Sunday, June 01, 2008

To Be or Not To Be

At work sometime last week, we were discussing this new kid who'd taken admission just the previous day. The mother had called a colleague for advice after the new institution she'd been sending her daughter to didn't measure up to its hype and the girl had been forced to cool her heels for an entire year. What grabbed my attention was when someone mentioned the kid's first area of interest was the study of criminology. Whoa, now that would sound like an interesting profession out West but in a little state like Mizoram that's dependent on financial handouts from the Govt of India which is, to begin with, just a Third World nation itself, criminology? Hilarious.

Another colleague married to a forensics medico spoke of a concerned parent dropping by sometime ago to ask the doc's advice on her son's ambition of getting into forensic science too. She said her husband had explained quite clearly that the field wasn't one which seemed as glamourous or easy as many people believe, and if the kids could take a look at the forensics lab, they'd be quickly stripped of their delusions. We all agreed that much of these unreal misconceptions come from TV, with shows like CSI, Bones, Monk, Life etc glamourizing a world that actually takes a great deal of hard, painstaking labour and tedious investigations. And that's not even taking into account the most basic and fair to middling primitive resources we have here. Dreams fuelled by TV - that's so typical of the very young. The idealism, the romantic view of life and its possibilities. The impracticality. The need for a reality check. The earth-to-teen paging.

I'd been there once so I know. As a starry-eyed teen, I'd once longed for a career in advertising. Not that I had any real idea idea what exactly the job entailed but I enjoyed creative writing and teachers were always appreciative of my essays and compositions, and people were forever asking what my ambition in life was. However I was lucky enough to know what was what and the fleeting dream didn't last long, and I was perfectly content to trot off to the local college that my older sister was always raving about.

But then I suppose it's not the done thing to tell young people to dream small. I like challenging my Sunday School teens with the true life story of David Hartman who went completely blind at age 8 but went on to make it as a medical doctor and now practises psychiatry in the US. Now that's inspiring! On the other hand, you can't just sit kids down and tell them they can be anything they want like the woman in the Readers' Digest anecdote whose little daughter said she wanted to be a nurse. "No, honey," says the mother, all peachy keen to let the girl know it's a whole new world out there and she doesn't have to stick to stereotyped gender roles. "You don't have to be a nurse. You can be a doctor. You can be anything you want!" The little girl's eyes fire up with ambition as she goes, "Anything? Then I want to be a horse!"

Aye, there's the rub..


  1. This is quite an issue, an important one. How to balance dreams and reality. How to encourage young people to go for the stars, at the same time to help them realise the hard facts. As a teacher, you'd likely be expected to give some form of career guidance. Not easy.

  2. It sure is, mesjay. It's hard enough for kids but I'm amazed at the number of people (and some way past their teens and are in their 20s, 30s and 40s even) who just don't have a grip on dreams and reality. And I must confess that sometimes I teeter on the edge too but get pulled in just in the nick of time. I guess adversity has its uses in that it keeps you sane and level-headed.

  3. Being in a land that espouses the 'what if' drive, it's amazing the range of ways people invent themselves and even make a decent living out of it. But then again, the basic existential questions here are way different from those in India, let alone Mizoram. Projections of dreams-vs-reality constrict creativity/variety. Radical structural changes could over time facilitate negotiating the spaces between the dreamed for and reality but until such a time, I would invariably play it safe too. Kya kare!

  4. When I was in 10th std, I got hooked to Robin Cook novels. From then onwards, I always wanted to be a doctor! lolz. At the All India Medical entrance exam, I bagged GMC (Gauhati Medical College) but I also got a good seat in engineering (PSG, second best in TN) so I was in a dilemma, until my cousin who's a 3rd year medical student took me through the procedures I will have to go through... all the blood and flesh and stink and dead bodies.... lolz, I immediately selected engineering after that :-)

    Good point you guys made, about the importance of knowing where to seperate reality and fantasy. I also used to dream about becoming a cosmonaut (but strangely not an astronaut) when I was in junior school, and my eldest sister used to tell me the difference between the two is that cosmonauts have lazer guns while astronauts are unarmed!!!! Man those dreamy good ol days.

  5. when we were kids and all the other kids wanted to be a doctor, i never want to be a doctor...never even owned those famous 'doctor set' :D

    when almost every kid back then (and till now) wants to work for the Gor-mint of Mizoram, i never wanted to be a government employee...i always find it funny that many people are very proud to be an employee of one of the poorest state of one of the poorest country in the world....

    anywayz...each man for himself...if sumone choose to be a horse, i haf no issue...provided that someone is not my husband...:D

  6. Now I have children of my own
    They ask their father, what will I be
    Will I be handsome, will I be rich
    I tell them tenderly.

    Que Sera, Sera,
    Whatever will be, will be
    The future's not ours to see
    Que Sera, Sera
    What will be, will be.

  7. Even when I started college, I still did not really know what I wanted to become. Except for some vague idea of becoming some sort of a writer or journalist and that I did not want to work in a bank! So I appreciate and admire people who know their mind and reach for their dream even from their schooldays.

    Now I have children of my own and they don't ask their father what they want to be. They already know. My son has decided to be an artist (fine arts) and has just finished his first year of arts classes and plans to go in for his Bachelor of Fine Arts when the time comes. My daughter is a good creative writer and even his teachers have been pressing her to become a journalist or go in for something to do with writing but her dream is to make it in the music world.

    As a parent I am so scared sometimes that their dreams or talents may not match up to reality. Though I honestly believe they have the talent and gift to achieve their dreams, I still can't help being scared for their future. How to prepare them for the many pitfalls and disappointments that life is going to bring them.....

    In times like this, the 'que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be' philosophy of life certainly sounds extremely attractive!

  8. Thil dang deih..

  9. Philo, playing it safe definitely is the best and wisest option around here until miracles are worked and we can all make a living out of doing weirded-out stuff as in your land :P

    Illu, nah, you'd never have gone through the whole shindig as a cosmonaut or an astronaut. They don't have pretty girls floating around in space I don't think :D

    virgo, it's not that funny that people are proud to be employees of "one of the poorest state of one of the poorest country in the world". No option otherwise. Unless you're already loaded and have loads of money to pour into new schemes as capital. Classic Catch 22 situation.

  10. samupa, good song. But does it really work out that way in real life?

    Plats, sounds like you have more grown-up kids than samupa which might explain his savoir faire on this issue. You'd have made a good journo but since you opted for sth else I'm sure your daughter will do you proud. Son too. I'd love to see his artwork btw.

  11. Haha lal elexx, eng tak nimaw ka tia ka va en vel a lo ho best :P