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A journey of self-discovery

Life can take us on unplanned trips.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images/Istockphoto

It happened 33 years ago. A fresh postgraduate in agriculture, I was travelling along with a friend from my hometown, Nagercoil, to Chennai (then Madras) in a Thiruvalluvar Transport Corporation bus. The aim of our overnight journey was to take a test for the position of sugarcane officer with the Tamil Nadu Sugar Corporation the next morning.

We were woken up in the wee hours by what appeared to be a commotion. The bus had come to a halt, and people were standing in groups all around the bus, talking in loud voices. It all appeared like a dream to me until the bus conductor announced that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had been killed during an election campaign meeting at Sriperumbudur and the bus would go no further.

So in the early hours of May 22, 1991, two girls, with dreams about the future, were held up in an unknown place with no hope of resuming the journey, let alone appearing for their exam later that day.

Luckily, my friend recalled that a passenger who had looked familiar had boarded the bus the previous evening. The man, who happened to be an acquaintance of her father, was living in Villupuram town, located a few kilometers from where the bus was stuck.

At dawn, we were walking along with him, our hearts pounding. My suitcase was a heavy because of the mangoes I was taking for my aunt, at whose place in Madras I had been planning to stay for a day or two. For most of the trek, I carried the luggage on my head. I felt I would break down at any moment, and I was not sure if it was because of the physical burden or the disappointment at how things were going.

We had no way to contact with our parents or aunt. We freshened up at the house of my friend’s acquaintance before continuing our journey to Madras in a jam-packed train that had halted far outside the station. We came across countless individuals — old people with not an inch of space inside the train to stretch themselves, children crying incessantly and sick people groaning in pain. My dismay at having missed my exam and carrying my luggage on my head simply vanished into the air.

We finally reached our destination and were able to contact our relatives. We were so happy, as though we had passed the exam.

My first attempt at a job hunt ended in an adventure with unexpected twists and turns, teaching me a powerful lesson about life. The experience always reminds me of a Douglas Adams quote, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Yes, the experience taught me a valuable lesson. My career path became a journey of self-discovery and the pursuit of meaning in life.

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