“I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to follow the convention. In Kerala, engineering is a convention. When most of my friends and my family members went for engineering after school, I instead decided to pursue English Literature for my Bachelor’s. Though I was fond of all subjects belonging to natural sciences in general, literature and humanities intrigued me more. During my graduation, I was exposed to a lot of books pertaining to society and its power relations and I was drawn to that. I discovered the field of ‘International Relations’ through one of my seniors and it immediately caught my attention because it had a section dedicated to human rights. I had recently got interested in the current affairs of politics and it was my desire to pursue a field where my work could impact society directly while having opportunities to travel across the world.
The idea of doing a PhD, however, wasn’t very clear in my mind. It was one of my professors who suggested that I could think of doing research after being highly impressed by one of my project assignments. I went on to do an MPhil on foreign policy of India, which had an extended scope of research. So I continued with the same topic for my PhD in the same university.
But a few months down the line, I realized it was not something I enjoyed working on because my work needed just occasional visits to government organizations, archives and libraries. I was longing to travel and talk to actual people, but was too embarrassed to say it out loud. I thought it was unprofessional to change a PhD topic. Even on the personal front, my family wasn’t very happy when I decided to pursue a PhD. They were concerned about my financial stability and occasionally thought that it would be difficult to find a suitable match for an overly qualified woman like me. And with my fellowship taking over a year to start, I felt extremely burdened. I did not want to be monetarily dependent on my family. So, to support myself, I did freelance content writing jobs. Those first few months of my PhD, were terrible for me both at the personal and professional front.
I eventually gathered the courage to go up to my supervisor and tell him that I didn’t want to work on foreign policies of India but rather on vulnerable groups that needed more immediate attention. I thought he would be angry but to my amazement, he said, “I was…