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Yesterday night I had a short but interesting conversation with my engineering classmate. Just took a look at where we stood currently in life – all that we wished we could’ve done and reasons for not doing so.
Every generation looks at the younger generation and wishes they had the opportunities bestowed on the younger lot and imagines how different their world would’ve been; and when you start falling in the former category you know you are not so young anymore.
I look back often at my life and take stock – the kind of expectations that were built up from school days – how I was an utter disappointment in my own book in my choice of graduation stream – how the post graduation helped in more ways than I had imagined – how I never ever gave it a thought to make a profession out of my hobbies or passions.
When you are brought up in a middle-class Maharashtrian household, the first thing you learn is to build a good career and get a decent paying job. Any other creative yearnings are to be maintained as hobbies not converted to professions.
I dabbled in few extra-curricular activities but discovered that my biggest problem was zero perseverance to take them up seriously to the next step ahead (plus I never thought that I could ever make a career out of the). Guess my mother sensed it very early and I was given ultimatums – to consider them seriously enough or to give them up altogether. Those activities cost my parents their hard earned money and in the 90s Rs100 had a lot of value unlike today where I see teenagers buying Barista coffee for the same amount. Being good at academics was merely my excuse to not pursue anything else seriously. The lure of a lucrative career at the end of completing a good education from the best of colleges seemed more realistically achievable for me rather than pursuing a career in dancing or journalism. The risk in opting for the latter seemed too large then and I admire my friends today who have made a name in their chosen fields – different from the regular boring people like me:-)
During my school & college years I was obsessed with becoming an IAS officer – it seemed to me that it was one place from where I could make a difference to this country. My father most encouraging and my mother most opposing towards this ambition of mine. I sometimes wonder if my papa had not passed away so early in my life, if I would’ve still pursued that dream of mine. My mother did try her bit to give her encouragement, although reluctantly, but I felt I lost my zest to pursue it seriously, often comparing the expectations of the job and the other easier options available to me.
Apart from IAS, I also considered being a historian – history fascinated me, still does especially Maratha history. What could this career option offer me? Peanuts compared to the others available on a platter and so a possible major in history by choosing the Arts stream was ruled out.
I was never an all-rounder at school – probably the quintessential geek you know. The girl who topped her academics and was good for nothing at everything else; the only other activity I knew I could’ve done equal justice was classical dance. When the classes close to home moved away – mom said that as working parents they both did not have the time to pick me up and drop me to the classes. They were willing to do it but I had to show that much more interest and dedication which was clearly lacking from my side. If I was looking to take it up professionally or pursue it seriously she made it pretty clear that it will never fetch me the returns that my academic degrees would. I was not willing to take the risk and I chose the easier option out.
I’ve over the years craved for creative genes – my mom is a powerhouse of talent and my father was an excellent writer and orator. Both however never got the opportunities to showcase their talent and build a profession out of it – if circumstances would’ve been great, he would’ve made an excellent lawyer and she would’ve built her art school. I was not blessed with their gifts but when they saw that their only child was blessed with a little above average intelligence they preferred that she got to see less struggles in her life. Best way to ensure would be to get her the best education opportunities that will help her settle down comfortably in life rather than spend time as a struggling dancer, historian or journalist. I can’t blame them for the options they kept before me cause they only had the best interests in mind. My mumma has often confessed that if things were different financially maybe she would’ve let me run the risk of not choosing to pursue professional studies.
We had not been hit by the internet boom in the 90s when we were studying. The 21st century was just opening up and by the time we realized the power of internet – we had completed our mandatory education and were settled in marriage and comfortable jobs. I’m rather envious of the options available to the current generation – I would’ve given anything to be born in the late 80s/early 90s. Those kids have had different streams open up and parents who are ready to break the traditional mould.
My example was always given in my family for my academics and education; obviously you guessed right that I was mostly hated by my younger cousins and nieces/nephews who had no inclination towards academics. Whenever their parents requested me to guide them on the importance of education, I told them that education today is no longer defined by a medicine/engineering/MBA degree. The world has changed and there are a million opportunities on offer. They need to pursue what they like, in the fields of their choice. There is not much age gap between us and I probably wanted them to pursue what I could not. Result – I’m proud aunt today of an international award winning graphic designer, an architect in the making, a dietician in the making, and the younger ones looking good to excel in different arenas.
So do I regret my choices? Yes and No. Given my interests I’m glad I’m in the financial field and into some hard core analytics. It gives me much joy. I’m glad I’ve kept my cricket writing to a hobby; else who knows I would’ve been bored of it and that would’ve been depressing for me. I’m glad I’ve the independence today to choose the dance form I want to learn without bothering to clear exams for each level. Would I have done things differently if given the chance – yes – I would’ve been less of a geek , taken my limited creative abilities seriously and made the most of it. Given them a serious chance – I would’ve failed but atleast I would lived with the fact that I had tried.
I also feel that maybe now my generation is better placed to let the kids make their own choices – not only are we more financially secure but we are also willing to let our kids take the risks they want, let them fail and try again.
My mom often jokes with me that my first salary was equal to her last salary in 35 years of her government service; then she turns serious and tells me how proud she feels about that fact. Her daughter is independent, doing reasonably well in her career and still getting to do all that she missed out in her early days. So when she says this to me, I know exactly why she insisted on me making a decent career instead of pursuing hobbies where the future was uncertain. That makes me regret a little less on the things I missed out on in this life:-)