As a child, a question that all of us incessantly face goes something like this, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I call it the ‘which carier’ question. (A lot of people spell and pronounce career as ‘carier’!) Most kids give stereotypical answers like ‘I want to be an engineer’ or ‘I will become a doctor’. Their parents chase the horizon prospecting the best advice of ‘career counselors’. (What on earth do you need those guys for?) I had also fallen into that ‘I want to be a doctor’ trap but managed to pull myself out of it. I had decided against becoming an engineer the very first time I had heard the word because I had assumed that engineers built engines of trains and that I couldn’t see the point behind that. That extremely juvenile assumption is only condonable for a nine year old. When I consider all of the things that I ever wanted to be, I marvel at the way my dreams changed from toddlerhood to adulthood. (‘Toddlerhood’ is a word in ‘Nataliaish’, not English). The TV, whom many accuse of being an idiot box, gave me fantastic direction all the way.
When I was 5, my answer would be that I wanted to be an air-hostess. That was probably because I was a frequent flier between Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Bombay, India. The air-hostesses seemed exceptionally interesting then. In the following years, probably when I was 8 or 9, joining the Air Force had become my ambition after reading about the stories of the 1971 Indo-Pak war martyrs. Around the same time, I had also seen a TV show about the procedure for entering the Indian Air Force. My dreams were grounded when we found out that I was suffering from moderate degree myopia at that young age. My flat feet further ensured that my dreams of being airborne stayed firmly on Terra Firma. Around the age of 11 or 12, I started yapping about becoming a doctor, probably because half the world (read: schoolmates) said the same. I had definitely decided that I would study science, but had no clue regarding which branch of science.
My first serious answer to that “which carier?” question, was only at the age of 13, when I was in class 8. I wanted to be a dinosaur paleontologist. This had nothing to do with Ross from Friends. I had once killed time by watching a 3 hour long documentary on the National Geographic channel about the mass extinction of dinosaurs. (I had had the privilege of being alone for 4 hours at home). Most of the dudes who spoke on the show had their designations displayed on screen as ‘Dinosaur paleontologist, University of @#$%^^&*’. I was convinced that the purpose of my life was to be a dinosaur paleontologist. That left my father frantically reading up on the web regarding the subject and I was left explaining to everyone who would ask me the ‘which carier’ question about dinosaurs and their dead bodies. It would feel fantastic to explain things to adults looking dumb with question marks on their faces. You are the smarter one in that situation! My fascination for becoming a dinosaur paleontologist lasted about 10 months, but that has set off an interest in the ‘terrible reptiles’ that is going to last me a lifetime.
Later, I juggled with the ideas of being a professional basketball player (I was on the school team), being Miss Universe (well that started with Sushmita Sen’s victory in 1994 but my height didn’t increase sufficiently), starting a music band (inspiration Spice Girls) and landing on the moon i.e. being an astronaut. I had even wanted to be a cartoon film animator after I had watched the making of the Disney movie ‘Dinosaur’ on Discovery Kids. None of those plans lasted more than a month or 2 at the most but the changes were quite interesting. I even had phases of being without a career plan. But then I got addicted to another show on Discovery Channel. This time I had my father worried sick.
The Discovery guys aired this fantastic TV series every afternoon called ‘Medical Detectives’. Most of the dudes and dudettes (female dudes) on this show were labeled as ‘Forensic Psychiatrist’ or ‘Forensic Pathologist’. Their use of science and technology to crack crimes and screw up culprits had me hooked, totally. Watching endless re-runs of this show had a firm place in my list of pastimes. Most kids my age knew the dialogues of Friends by heart. I knew this show by heart. (Don’t dare to label me a geek.) I told my Dad that I wanted to be a ‘Forensic Psychiatrist or a Forensic Pathologist’. He was astonished and he asked me, “But you wanted to do something about dinosaurs, right?” I replied that my plans had changed. His expression turned to something that suggested that he had been force fed castor oil. He never digested my idea of becoming a ‘forensic psychiatrist’. Anyway, his behavior only affirmed the fact that he is mentally and psychologically stable as no sane father would jump for joy if his daughter declared that she wanted to see delinquents everyday or spend her lifetime working in a morgue. From the age 14 to 16, much to the mortification of my dad, I declared with certitude to anyone who asked me about my career plans that I wanted to be forensic psychiatrist. I even appeared for the entrance tests for the admission to M.B.B.S. Having stubbornly stated that if I would ever be a doctor, my qualifications would have to stand as Dr. Natalia Hule M.B.B.S., M.D. (Forensics), my father staunchly told me to not be a doctor at all. He tried to convince me to be a dentist but I didn’t see the point examining jaws all my life. This was said with due respect to the 4 dentists who have examined and treated my jaws for 6 excruciatingly long years. But what’s the fun? My mother was left scandalized. I told them that I may consider being a forensic dentist (I had seen one talk on Medical detectives). My father had looked as if he wanted someone to tell him that he was hallucinating. My parents ultimately won and managed to get the forensic bug out of my head.
In hindsight that was a good thing, because there was something that was always lingering in the confines of my mind that would get me dreaming of the infinite possibilities of waste management, rural development, water shed management and pesticide-free food production for a better environment and to thwart global warming. Captain Planet and his Planeteers on Cartoon Network had triggered that off for a change. I had learnt pretty late that these things were called organic farming and sustainable agriculture. I was perpetually oscillating between the choices of doing an M.B.B.S. or B.Sc. Agriculture ever since I was 15, although I didn't speak too much about agriculture to everyone. I finally decided to pursue Agribusiness. Thank God for that! Not only did it help me study my interests further, it also educated me about the two countries I live in – India and Bharat.
The verbose here may convince the reader that the writer currently works for some agricultural products company or is probably toiling away with a NGO for watershed development. She is not. Here is the anticlimax. The author, compelled by personal misfortune partly brought about by her own gullible streak, and the economic tribulations of our time, currently works (just for the GOOD money) as a receptionist and hopefully will shift to the post of a French language translator in multinational defense company, much to the chagrin of her mind and heart, making a mockery of everything that she has ever dreamt of.