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Friday, February 19, 2010

Serving up on request

I have added a new blog to my blogroll: that of my old boy Sreejith. I think readers will find good stuff there. I take this opportunity to urge my readers to try out the blogs on my blogroll whenever they visit mine, and to comment on those posts they like – that would be a great encouragement to the writers. I also urge the blog writers to write more frequently. Only Tanmoy and Shilpi write often enough. Those who don’t write for months on end I am sadly forced to remove from the blogroll. I shall also request all to let me know now and then about any interesting new blog they have found - I shall be glad to visit them. And one other reminder: nobody is stopping you from visiting older posts and commenting on them!
I was thinking about the various requests that have been made lately regarding what people would like me to write about next, and wondering whether I could write something that addressed several of those requests simultaneously. Anirvan asked about how to raise children well; Harman (who himself lives a frighteningly busy life as a neurosurgeon based in New York) was musing on the need for solitude (and even provided a link to an article which I want all my readers to look up and reflect upon), and Subhajit asked about how to empower individuals and be of some use to mankind. Too divergent questions to answer at one go?
Well, yes and no. The fact is not only that peaceful solitude is vanishing from our lives (except for those like the handicapped and the very old and the very young with no guardians to look after them, who might have too much of it!), but children are actually being brought up in such a pressure-cooker atmosphere that they are not only not learning to appreciate the immense value of occasional solitude, but actually to be afraid of it, to regard it as some kind of sickness. It is not that they are having to work or study all the time – indeed, compared to the amount of regular studying good boys used to do in my day, these creatures hardly study anything at all except at exam.-time, studying anything ‘outside the syllabus’ is equally anathema to both parents and children, and it is a rare child which is both trained and encouraged to do regular household chores in this part of my country, at least in the social set that I deal with. But going to school every day (regardless of whether much learning happens there), attending sundry tuitions, doing the same kind of homework, watching the same sort of stuff on TV, playing the same sort of computer games, having the same sort of birthday parties, giggling over the same kind of jokes, swooning over the same celebrities, being seen in the same kind of clothes, being programmed to desire the same sort of status-symbol gadgets – and never being allowed to be alone with their thoughts – it often strikes me that in an apparently democratic society which makes a huge fetish of free choice, children today are actually being raised in concentration camps designed to produce hordes of clones (tellingly, hundreds of them even make exactly the same mistakes of grammar and spelling!), with only the starvation and physical brutality missing. Not needed, I suppose, since brainwashing works so much more effectively. Half a century ago, lots of children could think on their own; today I can see my old boys (and that too, only a small fraction of them) beginning to think now and then after they are past their mid-20s, if by thinking we mean wondering why things are the way they are, and why they are being told lifelong to do the things they are told, and trying to figure out whether they could live better, more meaningful, more rewarding lives. By that time most of them have their careers and lifestyles unchangeably decided for them – alas for all those who then start feeling that this is not what they wanted!
Another awful thing that has happened (and this has to do with Subhajit’s concern with ‘empowerment’) lately with children is that, in the process of being brought up as described above, they have actually been taught to feel helpless without parents, tutors, formatted syllabi and routine examinations – more and more with the passage of time they are being convinced that they cannot do, learn, think, feel or achieve anything on their own. Where are the Tom Sawyers and Indranaths, the Dickens-es and Faradays today? They cannot possibly learn anything without tutors (I am tired of telling parents their wards, especially when they are doing well by themselves, don’t need me); they cannot travel anywhere on their own until they are past 20 (and sometimes not even then!), they cannot be trusted with money, they cannot go out to play with their friends (the parks in my town are either empty or occupied by old men or kids from the slums – lucky kids!), they cannot learn by themselves to deal with the opposite sex (too ‘dangerous’), they cannot even ‘afford to waste precious time’ going shopping for their mothers (though I know as they do how many ways they have devised of wasting time…). And this is becoming self-fulfilling. After five years of college, MBBS doctors say they are not yet ready to treat patients on their own, so they need a further diploma for ‘hands-on’ experience; graduate engineers are having to be 'trained' in elementary good manners and language skills before they can become job-competent; PhD scholars are passing off others' earlier work as their own ‘research’ and getting their papers ghost-written, housewives with master’s degrees cannot teach their primary-school going children, I personally know married ex-students whose parents still virtually run the household, and I read about actresses pushing 30 being chaperoned by their mothers on the sets. Does empowerment merely mean giving poor people some means of making money? I often discuss with my wife and daughter that the girls who work as our maidservants and simultaneously take care of younger siblings at home are far more ‘empowered’ than their more ‘fortunate’ brothers and sisters - all they need is better wages!
To return to the need for solitude, it has been my lifelong conviction that one needs a lot of it not only to become one’s own man, sure of one’s strengths, tastes and goals, not only to become truly creative in any field, art or science or philosophy, but even to enjoy all the many good things of life. You don’t need cackling company to enjoy a baby's hug or a beautiful sunset or a grand symphony or a good movie or a great book or a fine wine: in fact, unless it is genuinely congenial company, you are much better off without it. It’s a terrible pity that today’s children hardly know all the enjoyment they are missing, with adults as well as peers breathing down their necks all the time. Thoreau’s solitude in Walden is not for everybody, but we all desperately need some of it to live good lives. And those who think they don’t perhaps need it the most!
P.S., March 03: Try this article, it's a must-read. And I swear that I didn't write it myself. The writer is a very successful American social entrepreneur.


