"My Life My Choice" - SYNOPSIS

"My Life My Choice" - SYNOPSISTen real stories about real people..for all the working class…..

What is my ‘ideal’ job? Which career would suit me perfectly ?

Around our mid-lives, many of us are faced with the question- is this the career that I would like to pursue for the rest of my life? Or are there alternatives that I would like to experiment with ?

The experiment itself maybe an expensive proposition- if you are the only bread-winner in your family- but that still does not deter some to take the plunge in an area that feels close to their hearts. This book deals with ten such people who have moved out of the cocoon of stable, lucrative first careers and tried something completely new and different around their mid-lives. It outlines the triggers, barriers and implementation mechanics involved in arriving at such a decision .

The alternative career choices discussed here range from joining politics to taking up teaching or joining a NGO or starting an entrepreneurship venture or even getting back to one’s own childhood interest..These are full time career choices and not part-time pursuits. And these are actively considered after one has met one’s initial set of professional goals. The shift may be done for various reasons ranging from- stagnant learning in the first career ( boredom at work is yet another reality that the current working class has to deal with) or having a “larger than life social calling” or “ wanting to impact young minds” or even wanting to pursue one’s childhood passion. In some cases it is also because of family circumstances that one has to re-look at one’s career. And by giving a flavour of the different options that people take up, I hope readers will get a perspective of what these entail both in terms of the new career understanding and that of self- understanding ( this is more critical- so you get a feel of whether you are suited for those options). The book is not comprehensive on the range of issues covered – in fact every chapter has the potential to become a separate book. But I have touched upon aspects that I believe maybe some of the most important ones- thereby leaving the readers to ponder upon the rest.

Middle age is the time when we re-set the agenda for the rest of our lives; and work defines a large part of our agenda in terms of who we are . So we cannot have a fulfilling life if we feel we do not have a fulfilling career- hope this book inspires you to take that first step..


Why do I like to write?

Why do I like to write? Or for that matter why does anybody like to write? What need does it satisfy?

At a basic level, writing is a form of telling. When you meet interesting people or visit interesting places, you like to share information about these to others. You can add your bit of flavour in the commentary or in the narration, but it is essentially “telling” others what you have seen. “Peopleogues” and “Travelogues” fall under this. Sometimes, even sports writing or pieces about events can be classified under this.

At another level, writing is about creating an imaginary world that satisfies enormous number of fantasies. This is especially true of fiction writing. It allows you to dream, invent characters and objects that will do things that are not possible in real life. It could be an escape route from the everyday drudgery for many.

At yet another level, writing is about sharing your opinion on something. It could be in any subject that is of interest to you. You get into the issue, analyse it and acquire a different perspective. And this stimulates you enough to want to share it with the rest of the world. It is a deeper and a more involved pursuit than the first two. While the former require width and exposure, this one requires a more thorough and a studied approach. A well-researched piece of article or book on any subject has the potential to change people’s thinking. At its peak, it is a powerful influence on humanity. This form of writing comes under non-fiction.

This last one interests me the most. Especially the ability to “influence”. While getting into an area and studying it thoroughly, one’s own perspective on it may undergo a sea- change. And that excites me no end. What can be more rewarding than picking up a problem, tossing it around amongst a group of “relevant experts”, and coming to well thought out conclusions on the issue?

The whole process forces you to change from within. To start with , just the act of meeting many people exposes you to the world at large- that you begin to feel connected. Secondly, establishing trust with the respondents in order to get a genuine set of answers expands you as a person. It does not come in the first one or two meetings, It requires discussions, contradictions and further discussions. It has to become clear to them that you are really interested in understanding the issue at hand. And that, while doing so, you will in no way demean their reputation or short circuit their opinion. It is a much bigger task than it appears to be. Thirdly, you also learn to ask the “right” questions. This makes your own thinking process more clear. You end up crystalising the “big picture” in any problem and weaving a framework around it for a methodical study. And finally, as you reflect on the answers given by them, you cannot but partake in the “emotional journey” of others. You may agree or disagree but you end up processing the issue in a deep manner. And as you share your views with them, they also feel joyous that someone else is actually “taking” the pain of “thinking” through issues for them. For both parties, it is a very enriching experience.

