My journey of doing everything I ever wished to do!
I believe there is another route to making career choices in India. This one is played smart at, but we all are somewhere acquainted to it. It’s the marriage route! Guys wish to be rich, gain status, and build a reputation in order to get that unapproachable lady from college whom they have always longed for or someone alike. Without being a sexist, I would like to mention that girls have their own way to look into this route. There is a thing: it’s not too important what you become in life, but it’s certainly very important what you get married into. And, having said that, a lot of girls decide their career options based on the kind of future married life they are looking forward to.
A little tough to understand where I am coming from, but geographically where I am coming from -Madhya Pradesh - is bows down to this idea.
There comes a point in life when even the remotest of all relatives suddenly gets interested in you. “Aage kya karne wale ho beta”, is the one statement that you come across all the time. It’s when you clear your 12th grade. What’s next? A bunch of people from outside hovering over your head, more so on your parents’.
Where I come from the clear idea of making a career choice was becoming a doctor, considering that everyone in my family was a doctor of some sort. Point two to support this idea: I am a girl. This brought the bigger picture into the plan. An ideal life for a girl back there (and by there I mean most of the small towns) is opt for science, become a doctor, marry a doctor, receive a clinic in dowry, try to get patients but no worry even if you could not as you are married already by now!
I strongly believe that Indian youth is a victim of “social pressure” more than just peer-pressure. The initial choices they make in their life are driven from the idea of proving themselves better than ‘sharma ji’s son’. And the hard part is that it begins at making a career choice and goes that way for a very long time. And by the time we realise that Sharma ji is long gone, it’s already too late to make changes.
I was asked to become a doctor, so that I could find a groom for myself. Life would be easier if I am a science student. I would not have to do a job. I would have the magical letters ‘Dr.’ in front of my name that would somehow solve every possible issue in my life. Surprisingly, when I started to pursue BDS, I found out, that I wasn’t the only one there adding cookies to my matrimonial package. There were and still are girls who chose to become a doctor just and all to be called a doctor and then get married to a doctor.
5 years of struggle and life couldn’t be more miserable. I never felt like I belonged to medicine. Not even when my patients would thank me post treatments. It didn’t feel noble, at all. I was just doing a job that I was there for. I had no clue as what exactly I wanted to do after getting done with my studies, as I couldn’t even imagine myself sitting in a clinic screwing someone’s teeth or I might say screwing with someone’s teeth. (Story of my journey to becoming an author and a copywriter continues).
In our society, there is this one kid who is just the best. He’s impeccable in every manner; it’s Sharma ji’s kid. However, you are lucky at times to not have a neighbourhood, in that case there is no Sharma ji. But, there is another kid who is ready to fill in for that idea – your elder brother/sister.
I would not want to stand here saying that I am a victim of the sibling comparison scenario, because I honestly feel that we all have been there, at some or the other point of time. I would just want to thank here to all those people who told me, “You can never do it like your sister”. Thanks fellows! That’s what made me myself.
And it was not just one sentence that was said to me by someone, which changed my life upside down. No. It was the same sentence told repeatedly, so many times and for so many years that it actually made me dissociate myself from everyone who was related to or with my sister; even my parents.
As a kid I was not so charming. I was ugly, if I may say. I mean really ugly! I had dens brows, I was fat, with braces, no dressing sense, and I was stout. And it wasn’t an introspection that made me realise this about myself. I was being told all these things; mostly by the ‘x’ class of our society – the relatives. I say ‘x’ because that’s the variable that fits everywhere, without a purpose. P.S., it’s a variable in first place. I was constantly frowned upon for not looking a certain way, not behaving in a certain way, and if you belong to a sindhi or Punjabi family, you would realise, not being too fair. I was compared on all levels with my elder sibling. At this point I would like to mention that I love my sister. And with all due respect my family has popped out really tall people. My sister is 5.8 ft. tall. Till date my mom regrets for me being just 5’4. But I am sure that’s not too small to get noticed. As whenever, I would meet people outside my home, they would start talking about my sister.
When it came to make career choice I was pretty clear at what I wanted to do in my life. I just wanted to be someone who was nothing like my sister, or would do nothing similar to what my sister does. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out anything that was as good as what she was doing. At this point I would like to mention, that my sister is a dentist.
I know it’s nothing that sounds as cool as being a space scientist, or an entrepreneur (in the era of Bansals and Goyals). But, since everyone was so fond of her, I couldn’t think of anything that was as cool as being a doctor.
Whenever people become curious about my career switch, my parents would always mention that they have never made me do what they wanted me to do. I remember the one thing that gave me the basis to become a scientist, it was my dad proudly addressing my sister to someone that in a couple of years she will be done with her post grad and will be making a lot of money. Sure, he never said – become a copywriter to me. But he definitely said becoming a doctor means respect, it suits your personality as a female – not girl, but female. You will be able to look after your family well, you will have decent working hours, and at the happy ending to every story of a girl’s life – it will help you marry the right guy. In that case, the essential job for me to do would be going to clubs, and look after kids, and to explain my career I will always have the two letters ‘Dr.’.
The idea was extensively supported with everyone around me, firstly because my sister was doing it, secondly and very sadly, because that is the world we live in. The world where till date, girls become doctor to marry a doctor, or because having ‘Dr.’ in front of their names says that she doesn’t need to be any smarter than what she is.
I realized the latter a little later. To cut the former problem, I thought I should become a dentist, and just be my best in that. However, I never liked dentistry. Till date I cannot connect myself with dentistry, apart from the fact that I, myself have been a dental patient for several times.
