My first love for books and stories started may be when I was 2 or 3 when my mother used to read me stories from Odia magazines - Manapabana and Shishu Raija. Apparently, I used to memorize those stories and pretended to read them aloud while holding the magazine upside down. Slowly Janhamamu became a regular feature at our house. Then came those hard bound Russian books for children that were available in India in late 70s early 80s. When I started reading myself, I discovered the joys of Chandamama and later, Champak, Tinkle and Target. At the same time I was introduced to the world inhabited by the superheroes of our time - My favorites were Phantom - The Ghost who walks (Indrajal comics) , followed by Superman (Dalton Comics) , Robin and the elusive Batman and Spiderman. Batman and Spiderman comics were not in much supply. Then there were Indian superheroes like Bahadur and Chacha Chowdhury. Moving on I devoured the Famous Five and Nancy Drew series and before I knew it, I was hooked on to proper books. Our very own Ruskin Bond had a prime place. Later it was the Russians like Turgenev and Dostoevsky and Indian stalwarts like Mulk Raj Anand and RK Narayan that kept me awake at night.
Apart from novels and storybooks, when I was in school, I also loved poems. I enjoyed reading them; memorized them by heart and cherished them. I also liked writing - short stories, small articles on general interest, and even tried my hand at poems. I wanted to study Literature. I wanted to become a writer, a poet, an author. But I knew there was no job for a poet. There were many authors walking around with a jhola. In my small circle of friends, no one really appreciated a poet. No one appreciated reading literature. No one appreciated the finer facets in life. Maths was considered macho and Science was supposed to be super cool. Arts was for the duds who could not stand up to the fury of science.
But my choice between Arts and Science was not based on those idiotic opinions. It was a pragmatic decision. If I studied Arts and pursued my passion, I felt it would be a lot tough to earn a living. So, when the time arrived to take a decision, I ditched my passion. I took up science after 10th. I just took the easy way out. In India in the early 90s, when the windows of liberalization were opening up, my outlook was limited to just 2 career choices for any science student pursuing +2. Those were: Either Medical or Engineering. And, there were just 3 medical colleges in my state and 5 engineering colleges. You had to crack the Joint Entrance Exam to get through either. It was not like how it is now, that everyone who appears the exam gets a rank and can take admission in one of the hundreds of engineering colleges in each state. Back then, cracking the entrance was a make or break turning point in life for most of us. There again, competition for Medical was even tougher than that for engineering. Getting into Medical college was real difficult. So, I made my choice. I choose the path of least resistance and took the easy way out. I went for Engineering, the easier between the 2 difficult choices.
Have you ever thought why you choose what you chose? What were the considerations and how has life been different because of those choices? Though life has not been bad because of the choices that I made, I sometimes wonder how life would have been if I would have taken the road less traveled. What struggles would I have faced and how I would have been molded because of them. I am sure, even after 25 years, most of the things remains the same. Most of us just take the easy way out. We do not go after what really interests us. We just go with the herd mentality and do what others do. Going after passion is difficult. Going after passion is the hard way. Going after passion is fulfilling. But foregoing our passions and taking the easy way out is what most of us do, inadvertently. And that becomes the road not traveled. Given a choice, where would you go?