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Why compromise on your dreams? A 28-year-old engineer’s journey to ‘28 jobs’ challenge – ThePrint

My mother loved to tell me stories about our past, and  they always fascinated me. She had been brought up along  with eight siblings. Her marriage had been fixed with an exchange of coconuts. When she moved to my father’s place,  they had at first struggled financially and she had faced a lot  of drama from her mother-in-law. She would also tell me  about her experiences with me and my sister, and the trouble  we had given her. While sitting there that afternoon I told  her about my dream to travel around India, and she in turn  narrated my paternal grandfather’s story. 
Sonepur was a small kingdom in the colonial era. Circa  1920, a motherless Brahmin child was seen crying in front  of a temple here. His father had brought him from the other  side of the river to sell him, and then embark on a Chardham  Yatra, a pilgrimage to four major religious sites of Hindus:  Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. Travellers often  feared that they might never return, so they usually did  their own shraddh, one of several last rites, and settled other  matters, before heading out on the journey. It so happened  that a Brahmin couple were doing a yangya, a ritual, inside  the same temple to fulfil their dream of having a child. The  couple saw the crying child in front of the temple and they  decided to adopt him. That child was my grandfather. 
Travel, it seems, was in my genes. My grandfather had  travelled to most of the places of religious significance to the  family, as had my parents. And now I planned to join their ranks. Travel was on the cards but what I had in mind was  not a pilgrimage tour. 
‘You were the topper in school, right?’ my mother asked  suddenly. I didn’t see how this question had any connection  to what we were discussing. ‘Are you happy?’ she asked. ‘Is  this what you wanted to be?’ This question gave me some idea of where the conversation was likely headed, and I spoke  honestly. ‘No.’ She just smiled. I was in my mid-twenties by then, working with an IT  firm, and earning well. Being from a small town, middle-class  family, I thought my parents were happy to boast about me  in the neighbourhood. But I was stunned by her thought provoking question. My mother’s world starts at our house  and ends three houses to the left and four houses to the right.  This is her tiny world and her observations and comments  are centred there. She told me that at least one person  from every family near our house had become a software  engineer. I had never thought about it before, but that was  so. The booming privatization of engineering colleges in the  last ten years had made the dream of becoming an engineer  the easiest one to achieve. What was the point to my being  the topper then? Was every Indian child’s dream really to  become an engineer? 
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That question kept haunting me: why do most people  compromise on their dreams at an early age and choose the  stereotypical paths of engineering or medicine? Do we lack  in creativity? Does parental interference and societal status  force students to choose this path? Why do people fear to  follow their passion, to chase their dreams to become what  they really wanted to be? There were a few more incidents that made me think  about this again and again. I am a big movie buff, and  many movies have made me introspect. I was envious of  the protagonist of the film Slumdog Millionaire. As the story  unfolds, a youngster tries his hand at many things to survive,  working as a beggar, selling goods, selling toys on trains, working as a tour guide, a photographer, providing chai to  corporate workers, seeing the workings of a BPO. He did  not have to think about what society would think about  him before taking decisions regarding his next career step. If  you don’t have anything, there is no fear of losing anything. 
Another movie that inspired me a lot was the Aamir Khan  starrer, 3 Idiots. It presented an altogether different approach  to choosing a career and a passion. The beautiful message  in that movie struck a chord: Don’t run behind success. Go  behind excellence and success will follow. 
Between 2006 and 2009, while working in the IT sector,  I realized that I had entered the wrong profession. I had  planned to do a master’s after my engineering degree, and I  was clear that I didn’t want to compromise on the subjects  of my interest. I wanted to do a master’s in HCI, which is  a combination of computer engineering, psychology, and  design. There were a few universities in the US that offered  the course. But here too, the main problem I faced was  English. I needed to crack the GRE. The Graduate Record  Examinations required mugging up a few thousand words  and more. I could not get through it, but the preparation  helped me crack other competitive exams and earn a seat at  MICA in Ahmedabad, the management institute noted as a school of ideas. Nothing could have been better than that. I  had finally found the right track to move forward. With those questions repeatedly bubbling in my mind,  I came up with an idea. I would travel around India and try  my hand at a range of professions in different places. This  would be a good way to explore a variety of jobs in diverse settings while, hopefully, observing people who were living  their passion.
Excerpted from 28 Jobs, 28 Weeks, 28 States, by Jubanashwa Mishra with permission from Speaking Tiger Books.
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