As a student in Bhubaneswar, Ipsita Acharya would assist tourists, work as a guide and take part in programmes to promote Odisha’s heritage. Her love for monuments and design led her to a degree in architecture, and after graduation she got a job in one of the best paid streams in the field.
“But I got bored working in a corporate job designing high rises in Gurugram," says Delhi-based Acharya. She decided to pursue her love for history and architecture, and enrolled for a master’s degree in conservation architecture at Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture.
In 2015, Acharya had joined the Odisha State Museum in Bhubaneshwar as junior intern conservator. “It was my stepping stone. I met people who explained the challenges of heritage conservation. This was also where I met my mentor, Gurmeet Rai, who hired me for conservation projects in Puri. I enjoyed this immensely, and decided to study it."
Acharya then joined Intach, a non-profit that works to protect heritage, as conservation architect eight months ago. She confesses the pay is not high and her parents often tease her about moving from the highest paid stream in architecture to possibly the lowest. But she’s happy with the experience she is gaining. “Since conservation architecture is a niche segment, I have access to the biggest names in the field, which wouldn’t have been possible in core architecture. I get to visit places most people can’t," she says.
An understanding of culture is required too, she says citing an incident. After the team planned a restoration project in Nepal, they learnt that the local community considered steel “unholy", and would not allow its use to strengthen the structure. “It was back to the drawing board for us," she says.
Often, there’s warmth and admiration showered on them. She remembers visitors to the Chandigarh museum stopping to show their children the “didi on top of the wooden stairs" working without fear. “The job has taught me to be ready for any kind of reaction from the public. They can be angry about demolition, or can be proud of the restored work. We have to be tactful while talking to them," she says.
Acharya says a fresher can earn around ₹40,000 a month, and someone with five years’ experience can earn between ₹1- ₹5 lakh a month, depending on whether they work with a firm or independently. “With so many old buildings, the demand is a lot more outside the metro cities. Each year, only 40 to 50 of us graduate. So the scope is certainly huge in this field of work."
Cool Jobs is a series on professions that are popular among millennials and post-millennials.