It was 5am and Jubanashwa Mishra, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, looked out the window of his sparse room in the mountainous region of McLeod Ganj in India’s Himachal Pradesh. It was drizzling and the mist was thick. Slipping on his jacket and jeans, he laced his trekking boots 
and headed to the camp kitchen where, after downing a cup of tea, he picked up an empty rubbish bag and stepped out into the freezing dawn.

Clutching his jacket tightly closed to keep out the cold breeze, he began following his colleague up the 4,946-metre Gaurjunda peak.

“I was cold and clammy and desperate to return to the camp to snuggle under a blanket,” says Jubanashwa. But he had work to do – as a waste warrior it was his job to clean the mountainside of rubbish left behind by travellers, trekkers and thrillseekers. In a couple of hours, he had picked up enough trash – plastic bags, empty packets, juice cans, food containers and water bottles – to fill his bag, and with the 15kg haul on his back, he began making his way down.

“The route was slippery and dangerous. One wrong step and I could topple over a precipice injuring or even killing myself,” he says.

Through the blinding rain and in low-visibility conditions, the 30-year-old gingerly made his way down the mountainside. At around 10am he stumbled into the camp with the load for the charity Wastewarriors.org, which recycles part of the waste and disposes of the remainder responsibly.

But he could barely afford to rest. After leaving the bag there, he took 
a fresh one and was off up the mountain again to bring down more rubbish. “Some days I did the trip maybe four times,” he says. It was hard, dirty and dangerous work, but Jubanashwa didn’t have to worry – he knew that in six days he would finish this job and start another.

 As part of a mission to encourage youth in India to choose jobs they are passionate about, Jubanashwa gave up his comfortable job as a software engineer to work as everything from a fashion photographer to a tea picker, cremation assistant to motorbike mechanic, houseboat driver to tattoo artist. A resident of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, he holds the unofficial record for having done 28 jobs in 28 Indian states in 28 weeks.

Ask him which was the most challenging and he doesn’t think twice. “As a teacher at a playschool,” says the softly spoken man. “Believe me, managing a bunch of three-year-old kids is the most difficult job I’ve ever done. Consoling a crying kid, coaxing fussy eaters to finish their meals, breaking up little fights that can erupt when two kids want the same toy… Compared to my stint in the playschool, my exhausting job as a garbage collector on the mountain was easy.”

It was in May last year that Jubanashwa, who’d been working 
as a software engineer with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Chennai for three years, decided he’d spent enough time behind a desk.

“I wanted to do something different, something that would help me realise my dream of inspiring youngsters in India to follow their heart when choosing a career and not be forced into something they don’t have a passion for,” he says. “But I wanted to find out for myself first- hand what options were available before going out and preaching.”

After all, he had personal experience of this, saying he had been persuaded to become a software engineer by 
his parents. “I wasn’t sure what job to pursue because I had no one to guide me about the options available,” he says, admitting his career dreams kept changing as he was growing up. “I wanted to be Superman at age four, a guitarist in a rock band at 14 and a don after watching The Godfather at age 16. But by the age of 18 I wanted to do something where I could help people help themselves – maybe a teacher 
or a career coach.”

But his parents, he says, decided to take matters into their own hands. Perhaps worried by his indecision they decided he should become an engineer, so enrolled him in an engineering college where he did well enough to land a job with TCS.

He was clearly not cut out for it. “My heart was not in technology and I yearned to do a job where I could meet more people, motivate students, encourage them to do better in whatever they wanted to do.”

He cites the growing trend among parents in India to push their children towards higher education in either medicine or engineering. “The dreams of students who may want to follow a profession of their choice are killed during adolescence only so the parents’ dreams – to make their children doctors or engineers – are realised,” he says.

Jubanashwa, whose father is a teacher and mother a homemaker, was reluctant to stick to a job he was not happy in. “I decided to make it my mission to help the next generation take up jobs they would find fulfilling and enjoyable,” he says.

To begin with, he wanted to find out first-hand about the numerous jobs available, even if it meant pushing himself to the limits. “I wanted to confidently tell people ‘I’ve been there and done it so I know what I am talking about’,” he says.

He was aware of the One-Week One-Job Project, the brainchild of Canadian Sean Aiken who in 2007 began an epic journey through North America working 52 jobs in 52 weeks to answer the question “what should I do with my life?”.

“I decided to replicate it but do 
it slightly differently – do a job for a week in every state of India,” he says.

