Pic.: Neerja Panchal
A student of mine had celebrated his 18th b’day a year ago. His parents, who are well-off, had personally come to invite me for the grand party they had hosted for their son at a plush hotel. Like many parents believe, these parents, too, had believed that their son had just become a ‘major’ now... A man!
And, like every guest had done, that night, I, too, had wished the b’day boy – the very best as a ‘man’...
The boy – I still call him ‘boy’ – still studies under me. Some weeks ago, one morning, I handed some papers to this boy and requested him to submit them to my Chartered Accountant, whose office was on the ground floor of the building next to the building in which my student lived.
The boy’s face indicated that he was clueless about the CA’s office. “It is the very next building on the right side of your building,” I explained to my boy, “the very next building, on the ground floor... The name is prominently displayed.”
The boy was, still, clueless!
I was getting irritated, by now. Though I was seeking a small favor from my student, and though I could arrange to send it through anyone else, I was asking this boy just because, the CA’s office was right below my student’s nose... But, looking at the young-one’s response, I was not only feeling sorry for him, I was feeling angry, too...
“Beta, you don’t want to do it?” I asked him directly.
“Sir, not like that,” my student replied, quite sincerely, “I haven’t done any ‘job’ like that before!”
“I can understand that, beta,” I said with a lot of anguish, “Don’t worry, I will send it through someone.”
It just took one request to another student of mine, who lived very far from the particular CA’s office and on the opposite direction. He gladly carried out this mundane mission, which the other student of mine had termed as ‘job’!
I am not telling this, here, to vent out my anger on my reluctant student, nor am I narrating it, here, to demean him in way. In fact, he was very sincere while he said what he did... He had not done any such ‘job’, because, his well-off parents had not given him such ‘jobs’... They wanted him to only ‘study’, which he was doing!
Had my boy’s parents wanted him to ‘learn’ – instead of ‘study’ - it would have been a different response, that morning. The other boy, who carried out the mission for me, came from a hand-to-mouth family. I am sure, his parents must have been giving him ample number of such ‘jobs’... And, to me, that was learning of a superior kind, never taught in schools and institutions... To me, those errands were ‘life skills’, not ‘jobs’... To me, the day a kid starts accepting such responsibilities in his daily life, it is the day he turns 18... the day he becomes a ‘major’ in life!
My son tells me about one of his classmates who is a French citizen. After studying together in the same campus in Pune, now five of them, including this French young-man, are, now, working in Bangaluru in the same Studio, and they all live together in a rented apartment out there. As in most Western countries, in France, too, the parents want their just-turned-18 kids to go out and work somewhere just to get that inner sense that they have, now, become adults, that they have to learn to fend for themselves, shoulder responsibilities... So, in these countries, the adult children living with their parents is looked down upon!
The parents of the French-friend of my son hold very high positions in France and are wealthy. But, the day he turned 18, the son started working in a McDonald’s outlet in his country. First, he tried his hand in the French fries section... where he realized that he was spoiling the fries and inviting trouble for himself. Next, he chose to be at the counter taking orders... Soon, he found himself talking more to customers and taking fewer orders from them... Finally, he landed up where he loved his work the most: doing the dishes! For entire summer vacation, till he left McDonald’s, my son’s friend enjoyed his work experience!
And, now, here in Bangaluru, these five young-men are on their own. The work which, our four Indian young-men, including my son, do not like to do in their house – doing dishes - this French-young-man loves to do... At 18, the outlook towards life, instilled in his mind back home, had prepared him for this day... Yes, to survive superbly in a culturally-alien place like India!
There, at 18, the parents want their children to learn how to stand on their own feet... and, soon, move out into the world. They want them to learn the skills of survival... yes, by being on their own...
Well, I am just asking!