Should You Take A Gap Year? 6 Young Indians Share Their Experiences - Homegrown

Should You Take A Gap Year? 6 Young Indians Share Their Experiences

I remember the first time I met someone who had taken a gap year. She was a senior by a year and had taken a year off before beginning college. What bewildered me at that time was that she didn’t pander to my stereotypes of someone who “took a gap year”. She didn’t have dreadlocks, she wasn’t enthusiastic about living on a farm, nor was she dysfunctional in social settings. How strange, I thought, she’s just like anybody else. This in itself was enough for me to reconsider whether a one-size-fits-all format was really fair to impose upon everybody who took gap years. Not to mention enough for me to wonder whether I wanted the same for myself - what would I do If I had a year to do anything I wanted?

The more I looked into the concept, the more apparent it became that the only thing those choosing to take a year off had in common was an insatiable appetite for self-discovery. Although there’s little doubt that the idea or reality of ‘a gap year’ is largely available to Indians of privilege - financial, educational, or a combination of both - many people took this decision by saving for years and years, joining volunteer programmes, working freelance, living on a shoestring budget, and making all kinds of other compromises. But how niche is this concept really?

For the purpose of this article we featured individuals who used their gap year to consciously walk away from ‘what was expected’ (the rat race, for many) and instead explore themselves through travel, skill cultivation or self-introspection. Things they would not have had a chance to engage themselves in, had they pursued the idea of utilitarian productivity. To gap year or not to gap year, that is the question, and so we decided to speak to seven Indians who took a gap year to find out what it was they did, why they did it, and where it left them when it came to a close.

I. Mukul Bhatia | 28 | Documentary Photographer

Gap Year: 2011-2012

Mukul Bhatia
Mukul Bhatia

I took my gap year right after graduating in photojournalism. I needed this gap year because I just couldn’t imagine myself living in an office during the best years of my life, working for someone else! To be honest, nobody supported my decision. That was the hardest part. But I had savings for traveling, from having done several jobs during college.

What I did during my gap year

With another photographer as my co-traveller, I travelled across India. The highlights of the travels was living with other communities; the nomadic banjara tribe in the deserts of Rajasthan, a brothel in Pune, hipster communes in Goa, naga sadhus in the Maha Kumbh to an orphanage in Kashmir. I spent a minimum of a month in each of these place and was on the road for over a year. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t do it any other way. It was perfectly beautiful, just the way it was.

Self-knowledge from the gap year

I learnt about human compassion, sharing and adversity. I learnt that there’s a world out there that’s waiting to be explored, stories that never reach one through media, and experiences that will make you feel thankful for every second of being alive! I also learnt that I wanted to travel, which pushed me to invent a job for myself around my wandering!

Do you think the concept of a gap year is applicable beyond students to people at any stage of their life as well?

To take a gap year is easier for students, and I totally think they must get out of the rat race and explore yourself.

II. Sonakshi Dhamija |24| Yoga Instructor

Gap Year: 2016-2017

Sonakshi Dhamija
Sonakshi Dhamija

After completing my Masters in English Literature I decided to take a gap year. All I wanted to do was spend some time actually ‘doing’ things instead of just thinking about them ‘theoretically’. After having enough of formal education, I felt it was time I get some real experiential education. Also, I needed this time to decide my career path. I was lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who were mostly accepting of my decision, with of course the occasional-‘I hope you know what you’re doing’ statement.

What I did during my gap year

I began my gap year by heading to an ashram in Uttarakhand, where I lived for a month and learnt yoga. I also travelled extensively in both Uttarakhand and Himachal, two of the treks I did during this time were the Pindari glacier and Roopkund trek, which for me have been life changing experiences. In an attempt to explore more of yoga and myself through it, I travelled to Mysore and lived there for a while learning ashtanga yoga (a style that I am now dedicated to) while also taking short trips to nearby places like Coorg, Wayanad, Ooty and Alleppey. Before my gap year ended this year, I came to Mumbai to introduce myself to mallakhamb (a traditional Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope).

Self-knowledge from the gap year

I have definitely become more accepting of people, their choices, their behaviour, different cultures and changed my perspective on the larger goals of life like happiness and success. This has only happened because I decided to plunge myself into the unknown world of yoga (I had zero experience in body movement before that.)”

Do you think the concept of a gap year is applicable beyond students to people at any stage of their life as well?

I think it can be applied to adults as well, but limited to those who have no familial responsibilities or whose spouses or families are willing to take up the individual’s responsibilities.

III. Lavi Tyagi |26| Fashion Designer

Gap Year: 2012-2014

Lavi Tyagi
Lavi Tyagi

Around the time when my fourth semester results for engineering were out, I decided to take the plunge of taking a gap year. My father was supportive of my decision, but my mother could not understand why and how I could quit engineering. The milestone for taking this time off occurred when in the same year I took a three month internship with a designer from Delhi. During this period of time I realised that fashion was what I wanted to make my career in and that there was no point wasting my time running behind a failed attempt at engineering.

