“100 Conversations” has been such a fabulous journey for me. I have met some wonderful women, made new friends and reunited with some who I have adored in the past! Today I bring to you a conversation with Amrita – we first met at Loreto, Shillong, when we were 4 years old! My oldest memories of Amrita are still vivid. She was this confident little girl who knew the subtle art of having “serious fun”. Right from kindergarten, she was serious about academics but in a nice way – she enjoyed learning. She had lot of fun participating in every activity. Dramatics, elocution, debate – name it and Amrita would be there. So from Kindergarten till 8th Standard, I remember clapping for her during the annual awards ceremony, year after year. She was very well loved by teachers as well as friends. What made her so endearing was her quiet confidence which even at that tender age, never turned into arrogance. I loved that about her. I changed schools in 8th standard and moved to a new school with fond memories of my batchmates, most of whom had been with me for almost a decade by then. In my mind, memories of Amrita remained frozen in time – someone who had always inspired me as a child. Couple months back, a dear friend reached out and got me onto our watsapp group – its called LC coterie of ’94! After nearly 2 decades we were back in touch! I re-connected with Amrita too and once again – we spoke about her journey and I knew it had to be part of my project because it is so insightful! Lets begin!
Amrita’s life in school continued along the trajectory of enjoying the curriculum, dabbling into various subjects and being proficient at everything! Being a high achiever comes with its share of unique problems – when you are good at everything, how do you figure out that one thing which then becomes the foundation of your career, your pursuit? To compound this problem, lets bring in what was the norm when it came to choosing your profession in the 90s – you had to be an engineer or a doctor! This situation nearly boxed Amrita, till serendipity struck in form of a fatal board Maths exam! So those of you who took board exams in the 90s, does this sound familiar – there had to be this one exam paper that would take everyone by surprise. Questions would be unheard of. No matter how much one prepared – you were almost guaranteed to enter a zone where the biggest question was, should I be studying this subject at all? Almost everyone would exit the examination hall teary eyed, crying, sobbing – sometimes even howling! I think this was by design, well intended – this was meant to be a life changing experience but whether we decided to change our lives after the experience or not, was up to us. So Amrita being Amrita – took the cue! She made the change. She asked herself those vital questions –
Why am I doing what I am doing?
Do I really like what I am doing?
This is where her journey of self-discovery began. She realised that she was doing what she was doing because she wanted to experience the world beyond the boundaries of our scenic town of Shillong. She wanted to explore – experience and learn from life on a larger scale. But she also realised that she was being short-sighted by looking for the most conventional way of getting out of Shillong. There could be other, more interesting ways – which she didn’t know yet. So she did what people hold themselves back from doing – Asking for help! She reached out to those who had done things differently do explore possibilities outside our little town. People who had done psychology, literature, sociology – This opened her mind to exciting possibilities, and she began to discover what she really loved – writing! She then made the decision which would turn out to be the best decision of her life! She decided to take up English Literature.
The next 3 years were beautiful. For her study of literature was not just about reading a poem and understanding what the poet said, it was also about when it was written – the history, as well as the socio-economic situation at that time. The culture! This changed the way she began thinking. Her ability to ask questions developed. Asking questions led to discussion and dialogs. She discovered a whole new dimension of how she could look at things. She felt ready to apply what she had learnt! She wanted to write to make an impact! Now she knew what to do next. The next step was doing a major in print journalism and then taking up a role as a journalist at a business daily! She had never done finance but she knew what she had learnt was the ability to understand all facets of the story and then tell a story – no matter what the setting was. This is how she mastered what she loves – identifying problems, de-constructing them, looking at different facets of the problem, gathering data to either solve a problem or create a hypothesis. And in the process, talking to various people who have experienced the problem and/or solved it.
Today, Amrita enjoys her role where she finds joy in research! Just like she found joy while delving in the depths of literature. To her, research and literature, both are about figuring out the story and connecting the dots! I loved connecting the dots while looking at her inspiring story. Loved the insights both of us derived in the process!
Taking cues from life and asking oneself fundamental questions
Why am I doing what I am doing?
Do I really like what I am doing?
Being willing to “ask” those who may have experienced what you have gone through
Listening to yourself to discover what you love doing and taking one step at a time (instead of over-zealous planning). Letting the rest unfold.
How could we wrap up without a take on style! Amrita has been a bit of a style gypsy – picking up nuances from her environment as she moved roles and places. As a rookie journalist, with her delicate frame she looked younger than she was. A style strategy that worked for her during that phase was to wear sarees! Consulting was a different game altogether. Dressing up was taken very seriously – one just couldn’t afford to look slapdash. Her style also evolved with the cities she lived in – so Delhi was more about ethnic dress up and silver jewellery, Mumbai was more cosmopolitan and that’s where she began experimenting more with western outfits and now in Dubai, Amrita has adopted more flowing garments. Overall her style is eclectic and bohemian. She enjoys accessorising. Her earrings often help her express her mood. When she dresses up, she asks herself – who do I want to be today. And somedays that means spending the day in super comfortable pajamas