Life: blunders and hopes

Kavita Batheja

Kavita Batheja holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry and has served as assistant professor of Chemistry in various private higher education institutions. She is passionate about teaching, writing and the environment, especially on issues related to groundwater — its contamination, scarcity and misuse. Presently on a break from her teaching career due to family responsibilities, she likes to write in her leisure time.

My life’s journey is a very ordinary one. The same ordinary happiness, sorrow, hope, disappointment, pleasure, pain, loss and gain, like anyone else.

I was born to parents whose parents had migrated to present day India before partition. Needless to mention, they left a pretty good source of livelihood behind. They became vagrants for the next few years of their lives, wandering from place to place, facing hardships from securing a house to earning their daily bread.

Their life story was definitely an extraordinary one. Both were raised with great difficulty in difficult times, specially my mother who had lost her mother in infancy. 

After a few years of marriage, my father joined the Indian Army. He had responsibilities of his siblings back home, apart from his four children. So we were all required to make do without some luxuries to keep the household expenses within limits. It always proved to be a Herculean task.

Expenses were increasing and we wanted to start our careers quickly to add resources to the kitty.

To avoid running up unnecessary expenses, we studied in government schools. All of us were average performing students. But thankfully competition was not as crazy in those days.

Scoring 70-80 percent marks was considered ‘good’ performance. Contrary to my performance in examinations, my teachers were happy. They were always of the opinion that I was capable of passing the exams with flying colours. Yet I disappointed them almost always. But I feel good that I was taught by great teachers who always guided me along and helped me in solving my queries. 

The saga did not end with just my schooling. I made plenty of wrong choices in life, particularly in my career. From writing wrong entrance exams to selecting wrong optional subjects, I always fell short of success. 

I cleared IAS prelims twice but chose Public Administration as one of the optional subjects for the Mains. This proved to be a blunder. Public Administration was a hot favourite with the IAS aspirants and I had the hypothesis that it would help me succeed too.

Later on, it dawned on me, perhaps I would have done better had I picked Geography as one of the optional instead of Pub Ad. After all, I had loved studying about the nations and their people, seas and oceans, mountains, flora and fauna, deserts etc. Always fascinating.

Eventually, I ended up with PhD and lectureship in Colleges/ Universities teaching Chemistry to graduate, post-graduate and engineering students. Did I enjoy doing that? It’s a yes and no answer.

I am indeed thankful to my parents for their dedication and strength to bear the hard times they went through. More importantly they gave us siblings freedom to choose our life journey. Eventually all of us children were able to stand on our own feet and do well in life. I believe this gave them enormous amount of satisfaction and happiness. 

Nida Fazli has summed up life beautifully with his Urdu poetry:

Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahaan nahi milta, 
Kahin zameen to kahin aasmaan nahi milta.


No one ever gets all that they desire in the world, 
Some don't meet their basic needs in life while others don't achieve their big dreams and aspirations.

Life is still worth living.


Many people suffered in the Partition - and bounced in India. And so did your family. As I read it, your mistakes were minor compared to your success in your life. Anyone who get a Ph.D. in Chemistry is a major success - particularly a woman. Just look at how hard people in the US are trying yo get women into STEM subjects. And, do write about your parents' story - not just what Partition did to them, but how they bounced back - that's a part of the narrative that has often been overlooked.

Dear Subodh Sir,

Thank you for encouraging comment. I feel honoured. Will definitely share more detail when I have more time in hand. And would seek parents’ permission to be able to share their struggle and triumphs and surrender.