ginger candy said...


Have you ever noticed how the kids these days, with their utter scorn for solitude and all that, have a very twisted notion of friendship? As you have rightly pointed out, most of them hate the occasional solitude as it were some kind of ghastly disease. What makes the situation even more frightening is that very few of them (and the age limit for kids is not limited to 10-11 years, as you know very well) have a clear opinion of what friendship or good company really is, and who their real friends are. As I see around myself very frequently nowadays, anyone who is ready to join the herd for a drinking binge, or a pub-crawling mission, or a reckless night of wild debauchery is very quickly admitted in the group of friends, whereas a mild, soft-spoken, caring fellow is frowned upon as being 'uncool'. When most of the younger generation uses this kind of discretion in selecting companionship, isn't it infinitely more wise to refrain contact from them, and use one's time and energy in the pursuit of something meaningful alone?

By the way, the link in this post is wonderful. Thanks for sharing it.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

A hundred odd visits since posting already, and only one comment yet. Sort of vindicates everything I said, what?

devdas said...

Hello Suvro-da,
well observed indeed. Sometimes I feel that having "pain" is life is good and one should indeed nurture some form of "pain" for growth and betterment.
debasish das
(from geneva)

Shilpi said...

Unusual connections amongst solitude, empowerment, and children. Not just in the connections but in the way you build them up, Suvro da.

That article on solitude is delicious. He’s a lucky devil too – to be able to live in the middle of nowhere and simply go to London for brief bits of time to make a living. And the essay reminds me of another link that you’d put up – the essay by Deresiewicz, where he talked about the importance of solitude. Your build so many bridges, so many paths, so many links amongst seemingly unrelated things – solitude, time, children and choices, empowerment, democracy – yet the links seem to have been effortlessly created and almost seem to be disconnected parts of one’s intuitive stock of knowledge that one had never thought of in quite the same way.

It probably helps to create clones – clones won’t poke nor prod nor try to change anything about the way societies work, and will be happy doing what others are doing, and will think very little. Probably helps too to start the creation of clones early on in childhood. I’ve not quite understood though why solitude is looked down upon or feared. And why does there seem to be such a wide concurrence of this idea across cultures – or is that just my imagination? And why is it better in any way to be in a large group or even with some people rather than be alone?

It’s sharp the way you speak about empowerment, and I know this much at least – the way you talk about it – it’s the least talked about. Most social scientists too seem to imagine that they and the rest of their fellow-men are all empowered, and so the people who are in need of empowerment are those who are poor and in some way visibly lacking certain resources. While that is important to consider – what about the ones who do not seem to lack the material resources….why is it that even they fail to be self-reliant, to think for themselves, and make judicious decisions….or even spend some time alone….I wonder too about the last sentence of yours….could that be true? What would such people do though given solitude?

I didn't tear off a reply because I was spending some time with the essay and re-reading it and wondering over different parts...thank you for writing this one.
Take care.

