Post Mortem

Let children chase their dreams

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/13/2021 1:07:57 PM IST

 The Hindi movie 3 Idiots (2009) focuses on a group of youngsters studying for an engineering degree. One of them, Farhan, is passionate about wildlife photography, but he goes to the engineering college to keep his father in good humour. As expected, he fails to do well there. He remains oppressed by the brooding melancholy that arises from the thought of not being able to lead a life of his choice. Things reach a tipping point by the time Farhan’s father understands that his son’s interests lie elsewhere. The movie poignantly highlights the dilemma of those creatively inclined youngsters from middle-class families who, mostly under parental pressure, take up engineering or medical programmes and, in the process, crush their innate talent.

Why is it that in our society, the artistic instinct continues to play second fiddle to applied Science and Math? Why are the Humanities still looked down upon as merely the last refuge of mediocrity? Many parents get overly reductive when they say that the Humanities streams do not offer career options, unlike Engineering and Medicine. At times parents, and even teachers, populate students’ lives with spectres of dread sure to wreak havoc if they diverge from the Science stream. Many students grow up internalising these fears and fail to disenthrall themselves from their stranglehold. The thickets of prejudice tend to narrow parents’ views.

No wonder, even today, when a student pursues English literature in college, many labour under the delusion that they opted for it out of compulsion as they didn’t have enough marks to secure admission to the Science stream. We have grown inured to the notion that Science subjects are the forte of the bright and intelligent. After all, for some parents, a flourishing career in engineering or medicine is the sine qua non of status, money and recognition which a course in Humanities doesn’t seem to bring.

There are also people who are fixed in their ways as they feel English as a subject is something that one studies only till Class 12. The very idea that one needs to study this subject at the university level somewhat baffles them. English is considered a ‘scoring’ subject, like Mathematics, for most students at the final board exams; nothing beyond that. What they read till Class 12 is definitely not literature. A majority of schools in our country don’t have Elective English at the senior secondary level. As a result, students are not exposed to the works of great writers which can fuel their interest in English literature. What they have is a Core English syllabus that doesn’t require critical thinking and analytical skills.  

It comes as no surprise that students shy away from pursuing literature at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. They believe that a degree in Science opens up new vistas of opportunity as compared to a degree in the Humanities. Social worker and author Sudha Murthy have a piece of advice for parents: “Lead by example, if you want your children to read, switch off your TV or phone and sit down to read yourself. Kids learn much more by example than a sermon.’’

Both parents and teachers should make an effort to identify and channelise the talents of youngsters in the right direction. Parents should eschew the tendency to force their children to opt for Science or Mathematics after Class 10 if they are not if they are not interested in them. If a student shows an inclination towards music, painting or journalism, parents should rather give them a free hand and help them achieve their goals as much as they can. Similarly, if a student displays amazing brilliance in Science subjects, let him pursue the subjects of his choice. Who knows there could be an Edison or an Einstein hidden inside your child? It has often been seen that parents try to choose the careers of their children and live vicariously through them.

In Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Hard Times, a young girl, Louisa has a tendency to ask questions and to imagine. However, her father, Mr Gradgrind, who is a stickler for facts, tries his best to suppress this natural inclination, telling her that she must “never wonder.”

In 2019, Paulo Coelho, the bestselling author of The Alchemist, tweeted that it took him 40 years to pen his first book. The reason was that his father, who was an engineer by profession, was fairly convinced that if his son chose to become a writer, he would starve to death!

Everyone is born with inherent abilities. To mould a child’s destiny accordingly is the responsibility of both parents and teachers. We should ask our children what they want to be and help them be that, instead of mindlessly foisting our choices on them. The rewards of living according to one’s own instinct and inclination can be immense.

Aditya Mukherjee

The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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