While I was in school (Presentation Convent, Delhi), I used to enjoy literature, history and economics in equal measure. When I applied for admission to college (St Stephen’s, Delhi) I was in a dilemma while making the tough decision of choosing one of these three subjects. Then, I had a gut feeling that I should study history, especially Indian history. Later, I found history even more interesting than what I had expected it to be. During my Bachelor’s, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of studying ancient Indian history and this experience stayed on with me afterwards. That was the reason why I chose this as my postgraduation subject.
What I learnt in my college days influences me even today. One of my teachers taught me to think independently. It helped me grow professionally. In research, you must look at things critically and not accept them the way they are. I believe it applies to other disciplines too. You must have an open mind and be creative to make it big in life.
Even though my dad is the prime minister, I prefer to maintain a low profile. My job (of teaching and research) is completely different from his. I have learnt from his example that if you wish to be taken seriously, you should be an expert in your area. A career in politics is very uncertain, thus it’s good to have the backing of a secure profession that can take care of your bread and butter in case of any contingency.
Secret of success
In order to make it big in any domain, it’s very important to work very hard. Whatever I have achieved in life is only because of sheer hard work.
About the choice of profession, one must keep three things in mind. You should do what grips you, excites you and what you are good at. After that, those long working hours will never bog you down. You will enjoy that work all your life. For example, in my case, I chose Indian history because I enjoy it. I still love it so much that I relish the entire process (studying and researching) related to my work and not just the fruit of my labours. I would say that even if you want to foray into a non-academic area, then you must do it without a tinge of inhibition. If you have a knack for dramatics, then it’s futile to pursue an MBA. You might find it hard to find a job initially, but in long run, you will certainly be a happy person.
I don’t have any major goals to fulfil now. But I want to continue writing more books, which can make the masses, and not only the university students, aware of the history of our country. I wrote Ancient Delhi only with this purpose in mind. It’s meant for everyone, even if you are not very familiar with Delhi’s history. But my favourite book is A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India (Pearson Longman), which is essentially for history students. It took me five years to write this book.
If you are confused about your career, it’s better to take a year’s break and ponder. Read more, introspect all possible options and then take a wise decision.
As told to Vimal Chander Joshi