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

This post provides much food for thought. I loved the link you have provided, so many different perspectives, probably some people would peg those people down as eccentrics but who is to say, really? All around us we find people looking askance if someone happens to say that he is quite content by himself for hours or days on end. Does this mean he is unsocial or that people around him simply have a pathological need to surround themselves by people all the time? There never seems to be just "letting someone be", in some measure, at different times, everybody either wants to conform or be conformed out of pressure. How much more peaceful it would be if people could be loquacious only in the right company ('right' being relative) and not be forced to make small talk all the time!

About what you wrote on empowerment Sir, I am (as I am sure there are plenty of other people like me) hardly qualified to comment about this as of now, there are some breaking of shackles and notions to do before that! But this is the sort of writing Sir, that gives ballast to thoughts that otherwise seem to float around aimlessly. Thank you very much Sir, this is a wonderful post.


devdas said...

I am tempted to comment as I am strolling on the empty streets of Geneva with mountains around, that Suvro-da you are getting close to yourself and you have reached a spiritual plane which is truely much different that what I saw you many years ago in 1992-93 at Xavier's.

A song for you and others:
(hope you may like it)

debasish das

Krishanu said...

Respected Sir,
This post of yours' has raised a number of pertinent issues. I do not claim to agree with all of them, though. As your former student at St. Xavier's, if there is one thing I have known about you, it is that you always consider different, and differing, points-of-view before coming to conclusions. Hence, I will put down some of my rather modest opinions, in the hope that I might be enlightened further:
1. I completely agree with your point that our children are indeed being brought up in utterly predictable and ruinous fashion. But, what does a child do about it? In our country, the average middle class, moderately ambitious parents think that the only worthwhile and precious things they can bestow upon their children is a good 'education'. I refer to good schools, teachers and the like. They can not, for an instance, accept the fact that their children are in any way different from the multitude; that is probably the reason why they cannot fathom the wisdom of giving their children the holistic and overall education that you (and I) so earnestly desire.Parents long for their children to be seen as an integral part of the mainstream society; anything less is anathema to them. But, can we really change them, in any way? Haven't they been brought up in the same manner? I myself have never been a father, Sir, so maybe I am mistaken in my views, because I have never been burdened with the future of my children. I would be glad to see the light, Sir.
2. The reason that we do not see more of 'Indranaths' and Michael Faradays today is, in my opinion, due to the increasing myopia of our society. The character of Indranath is one of my most revered ones, and I myself have often rued the fact that such fine examples of youth and vigour are almost never seen nowadays. I think we, as a society, would be unable to recognize people like them, let alone celebrate their existence. As more and more cities in our country become 'urbanised', we are gradually witnessing the phenomenon that you so rightly pointed out; that of the brainwashed hordes. Had Indranath existed today, there is a fair chance he would have been labelled as a juvenile delinquent. As for Sir Faraday, it would take someone of his calibre and charisma to make it in this ultra-competitive world of modern science, where research grants and typographical errors can make or mar any aspiring scientist's career. Besides, I always thought science was something which was to be appreciated by the masses, and studied by few. Unfortunately, our country only seems to recognize scientists after they have won the Nobel Prize, or the Fields' Medal.
3. In spite of your observation that children are rarely allowed to mingle with members of the opposite sex, we are witnessing a deluge of teenage pregnancies. I think this results directly from the fact that children, teenagers and young adolescents have absolutely no exposure to ideas and experiences as to how to make friendships and healthy alliances with members of the opposite sex. Again, the onus rests on parents and adults in their families, but how do we change them?

I hope I have been able to articulate at least partly the issues which had been racing through my mind, ever since I can remember, and more strongly after reading this post of yours'. I will wait eagerly for comments, criticisms and suggestions from your side.
Thank you for making your readers think.
Yours' Faithfully,
Krishanu Chatterjee

Shilpi said...

To "Debasish Das from Geneva",
Just because you now are able to see Suvro da from a different angle - doesn't mean that he's the one who's changed or that he was any less closer to himself ten years ago. It probably just means that you can now see some glimpses of what you weren't able to earlier.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Ahem, Shilpi, you needn't get hot behind the collar: I didn't mind. But she's right, Debashis, you know. As a schoolboy who saw me only as a teacher on campus, you were hardly in a position to know very much about all my facets. Incidentally, I wrote something about what I had understood of the Buddha's message in 1994, and I can assure you that I haven't changed a whit since then, though I am admittedly a much more tired man now. But of course you grew up all through the '90s...

