At some point through our schooling, we would have been introduced to the concept of Need vs Want. Perhaps in Economics class, maybe in some other subject – we would have been familiarised with the difference.
The interesting thing is that the world that exists between Want & Need is where a great story resides. See, stories aren’t about places, or setting, or events. They are about people. And people are flawed, conflicted, grey-shaded individuals who are grappling with issues that exist inside of them. It is these internal pushes and pulls, this inner tug-of-war, this churn, that leads to conflict. And stories are about peoples’ conflicts, about them overcoming, or not overcoming them.
There is a simple way of defining Need & Want in terms of Fiction Writing. Want is something a character is convinced, he or she ‘needs’, in order to be happy. A very blatant example of this could be an alcoholic who has persuaded himself/herself that the one absolutely essential means to happiness is alcohol. Need, on the other hand, is what that character or person Actually/Factually needs to do, in order to be happy. Following from the same example, it may well be that the alcoholic really just needs to find a life-partner and put an end to his or her loneliness (the actual problem of his life).
Characters in stories, like people in real life, are often completely unaware of their ‘need’. And thus they blindly pursue their ‘want’, mistaking it for their ‘need’. These two facets of their lives need to be reconciled, and it often needs an event, in cases, a series of events, that journeys the character from aimlessly chasing his ‘want’ to realizing his ‘need’. If the story is to be a triumph, the protagonist realizes and accepts his ‘need’. If it is to be a tragedy, the character continues to deny himself his ‘need’. Irrespective of the outcome, it is this journey between the two, and the resultant conflict, that makes for real, compelling, engaging characters and stories.
My advice to writing students always stresses on the vital importance of this need vs want in their characters. One must work hard to identify characters with conflict. Because once this is done, the rest will naturally follow. Once the character has been properly fleshed out, he or she will tell the writer where, how, when, and what to do with them. In which circumstances they are to be placed. What events they should go through. Often we fall into the trap of being overawed by a scenario, a setting, a situation and an event, into which we try and retrofit our characters. I believe it would make for much more believable, organic, human characters if the story were to be conceived the other way round. Character first, rest later. And if we can understand and figure out the Need vs Want of our characters, we’d be extremely well placed in the service of our own stories.
When I was a student at boarding school, now over two decades ago, my teachers told me that there wasn’t a single day that they didn’t learn something new. These were masters we idolised, worshipped, poked fun of, at the same time, revered. To have them confess that they did not know it all, was a revelation.
Of course, this confession was long forgotten. Relegated to a deep recess of my memory, until recently, when I, the accidental teacher, stumbled upon the very same realization. And from that crevice of my mind’s labyrinth, these words from my own teachers, revealed themselves.
Teaching has been a cathartic rebirth for me. For someone who was firmly set in a media career, doing well, then became disenchanted and decided to shift tracks, unsure of what the alternative would be; I’d go so far as to say that teaching has fulfilled me, completed me, in a way that perhaps not even music could (my first love that never quite materialised). My fortuitous foray into the world of teaching has reacquainted me with myself. It has given me purpose, pride, and ignited a passion that probably always existed, only it was dormant.
That I have no formal education that qualifies me to teach, a fact sometimes held against me, I feel is my biggest advantage. It does not colour my approach to my work. In fact, I hardly perceive it as work in the first place. No training, no career-long teaching experience, are facts that have, in fact, granted me a great sense of freedom and liberty. My interaction with my students is spontaneous, freewheeling, spirited. In turn, their’s with me is uninhibited, uncensored, unfiltered. The way I plan, and un-plan my workshops and lessons benefits from a similarly open and experimental ethos. There is a destination but how my students and I reach it is random, interactive and, on occasion, emancipating!
I have come to realize that to be an effective teacher and an inspiring mentor, the person can not feel or act ‘above’. That there MUST be a genuine openness to learn with each encounter, each interaction. That students in fact, in many cases, teach the teacher more, than the teacher does, them. Teaching then, is a legacy of continued learning. A process that is infinite. A pursuit that endless. A calling.
In an era of intense competition, students find it difficult to stand out, to stand apart. Its like each individual is lost in a maze of ‘sameness’, as if just another, among a bunch of red apples! The irony is that we are all unique, peculiar, wonderful individuals, despite which, we seem alike. So what can young people do, to communicate their ‘uncommonness’?
