I read somewhere that the people with the most to choose from are the ones that are most unhappy. And in my case, it comes with parents who tell you “you can be anything you dream of, we’ll support you”. And choosing what to be is a tall order for someone like me, for whom Aboriginal History is almost as interesting as Embedded Systems (Which, by the way, is very interesting). But then, choose I did, and now at the very least, I can “be” a software engineer, if all goes well for the next six months.
There were a lot of things I dreamt of, and the IT industry was one of the last places I wanted to be. Reminds me of that joke that goes like “Why are things always in the last place I look?” ” ‘Coz once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you stop looking further”.
I know this is where I want to be, I know nothing else might fit me like a glove, I know I wouldn’t want to pursue anything else other than as a hobby, but in moments of frustration, I do wish I was elsewhere…. I mean, like Pi Patel says, “A tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful”.
So here’s a list of possible places I could have been:
- News Reporter/Newsreader: I grew up watching Usha Albuquerque on DD News. For a while, I idolized Mrinal Pandey. Then NDTV hooked up with Star and I used to be hooked the entire day to Star News, watching Rajdeep Sardesai (this was when he used to be low profile, and not as explosive), Sreenivasan Jain (I’d written him a long mail once, complimenting his excellent reporting, all in perfect English, double-checked for grammatical errors, and he sends back a one-line thank-you note, in sms lingo!), Prannoy Roy, Maya Sharma and Jennifer Arul. And this ambition of mine reached a crescendo during the Kargil War when Barkha Dutt went all the way there. There wasn’t a more glamorous career back then.
- Print Journalist: This started at a time when city-specific news reporting was at an all-time high. The sarcasm, the bite, the use of local lingo in a NEWS paper stunned me. This was where I wanted to be, right (I was eleven-twelve and didn’t know better)? I even began a long-standing correspondence with Allen J Mendonca, then the Chief Reporter of ToI, Bangalore, where he advised me on my writing and stuff like that. And suddenly he went out like a light. And when he came back, he said he’d quit ToI ‘coz there were some political issues or some such things; end of ambition.
- Ad-film maker: This one’s quite recent. It seems to be quite a challenge to sell something in thirty seconds or less. Sometime, I must do a post on the most memorable ad-campaigns.
- Copywriter: Similar. Though I’d really like to do something like this for an extended period of time just to see how long it’ll take me to get sick of it.
- Film-maker: It’s one of those things that happen when you read an excellent novel, like say, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and you wonder how it should be made into a movie, what parts should be cut out, how each shot should look…. no wonder I never like those movies made out of books. Or say, you listen to a song before you see the video; or to a song which doesn’t have a video. You wonder about a storyline. One that’ll fit the mood of the song. And then, when you listen to that lovely song over and over again, fine-tune in your mind what the video should look like. And then you watch the actual video and curse those unimaginative idiots who made it. Like they did with that song in Yaadein, sung by Kavitha Krishnamurthy. And with all the Euphoria songs. The same thing makes you marvel at Lucky Ali’s videos (except that one where he’s crooning while two young things cavort around the airport)… I think there’s an entire post on this one. The marvelling, I mean.
- Detective: Too much Nancy Drew, nothing else. Oh, and also a bit of all those idiotic detective shows on TV, more notable of which was this one on some Kannada channel called “One Teaspoon Suspense”.
- Lawyer: My mum hates lawyers. That’s why. And also due to overdose of Perry Mason and Henry Cecil novels. Mason’s grandstands, and his getting the better of Sgt. Holcomb and Lt. Tragg really had me impressed, and the legal technicalities involved in Henry Cecil’s novels along with a generous helping of British humour fascinated me. Now I do Devil’s Advocacy on the most humungous of arguments.
- Marine biologist: I liked the mighty manta rays. And baleen whales.
- Psychologist: My mother’s area of expertise. She, however chose to make a career out of completely different things. And unfortunately, so did I.
