals’ interests, there is a series of embarrassing comments that probationary officers endure when the syndicate research reports are not up to the mark followed with an uproar of laughter from fellow dignified batch mates adding spice to the situation, then there are biases during the debate style competitions where each house stands for its own member despite many efforts by the faculty to ensure a non-biased voting system, and so it goes on and on. As for the non-academic part of the use of the Audi; it is used as the venue for most of the club activities, as a rehearsal ground for the cultural nights during which the Audi is made available to the officers for as long as 4 in the morning at times, so that the practice sessions can go on. The energy and activity is worth witnessing. During the practice sessions, some of the officers simply sit and watch the rehearsals proceed and enjoy with comments and retorts for various acts and dramas taking place. Last but not the least, the Audi is converted into a movie theater on the weekend when a movie of the probationers choice is screened, converting the same lecture hall into a dark and peaceful movie theater.
I am sure that by now it is more than evident that campus life has so much to offer to young probationary officers than is accepted and promoted especially by the seniors. When I was to join the academy as a probationer, there was so much more I wanted to know and now I am thankful and I feel blessed that I have this awesome opportunity to share my experience. This brings me to the club activities that I mentioned a while ago. Club activities are something that will cater to individuals’ creativity, choice, potential, hobbies, and interests to the peek. What I mean is that once you get into a club of your choice, you will be given complete freedom to try out your skills to the best of your abilities. The administration will let you arrange functions and exhibitions, whatever maybe applicable to the sort of group that you are in. Since there is a best club of the year award to be given out at the passing out ceremony, a lot of competition is observed amongst the various clubs, each trying to out-do the other and nonetheless its total entertainment for the probationary officers as well as the campus staff! Since I myself am a member of the Music club, can say from personal experience that I was allowed to be as creative as possible and I am really thankful to our club instructor and the higher administration for this!
Hostel life at the campus is a whole other thing that one can be proud off. I had never been in a hostel before and I must admit that I was dreading the thought initially from what I had heard of hostel life but my experience here at CSA was anything but that. The hostel rooms are well furnished and the officers are provided for. The rooms are made before the officers return from the classes, they are cleaned and dusted, the officers are provided with the facilities of getting their clothes ironed and washed regularly without charge, attendants in the hostels will help the probationers in every way possible. They will get snacks and tea from the café whenever needed, the café which stays open till midnight daily. Actually, a warm cup of tea after a day of lectures in the comfort of your clean room is something to look forward to everyday. And some might say that I am overstating or perhaps exaggerating the experience, but as God is my witness, I state everything as is! Our juniors have the right to know that they are treated and cared for in a brilliant manner all thanks to the administration, the respected Director, and the respected Director General (DG).
Before I move onto the AD’s and the higher administrative staff, I would like to shed some light on the academic part of the academy. For those who think that they won’t have to study at all during their stay at the academy, well they are mistaken because as much as we would like for that to be true, it is not. All the probationary officers certainly have to study, and the workload can sometimes get to you, I totally admit, BUT, whether its spot tests, mid-terms examinations, report deadlines, syndicate work, or the frightful final exams, the sight that might get to you in a good way will be that of study groups spread out throughout the campus. There will be study groups in the café, in various rooms of the library, in the academic block after the library closes, in the grounds, on the stairs of the library, the cafeteria sit-out, etc. Trust me, when you see everyone on campus involved in the same ordeal, it will actually seem amusing and nice, if you will. Where in universities a part of the students have exams while a part of them are busy in other activities, here on campus you will find all of the probationary officers going over the same activity, and therefore it does not seem so tough.
Last but certainly not the least, before coming to the academy for training, I was told that there are Additional Directors assigned to each group, and that everything needs to be done keeping the AD in loop even if it means leaving campus. The impression that I got was that they are the strict, over-bearing, micro-managing, professor sorts! Again, my experience begs to differ- my experience is actually on its knees to differ! The AD’s are like senior helpful members of one’s family who will guide you throughout your stay at the academy and if you are lucky, even after that. We were lucky to have Sir Hamid Attique, Sir Khuwaja Khurram, Sir Kamran Ahmed, and Sir Khalid Javed as AD’s of the four academic groups. They were all equally accommodating and helpful, providing guidance every step of the way, listening to the sorrows and worries, and resolving all sorts of issues for the officers when required.
You will get a similar impression of the Director and the Director General before coming here, so you have the right to know, that the Director and the DG have the best interests of the officers at heart. If they are strict, it is to polish us, if they form rules, it is to discipline us, and if they test our endurance levels, it is to our benefit only. You can take my word on this that these seniors have nothing personal to gain from all of this, and if the probationary officers show good behavior, they are awarded most generously, which speaks of nothing but the goodness of their heart. For this and so much more I would take this moment to thank the worthy Director Mr. Shahid Gul Qureshi, and the respected Director General, Mr. Khalid Sultan on behalf of the 40th Common!
Before I end this article, I would like to say that there will be days when you might have a synopsis deadline, syndicate work to submit, a current issue presentation, and a mid-night field report deadline, along with a sports match in the afternoon, and a club function to host at night, all in the same day; there might be days when you won’t be able to have a life outside campus at all; there will be weeks of back to back activities which will leave you managing by the hour instead of planning for the whole month, but at the end, all you will feel is nostalgia, for leaving a place that has given you so much. You will miss everything, the officers gathering for tea in the mess every day, the clattering of cutlery at lunch, and the low hum of conversation at diner every night! You will miss the hustle bustle, the crowd, the notice boards which keep attracting you with all sorts of news all around the clock, and you will miss you class rooms, in short, every single day, and every single experience will be missed! So cherish it and look forward to it, as much as you can, be proud of it and remember that there are millions who will be ready to sacrifice anything to be in your place, and lastly, enjoy – because it certainly is a once in a life time chance!
As long as we have memories, yesterday remains. As long as we have hopes, tomorrow awaits. As long as we have friendship, each day is never a waste.