Choosing a career can be the most daunting decision for an individual and more so in India where you are often fulfilling your parents’ aspiration or meeting societal expectations. Life throws its own set of challenges irrespective of whether you make it to the IIT or not. This is a real-life account narrated by Rupaditya Adireddy, whose journey was full of trials and tribulations
“I was once a little enthusiast, having no worries, no hurdles, no responsibilities. I used to be on my own inventing my games, dissecting all my toys, and repairing them with band-aids and cellophane. People around would giggle at me and say “You will be a doctor in future”. Whenever I used to do something weird or recreate something from the internet they used to say “You will be a scientist”. When I used to play in sand piles digging tunnels and connecting them without breaking the sand they said, “You will be an engineer”. But no one ever asked me what I would want to become.
Well, I still remember the day when my dad asked me about my plans for what my future occupation should be, and I replied “I am not sure, but I like cooking. So, maybe a chef or I even like to act and sing so, an actor or musician?”. My dad burst into laughter and said “You want to become a chef, so you go to everybody’s house and cook, do you think society will respect you? Acting and singing can’t be professions they can only be hobbies. Understand!”. Well, at that time I was the laughing stock of the house but I didn’t understand what was wrong to become a chef and not an engineer.
I did manage to make my parents agree to learn classical music which I love. My mom even used to have a great passion for singing but couldn’t fulfil her dreams since her father expired during high school. However, she managed to complete her MSc (Masters in Science) and chose her profession to teach. But my music classes didn’t last long as it used to be a big burden for my mom to take me up and down every day after school, come back and feed the family. She used to work so hard for the family and me. She would often say that marrying a person doesn’t mean she would take care of your house, and you both have the equal responsibilities to share the load which I’ll never forget.
I changed schools although I didn’t want to leave the last school, but my parents were convinced by the IIT foundation included in the curriculum from 6th standard. From then somehow even I was convinced that the world works only on being an engineer or a doctor. Even though I enjoyed studying somehow, I turned into a nerdy geek living in a shell. I stopped sharing my interests and feelings with my parents and my friends for fear of being judged. In this process, I left the practice of music due to criticism and found a hobby towards journaling and writing stories, in which the protagonist would be a fat nerdy guy, who falls in love with a girl who is quite the opposite. I used to imagine a world where he wouldn’t be bullied but supported to make himself perfect. But slowly I got to understand those stories would mean nothing because accepting myself the way I am is the most important lesson I’ve ever learnt.
Then Covid came, changing my life the most. Somehow my parents started understanding me and I started understanding my parents. I spent so much time with my parents, we battled through all the struggles as a family. They stopped putting pressure on my studies, they always used to say give your best and don’t think too much. From then I took my preparation for IIT JEE very seriously. I met so many people who have similar or even worse family pressures than mine. I would rather call my coaching centre a panic factory. We were never appreciated for what we’ve done. There was always a continuous evaluation and comparison with others. I mostly spent my coaching years with self-doubt and fear of the future. I would say preparing for the exam was like sitting in a pressure cooker for us. I’ve seen the parents of a student telling him to study some more so he could top the class. No one cares about our mental health, if we are mentally ill, they used to say we made it up in our heads and we can’t cross the cutoffs to our dream IITs. I even remember tackling a panic attack before the JEE-mains exam sitting in my room alone trying to take deep breaths. But now, it all makes me feel strong. After taking the advanced exam I was not sure what my rank was going to be and which IIT would be in my rank range. I was facing the biggest burnout of my life until then. But I would say getting in here is the greatest feeling I ever got. Somehow, I understood the importance of taking breaks. If someone asks me how to work incessantly, I would say, that is only possible when you know how to treat your body and mind the right way.
As a child I’ve ever imagined myself always being the greatest of all in my society, being the best kid in my family. I used to feel bad but never motivated when compared to my cousins. But even worse when knew how my cousins felt when they compared their children to each other’s achievements. Whenever I try to critically think about what my parents try to tell me, one thing strikes my mind is that what I was made for. Be an engineer instead of being a chef so that my father can feel proud of me. So, what if I failed to be in the place where I am? So, what if there’s a person who is extremely good at a thing but forced to be an engineer, need not be alienated in this statement, I’ve seen my cousin who is forced into this engineering factory despite his talent in dance, although he pursued it in the form of dance clubs in his university. He is always blamed by society for his failure to get into an IIT or nit rather than being happy with what he is achieving. It’s nothing though for him now, because he faced issues when society blamed him, he is happy with what he got, happy for what he is pursuing as a hobby. I learnt this from him when life gives you issues there are two ways to go, take them, learn what you could do better, leave all the other trash attached to them (referring to the blame), and move on. The other way blames your situation, your incapabilities, and the aunties and uncles who sit down and invest their time talking about your failures rather than doing something with their life and feel you are the most miserable person having a worse life. Come on if you know that someone giving you rubbish things, it means you shouldn’t take it. So, I understood it even works with me. Yeah, I did it, I am finally on the route to being a future engineer, my dad’s dream is going to be true. And no one’s ever going to question me if I ever want to sing, act, or cook. So, it is always true. If life gives you lemons, you are meant to make lemonade with it. I have stopped blaming others or myself, I have started doing stuff however it feels going good.”
(Today Rupaditya is studying Electrical Engineering at IIT Delhi, India’s premier college and cultivates his passions by enrolling for Music Club and attending Spic Macay programmes. He has learnt to make light of every heavy situation by using his sense of humour and says today he can cope with anything life throws at him)