One day, a long time back, I was hanging out with my kid cousins at my amma’s tharavad, bone tired after a session of rigorous hide-and-seek. We were chatting about anything and everything under the sun when the topic turned to what you want to be when you grow up. Hari, the most serious and focused of all my cousins from the moment he first opened his eyes, wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. You have to keep in mind that he was around 9-years-old then! I mean, when I was 9, I wanted to be an airhostess! I had no idea what that meant – all I knew was that you get to travel around the world all the time. (Of course, at that time I didn’t know that airhostesses are supposed to look like Deepika Padukone’s first cousin either.) The younger one, (he was 7 then) who lives, eats and breathes computer games, wanted to be a JCB driver. Well, I personally don’t understand what is so glamorous about sitting in a 2 metre tall vehicle all day long, but hey, who am I to judge?
After a pretty long break, we met again a few weeks back and (again!) stumbled on the same area. This time, we were a bit more serious and, in their case, a lot more mature. Hari was still big time into space and stars and rockets and aeroplanes and a lot of stuff which, I acknowledge, is beyond me. Dev, the gaming genius, had moved on from the JCB driver to the cab driver in New York (he was very specific about the place) to a race car driver or a footballer. The discussion kinda spiralled from there because he started singing praises about the Brazil team and I about Spanish side which, inevitably, ended up in a fistfight. (A word of caution – an enraged 12-year-old is not someone u want to pick a fight with. They are competitive and mean and don’t know what ‘Compromise’ means. Even if you shout it at the top of your voice.) I, on my part, had moved on from my airhostess phase to much better (?) places.
What amazed me, even then, was that they both had an ambition, however ridiculous it is. When I was a middle school student, I still remember how stumped I used to be when we had to write an essay or prepare a speech on ‘My Ambition’. I’d take a blank page of my notebook, write ‘My Ambition’ in capitals on top of the page and peep into my neighbour’s book to see what he is writing. Then I’d go “Oh my..! That is exactly what I want to do!!” I was a lost girl who wanted to do a lot of things, caught in between worlds. The dreams I had were high on the risk factor and had questionable success rates. And I, like many kindred spirits, wasn’t sufficiently well-off to take that gamble.
Does that mean that you resign yourself to fate and blame your stars or horoscope for being born at the wrong time? Not anymore. The times, my friend, has changed. And how! The youngsters of today (including me) are well aware of our limitations, strengths and weaknesses. We know the importance of having good educational qualifications, a stable degree to fall back on. This decade has witnessed a new breed of teenagers who know what they want and how to achieve it, intelligently. They are pragmatic. They have their soles firmly planted on the ground even as they reach for the stars. I’ve gazed with admiration at Shankar Mahadevan (a software engineer by profession), Khaled Hosseini (who was a doctor before he turned into writing. And what fantastic writer he is!), Gautham Vasudev Menon (civil engineering graduate) and such. Closer to home, there is Nivin Pauly, Vineeth Sreenivasan and a whole bunch of newcomers, who are all engineering graduates.
Much closer to my heart are a number of my friends who are in the process of soaring to the heights they are meant to reach – Susmi, an electrical engineering graduate from NSS, Palakkad (who was, incidentally, the 4thin our school for 12th Boards) who has recently taken up sari designing; Kailas Menon, a senior from school who is now a successful music director (he came up with the catchy jingles of numerous ads like Bhima Jewellery, Seematti Silks, RMKV Silks and Lulu, to name a few and is now doing BGM for movies); Sandeep Warrier who plays for Rajasthan Royals and is a graduate from FISAT; a mentor who is a mechanical engineering graduate and currently works as a journalist at The Hindu; a bunch of juniors at college who are passionate about short films; the countless buddies who are into professional photography – they’ve all found ways to pursue the one thing that they are passionate about.
Recently I read about an IIT graduate who is deeply zealous about photography and has chucked his job as an engineer to follow his dream. He inspires me. All those people who do what they want to do and succeed in that inspire me. The engineers who want to be engineers, the doctors who want to be doctors, the engineers who’ve tossed their caps to do what they want to do – their determination drives me to do what I want to do.
I don’t know if we’ll all reach the stars. I’m not sure if our talents will be sufficient, if we have what it takes. But as they say, there is no harm in trying.
The stars are still far away. But we have rockets now.