And it is this experience is what translates into well researched and analysed “writing”. Reading a piece such as this can open up many minds in a way that could not have been imagined before. In fact over a period of time, one begins to utilize the same analytical skills that have been used in the writing, to analyse real-life issues. And a certain objectivity and rigour set into one’s own thinking. Done more and more, it becomes a habit; and you begin to relish life experiences because you look forward to acquiring “new perspectives” on old issues.

So why do I like to write? Because perspective building- both at an individual level and at an audience level energises me. And I am able to use that energy to propel myself forward in other areas of my life.

So that’s what writing means to me- perspectives. Through this article, I hope I have been able to get across a fresh perspective on “writing” to you!

Thank you for your patient reading.

Back to school

Find the “adjunct” in the sentence that you are currently reading; or identify the “indirect object” in this sentence.

What you just read is a small part of the ordeal that the students in the eighth grade of a Tamil Medium Corporation school in Chennai, go through, as a part of their English grammar syllabus.

I call it ordeal because it is one! For the students especially who are experiencing it.

Let me elaborate. I have recently volunteered to teach at the local Government school . During my first interaction with the Head Master of the school, it was decided that I could teach English grammar, as that is a subject that lacked adequate faculty at the school. I accepted readily and looked forward to the experience. I picked up the English text book from the school along with my class schedule ; I was assigned 8th class, B Section.

On the first day at school, I was greeted with great enthusiasm by the children. After a brief introduction by their current teacher, I took over.

I started by asking in English, what the children thought of English grammar as a subject. The question was understood by less than 50% of the class. And among those who comprehended, there was a clear expression of dislike. I prodded further-as to what was in their minds. The most popular response was “ we do not see the use for it”. The reply hit me hard.

Of course as I tried to reason with them why grammar in any language is required , I could sense that their feelings were more to do with their inability to understand the basic language itself! That was the real issue.

I started looking at the facts. The English literacy in this particular class was less than 40% i.e less than 40 out of 100 could read three words in English consecutively without any help. The rest needed support in both alphabet identification and in pronunciation.
Secondly, apart from the regular class hour, there was no other avenue or forum that encouraged English reading for the children. There is a semblance of a library- but due to lack of space, the books are piled up in one corner ( the range of books is utterly poor in collection). And there is no space in the library for students to sit and read . Finally, there is absolutely no effort to converse in English even during the English classes.

Of course, I did not expect these to be present in a Government school. But I did expect that the English language syllabus in a Tamil Medium school is designed keeping in mind all of these.

This is not to suggest that English grammar is not needed for the children of 8th grade. But the pressing need of the hour is making students reasonably fluent in English- reading and writing. And a grammar that goes with that level. By incorporating a fairly evolved grammar curriculum, , the students have begun to feel “fearful” of the language itself. And are avoiding it. In fact when I distributed free books that had English alphabet based words to help the beginners, there were hardly any takers.

A chat with the Head Master revealed that he is constrained by the syllabus thrust on the school by the Government. He agreed that there is a major mismatch between the current English level of students and what is required by the curriculum. But bridging the gap seems an arduous task. While, the idea of introducing English grammar needs to be lauded, over ambition in that effort does not help the cause. It may result in alienating the language further among a set of students for whom the environment is anyway not conducive to learn or practise English. ( no conversation at home happens in English, possibly no English book reading, English TV channel watching or English movie seeing).

Any language is best learnt by usage i.e talking. Not by rote of some theoretical concepts. We all learnt our mother tongue that way. Grammar in that context is understood more as you practise the language and not as a set of rules to be followed. In real life, we never end up needing this level of grammar knowledge- unless you take up literature as a profession- in which case it could be taught at that point in time.( in fact even I had to learn the concepts before I could take classes for these kids!)

So, who needs high flung English grammar? Not the “below poverty line” children of Government schools anyway!.