The story begins sometime in December two years ago when I decided to completely overhaul my career and begin on a journey that many said was unattainable because I didn't have the means. Motivation comes in strange forms, I concurred. Although I do have an OCD of meticulously overthinking and pulling my hair out in micromanagement, this was one of those rare occasions when I thought of taking on the challenge as they come.
I applied to The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in London and sat tight. If New Year gifts are a thing then this was mine. In the first week of January 2013, I received the email giving me an unconditional entry to Masters in International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS. This was my first Day Zero.
I don't know if it was a coincidence but right around that time I was reading this book where the protagonist (Mark Dickinson, also the writer of the book) decides to prove to his students and the world that benevolence exists, and marches on a holiday to Turkey with generous donations from anyone who gave him money. He managed to raise $500. Ten days from that fateful SOAS email, I decided that this is what I am going to do. Writing that blogpost wasn't easy. It's utterly cringe-worthy now when I read it in rumination, but two years ago it was my only shot at resonating with emotions and striking a chord, which it did. It was the first time I thought to myself that I might actually be able to pull it off. With the course beginning in September and visa application aimed at August, I had to raise the money by June to make good of the cumbersome visa rules. I managed to raise the money by April. This does sound like a fairy-tale but I wish people believe me when I say it wasn't. Strangers came out in full support and lifelong friends deserted -- a lesson most learn the hard way, like me.
People always talk about the power of media, but my experience is befuddling. I got my first coverage in a Mumbai-based wildly popular tabloid and my phone didn't stop ringing that day. Surprisingly, people were calling to congratulate me! A picture in the papers is all that is needed, the accompanying text is secondary. I raised a mind-boggling sum of Rs zero that day. A month later another newspaper wrote my story and the results were no different. Correlation implies causation? Food for thought.
Nonetheless, armed with my blog and social media, I persisted. I lost motivation many times when the faceless trolls attacked, sneered and scoffed at my "guiled" efforts. Thanks to a largely supportive colony of believers, I persisted. Another fateful day in April when I met the target. It was my second Day Zero.
By this time the currency depreciation began making murmurs as I watched the charts every day, then every hour and then every minute. My plight was such that I was seeing the hard-raised money eroding in its value every passing second but I couldn't do anything but watch the screen, laughing at my expense. I wrote an email to all my backers telling that even after achieving this near-impossible goal, the end might still remain elusive. They asked me to persist. I did. With the money that was raised for 12 months in London reduced to be not enough for even 9, I set sail (figuratively, of course).
Going back to college at 27 was as much fun as it was difficult. The classrooms were an ocean and I was drowning right in the middle. I knew it's going to be difficult but I clearly wasn't prepared for what hit me. Education isn't an easy business. The first month passed by and everything passed me at an excruciatingly slow pace, which felt like seconds because of the helplessness of my efforts to come to terms with this new life. But in the end an experience so enriching, an education system which really pushes you to think rather than rote, and making friends with people in every corner of the world seems a cheap trade-off. Sometimes I wonder whether it was pure condescension or plain ignorance when in December some asked if I was coming back to India for the vacations. I had lost 15 kgs in three months, lived on 500 pounds a month and some assumed I had the luxury of crossing seven seas to be in India for a week! Thankfully, last year, London wasn't as cold as some say it gets.
I came back to India in June. This was the next Day Zero. At every crucial juncture over the past two years I told myself that this is the most difficult part and it will all be over soon. Immature, some say. Poets ruminate that what is life, if not a bed of thorns? But we all, sometimes clandestinely and sometimes openly ask, wish, dream of life on a platter.
I was broken yet victorious and eagerly waiting to begin again. Now it's December and I still don't have a job. I wouldn't say that the past six months haven't been tumultuous, but it's a reality I wasn't prepared to see.
Not for a moment I expected that my "London" degree would make recruiters fall on the red carpet they would lay down for me, but I expected to find a job. A job that would give me the satisfaction that my efforts aren't down the gutter.
I have faced so many rejections that if someone actually offers me a job at this point I would just laugh it off as a cruel joke (please do try, please).
My family cannot believe that I am still jobless. Every conversation with my mother begins with her asking me if the future employers gave a verdict.
Honestly, I didn't expect to sit at home for this long. People have used words like "stellar, strong, and impressive" for my CV, but when it comes to offering me a job words like "sorry, next time, no vacancy, don't meet our requirements" are unimaginatively volleyed at me. I feel like the goalkeeper of a penalty shootout where the rule is to score a goal by hitting the keeper. And I get hit every time.
Even as Sruthijith emailed me asking for my phone number I immediately lit up like the LoC when India beats Pakistan in Hockey. The email client, too, sensed my excitement and sent the email containing my phone number some seven times (till last count). I thought the new editor-in-chief of Huffington Post India had a job for me since he did decline me the last time. Alas, it wasn't to be. Instead, he invited me to share my voice on HuffPost India's blog. So, I tell my story of epic drama and frustrations in the hope of it doing me some good. We know how it ended last time. Yet, hope. So I write.
As I try to begin my career again, loaded with a six-year business journalism background and a Masters in International Studies and Diplomacy, waiting to get a break in security/risk sector (subtle hint at what job you must offer me, but I can write about anything from foreign policy to your text messages with apt excuses for bunking work), I wait for the next Day Zero. The past six months have gone in finding this Day Zero, which still eludes me.