When I was eight, I stopped talking to my father for over a day. The ‘fight’ was because he had just explained to me (quite kindly) that we were shifting home. We used to stay in Vadodara, a bustling, cheerful city; my family had called that city home for 25 years. My father was dragging us to a sleepy little city 300km away. I hated him for as long as a girl of eight could hate her otherwise nice father. In retrospect, that decision irrevocably changed my life for the better.
The change was an eye-opener. The two cities, despite being in the same state, were vastly different in terms of their dialect, the culture and the general populace. But the most major change was my schooling. My old school was a small one, with just about 500 students and 20 teachers. On the other hand, my new school in Rajkot was (and is!) a huge system, with 7000 students and a 1000 teachers. My first day in school scared me to no end, especially since I joined midterm and was two years younger than my classmates. I was told that I had a month to catch up with about half year’s academics and get a decent score in the upcoming tests (just a month away) if I wanted to continue in the same grade. The stubborn girl that I was, I refused to go two grades down and in all innocence of a girl who had never taken a single test before, agreed to taking the examinations too.
Today, eight years later, armed with objectivity, maturity and most importantly hindsight, I realise how much the change in city affected me. I don’t regret it; rather, I have grown to love Rajkot as much as my birthplace. It’s just that this shift moulded me from a shy girl of eight to a confident girl of sixteen. It broadened my horizon, changed my perceptions and showed me life’s multifaceted nature. And it’s not that ‘growing up’ brought this on; I, for certain know the difference growing up brings and the difference this brought along. Shifting my home was the biggest positive paradigm shift I could have probably had.
Recognizing different paradigms is central to my upbringing. My parents have always tried to ensure that my interaction with life is open and uninhibited, encompassing as many perspectives as possible. The best way they did this was by instilling in me a love for reading very early on. I have loved to read, since before I could read, since before I could figure out which was the right side up while reading! My mother fondly recalls me spending time by myself, with a book held upside down; simply enjoying the idea of being able to read. Be it the imaginative Enid Blyton, the powerful Ayn Rand, the charming J.K. Rowling, the insightful Mitch Albom or the informative Frederick Forsyth; books have always been there. They show you that there is more to life than just you.
The other singular factor which has shaped me is my curiosity. My family always encourages my questions, allowing me to think independently about all matters small and big. Independent thought doesn’t equate to full freedom in action; rather it refers to freedom of the mind—allowing it to roam to find room. And so, I question! I want to know how things work, why things happen, why the world functions the way it does…the list is endless. I could question everything under the sun and the sun itself! But, this isn’t the condescending questioning of a cynic; it is the innocent questioning of an inquisitive girl. I persist till I find answers, till I understand. I realise how fortunate I am since I have the pleasure of getting varied perspectives on questions from my family. I could ask my effusive grandfather, my conservative grandmother, my nonconformist father, my compassionate mother, my innocent little brother or any of my aunts-one stern and the other rebellious.
Inadvertently, it’s my innate curiosity that makes me what I am today. I love the sciences, mathematics and literature. I want to grow up to do research in an unchartered field and learn about new concepts by discovering them myself. It is this same old curiosity which manifests itself into my career choice, for which I couldn’t thank my family enough. They have taught me that knowledge is to be sought, to be discovered and uncovered. It isn’t handed neatly wrapped and packed. One has to strive to achieve it, to reach to it.
As I look forward to another major change in my life-college, I realise how my varied experiences have been instrumental in shaping me. I hope that my future turns out to be like shifting home—fruitful, definitive and fun.