Born and brought up in New Delhi, I have lived the life of an average Delhi teenager until I graduated from college. In 2013, I completed my graudation in Business Economics from Delhi University after which I worked in digital marketing for a couple of years. During these two years, I also sat for various MBA entrances as I couldn’t figure out what else to do with my life.
But life had different plans, as it always does. Sometime during 2015, I got associated with a Microsoft and WWF India venture called Create To Inspire fellowship. While I have always been inclined towards literature and photography, I got in my head to apply to Columbia Journalism School during the fellowship. Partly, it was my wish to do something creative but mostly it was a far-fetched dream of becoming a travel photographer and writer. To my utter shock and disbelief, I actually made it.
Journalism school was an interesting mix of experiences. I found myself dabbling in data journalism, reporting about the Hispanic communities of Queens and finally, writing a 5000 word piece on commodification of mindfulness by corporate America which took months to report. Attending Columbia Journalism School was a turning point for me, both personally and professionally. It stretched my definition of what’s possible. As humans, we tend to rationalise our fears and learning to expand your limits is always a good experience to have. I graduated in May 2016 and was back in India by next month.
As I applied for jobs in India, I would often be asked as to how come I had the golden ticket to work in US and I didn’t take it? While I don’t mean any disrespect, it was and remains almost comical to see people look at me with suspicion, trying to figure out if I there is something wrong with me for doing something like that. For my part, however, I only travelled all the way to Big Apple to study at one of the best universities in the world and while I love that I got that one year in New York City, there is no place other than home where I’d rather be. If that sounds naïve or not prudent, so be it.
Anyway, my first job in journalism was at Hindustan Times. I started as a data journalist with the online news department and published around 20 data stories in my short stint that lasted 8 months. HT’s newsroom, while one of the most exciting and experimental places in India, was not the place for me as I longed to travel and write and photograph. The difficulty of such a dream lies in monetisation which is why I chose to put in on the backburner when I first started looking for work. However, if you’re going to be spending most of your waking time being bored and miserable, it’s worth taking a shot at whatever makes you feel less bored and miserable. I loved doing data but working at a national daily and doing mainstream news was not my cup of tea so I decided to quit. I quit without having a concrete plan for future in mind which is again something that is looked upon with suspicion. Again, I would say to the skeptics, it was a personal decision. A lot of life is wasted around in being prudent so strangers or in this case, potential employers wouldn’t judge us but I decided to take the chance nevertheless.
Ever since, I have taken on several freelancing assignments and most recently, my work was published in Hindu Business Line’s Blink as a photo essay. It has been a slow but a steady start. As time goes on, I hope to build my portfolio. As a journalist, I want to write and photograph India in all its glory. As an Indian, I am continually humbled by the extraordinariness of ordinary Indians and to me nothing is more “Indian” than a will to survive, to live on inspite of difficulties, struggles and disappointments. While I am only getting started right now, I hope, in the next 20 years, to have a body of work that celebrates India. At the same time, however, I am also open to full time jobs in travel and publishing as both are close to my heart.
I have a long way to go in life, both personally and professionally but I think I will always try to be constructive in life without forgetting that what really matters in life are our personal relationships. I have also made my own life my mentor and cultivated a habit to introspect because we learn from personal experiences more than anything else.