Part of my purpose behind writing this blog is to let old boys and girls know many things about me that they were earlier in no position to know. No fault of theirs. It helps to get a lot of them back to me with renewed interest.

And Krishanu, many thanks for the thoughtful comment. I shall reply to it presently.

avishek said...

Dear sir,
First, i would like to state you have wonderfully interwoven your blogpost on solitude with the empowerment of youth in our country. I agree with you – solitude is such a precious thing that people who do not have it really do not know what they are missing. I would go a step further to say that it is one of the vital qualitative factors needed to lead a good life. People who live in big cities know what price they have to pay for some precious moments of solitude. These people go to green resorts or resorts based on the theme of village life ( vedic village ) just to get some solace and peace in their lives – brief moments away from the hectic and mundane city life. These resorts charge you like anything for it. I sometimes wonder how lucky the people in our villages are – alas! they won’t be able to enjoy such a pleasure much longer – thanks to the economic growth story of India. With the government’s efforts towards urbanization of villages, whatever peace prevails there will soon go away. The problem with today’s youth is they do not understand the difference between being alone and being lonely. The second one to me is genuinely a problem and one should not get confused by these two separate things. Being alone is so crucial to think deeply about something, write good essays, or as you say – enjoy a good movie or a brief walk in the early morning. These are moments in life where one wants to be left alone to experience these things in the true sense of the term. Here, a companion is less desirable or irritating. Solitude is very much essential to understand oneself truly and know one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions or to figure out where one is going wrong and take corrective measures. In our constantly connected world of the internet, a new trend has come in – even if a person is alone in the house ie without friends nearby – he is connected with all his virtual friends online on facebook, twitter or myspace – some of whom he may not even have met personally. Our youngsters really do not know what exactly solitude means and hence gets confused. Ironically, ‘real solitude’ is only seen during exam time now-a-days when one locks up all doors and windows, logs off the net and devotes all attention to mugging up whatever notes one has at hand so that he can qualify successfully for the exam. So dire is the situation today!
Well, about empowerment – it’s better less is said about it. This word has been overhyped in the media and we frequently hear – “Young India, Empowered India”. But the question we all need to ask to ourselves – what does empowerment actually mean? – just getting good jobs and getting financially better? Is it so narrow a term to be used in such a way? In our country where 60% of our population is below the age of thirty-five, can the youth stand up and say they feel ‘empowered’? To feel empowered, the young people of our country first atleast need to think about whatever is wrong in our society and speak up or challenge the usual ‘normal’ course of things and not turn a blind eye to the unpleasant things. I remember, in a particular issue of a magazine named ‘Reader’s Digest’ – while discussing about this issue of empowerment, the magazine carried an interesting picture which i feel clearly portrays the present state of today’s younger generation in India – there was a picture of a young girl and from her head to toe, there was written only one seven letter word – FRAGILE. ( contd later )

avishek said...

( contd )
This clearly shows the dire straits our society is in at present. Does our youth stand up and fight corruption in the way they should do – the clear answer is no, instead we all accept it’s all a way of life, nothing important to raise any question or ever give it a serious thought. Somehow we all know subconsciously- it’s one man for himself – if something bad happens to me, rarely will we find someone to support us. I shall state a real life example – even if the auto-richshaw driver charges more fare than he should – most of the time, we are forced to succumb to the auto-driver’s demands and whims. People rarely come forward and take the courage to protest against such wrong doings and the fact that even if a braveheart comes forward, there are so few people to support him that his voice soon dies down. The only excuse people give is that they are so busy – ‘who wants to get into all these troubles’? In our heart, we shall all admit we are all helpless. The thing to be sorry for is that courage is not there in today’s youngsters. It is so easy to blame and curse but the real empowered individual is he who can get into the system and atleast take the first step to question the things as they are, even if they may be highly controversial. Rarely do the youth take responsibility for the things that they do and to me, empowerment means to have a change in our mindset and in the way we do things. Today, it is not very often that they come out in full support for a cause, especially where very important decisions which may affect several common peoples’ lives needs to be taken. Most prefer to remain silent and find it safe to build a career for oneself in a big investment bank. A sense of being united or a sense of belongingness is slowly dying in our society, no matter how much we shout ‘ JAI HO! UNITED INDIA’ on republic or independence day. So, the eternal rule of corrupt politicians and their politics of isolation and division goes on unabated in our country.
Avishek Mondal
( Student )

devdas said...

