The Labels I Live With For Choosing History Over Engineering

Posted by Praveen Kumar in #BHL, My Story
October 13, 2017
Editor's note: This post is a part of #BHL, a campaign by BBC Media Action and Youth Ki Awaaz to redefine and own the label of what a 'bigda hua ladka or ladki' really is. If you believe in making your own choices and smashing this stereotype, share your story.

Among the many motivational quotes swarming over the internet, you’ll often find this one: “If everyone likes you, you are doing something wrong.” I didn’t quite understand this until a few years ago. I used to think, how could being liked by everyone be wrong? But as I found out later, it is indeed wrong.

Growing up, I was the perfect kid every parent wished for. I kept to my studies, topped my classes, never ever took up anything that would cause even the slightest of discomfort to me or my parents. I really thought I was perfect and all the people different from me were simply not ‘good’.

Growing up, I was the perfect kid.

So by the time I was ready for college, I was long overdue for a reality check. It didn’t take long for me to realise that my quest to be ‘nice and perfect’ had thrown me out of sync with the world. I realised, sadly, that at the stage where I was, I wasn’t enough. Therefore, I decided to change, and made some decisions that were in clear contrast with the pattern of decisions expected of me.

A couple of months before my higher secondary exams, I decided not to apply for engineering entrance exams. It was the first decision where I deviated from what I was expected to do.

It was no surprise when everyone around me reacted as if their world had come crashing down. They tried everything from emotional blackmail to open rage, but I stood my ground. The way I see it, they had an idea of a ‘life’ already decided for me, one where I was happily settled and earning enough. When they realised that my decisions were veering away from that version, they believed that I was spoilt, reckless.

It was also the decision that spawned a chain of events that led to me being labelled a ‘Bigda Hua Ladka‘.

Later, I chose History as my graduation subject and entered Delhi University with nothing more than loads of accumulated academic information. What I saw here was astonishing. I saw students doing things that I didn’t even know of. People here organised events, acted in street plays, volunteered with organisations – and studying seemed like the last thing on their minds.

At first, I was slightly scared. Then I reasoned that cramming up three more years of knowledge won’t get me anywhere, so I might as well try to be something more.

I joined some societies and started observing how these work. I learned from every opportunity that I got. A few months later, college felt like home. As I pushed myself more, my beliefs underwent a transformation. I no longer believed that cramming up books was the sole purpose of education. So my parents didn’t find me hunched over a book all day. I also became aware of the prevalent casual sexism around us, so when someone at home made any comments that I found disturbing, I questioned them. All of this combined to make me the quintessential Bigda Hua Ladka to my parents.

What turned out to be the most difficult part of this phase was not learning new things, but coping with the change in the attitude of others toward me. As I started staying late in college for meetings or preparations, people began to worry that this all meant that I had gone “out of hand”. My parents also believed them at first. Why was I not studying the whole day like I used to? And suddenly, there were a lot of raised voices, heated arguments and slammed doors at home.

All this time, I wondered how it could be wrong to want to grow in life, to want to develop myself. For all I know, the time I spent in college made me able to do many things later. But it was disheartening to see people trying to judge me instead of understanding me.

So what I learnt from all of this is that not everyone will understand you, but it’s important that you understand what you are trying to do. I’ve been called arrogant, selfish, Bigda Hua and many similar beautiful names in my life, simply for choosing to do what I want to. But in retrospect, I see them as an inevitable part of my growth. Facing all that gave me the strength to stand up for myself.

So to everyone who is out there trying to stand up for themselves, I just want to say that labels don’t define you, they define the people who label you. If you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, then go right ahead. Don’t worry about what others are saying. Wear the labels like badges of honour.

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