What I did during the gap year

In the two years of my gap year, before I joined NIFT (National Institute Of Fashion Technology), I dedicated time to learning the skill of making a garment; understanding the indigenous handwoven fabrics from India, creating surface developments, working on patterns and learning draping for various materials. I also took up small-scale commissioned works, made the garments I had designed on papers, connected with people on social media for small fashion collaborations as well as spent hours at the NIFT resource centre (much earlier to joining the college) where I read all that was related to the fashion industry. During the same time I became friends with students from NIFT which consequently introduced me to those parts of the fashion world that I was unaware about.

Self-knowledge from the gap year

While some people appreciated my choice to take a gap year others said that I was committing a blunder. Both opinions did not affect me because for the first time in my life my work satisfied me, and I realised ultimately that’s what is important.

Do you think the concept of a gap year is applicable beyond students to people at any stage of their life as well?

It can work for anyone at any age. The calling for each one of us comes at different time.

IV. Nischal Sharma|25| Life Coach

Gap Year: 2016-

Nischal Sharma
Nischal Sharma

I decided to take a gap year after quitting my last job and I am still in my gap year. I decided to take this step because I was not passionate about the career space I was in and needed time to discover other professional options as well as improve my lifestyle, which had become extremely unhealthy. My parents were surprisingly supportive while most of my friends discouraged me from the idea, for they thought it would look disastrous on my C.V.

What I did during my gap year

I prepared a system which efficiently helped me finish my tasks for the day and track my productivity. I had myself certified in life coaching and independent paragliding,I volunteered at an english teaching programme called Teach India, took online courses in business while also studying for my GMAT exam. Currently I regularly self-study topics like business analysis, entrepreneurship, health and nutrition, psychology and film-making which I never had the chance to explore during my formal education. I have also switched to a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise, better nutrition and also summoned the willpower to quit drinking alcohol,(at least for the time being!).

Though if I were to do this again from the start, I would create a more definite daily plan for myself, document what I learnt each day and consume more motivational material as one can feel low during this unpredictable time.

Self-knowledge from the gap year

Today I am able to take life decisions based on my own beliefs as opposed to ones dictated by environmental pressure, which also allows me to take full responsibility of my choices without blaming external factors.

Do you think the concept of a gap year is applicable beyond students to people at any stage of their life as well?

I think anybody of any age who has certain goals to achieve and needs a significant amount of time for it, can take a gap year.

V. Richa Sheth|27|Freelance Writer

Gap Year: 2014-15

Richa Sheth
Richa Sheth

While everyone around me rushed to find a new job or internship, I decided it was time for me to do absolutely nothing. To be honest there’s no real reason to why I choose this, except for the fact that I felt time was moving too fast and I’d spent it all meeting impossible college deadlines, dealing with residential-college politics and the usual romantic heartbreaks. So what I really wanted next was, a pause in my life. Fortunately my parents were understanding of my choice, while we did have the occasional curious aunt or long-nosed uncle who couldn’t stop interfering with our lives, obviously wondering why my parents weren’t pressuring me to take up a job or get married.”

What I did during the gap year

“During my gap year I spent the afternoons working on my blog and reading books from around the world. Though this does not sound conventionally productive, it made me realise that writing was a passion of which I wanted to make a career and I was then motivated to pursue a M.A in English literature. Today, I’m a freelance writer because I took that much needed gap year. If I could go back in time, I would do it all over again.

Self-knowledge from the gap year

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this time, it is that a pause is absolutely essential once in a couple of years. It presses the brakes to gain clarity on everything that is happening around one.

VI. Nisha Ashok |25| Still In Gap Year

Gap Year: 2016-

Nisha Ashok
Nisha Ashok

My gap year has not ended yet, as I am still in pursuit of a permanent job! My family has a history of mental health illnesses; after one of my romantic relationships ended I went through a period of self loathing and depression. I quit my Master’s degree because I couldn’t focus and my therapist told me to avoid high stress situations. So I took the year off to stabilise my mental health. My mother was very supportive of my decision as she had been through postpartum depression, though my dad was not as supportive as her. This is because he just did not just understand mental health very well. He felt I was giving up on my life and he wanted me to snap out of it!

What I did during the gap year

I did a bunch of things in my gap year. I grew up in what I call ‘cultural poverty’, so to improve that I spent most of my time consuming quality art, cinema and music. I caught up on a LOT of reading, watched a LOT of old hollywood films, discovered some old Jazz artists (Annette Hanshaw being on top of that list!), and hoarded different kinds of tea! I also travelled, (always on a shoestring budget!) to quite a few states of India, revamped my wardrobe on discovering my deep concern for ethical fashion and more importantly was able to move in with my mother and spend some quality time with her. I am so satisfied and happy with how this gap year has turned out. I have no regrets at all!

Self-knowledge from the gap year

I realised the value that art has in completing one as a person. Secondly the importance of taking risks, for one can never be 100% ready for anything, sometimes one just has to be spontaneous and hope for the best!

Do you think the concept of a gap year is applicable beyond students to people at any stage of their life as well?

I think it would be more wise for adults to do it than young students, because we have a stronger idea of who we are as people and that makes pursuing our true passions easier. So definitely for older people as well!

Feature image courtesy: Lavi Tyagi


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