If you really want something, believe in it, and love it enough to want to do it for the rest of your life, you achieve it. That is my biggest takeaway from the crazy roller coaster that the past few years have been for me.
Also, to quote Shahrukh Khan, “Kisi cheez ko poori shiddhat se chaaho, to saari kainaat tumhe ussey milaney ki saazish mein lag jaati hai,” translating to “If you wish for something with a true heart, the whole universe engineers itself to make you meet your goal.”
Call it another Humanities versus Science story, or call it a fight for your passion story, call it another where there is a will there’s a way story, my story can have impact on various levels.
Born in a small district in Andhra Pradesh, I was raised in an extremely conventional and orthodox set up, with my father serving in the Indian Army and my mother being a homemaker. My only constant was my grandfather who supported me like a rock throughout.
It all started from a dream as simple and basic as wanting to pursue my passion. Studying in an English medium school in my village, I passed my board exams from the Andhra Pradesh State Board in 2012. I always wanted to become either an archaeologist or a professor of Geography.
Always having had that connect with Humanities, I wanted to pursue my passion by choosing humanities and subjects of History, Economics, Geography and the like. But that was an impossibility given the lack of any English medium schools offering the same, in and around where I lived. My closest option was Vijayawada, but it was a no because of the high fees. It wouldn’t have worked out.
I decided to give in to my parents’ wishes and opted for Science stream, after excessive compelling. Despite getting good grades, I was disappointed with the teaching and absolutely no learning happening – but the biggest cause of my unhappiness was the forced choice of subjects. I was doing something I didn’t want to in the first place!
Add to that, the lack of guidance because of the rural setup. While I was constantly dissuaded from pursuing my passion, the only suggestion I got was to do a TTC (Teacher Training Course) – to become a government primary teacher, perpetuating the stereotype that ‘teaching is the best job for girls,’ or become a housewife which would have been ideal according to many.
I was made to pursue BSc in Computers in my home own, and my repeated requests and fights with my parents for letting me change my graduation subjects, even after joining the course, were to no avail.
Around this time, I happened to see an advertisement of TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) in a newspaper. It struck me like thunder – the pointlessness of pursuing a course which I disliked to the core. I applied and paid the application fee on my own, as my parents refused to pay.
While I was battling their lack of support, I got through TISS. This earned my capabilities a little bit of trust from my parents’ end. I had gotten through a premiere institute like TISS on my own, but apparently it wasn’t enough.
They tried their dissuading ways again, telling me, “If you join this college, we’ll need to pay Rs 6 lakhs fee because of general category; instead, you should continue your degree here and we will buy an empty plot with this which can be used as dowry for your marriage.”
I faced constant abuse and heard demeaning words from people who were my own, all because I chose to do something that I really loved. I didn’t understand the logic and tried to make it as clear as possible that if I were educated, I’d be able to afford property for my own self.
None of their discouraging words were going to prevent me, and I finally joined the college and course of my dreams – BA in Social Sciences.
I took inspiration from the people I lost during this tenure – my father’s younger brother, who was a farmer, inspired me to take up rural issues; my grandfather, who was and will always remain the most important person of my life, and in whose name I finished my dissertation on “Temple Revenue And Administration: A Study On Existing Markets And Darshan Patterns,” as he loved temples.
I’m currently pursuing my Masters in Rural Development and Governance and I’m doing work focusing on areas that I am extremely passionate about. Not only have I been actively involved with various NGOs, I can today proudly say that I’m one of the few people who have finished their Masters in my district.
I have had people look down upon me, for choosing Humanities; I have been the topic of discussion for my relatives where everyone went to the extent of thinking how it would have been better for me to not be born at all; I have worked for what I wanted without any parental support, especially when I needed it and was venturing out of my home for the first time. I didn’t have any of it. But I did have my one constant pillar of support: my grandfather.
Things can always go wrong, and they do. But, I also believe it is the honesty of your passion, the determination to be what you want to be, and the grit to put in the hard work it requires that always make things better. It did work out for me, and today my parents are extremely proud of me and I am thriving in a happy space.