A SHORT STORY COMPETITION is announced in class X in an English medium school in Kannur. The story is required to be set in a railway station. A 15-year old girl (let us call her Latika) submits an imaginative entry dealing with an old man sitting on a bench on the railway platform reminiscing about the day when he was in his twenties bidding goodbye to his lady love for the last time. The story is simple and beautiful but is not considered for the competition. Latika is hugely disappointed and her mother visits the school to make inquiries only to be told that the story has been disregarded because it was “less childlike” and “more adolescent” ! The mother was even encouraged to forget about the whole episode ! The mother had not even read the story at the time of submission. Latika meanwhile has got over this event but she has yet another hurdle to cross – she nurtures serious ambitions of becoming a fashion designer. Her parents sincerely think that fashion is all about spurious glamour and scandals and, more importantly, a career in fashion is not a desirable one given their family background. Latika, who has in her own small way demonstrated her flair for design, remains fiercely determined. I wish her well and hope that her parents allow her to realize her dreams. Latika has a long way to go and she needs to be also mindful of the fact that there is a devil of a distance between “dreaming” and “doing”.
IN THE ABOVE CONTEXT, I was thinking about my own career and wondered how unstructured it has been. My dream was to be a journalist but I ended up in a career largely dealing with law and insurance. I will not say that it has not been “successful” in the conventionally understood sense of the term. But surely, in retrospect, I do believe that a single minded pursuit of my initial ambition would have bought me more fulfillment and happiness. In all honesty, I did not press hard enough with my parents (probably I was timid then) and I gave in too easily – it takes a lot of grit and determination to move out of the comfort zone and find one’s true metier. India and the world at large has meanwhile changed beyond recognition and there are innumerable career options besides the traditional ones in medicine, engineering, law, and, thankfully, the young are sharply focused both in their needs and careers.
AS PARENTS we do need to allow our children to pursue their dreams rather than force our own choices on them. We need to tell them that as long as they are pretty serious about what they want to be (and of course if they are willing to put in the required amount of effort) it is not at all a bad thing to be a cartoonist, a radio jockey, a health trainer, a speech therapist, and yes, a fashion designer. There will then be less and less of “If Only..” questions to be answered. If we thrust our own preferences on our children we will only be producing tired and disappointed professionals who may be earning more money perhaps, but not experiencing enough happiness.