On July 6, I finally ended my crowdfunding campaign. It was the most gruelling time of my life. On social media, I was subjected to intense trolling from strangers and severe judgmental tones from folks I knew.
Despite that, after 40 long and arduous days of trying to collect 30 lakh rupees for my Masters in the UK, I thankfully managed to reach 96% of my goal. Those 40 days were some of the toughest in my life – but they have brought me closer to my dream of studying abroad, and to be the first in my family to do so.
Those days were harrowing not just due to trolling, but because for many, the attempt that I made was not something I should have done in the first place. Well, if I can’t afford education abroad, then I should not even dream about it, right? While this thought did make me feel despondent, I didn’t relent and carried on. Contrary to popular belief, crowdfunding is not easy and I am well aware of my privilege of being a journalist and for having a plethora of contacts and connections through my work. I almost made it, while many are still struggling to reach a sizable percentage of their goal amount. In fact, it was this network and the many connections Ibuilt over five years of journalism experience that nudged me to go for crowdfunding.
I am not an optimist and to rely on the kindness of others is something I find overrated. In my experience, people would rather be unkind to you than lend out a helping hand. But the need to relinquish this preconceived notion was borne out of a multitude of reasons – the primary one being my background.
I had a dream.
This was my oldest dream. To be the first in my family to make a name for myself. And I knew that a foreign education could open many doors. I was the first in my family to reach college, to graduate and to leave my ghetto in Calcutta and move to Delhi for work. To break the harness you are born with requires intense strength and good fortune. I summoned both to varying effects.
Concealed behind my hard work was a desire to succeed and to materialise my dream. This dream stretches beyond the parameters set by my family and its history. This dream is a rebellion against everything society planned for me.
We are all handed out our destiny based on our position in the social structure. And for many like me, studying abroad was not an option available to us. All by an accident of birth. I was born in Calcutta’s Colootola Street. Ask any Calcuttan and they wouldn’t know where it is. Often, I would have to explain its location by citing landmarks nearby. Very early I realized that localities like mine never made an appearance in stories about Calcutta and its culture. Not even in the footnotes.
Some of my neighbourhood mates wouldn’t even get to attend college. They would be too busy in their shops to support their families. This was the situation that was closer to my home. My parents had only attended primary school and had never had the financial assistance from their parents to study ahead, let alone study abroad. Although they were denied the chance to study, they made sure that their children were not. Since I always excelled academically, and was the eldest of the three children, they encouraged me, supported me and stood by my decisions, even when that was not the norm.
I studied journalism, not just to get a degree but because I wanted to be a journalist and write about the world. Even today, many residents near my home are surprised to know that there is someone in their midst who works for an English language paper. While for many, this achievement is a big one – to come from an unlikely place and make something of myself – to me, it was just a milestone in a much greater journey.
The journey to study even further.
“What is the need?” “Is it worth it?” “You are already doing well in your job, why do you want to study more?”
All these questions only pushed me further to work on my target. This dream was much bigger than me. It was a rebellion against an order that does not expect you to succeed, a social order that dictates that one should only spread their legs as far as their blanket lets them. I wanted to show the world that the blanket does not exist for me.
FOREIGN degrees are not the jagirs of the privileged and the rich. People like us, who come from unlikely places, can also dream of these goals and achieve them. During my campaign I could sense these questions stemming up. Some decided to say it out loud, others used their vocabulary to question my intent. Of course, there were Islamophobic abuses too which have now become so regular that sadly it doesn’t hurt anymore. But then there were days when I felt that it would never happen and I would not succeed and the days where I would doubt myself. But I carried on. Despite the days when I thought that I should hide from the prying eyes of those who troll, I carried on. So despite the trolling and the mockery from strangers and a few who I know, I did not let go of my goal. And I am closer to it now more than ever.
Ibrar is a Delhi-based journalist. When not busy writing on the city’s education and heritage, he can be found conducting heritage walks under his pseudonym Delhi Djinn. His non-acceptance of socially preordained ideas and conventional wisdom is what makes him a blahcksheep. Despite his failed attempts, he is determined to rebel and fight for the just cause.