The accidental path

8:11 PM

Have you ever heard the sentence "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."?

This sentence pretty much sums up the lives of a vast majority of people in this world, including myself. We all grew up making or having big plans.  As kids, we were all asked early what we wanted to be when we grew up. We probably all ended up following a few of these leads.
We planned, re-planned, had a plan B, and a C, and possibly a D, you know just in case...because it is the wise thing to do. Just in case life happens, and it usually does.

Life happens, and you find yourself resorting to plans X, Y and Z (and probably beyond, but we ran out of letters, dang dammit!). That is probably because plans don't really work. From experience, I'll say that is probably better to have an idea and a set of goals rather than a big master plan.

Like everybody, I had plans. Some were cool, some were crazy, and some deceptively normal. As a kid I wanted to be a teacher, then a vet, then a circus performer, and an actor. As I grew into a teenager, I wanted to be an art teacher, PE teacher, doctor,  a decorator and a synchronized swimmer. I even remember once asking how one does become an astronaut in the course of my childhood.
I pursued synchronized swimming, and there was a time I was serious about becoming an art teacher, but only because my original plan of becoming an artist was poo pooed by my parents who said nobody makes a living with arts.

A few changes later, and I wanted to be an interior decorator. I was really sure this plan was going to work, I studied for it and everything.  But that was before Internet entered my life to eventually ship me to India (who would have thought!)
The irony is that Internet was never part of the plan you see. It was a distraction, a fun, fascinating new fad that I enjoyed discovering in my free time. I didn't even know back then that finding computers fascinating was considered geeky.

Interestingly, as I stand today, it ended up a distraction that pretty much shaped my life and who I became. Not only did it send me across the world and gave me a husband. It also taught me a whole bunch of pretty cool skills no school of my days would have taught to me. Back when I was a kid, home computers didn't have Internet (very few of us even had computers at home).
My learning journey pretty much all started with iVillage, a online portal for women that is now sadly no more. I was a Community Leader (CL) there, hosting message boards of various topics over the course of a decade. Not only did it help me better my grasp on the English language, it also taught me how to be a supportive voice to those in need in message boards. And because iVillage was constantly evolving and us CL were to be kept up to date, I learned the basics of website building, photo editing, HTML and graphic art making.

This very blog would never have seen the light of day if it wasn't for a fellow CL to suggest I start writing about my "Adventures in India" as she put it.

Internet was a catalyst for change in my life, without me even planning on it. People in my life used to make fun of it. Spending time in front of a computer instead of going out to parties was for "losers". Many tried in vain to "save me" by trying to put me on the extrovert fast lane. Back then I didn't even know that being introverted was a thing, and a normal one at that. I am sure that today, many of my childhood friends still see Internet as a futile distraction, one better left untouched not to be driven off the well travelled road. Have they succeeded sticking to their own original plans? I have no idea.

I myself am more of a beat your own drum and march to your own tune kind of person. If I see a path less travelled, I am likely to take it. And guess what? The artist life my parents claimed had no future is the one that is right now offering me the most prospect and ended up having the most diversified options of all.

I took the "accidental path" I pretty much allowed life to happen all along. But then, was it really all an accident?

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  1. Reminds me of the old proverb-
    "Want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."
    or more simply put-
    "We plan, God laughs."

    1. I heard that one too, it's a good one too :-)
      Plans really never really work don't they?

    2. Anonymous10:20 AM

      I never had any plans. No astronauts, pilot etc. for me. I knew very early in life that children often blurt out those careers which fascinate them like "I want to be a pilot" or those which the parents want them to say "I want to be a doctor/engineer etc". I was happy being a student, never thought beyond it.

      It also depends upon how aware the parents are. Parental expectations do shape the ideas of children, some may call it pressure but there is a positive side to it. In those pre internet days the awareness was low both among parents and students. Just the old careers and nothing else. These days it is different with lot of information, however, the financial viability of your passion still matters. Perhaps, a few years down the line when we have more options we may dare to dream big.