I always encourage people from middle school right up to college graduates to undertake a Profile Writing exercise. This is a simple little 250 to 300 word document where one talks about certain basic information about oneself – Name, School/College, Grade/Year. This is followed by stating 3 Areas of Interest/Passion. And then, really expanding on these 3 areas of interest by devoting the following 3 paragraphs of the profile to these interest-areas. One paragraph each for one interest, with details about Where, When, How, and Why that Interest first began. Any Achievements in that area. And any Learnings/Lessons/Realizations (about oneself or otherwise) during the course of experiencing/pursuing that particular passion. A concluding paragraph that talks about any Current Pursuit that the reader might find interesting, followed by a final sentence on Future Plans, which could be firm, or approximate.
While there may not be any immediate practical use/requirement for this kind of a write-up in a student’s curriculum; young people should view this more as an opportunity to Introspect and get to know themselves well. Undertaking the Profile Writing Exercise compels a student to dig deep, question oneself, and ultimately, know oneself better. It brings about clarity of thought, of purpose, and of a direction for the future. At a time when young students scarcely have time to breathe; this exercise forces them to pause, reflect and discover themselves – likes and dislikes, their learnings, and can provide a significant guidance in planning ahead.
Now to the matter I began this piece with – that it helps communicate a differentiated personality. When one is applying for colleges, or jobs post college, even though you may not be asked for a write-up such as this; supplying the reader/organization/college/company with a Profile of yourself will, in most scenarios, be appreciated. First, it will ‘humanize’ the student and provide a glimpse into the candidate as an actual person (rather than just another on-paper CV or Resume). Second, it will give genuine insight into the candidate as a unique individual. Both vital to communicating a winsome personality.
I strongly urge students to undertake this little exercise. And for this, I leave you with a SAMPLE Profile to get you started. All the best 🙂
I am Karan Malhotra and I currently study in grade 6 at the Asian World School. I would say that my three main interest areas are Swimming, Science, and Music.
When I was just seven years old, I told my father I wanted to learn to swim. He would complete the entire length of the swimming pool at Jaipur Club in no time, and that always amazed me. That summer my parents enrolled me in swimming classes and I learned how to swim. I learned an important lesson through swimming. I realized that to do well in anything in life, one has to work hard and be disciplined.
Science has always fascinated me. Like swimming, my passion for science developed at a very early age. When I was just five my parents got me this Doctor-Set game which I used to love playing. As I grew older, I watched many videos on channels like National Geographic and Discovery which made me even more curious about science. At school, I always take part in the science-related activities and enjoy doing experiments and building things. It is one subject I think I will want to study for a long time to come.
My parents and my grandparents love music. I too developed a keen interest in music and my parents got me a great guitar instructor with whom I soon learned many melodies. This talent was appreciated by my music teachers at school as well and I am a proud member of the school orchestra. Listening and playing music makes me feel calm an inspired.
These days, I am really working on a Solar Powered Rocket for a Science Exhibition. I hope to become a Scientist working in Aeronautics in the future, while still continuing my swimming & music as hobbies.
This is an article I wrote recently on Correct Values to Instil in one’s Children and I thought I’d share it. Enjoy.
As I seek I find
Truth, meaning, the self, the divine
I sketch, I paint, I sculpt, I shine
I brush off layers of lies with turpentine
Hidden truths, some yours, a few mine
Some call it a symphony expressed, others malign
To me it doesn’t matter, neither derided, nor enshrined
I am a seeker, not of glory, of an ideal deeper
As you sip tea or nurse your wine
My calling is to keep relentlessly trying
An inward epiphany
An outward inquiry
A Search, Perennial …..
Christmas is a time for familial bonding, love and cheer. It is a true celebration of all that we hold dear. It is also a time when we ought to reflect on all the great things we are blessed with and be deeply grateful.
I remember so vividly, when I was younger, my mum would have the gardener bring out the real-life Christmas Tree we had growing in our garden, plant it into a large, beautiful pot, and have it occupy pride of place in an alcove of our living room.
This was followed by the our joint ritual of tree-decoration. It was a fun project that we undertook together, each year. And the process of the tree’s ornamentation itself, symbolised to me, the true spirit and meaning of the festival. It brought us closer together. It made our bond even stronger. The fact that we ended up with a beautifully embellished Christmas Tree was the bonus. The real fun and festivity was in the act of doing-up the tree.
I must confess that some of this bonhomie and spirit of togetherness has been lost in recent years. I see a growing number of parents and children ‘celebrating’ Christmas yes, though the method has changed. It seems to have become more about being out-and-about, at fairs, festivals and carnivals where one shops, eats, and makes merry. And while that is a perfectly legitimate way of spending the holiday, it does tend to miss out on a personal essence.
