Like every other Indian teenager, I had also determined or at least I had tried to determine my career path a couple of years before starting college. I joined the ‘right’ coaching centre, took the required tests, studied for hours, managed my school and boards prep on the side, spoke to the right people, and convinced myself, every day that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I wanted a stable, high paying, respectable, and powerful profession so that I could survive and thrive in this society. Being the only daughter, I was under constant pressure to outperform others; that would enable me to have a safe, financially secure future, which would enable me to be financially stable enough to fend for myself when I grow up.
And I believed it to be the right thing, considering the fact that the society I live in has always expected more from women; they have been required to be above average (in all ways), to fight even for smaller privileges. We have been required to outshine to get mere recognition.
Transitioning from my social commentary to facts, to cut it short, I wanted to do law (or at least I thought I wanted to do it). The plan was pretty simple: I would study for two years, crack my law entrance, get into a nice, top-tier law college, study for five years there, then do my specialisation from some high-end university abroad, and settle for a renowned law firm. I would have financial security, wealth and respect. It all sounded perfect in my head, and in the opinions of all my relatives.
That was until I realised it was not as perfect as I thought.
Initially, studying law felt good. The debates were healthy, the arguments were strong; the competition was rigorous. I could almost convince myself that I was enjoying it, loving it – that it was my thing to do.
But, soon, the paradise of its novelty ended. One month in and I already wanted out. I realised, that even if I loved debating, discussing and deliberating over laws and other social issues, law was not the way I wanted to go about it. I realised that I wanted to bring a change through a more subtle and emotional approach; one that would enable and entail a direct connection with the people, where I’d be able to see and experience the change first hand. Academic essays, research papers and citations were not my way of reaching out to people. I loved stories and experiences and philosophies; and through them, I wanted to contribute to this world.
Whenever I would work on assignments, I would realise that spending hours on reading judgments was not my way of reaching out to others. I was looking for experiences. And, finally, when I came to the conclusion that it was literature that I wanted to read, and novels that I wanted to write, so that I could touch people in the most abstract, yet in the most powerful way – the delusions of perfection broke, and I started doubting my ‘perfect’ plan.
I did not want to do law, and I wanted to study literature, or something just as creative, that was all the clarity I had. However, it was not an easy decision to make, especially in a country like India, due to various reasons. I have listed the major reasons below.
Law is one of the most expensive courses after medical and engineering courses. Add the coaching fees and it becomes a huge investment which you wouldn’t want it to go waste. At an average NLU (National Law University) you’ll have to pay somewhere around 1.5 lakhs to 2 lakhs, which is four times the fees of any other language or non-professional course in a government college. One is highly reluctant to back out after investing so much into a professional course, something which applies to all other professional courses, like medical and engineering.
Even if there’s been a considerable increase in enrolment figures in liberal arts courses, there’s a lot that needs to change when it comes to the attitude towards liberal arts. Seven out of ten most popular courses, according to the statistics released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in 2018 are either from the technology or commerce stream. Liberal arts is still seen as a course for those who are considered intellectually inferior. Thus, leaving a professional course for a non-professional course (language/arts, etc.) never goes down well with one’s family.
The word ‘drop out’ has a pejorative charge and is often frowned upon. The moment someone says that they have left or have dropped out of a certain course they are instantly met with judgment and criticism. Their choices, decisions and intellect are subjected to greater scrutiny; they are seen as less hard working or less committed. And, even if someone has left a course simply because they were sensible enough to get out of an unsatisfactory situation before it was too late, people perceive it as ‘chickening out’ of hard work. Huh?
If there one’s thing that can be done to avoid the entire situation, it is with the help of proper counselling, which, again, is seen as something shameful in the Indian context. Everyone is ready to give their advice or force their opinions upon others, but they would look at you as a confused, unstable teenager if you ever as much as mentioned consulting an expert. People still cringe at the idea of seeking professional help when it comes to mental health issues and are apprehensive, unwilling and unaccepting about the idea of it.
Despite these hurdles, it’s important to be aware about the battles that are not worth fighting for, and the right time to back out from certain endeavours. I knew that even if I studied for years and managed to bag a well paid and secured job, I would never be able to give my hundred per cent in the career I was pursuing. And, hence, I took a stand and left law without wasting any more time on it, and saved myself a great deal of mental pressure.
What is the point of slogging through a course which imprisons you? A content and satisfactory life is what everyone aims for, right? Is spending a lot of money and dragging yourself through years of labour over something that you don’t want to do and it doesn’t even make you happy even worth the effort? Especially when it does not even guarantee you a happy lifestyle in the end?
No, it’s not worth it.
And so I decided to take a step back from the wrong path at the right time, and started pursuing something that does not feel forced. Something that I feel is my calling; something that I believe I am meant to do; something that gives me a good night’s sleep; something that makes me want to get up every morning and work towards my goal?
I am out of my prison, are you?