I have always been a closet philosopher. But like I said, only in a closet. Most people do not know the philosophy that I live my life on. They only see me as a fiery comet, a rolling stone that goes her own way and does what she likes, and fortunately gets lucky every time. It isn't however like that. I have made more mistakes in my life than a lot of people manage to make in over 40 years. But I have worked to get what I have, and striven to be who I am. It isn't after all luck that bides by you in tough times, but your own courage and perseverance. Those who have led an ideal life - graduation, post graduation, stable job, marriage, two kids, a car and an insurance - would look down upon me today for my choices. They might even think the same of me ten years down the line. Because I have, so far, built a less than ideal life for myself that may look crazy from the outside but is much more fulfilling than the so-called ideal life is on the inside.
I have often been considered the only rebel in the family. From an early age, they knew I was different from the other cousins and the aunts and the uncles. I was industrious and creative but aloof to most conventional practices. I was courageous and stood my ground when others buckled. They time and again relate this anecdote from when I was only two years old. Our uncle told my elder sister (who was four) that our father was a daku (robber) and that he went to the forest and hunted lions with his big gun. She, a simpleton, believed him and went and repeated the same to the family only to be told that it was all a joke. She was left confused and disillusioned. Such occurrences were fairly common and they shaped her personality in such a way that has bearings on the way she deals with people even now. I, on the contrary, when my turn came, smiled and maintained that my father was a doctor who treated patients and saved lives. No amount of coaxing, cajoling or charm could induce me into believing otherwise, because I knew what was right. And to this day I haven't let go of this aspect of my personality. I have been bold, and yet stayed reasonable and real enough to survive in all kinds of surroundings. And it has never failed me in these twenty one odd years.
A majority of Indian people's mindsets are still a bit conventional, to say the least, when it comes to the ideal way of living life. But there are little seeds of change that are coming up everywhere, and I believe in being a part of the movement - in bringing change into myself and my surroundings, so it can slowly permeate to a larger audience. I have the courage to live my life a certain way and the perseverance to stand up every time I fall. And I have fallen numerous times. I have given my parents reasons to believe the worst in me. I remember a time, around when I was in high school, when my parents thought I was a promiscuous Hussie. [Emphasis on 'thought'.] They had brought me up a certain way, fed me with a comprehensive list from an early age of what is wrong and not to be done, and what is right and to be done at all costs. Study, score centuries, build a gleaming career were the do's. Have romantic alliances, hang out with friends, watch too much of TV or movies were some of the don'ts. Understandably so, from an Indian parent's viewpoint. I had slightly different beliefs. So I took the middle path. I became a brilliant student, much respected and admired by everyone at school and home, but I never held myself back from experimenting wherever I felt I wasn't out of line. I received flak a number of times for my so-called 'misdemeanor' but that could not bog me down. I knew, somewhere down the line those were the kind of exposure and experiences that would help me later on in life. And they did, and do even now. Those were trying times but I held on to my belief in the Almighty and in myself. My family was all that mattered to me and with determination and some hard work, I eventually won their trust and admiration back.
By the time I passed out of school, I had mixed opinions on what I wanted to do in life. So I took a practical decision. I went with what my mother (herself educated and well-aware) expected me to do - engineering. It wasn't for lack of choice that I took it up though. I had taken up admission in University of Delhi's best department in Chemistry, the subject I loved. Yet I was more convinced by my mother's argument than my own, so I took a decision. And I have not regretted it till today. I believe it was bold of me, and not meek as some would have it, to go by someone else's belief in me rather than my own conviction. Not that I ever liked what I was doing. But I knew it was the right call, and I persevered throughout those four years, making each moment count towards building for myself a life worth being happy about.
Everybody was satisfied that an engineer was coming up in the family. But not for long. Along the way I discovered my hidden flair for writing. It had been there ever since I was a kid - I used to write poetry and essays and all my teachers would tell my parents about how good I was. But it did not occur to me till I was 20, to make a career out of it. And when it finally did, people freaked out. Writers are unconventional, especially in the middle class society that I live in. They told me to concentrate on my engineering, and to get a conventional job in the industry. I said okay. I did not wish to let my parents down, for they are the reason I am. So I studied hard, gave the exams of their choice, cleared them as also clinched a job. But then lightning struck again and I realized I want to be a civil servant. Now in India, IAS is the ultimate thing. Nothing beats the tag of being a bureaucrat. Being a writer along with a bureaucrat would only be what they call 'sone pe suhaga' (akin to 'cherry on the cake'). But it is believed to be ridden with corruption and extreme exploitation, so I was discouraged from even thinking about it. That was earlier this year; I have graduated now. Everybody keeps telling me to go for a stable engineering career. I hold onto my faith nevertheless. I have given much thought to my decision, and I know it is where my calling lies. I have slowly but thoroughly convinced everyone who matters, that it isn't just a passing fad and that I have it in me to be better than just another engineer. Moreover, even if I failed, I'd have the satisfaction of having pursued my dream and in the process gained a vast amount of knowledge and built my own opinion on matters of importance. It is what I want, and I shall not stop till I have it.
So with infinite amounts of patience and determination, I have carved a different niche for myself in the small world I live in. It has been a slow process, taken years and years, but I look back sometimes and feel proud of all that I have done and gone through till now. I have been bold enough to follow my heart but reasonable enough to stay real and not get carried away with anything. And it motivates me to stay the same, rather improve, and achieve everything that I believe I am capable of.
I am only but a single instance of personal strength and courage. I am not old or accomplished enough to put down my life and my choices as an example of anything. There are a lot of instances of bold, real people out there who are living fulfilling lives despite all odds being against them, and whose lives inspire me to no end. We live in a world where physically impaired people are competing in the Olympics in all the sports. Innumerable social workers and non-profit organizations have been coming up in the last few years to work for causes ranging from illiteracy and poverty to women's rights and bonded labor. People today are increasingly taking a stand for human rights or the society's rights in general, as has lately been seen in the cases of Jessica Lal, Arushi Talwar, the 16th December gang-rape victim, the Lokpal Bill issue and so many others. There are bravehearts posted at Kargil and the Siachen glacier, protecting the country from infiltration as best as they can, while silently convincing their hearts that they'll return safe and sound to serve their mothers and love their wives and children.
Every great achievement is a sign of boldness within the achiever's heart, perseverance in their efforts and realness in their purpose. With even one of those elements missing, an achievement isn't half as praise-worthy. And that is why, mothers must teach their children, not to be 'ideal' but rather to be bold and fearless, at the same time remembering who they are and what ideals they stand for. Because ultimately it's all about finding yourself and having the requisite courage within to live up to your own ideals. To put it in even fewer words: BE BOLD, STAY REAL.