By Lata Jha:
“To beta, aap engineering kar rahe ho? Nahi? To medical?” it’s pretty bizarre that random people(who, I may add, have no other way to while away time) at social gatherings or any public place, for that matter, ask me questions like these that have the ability to ruin my day and bring out the nastiest, angriest and arguably the most anguished in me.
No, I’m not studying engineering. Not because I didn’t have the marks, but because I never wanted to. I also think that people from colleges apart from the IITs of the world can make something of life.
I was a student of Humanities. And I’m now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In the two years that I’ve been in college, I’ve pretty much been happy about the choice I made. Not once have I wanted to turn the clock back and change things. And yet, I’m baffled by the look people give me when I tell them what my field of study is. As blissfully oblivious as you may be of it, there’s a life beyond the fields your worlds revolve around.
While in many respects, we may have come a long way from the proverbial Indian way of life that for instance, favoured boys over girls but I’m saddened by how bound we still are to certain stereotypes. Children in many cities like mine and yours are brought up, knowing each day of their lives that they can dream only one dream. Creativity and experimentation are out of bounds. Get an engineering degree, take the UPSC exam, live your life only this one way.
I don’t have a problem with engineering and medical students. A lot of my friends are studying those very subjects. But I do have a problem with the fact that even today, those are the only institutes and fields of study that the majority take seriously. Does somebody who qualifies for a National Law University not deserve as much praise as an IITian? Just because he’s chosen to look at cases rather than cars and chemicals? It pains me when people who top NIFT entrance exams are looked upon as if it were a piece of cake for them compared to some bookworm who’s probably reached the moon by managing to get into Kalinga.
Does the nation only need engineers and doctors? What about providing good media schools to generate quality press? In fact, how about taking journalism as a course a little more seriously? How about according more respect to History, Political Science and Sociology students who top your UPSC exams? Or who go on to become learned teachers at your own universities?
I agree it’s about a certain mindset that we’ve lived with since time immemorial that particular jobs give you security and stability. What about the question then of creativity and individuality? Aren’t we producing mere clones this way? If every child is supposed to take up Science and become an engineer, irrespective of whether he wants to or if he has the aptitude for it, what differentiates one from another? Or someone truly brilliant from someone who’s been pushed into it? Didn’t you yourself read stories of being brave and holding one’s own to your children? What happened then when he said he wanted to take up Commerce after the 10th?
I’ve seen friends weep through two years of miserable +2, when Science didn’t turn out to be their cup of tea. Only to take up social science in college. What rationale is this? As anguished and cynical as it may sound, only engineers and doctors cannot make a country. You need the actors, the fashion designers, the lawyers, the accountants, the soldiers and the journalists. So while I’m not saying these professions do not deserve respect, my point is we should learn to value and respect other jobs just as much.
I don’t see why a NIFTian can’t share the newspaper page with an IITian. And why government felicitation ceremonies can’t honour both on the same stage? If success is what we measure the worthiness of life by, markers like educational streams are way too insignificant. There are things you are made and destined for.
I don’t think I’ve made a better decision than my choice of study in my twenty years. And I was fortunate to have parents who completely understood what I was meant for. Which is why, this article that you may find overtly whiny is more for the parents of the world. The ones who, in wanting the best for their children, push them towards norms and convention and destroy their dreams and potential. I don’t want to be preachy, I am no one to judge or advice. I have no idea what being a parent is like. But I do know how dreams are nurtured. Under the reams of star filled eyes and a vision for the future. I know what it is like when people look down upon and don’t take seriously your field of study. But you live with the faith that you have your parents and yourself to fall back on.
And you know, if what I say still doesn’t make much sense, go by the lesson that otherwise grossly over rated film about the three friends taught us, about following your heart, running after excellence, not success. And success will come following the trail.