Folks, this week’s topic for the weekly blog is interesting yet touchy. It’s a topic which most of us will have an opinion on. It’s related to children. OUR children. Let me start by asking all parents/soon-to-be parents/couples planning a child in future a simple question. Would you be OK if your child DECIDES to become a “Bartender”? If the immediate answer in your mind is NO, then YOU are screwing up your child’s future. Read on to find out why and how.
The biggest mistake our middle-class society has done is lay disproportionate focus on education and more specifically, higher education. The importance given to education by our Indian society is so high that sometimes it becomes an obsession and in turn, we forget that there are other things to do in life. Many a time, we forget that there’s more to education than our child becoming a great doctor/engineer/MBA/techie. For most of us, higher education means higher and higher degrees. Even if this comes at the cost of compromising our child’s aspirations, interests, dreams, quite a few of us are fine with this.
Let me elaborate further. Most of the Indian society thinks that the only way their child can have a great future/ secure future is by becoming either a doctor/engineer/MBA/techie. Coming from South India, I have seen this attitude in quite a few parents. To me, this notion of a doctor/engineer/MBA/techie becoming an extremely successful individual is a big myth. Ask yourself this question – is every doctor/engineer/MBA/techie financially super successful? My definition of financially super successful is someone earning at least 75k per month at the start of his/her career after graduating from either of these professions. In my view, less than 10% of the working population of urban India earns this salary at the start of their career. I have not done a lot of consumer research but looking at people around me, I don’t think there’s more than 10% in this bracket.
Just because a few doctors/MBAs/techies/engineers have been successful, the typical Indian parent thinks that is the best career path for their child. Therefore, without understanding the child’s interests, passion and skills, quite a few parents decide to enroll their kids for IIT coaching from a ridiculously early class 6 onwards. The kid wouldn’t even know the full form of IIT at that age and wouldn’t even want to know. We look at Engineering /Medical State Topper front page newspaper ads and get inspired. We want our child’s photo to come in this ad and make us proud. It’s a great feeling of pride for us, isn’t it? “US” … But does the child feel so? Have we had an honest discussion with our kid after class X, XII whether “S/HE” will feel proud if his/her photo comes in the front page? Is THIS his/her aspiration? Or is their aspiration something else? For all you know, becoming a world-class guitarist may be their aspiration. Or representing India in kabaddi. Or a chef. Or a violinist. Or a singer…
My hunch is many of us parents will
a) not have had this conversation with their child on his/dreams/aspirations
b) not have understood what their child’s strength in terms of skill sets are.
If a) and b) would have happened with most parents, then we would not have had
- A staggering number of parents enrolling their kids in IIT coaching from class 6,7,8
- a zillion engineering colleges in the country with many of them struggling to get students placed
- a few thousands of MBA colleges in the country but only a few colleges in which the average CTC is more than 10 lacs per annum
- the number of medical and engineering test applicants running into lakhs for every state but only a few getting seats in reputed institutes
- coaching centers for higher education running akin to a parallel MAFIA where they send a few good students who get good ranks to good colleges, but majority of the students would have fallen by the wayside
Why is this happening? Isn’t it BUT obvious that both parent and child are NOT on the same page in terms of what makes them happy? In my view, Indian parents have the biggest herd mentality. Just because they have seen some doctor/engineer/IIT/MBA become successful, all Indian parents want all their children to follow this. And then we complain about lack of jobs, lack of skilled labour etc. The problem is WITHIN us parents. Not WITH the child. If a child is not interested in pursuing engineering/medicine, then S/HE will not make a successful career out of it. Period…
Just because our societal fabric doesn’t allow disagreement or difference in opinion to be seen in positive light, many of our poor kids conform to their parents in class 12 or beyond and do not rebel against their parents’ decision. They have too much love and don’t want to see their parents’ dreams shattered. If they raise their voice against this decision, our great Indian society and even greater neighbors/relatives will label the child as a brat/rebel etc., So they take up their parents’ dreams and end up in mediocrity. They spend the whole life regretting the fact that they were cut out for something better. This explains the fact that only a handful (less than 2%) of the people score high marks in engineering/entrance exams. The significant majority have just wasted money, their time, energy and been an also-ran. And I will NOT blame this significant majority of students. I will blame their great parents for this. Just to satisfy their vision without understanding the true strengths, passions, likes/dislikes, they have blindly decided that IIT/IIM/doctor etc. will be the best fit for their child.
Very few parents give the freedom of choice for the child to decide at an early age. I was one of those lucky few. My parents empowered me to make my independent career choices post class 10. Seeing others around me, I took the call of becoming an engineer. I decided to go with the herd and decided to take up Electronics engineering as it was considered as an evergreen course. I did reasonably well, scoring 79%. Was not the class topper but would have been in between 15 to 20 in a class of 60? But I realized that this is not something I wanted to do. So, I decided to pursue my MBA. MY MBA. MY DECISION. I didn’t want to go abroad as I wanted to serve my parents when they retired. I passed out of XLRI Jamshedpur. Again, every decision was left to me and my parents offered me financial, moral and emotional support. Nothing beyond. Unlike many other parents, they backed my independent decisions and they knew if I am doing something out of my own calling, then the probability of me being successful is higher. Therefore, I have done well for myself at age of 31 and today in my age group, I must be in the top 10% ile of salaried people thanks to my efforts. I have done this for myself. Not because of parental force. But I am pretty sure there are so many ALSO-RANs who regret their decision to do an MBA/become a doctor/become a software engineer. I feel sad for these folks as they have no choice now but to continue.
