Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Two Pennies

It is the admission season now and a time when only mad dogs and admission-seeking parents step into the merciless May heat of Chennai. I understand these must be stressful times for a lot of people. However, one recurring theme leads me to write this blog.

In casual conversations, I see many parents gushing over how hard their kids worked. Statements like, “He/She has sacrificed soooo much for these many years, I don’t care where he/she gets admission as long as they are happy.” Other common refrains are “This is all madness. Is any of it worth it?”, “Everyone gets an IT job, so how does it matter what we do” and so on.

These statements irritate me a lot simply because they are defeatist and escapist. True, the college admission process is a major step in anyone’s life. Given the intensity of the competition, disappointment is inevitable. Just admit things did not work out and move on! However, I find that most people try to justify their disappointment by resorting to specious claims and making arbitrary theories.

To give an example, one hears this comment quite frequently. “He tried so hard and gave his best, if after that he did not get it, then such a thing is not needed”. This is NOT how to react to your first disappointment. Remember, it is not as if that one kid alone gave his best while others were counting hair. Everyone is trying hard and sometimes, shit happens. By justifying failure, parents are setting up their kids to fail. Another such situation may come up where a project may have to be executed at considerable energy and the outcome may not be certain. According to this value system, if after all that hard work, you don’t complete the project, then it is not worth it. Then why do it in the first place? Let us just sit and work on solved problems.

The other more irritating thing is when parents wallow in pity for their kids. “How much he studied? He used to attend 6 hrs of coaching daily and sleep only for 4 hrs a day. After that he has not got what he wanted. We are soooooo sad for him.” Often the kids only know how well “all those hours of coaching” were utilized. I have always held that there is a critical amount of time one must spend taxing the mind. It is important to relax the mind. If you believe this and in the process lost a few marks, don’t bother justifying it to others. You can always fashion a suitable way for yourself or take the exam again. Just, never ever, wallow in self pity.

So if you have overly fussy parents, most probably they will not tell you some things which are necessary for every young man stepping into the real world. Let me dispense my two penny’orth of advice.

Between the ages of 18/20 to 36, life is a jungle. Make no mistake about it. There are lots of young men jostling for the little space at the top, so that may shine from the peak. To beat this, heck, even survive this rat race, is no mean task. Don’t dismiss it as a rat race that is beneath you. That is also escapist in my opinion. The rat race is a natural consequence and everyone has been through it. Expect no sympathies.

Political instincts that human beings possess, is but a natural outcome of this jostling for visibility. One of my favourite axioms regarding human behaviour is that, most human beings crave for power within limitations imposed upon them by society. Why the qualification? It is as if human beings take the limitations imposed on them by society as given, but work within that to establish their power. Curiously, few people go one step further and question the limitations thrust upon them. If they are indeed power hungry as my axiom claims then should they not be continuously subverting society? Perhaps, religion and moralistic codes are the drugs that smother the animal instincts. I mean, think about it, what prevents all of us from lusting after absolute power? To most readers, just the term “absolute power” may be distasteful intellectually. But don’t we all wish we had that?

Therefore, when young men rise up the rungs, older men are bound to feel threatened that their power will be snatched away. Some of them may be powerful. They will use it against the younger men. Don’t hate or cry about these people because chances are, in that position, you too would do the same. The way out for a young man is to play the game the way it ought to be played. Just as there will be some who will try to repress you, there will be others who may like you. Invest in those relationships. I find that the value system taught in most well educated middle class families is naive, idealistic, inconsistent and foolish.

There is another reason for politics to exist. When there are too many bright people in an environment and some sort of selection has to be made, then subjective parameters will play a greater role. Given two equally good people and for some reason the boss “feels” more confident about one, the decision has to be ascribed to politics. Is it unfair? Yes, very. Is it unavoidable? Yes, very

So is life unfair. Yes. But no one can complain about it. For we only count the times when life is unfair against us and never the times when life is unfair in our favour. Therefore, over a period of time, life is kind of fair.

Which brings me to my primary gripe. While creating pity for their children, parents set them up to fail.

Then what is the right solution? Simply, to tell the truth that “Kid, life will kick you on your balls at times. Face it!”

Peace Out.

13 comments:

it's baille said...

Wow! i seriously need to show this blog to some of my uncles and aunts who have been bugging me with similar questions :)

Ganesh said...

Absolute Brilliance.

Your article represents another one of those occasions when i had so much to say,and I just couldnt find the words.

Anand said...

Actually. I'm finding vague points of conflict here, but I'm not able to put my finger on it.

I think it is the theory of everyone-reaching-absolute-power thing. I don't think that point of absolute maximum you claim, exists at all. It's all just various local maxima for each one I think

aniketanand said...

enlightening!

Abhinav said...

I am taking a print out of this blog and getting it published in a local news paper

themiddler said...

@baille

haha... you too! It is so tough to fake sympathy beyond a point, given that I was a repeater for JEE myself

themiddler said...

@shortage

Thanks. Hoped it would have been Absolut Brilliance :P

themiddler said...

@ducky

Hmm... I get the problem. I think I can explain it better than writing it.

What I am trying to say is that, somehow the pursuit of absolute power itself seems wrong to people, yet it is perfectly normal to strive for local power. Whether there is such a thing as absolute power is a different point, but given the human instinct, shouldn't one aspire to that?

themiddler said...

@Aniket

Hope the "enlightenment" does not make people cycnical!

themiddler said...

@bacha

Nice to see you here! Wish I could get stuff like this on paper... but if any kid reads this immediately after the result, I am sure he/she will give up in life!

This is more for the after-results ruminations.

Radhika said...

nice. though your idea of absolute power and the quest for it itself is not absolute. thats my 2 paise :)

themiddler said...

@radhika

Hmm... point taken. But as it is an assumption, I suppose it is difficult to argue it out. Let's see how the assumption works for me over time :)

Anonymous said...

Cool story you got here. It would be great to read a bit more about this matter. Thnx for giving this information.