COURAGE TO LEAVE THE SAFE HAVEN AND BE INDEPENDENT

“Courage is not always a roar. Sometimes, it is just that tiny little voice in your head that says – I can do it and I will try again tomorrow.”

Just today I was listening to the Amazon music station “Best of Bollywood in 2006” and Alexa played songs like – Mitwaa and kya mujhe pyar hai. And I got transported to that year of my life that was one of the major transitions for me.

I passed out of Engineering College in 2006 and was without any campus placement as our small little government college in the middle of the Himalayas had no such opportunities. All of my batchmates were moving to Bangalore to look for a job but my dad didn’t believe in living in PG’s and searching for a job. He wasn’t ready to send me to a city that had none of our relatives who could help me. So, the farthest I could go to was Mumbai at my sister’s place. 

I spent a month in Mumbai only to realize there were no opportunities that could suit me there. And I was also aware that my friends in Bangalore were writing entrances all over Bangalore. I spent hours at the internet café applying for jobs on the job portals. I had no laptop, no internet and a basic Nokia 1100 phone.

Finally, I got an interview call from Bangalore and I jumped at the opportunity. I told my parents and my sis that I have to take this and I went. I stayed with my friends in a PG for 3 days and did everything possible to participate in as many fresher’s job fairs as possible. During those 3 days, I got rejected at least twice in the interviews. I came back to Mumbai to stay for some more time but not a single call in that city came my way. Fortunately for me, I got an interview call from GE which I managed to postpone by a week and arrange for the tickets. This time I was sure that I wasn’t coming back to Mumbai. 

I packed my bags and told my family that I have to do this. I cannot keep travelling between the two cities and it wasn’t helping. That was when my dad decided to support me. He arranged for me to stay in one of CSIR guest houses. While on the train (Udyan Express) that took 24 hours from Mumbai to Bangalore – I was a nervous wreck. I was too anxious and spent most of my time crying and getting panicky. It had been 3-4 months since I was on a job hunt and nothing was working out. I had been rejected a few times already. I had been the topper in my college and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making it through. 

The CSIR guest house was an amazing place, a huge room just for me. I stayed in that guest house for 2 days and literally didn’t step out of the room even once because I was busy preparing for the interviews. Manipal Hospital on Old Airport Road was right opposite to the guest house and I just went there twice a day to eat food in the hospital canteen. 3rd day was my interview at GE which went inconclusive. 

After that, the challenge began as I had to find a place to live. I couldn’t stay in the Guest House for longer. None of my friend’s PG had a vacant place, so I just found a Working Women’s Hostel near my friend’s PG. The room had to be shared with 4 other girls and the first day I entered and saw my bed – there was a lizard on the mattress. But I had no choice now. I just drove the lizard away (it was a big deal because at home I wouldn’t sleep in the room that had a lizard) and slept on the mattress. I mostly ate at Shiv Sagar nearby which sold the North Indian meal Rs. 35/- then. It was more than enough for me. 

A few days later GE called me in again and the next round of interviews bore results finally. In those few days, I and my friends would travel all across Bangalore with copies of our resumes, dressed in formal clothes, travelling in local BMTC (non-AC) buses – we always bought the daily pass of Rs. 25/- and continued to hop from one job fair to another. 

Every night the uncertainty was killing. The next day was the same struggle. Even though we were going through a tough time, we found ways to keep ourselves elated. We sang to each other, danced at weird times in the night and did a lot to keep ourselves going. Life was tough, one night we had a theft in the hostel. Some random thief entered our room and took away all the cash and phones. That was the first time in my life that I felt terribly scared and felt like giving up. I didn’t care much about the lost cash and phone but felt worried about my own safety. All the stories of struggling girls getting raped were circling in my head. 

Finally, when the job came my way, it all got settled. I finally left that hostel and moved into a flat with one of my friends and life looked nicer and in control again. 

This is the story of 2006 and sometimes I just wonder – where did I get all that courage from to deal with this struggle? My parents were more than happy to just let me stay at home with them and arrange a groom for me. That would have been a convenient option, but that wasn’t acceptable to me. I craved to earn my own money and earn my independence. I didn’t want to live with family, I wanted to live that struggle because I really needed to know then – How much courage can I really muster? And I did surprise myself.