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Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

Saturday May 27, 2017 0:17 AM, Syed Ali Mujtaba,

Unknown Indian

Life they say is a journey and each of us has been treading its beautiful path with its own twists and turns. I am sure there are many with their fascinating stories of life that they have sketched in words. I am also doing the same with a caveat that let it be a whimper tell-tale of an unknown Indian.

I lay no claim on Shakespearean prose or making an attempt to become a novelist, I am only trying to unburden myself, recalling the adventures of my life so far I have lived.

My attempt is to weave a fascinating story about the trail and tabulation that I have undergone so far and the purpose is self-satisfaction recalling the lessons of life and some of its bitter truths.

Essentially, my story revolves around the trials of getting educated, and then finding a job all by oneself. Beginning from village school and sitting on the floor on gunny bags and at one time being contemplated to be sent to religious seminary to become a cleric its hell of a journey.

It’s only an accident of fate that put me in English medium school from where I started my formal education journey. I started it from a convent at small town called Munger, Bihar and to be followed by further schooling at Delhi and then college at the AMU and university at the JNU.

In the educational journey I have seen many high profile campuses like SOAS, Oxford, Cambridge and University of Hawaii. Every academic spot that I have been has a fascinating story of its own.

My second trail was the struggle for getting a job and I realized that no matter how much one is educated or academically sound, there is little connection between education and job. The lesson learnt is getting a job could be chasing a shadow, if you do not have right connection in right place.

My third trial was to find a match and arranged marriage again put me into hell of a trouble. The broken marriage left behind wounds wanting to be repaired. I was lucky to get them healed and found happiness with a new partner in life.

Finally, my current struggle is to get hold of my ancestral property on which many of my relatives are sitting like sharks attempting to dispossess me off. I am waking up to this grim reality and fighting court battles to get back the property that legally belongs to me.

My roots belong to a farming family in Bihar and we are settled there since a century or more. My ancestral place is a village called Manay in Shiekhpura district that is about 100 miles from the state capital Patna. My family owns landed property there and I got land records that dates back to 1800s.

My family has seen high level of education and members are engaged in professions like lawyer, doctor, engineer, administrator and professors. Some are settled in England and America and their off springs are doing well there. I feel pride that even with all this growth, farming still continues to be my family vocation.

I had my early education in the historical town called Munger, which is fifty miles from Shiekhpura. Then, at the age of 12, I was packed off New Delhi for school education. I did graduation and post-graduation at AMU Aligarh and came back to Delhi for MPhil / PhD at JNU. After finishing studies it’s the job pursuit that brought me to South India, where I am currently located.

My first recollection of life’s journey is the dream of becoming a famous footballer in the country. I have been quite passionate about this sport and can say that I did spend about 15 years pursuing this dream. I remember putting 8 hours a day, undergoing rigorous training to become a professional footballer.

My efforts ended up with representing KVS at the 23rd school national games at Amritsar. There I met stalwarts like Milkha Singh and Ajit pal Singh. I have the satisfaction of playing for the AMU team which became champion at the all India inter-varsity competition.

I played along with some top notch names like; Mahmud Khabazi, Majid Beshkar, Jamshed Nasari (all Iranians). They all became very famous footballers in the country. Besides I also played ‘A’ division clubs and travelled across the country for playing different tournaments.

Suddenly, a withdrawal symptom developed inside me and I got withdrawn from the sports all together. This was when I was graduating at AMU when I felt it’s time to get serious with life. I realized that studies alone can fetch me decent living and this changed the course of the journey of my life.

My life style totally changed from a sportsperson and to a studious yogi! I was putting long hours in studies and the efforts resulted in first divisions at the graduation and post-graduation degrees.

After that I set the target of becoming an IAS officer. I lived with this quite some time with this dream and spent some of the most precious years of my life chasing this national hobby.

It’s only those who have undergone the rigorous study discipline this competitive exam will know what kind of grind is required to chasing such a dream.

I did made an honest attempt but my efforts were not good enough to cross all the hurdles of this exam, though I could manage to crack its two levels.

However, in the pursuit of my IAS dream, I did become reasonably educated. I extended my educational journey to gain higher academic degrees. I took pride in earning M Phil and PhD degrees and the consolation of getting field trip to England for pursuing doctoral research.

By the time I was closing my university years, I established myself as an emerging scholar. I had two books and several research papers on south Asian affairs. I also contributed write-ups as a political commentator in many newspapers.

The job hunt was a killing experience. I did appear for interview at many Delhi based colleges but then I realized its different ball game. Eventually, it was job rejection in teaching arena that made me change the course of life once again. I waited long enough and with such high academic credentials if I had the right connections, I could have been adjusted in a decent academic institution.

However, when nothing was coming my way and was contemplating to give it up when another twist in my life took place. I was offered a job at a newspaper in Hyderabad just based on my resume and thus started a new journey in my life.

Life as a Journalist was quite a different from the world of academia. Meeting with larger than life size people was a very colorful experience. Even though I spent about 15 years as a working journalist, again job played torrent now and then.

It was a snake and ladder story when it came to jobs as a journalist. However i had the satisfaction of working with print, web, and electronic media. I ended this vocation being a Jefferson fellow that took me to several countries of the world.

The fascinating world of media generated academic interest in me and my media distinction made several colleges invite me to lecture on journalism mass communication. This prompted me to take full time vocation as a media trainer. Now I am close to spending 10 years in this profession and I am enjoying this twist of my life as a part of my beautiful journey.

Now life looks to be settling on a flat surface for me. Currently, I am handling two jobs, one as head the department of visual communication at Guru Nanak College Chennai, the other with a digital company as its content head.

The academic in me continues to live alongside with both the jobs. Due to my past work, I am invited to national and international conferences by various institutions across the country. I share the platform of speakers with some high profile academicians and journalists.

Well this not all. Off late life my life is undergoing yet another twist in the tale. My long holiday at the college is taking me to my ancestral place in Bihar and I am developing keen interest in farming activity there. However, as I mud my hands in farming, I find myself in a quite a mess being created there.

My long absence has made my relatives emboldened to dispossess me from my own property. I am struggling to come to terms with this grim reality and fighting seven court cases to get hold of my property.

Well, this part of life’s journey has just begun and even though I am reluctant to tread on this path, I have is no other choice than to fight it out. I am seized of the situation and getting ready to undergo the grind of another round of struggle. Such challenges I had faced earlier and I am once again getting ready to face as I move ahead in my life.

There is nothing pitiable about my life journey. I hope my story inspires those who may be undergoing similar hardship in their lives. My only word of wisdom to them is never give it up, it’s only those who fight can win the battle of life.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at More about him at:]



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