The young in India are already carrying the baggage of the past in the form of economic and social constraints. They are also increasingly carrying the burden of the future. It is not just the debt burden that future generations will have to bear, the pressure is in their individual lives, also, with career expectations of their parents and peers reaching ludicrous proportions. Till now, they have been expected to ‘study’ incredibly hard to qualify for the IITs, IIMs, medical colleges, etc., but now they are even expected to emulate the occasional teenage ‘entrepreneur’ by becoming a Mark Zuckerberg through some magic utilisation of Information Technology. Trapped in third world contradictions, the young can only become extraordinarily stressed in such an emerging scenario.
While whoever can make money from such a development can be expected to jump on to the bandwagon (coaching institutes for teenage entrepreneurs?), concerned parents and educationists need to wake up to the threats this problem poses. As it is, young people have barely a childhood, with coaching institutes and extending their ‘reach’ to those even in the pre-school categories. This means they are withdrawn from normal activities like play and leisure, and are forced into a punishing regime aimed at some distant objective that requires not just sacrifice in the present, but also considerable investment.
If young persons are allowed to live a ‘normal’ life, open to myriad influences, they become more or less aware of their primary interests by the age of fourteen. It is very important that they be allowed to pursue these without outside pressure being applied. Nothing can be more tragic than a person interested in the humanities to be forced into science or commerce streams by an ambitious parent, merely because of the perception that there is no ‘future’ otherwise. This was never the case, and it is even more so now. There are just so many avenues of endeavour available in all streams that there is absolutely no logic in suffering unnecessarily the pain of doing something one doesn’t want to.
The best part of doing what one wants to is that ‘failure’ loses its sting. If ‘success’ is sought because of the ‘payoff’ it provides, then failure is bound to be terribly painful. Not only has one lost the chance to do what one wanted to do, but also failed at achieving that for which the sacrifice was made. If, however, one has had the pleasure of doing one’s thing, ‘success’ is just another milestone! At least, one hasn’t wasted one’s precious time in chasing a mirage.
To achieve this freedom, it is important in a country like India not to buy into the high cost lifestyle being sold so assiduously by the advertising and marketing worlds. They are doing their job, but those targeted should also develop a sense of discrimination to properly calibrate their involvement. Parents and students should aim for a ‘comfort level’ that does not distort the very purpose of existence. Otherwise children will be turned into hamsters on an endlessly turning treadmill.