“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”-Albert Einstein
I am well aware that the above quote may sound like the kind of cliché́ one expects out of a typical Chetan Bhagat work piece. I am not sure how my particular experience will help you or bring about a change in your thinking in any substantial way, nor is that my primary contention. For now, it would be sufficient to simply talk about the hurdles and obstacles I had to face to get where I am today and who knows, maybe this would help you in understanding that you are not alone and how you don’t have to have everything figured out at this stage.
Don’t be fooled by my topper status, I had to struggle to clear my board exams in class 12th because I made a wrong move by opting for a scientific base and to my surprise there was nothing scientific about it. All that I remember about my classes is how we were made into cramming automations ( I promise, I still don’t understand integration and differentiation) and the only force driving us was scoring the highest.
Fortunately, I scored horribly and barely made it to a 71%, and I began to look at other opportunities, accepting that sciences were not my cup of tea. As I started to weigh my options I came to realize they weren’t many, at least not in the leading institutions and then something surprising happened. Philosophy, to my surprise, had one of the lowest cut-offs in DU and as luck had it for me, I enrolled myself into the philosophy department. This was very fascinating to me because I always had a very high opinion of the discipline but was surprised to see how neglected it had been and how little people valued its importance (I mean, 71% for philosophy and 99% for economics? Come on!).
I had two ways to go about this now, I could do what I had been doing all my life, that is, focus on getting marks or I could do it right and actually embrace the discipline. I chose the latter and began to focus on what philosophy was really about and how it had the potential to ideologically transform a personality. I was introduced to the ethics of animal equality, gender divide, the agrarian crisis, the philosophical side of religion, environmental ethics, so much so, it practically turned me into a vegetarian overnight.
The point of this is that I let go of my obsession with the rat race and began to focus on the issues and actual doctrines, and to my surprise, yet again, I could see my academic performance improve exponentially. And this is the point I want you to focus on, you need to let go of what people think about your career preferences and you also need to let go of the madness surrounding 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
I am well aware of how big a role marks play within the Indian educational framework and many of you might not be entirely comfortable with the disciplines that you have gotten as a direct result of the marks you scored. But the only advice I can give you is the one I gave myself- put your heart and soul into a field, whatever field that maybe and don’t worry about succeeding. I was lucky enough to be slapped with philosophy by fate but don’t mistake this experience as a fatalistic one; I truly believe that we hold the keys to our destinies and contain the power to make or break ourselves. To those who have it all figured out in life-well, good luck! To the wanderers like me, explore and find your passion, and you will be shocked to see how much potential you have.
Written for Fresher’s Handbook 2015