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'I was 18... and a failure'
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June 12, 2007

We asked Get Ahead readers to send in stories of career success despite academic failure. Here is one such tale of inspiration:

You will have to at least do an MA to even get a school teacher's job. Do you realise what is going to happen to you?"

I've lost count of the number of times this statement has been hurled at me.

I don't know what's wrong with becoming a teacher -- why does everyone make it sound like a job you did if you did not have any other option? And it's not like I was considering becoming a teacher!

I was good at extra curricular activities and got many awards for my school. Unfortunately, however, I just could not cope with the academic part of school.

The mothers of my classmates who got 9 out of 10 in Chemistry would make it a point to ask me: So, how much did you get in Chemistry? I don't know why I would always answer without hesitation: 3 out of 10.

I wasn't arrogant, but I was tired of the humiliation that was heaped on me because I was a bad student.

I was born and raised in Bhilai, a small town in Chhattisgarh. Since Bhilai has a steel plant, you will hit an engineer's house every time you throw a stone. If you are not an engineer, or not working towards your engineering degree, you don't have much of a choice. You just have to become a doctor. Any other career choice is totally unacceptable.

But I didn't have the marks to get into an engineering college. And I had always failed in biology, so there was no question of becoming a doctor.

While all my good friends and classmates got into various engineering and medical colleges, I did not have the marks to get into a good college after Class XII. The only choice I had was to do my graduation in Arts in Bhilai itself.

Those were terribly depressing days. Everyone around me mourned my lack of good marks. Everyone lamented over the 'fact' that I did not have a bright future ahead of me. I was 18 years old and they had decided my future. I was declared a failure.

At that point, even I was convinced my future was doomed. But I was not ready to give up just yet. I thought I should ask someone if there was scope for me beyond engineering. I also felt, very strongly, that I should ask this question to someone who was not from Bhilai.

During those days, there was a very popular magazine called the Illustrated Weekly Of India. My parent subscribed to it. Pritish Nandy, who edited the magazine, was an all-time favourite.

I wrote to him and Sherna Gandhy, who was also an editor there, replied on his behalf. She introduced me to mass communication as an option (in my letter, I had mentioned my interest in every other activity besides studies).

As a result of that letter, I applied to admission to a course in mass communication from Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai. I actually went through a written test, group discussion and viva and got admission.

Till then, I had never thought there could be an exam where I could fare well. This was my first step towards realising that, to be successful in life, it is not important to achieve what others want you to achieve. You have to know your own strengths, believe in them and the world has plenty to offer.

Yes, marks do help you take the initial steps in some professions but marks are the be-all and end-all of life.

I never wanted to be an engineer but I was made to appear for all the PETs and JEEs (entrance exams for engineering colleges). I was made conscious of the fact that, without good marks I could not become an engineer. And, if I did not become an engineer, I had no future.

It is important to know yourself and appreciate what you like and want instead of chasing what is seemingly secure and attractive.

However, I must emphasise that there is no substitute for hard work. I began my career with a nominal salary. It was just enough to pay my working women's hostel fees in Bombay and for basic living and travel expenses. But I compensated my lack of marks with sheer hard work and a willingness to learn. That paid off.

Over time, I worked in various leading advertising agencies. Eventually, in 2004, I became a student again and learnt film making at the New York Film Academy. Today, I run my own film production company.

What's most important, however, is that I am happy and I sleep well at night.

Don't miss!

'Low marks don't mean you have failed'

We invite readers who have had a successful career despite academic drawbacks to share their stories with us. If you have been successful in a vocation despite not having fared well academically, tell your story and help others in a similar situation turn their lives around.

Mail your contribution to, making sure to include your full name, age, occupation, the name of your city, and a photograph (if possible). We will publish it in the Get Ahead section of

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