“I was called a ‘hujjat’, the Urdu word for ‘argumentative’ in my childhood because I used to question everything. That attitude somehow moulded me towards a research career, although I had no exposure to the academic world while I was in school. I was lucky that my parents gave me the freedom to choose whatever I wanted to do and did not try to dominate my career decisions.
I loved biology, but I was never interested in pursuing medical sciences; I didn’t even know that we had to appear for an entrance examination for it. My friend, who was doing a Bachelor’s in Biotechnology, an emerging and promising field, gave me the idea of taking up BSc. So, it was my only option! However, I didn’t have 80% in Standard XII and therefore failed to secure a seat in any of the good colleges where I wanted to go. I had to actually run around from one college to another to get an admission and eventually made it to one of the moderately good private institutes in my hometown, Mumbai. Even there, in the third admission list, the committee had offered the first-come-first-serve option for the remaining seats!
Having been born and brought up in a very orthodox setting, I naturally developed anxiety issues. From my Bachelor’s days itself, I had these bouts of suicidal thoughts but I never considered going to a therapist then thinking I would be able to deal with it myself. When I look back now, I think it was mostly because I stayed at home with my parents. I was somewhat forced to follow Ramzan, which I didn’t like but couldn’t argue about. Eventually, when my mother realized that I had grown up and forcing something upon me wouldn’t do any good, she stopped coercing me. The moment that compulsion was lifted, I willingly started following it.
I moved out of my house during my Master’s. The day the results of MSU, Baroda was announced, I was travelling on a train and was fasting for Ramzan. It was that time of my life when I had no data connection on my phone and only used the WiFi at home. When I reached, I was flooded with text messages from my friends congratulating me on getting an excellent rank in the entrance examination.
My life at MSU was quite hectic, to say the least. Although I still had anxiety issues, I had no time to ponder over them and didn’t even know that a therapist was available on campus. My only therapy…