      Now, ofcourse a new problem is confronting my friends. Children who do not want to study/not want to work hard about anything. It has reached epidemic proportions, a disease that affects every second child. These days children do not dream about becoming anything. They are happy with what they have. They perhaps think that their present comfortable life with all its paraphernalia will continue. Parents will continue to work hard and support them through out their life. No fear of the future. It is agonizing to see these parents trying to find a way to reform their children and failing. Many of these children have indeed ruined their lives, but they don't care. The fundamentals of life has not changed much even if we think otherwise. Besides a few material comforts, life is still the same. It is not just about academics they do not want hard for anything in life. The old rules still apply, if you do not work hard and have passion you will fail no matter what you do in life. Even if you have a passion it still needs hard work and dedication to be successful.


    3. The fear of the future is something kids in Switzerland have, because the entire culture and system banks on being independent, parents will support their kids emotionally, and maybe financially but to a certain extent. The cost of life is so huge, and the amount given to social insurances and taxes so large that parents just can't spend all their disposable income on a kid that is not going to get off their butt. That said, my generation tends to get in the professional life much later than my parent's generation, mostly because of unemployment being so high.

      What is certain though, is that I know many who managed to do extremely well financially doing something off the beaten track. The key is hard work and determination more than anything else. Those people who became small scale entrepreneurs or freelancers actually make a confortable income doing so, but might often spend twice as much time working on it that those who have the 9-5 office job. My parents generation think that is crazy, my generation is ready to embrace it, but it takes a lot lot lot lot of ambition and a powerful drive to do so.

      As I said, my parents poo pooed my wanting to be an artist. That is because in their time, artists sold paintings, and did not much else. Now there is a viable career in graphic designing that didn't exist. And I am more and more considering going down that path, I have the basics, and now that Ishita is in school full time I have more time to sit and teach myself deeper more in depth skills on the computer. I started before she was born and was doing freelance translation on the side, along with my blog that I always had.

      These days with India changing as fast as it does, the last thing I want Ishita to believe is that academics are a safe option. Because we are moving more and more toward a society that wants qualified professionals in niche fields and market than we want all rounder, polyvalent office jockeys. This very shift happened in the late 80's and early 90's in Europe when suddenly getting jobs in traditional professions became much harder and the unemployment rate starting to rise. Suddenly doing an apprenticeship as a painter, decorator, electrician or specilialised accountant became less idiotic and more praised than a college degree that bought you no field experience. As a result, the level of quality in those "labour job" became higher and the demand for highly qualified and expertised workers in said field rose, and if you aren't going to be a top of your game, well versed in your art and deeply knowledgeable expert you aren't going anywhere. Not as a building painter, not as a carpenter, not as an anything. And these experts command higher salaries.

      I read a few months back that this trend has been catching up in cities in India. Ladies who wanted to be beauticians before just had to know how to wax legs and trim nails, now people want them to be on top of their game and up to date with the latest technique. Which means taking a professional course as a beautician suddenly seem far less vain and stupid when in the end it can fetch you double or triple the monthly salary you would get having no certification. What's more these courses are now seen as as much an career investment as any more traditional schools.

      So if Ishita announce one day she wants to be an artist, or anything really, I will probably have a smarter approach than my parents and encourage her to find her specific niche within the field of her choice and let her give her 100% and support that with my own 100% because I know that with the right attitude and drive she WILL be successful at it.

    4. Anonymous11:44 AM

      The key is having a drive and passion. Some children today are not doing either. Ofcourse, back in our days there were little distractions. It is hard to keep focus today when your peer group has divided the world into "cool" and "uncool". I call this "illusion of prosperity". To some extent this disease has affected everyone but its most lethal form is found among children. These children are not just apathetic towards studies they are indifferent towards everything.

      They think that everybody is a fool and they are smart. In fact these are lazy bums who do not want to do any hard work. They are living off their parents hard earned money but won't acknowledge it. It is beneath their prestige. This attitude sends shivers down my spine.

      At the end you have to work hard for everything. You must have the right attitude. You may think I have a little harsh but I have seen this nonsense enough. The film stars, sports men etc. may lead a glamorous life but they too have worked their butts off to reach there.

