Thursday, May 25, 2017

Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

Autobiography of an Unknown Indian  
Syed Ali Mujtaba

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 who may have sketched their fascinating stories of life in words with great distinction, my attempt of doing the same is 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 remembering 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 Aligarh and university at the JNU New Delhi.

In the educational journey I saw many high profile campuses like SOAS, Oxford, Cambridge and University of Hawaii etc. Every academic spot that I have seen 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 the 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 from my legal claim. I am waking up to this grim reality and fighting court battles to get back the property that is mine.  

My roots belong to in 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’s 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 etc. Some are settled abroad in England and America and their off springs are doing very 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 to 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 a 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 schedule 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, Ajit pal Singh etc.  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 to play in 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 realiz
ed that studies alone can fetch me decent living and this change of heart changed the course of my life. I totally changed my life style and from a sportsperson I became studious yogi! I was putting long hours in studies and the efforts resulted in first divisions at the graduation and post-graduation levels.

After that I set the target of becoming an IAS officer. I lived with this dream for quite some time 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 schedule of 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 MPhil 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. As a political commentator, I also contributed write-ups in many newspapers.

After that the job hunt was a killing experience. I did appear for interview at many Delhi colleges but then I realized its different ball game to get a teaching job. 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, I could have been adjusted in a decent academic institution if I had the right connections at right place.

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

Life as a Journalist was quite a different from the world of academia. Meeting with people having larger than life size image was a colourful experience. Even though I spent about 15 years as a working journalist, again job played torrent to me very 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 and all with distinctions. 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 and 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 a beautiful journey.

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

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

Well this not all. Off late life my life is undergoing yet another twist in its chequered 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 own property.

Well, this part of life’s journey has just begun and even though I am reluctant farmer, I have no other go than to fight it out to get what is due to me.  I am seized of the situation there and getting ready to undergo another round of struggle for a rightful cause. I have faced earlier such challenges and I am once again ready to slug it out as I move ahead in my life.

There is nothing pitiable about my journey of life. I have enjoyed every bit of it and there are no regrets as I look back. 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 battles of life.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at
More about him at:

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