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An accidental journalist

Rajen Garabadu GarabaduRajen

Updated: May 17, 2010, 10:02 AM IST
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What will you grow up to be?

Every child gets to face this question at some point in his/her life. I was always envious of those who answered this question without any hesitation. I never managed to, though I did try to search for a satisfactory answer.

My parents realised my discomfort and never posed this question, either in private or public. When any uncle or aunt would quiz me on this, my parents would somehow wriggle me out of it. I could never find out if this ever troubled my parents, particularly when they saw the children of their friends answer the same question with ease.

By the time I made up my mind on what I wanted to be, 15 years had passed by. I had just finished school and enrolled in college, having made up my mind to pursue my education in the field of humanities. My decision at that point of time invited a lot of scorn and rebuke. I found myself being mocked at (especially in the circle of my parents). When our family friends came home, they either scoffed at my choice or kept quiet, convinced that I must be a pathetic student. I remember making no effort to change their impression.

My choice then was based on my desire to get into the Indian Administrative Services and I felt that I had a greater chance of cracking it if I chose a subject in arts. I had no great love or aptitude for science, and my discomfort stemmed from the way a few of my school teachers handled the subject.

At some point in my second year of graduation, I felt I was more suited for the corporate world and made up my mind to appear for the Common Admission Test (CAT). The quest for civil service was replaced by a desire to test myself in the private sector. Though there were several institutes which offered quality management education, I enrolled to appear for less than a handful of institutes.

When I did get an interview call for Xaviers Institute of Management - Bhubaneswar, I knew that my CAT marks would set me behind. Though both my group discussion and interview went very well, I still didn't make it to the final selection because of my written scores (which held considerable weight in the selection).

I remember being stunned by the setback. I hadn't planned the road ahead. For a brief period I felt that life had come to a standstill. I had no desire to pursue my post-graduation in the University. I didn't feel I could wait one more year to take a second chance at cracking the CAT. At that point of time, I had little choice. It was around the same time that my friend Sid who handled all my applications, in addition to his, came to me with a new prospectus. It was an advertisement by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) inviting applications for two of their courses - PG Diploma in Journalism & PG Diploma in Advertising & Public Relations. Though Sidharth checked with me which of the two I was keen on, I suspect he knew the answer. I was keen to discover the world of advertising and was completely taken aback when I received an admit card from IIMC to appear for the written examination for the course in journalism. Sid couldn't have erred, I was sure. It had to be a clerk at IIMC or the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

I had never thought of journalism as a career option. I did follow the daily newspaper and looked forward to the weekend news magazine but that was pretty much my engagement with journalism. I sat for the written examination and was happy with the way it went. After a long time, I felt I was being tested on what I knew, not what I did not know. The interview call came and I decided to approach it with an open mind. Sometimes, unplanned opportunities can be much more satisfying since there's an element of surprise. I felt being drawn to this new medium that I was about to explore.

I cleared the interview and received an official invitation to join the course in the institute's new branch (which was then just a year old) at Dhenkanal. Though my new course mates from across the country seemed to be a little disturbed at being housed in a remote hill town in Orissa, I had no such worries. It was as good as it could get for me since it allowed me to visit home, less than a 2-hr drive, in the weekend.

With specific reference to my journalism course, I consider myself blessed. It allowed me to complete a recognised PG diploma course without making any dent in my dad's bank balance. While all my contemporaries (referring to other children of my age who were friends of our family) had to pay a packet for their engineering, medical and management education, all that went out of my father's coffers was a few thousand rupees (less than Rs 5,000, if I remember correctly).

It has been 15 years since that day and though things may not have gone as planned, the journey has been very fruitful. Call it a processing error or an administrative mix-up, it has led to a career which started by default.

However, I couldn't have chosen a more challenging profession. There is never a dull moment in the world of news. The fact that 12 of the 15 years were in a 24-hour LIVE news environment made it even more challenging. Going to work is almost always fun, one never knows when the next second can throw up an extraordinary situation. What makes it even better is that the medium gives you an opportunity to make other people's lives (at least their viewing experiences) a pleasure. I know it doesn't happen each day at work but even if it happens half-a-dozen times in a calendar year, it is good for me.

When I look back, I realise that I am lucky my parents never pressured me. They let me do as I felt and it hasn't gone too badly either. But I do know many people who succumbed to the pressure and are leading unhappy lives. The pressure on children now is many times more than it used to be when I was a student. Parents nowadays expect too much from their children, at too early an age. And the children struggle to reach there. In the process they go through a lot of pressures which takes a heavy toll on them. It has the ability to psychologically damage them and leave them scarred for life. I make it a point to intervene when I see my cousins, friends or colleagues go down this road.

But since there is a vast majority out there who I can't reach, I can only hope this piece of writing reaches as many people and gets them to at least pause and ponder if they are doing the right thing.

The admission season is here. It is decision time for millions of children. If the parents are reading, can they please just let their children be? Whatever will be, will be!
First Published: May 17, 2010, 10:02 AM IST

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