- Historian/Archaeologist: I was one of those kids in class who didn’t flinch in history class. I didn’t see it as just a collection of facts. The Indus-Sarasvati Civilization fascinates me. And the opening shot of Hey Ram was too much to take (the one where SRK and Kamal Haasan are excavating Harappa). I watch any program on Discovery/Travel and Living that deals with stone structures over a hundred years old. History Channel, someone asked? I only watch it when they show History Rocks; you don’t get such good-quality replays of Queen and Beatles concerts anywhere else.
- An agent in the Research and Analysis Wing: To any educated Indian who asks what this place is (I know a few who did ask me), kindly renounce your citizenship. I wanted to get into the Research and Analysis Wing once upon a time. Just like M. It later mellowed down to CBI, aided by Preity Zinta in the desi adaptation of Silence of the Lambs (Sangharsh), where she’s walking hurriedly into a prison, flashing her ID, saying “Reet Oberoi, CBI Officer”.
- Radio Jockey: It was 2001 in Bangalore where and when Private FM Radio made its debut in India. “Everyone’s rocking at 91 FM. Are You?”. I thought at first that was a new pub. When I did turn on the radio, the first thing I heard was Suresh Venkat’s mellow baritone. That moment, I decided I wanted to be like him. When quality of radio, and the Indian media in general started dropping, I wanted to be this media magnate like Rupert Murdoch. I wanted to have a finger in every pie in the media. Hmm…. is that still an option?
- Astrology: I don’t think astrology is a pop-science meant only for fools and sages. The way people like Bejan Daruwalla and Linda Goodman go/went about it, yeah, maybe. But I’ve discovered there’s a whole science behind astrology. It can be systematically learned. It involves a lot of math, a lot of astronomy. The cloak-and-dagger sort of stuff like dreaming of a tragedy and it happening is best left to the clairvoyant. This is a science for everyone. It involves slog. It involves work beyond imagination. It may be vague, but is definitely not guesswork if it is practised the way it should be.
- Doctor: This was the one I went furthest with before rejecting it. It was basically inspired by Dr. Devi Shetty, and Dr. Sudarshan who’s known for his work among Soligas of BR Hills. Legend goes, Dr. Sudarshan was one of the candidates suggested to Veerappan for kidnap and haggling. He refused point blank, saying that he couldn’t do it to such a good, altruistic man who worked hard for the welfare of tribals.
- Chemistry: My accidents in chemistry lab are the stuff of legend, ask anyone. I still don’t know why I rejected it.
- Mechanical Engineer: Navier-Stokes would have been an everyday chant, not an episode from a forgotten past. It was one of the closest calls, choosing IT over Mech. For which I’m thankful to her.
- Novelist/Screenwriter: I want to take a course that teaches me how to write dialogue. Coz I’ve discovered I CAN’T!! That apart, I’ve discovered being a novelist isn’t the sort of thing portrayed in pop culture. You need to be meticulous, organized, do your research, choose your words with care, network, and tune yourself to a creative process that works at your will. It can sure as hell be a 9-to-5 job. Which 9 and which 5 is for you to choose. And this is still an option… you don’t luckily need a certificate from a recognized university saying you can write novels.
It’s not like choosing one career shuts the doors on all others…. Like Sam Pitroda said at Engineer-’05, “You need to do atleast ten different things at one time, otherwise you’ll get bored”. And there are some things that need to be pursued as a fulltime job, and a lot of others that need to take your time as hobbies, or sidetracks – otherwise the seriousness needed for the fulltime job is lost, as would be the fun element of the hobbies.
One person who comes to mind is S. Rangarajan, engineer at Bharat Electronics who pioneered the design and supervision of Electronic Voting Machines, and who is also known more popularly as Sujatha, the dialogue-writer for films like Roja, Iruvar and Boys, apart from being the author of detective series Ganesh-Vasanth and various other writings in Tamil magazines.
And another is Brian May, who recently completed his thesis for a PhD in astronomy, more than thirty years after he started the academic paper. The reason for the long gap? Well.. he was too busy playing the guitar for Queen!