Sunday, February 14, 2010

An A grade student who became a teacher salutes 3 idiots.

Mmmhmm. Yep. I am going to wax eloquent about Aamir's message in the movie. So be forewarned.

As an A grade student who didn't choose engineering, business or medicine, I salute 3 idiots.

I hold no grudge against lovers of science, math and marketing. What I wish to know is why artists and lovers of the humanities are sidelined and relegated to living on the edge. This is the attitude I encountered, when at the end of the nineties, fresh out of high school, I chose the Liberal Arts: If I have a "brain" I must only use it for the sciences or I will be wasting the great evolutionary gift of DNA that happens to have resolved itself into "me." Me - a mere pawn of society, progeny of my parents and extended family, member of the Great Tribe of India.

This attitude, irked me severely. Did this mean that the Liberal Arts required no use of the brain? Did this mean that the vast population that did choose the Liberal Arts was ticked off as useless to the advancement of society?

As a teenager I found myself having to justify to my teachers and friends, the reason I had chosen the Arts. How could I explain the claustrophobia, the suffocation I felt when listening to a Chemistry lecture? How could they feel the physical pain that shot through my head when I contemplated a life embedded in numerical figures despite being the daughter of a banker and a potential nuclear physicist? How could I convince them that pure grit and determination to scrape some sense of self worth together in a world where I knew I was marginalised already, had pushed me through high school? How could I explain to them that I respected them and connected with them as "persons" and "fellow human beings" - not as "teachers or students of science?"

What music would they groove to if Shankar Mahadevan had decided to join NASA? What lyrics would transport them to romantic heights if Gulzar had chosen the medical profession? Were these icons brainless?

That brought me to my next question. Why did I have to be an icon in order to be prove that choosing the Arts was worthwhile? Why couldn't I just do my Art, live a simple life and yet not be grudged that I'd wasted my potential?

Which brought me to the next level of understanding. Our Indian tribe's concept of success is a farce. A passionate school teacher in Ladakh is a failure in the eyes of the Ramalingams, the NRIs with the big US brand company name attached to their first names. But in truth, the passionate school teacher in general is a failure. Its one thing to praise the nobility of the profession to a teacher who is not related to you. But if your own child were to say she wants to teach, I would look at your reaction and then know what you truly think of as "success."

I know this because I am a passionate school teacher and witness the constant look of pity from people who've known me all my life. "Such a waste of earning potential!" is the unsaid, unspoken comment.

The waste of earning potential is not my failure. It is the failure of the country to understand the value of my services to society. How many more passionate teachers we would have if teaching were considered a respected profession, monetarily compensated adequately and not waved away as a "timepass before you find a suitable husband" in Indian parlance.

Artists scramble to pay the rent at the end of the month, not because their work is useless but because our society fails to recognise the importance of beauty as nourishment. All the edifices that science builds will have no soul if they are not infused with the perception and love that comes so naturally to the artist with an open heart.

But technology is money. And money is our god. Our big IT corporates, born and bred on Indian soil claim to be injecting integrity and values into the corporate jungle. As a junior school teacher, I ask: what worth is integrity in the corporation when as children we are taught to disregard our inner calling from grade 5 onwards? We lie to our souls, violate the voice of our hearts and then are taught to follow ancient Indian ideals and be "integral."

Unless integrity begins with your soul, you cannot be integral.

Surely everyone's soul cannot be pushing them to set up corporations, mass produce cars, develop software and research genetic engineering. For those who's soulsong is one of these, I stand at the forefront cheering you on. Go, find your success. You deserve it and will do much for the country on a huge scale with it.

But if I find a whiff of parental pressure to turn a child who lives for art into a doctor, I will mourn the daylight murder of yet another youngling of India.

This obsession that we Indians have with Ivy League universities, big phones, big cars, big houses with tiny gardens is exactly what our ancient Indian values spoke of as Maya. We place infinite importance on the objects of success rather than the feeling of contentment within. If we were truly content, not having the next best phone wouldn't make us break out into a cold sweat. Not having our kids get into Cornell or Stanford wouldn't destroy our honour.

Artha, or wealth is essential. I have nothing against it. I love Artha. But according to the ancient tenets, before Artha, comes Dharma. Following YOUR Dharma. Not the Tribe's decision as to which career will get them the most honour.

If there was one message that stood out clear in 3 idiots - it was to be true to yourself. Integrity to yourself. Aligning yourself with your soul's purpose. Is that level of integrity even possible when you belong to the Great Indian Tribe?

As a teacher, I predict that the Great Indian Tribe will be forced to face the challenges of the new kids. Watch out India. Many of today's children will refuse to sing the Great Tribal Song. We will hear countless individual melodies of exquisite beauty. We will see many disappointed parents. We will see far more young adults unable to disregard the call of their souls, flying the nest and finding their own sky.

For all those children, even if I stand all alone, I am and will always be a voice of support, an encouraging friend, a believer in their potential. For them, my hands are forever risen in salute.

12 comments:

Sai said...

Wow! This is amazing. Love the way you've interpreted the message from the movie. So true, so relevant, and just what we need to hear!

Swapna Maini said...

I completely agree with you and Sai! And you are NOT alone in standing to salute our Indian younglings who decide to follow their heart... I salute anyone and everyone in this country who has had the courage to do her/his own thing rather follow the herd and mearly exist rather than live!!

Neha Sahi Saigal said...

Totally

Neha Sahi Saigal said...

I think if we figure just ourselves out, the rest of the universe will fall into place.

Saraswati said...

Thanks Swapna...!! And Neha,I agree with you!!

Saraswati said...

Sai G, thank you for your thumbsup! The movie was infinitely more fun because I watched it with you!

bijoya said...

Saras, you never cease to amaze me...may your tribe increase! And blessed are those touched by you!! Much love...Bijoya

Saraswati said...

Thank you Bijoya! :)

Sai said...

Dear Saraswati,

Thank you for illuminating a path with your writings. In recognition of your work, I’d like to present you with the "Writer of Light" award. Please visit my blog for details, and also to pick up the logo if you like.
Love, light, and Peace.

marcime said...

Hello Saraswati - I am here because your dear brother Sai is such a generous and pure spirit - I don't know how your parents produced two of you - but you both have the gift of writing.

I will recommend this post to many of my Indian friends and aquaintances - for this is an issue they discuss endlessly here in Canada...

Though I did not see the movie you speak of, I didn't have to!

~marcella

Saraswati said...

@Sai: Thank you!!!! :)Will drop by soon.

@Marcime: It is a little freaky being similar siblings and not twins. Thank you for stopping by and encouraging me!

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I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
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