Thursday, January 28, 2010

Err., What's my passion?

"No way! Who wants to be an engineer?! Everyone's an engineer these days".

"I don't want to be a doctor. I don't have the mindset".

"I hate history".

"I don't want to be a geek doing Maths".

"I don't have time for extra-curriculars. I would rather hang out with friends and have fun. Life is short".

These are some of the statements that I have actually heard from some kids / young adults out there. They don't know what they want to do w.r.t college or a career. They have been to career counselors, they have mostly supportive parents, but still they don't know what they would really be happy doing. Each one of them however knows that they want to do something "cool". What that "cool" is, nobody truly knows although they do seem to think photography, bollywood dance, fashion designing, journalism are cool. But then they don't have a plan to pursue those. Some even think that it is hard to break into those fields (which I agree is true). So they don't want to pursue them when they can actually make about 20k (Rs) per month at a call-center which is enough to have a so-called "fun" life. It seems to me that "having fun" has become the utmost important criteria for many young adults these days. I totally agree that pursuing a stream or line that is fun is absolutely important and also agree that only when one pursues their passion will they be truly having fun. But not pursuing anything because nothing is fun doesn't make sense either. Off-late the media has been going crazy on the topic of letting kids pursue their true passion when it comes to college, degrees, careers etc. But I wonder if many kids have the ability to find what their true passion is and the tenacity to pursue it? I don't blame them at all. At many points in life, I was extremely confused about what I wanted to do, what my short-term (let alone long-term) goals were. Many times I was even pretty convinced I had no exceptional talent to show-off (just check my blogname, I don't need to say this really!). Am I the odd-ball for not knowing what my special talent was? I doubt it! I have met many kids (during my college days and now-a-days) in the same state of confusion. To make matters worse, some of the kids seem to have shocking amounts of apathy towards everything out there. I'm beginning to think that this is the case of the average kid. I'm also beginning to think average is the norm. Otherwise instead of having a hundred million engineers and call-center tech, we would have had a million Rehmans or a million Sachin Tendulkars or a million Vikram Seths. But there aren't, are there?

Also parents are being blamed for driving kids the wrong way. But if I were a parent with a kid who doesn't know and many times doesn't care about what interests him, am I wrong in encouraging him towards taking the path of least resistance, towards the path that most people seem to be taking, towards careers that most people seem to be making a life out of? When a kid is not displaying any great talent towards anything, will sticking to the common path not have a greater chance of a better ROI? Even when a kid says he is interested in something off-the-track like photography and takes a few pictures of this and that, what's to say he can convert it into a career if he doesn't have a plan to go about it? Should a parent allow enough time and money to let the kid experiment and possibly fail? Otherwise, what is a parent supposed to do to help their kid realize his passion? OTOH we have stars (MJ?, Williams sisters?, Steffi Graf?, Tiger Woods?) born because of their parents pushing them towards a dream career. While many might blame the parent for the chaos in these stars' lives today, it is also necessary to accept that at most times these stars are loving what they do even if they were pushed to love it so.

The barrage in the media against the top universities is somewhat annoying too. IMHO, the image that such colleges are all pressure cookers waiting to burst is not quite true. I know and meet many who come out of these top universities and I think most of them are well-rounded individuals. Many of them are not only jacks of many trades, they are masters of some too. They have many fun anecdotes about their college lives just like any of the others from the not-so-top universities. It is not like they were pressured to cram all the time and not have any fun like the media makes it out to be. So why this rage against the top universities? Why is it wrong to encourage a kid to do well so he can go to a top school? I of course know it is wrong for a parent to set unreasonable expectations for kids and to define their lives through the colleges they go to but then am I not sending a wrong message that mediocrity is OK if I asked my kid to not aim for the top?

What do you think? Is everyone really supposed to have some innate special talent or passion? If so how does one go about finding it? Is it the education system that uses inefficient teaching methods thus making everything boring and nothing special? Is it the parents who do not present enough learning opportunities to the kids? What kind of pressure from the parent is considered positive? Is it wrong to encourage a kid to excel in at least some things they are pursuing? Tell me.. I want to learn.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons for the day.

