Sunday, 1 December 2013

I want to be ‘me’

My friend Vijula’s seven-year-old daughter Nyssa recently won the second prize at a national level painting competition held in her school. The topic was ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Nyssa’s answer was ‘I want to be me’ and she drew a painting of a girl running around in a garden, all happy and free. Incidentally, when Nyssa had mentioned her theme to her teacher, the latter had given a surprising and callous response, ‘What is that?’ This is the state of affairs today where our children have to be ‘someone’ in life and only then they would be successful. Sad but true!

Every child is asked this question at one point or the other – What will you be when you grow up? Doctor, engineer or teacher? Mind you, the last option is for those who have outlived all other options. The option of being a painter, writer, artiste, sculptor or a kite maker is never there. The child then grows up with the thought that only those professions that bring in money are worth pursuing for these alone will get them respect in society. Thus, parents and teachers, though unknowingly, condition the children’s mind towards such a thinking that stays with them throughout their life.

With this thought ingrained in their minds at every step of their student life and after, the children lead a life with the sole hope of meeting that aim in life – to be rich and successful. They are sent to highly paid tuition classes and thus, come what may, they have to stand first in class. Even if they haven’t understood the basic concepts, it doesn’t matter for they can always learn by rote and reproduce in exams. This is not all. In the name of extra-curricular activities, they are sent again to some ‘classes’ that will again be of some social standing rather than the children’s interests or likings. Where do these activities leave children? The little ‘me time’ that they get are spend solitarily most of the time, either by watching crime thrillers on TV or playing violent video games. There are no social get-togethers, playing in the outdoor with friends or taking a walk in the wood. There are no activities which are just only for fun minus any competition.  Everything that they do is for the sole purpose of winning or to be ahead of others.  Where will this generation head to? How will our future society be? It is a scary thought, definitely.
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Yet, all is not that bad. It is heartening to note that there is growing awareness on the importance of letting the child pursue her dreams and that happiness is what is important. Movies like ‘3 Idiots’ have contributed to it. So, there is a change in the mindset of parents regarding career choices but it is still a long way to go even before we can say to our children that money is not as important as happiness and that it is adherence to values that will decide their success in life, not marks or multiple degrees.

When Nyssa said that she wanted to be herself, it meant that she was going to be the way she is. She does not want to be like her classmate who might be aspiring to be a doctor neither does she want to be a teacher like her mother. She just wants to be herself and when she will grow up, she will decide how to earn her livelihood. Let her be so and I am sure, one day, she will find success on her own terms. I will feel twice happy that day for she must have not only reached where she wanted to be but she must have walked upto that goal, not ran past anyone or pushed back someone to reach her goal. Then it is definitely her victory alone. Nyssa, you are a star, already. Be the way you are. Just be ‘you’. Thank you baby, for teaching us adults, too, a valuable lesson. 

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