Bonjour! Suvro-da and Shilpi,
no hard feelings :)
I just wanted to say that we all grow and change, but change should be for good. I had different take of so called education and success which we were taught or rather asked to follow in Xavier's and Durgapur and both of you will agree that we had such parental pressure to achieve IITs/IIMs. I see no change still now even. I am glad that I do now in a small way what I liked and I thank Mrs. Malini Ramdas (orkut has a fan club now for her!) and my liking for physics was her initiation. I am grateful to her and Sir Roy who taught us mathematics.
It may seem weird to Shilpi (sorry if you are senior to me), but Xavier's lacked a sense of philosophy which I found much later in Santiniketan during my grad days. I do wonder these days and was even thinking today "what is success?" Is is just getting degrees, getting accolades for being rich or searching oneself or is it just a another man-made misnomer?
Suvro-da's recent blog writing takes me to one of Sri Lalan Fakir's memorable observations sung by Late Nirmalendu Chowdhury , "I was considered a wise man by the society UNTIL when I said I was searching GOD".....

more later,
debasish das.
PS: Had a tranquil evening by lake geneva :)

Mayuri said...

Like Shilpidi, I must say that I love how you connect the different elements in your post!
And I especially agree with you on the fact that "unless it is genuinely congenial company, you are much better off without it".
It amazes and disgusts me simualtaneously to see how most people (teenagers, young adults, middle-aged persons alike) are so uncomfortable in their own skin, and so at loss with their own selves that they constantly and desperately need distractions in their life. So many people associate with others they call friends, whereas in reality they can barely tolerate those people for more than 10mins.
I always knew that when you are living in a society with all sorts of people, you will have to deal with those you love and those you dont, and you just have to find your balance amongst it all. But these past years, as I have started seeing the adult world differently, and more closely -- I see that its not just the occassional annoying co-worker-that-you-have-to-be-nice-to who is invited to your get-together, but all most everybody at that party, that you call a "friend" is someone you dont like or at least, not like as much as you pretend to!
I wish people would understand that its okay to have a small number of friends, that its okay to want to commute by yourself (honestly, I dont want to hear you babble about your miseries first thing in the morning; I just want some quiet)and by no means, it is "weird" to spend Saturday night at home. At least, its way better than wasting the evening with a bunch of people you dont like, who dont really care about you either, and then coming home, popping in a Tylenol and then picking up the phone to call another dear "friend" only to complain about every single person at the gathering!
I honestly feel that many of our problems can be traced back to the fact that we are insecure and unhappy, almost scared of ourselves.

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

Wonderful post Suvro - very sophisticated and innovative thinking on contemporary issues.

The immense value of solitude and the ability to think, solve problems and positively contribute based on ones own intellectual abilities and hard work is disappearing or has been lost totally.

In the name of buzz like "collaborative", "communication" and of course "team work", "group effort" - a peculiar culture seems to have developed, which at work seems like this.

Spend most of the day talking to one or more people. Beats me, if one doesn't work in services like call centers, how does that lead to productivity? There's phone, cell phone, internet chat and what have you for this. Day starts with checking e-mail messages and right away getting into a cyber-grouping and discussion on 'happenings' of the day. Then comes physical contact at work - carrying on the chatting on what was chatted on, time for a group coffee - 'power coffee' if there's challenges in the horizon. More talk, discussion and collaboration. Then work proper, it's still a lot of chatting (oops brainstorming!) and cackling of people who can't function alone. There are hellish periods (never more than 10-15 mins) when people are pinned down to be quiet and 'work' on their own - ah, there's ways around that too. I talk to myself - "Subhasis has to do this and this is what he thinks, is this cool? Of course not ..." then I slap myself and do a bit of drama (can't be alone, need at least another me)- "Stupid, silly Subhasis". By now people around notice, ask what's going on and we have a group and party again! Then comes some meeting (one of at least two to three per day) - functioning in a group again.

