In my humble opinion, the career garb that a person adorns for life is governed by three elements—the time or era one grows up in, the encompassing culture and personal strengths. I grew up in a time when science and math were the spotlight subjects on the stage—the heroes, while language and other arts languished in anonymity as supporting cast. A student who could not excel in math and science was regarded as a heinous derelict. An average student stood at tines of a fork, that lead to either Engineering or Medical Science and I was no exception to the rule. I knew I had to pick one though neither resonated in my heartbeat.
Next element that paints your destiny is the culture you inhale. I grew up in a small town, known for its renowned engineering college and little else. Private coaching centers for admission tests flocked the town like rain mushrooms, all promising to churn up engineers under their tutelage. Engineering was blended in the air like hydrogen in water, utterly inseparable. It entered our nostrils, lodged into our lungs and then pulsated through our veins. I succumbed to that ingredient of my breath and so did most of my friends.
It’s time to ponder about the third element-personal strength and choice.Being academically strong can never hurt anyone. Acing all subjects at school is an accolade, not an impediment by any imagination. Teachers are proud of versatile students and parents earn bragging rights for their lives. In my case, versatility and excelling in a multitude of areas actually muddled my path. I was the only student in my school that passed with distinction in all five subjects-English, Hindi, math, science and social studies. Too many spices brewing inside of me masked my true essence. I was a conundrum to myself, a rudderless ship that just drifted with the wind. In my heart of hearts, I was smitten by English language, enthralled by the rivulets of words, literature and poetry. I was drawn to the written word like a bee to nectar, a moth to light. My parents could not afford books outside of the curriculum, so I took little sips from the small pool of the school library to quench my thirst. I pored over newspapers and devoured every word, without choking or spitting. I read my elder sister’s English textbooks for stories—and sheer ecstasy that brought me. But my love was ambiguous and uncharted, with no lucid path or destination. My parents had humble means but an unwavering faith in education to challenge and mold life to betterment. I and my siblings did not have shiny new shoes every year but we always had the books/notebooks we needed. I knew I had to chart out a career, muster a job which compensated well—and literature, as enticing and soothing as it was, was not a step towards that goal. If I did not fare well in other subjects, I would have married literature,my only suitor,but I had other graces, so I never whispered my love to a soul and doused the flame myself.
An Electronics Engineer, I was destined to be. Years down, I am an IT professional with a respectable job that pays my bills and keeps me afloat. I am grateful to Almighty for the blessings I have and I cannot ask for more. I am still a voracious reader who can chew words in any shape or form—printed ads, descriptions of entrees in restaurant menus, ingredients of packaged foods, Tolstoy’s novels, Keats poetry and Dickinson’s essays. But I confess,at times, even after multiple readings of some passages and poetry at controlled, variegated paces, I fail to grasp the finer meaning the author or poet is alluding to. I ache to understand the nuances of Frost’s, Keats’ and Eliot’s poetry. I want to imbibe the hidden meaning of Shakespeare’s lines.
I always wanted to study literature and poetry and I still do. Once the business of life ebbs a little and I have hours to fill, I wish I can take a degree/diploma course. Who knows, I might be grayest student in the class, maybe grayer than the teacher, but I have no inhibitions about that. At least,I have none today, as I bring my closeted ex to light.