Did you know that cop cars have some kind of push bumpers (?) that are used to push a stranded car off the road? Well, I learnt that bit of info today. You know it's like some days are designed to make one learn these things. So I drop the Scout off at daycare and turn the car around and wait at a red light on my way to work. I notice that the clock on the car's dashboard is showing the wrong time. I wonder why. I.. wonder.. if.. the.. car.. battery.. had.. died.. sometime. Even before I can complete that sentence in thought, the car went dead on me. Sooo dead that I couldn't even turn on the hazard lights. I'm sitting there wondering what to do. Being the resourceful person that I'm, I do the first thing that I do in any tough situation. That is, I call the GI. And nice guy that he is, says "Don't worry. I'm coming and I'll call AAA" although he has almost reached his office which is about 40 mins away and he has some important meetings to attend. Like I said he is a nice guy, unlike me, who would have definitely shouted something like "can you deal with it? this might not have happened if you took better care of your car". Anyway after the call, I decide to step out of the car and wave people around me. I put the hood up to indicate to people that the car is dead and not going anywhere. While I stand there and give sad smiles to people driving by, a cop car comes and for once I was happy to see the officer. He asks me to put the hood down, get in and put the car to neutral and steer it so he can push it across the traffic intersection and to the side of the road. In under a minute we were nicely parked on the side of the road. He then jump-starts the car and says it could probably live till I went home or to a mechanic. I get out of the car to thank the officer and before I know it I press the automatic lock button on the door and close the door, with the key still inside and the car still running. My brain hasn't registered what I just did although I did feel it short-circuit and send a "you moron" alarm out. But I still haven't fully realized it yet, so I just smile at the officer and thank him and he is on his way. Only after he has sped away do I realize that I'm locked out of my car, and the car is still running and might go dead anytime. I call the GI again and sheepishly tell him what I had done. He again says calmly, "OK, I'm coming" redeeming himself of all his faults by this act of calmness. *Smart guy!* I just stand there and wait and thank God that the Scout is safe at the daycare and not sitting inside the locked car. The GI comes and makes some joke about my stupidity. I bear with it as he has the spare key to my car and he opens the door. The car is dead but he jump-starts it again and says the battery had a loose contact. He tightens it in like 10 seconds and says the car should be good to go. He teaches me how to tighten it if it becomes loose again. No rocket science that. I smite my fore-head and decide to relinquish my engineering degree. Like I said, some days are meant to teach you many a lessons including ones like I couldawouldashoulda kissed the GI in the middle of the road... :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pay it backwards

Amma (in some context): I was reading this, that and this other book last week..
GI: Athe (aunty), if you read at this pace, I'll be forced to set question papers to quiz you on what you are reading.
Me: Yeah! We should totally do that. She did that to us when we were kids.

Yeah, that's how I repay the mater and assuage my guilt of repaying my parents zilch!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Quick recap

I'm feeling very blah with the sudden lack of holiday stuff to do. So here is a quick bulleted post to get me out of blah-dom.
  • Had a splendid holiday week with family, friends, eating and merry-making.
  • Made a kick-a$$ pina-colada and jaljeera for a party and was impressed with my own creation.
  • Went around many neighborhoods looking at the holiday lights and the Scout was mesmerized. He voiced his disagreement every time we moved past a house without stopping long enough.
  • Gifted Tulika books to many kids of friends and family. They were mostly gleeful at being gifted books which was a good thing although some would have been happier with light sabers and action figures and doll houses I admit. Oh, well, next time.
  • Watched a bunch of movies: Avatar with the work folks and 3i and Rocket Singh with the GI. All of them were good although I have my peeves about each one of them. Read Kiran Desai's 'Inheritance of loss' finally. Reading 'A short history of nearly everything' now
  • Planning a do at home for Sankranti, what with amma sending yeLLu (mixture of sesame, jaggery etc) and sakkare acchu (sugar figurines). Will probably help keep the holiday cheer going.

That's all folks! Hope you had a good ending and a stupendous beginning as well!