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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I wish I could just answer ‘happy’ and pursue it.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2012 00:11 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
Sonal-Kalra-gives-you-tips-to-calm-down-in-her-weekly-column-A-Calmer-You( )

The month of June sees quite a few fires in our country. Everywhere I turn, I see firemen and firewomen. No, not the kinds that bravely save our lives from flames, but those who believe in starting a fire. I know of many such fire-aunties and uncles.

They go to a neighbour or relative’s house, ask the teenaged child about his marks and what course he wants to pursue, prod the parents on why aren’t they trying for a more popular alternative, and lo, ignite the spark for an argument. Chai pee, aag lagayi aur chal diye. That’s what is happening these days in your home too, nah? Bolo, bolo, sach bolo.

More than half the letters I get from readers in this month are about problems like ‘my parents want me to become an aaloo chat vendor but I wish to do my bachelors in jalebi making.’ Alright, replace aaloo chat and jalebi with engineering, CA, law etc. Khush bhi nahi hone dete.

DilemmaAnyway, I do understand that decisions about career and higher studies are critical and all that but I can’t get my head around parents forcing kids to take up courses of their choice. Neither do I understand why kids have become so edgy that they sometimes refuse to see reason.

I’ve done a thorough research on this inherent conflict in East European laboratories and have come to a definitive conclusion. The root cause of this problem is a seemingly innocuous question we start asking kids when they can barely utter mama, papa and susu. ‘Beta, what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Now, at that age, with limited exposure and vocabulary, with tonnes of pressure from adults expectedly waiting for an answer, coupled with that of trying to not pee in the pants, the child says ‘doctor’ or ‘policeman’ or ‘pilot’ etc. You see he can’t answer ‘tonsorial artist’ or ‘hemorrhoid cream researcher’ even though these too are perfectly lovely occupations.

Okay, maybe not the hemorrhoid cream one, but surely the former, which is just another name for a hairstylist. Anyway, by the time the child grows up and gets exposed to a whole lot of choices, he has uttered ‘doctor’, ‘engineer’ and ‘CA’ so many times that he’s thoroughly confused about whether he’s now going back on his original promise of making his folks proud.

Parents, in the meantime, have their own hassles of how to explain it to their ‘circle’ why their son or daughter, who could have easily made it to the cut-off of a good professional institute, says they want to be a writer. Suddenly, the good marks become a devil’s sword hanging on the child, as they start dictating the career path, rather than the child’s own flair.

I know a couple whose son always got cent percent marks in mathematics. From the age of 11, that child heard his parents telling the world that they will make him a chartered accountant, because he’s ‘so good at math’.

Today that boy is 17, is immensely passionate about photography and dislikes accountancy and taxes with equal passion. But he continues to live under the curse of having got good marks in math all through, because that has limited his parents’ thinking enough to force him to enroll in a CA program. ‘Is se toh naa aate achhe marks,’ he told me last week. ‘Show 3 Idiots to your parents,’ I joked, but I knew reality of life is sometimes very different from films. Here’s my two bits of wisdom on the topic, it may just help someone.

1.Mutual decision: I know a lot of youngsters reading this want me to suggest that parents should leave them alone to make their own choices but I’m afraid I can’t say this. For one, the promised amount for writing this has yet not reached my account, and two, I look forward to a better way of dying than being killed by some stranger’s angry dad.

Jokes apart, while every child has the right to craft his or her own destiny, it is also their duty to understand why the parents are insisting on something. Because as I’ve written previously in this column, if there is one entity in this world that you can blindly trust for wanting nothing but your good, it’s your parents.

The least you can do is listen to their argument without throwing a fit and explain your choices to them in a rational and calm way. The same goes for the parents. Convince or get convinced. Simple. If either the parents are sulking, or the child is forcefully dragging her feet through a course she can’t stand, it’s an unhappy situation. And life’s too short to stay unhappy, my friend. Chalo, ek dialogue to maar hi diya!

2.Not irreversible: Sometimes you need to try something out to decide how much you hate it. Because there’s always a chance that you may start liking it. Foolish are those who make their career decisions based on what they’ve heard about the course from their friends. Because much like fingerprints that are unique to everyone, how your mind will react to a subject when you get into its depth is also unique just to you.

But if your heart is clearly telling you that it’s a mistake, don’t think much before reversing it. I don’t know why we make a big deal out of 1-2 years wasted in figuring out that a course wasn’t right for us. In the larger scheme of life, those two years won’t matter one bit. But before you take a bold step, ask yourself an honest question. ‘Will I ever regret this? Go ahead only when your heart… and mind, answers, ‘Never. No matter what.’

3. Finally, de-link subjects from career: It’s not written in stone that if you are a qualified engineer, you can’t become a writer, painter or aaloo chaat vendor. Give your best to whatever course you are pursuing, and then give your best to whatever you wish to do after studies are complete. Half of our national cricket team comprised of engineers at one point.

Did you know that actor John Abraham is an MBA and Ritesh Deshmukh is a qualified architect. Your degrees shouldn’t be road-blocks in life, they should be facilitators in helping you make intelligent choices. Go on, make yours.

Sonal Kalra went through Bachelors in Economics and Masters in Management before discovering her flair for weird-writing. She doesn't regret it. Her readers do.

Mail her at or at Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.

First Published: Jun 23, 2012 16:57 IST

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