As if my mother’s smiling approval each morning of the various little children who bagged single digit CET ranks this year, and reading aloud of their newspaper interviews (in which each of them invariably extol the virtues of boring things such as ‘perseverance and hard work’) weren’t enough, the household phone has been ringing off the hook. Little cousins I didn’t know existed have been dialing in with a frequency and gusto that puts fans of NRI American Idol contestants to unspeakable shame.
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The competitive exam season post the twelfth standard/II PU exams may be the most seemingly pointless/endless, excruciating, trying and frustrating parts of most of our lives. But like a Shaolin Monk will testify, pain is but a rite of survival. Just as our Kung-Fu exponent counterparts complete rigorous tests of skill to finally earn their monk-robes and kick some bad-guy-posterior; having survived to tell the tale after half a dozen competitive exams, each of us is automatically given the glorious status of ‘career expert’ and wear ‘on-call academic counselor’ hats.
It’s nearly June, and a horde of kids I know who’ve just leaped across Board exams hurdles and sailed past Competitive Exam finishing lines are busy making what will be the most important decisions of their young lives. And they want my help, which I am all too willing to provide. Isn’t it only fair that we take their hands and gently lead them away from the alleys we got lost in?
Spare a thought for the little ones, for, their prolonged agony over abbreviations is anything but abbreviated. "Is my (2 digit number) CET rank too less (more?) for XYZ college of Medical Sciences? Oh no!"
"What will I do if I don’t get a B.E- Comp Sci(ence) seat? How ever will I fulfill my destiny otherwise" they wail over phone lines, as I attempt to strangle myself with a telephone cord.
The smart reader will notice both from his surroundings and this highly scholastic essay on young people’s academic choices that the dilemma is tastelessly two pronged. Could somebody please tell me why the children of today can’t seem to look beyond conventional career choices? Yes, this is as rich as a tub of Chocolate mousse, coming from me, but that I goofed up is no big secret.
Call upon call, by distraught child after distraught child, I’ve suggested ever so subtly, attempting a straight face and without breaking into guffaws, that ‘times have changed’ and it isn’t a bit like ‘in my time’ when ‘there weren’t enough choices’, to these little fools who are all trotting about the same cliff, we old war horses idiotically galloped off from. "Are you telling me I’m not smart enough to be an engineer?" one countered, sounding a tad bit hurt. It began to feel a little like talking to a time traveled version of myself from a few years ago, and I retreated, tail between legs.
No offense meant. Medicine and Engineering, the courses de rigueur are both wonderful to study. But then, of what good is a world with 20,000 CET ranks dedicating their valuable lives only to ‘curing cancer’ and ‘building bridges’? True there are only two kinds of people, but those, kids, are the Mars and Venus categories.
Literature… Economics…. Design…. Physics…. Journalism… there’s so much else you could do, I persuade the just-there-adolescents. They listen politely and then ask if they could come over and check my ‘1st semester Course in C programming’ textbooks out.
Through these remarkably enlightening years of studying Engineering, I’ve met lots of people who share my sentiments over not having made ‘the best choices’. These are all very intelligent people, mind; and ones who will make great engineers too. Only, they’d have made greater artists, zoo-keepers, political revolutionaries or reality-tv-stars.
When a few of us discuss why we didn’t take the leap of faith out onto unfamiliar territories ourselves, past all the fluff, all of us silently agree that there are far too few credible routes one could take to pursue ‘unconventional courses’. I may crib about having to study an absolutely sleep-inducing course on Linear Integrated Circuits but, between you and me, I admit, it’s rather that than waiting four gleeful months chewing on fingernails, for my results at another famously lax university.
"Look at me. I resent what I study a great deal! So much, that I shamelessly write about it on public blogs; that is my atonement" I plead, as a last ditch attempt. They pretend to not hear. Heaving a despondent sigh, and knowing that fate answers fools and cowards for their follies in equal measure; I let the tots harvest the rewards of their own phobias and myopias as I did mine.
The silver lining though, is that word has quickly spread about the counter-productivity of my mentoring and parents have forbidden their wards from talking to me until their CET-Counseling dates have passed. Imagine the dent to their pride if their wards (in whose ‘natural talent for Electronics’, to borrow a joke, they have immense faith) were to grandly arrive amidst a handful of friends and family and declare they just chose a course in English Literature. Heavens, that is enough to give a bunch of old people I know gruesome palpitations.