Nishant Jain, founder of The Sneaky Artist tweeted about how his father, Lalit Kumar Jain, steered his life in a wonderful direction by not pushing him to join the much sought-out IIT coaching institutes.
Papa kehte hain bada naam karega. Beta hamara aisa kaam karega. (My dad says that I’ll make him proud. He says, ‘My son will do such good work.’)
This song from the 1988 classic — Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak resonates with a lot of parents even today, while placing high expectations on children. We have seen the damage that this unspoken pressure has on the psyche and well-being of children, both in real life and on celluloid. And yet, year after year the pressure continues.
Nishant Jain (33), currently a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, who is an artist, writer and web comic creator, in a heart-warming Twitter thread on Father’s Day earlier this month wrote – ‘My father (Lalit Kumar Jain) saved me the day I was about to join FIITJEE.’
My father saved me the day I was about to join FIITJEE. We went to pay the fees together. The receptionist explained a daily schedule of 5-6 hours of homework, with no room for sports or other interests. “Everyone is doing it, here’s the form for the fee…”
— Nishant Jain | SneakyArtist (@SneakyArt) June 20, 2021
He tells The Better India, “This is a story that goes back to 2004 and everybody’s aspiration was to secure admission into an engineering college of good repute. I enjoyed learning and was an intelligent student all through.” For Nishant, it seemed like a natural move to study for the JEE — the premier engineering entrance examination in India.
While he continued to nurse that aspiration, he was also curious to learn about everything from history to literature.
“I grew up in a household that encouraged curiosity. My home was always packed with books and they let creativity thrive. It was never just about studying with the aim of getting a good score in the examination. That took away a lot of the pressure and I always studied for the love of learning,” he says.
In 2004, when Nishant was in Class 11 he tried to get into the coaching institute to study for JEE.
“Having cleared the entrance examination, my father and I went to the institute to pay the fees and find out more. It was only when we reached the institute did my father start asking them about the course and what it would entail,” says Nishant, who went into the institute without knowing much about it. What they heard was not pleasant.
They were told that the institute expected the students to effectively give up two years of their life and spend it on preparing for JEE. No “other distractions or time for anything else”, the counsellor said.
While this took his father by surprise, what he did next surprised Nishant even more.
“It was a time when I had started playing badminton and my father and I both enjoyed playing together. I vividly remember my father asking them about sports and other avenues for students to explore. The look that the counsellor gave us was loud and clear — there would be no time or scope to pursue any other interests. Sacrificing two years was a given,” he says.
That was the time when his father decided against enrolling Nishant in the institute, telling him in no uncertain terms that he need not pursue this at the cost of everything else. “That instance could very well be described as the turning point in my life,” he says.
But this did not mean that he did not prepare for the engineering entrance exam or not take academics seriously. “I did go on to study engineering but not at the cost of sacrificing two years of my life. Instead, while studying for the JEE entrance exam I also spent a lot of time reading, maintaining a blog, playing sports and enjoying free time.” Nishant attributes a lot of what he has become today to those two years. The blog that he started in Class 11 transformed into a web comic, which today is a website — The Sneaky Artist.
Nishant shares a rather interesting experience while looking for colleges and studying for various entrance examinations.
He says, “My father had asked me to go to various city colleges, walk around and get a sense of what it had to offer. I went to Presidency College and St Xavier’s and walked around their campuses.”
Subsequently, Nishant found himself at Manipal studying Mechanical Engineering, where he maintained a GPA of between 8.5 and 9 throughout his academic term. “Even life in Manipal was not just about academics for me. I was doing multiple things, which included being on the editorial board, I was writing and exploring so much,” he says. He completed his Bachelors in 2010 and wanted to continue studying. “I continued to be curious and in search of answers when I headed to the Netherlands [Delft University of Technology] where I pursued a Masters degree in Biomechanical Engineering,” he adds.
“I went on to start my PhD programme and in 2015, about two-and-a-half years into the programme, I felt I wasn’t cut out to be a researcher,” he says. What he loved however was the creative side of things, having drawn more than 250 webcomics and written multiple scripts, some even for television series.”
“I realised that this is what makes me happy and that is what I set out in pursuit of,” he adds.
That conversation to explain to his parents that he wanted to quit his PhD and be a writer/sketch artist was a difficult one, but not one that he came away from feeling any guilt or burden. “Even during that moment, my parents stood by me. Even though they could not understand why I would quit this well-paying opportunity to pursue a career which may not even have a future. However, my parents have always been very reasonable people and once I explained my point of view to them, they saw logic in it.”
He adds, “Having them on my side was such a huge boon.”
Today, with several hundred sketches to his credit, Nishant is an artist whose sketches draw inspiration from everyday scenes. He is also working on his novel, writing blogs and finding ways to creatively express himself.
Nishant signs off saying, “Whatever I have learnt is from watching my father. He believed in walking the talk. He prioritised his family over making more money and all those dinner table conversations and badminton matches we have shared have shaped me into the person I am today. He taught me to derive happiness from being good at my work.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)