The day I came to I.I.Sc. as a student was one of the happiest days of my life. Little awe, some anticipation but a huge, huge chunk of happiness.
I’d decided what I wanted to do long back at the age of 10 or 11. I hadn’t heard the word ecologist then. I didn’t know something like environmental sciences even existed. But I knew I’ve got to do something related to natural world.
At home, there was never a sense of expectation. To do any particular kind of work…to choose any particular stream as a career. No forcing, either direct or discreet, not even subtle hints. I think at times it’s easier for a child if parents’ wish is put forth. It makes everything so effortless…on a platter. Matters become straightforward and uncomplicated. It’s so much more easier to choose a path that’s laid down in front of you and choose it because you’re told to do so. One doesn’t have to rake one’s brain as to what one would like to do for the rest of one’s life. In any case, I’m thankful that my parents’ wishes were not thrust upon me. I could pursue whatever I wanted to.
We were always encouraged to learn new things. My parents were quite cool about the whole thing…not only about learning regular things like music, sports, painting, but unusual and wacky stuff as well. I remember…my brother in his teens and then I, in my teen years have spent two-three weeks every summer with plumbers, cycle repairers, carpenters, electricians…the list goes on. We learnt skills related to farming, watershed development, roof repairing, so on and so forth. The point is we were exposed to all sorts of dexterities.
May be it is the background all of us come from, may be it is how we’ve grown up…there’s always a sense of inferiority and superiority regarding career choices. For better or for worse. Say you are an engineer or a doc and the respect/appreciation soars…in contrast to that, say you are an electrician or a plumber, it plummets. In any case, I was truly and completely besotted with biology, in particular nature. I was meant to do that…
I saw my dad dabble in agricultural research, my mom in education and science outreach and my grandparents in voluntary social work. Largely inspired by them, I wanted something that would be a blend of all these. I can’t pinpoint that one profound moment when it dawned upon me. Actually, there may not have been any such moment. I guess it gradually developed. The love for ecology was of an unspoken kind. Like two lovers, who haven’t committed anything through spoken words, but are devoted to each other through undying, stanch but silent commitment.
Though it was never meant to be an escape strategy, all the efforts (or the lack of them) to become an ecologist saved me so much trouble. Everything was so trouble-free. Firstly, I didn’t have to have meritorious marks in 10th/12th. I could devote more time to people and situations that needed me during those times rather than running between tuitions and hassling myself unnecessarily. Then I did B.Sc. in Chemistry, Botany and Zoology. Anyone who has gone through that would understand what an easy cake-walk it is. No fancy and competitive subjects like Microbiology and Biochemistry for me. Then came M.Sc. I wanted to study ecology but ended up doing the master’s in Life Sciences. One of the best decisions of my life. One good consequence of that was I stopped hating and ridiculing molecular and cellular biology and allied subjects. I realized love for another discipline was growing in my heart. I would have never realized it otherwise. Biochemistry!!! But ecology it was in the end…Hands down! BC lured me for a while but like a faithful lover, I came back to my ultimate love.
I have a long way to go still, but I’ve settled down a bit in my career. I’d certain issues with my work when it was offered to me and when I started working on it initially. Issues regarding applicability to the society. You see, our group works on social insects…wasps, ants and bees. How unfashionable, not in vogue. More importantly, how uninteresting! Or was it really? Slowly, it started making sense. The new, interesting facets of the subject unraveled. I started enjoying my work. Not only that, being a part of this department, being a part of I.I.Sc. gave me a kind of credibility and a platform…people listen to me seriously now. Not only that, they want to hear what I have to say. And I suppose, that’s half the battle won.
How I wish mom had been here to see me graduate in few years (yeah, it’s still plural!).
It feels so great to be part of such a heritage. Not only that. All the ambitions harboured since childhood coming true! The goal my heart had instinctively, little childishly and somewhat absurdly nursed, the aspiration for which all these 17 years of education was savoured (!!!), and the dream for which all the criticism and brickbats that were taken in stride from all the unreasonably intrusive nosey parkers…that dream has came true.
These are new times, new seasons in my life. I have seen such a tremendous growth in myself in last 2 years, a little for worse, mostly for better! This is a new world, full of new dreams.
It’s ridiculous and somewhat hilarious but everytime I pass the main building of I.I.Sc., I am reminded of all those scientists who were products of this institute and did excellently well for themselves and for the country. In spite of myself, a feeling of reverence creeps in, and I still can’t believe I have come here…that I’ve been part of this place for quite some time…it all seems dreamlike and a bit too fantastic.
What a journey it has been…Wardha, Pondicherry, Bangalore…who knows what’s in store next! What do I want to do next? Hmm…There’s some time for that now and that would make for an entirely new entry in this e-journal. Whatever it is, hopefully, it’ll be as good as it’s been so far.