The Great Indian Student
A blank canvas waiting to be coloured by young, active imagination, a yearning soul searching for its true calling, a dash of ambition raring to have its go, a glowing flame of passion that refuses to dim, unabashed laughter unclouded by fears, a bout of helplessness and a pulsating anxiety—welcome to the narrative of 'The Great Indian Student'.
A narrative so vivid and compelling that it seems second only to HBO's much-acclaimed Game of Thrones. On a lighter note, the only difference is that the earlier can be potentially and surprisingly more deadly and gory. The irony is that never before has the Indian student had such a multitude of opportunities as today and yet, at the same time, s/he has never been more burdened and stressed. The alarming number of students capitulating to these pressures and ending their lives every year is gut-wrenching. It is this brutal irony which brings us to the moot point – "Where have we all gone wrong"?
Aren't college days meant to be the best phase of one's life? Shouldn't every student be allowed to design his own career, conviction, and profession? The answer, in an ideal world, is an astounding yes. However, in the real world, there is a remote possibility of that unfolding in its desired path and this is where the madness begins. As a student enters the big, bad world outside, reality hits him like a brick on the head.
A young budding photographer soon realises that he has bitten more than he can chew and his dream of making a living career out of photography either calls for some connections in the fraternity or else he must prepare to struggle on a shoestring budget for years together to leave a noticeable imprint. The advertising professional rudely wakes up to the reality that he earns a minuscule fraction of what a software engineer can potentially earn. A budding entrepreneur, bubbling with ideas realises that more than the strength of his idea, it is his domain contact which will assist him in acquiring a business.
Truth is that connections and contacts are so far ahead of merit and hard work that it begins to suffocate an average Joe who has probably rested his faith in films like '3 idiots' and who has pegged his belief in the vividly resonating line from the movie 'Chase excellence, success will follow'. I hate to break it to you, dear students, but the truth is that it's a lie. A lie so blatant and yet so convenient that nobody wants to debunk it.
Meritocracy is a distant second fiddle to contacts and clout. If a student wants a career in an unconventional field like arts, media or even health care; make sure you have an Uncle or an aunt in a position where they can push your CV to acquire the coveted first break, or else be ready to slog and grind to a point where either you become completely dispirited and demoralised or you eventually do succeed to share your story to the world. Alas! While the successful narrate their glorified tales to the world, the other side of the coin nestles a vast majority that never reaches within touching distance of their dream. Unfortunately, this is not because of a dearth of talent but because they didn't ever get that all important breakthrough to prove themselves.
Parents, at times, having seen such trials and tribulations from close quarters, are justified in their own way when they advise their children to choose a conventional career over an unconventional one. For the students, idealism runs high and they believe that their passion would help them sail through hell or high water. The truth is perhaps somewhere in between and it's a very tricky decision that a student has to make with his sensibilities in the right place. But does that mean that the student has to be very serious and debunk any pursuit at achieving their dreams?
The answer is an emphatic no. For a student to make the right decision, the first step should be to go out there and explore as much as possible. Have fun, and gain all the experience while getting your hands dirty in playing this game. Do not fear of falling down, as you always have the chance to lace up your boots and run again. There is no better phase than your student life to explore all possibilities, instincts, and hobbies. Go out there and intern during summer breaks, explore theatre, try volunteering at your community event, throw caution to the wind and make great friends and connections as you travel along. If there's a passion you wish to transform into a profession, ask yourself how badly you want it. Are you ready to compromise on early money and resources for it? Remember you have no right to crave for a rose if you cannot dare to embrace the painful grasp of its thorns.
The most amazing student life is one loaded with fond memories, unprecedented events, and mind altering explorations, not necessarily high grades and distinctions. Only if the same message was espoused by teachers, parents, alumni, and all educationists in general. As for the dreamers and the explorers, we can all romanticise and say the clichéd 'Chase your dreams, go for them', but the truth that often gets lost in translation is 'Chase Reality, dreams will follow.'
(The writer is a writer and public speaker. Views expressed are strictly personal.)