So in April last year, Jubanashwa sat before a map of India. At the time India had 28 states (Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated only this year) and he began matching jobs he felt he could do in each of the states.

“I wanted to do jobs that would help me understand the state, its people and its culture better,” says Jubanashwa. Launching a fundraiser and seeking donations from friends and well-wishers, he raised Rs100,000 (Dh6,100) to pay for his board and lodgings during the 28 weeks. “I also had some savings, which I decided to dip in to support my venture,” he says. Whatever money he’d earn from his jobs he decided to give away to the charity Goonj, which helps people affected by natural calamities.

Kicking off his job-hopping spree in May, he signed up as a photographer for Indianroots.com, an online fashion store operating out of Haryana, in northern India.

“Why did I start there? Because it was the first company that came back to me with a yes,” says Jubanashwa, who is writing a book on his mission.

The ex-techie soon realised that “a photographer’s job is neither as easy as it appears, nor as romantic as one imagines”. He admits that before the week was over, his fascination for being behind the camera faded.

“Working outdoors in the hot May sun was tiring. I found that shooting pictures of friends or nature or your pet is one thing, but becoming 
a professional photographer is a completely different matter. You may have to spend about four hours in the hot outdoors before you may get, say, two or three good shots. It was really tiring work; you need to be passionate about if you want to stick with it.”

From Haryana, Jubanashwa headed off to Gujarat, where he landed a job as market researcher for a private company; the next week 
he was in neighbouring Rajasthan, where he worked as a hotel manager – “an interesting job because I met 
a lot of people” – after which he jumped into a train bound for Himachal Pradesh, where he had the job as a rubbish collector.

“In a word it was the most gruelling job I’d ever done,” says Jubanashwa. His boss Jodie Underhill, an award-winning no-nonsense eco-conservationist, had made it her mission to clean the mountains of all garbage. “Come rain or shine she would be with us, guiding and clearing the rubbish from the mountainsides.”

The task was extremely difficult but the reward, Jubanashwa says, was worth all the hardships he endured. “It was fulfilling to learn that the area we worked, called Triund, is now known as one of the cleanest hiking destinations in India.”

The eco convert now has a piece of advice to would-be travellers: “Please do not throw aside water bottles, chips wrappers or coffee cups; when you visit a mountain, deposit trash in designated trash cans.”

From the cold mountains, Jubanashwa headed to the warmer plains – Punjab – where he landed a job serving water to tired pilgrims visiting the famous Golden Temple in Amritsar. “The best reward was seeing the happiness on the faces of people whose thirst you had helped quench,” he says.

Week six saw the job hopper in neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir, where he was a white-water rafting trainee with an eco-adventure club. “Of the 28 jobs I did, I enjoyed this one the most,” he says. “There was excitement and adventure at every turn of the river. Adrenaline levels would run high. It was a pleasure to go to work because each day would have new challenges and thrills.”

While there he received a desperate message from his parents who were shocked to learn from a local newspaper that their son was on a seemingly crazy job hopping mission. “I hadn’t told my parents – mother Namita and father Satyanarayan Mishra – that I was setting off on this project because I was sure they would dissuade me. You know how parents are; they always want their children to be safe. But I wanted to take some risks, to explore, to learn, and to help others.”

His mother was the most worried, particularly after reading about his work on the mountains and his white-water rafting job. “She initially tried convincing me to return and settle down in a regular job but when she realised it was too late to stop me, 
she and Dad offered their full support to my venture,” he says.

After the watersport job the next one Jubanashwa enjoyed was in Goa. Week nine saw the goatee-sporting techie land a job as an assistant to 
a tattoo artist named Sachin Aarote. Well known in body art circles, Sachin’s pen has inked the bodies of several top Bollywood celebs.

“Being a tattoo artist is no easy job,” says Jubanashwa. “Tattooing requires a lot of patience and a highly creative mind. The fact that you cannot afford to get it wrong even by a sliver is enough to keep you on the edge and strive to be a perfectionist.

“Quite like the white-water rafting job, this one too was a high adrenaline job and I just loved it.”

In one week Jubanashwa learnt enough to do a small tattoo on a client. “I felt on top of the world to see somebody sporting my work 
of art,” he says.

Moving from state to state by bus, car, aeroplane, train, autorickshaw or bike was an exhilarating experience and Jubanashwa was overjoyed that he was living his dream – of meeting interesting people and learning new things every day.

