Small towns are quite insular in a sense. They may have the richest of cultures, the brightest of people and the most beautiful surroundings, but, they remain, for the lack of a better word, quite clueless!

So, there are these well-bred, and sophisticated people I meet in my hometown and the conversation around careers outside the town really goes nowhere.

Take the case of Chic Aunty, adjusting her chiffon pallu, and patting her elegant hair, asking me,

‘I hear your husband is in computers?’

This query, was not just posed by Chic Aunty. It kinda lasted for almost a decade and all I could conjure in my head was an image of Alok, actually inside a computer, peeping from a computer monitor. Somewhat like that 3 idiots hoarding in which the boys sit in huge drums, peeping out from them.

My parents beamed proudly at this query. Though, secretly, they also struggled to understand what Alok did ‘in computers’. I think they must have reconciled to the fact that Alok is a computer repairman.

Of course, when we re-located to Japan, they must have been extremely proud of the fact that he was now an international repairman.

Just when I thought I was getting somewhere explaining about the IT industry, using examples from the Railway Reservation System, Alok decided to move to Real Estate.

My parents’ world came crumbling down. What did that mean? They put up a brave front but I knew, deep inside they thought he was a broker, going around on a moped, putting houses on rent.

But, since we lived somewhat beyond the means of real-estate-brokers, they ended up worrying if he was some kind of Land Mafia. These were the only two metaphors of Real Estate Professionals they had.

I resumed my patient and painstaking task of explaining his job, when Alok announced that he and some of his friends are setting up a PE Fund. This is the point at which I gave up. Even I am not sure what this means, so the question of explaining it to others does not arise.

I just try to look well-fed (which is not too difficult), well-dressed (ummm, takes a bit of effort) and cheerful to reassure them that he is doing well, whatever he is doing.

During this trip to my hometown, I felt that I should give back to the community by counselling young students on career options. Here are some snippets from my counselling encounters. Since I could not give on-the-spot answers to some of them, here are the answers I have prepared with careful consideration. Please advise if I should send them.

Query 1 : Ma’am, I want to join HR, but everyone in family says that only women work in HR.

My Answer : They are right. We routinely perform sex-change operations on men who do choose to work in HR. The cost is billed to the campus.

Query 2 : Ma’am, when I enter the Interview room, and there are 3 panel members, should I say ‘Good Morning Respected All or Good morning, Respected Sir, Sir and Ma’am, or Good Morning Respected Sir, Good Morning Respected Sir, Good Morning Respected Ma’am

My Answer : Don’t bother with anything. They are not accustomed to much respect back home.

Query 3 : Ma’am, should I do LLB after my graduation, or NIIT, or MBA or CA or CS?

Answer: And, then you have M Farc, M Dip, M Tot, MARGRS, JRSTH and so on. Just toss a coin since we really don’t know why we are studying here, do we?