Life’s Hardest Questions

Perhaps we could ask young people better kind of questions, wonders Chethana Dinesh

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Highlights: 
A confused bag of ideas and dreams, youngsters want to carve their routes and live out their journeys, but have no clue as to how. Adding to their confusion is the constant preaching from all quarters...

What do you want to be when you grow up?” — this was a question I had dealt with, over and over again, as a child. My replies had progressed from “truck driver” and “candy seller” to “boatman” and “dhobi”. My well-meaning relatives had always laughed it off and shaken their heads out of pity for me, probably wondering what destiny had in store for a girl with no lofty ambitions whatsoever. Growing up, when it was time to choose my stream of study, I chose Science, because everybody else did. And regretted it to no end. I couldn’t wait to switch over to Arts. And I did, immediately after my pre-university. I then followed the path destiny led me on. One option leading to another. I don’t remember lending much thought to the huge, huge gap between dreams and reality. And I continue to do so.

Many years down the line, the same “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was posed to my daughter. She was no exception. And her replies had ranged from “mummy” and “foreigner” to “fresh lime soda vendor” and “baker”. She’s almost 18 now, and the situation is no different. In fact, it’s worse. “What do you want to do with your life?” is what people ask her now. Her reply is a standard “I don’t know”, not only to the question posed to her, but to everything from what topic to write her essay papers on to what major to choose for her college years. She wonders why any of it really matters. I guess she has a point.

A confused bag of ideas and dreams, youngsters want to carve their routes and live out their journeys, but have no clue as to how. Adding to their confusion is the constant preaching from all quarters, telling them that the world today is utterly competitive, and that they need to have definite career goals, and a well-defined plan for the future. If only life was that simple! “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “What do you want to do with your life?” are perhaps the two most complex of questions we can ever ask our children. But we do it, carelessly, for the fun of it, not realising the impact it can have on young minds. Life has its share of surprises. We know it too well by now. It would be so much better if we rephrased our questions to “What are your dreams?”, or “What makes you happy?” and help children work towards them.

As if tormenting children is not enough, even parents are asked — “What do you want your child to be when she grows up?”. Well! I have been at the receiving end of such posers. It’s got me thinking. First of all, I don’t want my child to waste her life doing things she hates doing. I don’t want her to take shortcuts in life. I don’t want her to wake up one morning and realise that the things she cared about most were not what she devoted her life to. But, my reply has always been a one-liner - “I want her to be a good human being.” Period.

 

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Life’s Hardest Questions

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