      My generation had a strict upbringing. So, many of us decided that we would be liberal to our children. However, how do we do it, we have still have not decided. Meanwhile, the children are taking advantage of this confusion. I hope we sort out this confusion ourselves and not pass it on to future generations.


    5. These parents have no idea what they are doing is not giving their child a helping hand. I see these kids at the playground, they are spoiled, nasty and just have no idea what it is like to do things for themselves. They have the latest cool toys, the latest fashion, a maid that wipe after them 24/7 and no respect for others whatsoever, or even a respect of things. I am really dreading when such kids come into my home to play because they also think it is perfectly OK to scribble on all the walls and break MY stuff and then do not get why I am mad, heck they even ignore Ishita when she tells them not to break things in her house. They have no idea.

      Ishita knows better than to expect all her whims and fancies to be fulfilled on the spot. She must wait for her birthday or Christmas to get a big toy, or work for it doing extra chores around the house. The lesson is that nothing comes instantly and easily and without hard work. DH and I are thinking of starting to implement the pocket money allowance system next year as she is now starting to understand numbers enough. Once we do, she'll be fully responsible of certain purchases like candies and chocolate, once the money runs out, she will have to wait for the next allowance, or do more stuff around the house to earn extras. All kids in Switzerland go through that drill, and with year the allowance amount increase, but so does the amount of things a kid is responsible of buying. Once you have to buy your own clothes as a teen, you start thinking twice about the absolute necessity of brands that are cool because it is your money on the line and blowing all your monthly allowance on one pair of jeans when you are also responsible for your candies, soft drinks and after school social outings suddenly seems super silly. This is usually at that time that the divide between spoiled brats and well mannered kids is the strongest, and in my school a lot of us had the allowance deal while the others were the so called "popular kids" with unlimited amount of cash and never ending supplies of cool clothes. But once in the real world, these kids usually struggle a bit more in the early years because they suddenly earn a salary and have no idea about savings, bill paying and whatnot and even iftheir parents were spooling them as kids, they usually cut the tie or loosen it a great deal as they grow older. The kids who have had the allowance deal and were made responsible for certain expenses early usually have a huge head start in adult life and are more responsible.

      The way things are going in India with middle class kids, I worry about them. I see a lot of them ending into big debts and no clues about personal finances and household expenses with aging parents no longer being able to support them either.

      One of these brats once asked Ishita why she didn't have a "didi" cleaning her room for her. Too bad, she has a Swiss mommy who demands she clean her mess and set ultimatums if it is not done. Nothing like the threat of mommy cleaning the room with a garbage bag to get you moving and decide you are better off doing it yourself :-)

    6. I call these irresponsible middle class pampered brats "Asian Princelings" (or Princesses -as the case may be).
      We have had one of these privileged 'Princelings' living with us for the past 2 yrs. He is my nephew & the only son of my husband's eldest brother- thus being the 'exalted heir' of the family. He has gone through quite the 'adjustment' living with us. He is no longer waited on hand & foot but must make his own bed, put his dirty clothes in the hamper, help serve & clean up after meals, as well as work in my husband's shop.
      He has been in trouble for assaulting employees (his claim was 'servants cannot talk to me that way') & driving his scooter irresponsibly (to the point of being jailed).
      Despite being 21 yrs old he has no concept of being responsible nor figuring out problems for himself. Just the other day he was standing in the hallway & yelling "THERE'S NO WATER IN THE SHOWER!!!" I had to tell him- "Well go flip the switch to the pump on in the kitchen, dumb butt!" He knows how & where the switch is to pump water to the tank on the roof - yet expects someone else to do it for him.
      Then he's standing by the stove, "Aunty, the chai is boiling over!!"
      Recently there was a swarm of ants parading across his bedroom under his bed- he had all sorts of chocolate & toffee wrappers tossed under there. I threw all the wrappers in his bed & left a note- "Please use dustbin for trash. Thank you, Aunty Bibi."
      According to my husband he hasn't done too well in learning to run a shop either. He's not stupid, he's just never been taught responsibility, how to treat others fairly, nor even to think for himself.

