Adding flavour to the season, the media abounds with exam results. Toppers are in the limelight and in demand. Educational and coaching institutions avariciously seize the opportunity to market their USP in the name of success. One student wants to be a cardiac surgeon, for, the career would be successful. An IIT-JEE topper gives tips to memorise portions from previous question papers. There is also an oft-repeated cliché—a school topper aspires to join the IAS and serve the society while a civil services aspirant haughtily states his intention to be in the services, because there is power! The IT industry, with its added invitation to the Americas, is also a preferred option.
Society has loathed failures and has celebrated success—no matter how it is achieved. However, many psychologists have deprecated the education system in blindly following a norm, without questioning it. I wonder if we exhort our youngsters to pursue a career, which they like, or the one which society likes. Adverting to Raj Kumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots may add poignancy to the issue, as well as addressing it. Acquiring a professional degree, making money with a job without enjoying it, is a Pyrrhic victory. That there is schism between a job and a career is gaining credence.
The grandeur built around engineering and information technology courses for the jobs they generate is slowly dissipating. With the persistent grapevine of pressures within the system coupled with global recession, the IT industry is now relegated on the choice list. There is hope that the education system would apply corrective measures and reinvent itself. With many engineering colleges reporting low demand, courses on visual communication, film-making, hotel management and journalism have upped the ante. The concept of success is getting redefined, albeit belatedly. Today’s young man knows he needs to balance life and work. He wants to choose a career over a job, for he knows he can’t have the cake and eat it too!
I am nostalgic about Jayan and Raghu, my contemporaries. Jayan’s performance in college was marginal and wanted to join his father’s tea shop. He realised studies were not his cup of tea! He failed in exams and dropped out of college. Raghu’s approach to education was archetypal and he set unreasonable goals, inexorably speaking of “success”. He pursued an engineering course and is now employed with a multinational company in a senior position. Though he ostentatiously reveals a package of Rs 40 lakh per annum, he bemoans the pressures associated with it. Nowadays, he appears forlorn and speaks incoherently. He parries enquiries about his family and it appears he had strained his family life with his obstinate attitude.
Jayan, on the other hand, is a successful restaurateur running a non-vegetarian chain of hotels, with a legion of fans worldwide. Being the proprietor, he is his own boss and owns his time, too. He understands his limitations and doesn’t betray his strengths. He informs me that he pays income tax of Rs 40 lakh per annum!