Is our obsession with success going too far? writes Aditya Mukherjee

In a recent interview with the BBC, well-known Indian actor, Victor Banerjee, lamented the lack of interest in poetry and literature among today’s social media-obsessed youth. He also said that today’s young people prefer to follow a scientific path to become engineers and doctors, because these professions can land them lucrative job offers compared to students in the humanities who may not have chance of getting a well-paying job. It is this instrumental logic that dictates their choice of profession.

Banerjee plays the role of Rabindranath Tagore in the film thinking of him, a film by Argentinian director Pablo César. Reacting to the question of why Tagore is not a popular connection today as he should be, the 75-year-old actor said what the Nobel laureate stood for had been replaced by sensationalism at the time. digital age. According to him, Tagore does not belong to the people anymore.

Which begs the question: Have we, as a society, become too obsessed with math and science? Is cracking IIT/JEE considered the holy grail of success for our younger generation? Don’t certain parents who are too ambitious impose their choices on their children to live through them their unfulfilled dreams?

Watching television, we are inundated with advertisements for educational applications that show young people that they are being taught the imperatives of success in these competitive times. Success is now a student’s reason for being, the engine of his existence. The very definition of success has been cleverly colonized and appropriated by the promoters of these apps which send an unequivocal message: the world belongs to smart students who are hardworking and quick learners. In their scheme of things, a nature-loving, literature-loving student with little interest in chemical equations and mathematical formulas is not considered a “successful” student because things like imagination and creative thinking don’t matter much in our lives. goal-oriented educational system. Success is about getting high marks in math and science and excelling in comprehensive studies.

It’s no wonder, then, that even today, students studying English and Hindi literature at undergraduate level rarely find fair-minded, like-minded people who support their choice of major. We have been conditioned to believe in the hackneyed stereotype that the instinctive choice of “good and smart students” should be science. After all, for some parents, the anticipated instrumentality and usefulness of the Science stream guarantees a successful career that promises status, money, and recognition for their children.

It has been observed that many parents make no effort to encourage their children to develop reading habits during their school days. Pupils up to the twelfth grade read prescribed stories and poems in their textbooks to pass their exams. As a result, they have no visceral engagement with the world of language and literature. It is because of this lack of exposure to literary works at an early age that it is virtually impossible for students to cultivate a literary sensibility when they enter college.

The reason many artistic and literary talents are sacrificed on the altar of parental absolutism is that we make no effort to identify and channel talent in the right direction. Parents should refrain from forcing their children to choose science or math after class 10 if they show a lack of interest in these subjects. Students with a flair for literature and creative writing should be encouraged to pursue humanities in higher grades.

A few years ago, bestselling author Paulo Coelho tweeted that it took him 40 years to write his first book. The reason is that his father, who was an engineer by profession, thought that if his son became a writer, he would starve.

For many students, science and math may be right for them. A student of science might look to CV Raman, Sundar Pichai or Bill Gates as role models, just as a student of literature might be inspired by the writings of VS Naipaul or Salman Rushdie, or Kazuo Ishiguro, or the poetry of Shelley or Keats. .

Truth be told, there is no account for taste. Every individual is born with an innate ability to drag clouds of glory at some point in their life. They have the right to live life as they see fit without having to follow their parents’ orders. Whether it’s a musician, a singer or a sportsman. Each person has a different definition of success. The problem arises when we normalize and standardize success in terms of financial prosperity. A modestly successful author or poet may not earn huge royalties from the sale of their books, but since they have chosen writing as their profession, they are happy to do what makes them happy. After all, success is always relative.

(The author is a veteran journalist based in Delhi)

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Posted: Saturday May 21st 2022, 09:16 AM IST

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