Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Road Less Travelled








Pic Courtesy: Facebook




The world, it seems, is bombarded with negative news emanating from all around. If the morning newspaper doesn’t make your gut wrench, the evening news on television will make you throw up. So I decided to trawl the net and look for positive happenings.

I read about Manish Bharadwaj, an award winning engineering graduate from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, who also holds a PhD degree in wireless technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

What comes to mind when you read about him?

Most would imagine that Manish works for a big multinational, lives in a metro and drives a luxury sedan. But Manish has broken away from the stereotypes. He is currently camping in Samastipur district of Bihar and busy eradicating Tuberculosis form the nearby villages. Ensuring medical facilities for the poor and impoverished is the aim of his organization called ‘Innovators of Health’.Report


Admirable though it is, I was wondering why Manish decided to abandon a cushy lifestyle and opted to camp in remote Bihar. True, many professionals armed with foreign degrees decide to follow their passion. But that often happens after completing family responsibilities and securing a safe future.

As I was reading the article, I thought of a friend who is psyching her daughter to aim for the top colleges in the US and Europe. The girl is yet to complete her high school but the long term plan is ready. Nothing wrong with it at all. Well planned is half done. Armed with reputed degrees, children make informed choices. However I am not sure how my friend will react if her daughter emerges from a reputed American University and decides to take up a social cause in a remote area, unrelated to her studies.

What if my son decides to do the same?

At one level, I would be proud his contribution to the society. But on another, safety and health would be big concerns. After spending stressful months outside coaching institutes, running around counseling sessions, sweating over the choice of college and writing applications, it won’t be easy to send my child to a disease infested remote area. The thought, " If social service was his calling, why did he waste time and energy pursuing engineering," will trouble the mind.

Perhaps it is important to not push ideas but aim to raise responsible strong individuals who can freely choose careers and life paths. With the backing of a strong educational background, experimenting with new ideas becomes easy.
Passion and money may not always go hand in hand. We do not go to work only to pursue passion. One needs money to pay the bills, buy food and rear a family. How much is enough is the question. However pursuit of money may not always lead to happiness. At the end of the day, it’s all about loving your work. Its all about how you define success. And it is all about that elusive feeling called ‘happiness’.

There is no putting a price on it, is there?

If happiness comes from alleviating poverty in remote Ethiopia, so be it.

54 comments:

  1. Excellent post. Parents often chalk out a career for their kids without considering what makes the child happy. They mean well of course, but at the end of it all, nothing matters except happiness :)

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  2. I am often asked the question from my near and dear ones... Seeing me and my husband's spiritual bend of mind, we are asked 'why know, why not wait, what if your son decides to be a sanyasi' Yes it is difficult to walk the talk, We can applaud when someone takes the offbeat path but if one's own does the same, it is difficult to digest
    But then as you rightly said, it all about loving your work.
    My reply to all those who ask me the above question,'if that is what qives him happiness then I will not be a roadblock

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    1. One has to let go after providing a solid educational background.

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  3. I can so relate to this post, Alka! In my life, I have put what is most important for my happiness way above money and a cushy lifestyle. I now work professionally after a sabbatical of many years but strictly on my terms and still placing my children and family as the number 1 priority. Like you say, it is our education that allows us to make informed choices. I am glad I made one. My husband did the same too. And, when the time comes, I sure hope that my sons will be allowed to make theirs. I love the initial quote from Dalai Lama. We need to step back and think a bit. All this competition, money and chasing success is doing untold damage to our society. It is time we unlearnt some things.

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    1. Agree Rachna. I loved the quote too, hence the post. We chase what we value. It takes strong conviction to ignore the worldly comforts and work for the underprivileged.

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  4. Noble thought. But I am afraid most parents, well intentioned though they may be, are also too interfering in their children's lives. Especially in India. That may be because they have too many of their own dreams and aspirations riding on them. And also perhaps because we are a very risk averse society.

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    1. Yes, most of us like to take the safe, tried and tested route. Perhaps it was this guys educational background which emboldened him to follow a different path.

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  5. if only parents consider the best for the child is not what the ywant but what the child wants ..

    but i think nowadays things are improving

    Bikram's

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    1. Yes, things are changing. And after a certain age, a child is a free bird. They listen to their heart. Parents take a back seat.

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  6. Thank you for sharing something good, everywhere there is so much of darkness; shooting kids in school, rapes and lady pushing man just because she hates Hindus and Muslims.

    You are bang on when you said, 'it is all about loving your job or what you do'. We should respect people like Manish, at least they have the courage to pursue their passion.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

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    1. I have tremendous respect for the guy.
      Happy New Year to you and family Saru.

