Why I Quit ?

for those who want to know the reasons and for myself, as a reminder, this resignation email sums it up.

 

“A sullen Delhi morning would be more apposite for the occasion that this mail represents. Instead, there is sunshine and for me, that means, after a month and a half — clarity. I am quitting the fellowship.

My reasons shall be clear by the end of this mail. But before everything else, I would thank all those who made my brief sojourn with this organization, a predominantly happy one. Shaheen , Sheela , Anna M. , Kanika — thank you. Let me remind everyone, that I still do believe that educational inequality is a worthy cause to fight for. And I don’t think it is a lost cause. I am not quitting out of despondency or disillusionment.  I am driven to this grim denouement by the more baser, yet stronger emotions of ambition, self-interest and a desire to find the thrill in my life, which is indeed, quite gone.
I disagree about the ways in which we are going about fighting this problem. The malaise runs too deep, the odds are enormously high against us. And the bottoms-up approach that we are taking, slowly getting into schools and cities, trying one child at a time —  is just too slow for me and I derive very little satisfaction from my everyday achievement.
The movement may be bigger than each one of the fellows, and it may or may not sustain itself in the future. But I am not content with merely being a drop in the ocean — a sideshow. My ambitions lie in the civil services – more specifically, the Indian Administrative Service. I know that the grand canvas that I am looking for, the platform, the ability and power to affect millions, is something that only the civil services can provide.  And so, I have been introspecting and trying to figure out what I really want — and that has not changed at all in spite of joining TFI — I want to be responsible for spectacular and awe-inspiring change, the kind that gives you goosebumps ; the small, incremental changes that I might make with TFI over the fellowship do not excite me enough.
So for the last one and a half month, I have been laboring under the hope that things will get easier. I will be able to manage myself better. I have been hoping to be able to juggle civil services preparation and Teach for India responsibilities. And that is a circus act that I can’t quite pull off. It is impossible.
In light of that realization, which I know, is a little late in the day. I cannot continue with the fellowship. Civil services preparation is gruelling and intense. I cannot fulfill my responsibilities or do justice to the kids while continuing with that. And most importantly, I cannot continue to feel guilty every morning that I am not giving the kids my absolute best. My parents have always been skeptical of TFI and what it means for my life and I can understand that because they see only one kid – theirs. I find it increasingly hard to justify the fact that I am giving up 2 years of my life for something that is not my “highest priority”. They came to visit, saw my schedule and asked me to make a choice – IAS or teaching. It was quite simple when you put it like that. For too long, I have been living in hope, that things may get easier, I will be faster and stronger and efficient. I have been deluding myself. And this reminds me of Nietzsche –” Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torment of men.” I want to end the suffering, the indecision and uncertainty in my life and quickly. When I joined TFI, I spoke to the recruitment staff (Chaitali) about the future plans and how TFI is a window of opportunity for me. I gave up my IIT placements, I gave up my IIM B interview call  — and all in search of that perfect combination of  “inspiring work + time-off to prepare” .  Another one of those foolish hopes. At institute, most of the staff insisted that it would not be possible, and I persevered in my denial (and in my vanity). Now I know how things are. And quitting is the inexorable decision that I must make.
I am sure TFI has planned for this eventuality — fellows quitting — after all, I am still in my probation period. And TFI still reserves the right to fire me. I have been an exceptionally dis-invested fellow – although, since I am an introvert, very few people know that. I have skipped sessions, been entirely skeptical about most of the activities and their purpose, not “felt inspired enough”, cast aspersions on some of the fellows’ thinking. I have even blogged about it (although all posts about TFI were written before the communications session). TFI would not miss me, in fact, I think the movement would be better off getting rid of me.
I will now begin to chase my dreams with all the time, energy and focus that I can muster. And maybe in time, I will be strong enough to contribute to the fight from the “top-down” : influence policy, be the voice of TFI in that government office where all the key decisions are made. Again I dare to hope.
Yet this choice seems right. IAS is something I want, and something I am willing to give every ounce of my energy and time for. So it is goodbye, TFI . I will miss the remarkable passion and commitment you embody. I am sorry, I did not live up to that high standard for a cause —  that moves me — yet falls short of leaving me suffused with excitement, energy and unflagging enthusiasm every day.
Adios,
Ashish “

On simplicity

I have been told to write simply. It has been brought to my attention that my writing reeks of  the desire to “show-off”, a lot of sabre-rattling and very little communication! This is my anaemic defense.

Firstly, in keeping with my long-held ambitions of becoming a published author – sometime in the future, i am still experimenting with my writing style. It entails me trying to at least aim at the literary heights of the writers that I admire. So here’s my list of inspirational authors : Dickens, Dostoevesky, Kafka, Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie etc. Of this lot, Milan Kundera comes closest to simplicity and profundity. Dickens and Dostoevesky are difficult, although the difficulty is in part due to their historical antiquity. Kafka and Marquez are very complex writers whose works do not aim at comprehension but more at bewilderment sometimes. Magical realism and absurdity reigns supreme in their writings –esp. the short stories. I was deeply influenced by Rushdie’s Shame when I was a child. The flights of his expression, the awe-inspiring command over language and vocabulary left me with a child-like love for words. It comes through in my writing. If I don’t try to write like these literary heroes, I fear I shall never learn. My imitation is the sincerest flattery I offer them.

Secondly, simplicity is difficult. Very difficult because you risk exposing the paucity of ideas. Much easier to launch into rhetoric and a beautiful literary device to deflect attention from the platitudes that you offer as insights! So unless I have a great idea, I am forced to resort to great expression to cover up. And my expression isn’t that great, yet.

Thirdly, the style of writing that I am aiming for involves taking a certain joy in beautiful use of language. Language is not merely instrumental in my writing. There is no clear purpose to my writing. It is for fun. When I find a purpose, as I have in the past for certain issues, writing becomes much simpler, direct, tugging at emotions’ strings. Till then, expression is vital. And I am only learning the art of good expression.

But I understand why people take offense at my supercilious writing style. Not many people try to write like the masters of the past. Maybe, because they fear they are doing injustice or they will be found out. They don’t dare attempt it. But I am quite ambitious and I have a lot to learn. And I will eventually — produce that masterpiece that lurks within everyone of us.And maybe simplicity will come on the way. I am sure it will never come in the way.

New Year Resolution — simple writing, high thinking.