‘I realised that running behind corporate jobs wasn’t my forte’

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Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

I was born into a middle-class Bengali family that valued formal education more than anything else in the world. The adage that runs through many such homes like mine is that you can’t achieve much unless you excel in academics. Not that I was poor in my studies, but I never had the high regard for a system that weighed everyone against the scales of marks in annual examinations.

Yet, like every other child of my age, I strived to reserve my place in the higher echelons of meritorious students. A part of this could be ascribed to the fact that I had the perfect role model in my father, who is a teacher and whom everyone in my family refers to as the genius who cracked engineering without a single tutor. “You are lucky,” my grandparents would say, “We couldn’t afford even one for your dad.”

My father taught students preparing for their JEE, and I vividly recollect how as a kid I was fascinated by the way students listened to him with rapt attention. Hence, it was almost predestined that I would be an engineer myself.

Meanwhile, possibly during my VIIth standard in school, I developed a fancy for writing short stories. I don’t know how adroit my writings were; in fact, I believe it was more childish fascination than anything. However, as I grew older, the germ of it latched its claws on me and I gradually succumbed to the desire of becoming an author. The final nail on the coffin was struck when I joined my engineering college.

Those were two of the most nightmarish months of life. While my batchmates enjoyed the programme, I dreaded every single day of being there — clueless and mirthless. It was like travelling into the abyss of despair without a single ray of hope to edify the way out. It was during this stage that I decided to quit engineering and pursue something my heart really wanted — arts.

The decision faced almost universal criticism — from friends, relatives, friends’ parents and teachers. I am blessed that amidst this melee, my parents decided to stand by my decision. The decision to take up communications for my graduation was possibly the best call I have taken ever.

After the three years of graduation, I went on to complete my MBA from IIFT. One might be apprehensive as to how the guy who renounced one professional course moved on to the next. But the two years in IIFT definitely opened my mind to a lot of things. It helped me realise my truer potential as I came across great friends with varied interests and enviable acumen. I met scholars who were brilliant at poetry, mimicry, music and other stuff. It is through them and their experiences that I became aware of multiple things across the world and my intent to write invigorated. My short stories got knowledgeable readers who not only boosted my morale but also rectified my mistakes. In fact, I wouldn’t have been writing my first novel had it not been for a classmate’s encouragement.

Last, but not the least, what sealed my fate was the 2008 global meltdown. While a few Lehmann Brothers shut shop, most companies reduced recruitments, leaving even MBAs from top institutes likes ours in quandary. Though I got a decent offer, it wasn’t as great as I had envisaged. But I think it was a blessing in disguise as I realised that running behind corporate jobs was not my forte. So I stopped nurturing dreams of corporate success and focussed on what I do best — teach and write. I still teach verbal ability with IMS — one of the premier training institutes in the country.

Come to think of it, Anshuman (one of the protagonists in my first novel) bears a resemblance to me in his passion for something which wasn’t considered ‘safe’ by his seniors.

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