    7. Anonymous5:23 PM

      This irresponsible behaviour continue in the adulthood. People get married without worrying about how they are going to make ends meet. On top of it they become parents. They had discussed nothing except love. While one cannot visualize the challenges before getting married but some things are very evident. Expenses are going to increase when you become one from two and further when you become three. It is not rocket science. These young people do not want to curb their expense because that would be an admission of poverty. These days one cannot admit that one is short of finances because it is so uncool to do so. It is blasphemous for young people to discuss these things. They also do not want to take advise because it is below their dignity. Won't it be practical if you discuss your future before hand with someone you love?? Love will surely flourish if you are happy and not when you are worried about finances. This is another epidemic.


    8. These brats will learn the hard way, seeing those with a drive getting ahead in life while they struggle to keep a job, or struggle to get their finances back together. Mistakes in childhoods are far easier to fix than when you are married with kids and responsibilities and it is not like their own parents will be footing the bills on the maxed credit cards either in the long run.

      Bibi, your nephew is like half of the kids in my neighbourhood. As you said princesses and princelings with no clues about anything and a feeling like they are above all living things and responsibilities...sigh!

    9. Anonymous10:04 AM

      Today the Indian children rather the youth is all dressed up and ready for the party. The only problem is the party is not happening. Atleast not of the middle class. The have developed a sense of 'self' which is wonderful for the confidence but when there is no 'self' then perhaps it not a bad idea to put it away and get on with life. With the food prices rising, what was poor man's diet dal chawal has become unaffordable to the public. The humble down to earth onion is causing a lot of concern for a few years. Onion infact is a politically sensitive vegetable. I remember in 1996 the Delhi Government was not able to control the the onion prices and was voted out of power. In fact, there was a joke last year that one kg of onion was worth one US Dollar. It is such a proud feeling for the desi onion LOL. It means that we are developing. I read somewhere that as the economy develops luxury goods become cheaper and necessary goods become expensive. I think these children perhaps believe in the same screwed economic theory. May be we as a society has started believing in it. In such a situation, I am afraid these delusion kids wont't be able to afford even their present lifestyles unless they pull up their socks.

      Sometimes it is not the parents but peer pressure. Peer pressure is ten times stronger then. We believed that whatever mumbo jumbo our friends may tell us they are still children. We took their advise with a pinch of salt, assessed our economic situation and acted accordingly. Now, ofcourse parents are stupid and friends are wise. The world is upside down. As their is saying in hindi "the ganges river is flowing in the other direction".


    10. Fact of life : the is no party life, for nobody, nowhere, in India, outside India, anywhere. We all have to work hard to get the best out of life, some just think others have it easier than them and they are the utmost fool for even thinking that.

      On of the thing I am super mega uber ultra SICK SICK SICK SICK SICK of hearing is "You people in the west have it easy" as if it came down on our plate all cooked at all time. Europe suffered invasions, black plagues, an age of repressive religious power, two world wars and is still struggling today with poor economy, price rise, and throw in regular natural disaster in many parts of the continent. What Europe is, infrastructure wise and governement wise is the result of hard work and a dedicated common goal of the people wanting to work together to make it better for everybody.

      In 12 years in India I find it ludicrous to hear people hold this "Western individualistic" nature against me and my culture when in reality I have seen that the "Me and myself first" mindset far more prevalent in India. People only see community extending to their own caste, religion, and ethnic background in India, and they will want to look good among that lot, but only as long as they benefit from it. In Europe people will work on being the best individual they can be first but in order to contribute to the community as a whole, so much so that evading taxes or trying to buy their way out of a situation with money under the table is not something people there will even really think as an option (except a few crooks).

      What India need to realise, is that they aren't poor, they aren't more miserable or have a worst history than the rest of the world. In the end, once again it all boils down to the people's willingness to do something for themselves.