My hope and prayer this Christmas then is for parents and children to return to a more innocent time. To do some activities at home, together. It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate tree. You could play some games together. Make a New Year Card with the family. Or better still, make Pudding!
Merry Christmas & lots of love!
Wanted to share an Article of mine that was recently Featured in the Indian Express… It talks about the essential skills of communication that young students need in order to make a mark for themselves.
“Confident Communicators Stand Out” by Kartik Bajoria
With an estimated 500 million young school students, India has one of the world’s largest student-populations in the world. In our cities and urban centres, a vast majority of these students share aspirations and goals. What they also have in common, unfortunately, is an equally impressive roster of scholastic as well as extra-curricular achievements. I call the situation unfortunate very consciously. All our young wards are trying to outdo each other while at school, and after graduating. There are only a finite number of ‘good’ indigenous colleges, and with rising cut-offs and an increasing number of applicants to a similar set of colleges abroad; it is almost impossible for a student to distinguish himself or herself from their peers. This high-pressure and performance-packed atmosphere has necessitated the one and only facet of a student that will make them stand-out, and that is, to be Great Communicators!
Start Writing Young
As parents, educators, and guardians, it is essential that we develop in our young wards, the ability to express themselves clearly and effectively. This begins with learning how to Write well. Writing, contrary to popular belief, is much less about using big fancy words, and more about communicating a person’s thoughts, succinctly. If we can get young students into the habit of writing from an early age, we will empower them to express their true thoughts.
Writing will enable students to communicate ideas, opinions, and their vivid imaginations beautifully at school, which will directly help them in performing better in various subjects ranging from English to History, Geography and the like; also as they become senior, it will aid them in articulating their feelings clearly and convincingly in a slew of situations. Say a senior student at school is to organize a carnival at school. Knowing how to write well will enable that student to communicate with possible sponsors through emails, with potential exhibitors through presentations & proposals.
Later still, while applying to colleges abroad, a process that requires students to write detailed essays about their lives and goals; instead of seeking the immediately identifiable help from Academic/Admissions Counsellors, they will be able to articulate their own thoughts and stand an infinitely better chance of admission acceptance.
Start Speaking Young
Similar to Writing young, we owe it to our children to get them to start speaking from a young age. Most children of course do that naturally. What I mean specifically is Public Speaking. The sooner we can organically get our children to interact with, and express in front of groups of people, the more self-confident they will become, the less self-conscious they’ll be.
At school, this habit of Public Speaking will manifest in a student being able to participate in, and do well at various activities such as Debates, Drama, and Quizzing, which will ultimately add to that much-needed collection of Extra-Curricular Achievements, vital from a College Admissions standpoint. It will also be a skill that will always help a student make a great first impression, be it interviewing & interacting with dignitaries who visit school, or while hosting important events at school.
Being a confident Public Speaker will make any student post school stand in great stead as the person will be able to break-the-ice instantly in many new social situations. Starting with being Interviewed for College Admissions, to then being at a new college and making friends instantly – being able to speak well in public will prove to be the marked difference between that individual and scores of others who may even have better credentials but people will remember the one who spoke well & confidently.
One might wonder how one can get one’s child to become that great communicator. The answer is actually rather simple. Expose students to good writing, and to people who speak well. I always propagate that as people responsible for bringing up a new generation, we should embrace technology. By exposing children to videos of people who speak well, impactful speeches on various online platforms, we give them a sound foundation upon which to build. This initial orientation combined with a great communications workshop can transform the way a student expresses and will ensure that your child stands apart, and proud.
As many of you might know already, I am conducting one of my holiday-time workshops during this Christmas-New Year school-break. I thought I’d quickly explain in a few brief points, the key features of this Creative Writing Workshop.
- The Workshops will be for children between 8-12 years of age
- It will serve as an Introduction to Creative Writing
- We will begin with absolute basics of Sentence Construction
- I will introduce the basic concepts of Fiction Writing
- We will watch Short Films to understand Fiction/Story Writing better
- We will also learn about Non-Fiction Writing
- Things such as Essays, Summary Writing which are needed at School
- Each piece of Writing the students write will be Read Aloud on Stage
- In addition to Writing Skills, this will give students practice in Public Speaking
- Ultimately, the Workshops aims to build Writing as well as General Confidence
The workshop will span 6 sessions of an hour each starting 26th December till 31st December from 5:30 to 6:30pm at the Wonder Years Play School in Vaishali Nagar.