The board exams are over and many of you are ready to join college. Some must have already chosen a career path. While you await the results of competitive exams and college entrance lists, it wouldn’t hurt to explore some things beyond the syllabus. For all you know, it might help sharpen your focus, give your aptitudes a new direction and land you something you will not only be good at but also enjoy. Here are some stories of people and their interests and what they made of those.
“One of the most magical experiences is skywatching. Studying the cosmos beyond our own planet makes us wonder about our origin and future. When the universe was created, an experiment of gigantic proportion started, and we can observe how this experiment unfolds from the vantage point of a spaceship called Earth travelling endlessly in the cosmos,” says astronomer Sandip Kumar Chakrabarti, who is director of Indian Centre for Space Physics (ICSP), Calcutta.
Chakrabarti’s own interest in astronomy arose from skygazing in Malda. He suggests Calcuttans spend some weekends in remote villages such as Daspur area in Midnapore or Chandrapur area in Birbhum for it. They could download apps such as Stellarium or Star-Chart to help them identify the objects in the night sky.
The ICSP inspired many skywatchers to become renowned space scientists, some employed with Bangalore’s Indian Space Research Organisation. One such is Anuj Nandi who says, “The ICSP was where I first learned fabricating payloads for satellites. Soon instruments I have helped build at Isro will be flown in artificial satellites like Chandrayaan 3 and Aditya L1.”
“Students hardly know the stories of their own locality, or the heritage structures on the streets. They never feel the need to look beyond the concrete and dust,” says Antara Mukherjee who teaches English literature at Durgapur Government College. Mukherjee works with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Hooghly, and is an honorary lead researcher with the University of Liverpool, UK.
In her role as heritage conservator based in Chandernagore, Mukherjee has helped many young adults rediscover the history of the Hooghly district. Souptik Choudhury, who teaches in a local college, is one such. He says, “Heritage walks help reveal the concealed. They go a long way in protecting a building from land sharks.”
Mukherjee says heritage awareness opens up fascinating career avenues as guides, citizen historians, event managers, tour operators, cartographers and writers. Choudhury organises heritage walks in Chandernagore, Chinsurah, Bandel, Serampore for tourists from India and abroad. Apart from the tangible heritage — tombs, statues and buildings — he also makes people aware of intangibles, such as festivals, cuisines, cultures and textiles of the area.
Soham Paul, who owns a small hosiery unit, has been organising tuitions for street children for the past six years. He says, “I used to watch these children wander the streets aimlessly while their parents — porters, rickshaw-pullers, domestic helps or sex-workers — went about their work.”
Paul promised the children food if they attended his tuitions. He continues, “They agreed and that’s when I started Muktakash.” Eventually, he enrolled them in nearby schools, organised books and stationery for them. During Durga Puja he organises a pandal-hopping tour for these kids and gets donors to fund new clothes and a grand feast. Now there are 40 students — pre-primary to Class VIII — in his fold.
Since last year, Paul has started a programme in the Sunderbans. He trains local women to tailor clothes and helps find a market for the products. So far 60 such women have found a livelihood through the project.
In this age of social media where many people have smartphone cameras — equipped with a variety of AI driven filters — it seems anyone can take a great photo for their Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account. Says Sudipto Ray, an experienced commercial photographer who runs an academy in Calcutta, “There is a lot more to professional photography than just mobile phone cameras. You need to have an aesthetic sense and interest in a variety of fields, such as culture, fashion, heritage, e-commerce, wildlife and so on.”
Anik Datta has been trained by Ray at his Indian Institute of Photography. He’s now employed as an artist and photographer at a government museum in Calcutta. He has to take photographs of events, organise table-top photo shoots and restore archival photographs using computer software. Datta says, “A good food photographer needs to master many skills — lighting composition, editing and communication with clients.”