rrrepeat : connecting stories

how i escaped the rat race

by amrit vatsa

in 2008, i became a post graduate in civil engineering after studying for five years at one of the best engineering schools in india (iit madras). i was recruited by PwC, a multinational business consulting firm and i worked there for four years. i loved my job. but it was also like playing a video-game and getting paid for doing so. a video-game might keep you entertained on a daily basis. and if you are paid, you can keep playing it for years. but you know one day you will get old. like everyone else. and then, someone might ask you, ‘so what did you do in this life that you had?’ and you will be like, shit, i just played games.

so even when my job was interesting and all that and kept me happily busy and paid me well, it was still like playing a video-game. and i did not want to spend all my life doing that. realizing what i did not want to do was easy though. the difficult part was to figure out what I actually wanted to do. with my life. it occurred to me that to get even remotely close to finding an answer to this HUGE question, i needed a lot more free time than i had as a corporate employee (a 15-20 days a month level of free time sounded reasonable to me). it took me a while, but finally, i did make it happen! without losing out on my financial independence. i was lucky. i had a skill that i could exploit. i was good at photography (technically). So i experimented with professional wedding photography and launched ShaadiGrapher.com (it is a pretty kick-ass site and some of you might want to check it out).

working as a freelance wedding photographer helped me start making enough money that i could soon leave my job after four years of doing some pretty interesting stuff as a business consultant. it was a leap of faith of sorts, but thankfully, since then (mid 2012), i have never needed to work 5 days a week. and i never ran out of money to do things that i needed to do. that same year, i married my girl-friend, we went honeymooning to south africa, returned to india and moved to goa (a beautiful sunny place in india with beaches and greenery and cheap booze and warm people) to start our new life together. yes, she chucked her job too! how much better can it get? 😀 ever since we moved to goa, i’ve had all the time in this world to figure out my true calling. but it took me two more years just to find that one more thing to try, other than photography. and that happened to be making video documentaries. about real people. and real actions. over the last two years, i have created around twenty short documentary films under the brand-name of 3 Minute Stories and have been very happy about the direction i am headed. life is as vague as it always was, but i truly love it this way!

what made you realize that civil engineering wasn’t what you really wanted to do?

in india, the best students in schools (those who score very high marks) choose to study either engineering or medicine. it might sound weird but that’s how it is. i was good in studies and did not want to be a doctor. so i became an engineer by default. i have a brother and a sister – both are engineers. almost all my cousins are engineers. by degree.

in india, those who study engineering from the best colleges (top ten) almost never take up an engineering job. they either go abroad for higher studies, or do an MBA or take up jobs in banks or in consulting (like i did). again – it might sound weird but that’s how we have been since more than a decade now. civil engineering was just a degree that I obtained – i could have become any other engineer as well and yet not taken up an engineering job eventually. 90% of my classmates don’t work as engineers!

i guess from this context, you will realize that most of us are just trapped in a rat race. i was too. it took me a while to let it go! 🙂 there could have been a minor chance of me realizing that i actually liked civil engineering (but that never happened; of course I wasn’t expecting it in the first place).

where did you find the strength to let go a well-paid job, that made you happy?

i took a calculated risk. i started www.ShaadiGrapher.com while i was still working. it picked up and i realized i could live off on wedding photography – at least for a short while. i took a one year sabbatical from my job. at the end of one year, i had the option of joining back my firm. so i knew if things got really bad – i could always get back to work. or i could do an MBA and join another corporate company. that gave me enough confidence to focus on the first one year. after that i just happened to be lucky. wedding photography thrived and though there are stresses associated with a freelancer life – this life has the kind of possibilities that the previous life definitely didn’t have.

//amrit is a freelance film-maker, photographer and blogger. he also wanders around india. know more about him!

//check his instagram: @amrivatsa  //facebook: @vatsap  //twitter: @amritvatsa //youtube: @amritvatsa //blog: @vatsap

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