Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Michigan State University; Independent journalist - environment, science and international news.

Fellow - International League of Conservation Writers.

Member - Society of Environmental Journalists, International Communication Association.

The 3 part solution

While I was living my best Summer yet, there are certain little things that happened, or were said, that sparked an idea of an article in my brain. One such moment was when we were at Doc’s house and 3 friends of Divya’s were also there for dinner. One of them, asked very sincerely and innocently, “How do you have the balls to go against what you parents have thought out for you and choose a profession which neither pays, nor sustains you?”

As I see it, these are 3 different aspects : a)Going against what our parents have thought out for us; b)Having the balls and c)Non-paying, non-sustaining profession.

Addressing each one is not a complex procedure. Firstly, as from what I understood of his question, all parents apparently chalk out a plan for their kid/s regarding what they want the kid to grow up and be. I have no clue whether my parents had such a “thought” for me but I know that they always wanted me to do what I would like doing, and they wanted me, as do all parents, to be successful. They however, did think I’d choose a “normal” and conventional field. So when I chose my field, no big surprise, it didn’t go down very well at all. Still hasn’t. What I think parents need to understand is, that no matter how many plans you make for you children, in the end, it is, and will always be, the child’s choice that matters. In some cases, either one of the parents had always dreamed of being, for example, a doctor. So if, for any reason, that parent did not get to live his/her dream, it is often “handed down” to the kid and the kid is expected to secure some ridiculously brilliant marks and do very well academically and become a doctor, and live his/her parent’s dream. In every way, this is wrong! Just because you didn’t get to do what you wanted to, does not mean you put your child through the same! My parents were never happy with the choice I made. For the first 5 years they called it a phase, and when I finished my 12th, someone had to give in. Them or me. And it’s pretty obvious by now, that I’m not the one who did. They had to accept the fact that the wilderness and wildlife is what keeps me happy, and that’s what I want to ALWAYS spend my time doing. Today, they’re proud, because I made a decision, I made my own choice, and stuck to my guts, and I’ve achieved more than what either of us had imagined for me! That’s what comes from sticking to your guts. And today, they know and I know, that whatever happens to me in the future, whether bad or good, will be the consequence of MY decision. I will never be able to blame them for what situation I am in. If I accept all responsibility for myself, it makes things much easier.

So – I didn’t go against them for the heck of it. Actually, I didn’t go against them or their wishes. I just stuck to what I wanted for myself.

Secondly, as far as having the balls is concerned, that really is no big deal. Since I was a kid, the rebellion spirit has always been in me so for me to stand up and say I will do this and only this, was no great thing. I never saw that as having guts. I saw it as knowing yourself, and knowing what you want to do in life. Which, I guess, everyone should know at some point in their lives. It takes courage to go against the world. But this is different. It’s not like everyone was conspiring to make me a dentist (they were at one point hell bent on me doing medicine though). So I didn’t have to fight off a group of villains! All I had to do was stand up. For- a)myself, b)what I believed in, c)and for the field that I chose. So I did. I chose to do a degree as worthless as a BSc because it did two things. 1)- it gave me the time to do my own thing out in the field because I could afford to bunk college extensively (initially only because later I found out, I could bunk WITH permission, so I could legally take off whenever I wanted to). 2)- I didn’t need to study a lot. Just some basic stuff which I already knew, and some more additional stuff that was supposed to qualify as knowledge! So I got an easy deal. Only time I had to go mad, was during submission time, when I’d go mad rushing to finish journals, and exam time, because I would not study the whole year, and would cram my brain with text the day before the exams. So I figured, I could do that, and hence, the BSc thing seemed worth it to me. What the heck did I know my course structure would frustrate the daylights out of me and I would think of dropping out? But then, I started this. So I will finish it. One more year of this torture should be cool coz I don’t have to go to college too often anyway. Just need to get permits, and take off to do some project somewhere in some jungle.

So – it’s not guts. It is simply knowing- that this is what you want, and it is what YOU picked for yourself, and that you will never be able to blame anyone but yourself for the choice you made. Once that’s all set in your mind, and you are able to accept all consequences, it is all cool.

Thirdly, non-paying, non-sustaining profession. Honestly, if you use your brain wisely, I think, wildlife is a very rich field. Rich in terms of the amount of satisfaction you get, non-monetary. Job satisfaction. There is money here. You just have to know how to make it. And it depends on me whether I am able to learn how to make it or not. Agreed, it is much much tougher than most other fields because it takes you decades of effort to earn you your first salary. But once that’s done, it’s brighter because you now know the “tricks of the trade”. As for sustaining oneself, there are endless examples of people who work for wildlife conservation full time. All these people are alive and well, getting their 3 meals a day, and they’ve learned how to make their money. Whether it is Bittu Sahgal of Sanctuary Asia who has learned in his own way, or whether it is the Forest Department, or Govardhan Singh Rathore who has adopted several self-sustaining methods. All these chaps know their requirements, they know what they got to do to get there, and these are just 3 examples. The first 3 I could think of. And yeah, there may not be the kind of cash that an IT pro might get, but how many IT pros get to wake up one morning, smell fresh rainforest air, and say, “ok, Im going to go for a walk along the river and monitor King Cobras today.” I live, breathe, love, talk wildlife. That is only because I chose to. All comes down to just one thing. The choice you make.

You can choose whether you want a mansion, 5 servants, 7 dogs with a servant each, an Audi, a BMW, a Merc, a Ferrari, blah blah blah… OR you want a life in which you make your own calls, you have NO boss, because thankfully, you dictate terms to yourself, and you get to live in places that most people only dream of or see on TV or hear of.
Other people’s dreams also are too polluted to let them dream of rainforests or Chambal .. but you- you get to live there.

That’s the life. And for me, that IS life.

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