Monday, May 25, 2015

Her dreams and their expectations

The visit was long overdue, and finally I got time one evening to drop by my friends' house.

Let's call them Sithesh and Sarah. They are bank executives, and they have a daughter Sangeetha who has just completed 12th.

One flip side of a bank job, is the transfer. You are liable to be moved from one to city to another anywhere in the country. And when both husband and wife work in banks, it can sort of wreak havoc with the family life.

Sithesh and Sarah have had their share of the problem, which proved to be quite troublesome especially after Sangeetha came. They had to be in different cities for years. Somehow, they have managed to pull it off, thanks to their parents and friends.

As soon as I landed up in their house, we launched ourselves into a non-stop conversation. There was so much to catch up.

Some half an hour later, Sangeetha came in. She had gone to her neighbour's house. It's about two years since I last met her.

In a while, she too joined our conversation. She spoke about her school, her teachers, her strict headmistress and her friends. Quite an opinionated girl, she had her own views about topics as varied as our education system, corporal punishment, dress code, traditions, taboos etc.

A little later, she brought a book in which she had drawn beautiful pictures; some of them pencil sketches, some them water-coloured drawings. There were images of landscape, objects, people --  a wide variety of the life we see around us. As I turned the pages, I could sense her eagerness for my nods of approval.

I was immediately reminded of what she had told me when I had come to their house the last time -- her ambition to make it big the world of design and arts. As she turned the pages of the scrap book of her creative work, she told me how she had read up on successful people in the field, the courses she could pursue and what lay in store for her in the profession.

When I told her that her work was good, it was neither by way of mere encouragement or blind flattery. I had meant it, for her works were stunning.

It was dinner time. While having the sumptuous spread that they had prepared, her parents spoke about what they made of their daughter's interests.

For them, it was merely her hobby, a pastime, or even a waste of time, as it was cutting into her study hours. She would be reading some article on design and art, instead of reading something related to school work, they whined.

I summoned my diplomatic skills, and merely nodded in approval, as a debate on turning hobbies into careers ensued. I took my own example, of how I consciously chose to do a post-graduation in Journalism though I had got admission to PG courses in Bio-Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Applied Chemistry.

But, I had to be careful here not to infuriate my hosts, after all it was a sensitive subject; and it should not appear that I was trying to "wrongly" influence my friends' daughter.

Both Sithesh and Sarah want Sangeetha to be a doctor. They have their own reasons.

"She is good in studies; even top scores in biology. There are so many children who want to be doctors, but their parents don't have the money to educate them. But here there is no such problem. Sangeetha is so lucky to have everything. Children of 12 Std need to be guided to the right profession; and not allowed to choose one based on someone's recommendations or based on what they read on the internet. Parents know their children well, and therefore they are the best people to guide them to the right profession." They went on and on.

Now, I couldn't help making murmurs of disapproval. Without sounding crass or cut-and-dried, I gently suggested to them that though it was the duty of the parents to guide their children through the right path and give all support they need; after all, it's the children's career and life, and it should be left to them to take the final call.

Soon it emerged that the parents were opting the doctor's profession not just because Sangeetha was good in biology, but it was as a safe choice (for the parents), and given her academic brilliance, it almost looked as if Sangeetha's career in the medical profession will be stellar success.

There might be good career prospects in design and arts, they agreed with me. But why take the risk, why mess with life?, so went their argument.

I felt a bit sad, when a little later Sangeetha told me (without her parents hearing) that she would pursue medicine, because that is what her parents want. "After all, they have to support me in my education; it's not practical to rebel against them, when I am dependent on them."

She will soon be writing entrance examinations to medical colleges around the country. Knowing her, I am pretty sure that she will pass with good marks, and ultimately choose a good college (on suggestions from her parents, rather than anyone else), and do well in the medical course too.

However, I wonder if she is making the right choice. Should she pursue her passion or merely follow what her parents want her to do?

How will it all pan out for her when she is done with academics, and steps out into the real, hard world of patients, doctors and hospitals? That's the time your passion will be the only driving force. At that time, will the dormant interest for design and arts rear its head and spoil the chances for Sangeetha?

I don't know.

As of now, I can only wish her well.


  1. This is something I noticed happens an awful lot in India. M husband was amazed at the fact that kids in Europe get to choose what they want to do and have supportive parents. He can't remember ever knowing what he wanted to be growing up, it was decided for him : engineer or doctor.
    He got into engineering, and he is now a business consultant.
    When it comes to medicine I find the pushing a bit disturbing, because it is one of these profession for which you need dedication, and passion. It is not just science, the human aspect is very important. And having seems fair share of doctors in the decade I have been in India, I sadly get the feeling that many are not loving their job at all, just the prestige of the title and the money, which is very disturbing.

    Fortunately it seems the tide is changing, I have noticed that there is a demand for qualified professionals in smaller professions now, which was not there a couple of years ago. A shift in mentalities that occurred in the 80s in Switzerland, where suddenly apprenticeship professions went from being the solution for the poor student to being extra specialised fields with a well shaped curriculum that asked students to actually study and be at the Tope of their profession game.
    This could be India's future the way things seems to be going.

  2. This is a sad part is most of our lives. But i am not sure what is the right answer - your passion vs parent's experience. Sometimes passion can't give you a fruitful career.

    Let me give you my example - I wanted to be a cricketer, for obvious reasons. But then how many of the youngsters actually become a part of Indian Cricket Team? Not fact, just a handful. So i guess, in my case, i did good by studying and doing Engineer and Management...i am not regretting. And my parent's are proud too!

    1. The problem when it comes to passions is that often people see an all or nothing scenario. A passion for cricket might not necessarily end up with bring a national team player, but still could open the door to many other fruitful careers in the cricket world. Only by being discouraged early just because a select few make it to the absolute top isn't the answer either. And being pushed into a doctor career just because it is a safe option isn't a good idea.

    2. But then if you don't succeed, it will only add to frustration. No?

    3. The only frustration I ever experienced was from not doing something I loved and have regrets. Of all the passions I followed, I never experienced failure, because when you are passionate, you don't see anything as unsuccessful to begin with. Fear is the enemy that will frustrate people.

  3. It normally happens in India where parents do want a safe choice for their children. I do really hope that Sangeetha follows her passion even though she is a doctor. As per my belief, being a doctor has nothing to do with her passion. With right time management or through a break in between, she can successfully follow her passion.

  4. The same thing happens in most of the Indian families in USA also. Very sad.