    11. By the way you see these brats and lazy bums kids in Europe too. The difference is that the parents are probably quicker than Indian parents to pull the plug on that crap and they will let their kids fail, fall and struggle to teach them a lesson about life. Some catch up quickly, others need more time for it to sink in as in credit card debts from hell and being forced to take any petty job that comes their way to make ends meet until they get the big picture. And I know a few lazy ass that never got it, they milk the system content to wallow in mediocrity thinking that one day they will win the lottery without even having to buy a ticket. These type live a pathetic little existence of crappy flat, cribbing about how everybody else got lucky and had it easy while they cash in their welfare cheque every month cribbing that the social benefits are shrinking and that they will have to take that clerk job they didn't want to take to make ends meet. Fortunately, that bunch doesn't constitute the majority of people. And in a way it is good for India not to have that welfare cushion for this type of people to fall upon.

    12. Anonymous1:00 PM

      Yes, I have read about the black plague, atrocities of the barons on serfs and religious repression. Seemed like India to me. Then something happened which changed the course of history in Europe. Renaissance took place. It was said in our history book that people started questioning the church and monarchy. Church lost its grip on the people. There was an explosion of new ideas, revival of classical literature, new voyages etc. This was revolutionary change. Our books did not address this issue properly. Now, it turns out that the black plague killed lots of people leading to economic depression alongwith social upheavals. The church proved ineffective in saving the people from plague. Certain sections of the church was also divided on the subject of science. Whatever followed including the industrial revolution was directly the result of this phenomenon. I think it was a very lucky event which turned a rather conservative, feudal society into more liberal one. I think the major factor was economy. Most changes in the world are brought about by economic reasons. This was the time when we were cutting ourselves from the rest of the world, caste and religious repression was getting institutionalized in India. I think we missed the bus in India.

      As far as honesty is concerned, it a direct result of sense of belongingness to the country. I am not a European expert but a french from north of france or south of france would be same because the look the same, despite differences in dialects and culture. In India a punjabi and tamil have nothing in common. The first difference is physical appearance. Then there are differences in languages, culture etc. You will have to dig deep to find commonality. Most people do not want to make this effort. Add caste, religion and clan to it. Do you think they will both feel the same about their country. Their idea of India would be different. On a broader scale our loyalties are not with the country but to out respective communities, castes etc. The point I was getting at not only the western civilization had the advantage of renaissance, how and why it happened is immaterial, they also had the advantage of racial, cultural and religious uniformity at least within the countries. These are powerful forces that propel people in one direction. If you broaden the argument then you can group all these countries which we call west into one group sharing similar values, life styles etc. Perhaps all these countries learned from each other due to shared values of race and culture. One pulling the other.

      India perhaps did not have these advantages so it is immensely more difficult to pull all these diverse people in one direction. It was only when we became one administrative unit under British we realized that we are one people and perhaps our futures are also linked.

      This is not an apology for all that is wrong in the country, favourable or not we have to do what we have got to do. Just my theory, may be right, may be wrong. No offence meant, I am not against western civilization. Just an observation.


    13. Europe has many different languages, and ethnicities, I can now more or less tell the difference between a South Indian and a North Indian, after years in India. But I can tell you the difference in look between a South European and a Scandinavian too. I think these tiny differences are obvious if you are an insider, the difference in Europe is people try to rise above it, not always successfully. Renaissance really only happened in France, Italy and to some extent Germany, but not in the rest of the country. Germany, Switzerland, and some of the Nordic countries had what we call the reform, which is a divide within the Chruch, with people breaking away from it and realising the Roman Cahtolic Church was corrupt in its time, and not true to the original scripture, these dissidents were called "Protestant" and the name is still in use today where Christians are divided between Protestant faith and Catholic faith. The Protestants were in many way more austere and repressive, but also allowed a certain degree of intellectual freedom that could only exist free of the dogma of the Catholic Church. In France, which is still and always have been predominately Catholic, Renaissance happened, and this lead to the French Revolution when people realised there was a more than unfair economical divide between the noblemen and the "bourgeois" this demanding of a fairer more equal governement and economy in France ended up spreading across the continent and to the United States. But the declaration of the human rights has its origin in France. What could have facilitate the change in Central Europe was the trade routes and the people and ideas that travelled on them. Another thing that greatly facilitated things was that Latin was a language that stuck around long after the Roman Empire was history, it was mostly spoken by the elite but ideas that shaped nations were originating from these classes. The language of the people were a hodge podge of dialects that would vary from regions to regions.

