Dhrupad Karwa has packed a lot into his first year and a half at university. "If someone had told me", he says, "before I went to university that in less than two years you'll be on the verge of finishing your first novel and will have landed a part-time job with the European Parliament, I would have laughed because I just wouldn't have believed them. But here I am".
Just two months after starting his economics degree at UCL, Dhrupad was offered a role at the European Parliament by Nirj Deva, Vice-President of the European Parliament's Development Committee and Conservative MEP for the South East of England. Dhrupad first met Mr Deva through attending the International Leadership Symposium of the World Forum for Ethics in Business as a student delegate, where he impressed the MEP with a speech about the importance of fusing profitability and sustainability in the corporate world. Dhrupad was keen to take up the opportunity - he'd been impressed by Mr Deva's own speech at the event and, being interested in entrepreneurship, was intrigued to hear that the MEP was a businessman as well as a politician. As Dhrupad's commitments at UCL prevented him from going to Brussels immediately, he ended up heading there for a five-week internship last summer.
Going for gold
On arriving in Brussels, Dhrupad discovered that Mr Deva was in the initial stages of campaigning as a candidate to be the next president of the European Parliament, which meant he got a crash course in high-level politics. "It was very interesting to see how these campaigns work", he says, "- how they were formulating various strategies on how to approach the different parties and preparing the manifesto. I contributed as much as I could, and it was fantastic being there because I learnt so much."
Dhrupad's summer experience led to an ongoing part-time role working for Mr Deva from London as a trainee. Dhrupad is currently focusing on assisting the MEP in his efforts to strengthen relations between the EU and India, and feels this initiative is important: "India needs to extend its global presence if it wants to compete with China for the power spot and the European Union needs as much help as it can get at the moment. And I think improving relations between two regions is always healthy."
Dhrupad's time in Brussels also presented other opportunities to him. At the end of his time in the city, he was introduced to Michael Dobbs, Conservative politician and author of 18 best-selling political thrillers. Like Dobbs, Dhrupad's interest in the political world has manifested itself in a desire to write fiction - Dhrupad is currently penning a novel which draws on his experience in Brussels and his studies at UCL, which he describes as a story of "politics, spirituality, love and economics" which "bridge[s] western and eastern civilisations to paint a world in which physical and metaphysical phenomena embrace to liberate humanity from secret political controls". To be entitled The Tibetan Waiter, the novel will tell the story of the eponymous restaurant employee, who works in London's Chinatown, and a female City banker he meets just before the 2008/9 financial crisis erupts. Dhrupad has been a keen writer since childhood, but was inspired to start this work, which will be written entirely in verse, after reading The Golden Gate, the Silicon Valley-set novel in sonnet form by renowned Indian author and one-time economics student Vikram Seth.
Dobbs read some of Dhrupad's draft and encouraged him to persist with the project, and Dhrupad found further encouragement more recently at the 2012 Jaipur Literature Festival, which he attended in January as the winner of a UCL travel prize. Here Dhrupad encountered others who, like Dobbs and himself, had blended their political and economic interests with literary efforts: "It was inspiring to see a number of bestselling authors there who hadn't studied literature. A number of them were MBA students or economists who one day decided to leave their 15-year careers at a bank and start writing." And Dhrupad found the festival as a whole an exhilarating place to be: "When 200 writers gather in one place, there's certainly a buzz!"
This festival was perhaps more politically charged than most - authors attending included Fatima Bhutto, niece of murdered Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto, and Booker Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie. Rushdie remains an extremely controversial figure in India thanks to the subject matter of his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, and on the second day of the festival was notified by the Indian government that assassins had been hired to kill him, leading to his premature departure from the Rajasthani city. In protest against this turn of events, four other writers read in public from The Satanic Verses in support of him, and were subsequently asked to leave Jaipur by the festival organisers. The events highlighted the inevitably politicised nature of literature, and says Dhrupad: "It was amazing being [at the festival] in the day, and then at night watching TV and seeing the event on the national news."
Dhrupad's experience in Jaipur made him decide to spend this summer working on his own novel in India rather than returning to Brussels, doing an internship in the City, or applying for jobs. Finishing the work, and perhaps securing a publishing contract, remains Dhrupad's main ambition in the short term. Looking further forward, Dhrupad is also interested in working in the corporate world or even setting up his own company one day. However, for now, he's keeping his options open: "I'm living very much in the present moment at this stage. I don't know exactly where I'll be in five or ten years' time. I just want to keep capitalising on opportunities as and when they present themselves. And that's all I think you can do: just keep taking opportunities, keep working hard, keep disciplined, and see where life takes you." Good advice for students everywhere, wherever your interests lie.