Accidental ambition -- How A Town That Hadn’t Heard Of Mosambis Made A Principal Out Of A Homemaker
Forty one years ago, my mother--barely 21 at the time--left Mumbai to go live in her husband’s home in a little town in Kerala. At that time, Thrissur had one self-doubting beauty parlor and ‘no mosambis’, according to my mom. They hadn’t even heard of mosambis. It was that kind of place.
I have often wondered how my mother, a fiery Lit Grad student, managed to do this--to settle down in a place where ambition possibly went to die. In those days. Now, things are very different.
She confesses she wasn’t very ambitious or career-oriented. She wasn’t sure women going out to work in the name of independence was a good thing--because there was housework waiting for them when they returned home; because a woman is, of course, expected to handle both home and office with exquisite ease.
I suppose she made her peace that this sleepy little town would numb any little sense of ambition or aspiration she had. And then I came along.
At some point, I had to attend school; so they found one nearby, an English medium one that had been established just two years ago, and one that was still on the lookout for teachers.
And that’s how my mother became a teacher. She came to drop me one day at school, and the Principal found her and asked her if she would like to teach English to second graders. My mother gave it a thought and said ‘yes’.
She soon discovered she had a true passion for teaching. She loved her subject, engaged her students, was empathetic and compassionate. And 35 years after slipping into a profession she had never really thought of before, she made Principal.
‘Do you not realise how big a deal this is?’ I asked her when she told me casually over the phone. “Do you not realise what you have done?’ She didn’t.
I explained. She stumbled into something, in a place where no stumbling into anything seemed possible. She let it choose her and mould her. She went where it took her, was a willing student as much as she was an enthusiastic teacher, and she let a career slide in quietly through a back door she never knew existed. She made it look easy, yes, but more importantly, she made it seem possible.
So many of us worry, don’t we, that we may not have found our calling yet? And we pursue this unknown thing with vengeance--sticking to jobs that make us unhappy, hoping to flicker passion for it somewhere along the way, learning skills that don’t really serve any purpose--and we worry about not having enough ambition, or aspirations, or fire in the belly or...
Because we look for it in the same places over and again, never letting up, never allowing something to find us, in the way lifelong passion can be found, or a sense of purpose that doesn’t necessarily come with a degree or an unwavering eye on the ball.
I have seen it a lot around me--writers who courted serendipity with their first book, assignment or screenplay, actors who went along with friends for auditions and got noticed, or singers who were discovered when they were least expecting to be, bankers who quit their job cold turkey and discovered they were born for scuba diving, or animal rescue, or baking.
Call it what you will--ambition, calling, passion--what if it didn’t want to be found, or pinned down? What if we let go of a structured map to find it?
What if we gave up the pursuit, and trusted a little more?: In serendipity, in synchronicity, in chance? In opportunities that want to come to us instead of being chased down? Perhaps accidental ambition is the sweetest to achieve: because it has no pressure attached to it. You let it happen to you; because if something is your true calling, it will hunt you down no matter where you hide. Even in a little town that hasn’t heard of mosambis.
image not our own