Then lunch, also a group thing with lots of collaborative efforts. Post-lunch, meetings again. Then some group brainstorming on the meeting just held and what needs to be solved and achieved (what happened in the meeting then?). Most of these turn out to be distractions and a total waste of time. Day winds on, planning for the evening starts - which would involve continuation and successful completion of the assigned works in one of the guys places or a local pub, over some drinks of course.

Good Luck and Good Night.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I must say at this point that I am both surprised and disappointed to see that no comments have come in yet from Anirvan, Subhajit and Harman!

Subhajit said...


I would like to thank you for writing such a refreshing blog about my concerns. You have covered almost every key points I was looking for.

My take, after reading your blog, is that I should take ownership of things happening around me. This will help me to evolve as a better human being.



Asima said...

Thanks for this post. It was nice to see how you have integrated the three- apparently unrelated- topics. A few questions came to my mind but before that I would like to share an interesting conversation I was having with a friend of mine who has Indian roots but was born and brought up in the United States. She was telling me how she hated the idea of having maidservants coming to clean up the house everyday in India. Frankly, this phenomena is so common in my country that I have never given it a thought earlier. But, coming to think of it, I really do feel awful about all those days when I waited for somebody to come and clean up our mess! Its true as you have mentioned that in our part of the country doing the minimum household chores is not a part of a child/teenager's daily routine, at least that was the case with me.I strongly feel taking these small responsibilities at home becomes extremely valuable lessons for the future.

In your blog you have regretted about today's children missing out on a lot of things and that more or less parents are to be blamed for that. I do not know much about how young minds are thinking nowadays and am not in a position to comment on that. It really is alarming if they have stopped reading anything outside their 'syllabus'.However, when I grew up in the small city of Durgapur so many years ago, we did go to the same school, read the same books, giggled over the same kind of jokes, swooned over the same celebrities at a particular age and yet when I interact with them after so many years, I can see that though we were brought up in almost the same way, each of us are so different and unique in their own way. So, maybe, it will be the same with this generation of teenagers as well.
Lastly, I was a little confused about the lack of solitude in today's world. How do I teach my son to enjoy solitude? Nobody ever taught me, it just comes from within. I can direct him towards the good things in life and show him how much I enjoy them, I am sure a lot of parents do that but enjoying a few moments of solitude definitely comes from within.
Thanks again for the post!

Anirvan Choudhury said...

Respected Sir,

The delay I made to post a comment was because I was trying to discuss these issues with some of my friends(as usual we do not belong to the so called elite illuminati). What I gathered from them is that even a decade ago there existed a very fine divide between self reliant and "Paka". Somehow these days there is possibly no divide and we are trying to brand any attempt to self reliance as "paka" - "just do it and never ask why". All my male colleagues(no gender bias intended) complained that even if they try to implant a little sense of self reliance(or rather a sense of responsibility) in their wards - it is met with severe criticism and resistance from their better halves and even in-laws within the domestic ambit and by teachers in school. The kind of home assignments asked in the schools are of standards which are sometimes even difficult for the parents and are expected to be somehow completed by the parents mostly. But somehow every one of these children are highly tech savvy, glued to various gadgets. Their focus of enjoyment seem to lie mostly in finding employment in some MNC's or corporate house followed marriage to a trophy wife or hubby. Once in job, spend till you drop dead and if recession comes fall in depression and the cycle continues.

We are ourselves equally to blame for this dumb fiasco. Our parents never enjoyed the purchasing power that we do. Even if they had, they never used to show that to us. I remember what you told once - that you had to perform well in all subjects and all respect for the entire year to get yourself a story book of your choice. A television or a cycle used to come only if a NSC matured or after the Puja Bonus was received. So we were made to understand the value of hard earned money and hence maintained things with our heart. And how do we pamper our kids. We bring things to them even before they ask and so they neither recognize its importance nor appreciate its value. Ishwari patni in Annadamangal had asked "Amar shontan jeno thakey dudhe bhatey". Probably had he got the chance today, would have asked for "Amar shontan jeno thakey Mcdonald ar Shopping Mall e".

The "bliss of solitude" for us too seems a bit of luxury in their eyes. As if like a cyborg, every bit of my life is pre-scheduled mechanically. However, when it comes to the dedication and involvement in work place - well the lesser it is said is better else lot of our peers get bitter. A movie for them is just three hours of non stop nonsense and to be forgotten after leaving the hall or the couch as the case may be. Food must be from some grand place or must be dined at some star eatery(neighbours envy eaters pride?). A good time out should be some weird shopping mall where you have to spend an outstanding amount for not so outstanding gupchup and useless gazing at trash items with a huge discount label on them(and obviously of some dubious utility).

