Three words represent an all-inclusive term that has been ruining the future of Indian children since generations, three grossly stodgy words which have mocked at our youth’s dreams and aspirations in the most ineffable manner, three words to which the country’s children are compelled to give more thought to than anything else in life: ‘Log Kya Kahenge?’.
Although we hail ourselves to have embarked on a journey of perpetual progress on a plethora of levels, it makes me immensely unhappy that we have not been able to successfully do away with certain stereotypes. While we are looking for innovative young minds to propel us forward, we are smothering their very spirits by denying them the luxury to dream, to aspire, to fly into the future – simply because instead of listening to the voices of our own conscience and our hearts, we are often told to listen to the voices of other people, many of whom have themselves been victims of an irrational and biased ecosystem that withheld them from following their passions. The strange thing here is that people fail to comprehend the simple fact that our lives are our lives. We are the only people who will live with ourselves till our last breath, and as compulsively metaphorical it sounds, it is a statement to be understood in the literal sense as well.
Why should the Indian youth be forced to stick to prototyped paths and do things the way ‘everyone else had done them’, regardless of whether old ideas still remain to be valid in an increasingly progressive society and nation? On one hand, our ministers, our teachers, the whole educational and intellectual class of our nation preaches of innovation and lucubrates the need for creative thought and on the other hand, we are mercilessly subjected to the banter of our numerous uncles and aunts, each of whom speak with such exuberant enthusiasm and animation that makes one wonder whether they are direct descendants of the great Charlie Chaplin: “Aap apne bachche ko Science padhao ji. Bahut scope hai!” Oh sure, I don’t want to become a doctor or an engineer, but let me just go ahead and put myself through hours of Physics and Chemistry which have never managed to fascinate me, just because it keeps the society happy.
The question that arises is: Should the decisions we make be aligned with our own thought processes or by the notions of the individuals around us? Many Indian children do not have the courage to stand up to the society and have their say, so they simply adhere to what everyone around them is saying and become completely indifferent to the voices inside their souls. But many Indian children are also learning to prioritize. They have realized that they must not let go of opportunities and sacrifice their own dreams and aspirations just because they are being pushed onto the ever-inflated bandwagon. In India it seems to have become a widely acceptable fact: The people who are innately intelligent take Science. The people who are a little less intelligent take Commerce. And people with major dearth of intelligence and a lack of basic mental aptitude take Arts. Many people stick to this conventional norm, regardless of the fact that the world around them is changing and perhaps it’s time for them to change as well.
Another dismal fallacy of our society and also our educational system is the shattering overemphasis on marks. Children are forced to resort to means like cheating because “Boards mein number nahi mile toh future mein tu kuch nahi banega.” Our future success is not merely mark-oriented and while marks do go on to make a statement about a person’s capability to some extent, they are in no way indicators of a person’s success. Why, a student with 60 percent has as much chance of fulfilling his dreams and living his passion as a student with 90 percent. But in India, the child with a low score will be blatantly categorized as a ‘nobody’. A big shout out to all the parents who badger and pressurize their children, asking them to study for twelve hours a day: The motivation for your child needs to be to work hard and put in his best, not to simply get marks and outdo the neighbour’s kid.
Children today must realize that they have the freedom to choose who they want to be. Yes, we can be who we want to be and we have the right to fight for our dreams. Progress comes from understanding who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow; where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. The critical words here are what ‘you’ want. Twenty years from now, you’ll want to sit back and look at your life in retrospection. At that moment, you do not want to be regretting anything. You wouldn’t want to look forlornly at ‘what could have been’, but you’d want to look satisfactorily at ‘what is’. Be genuine, be authentic, and find your true purpose. ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ is insignificant.
I’d now like to quote an excerpt from Harper Lee’s classic ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’:
“Atticus, you must be wrong….”
“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong….”
“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”