“During evenings and after my work, I would explore the city, study the culture, meet new people… It was absolutely fascinating.” Leaving Goa, he admits, was not easy. “The lovely beaches, pleasant weather, the people who were so fun-loving... all were strong magnets that attracted me 
to the place.”

But he had landed a job as an emotional consultant with a charity in neighbouring Karnataka and most importantly did not want to break his mission so he set off by road to the state capital, Bengaluru.

Of all the jobs he did, this was the only one that was related in a way 
to the project he had undertaken. During his week in the silicon valley of India, he was part of a counselling team that met youngsters 
who were not satisfied in 
their jobs, were confused with their chosen career path or had no idea what job they wanted.

“It kind of validated the purpose 
of my mission,” he says. “There was 
a sense of fulfilment sharing with them my experiences in various jobs.”

Next stop was Tamil Nadu, where Jubanashwa worked as a roadside snack seller of roasted peanuts on the beaches of Chennai. “It was tiring to walk long stretches on the sands trying to sell the stuff to people,” he says. “But it gave me an insight into the lives of roadside hawkers.”

From here it was a short hop to Kerala, which Jubanashwa says was one of the highlights of his project. “If you were to ask me to name the two most beautiful places in India, I’d say Kerala and Kashmir.”

At the southernmost state in India, Jubanashwa got a job as a houseboat driver in the backwaters of Alleppey.

“It was fabulous to meet and interact with tourists and I 
had a lovely time taking them on tours through the backwaters.”

He admits he found it difficult to bid goodbye to the state but Andhra Pradesh was beckoning, where he had landed a job as a playschool teacher. “My most challenging job of all the 28,” he says. “I still remember there was a kid who cried for one whole week I was there; I could not stop him for more than 
10 minutes at a time.”

Praising teachers, particularly those in charge of pre-schoolers and primary schoolers, he says he is in awe of their skills.

More stopovers in a few states later, Jubanashwa ended up in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where his strength and willpower would be sorely tested – as a cremation assistant. It involved preparing bodies for cremation on the banks of the River Ganges.

“The first two days were the most harrowing days in all my life,” he says. “I and my boss had to be beside the corpses and see that the last rites were performed and the body consumed by the flames.” Around 
150 cremations take place a day in the area where Jubanashwa was working so it was hard toil from early morning until late into the night.

It took him a long time to get over the effects of the job. “I used to have nightmares for several days after leaving Benaras,” he says. The experience made him a lot more philosophical. “I began to think a lot more deeply about life and death.”

Even though the former techie 
was largely enjoying the experience of job hopping, his body took a beating during week 20. While working as a tea picker in the hills 
of Assam, he came down with a severe case of diarrhoea.

“Initially I thought some medicine bought over the counter would help,” he says. But within a couple of days, his condition worsened and dehydration set in. Convinced he would die if he didn’t get treatment, he was admitted to hospital. “I was laid up for two weeks. That was the only break I was forced to take.”

But once better, he quickly returned to Assam, and completed the tea picking job there before moving further northeast.

In Mizoram he landed a job as a motorbike mechanic. “It was a job 
I had no clue about but I was a quick learner and my boss was a lovely person who taught me the basics of bike repairing,” he says.

The final job he did was in Madhya Pradesh where he was a strategic consultant at a construction firm. 
“It was an amazing journey,” he says.

In all, Jubanashwa travelled a total distance of 24,929 kilometres by train, bus, taxi, aeroplane, tram, boat, bike and autorickshaw. “On several occasions I even crossed rivers on makeshift rafts.”

He says every state had its own culture and traditions and the mission was an educative and entertaining way to learn about India.

So is there a common thread he felt ran through the entire nation?

“Yes,” he says. “Bollywood songs. You could hear them in Leh [in the northernmost part of India] as well as in Kanyakumari [the southernmost part].”

And having done this exercise, what’s his message to the youth?

“I’d say just listen to your heart. Always. 
If you are truly passionate about something, go for it. People may 
tell you ‘it is very difficult; this is not the right time; you may fail; no one has tried that before...’ But don’t listen to them. If you are convinced about something, do it. If nothing else, at least you will come back wiser having learnt something.

“Lastly, don’t just dream. Wake 
up, open your eyes and find ways to live your dream.”

After having checked out 28 jobs 
is there one he would like to pursue?

“Yes,” he says. “I want to become 
a primary school teacher.

“It’s a challenging job and I love challenges.”