On The Open Road by Stuti Changle, An Excerpt

On The Open Road by Stuti Changle revolves around the lives of three twenty-somethings as they stand at the cusp of making life-changing decisions: to abandon their current roles and follow their dreams. An excerpt:

‘Isn’t she an inspiration?’ marvels a young girl, one of the many assembled at Ignite, Women Entrepreneurship Summit, an event organized for aspiring women Entrepreneurs.

‘Whenever she posts on LinkedIn, I ardently wish that someday I am able to start a company of my own,’ replies the one sitting next to her.

Myra slowly walks forward from the wings and on to the stage, with all eyes and the spotlight on her. Her voice booms in the hall which is full of bubbling aspirants, ‘We, at Millennials Coworking Company, share a vision, the vision of making tomorrow’s India, an entrepreneurial India.’

There is a great deal of cheering as the hall echoes with a thunderous applause.

She continues, ‘I had almost decided to marry my boyfriend of eight years, and settle down in the US. I loved him more than anything, but I soon realized that getting married was not the sole aim of my life or the only way to live a fulfilling one—the way I was taught growing up in a middle-class family. I wanted to travel the world, but long before we could start travelling together, we had to part ways. I had to move on in life so my entrepreneurial dreams could see the light of day! ‘In the absence of any support, I turned towards travel and decided to hit the open road. I finally found myself somewhere in the Himalayas, in the grasslands of Bengal, on the shores of Andamans, in the backwaters of Kerala, in the meadows of Bandhavgarh and in the forests of Assam.’

‘Are you planning to start up a company because most of the content on websites and social media platforms makes it sound cool? The reality is very different. Let your inner self pull you, don’t let the media and flashy stories push you. There’s nothing worse than being at the wrong place for a wrong reason. You’re sure to commit a big blunder in that scenario. Therefore, I never step back from sharing my true story. I want people to learn from my experience and be empowered to take difficult decisions on their own. It is true that people need to know the issues involved in starting up. It is not a rosy picture as painted by the social media. Yes, it’s all true. I was depressed and lost for days before spotting the light.’ She then says with a chuckle, ‘I believe you should know fifty reasons why you should not start a venture to be able to take a clear stand!

‘There are many excuses to abandon your dream—a dearth of financial backing, lack of belief in yourself, etc. Society will tell you, don’t feed the demons of your mind. Take suggestions from the angels in your life. Until the penultimate semester of your college, these supposed angels are your very own cousins, working or studying abroad. But as the final semester approaches, the upper hand is of college deans who herd you towards placements. Talking of demons—to fail at anything is considered the supreme demon in India. We are not completely at fault either. We were born in the post-colonial period when subjugation was not a restraint, but had become an attitude. I hope the Indian youth appreciate the true value of Independence and building India through enterprise.

‘While the tales of courage and bravery are going around, let me tell you, I was the biggest coward, yet the only thing I could do well was find a way to be courageous. My mentor, Mr Kashyap, also the founder of Traveller’s Nest, told me that your problem is not ‘they’, but ‘you’. Find who ‘you’ want to become! Remember, your battle is as much with the self as with society. Girls, embrace your true selves. Love yourself. Have faith in your vision. Don’t suppress the “girl” in you as girls can do wonders if they want to. The philosophy of life you should bank on is never to stop dreaming. Keep moving.’

As Myra ends with these words, I can feel her eyes brimming with the purest sense of pride. It is a great honour and indeed is very humbling to stand in front of a thousand dreaming girls as a role model and a mentor to be followed. My eyes are welling up too, as I rise to clap for the woman I have come to stand with and appreciate for her strength. I am joined by every single woman in attendance, every heart that Myra has inspired tonight with her honesty and ambition. As she walks down the stairs and reaches for my embrace, I can hear my heart swell with sheer happiness.

Excerpted with permission from On The Open Road, Stuti Changle, Penguin Random House India.

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