It could be that I have been watching too many sitcoms for my own good.
Perhaps it's that at some level, I am grateful to be here. Thankful for my life, and happy about everything I have experienced, achieved, been and been a part of.
But watching the final episode of the fourth season of How I Met Your Mother, I've been doing a lot of thinking about chances, the choices you have at every step and the ones you make, that lead to more of those chances and choices.
Ten years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed this would be the life I would live, and perhaps not even five years ago. And yet, the biggest things in my life, the ones I treasure most, have happened not by design but by serendipity - theatre, work, and fulfilment.
I never imagined I would start working young - I assumed I would do a Ph.D. and then look for work. A phone call to a schoolteacher, a few months after I had seen her name under an article in The Hindu, ended up giving me my first job. I'd called to say hi and she was scouting for someone who could speak good English. And it was because the MGR-Janaki college was near my workplace that I agreed to take part in a quiz someone had backed out of - a quiz that would change my life.
So there I was, answering away to all these bizarre questions - our team comprised one woman who read the newspapers, one woman who could map the history of the world and me...the woman who knew random bizarre things the others didn't and who would blink if someone asked her which party Narendra Modi was from (all that has changed now, thankfully) - and impressing the quizmasters, who happened to be of my ilk. And when I had to call someone to conduct a quiz in my college, I turned to these two. And I met a friend of theirs whom I studied with in school, through whom I met another of my old schoolmates.
Chapter Two: The old schoolmate worked with a theatre group, which I got involved in, and met someone from radio, who was looking for a field reporter.
Chapter Three: My radio experience found me a job in radio in London and a higher-paying job in radio back at home when I returned (though the interview was fixed by one of my best friends, also known as The Walking Sponge). The building where the job was, turned out to be more significant than the job.
Chapter Four: It was a time when I was all ready to do my Ph.D. in London. My university had given me admission and I was waiting for a grant (which, eventually, went to China). Blissfully unaware of this, I was sitting at work one day, torn between gossiping with my best friend in office and accompanying the most petulant RJ in office to pick up a couple of CDs from his car. I spent about five minutes refusing to go with him, till he practically carried me to the lift. Downstairs, we bumped into a well-known television journalist, who was waiting for the lift. I happened to mention the encounter to The Walking Sponge, who asked another friend what the journalist was doing there, and it turned out a new channel was being launched. A couple of months later, I was in Delhi and working for the channel.
The past couple of years have been among the happiest in my life, and the ride from last summer to here makes me wonder how easily it could all have never happened - a phone call made a couple of months later, a quiz turned down, a missed audition, a successful argument, my university wanting research on India instead of China...any of these could have changed my life. I could be an English teacher or a radio presenter or a media scholar and never got my face on television. I could still be in Madras, possibly married to some twisted software dude, or London sitting with my Egyptian friend at Costa, and missed out on everything that's great about the life I live today. And yes, my Hindi would still be limited to, "billi ek paltoo janwar hai". And I would never have added a fifth to the number of languages I can write in (and I know that will make at least one reader wince!)
Maybe everything in our lives, including missed scholarships and unsuccessful job applications, happens for a reason. Maybe every little disappointment leads to something that is worth a lot more. Perhaps there is a pattern in the universe, in our lives, or perhaps we make it as we go along. At times, I suppose it is comforting to think of the universe as a machine, with grinding parts that just happen, something we can't alter by design because everything is pre-destined anyway. But that's not how I like to think of it. Maybe we pull these little threads of coincidence into a pattern by choosing how we twist the needles. And everytime you pause and look at just how beautiful the design's turning out to be, you thank the heavens those particular colours and textures of thread happened to be available.