By Suhani Rampal:
“You’re a disappointment,” his father said. He had promised to study well and score better than before but he failed. He was good at basketball and felt elated playing it but his dad said, “You’re not pursuing this game, there is no future in India.” Little did he know he’d have to lie to go play matches when kids at his age lied about bunking and drugs. He became the sports captain in his school but was again discouraged as he realised that an such an achievement would also be debated at home. He wanted to take up arts in high school but he couldn’t because his mother said, “Science it is for you. You’ll do engineering.”
He wanted to live his own way but was told to live a certain way and whenever he let his parents down, he thought of himself as no more than a failure. Parents said, “Do this,” and like an ideal child, he did. Still, little did he know that at the end of the day he’d hear the golden words, “You’re a disappointment.” Burdened by expectations that he never wanted to fulfil, he was neither allowed to live his life his way nor was he allowed to become what he may have become. He couldn’t think straight, he couldn’t figure out his life. He didn’t know why he kept failing even when he was trying. It wasn’t something he was interested in, it wasn’t even something he thought he could do. He was just told to live someone else’s life. He was a mere puppet. The family he longed to see after being in college was not pleasing him anymore now. He did call me when all this happened and I remember what he said, “Why don’t they let me live, what is so wrong that I’m doing? I feel like a drum that everyone keeps beating.” Those were the last words I heard and then his phone switched off after that always.
It is so sad that our whole life is spent not running after our dreams but living a lie. We are told that we come into this world alone and we go back from this world alone. Then why can’t we live the way we want to live. If such is the course of life then let it flow. Let us swim with the current than drown fighting against it. Why don’t parents understand that it is not the era they witnessed anymore? There is not just the engineer, doctor, teacher and government employee anymore. There is more to life and our fingers can’t count the number of career paths we have now.
In a crime show on television called “Crime Patrol”, I once saw the story of a boy who was good at acting. His confidence lit up the stage every time he stepped on it. He enjoyed the attention he got. The limelight became his favourite spot. His parents saw money coming in easy through his acts, so they made him do plenty of shows. Now, every time he made a mistake, he was scolded, whereas earlier he used to be praised always for good performances. His interest in acting slowly declined because it wasn’t just about fun and fame but had become a family business game. The whole house became dependent on what he earned; factories, properties were now their goals. He lost his childhood slowly, they didn’t realise. And one fine day, they lost him.
Two different stories but both resulted in the kids being moulded into the expectations of the parents. An age where they should be left to make mistakes and learn, enjoy and follow their desires and dreams, they are, alas, held by their necks and told to succumb. If such remains the condition in India, the vicious circle of expectations and the obsolete ideas behind education would continue crushing a million dreams and a billion lives for sure. Some yield to these forced paths that they are told to follow just like a horse who is bound to see only forward. Some get crushed beneath the lies that their lives become.
Quoting the suicide note of Kriti Tripathi, a 17-year-old girl who wrote it before jumping to her death from a five-storey building: “It’s not because of bad scores in JEE Mains. I was expecting worse. It’s because I’ve started hating myself to the extent that I want to kill myself… You manipulated me as a kid to like science… I took science to make you happy, I had interest in astrophysics and quantum physics and would have done a B. Sc… I still love writing, English, history (sic)… and they are capable of exciting me in the darkest times.” She requested her parents to not force the same on her younger sister and let her take the subjects she is interested in and is capable of completing. Ending the suicide note, she requested the HRD Ministry and other authorities to shut down the coaching centres in Kota as they “suck”!
It is true that one suicide note cannot and will not prove the fact that such coaching centres should be shut down. But it definitely rings resonates with all those who are unable to cope and quit. 19 deaths were reported last year and five were reported in just one month in Kota. And these are just the figures from one single place. There would be a hundred more. Is it the pressure of the coaching centres or is it the competition or is it the expectations that cause many to fall into the trap of depression? Some commit suicide and some deal with acute depression and need proper treatment to recover. Though it is a fact that many clear the examination with flying colours, and while some are pursuing their dream, many of them are living a lie.
Have you seen “3 Idiots” or “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” or “Wake Up Sid”? Did you just watch them to kill time? I bet you did. Because if the messages delivered by such movies were implemented correctly, I bet the lives of many could have changed. ‘Seize the day’, ‘Follow your heart and your dreams’, ‘Don’t run after success, work hard and success shall follow’, ‘Don’t fear what you do, wearing rings on the fingers will not help you reap what you sow’, ‘Who knows if you’re going to live another day, live in the moment..’, and there were many more. But all these just remain quotes which rather than being adopted in life merely hang on the walls in our rooms. Who are you trying to fool? What are you trying to become? Accept what and who you are and make the most of it. The ultimate goal in life must not be to have a salary with a lot of zeroes but to be happy. How can you be happy if you’re not you?
Well, for many, the strings in their heart might resonate and the nerves in the brain might squeeze to think, ponder and introspect but for others (which includes the majority), it would be just another philosophical article. It’s never too late. Your life can turn however you want it to. All you need to do is to just listen to the voice from within. Wishing for a private jet, a private island, a desirable salary package, a lifestyle that you can enjoy is what everyone does. But does any one of them do the right thing to do in order to get what they wish? By following the crowd, can you be extraordinary? You can only be extraordinary if you do what you’re good at and if you still don’t know what you’re good at, alas, you’re probably already a victim of the vicious circle.
Featured and banner images for representation only. Credit: Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.