Like all good stories, this one too begins on a cheerful note, before reality strikes! And yes, like always, there are a bunch of twists and turns thrown in, before letting the story end with the lovely couple walking into the sunset holding hands! :-) So, here we go:
Once upon a time... not more than a decade ago, there was a handsome groom, and his beautiful bride. As the newly-weds set out to start the journey of their life together, they envisioned and nurtured a dream of acquiring a few material things in the next 10 years of their life ahead.
Buying a car, a house, a glass-top dining table, a big LCD TV, Bose home theatre system, a sleek and funky mobile, a computer, a high-end laptop, a digital SLR camera, a comfortable sofa set, and an ultra luxurious SUV were included in the list of their must-owns.
But somehow, the process of acquiring new things never gave them a sense of achievement they were looking for. The satisfaction they experienced was momentary too. And their thirst for achieving something bigger and better was growing along with all their responsibilities.
Oh, I forgot to add that alongside this list they had two passions in life that bound them together for over a decade, and made their relationship grow stronger over the years -- it was the two dreams they shared.
Yes, you guessed it right. The story is about S and me, and our dreams of adopting a child and adopting a village.
Adopting a child was on the top of our list when we just got married but this took a backseat since little S happened unexpectedly :-) So, we had to wait for a little longer than we had initially planned. When we sat and thought about this some time back, to understand if we are really still keen on adopting a child, we realized that we do feel strongly about adoption - the passion is still intact even after so many years - which is good! And yes, it's happening sometime soon, maybe in the next one year or two.
Adopting a village - and changing it for the better - was our long-term goal. We've been romancing this dream of starting a non-profitable school for rural children (who don't have most facilities that an urban kid has access to), teach them the ABCs & the 123s free of cost, and help improve their living conditions; basically 'catching the kids young' is what we're aiming at by stressing the importance of primary education in rural India. This too was relegated to the background for a while because we couldn't change our lifestyle completely with a small child to take care of, and we were still coming to terms with two deaths in the family in quick succession.
The more seriously we started thinking about these dreams in the past year or so, the more eager and restless we were becoming. And that passion forced us to make our final decision - of taking the bold step of quitting our jobs and moving to a rural village in Orissa. Why Orissa? Because Orissa and Bihar are pretty backward in terms of primary education (we've personally seen many fisherfolk children play in the sea throughout the day and help their parents catch fish & sell it rather than going to school). Orissa is a lot safer and people are open to newcomers and new ideas. Plus Serish's family has been living there for generations!
So, we're bidding a farewell to urban life and moving over to rural Orissa in a week from now. As a first step towards this move, we purchased some land about 16 kms from Berhampur (the nearest railway station). And the first step towards breaking free from the urban shackles is obtaining TC for little S from the plush school she was going to for the past 3 years where we were paying around 75k per year towards her fee (this year we would have had to shell out 84k had we continued). :P And, trust me, it was a major decision we were making and we spent many sleepless nights before mustering the courage to go ahead and apply for her TC.
Sounds like a cool retirement plan, eh! I wonder how many people would dream of retiring with just 12 years of work-ex? Am I happy doing this? Of course I'm! The glow on my face, the fire in my eyes, the passion in my words sums it all up :-) And, for once, I can say with pride that we're done with chasing money. We're pursuing what we want to do - not what others want us to do! I still can't fathom the sense of satisfaction and achievement this is going to give us in the next few years.
I agree that I feel a lot more courageous and adventurous now than I was a few years ago. I'm shifting there with my daughter who will join St. De Paul's school there, and start life anew managing things all by myself while S continues to work in Hyderabad for a little while longer. Once the construction of our new house in Gopalpur is completed, amma is also going to shift, followed by S.
Our school will not be started immediately though. Initially, we just have to do a lot of groundwork for the final execution on our 10-year-old dream. Two-three years down the line, we'll be all set to start this non-profit school (there will be almost no fee charged from economically backward students - the idea is to get them attracted to the idea of education, and attending school - we plan to provide them one meal a day at least, etc etc).
We've a few plans in place on how we want to work towards a constant source of income to support our school and our life as well. I don't want to discuss anything about it right now because it might undergo a 360-degree change. We still have nothing concrete in place.
So, that's our story for now. And this is serious. I know when my mom mentioned it to our relatives, they didn't believe it. They still don't believe us, considering the kind of jobs/companies we're in currently, and the kind of salaries we draw every month. Money and material comforts don't matter to us anymore. They did for a bit, but they never will in the future. It does nothing to help us live peacefully or give us a sense of satisfaction - of giving back something to the society.
It's very easy to question what has the society done for me, but it's very difficult to trade out everything you have at stake to give back to the society. And, we're treading that path right now, and leaving behind everything -- a "well-paid cushy job" as friends often put it (with its free food/ transport, paid trips abroad, caring employers, amazing perks & peers, bonus, stocks), "the urban world" (that offers modern lifestyle, material comforts, entertainment avenues, hang-out places), and "my hometown" (yes, I spent 30-plus years of my life in Hyderabad) to "adopt a village" in the true sense, and help empower others.
And THAT to us is like our life time achievement award. The day a few students I taught ABC come back to me and say 'I'm in this position today because of you', I'll have fulfilled the purpose of my life/living. Because I strongly believe that if you can't live your dreams, there's no point in living. Period!
Thus ends the story of two dreams! And the couple is going to live happily ever after! Sayonara!!!