Editor’s Pick: The Power of Passion

Posted on March 28, 2010 in Society, Youth Affairs

Ashwin Menon:

A sixteen year old student, with a more-than-decent chance of getting into MIT (The Massachussetts Institute of Technology), decides that he would rather try his hand at making rap songs. There’s only one thing left for him to do: get his parents’ permission. Should be a simple decision to make, right? After all, what’s a passion for rap music compared to an opportunity to learn at what is considered the best Institute for technology and science! Well, the catch is that when it comes down to living your life, passion is everything. The student’s parents did let him leave for Hollywood and today we know the “student” better as Will Smith.

Passion – that’s what’s needed here, in India. Here, where most people are in their jobs more for the monetary incentive in the job rather than for the work itself, a few people chasing their passion could make all the difference. From our politicians to our students, it seems that everyone’s just chasing what interests others whereas what we should be pursuing is what it is that interests us. That’s why for a country which has a population of over one billion, you could say our productivity is very “low” — if you don’t like what you are doing right now, you can never be good enough to get satisfactory results. To use a crude (and cheeky) analogy, it’s like being with the wrong girl — your thoughts will always lie elsewhere.

A lot of people make it big not because they had the skills or the degrees, but because they had the passion. Even people not in the arts — Bill Gates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google), Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook) — have dropped out of college and gone on to become billionaires. Many actors worked at small jobs in Hollywood awaiting their big break. Brad Pitt used to work as a chaffeur and even dressed up as a chicken. Johnny Depp dreamed of being a rock star and to facilitate his dream, for a while he sold pens. Yes, not really the lucrative job everyone looks for but it achieved its purpose, giving him enough money to stay just that “little bit longer” in Hollywood.

Which is how it should be! People should spend their lives investing in what drives them and doing what they don’t like only to allow them to chase their passion. That’s probably why USA still has the best institutes despite us pumping our “brightest minds” into the IITs. Their universities are filled with students who are passionate about what they’re learning. In an age where mostly every adolescent in India is primed for life in an engineering (or medical) college, it is important to realise that success is where the heart lies.

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@Ashwin: Well, maybe you didn’t mean it to be critical, but to me, it seems like it is. Which is a good thing, actually. On the whole, I agree with you to a great extent.

@Abishek: I wouldn’t call this piece “fluff”, “fickle” or “transient”. It does convey a solid message of grievous importance, even if not very explicitly. The problem has been around for long and will be, in the future. In my opinion, the least we can do to change it, is appreciate and encourage articles like these.
There is a tremendous pressure on students of all ages from not just parents, but the society as a whole. While it’s definitely healthy to encourage students to study and perform well academically, deluding them into believing that there aren’t any other paths to success is highly irrational and immoral. Despite the poor quantity of surveys and statistical data, we do know that the suicide rates of students are alarmingly high in India. Social pressure concerning education has to be a significant factor in every single case. Surely, this is the biggest alarm for those who considered the matter “superficial”. What’s worse than something that convinces its victims that it’s better to give up their own lives?!
I am not trying to make any unsubstantiated claims on the suicide rates: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8473515.stm

On the other hand, I do understand that India is a developing country. So “earning a living” and “supporting the family” are the biggest concerns for a student from a poor family. Hence, given the statistical assurance, a person is less confident to take any risk by following their true passion (I wouldn’t say, “That’s the way life is”! Something should be done about it, but I’m afraid it’ll take time). But what about a student from a middle-class family? Sheer parental and social pressure!
I am not saying that all students are currently pursuing what they don’t like. All I’m saying is that it’s a herculean task for an average Indian student to follow his passion and make decisions on his own from the age of 18 while that is what almost every other student does in a developed country does.
It’s almost as if after 62 years of “independence”, an individual doesn’t gain his “freedom” until he graduates with an engineering or medicine degree.

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