It was July 2004 when with my newly acquired Masters Degree in Economics, I delivered my first lecture in International Economics at the famous Fergusson College, my alma mater! The switching of gears from being a student in the same college to being associated as faculty happened quite seamlessly. My professors knew I was good at academics as my performance had been consistently good; I had been a rank-holder all through and most importantly, that same year at the first attempt (which was quite rare!) I had cleared the Maharashtra State Eligibility Test (SET) which is mandatory for holding faculty positions at the graduate, post-graduate, and University levels. I was one of the mere 2.13 % of candidates appeared that year (which included candidates from various disciplines, not just Economics!) who passed that exam.
The beginning thus, was good and my professors had absolutely no reservations in giving me a much coveted assignment to teach graduate and post-graduate level students in place of a temporary vacancy created due to one of the senior professors going on a sabbatical. They did not seem to mind the fact that my only teaching experience was of some 30 odd days in an assignment I had done while still a student! They firmly believed that I knew my subject well, and that the art of teaching that subject, I will learn slowly by trial and error! I eternally remain thankful to them for the confidence they showed in me. On my side, it was not an ad hoc or interim arrangement till I got another job or as it is said, deferring of unemployment! On the contrary, it was a serious choice I had made that academics was to be my career, and I would do it as seriously as any other vocation I would have taken up. Unlike a lot of people who take up teaching assignments just for the heck of it, mine was a decision firmly taken after giving due thought.
However, for me it was quite difficult to get into the faculty mode suddenly! Simple things such as going and sitting in the Professors' Common Room in that stately British era building, when I did not have classes to conduct, was intimidating! Addressing students almost as old as me was equally daunting! However, having performed on stage since the age of 6, first as a dancer and then as a singer, stage fright was almost non-existent. Yet, this was a different ball game altogether and the feelings of whether I would be able to make them understand, or whether I would be able to solve all their queries, were very much present. Add to it that the field of Economics is extremely dynamic. A new policy or proposal, a new subsidy, a new law, or even a new public statement made by the RBI Governor or the Finance Minister has implications on the knowledge and information you impart and hence along with theoretical knowledge you have to be abreast of the happenings in the economic environment around you every single day.
Gradually, the apprehensions, the fear, all vanished and I started enjoying my job at Fergusson College. The small age difference between me and my students became a strength rather than a weakness and they started seeing in me a friend rather than a traditional strict and matter-of-fact professor. I started handling other branches of Economics like Public Finance, Monetary Economics, Economics of Development, Labour and Industrial Economics, and the quintessential Indian Economy which is part of most syllabi of Economics in India. I got an opportunity to teach Research Methodology, while I was myself doing my doctoral research in Economics at the University of Pune, which opened new insights and perspectives to the study of Economics. At the same time, I had to guide masters level students for their dissertations which made me think beyond my areas of comfort and study different aspects of this fascinating subject called Economics.
When my three years at Fergusson got over, I felt as if I was leaving my home! But a fresh new beginning was awaiting me as Faculty at the Institute of Management Development and Research. It was here that I forayed into other related areas, Economics being one of the vital pillars of Business Management. I got further involved in studying Research Methodology, a more specialised version of it in terms of Business Research Methods and Qualitative Research. Working in a B-school, I felt in addition to my core discipline, I should have some knowledge of Management subjects as well. This culminated in my enrolling for the two-year Masters in Personnel Management programme, a specialised programme in Human Resource Management of the University of Pune and completing it with Distinction. Additionally, I got to handle a lot of complex issues and anchor crucial institutional processes which helped me hone my managerial skills. It is a myth that people in academics only study, teach and lecture. An educational institution is as much an 'organisation' as any other business organisation and requires similar managerial skills.
It is July 2014 now, and 10 fulfilling years of professional academics have gone by, which were full of learning, growth, experience, self-discovery, and pushing my own limits to venture into new areas. The same continues!