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  7. Exactly ! It is all about that elusive feeling called 'happiness'. What I feel is, people put in all their effort in assembling the ingredients required for the ultimate happiness. But by the time they are done with that, it becomes too much to reach out for happiness.

    The other day, I was talking to a young cousin of one my close friends. This lad accidentally found out that his hobby of playing billiards was actually a special talent. As of now, he has qualified among the only two places in his state to compete at the national level. But the catch is, he is in his first year of M.Tech. And the most he can practice playing is upto two hours, that too on alternate days. While most billiards players practice upto ten hours daily. In his words, in India, you 'have' to study no matter what.

    The problem with our society has been that people are judged according to their educational level and by the amount of money they earn. It doesn't matter if a person is professionaly happy with what he or she does. Things are changing for the better, even though very slowly.

    Glad to see such a positive post from you right at the start of the new year. I wish a very positive year to you, your family, your readers and everyone around. :-)

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    1. Wish you a very Happy New Year Shobhit.
      It was the quote of Dalai Lama which made me write this post. True, we value success in terms of money and fame. In fact a lot depends on how one defines the word 'success'.

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  8. Alka,

    I would like to add only two points, first being that parents should let the child decide what career he or she wants as per own aptitude and liking. Second that when one love what he or she is doing it does not become a tiring job.

    Take care

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    1. True.
      After a certain age, children listen to their heart.
      Wish you and your family a very Happy New Year.

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  9. Nothing could be more satisfying than pursuing a dream and children need to be taught to dream and pursue their passion. This is the only way to excel:)Best wishes to you and your family Alka for the New Year and beyond!

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    1. It is all about personal satisfaction, Rahul.
      Thank you for the wishes.Wish you and your family a Very happy healthy New Year.

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  10. Those are some hard truths put in a frank, searching tone. Yes, Happiness is a state of mind.

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    1. It all depends on how one defines the word 'success'.

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  11. It is for the parents to give children all the exposure needed so that they can make an iformed decision about their career and then prop them up financially to assist them achieve it. Beyond that one has to let go.

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    1. Finances are a big concern. Not easy to ignore them.

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  12. As parents all we can do is provide our children with the best opportunities but the choices they makes should be left to them. Sounds simple but so tough to implement :-)

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  13. Absolutely.
    I would suggest every parent to go and watch the movie...3iDiots

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    1. This boy Manish is a real life character. He is not only pursuing a passion like photography but working with sick and the poor.

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  14. ultimate happiness comes from doing the things u enjoy doing :)
    Sad reality is that many youth, I'll include myself in that, get overwhelmed by the feeling of responsibility n security... Wish one day we all will be able to get over it like Manish !!

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    1. Not easy. Perhaps its the insecurity.

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  15. I also believe that happiness is more important than success!

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    1. But how does one let go of material comforts? Financial security?

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  16. Raising responsible, respectful kids is more important as parents. Empowering the child to make informed decisions about his career is important too. Easier said than done, but still that is way it should be done! :)

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    1. In this case, there are other issues too...like why study wireless technology and excel in it if social service was the calling.

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  17. To me the hardest part was accepting that my hopes and ambitions for them weren't necessarily theirs; that they were independent, free thinking humans who would resist my trying to channel their actions; that all we parents could do after they were adults was hope we'd instilled the right values in them; and that they knew we'd always be there if and when they needed us.

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    1. True. But what if they spend time and money on technical degrees and then move on to social service? Parents will have to accept and respect the choice but it wont be easy.

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  18. There are too many things to ping in this article of yours here :)
    "Why did you do engineering if you were to do this" is the question that has been put up more than "what is your name" for me :P I guess any stream of education is not meant to give you say, some details of that discipline like how the aircraft is designed ( in my case ) but an attitude. An ability to look at given thing from a different perspective. So, if I am an engineer I would expect myself to be good with details. If I am a sociology graduate, I would expect myself to look at things from a holistic perspective and not so much about the micro-issues. So, the degree does not ,and it should not, define the student- rather it should be the other way round. I find my education in Aerospace engineering ( however little I did actually study ) not quite in disconnect with what I am into these days...

    I personally do not know much about secure future, and having a second option. But I guess most of the people do that. No idea why :) If I am confident about doing something, why bother wasting energy in planning for something else.

    I would have to appreciate the efforts of parents Manish has. They must have been very supportive while he has gone on to do such great things. We need people like him.
    And am sure, you will be 'happy' in what Gautam comes to do !
    By the way, Ethipia :) That is one fine choice :)

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    1. I wanted to hear your views here. Agree that a degree should not define a person. And we are all entitled to take time to realize what we really want to do. Also education, in any field is always an asset.
      But what do think about wasting an engineering seat if social service was what one wanted?

