Have you had those days when you feel like you are lucky to be where you are right now? Especially, coming from an underdeveloped country, having limited opportunities and resources? If you think about it, as an outsider, you’ve come a long way to be where you are right now. But there is a “but”. There has to be. No life is perfect; no path of work is perfect.
Are there times when you have felt that maybe you would have been better off without this current job? Maybe the thought crossed your mind that you could have discovered your passion, pursued it and lived by it everyday, yet chose to earn a living for you and your family.
I have always wondered about this. Looking back at what lead me to where I am today, I have very few explanations about the path of career I chose for myself. I passed SLC with a decent grade, which at that time meant I was eligible to study science. I once asked my father about the possibility of studying arts; he simply dismissed it saying, “You should study science for two years, if you don’t like it by then we will discuss it further at that time.”
So i studied science. I wasn’t quite a rebel. For one, because I had no strong feelings or opinion about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. Second, it was an easy and convenient choice. Later, I could just put all the blame on my father saying, “I wanted to study arts, but my father suggested not to so…” When I look back now and really think about what brought me here, my answer is, I chose an easy way out, a safe option on the grounds of being a good girl and doing what my father asked y to do.
After studying two years of science, my scores dropped significantly compared to what I had scored at SLC. Nevertheless, I chose Computer Engineering as my next chosen field of study. Now listen to the explanation I have for this one.
At that time, my tiny brain did the thinking. My thinking was, if I had worked so hard for two years to study and get acceptable scores in the field of science despite I not being a great fan of it, what would be the point of quitting now? I got convinced by this argument and declared to my father that I wanted to be an engineer. He was happy, however he asked me one question, why don’t you want to study medicine and become a doctor someday? I simply hated biology, so I told him that I had not taken biology as a major subject during my two years of post SLC, so I am not qualified to study medicine. My father nodded and was happy with whatever he could get out of his daughter.
There is a whole another story behind why my father wanted both of his children to study science. My father had himself wanted to study science. He did his early years of schooling from the only school present at his village. He studied hard but he was never fond of math. After his second attempt, he passed his SLC examinations, left his village and came to Kathmandu to study. He had wanted to study science and dreamt of being a doctor one day. He was a good student but not outstanding enough to earn himself a scholarship to study further. So he joined the government university and studied arts with economics as a major. The story does not end here.
Two years ago, as I finished my masters and came back home with an offer letter in hand, everyone was so proud of me, especially my father and my grand father. One day, my grandfather invited me to his room for a special chitchat. I had no idea what he wanted to share. He asked me to sit down close to him and told me his side of story. He said, “I wanted your father to study medicine. He was bright and my eldest son. He came to Kathmandu to study further. Upon inquiry, your father discovered that the fee to get admitted in a medical college in Lucknow, India was Rs.1,400. I could not give him 1,400 rupees to study medicine. I had no money.”
Saying this, my grand father’s eyes were filled with tears and he paused for a while, then he continued. “But today I am very proud of your father that he provided good education to both of his children with a degree in science.” He continued, “I am very proud of your father and I am very proud of you and your brother, but I could not provide my son with the opportunity to study science”. It was a very emotional statement and conversation with my grandfather that day. I held his hand and told him, “Hajurbuwa (Grandpa), even if my father is not a doctor now, he is what he is because you sent him to Kathmandu city to stay at your sister’s for his further study and you should be proud of yourself as well.”
That same day, to change the topic of conversation, I looked around my grandfather’s room. He had few books on the table; some were gifts and others he bought it himself. I picked one about hindu religion and asked him, ”Do you like reading books?”
He said, “Yes I read occasionally, but my eyes are weak now and I cannot read for a long time.”
“Hajurbuwa, I like reading too, in fact sometimes I write as well. Once I wrote a story, submitted to The Himalayan Times and it got published.
At that moment, he beamed with joy and uttered in disbelief , “Ho ra!!” (Really?)
“Yes Hajurbuwa, I like reading and writing, I have even written few poems, but now I don’t write as often. I have no one to review my work”. Then he advised me to keep writing as sahitya (literature) is a very prestigious field and you have to continue your creativity along with your career.
Looking back at my engineering days, I did not excel, neither was I bad at it. I didn’t score quite as well in my first few semesters. I never liked the idea of routine study, routine work and assignments. Nevertheless after two years at university, I realized, if I have to do it, I have to at least try to give my best. I never really enjoyed studying about chemicals, programming languages, conductors, semiconductors, logical circuits, signal processing and so on. But I studied it as my duty. I was not a remarkable student but I survived.
After finishing my bachelors in computer science, I went to Chennai, India to work for a technical solutions company. It was a mere coincidence that I was selected for the job in the very first job interview I gave. I came home one day with an offer letter and handed it to my father. Both my father and brother were surprised, but they encouraged me to go if this was what I really wanted to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time, but I loved the idea of traveling and living all by myself.
Soon after I reached India, I realized this wasn’t the job for me. I was very dissatisfied at that time. I terribly missed home, being the spoiled brat that I was. I worked in India for eight or nine months and headed back home. By this time, all my friends had definite goals in life. Some were working in Kathmandu and some wanted to go abroad for higher studies. At first, I decided to look for a job in Kathmandu. I even got selected for a pretty good company and the offer was lucrative, but they dumped me at the last minute without even informing me. Later,I found out that someone else got the job since he/she was referred by someone important in that office.
Disappointed by this incidence, I decided to study GRE and go to the US to study masters. I did so because one of my very close friend was studying GRE as well. I had decided to go for higher studies. My option was: If I continue engineering, I would go to the US or the other way around, if I go to the US I will study engineering and if I study somewhere in Asia, I would do an MBA. This was because MBA is very expensive in the US and students seldom get scholarships. I applied to a few universities in US and got accepted in all. I had never liked the idea of going to the US for further studies and doing the extreme hard work of work/study at the same time. I had heard pretty depressing stories and I got cold feet to go to the US. Then one of my best friends called me and asked if I wanted to study at AIT (Asian Instititute of Technology) in Bangkok. I thought it was a pretty good idea. It was in Asia, but not in India or Nepal. So at that moment we both decided we would study at AIT. She said she wanted to study computer science. I didn’t know what I wanted to study, I had earlier thought I would study management if I were to study in Asia.
I went to my father and announced that I wanted to study at AIT. He asked me what happened to my US applications. I told him that I want to go to AIT because my friend is also going to AIT. He was calm but he said one thing clearly. “Tomorrow if your friend does not want to go to AIT, you cannot opt out along with her. So tell me clearly where do you want to go?” At that time, I don’t exactly know why but I cried and told him I would go to AIT and not change my decision. So, I had an application form to fill out. As I was browsing through the offered courses, I was still indecisive in what field of study I wanted to study. I decided to apply for an MBA. As I was filling out the application form, I discovered I had to submit two essays, but I had prepared only one essay. Then I went on and filled the application for information management, which required only one essay. So, I applied for information management and did my masters in it. It was not an easy ride though. I cried, showed dissatisfaction, but had no choice. At that time I was determined to continue it and finish it with good scores. I worked hard and finished my masters on time with decent scores. I was satisfied with what I had in my hand—the lucrative Master’s Degree.
Then just cruising along, I went for an intensive job interview, got selected and had a job offer in hand. And today I am sitting at the same office, working under the people who selected me to work here. What are my ideas about the job? Well, I do what I am told to do and try to give my best. But I know that this is not what I am born to do. I dream and think of the blissful days when I will be doing something I love and at the same time earning a living. After all, dreams don’t have any boundaries and they sail along the sea, where the wind takes them, don’t they?
*This post originally appeared in an online magazine operated in Nepal.