SAD because our great hypocritical society will not allow them to change their career track. If a software engineer after 3 years of work and wants to become a singer because he found out his true passion, our stupid society will again pass a judgement saying this bloke is confused, he’s gone nuts, ACCHI KHAASI NAUKRI CHOD RAHA HAI, GAWAARA HAI. The poor software engineer may not find girls for marriage as the girl’s family mostly will think this guy cannot secure their daughter’s future. But the same hypocritical Indian society will pay a 1000 + bucks to see a Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Sunidhi Chauhan perform. These folks understood their strengths, passion and decided to pursue a career of their choice. Not become a doctor/engineer/MBA. Our great Indian society will applaud all these artistes but if their child comes up with such an idea, the typical risk-free Indian parent mentality will be “BETA, Padhaai pey dhyaan do. Ye sab as a HOBBY kar lena?” Who the HELL is the parent to kill the child’s aspirations? The role of a parent is to enable the child to find his/her strengths and help in achieving the child’s dreams. Let me tell you how this stupid parental behavior affects India as a nation.
- We Indians are not the physically fittest in relative to others. Our society neither encourages sports as a career nor stresses on physical fitness at early stage. Therefore, our Olympic performances are abysmal compared to the likes of China, Russia, Brazil.
- We continue to churn truckloads of mediocre engineers/doctors/MBAs every year and cry for jobs when those poor kids never wanted to be one in the first place.
- Barring a few musicians and actors, we have very few artistes who perform at the world stage and are famous across the world. This is because our risk-averse society does not encourage global exposure at a young age. Most parents think their child may not adapt to such lifestyle and are afraid to take a financial risk. They want to see their child growing in front of them even after class 12. Nothing wrong but check if THE CHILD also has the same thought process
- We have very few MICHELIN STAR Chefs coming out of India.
For us, a CHEF means somebody who could not be a successful DOCTOR/ENGINEER. Many of us think that alternate professions like being a chef etc. will not help our child find a suitable life partner.
- Our script writing quality in movies still has tremendous scope for improvement. Why can’t an Indian filmmaker make movies like INCEPTION, MINORITY REPORT. Because we don’t have a strong enough ecosystem which appreciates alternate professions and backs them. Lot of our Bollywood stars are still scared to experiment with off-beat movies thinking our audience will trash them.
- Our world football rankings continue to be outside 100 because we parents feel there’s no money in Indian football and even though our child wants to pursue football, we just clip the child’s wings.
- Our health ratings as a country are poor, we continue to have high degrees of stress related illnesses because we don’t have a focus on fitness since childhood and this sedentary lifestyle with an excessive academic focus takes a toll on our lives
At the core bottom line of this irrational parental behavior is a very poor risk-free mindset of Indian society. Our society doesn’t appreciate risk-taking behavior. Classic example is when someone says s/he wants to quit his job and start a business; our first reaction typically is “ARE YOU SURE”? The intent of asking this question is right but we should stop being risk-averse as a society. We should start believing in ourselves, our child’s abilities. Just because we took the safe path doesn’t mean the CHILD has to take the same SAFE path. Times have changed and we thankfully now live in a society where many alternate professions are respected.
Take the case of hairdressing for example. My friend Gaurav Gupta, quit his job as a Sales rep in a Pharma company, decided to enroll in a hair dressing academy 8 years ago and today he’s one of the top hairdressing trainers in India. To many typical parents, he’s a barber, not a hairdresser. This mindset needs to change. And who’s going to CHANGE this? YOU …and me. Not our neighbors, not our relatives.
Most important, our tutoring system of bringing up our children is flawed. I would bring my child up in the following manner.
I would make him/her enroll in all kinds of activities in early childhood – not only academics. In the initial few years, I will enroll my child in various activities like swimming classes, dance, crafts, singing. I will check what the child is liking and taking an interest to. I will make a few assumptions and periodically ask my child whether s/he is liking what she’s doing and what else can I do to help. I will continue to have these conversations till the child tells me it has found its true calling. Let’s assume the child tells me that it is really interested in kabaddi, I will act as the biggest enabler for him/her. I will find out good mentors, take the child to watch kabaddi matches and ensure that his/her passion is not lost. I will be a super proud DAD if my child represents India in the kabaddi World Cup and if this gives happiness to the child. To me, seeing my child fulfilling HIS/HER dreams is more SATISFYING than making him/her achieve my unfulfilled dreams. For me, Academics is not everything. I will ensure that my child gets access to the basic education needed to survive. Beyond this it’s HIS/HER’s wish on how much he/she wants to move academically. If EVERY Indian parent can do this, I think our motherland will fare much higher on all the above-mentioned points.
Coming back to my question at the start of the blog, if your child aspires to become a bartender, try and enable him/her to achieve this. There are some excellent coursers offered and lot of countries which value this skill. Some top 5-star hotels across the globe need exceptionally talented bartenders. It is not something which should be LOOKED DOWN by YOU as a parent. Your child will travel the world over and entertain people with amazing skills. It’s not an easy skill. You need the right mixing skills, the right jugglery skills. This could lead the child to pursue related line extensions like Jugglery, Cooking etc. So, it’s not a bad financial choice as supply of good bartenders is few. More importantly, your CHILD is happy with this choice.
My final message to all parents/future parents is – Parenting is a great opportunity to make a difference to your child. Understand the child’s strengths, weaknesses, skills, aspirations, dreams and help the child achieve his/her aspirations. Be an ENABLER, not a DREAM-KILLER.
Every child is special. TRULY SPECIAL.