I received an email from the IIMA Publications Department a few days ago reminding me to pick up my course material for Term 4. That email served as a reality check; the reality is that Term 4 is starting in a few days, meaning dozens of sleepless nights, a couple of birthday parties, and a lot of learning. I’m not going to lie; I felt more excited about coming back to campus this time than when I first came here in July last year.
Part of that excitement, I think, was because I have friends on campus whom I looked forward to meeting. I also have people in the incoming batch whom I look forward to meeting. In addition, the courses I’m taking this term are all my choices, in the sense that nothing was thrown at me. So, I am looking forward to an exciting time.
The excitement also stems from knowing I only have a limited time left on campus. It is somber in some sense, but I’m not the one to frown over life, and so it usually turns into excitement for me. The campus seems so familiar and yet so new. There is just so much to explore on campus, places to go, professors to meet, and people to hang out with outside the campus.
I have not been to many places outside the campus. I don’t know when I will return to Ahmedabad once I leave the campus, so I intend to make the best use of whatever time I have left here. I would confess, I did not particularly like the food here, but hey, who knows, maybe there is something delicious on the horizon.
I will admit that staying away from home is tough. In fact, when I left home, I realized how much I missed the place, the food, and the greenery that people envy. Of course, there are downsides, too, like how the road is messed up. I have a feeling that it is because of decades of negligence.
Whatever the reason, much of the country is not making progress as it should be. Some sections of society are always left behind. I’m turning 23 in a month, but even now, there are constant power cuts, and my maternal grandmother’s village still does not have electricity or running electricity or proper toilets for that matter.
“Life is a great teacher,” they say. I think that is true. I have been a part of various societies and have seen a lot thanks to my education. I grew up in a village where people to this day do not have proper toilets; I have seen the rural life in Kanpur during my undergraduate.
On the flip side, I have been fortunate to live on an amazing IIT Kanpur campus, where everything just worked. In fact, the most extended power cut that I remember from the time was about 2.5 minutes! Fast forward, the IIM Ahmedabad campus has everything one might need and beyond. When you contrast life on campus, and outside, the difference is mind-blowing.
The point I am trying to make is that it is incredibly hard not to get emotional thinking about what life could have been and what life is. When UPSC announces the CSE results every year, I ask myself, “Why am I not doing it? If I don’t work to uplift my community, who would?” To make matters worse, I really like the current Public Systems courses I’m currently enrolled in. I have a lot of opinions about how things can improve and what is the right thing to do in these courses.
I don’t show such enthusiasm for other technical courses. Maybe I’m meant to serve the community. Then a few seconds later, another thought comes, “I really want to be a professor; I don’t think bureaucracy would help me do that. I want to teach a foreign university and push the frontiers of knowledge.”
There are just so many things that I wish to do. I realized that one life might not be enough to do it. Recently, I was chatting to a few relatives, and they seem pretty keen on me settling down after getting a “proper job.” I can’t blame them for that because that is all they have seen their whole lives - be born poor, work hard, get a job, and then lay down a foundation for a better generation. In some sense, I think that is the right thing to do. If it were not for my family’s sacrifices, starting right from my grandmother, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
But who is going to tell them about my dreams? About these never-ending ambitions that keep me up night after night. I wish it were as simple as choosing one path and everything worked out smoothly. But, I guess life doesn’t work like that, does it?
I have reflected a lot on this and the sad conclusion is that I cannot do everything in one life. I think I’d need at least three lives to achieve all of my dreams, but then if I have three lives, I think the ambitions would be proportionately more. So, yeah, it’s screwed up in some sense.
Most of my post-internship break was spent doing administrative stuff, which I realized can be a handful if you do not know the right people. I am lucky to have relatives working for the government who introduced me to the right people. The sheer pace at which tasks happen when you know the right people is astonishing. Maybe I should get into public service after all.