Shubham with Aircraft

I Quit…..

Having entered into Planning was highly unexpected and yet one of the most meaningful incident that occurred. After getting above average marks in 12th standard and border line passing marks in NATA, I felt that I was left with very few choices. AIEEE (as it used to be in 2012) was the only hope to make it to a good “Architecture” college and particularly SPA Delhi.

After getting rejected by the Amity University and surrendering the seat at SPA Bhopal, I decided to become a C.A. (yes Charted Accountant!).  After taking classes for about a month for C.A. and waiting for the subsequent rounds of counselling, I was finally in the merit list for B.Plan at SPA Delhi! The course was completely unknown, but the only information I had from ITPI’s website about the course was more than enough for me to take the “risk”. The course structure & curriculum was something I never imagined and something completely different from other traditional courses I know about.   Considered that it will be a bit of fun and exciting to try something new, different and untraditional. But during the 4 years of planning the “fun” element faded by each passing day, day by day and in the end it vanished. Fun changed into relatively deep understanding of Planning Education, who frames policies & “why”, how our cities evolved, the daily issues & everlasting implications of even smallest of unnoticed & ignored actions, in short “how cities work”. This was indeed a thought provoking journey as the temptation to explore about planning and cities grew each day and which was quite fascinating!

But alas! After 4 years of fantastic journey, I decided to “quit”. Leave behind all those imaginary cities, bury the “utopian” vision and the views which I formed in planning. The reality was nowhere near to what I learnt.  “Academic Exercises” lost their meaning when execution came into play. Planners were nowhere in the picture, planning was lost in the merciless battle of professions to outperform others.

The stark difference between theory and practicality made me question my journey and mend my way. Listing down all the possible options I could, and exploring the pros and cons for each and then shortlisting my expectations, I was left with utter confusion, dilemma and the another most difficult choice between M.Plan, M.B.A and Pilot. Continuing with Planning was something I always wanted (and I still do) but didn’t opt for and still won’t opt for.

I decided to quit planning as a “student”.  Though the decision was painful but till date it was again one of the best & most meaningful decision. I wanted something as complex & fascinating as planning and yet something completely different from it. The search for “freedom”, “repute” and “money” ended in aviation and I decided be a Commercial Pilot instead of continuing with planning education. The incredible flying machines were complex and fancy enough to keep my interest and additionally the profession provided time to stick with my plans for “Planning” which I once had and few other I wanted to continue with.

Though controversial but worth mentioning,  according to me planning lacked the key elements which a person looks for in a profession, for me these were “freedom”, “repute” and “money”. I won’t deny the possibility and the fact people do enjoy all these three in planning profession, but to my knowledge the number will be just as little and insignificant as the “tiny grand total” of planning professionals working in the country.

Yet the endless possibilities, authority, responsibility and the change which can be brought about by planning remains unsatisfied in any other profession known to me. Having spent four crucial years in planning and getting absorbed in it still leaves me with numerous questions and doubts. These can never be answered by any other profession. The flame that burnt for planning never extinguished. After knowing and understanding why something is wrong and that you once had power or knowledge to fix it, it’s difficult to turn blind eye. Because, it was something that made you choose and invest so much of yourself to it. That was everything I wanted to do but still I quit.

Aviation on the other hand provides with an additional aspect, which was “time”. This required me to continue with the hustle and make some tough choices daily so that I can devote that extra time to planning without ever compromising on aviation. In addition to “freedom”, “repute” and “money” from the profession, I took a decision which provided me with “time” if things went well. Moreover it’s quite amusing and thought-provoking that there are a lot of similarities in both the fields. The fundamental problems plaguing planning remains very similar to that of aviation but the latter evolved as they have been systematically addressed.

My understanding and vision related to planning never fitted in the conventional definition and boundaries of planning, the expectations and though process seldom matched with colleagues. After revisiting the 4 years, thinking about my expectations and the roadblocks which prevented me from pursuing planning made me change my path. I decided to do that with starting of a website about planning for the beginning (something which I earlier attempted and partially achieved while serving NOSPlan for 3 years). Experience and learnings from NOSPlan made the decision harder but yet practical, it brought around the much needed change in perspective and insight to the larger picture. Website seemed to be an ideal way to start with as this allowed me to put in my 10 years of experience of working with websites at real work along with the freedom and flexibility of working. “PlanningTank” as a website might be known to some of you but that remains my passion and the connection with Planning. Each roadblock which I identified till now and the ones I continue to discover, are attempted to be addressed through website. Saving the time of thousands of students by providing relevant & adequate information related to academic topics, latest happenings, technological advancements, networking, job updates, and information about colleges imparting planning education help me contribute to the field and stay connected to planning. Problems within the planning profession can only be addressed moderately while working in the field. Indirect contribution and support are still crucial for a successful turnaround of the profession. It’s a journey of being involved in planning, playing a different role and contributing to the field and off-track to the straight process of being a student & working as a professional in a good and reputed company or government organisation.

It’s not that planning is not good as a profession and should be quit, I just happen to change my way considering all the available alternatives I had and putting best foot forward! The shift seems to be quicker and more effective way to bring about the desired change.

P.S. – The above article might be a satisfactory answer and the reason to a question I am often asked “Why did you quit planning yourself even when you praised the profession?” This questions is in context to my involvement with NOSPlan and the numerous interaction I had with people at Council meetings, Conventions and various other occasions especially while addressing the delegates as “President” during one of the convention. In short, path changed but the aim will always be same! There is no joy in sitting in a luxury car stuck in traffic jam or watching an ambulance or a fire truck struggling to make its way. People are suffering on a daily basis completely unaware of why they are facing an issue, who is responsible & who can change it. A problem which can be addressed in an effective manner through better “Planning”.

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