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Of Uncertainty and Serendipity by Mohd Sobaan

Has it ever happened to you that you achieved something—which was nowhere in your priorities at that time—while working hard for something completely different?

The English dictionary has a word for it: “serendipity”, and it fits the latest developments in my life. Much to my amazement, I recently got selected to pursue a Bachelor of Tourism and Travel Management at Jamia Millia Islamia, a premier state-funded university in India. While I managed to secure a good rank in final selection for this course—and this has to be one of my most significant achievements in the recent past—the journey hasn’t been straightforward, to say the least.

How and why? Let’s rewind things to about a year back.

Somewhere around the end of 2019, I had decided to start preparing for the Staff Selection Commission exam, a route to selection for employment by the Government of India in its ministries, departments, and other offices. Having spent two years trying to get admission to a regular college, I was motivated and determined to crack this exam and secure a job. Life had different plans though. The end of 2019 saw a wave of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act all over India, and Delhi—especially the locality that I live in—was the epicentre for these protests. The roads were full of protesters, police personnel, and so on. There was unevenness in the movement of public transport, blockage of mobile networks and internet services, and disruption to regular life. For me, this meant difficulty reaching the institute where I was to take classes for exam preparation. With full hope in the country’s judiciary, I hoped justice would soon be served and regular life would prevail.

Or so I wished! Covid-19 broke out and was soon declared a global pandemic. Things soon escalated in India also, and a nationwide lockdown was announced in March. We were only left wondering how the entire country could be locked down in such a short span of time. This news broke down many people, their lives and livelihoods. For me, it only added to the uncertainty and hopelessness about my future, and of course, fear of contracting an infection that we knew little about treating back then. While it was truly unprecedented for the nation and countries around the globe, rising cases of Covid-19, initial hiccups in the responsive measures, and tight lockdown protocols were the icing on the cake.

Of Uncertainty and Serendipity by Mohd Sobaan

How did this pan out for me?

I feel I have developed a lot as a person when I look back at the year gone by. It made me realize how different things were for me before Covid-19 broke out. However, I also realised humans have an interesting capability to adapt to their environment, so I decided to use this time efficiently. In the beginning, it was hard to go through these changes, but I kept myself engaged and made up my mind that I will survive through this. Over several attempts, I made a timetable to effectively spend my time and—once I felt I had a grip on things—I religiously stuck to it. Not to mention, I am lucky enough to have wonderful parents and my personable sisters, who at many points of time, provided great company (and fabulous desserts!) when the chips were down.

Slowly but surely, things started changing around me. I improved my writing skills and completed chapters of entrance preparatory books. What earlier appeared to be demons turned into healthy friends. Apart from these tangible changes, I have learnt how we should never lose hope and keep moving forward and hustle to make changes. There is always a brighter side to any hardship and we must gather that courage to look forward.

The lost and wary teenager from last year now looks forward to realising a dream he never dreamed. If this is serendipity, it serves me well!