The enlightened call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results.

— Krishna in The Gita

The mind is everything. What you think you become.
— Buddha

Thursday, 3 June 2010

A question of career

Yesterday I called up a friend of my daughter’s who is studying in Dubai to enquire about her Class X board results and was happy to learn that she had scored 86%.

She has joined the science stream and wants to study Environmental Science. That was indeed a pleasant surprise. Because I know her parents to be quite stereotypical in their thoughts and outlook, and had presumed that she’d be under pressure to pursue a more conventional career. ‘Your parents ok with that?’ I asked. ‘Yes auntie, absolutely,’ she replied.

My own daughter, who has done well in the boards wants to have a career in Physics, Quantum Physics to be precise. So no question of “trying for” IIT, MBA or any such thing.

My cousin’s brilliant younger son is in 10th standard and is going to appear in the boards next year, but he already knows he wants to join the Arts stream. He fancies a career in Fine Arts. This is quite startling coz he’s a boy after all (his elder bro is gunning for IIT). When I spoke to the parents they said, ‘No question of forcing. I know it’s a gamble but he is a born artist.’

Are these cases exceptions or is that the norm these days? Have we—hardworking, middle class people become more relaxed about the career our kids are going to have?

What a change from our times!

‘Beta, badi hokar kya banogi?’ What do you want to be when you grow up—I bet we all faced this question as kids. But to me it always amounted to an existential dilemma, as if I was expected to summarise my entire adult life planning in one pithy reply. Unlike my younger brother, who knew he wanted to be an engineer ever since he stopped wearing diapers, I was totally clueless as to what I was going to do with my life for the first two decades of my life! Since both my parents were teachers, it was even more troublesome for me because they had a lot of expectations from their “intelligent” daughter.

“Doctor,” I’d say sometimes; “Engineer” at other times. But by the time I finished tenth I realised science wasn’t my cup of tea, no matter how well I had scored in the board. So it was Arts for me, to the disappointment of my parents, relatives and teachers.

“You are shutting out all the profitable career options,” one teacher said. But no way was I going to mug up Chemistry formulae and dissect cockroaches and frogs. “Ok, take Maths at least,” my father urged, and I did. But still I had no idea what I’d DO. “Lawyer,” I started saying now. But soon realised “Lecturer” got more approving nods. But which subject? I was bored to tears by Economics, Maths was getting tougher, and Philosophy and Political Science were ok but too bookish.

One day I remember, a distant cousin of mine had come down from Delhi. She was a ground staff with Indian Airlines but quite poised and self-assured, and to me she smelt of, well, aeroplanes, although, to be honest, at 16 I hadn’t seen the inside of an aircraft. So to the inevitable question that cropped up during our dinner I found myself saying, “Air Hostess.” Trust me I have no idea why I said so. Stewardressing was a glamorous profession those days; it still is, but the spark of inspiration was probably provided by my sophisticated cousin’s presence. No one spoke except for her who mentioned something about entrance test and training.

Later, after the guests left, all hell broke loose, about me wanting to be an air hostess “to clean people’s vomit and trashing jootha (leftovers).”

Mercifully, by the time I finished 12th I knew that I’d major in English literature. So for the next few years it was assumed that I’d be a lecturer. Little did I know that after PG I’d stumble into a profession that I had never dreamt of…after all, three odd decades ago a journalist was just a penpusher.


  1. nice reading Neena. very true and expecting more from you!

  2. Excellent reading. This reminds me of Amir Khan's recent movie about 3 college class mates!! (I forget the name - getting older).Thought provoking! I know the ground reality is different now then when we passed out 10 th standard ( I am late 40s). I feel today's generation is much more informed and well read (I mean TV) and are aware of vast opportunities now available outside of the run of the mill degree.During our time it was either Engg, Med., law, CA. There were hardly any courses offered outside of these.

    Keep up the good blogging. I thoroughly enjoy your reading. Hope to see your book published soon. Waiting for that. I am sure it will be a good one!
    By the way my daughter wants to pursue career in "wild life" or pet care/grooming!! Do I have any objections? No.

  3. You have been so honest... great read. :)

  4. I felt I was reading my story!!! :) I hated Science and when I chose to take Arts in 11th my father made me take Maths!! Thankfully that was the last time that he forced anything on me!

    And u r right these days we have become relaxed as far as career is concerned because there are lot more avenues to explore & succeed in.

  5. Yes, I think the trend has changed. Even upto 10 yrs back, parents were forcing their choices on their kids. But with more awareness these days, today's parents are being open and tolerant to off-beat professions and career options.

    Back when I was in 10th and on the cross-roads of selecting Science, Commerce or Arts, we had a guest lecture by someone from Hotel Management and as soon as I stepped out of the hall, I wanted to be in hotel management. But when I told that to my dad, he freaked out. For him, the only two respectable professions on this planet were 1. Doctor 2. Engineer.

    He brainwashed me and I slogged by ass out in 10th and get good grades and get selected for Science stream with Maths and Bio so that I had both options open when I complete 12th. And when I eventually did, I chose Computer Science Engineering just because again, that was what everyone was doing.

    Only when I graduated that, for the first time in my education life, I took a decision to pursue something of my choice - MBA.

    I guess things have changed now. Parents are letting children make their choices and own upto it.

  6. I really enjoyed this post, Neena. I believe that we have reached a new norm...parents are indeed more relaxed about their children's career choices. That's a good thing, most of the time.

    Lovely blog, by the way! Am looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  7. Hi! Neena,

    Sometimes its difficult even to dream....
    sometimes its difficult to reach our dream...
    sometimes what we are itself is like a dream...

    this generation knows their dreams for sure :)

    thanks for sharing ur thoughts

  8. I started out with knowing what all I did not want to be (e.g. doctor), ended up with an IIT degree, and still don't know what I want to *become*

  9. This is my first visit here.
    It is a very interesting post,very intelligent post with a nice flow of words.

  10. I think the problem is everyone wants to follow the trodden path.
    Very few take a risk of trying something new (or rather parents don't allow that risk)

  11. Nice read,it is certainly not a norm as you think on the contrary they are exceptions :),very few folks allow their children to find what they want

  12. Dear Neena,
    Good Evening!
    We try to reach our unaccomplished dreams through the lives of our children foretting they have their own reams!
    Well expressd theme!To be a journalist was one of my dreams!
    Wishing you a wondeful week ahead,

  13. I believe kids now a days may face more problem than our times because there are too many choice to confuse them.

    hopefully we will help them choosing right career.

  14. good one! though here engineering and medicine still hold strong... thankfully, more people are exploring other career options too... all the best to your daughter..... i too was very sure that i only wanted to do physics.. and didnt apply for anything else.... even leaving the stream finally was my choice, and i have no regrets...