On December 29, 2023, the highly acclaimed movie “12th Fail” was released on an OTT platform. The film was directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and starred Vikrant Massey, and it has since gained a large following. In fact, within three days of its release on OTT, it became the most-watched film on the platform. Interestingly, the character played by Massey in the movie is inspired by a real-life person. He is Manoj Kumar Sharma, a Police officer from Maharashtra cadre.
From driving a tempo to walking dogs for the rich in Delhi to sleeping on the streets, He has seen it all and yet, his will and perseverance never left him. He went on to clear India’s coveted examination, The Union Public Service Commission, and realised his dream of wearing the uniform with stars on his shoulders.
Manoj Kumar Sharma, despite initial failures, attempted the UPSC exam four times. Although the first three attempts did not bring him success, he emerged victorious in the fourth attempt, securing an impressive All-India Rank of 121. Currently, he serves as an Additional Commissioner in the Mumbai Police.
Born in 1977, in a small village in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh, Manoj’s father was employed in the Department of Agriculture. Manoj’s family had financial constraints from the beginning as his father was a lower-level employee, and their family fell into the lower income group category. A setback came when his father was fired from the job for not getting involved in corruption by the local MLA.
Manoj was not very bright academically, earning a third division in classes 9th & 10th, failing all subjects in class 12th as he could not cheat in the exams where he had his first encounter with a gazetted Police officer, which inspired him to prepare for the coveted civil services.
Manoj recalls the incident in which his school teachers helped them cheat and write all the solutions on the blackboard for them. However, during his 12th board examinations, the Deputy Superintendent of Police reached his school, and the teachers could not do anything but stand blankly, just like the clueless students who hoped they would just get all the answers and pass. This encounter with the DSP had a profound impact on Manoj, who was in awe of the officer and his power in front of whom even the teachers couldn’t utter a word. He decided to become an officer one day. He failed the exams that year but attempted the exams with good preparation the next year and passed. After school, Sharma graduated from Maharani Laxmi Bai Government College of Excellence with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hindi.
He decided to move to Gwalior to prepare for the state civil services, for which his Grandmother gave him all the savings she had, Two rupees, which he took and happily sat on a bus to Gwalior. However, fate had something else planned for him and his bag was stolen while he fell asleep on the journey.
Upon reaching Gwalior, he had nothing. Manoj went hungry for days outside a restaurant; one day, he just asked the owner to let him eat without paying. A young aspirant, Anurag Pandey, was observing him, offered him food and shelter, and helped him in every possible way. They became friends gradually. The exam they were preparing for was cancelled for 2-3 years, and Pandey decided to move to Delhi. Manoj asked Pandey to take him with him and promised to pay him back the money for the ticket once he started earning.
After reaching Delhi, Manoj started working part-time along with his preparation, where he worked as a librarian and flour mill worker. While working at a library in Delhi, Manoj read biographies of individuals such as Gorky, Lincoln, and Muktbodh. These books gave him a deep understanding of life and furthered his determination.
He failed the first three attempts and lost his Grandmother around the same time. These were tough times that tested his will and determination. Manoj’s never-give-up attitude helped him cross all the hurdles in his path, and he kept fighting for his dream and eventually succeeded in his fourth attempt with an All India Rank (AIR) of 121.
Manoj’s story was published in Anurag Pathak’s book titled “12th Fail”, which earned the praise of thousands of youngsters and became a ray of hope and resilience for many aspirants who dream of making big in life. His story is not just an inspiration for the aspirants but for all those who believe in the beauty of their dreams and face challenges head-on, no matter what life throws at them.
Manoj’s life is his message. He has shown us the power of hard work and dedication in achieving our goals. His story stands witness to the idea that success is not just about talent or luck but also about the willingness to work hard and never give up.