      I am not sure it is easy to give up financial security for many of us. Perhaps we are too insecure.Perhaps it is futile to run after more money than you need. But then who decides how much money we need. There are many questions. Todays TOI supplement has a good article on the same topic.
      Ethiopia might be a fine choice for some but there are others who only aim to land in Europe or US. It all depends on how one wishes to lead his/ her life. Personal choices.

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    2. By Ethiopia, I meant that the country needs people who can change things there. Its quite an opportunity for someone who wants to do something big there :) But as you said, it is a matter of personal choice...

      Amassing wealth or having a secure job is basically about the same thing- the insecurity within. The thought that "what if something goes wrong tomorrow". And, if I have my lessons right, it is the lack of confidence in oneself that gives birth to insecurity. So, I guess someone who is supremely sure about what he/she is involved in, there is no need of any security as such. Even if plans do not work out, there always is something that fellow can hop onto and start working magic again- or, maybe this is what I want to believe :P

      Since this is not an interview of sorts, I would admit that yes, it would be a waste of seat. But since people in our country are not aware of career choices, nor everyone has parents who knows things- I guess such mistakes happen. I am a product of such situations myself. But "what one wants to do" is a question that does not come easy. Its sort of like an experiment. You have some failed attempts and only then, if you are lucky, you get to know what you really want to do. I mean most of the world does not even bother about this :)

      That said, I also think that one should strive for an integrated knowledge base. And although our country does not have the resources, education should be about exploration rather than compartmentalisation. I mean expecting engineers only to make ships and not start a political party, is like expecting a girl just to be a housewife and nothing else. Its the same isolated approach : do what you are trained for, else its all a waste.

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    3. Apologies for the grammatical mistakes Ma'm. Lost patience and published without revising. Still make mistakes :(

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    4. Agree with most of what you say. One needs to experiment with ideas before realizing what is best.

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  19. Tapping into a different or an unconventional stream goes a little hard on parents. I realized it when I started writing instead of conducting some mechanics experiments, my mother's first reaction was; "Wha..! Sigh!".

    The sad thing is that the realization or inclination towards a specific activity comes to us in college. Perhaps because the expose leads to fascination or peers praising something which you thought was never your thing.

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    1. True. Opting for a hobby like writing or a sport is understandable if one has a strong financial background. But opting for social service in villages after engineering or a PhD from Harvard is rare. Laudable though.

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  20. Thanks for this post:-) It comes at a point in my life, when I am nearing the end of my post-graduation. I have three roads ahead of me: Get a job, study further or abandon everything and work for an NGO I want to. Its an excruciating experience to have to make a choice considering finances/future prospects etc.

    But all said and done, what you study definitely shapes your choice in what you do and works as a back-up plan after all, if all else fails!

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    1. Oh dear. I guess, one has to weigh the factors of financial security, mental peace and family acceptance before taking any decision.

      Hope it all works out for you.

      Best of Luck.

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  21. I think parents are always scared for their children but I guess the idea is to advice them and let them choose their own paths.
    Most of us still do not know what they want to do in their lives. It is a very complicated question and the answer comes after many attempts.

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    1. Parents are scared about financial security, health and social acceptance.
      Very few find their true calling and are able to balance family, finances and passion.

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  22. I think kids/students after studying in very prestigious institutions get that air of confidence in them to live life in their own terms...It is definitely hard hitting on the parents though...I am not sure how I will react if my 22 yr old says he is giving up his IIT degree to do social service..that would definitely be a proud moment, but is it so easy to accept in reality? I doubt!!

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  23. Wish u a very happy new year! and this post is right on the money...hope to see more ppl like Manish around. And for this to happen parents need to trust their children. I know its not easy...but we got to let ppl take their own decisions.

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  24. It is not easy, but it can be done. It has been done by us. We might die a thousand deaths, we might chew our nails off, but it can be done - should be done, if we really love our children.

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    1. True. Not easy but can be done. Its all in the mind.

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  25. Hope its not too late in the year - Happy new year Alka!

    I salute this guy, it must be a tough but freeing decision for him. Happiness today is me and hubby with our bootstrapped startup - which means less movies at the theatre, less eating out, reusing things, no TV, no bed or wardrobe, etc!!! BUT, we've found happiness in those little shared moments of life :)

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    1. Happy New Year dear.Good wishes are never late.
      I have to salute you for such awareness. Its not easy to walk the talk.

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  26. Great Post! I know it is very important to have a balance of things..But in the end one should do things that keeps us happy… be it money or passion

    love
    http://www.meghasarin.com

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    1. True, thank you for stopping by Megha.

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