Please tell us about yourself

I had no idea what to do after finishing Class XII. According to my parents, the only course that guaranteed a “good” future was MBBS. So I joined a prestigious coaching institute a week after my results. I had to stay in a hostel with hundreds of others, all hoping to the crack the exam. It was indeed a ‘rat race.’ After 10 months of work and sleepless nights, I thought I was ready. But on the day I wrote the entrance test, I knew I had got it all wrong.
I clearly remember the day the results were out. Even the neighbour, with whom I had never had a conversation, wanted to know if I would be a doctor, or not. I got calls from every relative I know, and with every call, I felt like I had failed in life. The next couple of weeks were very difficult. I had to explain why I couldn’t clear the entrance exam to every person I met. I felt I had let my parents down; I started believing I wasn’t good enough; and that it was the end of my career. I did want to try again but had lost all my confidence.

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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

After some consolation, I gathered energy and applied for geology at Fergusson College, Pune. I got through. My life changed gears. New faces, new campus, new language, new culture, and most importantly, new friends. I even joined the college’s film society and started travelling. Things started to change and because of all that time outdoors, I soon realised my true calling — the environment.I then applied for a masters in environment management at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, and also applied for entrance examinations for all Central universities. Because I loved everything about the environment, I prepared well.

This time, instead of mugging up for 12 hours a day — as I had done during my MBBS preparation — I started enjoying what I was reading. I studied about three hours every day and surfed the Web for matter.

Finally, the results were out. I had topped the entrance examination to Central universities and secured 12th rank in the entrance exam for the Forest Research Institute.

What did you study?

I chose FRI because my best friend too had been selected for the same college.

How was the experience at FRI?

Coming to FRI opened up a whole range of opportunities for me. I was introduced to ways in which the environment was actually being managed — like the restoration of barren lands, concepts of waste management, conservation, etc. I got to be closer to nature than I ever was. I realised I could choose any direction of my interest here.

So, all in all, I got to travel; make friends for life; got to do much more than study inside a room; and discovered my interest.

Your advice to students?

Today, I’m glad I failed that medical entrance. It wasn’t the end, but the beginning of me.