My first impression was that I was growing pessimistic and scornful with age - but it was rather surprising that a lot of us do feel the same way - only that they could not get those thoughts expressed in a proper forum.

Here comes another problem - we have seen the same problem of pessimism within our parental generation and beyond as well. Is it the same cycle that we are repeating in our own life too?

Awaiting some lights on this

Sincere regards,


Suvro Chatterjee said...

To Krishanu:
First, it is a most laudable thing for parents to want to give their children a good education. I think we both agree that the problem lies with the increasing narrowness, silliness, rigidity and impropriety of what is being regarded as 'education' these days: something designed to make millions of absolutely alike low-level technicians cum unthinking consumers of junk. Secondly, (and I think I address Avishek, Anirvan and Asima here, too), I only mean this as half a joke when I say that the world's future lies in children increasingly taking their lives in their own hands, 'Papa don't preach' style: as of now, parents know too little, care too little (except in the pampering and restrictive sense), and do far too much... thirdly, your last point actually is a very very sad reflection of how bad our parenting is. And our entire parent community is in silent, stony-faced denial! what 'light' can I throw on this, Anirvan? you have diagnosed the malaise well enough, and I can only hope, for your daughter's sake, that you will be a wise father. Instead of only complaining/lamenting, we as parents and teachers can at least try to do that much for the children in our care. One very important part of that wisdom, as Mayuri has pointed out, is to be brave enough to be different from the herd, in such matters as wanting to be alone now and then, and choosing to have a few good friends only rather than hordes of acquaintances mistaken as friends. Courage, it has been well said, is the mother of all virtues.

And Subhajit, the more you get rid of the cobwebs of management-jargon in your mind, the better you can think. That expression 'taking ownership of events around me' means precisely nothing, it's just gobbledygook substituting for thought.

Harman, I'm still missing you.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Subhashis, many thanks. Sorry to be late in getting back. Your comment deserves to be taken into account separately, it is that important. Since most of my readers are young people - many of them without any experience of the job scene yet - I'd ask them all to take note. This is what goes on in most workplaces around the world, exactly as Subhashis has described it: makes no difference whether you are in the US or in India, in the public sector or the private! Subhashis, like me, has been working for a long, long time now, so he should know. One of the many sins of parents in our country is that they rarely tell their children the truth about what passes for 'work', which is why I get a bad name for 'running down' parents. It sounds quite like school, doesn't it - where work/studies as a rule have the lowest priority, and there's a lot of make believe in the name of work? Job shirkers have gotten more and more sophisticated, that's all... alas, it's an unfair world, because everywhere some people have to get some real work done, while the others have fun watching them! And the best of workers always work alone, and get a bad name for being 'unsocial'!

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

ah Suvro, through your vast readings and immense experiences of life, you speak and write as if you had been there in the situations I am trying to explain.

In my previous job, I had to deal with a shirker (among the numerous I have to deal with time and again). The situation got so bad at one point that this guy got wild and out of control on the floor and started abusing and acting aggressive against me.

My 'mistake' was that I told him I'll be finishing the work that he doesn't seem to have the time for (actually, that he doesn't seem to be able to finish). But, taking over and finishing work rings a very scary bell of insecurity and that's what our man couldn't handle. Doesn't matter though that he would work on it forever without getting anything done.

The matter was 'resolved' by official procedures and means of course.

I have had to move on since then and at another job for two years now.

My 'friend' still lives and thrives at the same place :)

Shilpi said...

I read the article in one unbroken bit. I think I may ask my students to read this article along with Deresiewicz's essay - that's what they read the previous semester, thanks to you.

This is an interesting article, and a very important read. No doubt about that. Even though you've been saying the same and more since the time that I've known you (and that was, believe it or not, some 20 years ago). And not to take anything away from the things that he talks about - but I can't help wondering: does he really and absolutely know how deep the rabbit hole goes?.....

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I've no idea, Shilpi. Too many people these days sound wiser and smarter than they really are...! Let's wait for what others have got to say about this.