From the time we are born, we are bombarded with ‘sage’ advice. From our parents, from our teachers, from our friends, from our relatives, from society, from the media. Most of this plays into a very fixed notion of ‘life’, more specifically, of a successful life. The steps are easy. Study hard. Here are your subjects because it is ONLY these 4-5 subjects that will get you into a good college that will lead to a superbly paying job which will solicit a fitting life partner that will result in children – and the miserable cycle continues… on, and on, and on!

Do you know just HOW many people, ‘successful’ (read earning pots of money) I know, that are woefully unhappy? I can’t even begin to tell you, the count is so alarming. Why is that?

It is because of what I wrote in my opening paragraph. Did it mention even once that any of the stakeholders in a young person’s life (parents, society, media etc, who shouldn’t be stakeholders to begin with because an individual alone ought to be his or her own master) EVER ASK what the child LIKES, or is PASSIONATE about, or would like to EXPLORE? Nope. Nada. Nein.

It is a sociological tailspin that generations have been caught in. Because young independent India had little to offer except the few safe career options such as being a Doctor, Engineer or Civil Servant – the ripple effect decades on in a relatively transformed India, continues. Alas, the changes have come about in the country, not in the mindsets of its citizens.

Add to this the immense pressure and influence of particular communities. I belong to a Marwari family. Traditionally a business family. It embarrasses, shames many in my family that I am NOT in the business of business; the part of the family that assumes I am lazy, entitled, and whimsical. Its a crying shame. And though it has now, at nearly 40, stopped affecting me – how can years of preconceived notions of rights and wrongs not impact, influence, and brainwash, young children?

The race is on my dear rats. And ONLY a few are going to make it to the top. But I tell you what. Chances are when you get to the top, you’ll realize that the view isn’t great, that you are alone, burnt out, and that the way up, when you suddenly came upon that unexpected waterfall, or when you discovered that peculiar bird, and maybe got a glimpse of who you really are, was infinitely more satisfying than the summit itself!

Heart Over Head

A lot of the parents of my students ask me to ‘convince’ their respective children to choose a specific set of subjects, leading up to a specific, predetermined career. This selection of course, and I don’t mean to deride at parents’ intentions, often times has nothing to do with the child’s passion, talent, instinctive abilities or leanings. If I question the parents, I’m often told that they’re too young to know any better, or that they are confused and that it is incumbent upon the parents & teachers to ‘guide’ them. ‘Guide’ though, in most cases, is a euphemism for ‘direct order’. And that, I take issue with.. Serious issue!

Why must we as parents be in such a tearing hurry to have our kids ‘figure it out’? Is it not wonderful that life be this journey of discovery throughout? Does the sense of wonder, amazement, and happiness not count?

I must confess.. I rarely propagate what I’ve been asked by a parent to do! Not because I’m unjustifiably rebellious. But if I feel the ‘suggested’ path is at odds with the student, I DO NOT propagate it.

Instead, I show them this…..

Lets Go Outside..

The classroom can be a wonderful place for a student to learn, gain knowledge, explore, and discover. Sometimes however, it helps to GO OUTSIDE!

Whenever I teach a session on ‘communications development’, grooming, or what is unimaginatively called ‘personality development’, I like to take my students outside. One of the sessions I always take is at my favorite breakfast eatery in town. Here, the students and I get an opportunity to interact in a more informal environment. And there is an immediate and tangible reflection of this lighter atmosphere in the students’ behavior. They are more open, more free to express, less inhibited. In doing this, I also have the chance to expose them to a real-world scenario. Not that my students don’t go out with their parents; the act of being out with a teacher is altogether different though. So be it simple instructions on table manners, public etiquette, and an informal chat about what’s going on in all of our lives – all of this solicits some surprisingly intimate bonding, confessions, free banter, and subconsciously, gaining of public-conduct skills.

This weekend for example, I am taking one of my batches to breakfast, and now that the weather is better in Jaipur, another batch will just sit outside in the garden with me and we will read stories to each other.

Think of it this way… If man had never crawled out from under his rock, or emerged from his cave, how would he have DISCOVERED the world?

Freedom…. to just BE!

In the 3 years I’ve been teaching regularly, I have noticed that students, junior and senior, are mired in a labyrinth of restrictions, dogma, and pressure. While some have to subscribe to their family’s views, others do not find an encouraging enough environment, even within their own peer-groups, to be, who they REALLY are!

At least for some parents/families that are privileged enough to not HAVE to have their sons and daughters follow a ‘pre-selected’ path (that has nothing to do with the child’s passion, inclination or talent); children from these families ought to be ALLOWED an independent, uninhibited, exploratory childhood.

In my own modest little way, I try my best to create an atmosphere of NO JUDGEMENT and absolute ACCEPTANCE of ALL my students. And I always show them one of my favorite short films – Vicky!

I leave you with the link to this beautiful, and very important short film, in the hope that while you enjoy the visuals, you also find it in yourselves as parents, to let your children, just BE!

On behalf of ALL the students of the world, and, from the student within me….