Being born in a small town comes with its flipside. While one inevitably grows up in a close-knit community, opportunities and awareness remain extremely limited. Growing up, I was mostly clueless. Everybody around me was burning the midnight oil to take competitive exams to secure their place in a reputed engineering or medical college. I, on the other hand, used to spend nights reading PG Wodehouse, Lemony Snicket, CS Lewis, and a lot of Nancy Drew. And newspapers. I had friends who loved spending time in the laboratory while the library was my Mecca.
My parents would often receive calls of concern from their friends and even my teachers about my lack of interest in ‘subjects that mattered’ like science or maths. I specifically remember this one time when the principal of my school had called my parents to tell them how my lack of interest in maths and science can adversely influence my siblings. Thankfully, those calls went unheeded.
Goes without saying, I hated maths and science. So, in a town of 300 odd people, news spread like wildfire when I decided to take up humanities in high school. I was frowned upon for not opting for science. My little town was so obsessed with engineering and medicine that my school didn’t even bother to open up humanities as a stream. Hence I had to move out for higher studies. It broke my heart. Staying away from family was not easy in the beginning. I missed my grandmother the most and would call her every day.
It was in college that I decided to become a journalist. I was deeply inspired by P. Sainath’s work and his book — Everybody Loves a Good Drought. After college, I bagged my first stint in journalism with a local newspaper in Calcutta in 2011 and absolutely loved it. Finally, it was my turn to write stories. Each time I received a message from a reader telling me how they liked what I had written, it filled me with an unknown joy. I was used to criticism. Hence, the appreciation felt overwhelming.
Three years later, I received a letter from the same principal asking me to conduct a session on journalism for the students of my alma mater. In fact, on the day of the talk, he introduced me to the audience as the only student from my school and the town who ended up being a journalist. I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of it. Life came full circle that day, I feel.
This blog was penned by Shilpi Guha from the content team at ClearTax.