You know how there’s always a side serving that makes your dish even more interesting. In my situation I was given my sister as a side serve. She was doing her PG from the same college as mine. As a student, I was never too brilliant. I was hardworking, but I knew that I can never be in the top 10 list. Again, this I realized not out of introspection, but out of being told for tons of times by my batch mates that I can never be as good as my sister in the subject. The funny part was, no matter how much I resented believing in the fact, I had gradually started to accept it. So much, that I stopped being around people who knew my sister in the college, and that was almost all of them. For I knew that they would talk to me about how great the lecture that she gave in the previous class was, or how she looks so amazing, the “tall-fair” claims etc.
The weird thing started when subconsciously I refused to being seen with my sister in public. I feared that having us together would just make comparing us easier. I even had the list on the basis of which I was going to be compared – height, physique, intelligence level, code of conduct, dressing sense; basically everything. I actually stopped talking to my sister at regular basis. I was so frustrated out of the set rules of world, may it be about the way you look, or the way you behave, or the way you think, that I instead chose to stop interacting with people.
Every day, I would wake up to gather all the motivation from around me and begin fresh. I would go to college ignoring what the world thinks about me and would come back with at least 1 comment on how I am not as good (and yet required to be) as my sister.
When I was in final year, I remember not a single day when I didn’t cry out of listening to the same thing every day. It was then when I had put my foot down to doing something that I can do, which was away from my sister’s territory. But, we are yet not anywhere close to the story of being who I am, because the revelation was still about showing the world that I am better than someone. Proving the society that I can do something in a way they want me to do it.
The war went on inside me for very long. Meanwhile, I had stopped talking to my parents about my future plans, because the discussion would somehow role down to a point of “the two daughters – one became a doctor, the other – doing some job”. In a family where every new bud is brought up with a mindset of being a doctor, for the sake of being one, even the idea of doing something else is below dignity. The torment was so harsh, that at one point I was even referred to a psychiatrist. He told me I have been suffering from depression.
I had stopped visiting to my cousins and relatives. I still can’t forget the conversation between my cousin and my sister, when he asked her about my future plans and she happened to mention writing. He said, “Aajkal jiski English acchi hai who writer ban jata hai”, Oh my god! Boy, come again! I was narrated this conversation by my sister, and I didn’t know what to say at that time. For, once again, not out of introspection, I was made to think that maybe I am doing something wrong by doing something out of the league.
If nothing, I definitel
By the time I was an intern I had started to give some serious thought on my writing and had started to consider it as a career. A digital marketing company saw my blogs and offered me a job. It was then when I had started to consider copywriting as a career option. I was dating a guy at that time and we had started to discuss our future plans. The weirdest thing that I came across was when this guy questioned my career choice and insisted me to hold on to dentistry, for it’s such a reputed profession. Plus, being into business, it was easier for him to live with a dentist than a woman with a career that demanded way more involvement. We broke up eventually, for the same reason.
After my internship I had made up my mind to continue working as a copywriter, even though I was not too clear at if this ends my search or not. My parents were still hopeful about me changing my mind and going further with my studies. By that time they had started with building my matrimonial profile. And, fairly, there weren’t too many USPs to get a potential groom for me. At one point my dad suggested that I open a clinic and just sit there and supervise other dentists, while I practice writing. But I had made up my mind to continue with a job that didn’t pay me enough even to take care of my house rent. At that time I barely remember speaking with my day. He would very rarely call me and at some point the argument would get to point on to my career choices. It was the time when I broke up the second time because of my career choices, for guys in India really, really want a girl who “supports” them with their career choices, and not the other way round. Well, no regrets on that one!
While I was home I would listen to my dad talking to the guys, trying to build a story, pushing his brand so hard that it became too obvious at time. He would mention – dentistry, has written books, wants to be a writer (although I had mentioned being a copywriter being my full time job), doing French course, and he would not even fail to mention that I did a diploma in Kathak when I was in school – just to add to the profile. We seriously needed a good PR story then!
There also came a time when the first guy whom my parents chose for me through a matrimonial site. I had no clue about the guy and his background and Out of nowhere I get a call from my dad saying that I am supposed to have a phone call with him. I was in the office at that time so I didn’t give much heed to it. Later that day when I actually saw the guy’s profile, I mentioned my concerns to my parents. I told them that I may not be interested to move ahead with this guy. After that I had the most heated argument with my day and he said, “I give up on you”. I’m happy; at least I still didn’t give up on myself.
Till I listened to the world, I was living a life that looked very “dignified” to the world, but for me it was an every day struggle with myself. The moment I accepted myself as whom I am – even if the only word at that time was a ‘failure’ – life just became simpler. Now I didn’t have to please anyone.
The day my dad said that he was done with me, everything changed for me from the very next day. I don’t know why, but I felt like a free bird. Now there was no burden of expectations. Everyone has accepted that I am a loser and they could finally let me be on my own. I became happier and it was now when I actually started thinking about things that I wish to do, just because I wish to do them. That’s when I started to write on my next book. The best part that came along with this was that I started performing much better in my job. I always say, “A good copywriter should always keep herself happy”. Clearly, it was there.
I am not saying that my dad was wrong. He is not. He is just a dad. He would do anything and everything to assure that his daughter has a secured future. He was just doing what dads do. Wrong is the society that makes our parents think this way. And, to be clearer on this – we make the society. So, in order to change the story, we need to change the way we think.
I am very proud of myself today, for the journey that I have traveled. I don’t say that I have achieved something extraordinary, but if nothing I have made my parents speak in my language. And that is huge for me!
- A Story by Dr. Nikita Lalwani