Please tell us about yourself
My name is Richa, I’m a journalist and the founder & curator of Parenthesis.co, an independent digital magazine on life, the world and the human condition. By day, I work as an editor with the Hindustan Times. I like cats, books, good storytelling and making photographs!
I’d always had very vague, generic dreams of what I wanted to do, as a child. I ascribe at least part of this confusion to the education process in our country, which seems to be more focused in training kids to fit into conventional roles than encouraging independent thinking and creativity. Thus trained and lugging along the weight of expectant parents, I ended up joining one of the better engineering colleges in the country. I spent two years there before realising that the constant gnawing discomfort I felt there was my gut telling me that programming, molecular biology and engineering weren’t what I wanted to do all my life. This got me thinking.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
I’d been making up stories and writing ever since I could hold a pencil. I’d been reading since even before that. As an 8-year-old, I had once proclaimed that I wanted to be “one of those people that wrote stories”, while pointing at a magazine. And the plan still made sense to me. I spent the next two years of my course weighing the pros and cons of journalism – a vocation that would let me merge my twin loves of writing and research. All this while, I had to field resistance from my family and battle my own doubts. Eventually, though, in the final semester of my B.Tech course, I took the admission test for the Asian College of Journalism — probably India’s best journalism school. I got in and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was in the right place. The next year, I did my master’s course in Magazine Journalism from Cardiff University, Wales, and then began working for the Hindustan Times in Delhi.
I spent years in confusion, considering a variety of professions before realising that journalism was at the intersection of all my loves: story-telling, understanding the world and documenting it.
What attracted you to journalism?
The decision itself was easy and felt very, very right. The effort it took to turn it into reality hasn’t consistently been easy. It’s a lot of work, given I’m handling Parenthesis outside of my regular job. Exhaustion is common, but it’s all been worth it.
I’ve always revered and been drawn to independent thinkers and innovators – people who have questioned the status quo, who’ve power through life to do what they believe in, irrespective of set norms. Initially, these were people I found through books: the fictional Howard Roark, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, among others. Later, over the past few years, I gained inspiration from brilliant writers and colleagues around me. But I wasn’t inspired to take up journalism by a specific person. That was purely a logical decision based on months of consideration.
An uncooperative family was the biggest hurdle. I had always been fairly confident of my own abilities and work ethic, but it was difficult, as a then-teenager to choose to change the course of my career all by myself. The fear mostly revolved around “what if I fail?” and luckily, thus far, I haven’t.
Your advice to students?
I would say I am happy. I love this profession with a passion while being aware that like everything in the world, this too has its negatives. Regardless, there isn’t anything else I’d want to invest my time in — and that’s a fantastic feeling to have, even on my worst days.
Examine your intentions. You may often find that they are superfluous — you might want to choose a career based on how ‘glamorous’ or ‘fun’ it may seem, or to please your family or for any reason that isn’t based solely on what your soul wants. The best jobs are those that marry your passions with your skills and do something good for the world. If you’re sure your choice is the closest to fulfilling these, then chase it. And stay very, very strong. There will be bad days, but keep your eyes on the goal.
I do believe in dreams! It’s important, both for one’s personal growth and mental health, to dream. You may have a streak of unlucky days sometimes, or worse, even weeks of it. But it always passes if you keep working in the direction of your dreams. Always keep moving.