Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you?

June 10th 2013

6:00 AM, the alarm rings, I head out for a run. It’s almost 7:00 AM now and I need to freshen up, have breakfast and leave for work. 8:20 AM, getting past the typical Monday morning rush hour, I manage to make it on time. At Oodio, we always have a morning call at 9:00 AM with the co-founder who allocates us jobs for the day. 9:30 AM, I have been assigned to cover a conference for Microsoft Ventures and I must head out to the shoot pronto. 

Since I never had formal photography training, it was indeed an exciting challenge to understand all the technical factors that made a great photo ‘great’. Oodio, fully aware of my inexperience, took me on board as their youngest intern. Initially, learning was just random experimentation with a lot of dark, white, and blurry images; now I exactly understand what each number means.

10:20 AM, Microsoft India Research Labs awes me with its giant American corporate feel and the conference commences at the Accelerator. 12:30 PM, seeking an opportunity of the refreshment break, as the President of The Debate Club, I have to make some calls to the co-organizers of The Bait ’13 (an inter-city competition we are organizing) enquiring about a venue for the event.

3:00 PM, the conference ends at Microsoft and grabbing a bite of a cheese sandwich, I head back to office to back up all the coverage data. I reach Oodio and learn that our e-commerce clients and wedding photographers landed us with new jobs for post-production and so I decide to take them up. 4:00 PM, the co-organizer informs me that the venue costs 60,000 INR. This worries me as The Debate Club Bangalore already has a negative figure balance. 5:00 PM, the part I look forward to the most, I head to piano class and my new teacher ensures that I have a thorough practice session. I feel rejuvenated.

Traveling always gets me thinking about my choices—“You plan to just sit at home for a year?” People often confuse a gap year with inactivity whereas my reality is far from it. When I graduated from high school, I had boldly decided to take an unconventional detour. Although I felt quite scared, I chose to add value to my life and engage in things that I felt a personal connection with. For the first time by this decision, I wasn’t living someone else’s life.

Oh well, I have bigger worries—I need press coverage for the debate event. No, I need a venue first!

7:00 PM, I’m home; I boot my laptop and start designing a sponsorship brochure. 8:30 PM, the organizing team reviews the brochure, implements necessary changes after which I send it out to all companies who could potentially partner with The Debate Club. 9:00 PM, after 17 long emails, I realise that I also have to send out e-invites to all the schools in Bangalore. 9:30 PM, we begin an hour-long conference call with the organisers, who, with their diverse opinions, made it really intense. Meanwhile, my caring mother ensured that I gulped a few spoons of rice and curry. 10:30 PM, I need to start researching on Mexico for Harvard Model United Nations India 2013. This is my first MUN conference, another opportunity to stand in front of an audience, and do what I love, to express my opinions on a topic in search of viable solutions. 12:00 AM, I usually spend time learning on Quora, but tonight I just feel like reading V. S. Ramachandran’s “Phantoms in The Brain”. I don’t know what time it is, I have fallen asleep, awesomely content.

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Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

“….No college? You plan to just sit at home for a year?”

The magic of growing up in India is that, every individual has a unique story to tell. I was born to a typical Bengali family of high academic rank holders and toppers. When I graduated from high school, I had boldly decided to take an unconventional detour because I believed that I was more than a piece of paper judging me. The concept is not anew, but it was a life decision uncommon to my background. To most people it was hard to accept the fact that I was not attending college. Many often reminded me about the adverse effects and dreadful uncertainties of my “wasteful” decision. People often confuse a gap year with inactivity whereas my reality was far from it.

My fulfilling experience included photography shoots, trying my hand at videography, learning new software like Adobe Illustrator and Premier Pro, classical piano training and music making, reading mind expanding books, studying neuroscience and economics via online courses, attending my first MUN conference, and so on.

In the age of online tutorials, learning image post production is a just click away. As an amateur photographer, it was indeed an exciting challenge to understand all the technical factors that made a photo ‘great’. I interned at a photography firm called Oodio where, along with technical skills and work responsibilities, I also learnt priceless people skills. The work environment gave me a taste of the real world; decisions have consequences. It also helped me network and interact at entrepreneurial hubs such as the Microsoft Accelerator and Startup Leardership Program.

Further, I took my passion to argue – to the masses through The Debate Club, and ever since I have been better informed about the world and myself. In this active life I led in exploration, I met very interesting people and built truly wonderful relationships.

Although I felt quite scared, I chose to add value to my life and engage in things that I felt a personal connection with. I set goals and began to venture into things that I had very little experience in. By pursuing what I love, for the first time I was not living someone else’s life. My motivation was not to build an impressive résumé, but to acquire important life skills that took me closer to a happy place— mentally and physically.