      My husband pointed out that what might have made the sense of community so wide in Europe is due to survival instinct. Most of the continent sees very harsh seasons, and the threat of having an entire harvest destroyed with no possibility to grow a back up crop in the Winter made people very self reliant and very keen on banding with others to cope in case of crisis. The Alpine arc that spread across Austria, Germany Italy France and Switzerland is an unforgiving one, landslides, avalanches alone are responsible for a great deal of damage and the folks tales and songs of yore are full of warnings about the harsh living conditions.
      hUbby also observed that while India had famines and hardship period, the climate is mild enough in most of the country that if a crop failed there was always the possibility to fall back on another crop grown in another season and this could have made people a bit less alert and more complacent and less likely to question things than people did across Central Europe.

      I think people in India have started questioning things only recently, and sadly politicians have been exploring things for long enough that a vast segment of the population isn't educated enough to recognise the danger of these extremists. And it is not in the advantage of these very same extreme politicians to have those people get more informed about even their own basic rights. The whole divide to rule is very prevalent in India still. This kind of politics have proven fatal in Europe eons ago, and those that still practice it these days still do damage. Let's look no further than the right wing parties that like to blame Muslims and emigrants for all the ills that happen. No different than the right wing Hindutva in India who says the West is evil.

    14. Anonymous3:01 PM

      The right wing is not always the villain. There are others also but they get the most limelight. There are lots of people of different hues in Indian politics. The good thing is now each one is more or less identifiable to the public.

      If somebody hurts my religious sentiments, what should I do?? the civilized thing is to file a case against him. No some people have declared that filing a case is also an act of intolerance. I dont' want to break his head but I don't like what he has done. Now, somebody wishes to hijack my genuine feeling of grievance and indulge in violence then what can I do. Once this happens, liberals jump in. It become a debate and battle. The real issue whether what a particular person has done anti religious or not is left behind. There is no examination of the merits of the case.

      There is this vast majority who do not like their sentiments being hurt but they also do not want to indulge in violence. These are the fence sitters who can make the change. They must be cultivated by the liberals to bring substantial change in the society. Right now the liberals look at common man as some ignorant, foolish creature who by nature is conservative and misogynistic. There is an intense hatred towards him.

      This is like a silent vote bank. If the politicians can cultivate vote banks on religious and caste lines then why can't the liberals do the same. If the liberals tap into it then the fight against conservatism and misogyny could be won. In the absence of an alternative these people will shift to the other side which would be disastrous. It is a game of vested interests where everyone wins except the common man.


    15. The main problem is that few know the meaning of Secular Democracy, and few even know what the Indian constitution says. With that, it is easy for rogue polititians if all side to exploit the people. Educate the masses about these things, and these rotten fruits will have less power over the common man. A thing sadly these people understood oh too well, they want people to know as little as possible in these matters because their butts are on the line and they get ejected once the people realise what they have been kept in the dark about.

    16. Anonymous3:57 PM

      At the time of independence there were more than 100 princely states in India more like 100 independent countries. Sardar Patel the first Home Minister of India worked tirelessly to bring all of them in the Indian union and we finally had what we know as India. It was also the time when the country was partitioned and everything got divided between India and Pakistan. Quiet a traumatic time.

      There is a film called "Sardar" which is based on the life of Sardar Patel. There is a dialogue which tells it all. In the film, one day after a hard day's work Sardar Patel tells his PA "Sometimes I think are we on the right path?? How will the future generations view us?? Would they understand our compulsions?? They will say to hell with your compulsions, what did you leave for us. Whenever I think about this, I cannot sleep??

      This is a telling example of those great men who shaped the destiny of India. They lost their sleep thinking about the future of this country. If not for foresight and vision, we would have been even worse. The democracy and secularism that we take for granted was established by the blood and sweat of these great people.



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