Man Proposes, God Disposes

N. Arunkumar *

Parents have traditionally strived hard to provide the best they can for their child's development and better future. It is a universal trend that is reflected in every human race on the planet. In the contemporary world however, the parameters of desires and dreams have changed drastically, due to the enhanced level of competition in every sphere of human activity today.

Children these days are subjected to pressures that were absent in previous generations of human evolution, thereby making them pursue their goals in situations that we commonly call as 'pressure cooker syndrome'. Many youngsters break down in the course of such mad race, deviating from the desired course and often hitting the drug and alcohol trail, due to the pressure exerted on them for academic distinction.

Frustration sets in on their life canvas and, like a painter looking on at a mishmash of colors and strokes that make no sense except confusion, calls it modern art. Modern art reflects life, as it is intangible in every sense. Life too, is abstract and it is difficult to allocate an infallible formula to achieve desired goals easily. It does not allow anyone the liberty to be absolutely sure of their chosen paths or what will be the outcome of a chosen path either.

Like Robert Frost's observations in his famous poem 'The Road Not Taken', wherein he regrets his inability to travel as one explorer on many paths at the same time, and appreciating that he would recall his decision of choosing the path he chose, towards the end of his journey on the planet, with a deep sigh, of happiness or sorrow as the case may be.

Life is a gamble and, all of us are gamblers who frequently defy fate. Sometimes, a bet is won and at other times it is lost. And, not one gambler can say that he has found the perfect recipe to win every time he ups or downs his stake in a game. Moreover, the success rate in every crazy race is miniscule, if we equate it with the multitudes of human beings running the same race simultaneously.

For example, if you walk into any classroom of students today and ask them what they wanted to achieve in life, about ninety percent would monotonously respond that they want to become doctors, and the rest would babble something about doing something absolutely unique, mostly unheard of by the others in the same class.

Yet, not all of them will reach the finish line of a race at the same time or at the same speed. There will forever be the story of the hare and the tortoise that will return to haunt them, now or later, indisputably.

Parents must accept this fact, and then learn to exercise careful control over their own unfulfilled dreams which they often broaden on to their children. They tend to command more from their children, often due to the fact that they themselves had not achieved entirely what they had set out to achieve initially. In fact, many parents had not even known what they had wanted from life when they began their quest in the race of life.

How many parents can claim that they had a master plan for their life's course and that they had achieved a major portion of their master plan's desired results? I shall recount an amusing case of a parent here, who wanted her son to be the first in everything he did, which translates to wanting her son to be first at all times, in academics and strangely even in his school roll number.

So, she tried to ensure that her son would be allotted roll number 1, even though he did not deserve it either by nomenclature or academic excellence. She innocently declared to the school authorities that she was planning everything for her son to be number one in every sphere of his life.

Comically, in one instance a school even went to the extent of accommodating her son's penchant for the number one spot, by creating a funny system of having a roll number that read as 1 (A), as the roll number 1 had already been allotted to another student. The teachers of that school looked as bemused as anybody while explaining the technical mess up, to the adamant and stubborn mother about this unique numbering system.

This was a few years ago, when the son was still in his kindergarten stages and lower primary classes. A few years down the line, he is now in his sixth year of schooling and academically or otherwise he is nowhere in the roster of brilliant candidates of his school. Moreover, he has taken on an arrogant nature that reflects his upbringing of getting whatever he wanted, as a matter of right, and has become bulkier in physical structure too, perhaps as an outcome of being fed with the choicest foods that have added to his calories and made him almost obese, in the ordinary sense of the word.

His mother's master plan has probably backfired on her face, and I can see that young boy now, moving around in a company that is beyond his age and in which he should not be in. That complicates the matter further and upsets the grandiose plans she had for her little darling at the beginning of his journey in life.

The peer pressure on children moving around with boys above their ages, are different and create a mental disparity in them which results in abnormal social behavior, ultimately. In fact, I have a feeling that the mother has suddenly realized that her son is now a stranger even to her at times, though she is not the type who will accept this fact publicly. Her dreams of making her son 'numero uno' in all spheres of his life lie in ruins right before her eyes today, I know. In just a few years, mind you.

It is not long ago that he was in his nappies, and is now wearing pants of the latest trends. A case of plenty in the face of a few, you might say. I remember the story of Arthur Miller, the great author who was once requested by a millionaire to make his son a writer. The millionaire wanted his son to be a great writer like Miller, and requested that his son be taken on as an apprentice with him. Miller, in his own style, said that he would be glad to help the millionaire, but first he should lend his son a dollar and ask him to go around the world with it.

The millionaire was aghast and annoyed, and also felt that Miller had ridiculed him by wanting to force his son to move around in the world, almost like a beggar. He could afford to send him around the world as many times as he wished, ensconced in all kinds of luxuries. When the millionaire told Miller this, he calmly replied that in that case he could forget the dream of his son becoming a writer at all and asked him to stop dreaming the impossible.

The budding millionaire writer was nipped in the bud, by the wisdom of Miller. It is a strong message for all those parents who think that they can engineer ideal human beings out of money and luxury at their disposal. It is impossible to do that. The contrasting nature of life and times of each individual is such that it defies all theoretical parameters designed by society or parents. It proves the time tested adage, 'Man proposes, but God disposes' more than aptly.

Yet, there are parents who refuse to accept the inevitable and continue to exert undue pressure on their children to live the dreams which they could not live themselves. It was not to be, does not find favor with most parents. 'Quay Sera, Sera', is a beautiful song that further substantiates this point of mine. However, it does not mean that they should not dream altogether or discontinue doing what is needful to ensure that their children do not end up as failures in the game of life.

They must do all that they can to safeguard the interests of their children and their families, but, they should not forget that the final outcome will depend on the machinations of fate, that mystifying entity which plays havoc in the life of each individual.

I dedicate this piece to the soul of a young sixteen year girl child, who recently committed suicide when her instructor and her mother also, reprimanded her for not scoring high marks in her school internal examinations. The police have held the instructor in custody, for chastising her, as they had to have a scapegoat at least, to exhibit that they were doing something to put the blame on someone in a social order that we had created to judge ourselves.

The marks craze has gone beyond limits often and has taken many lives, and so it is a welcome sign that the incumbent education minister is taking measures to terminate this pattern altogether. I have seen parents, like the one mentioned above, who are even now running like maniacs in the mad race for marks for their children in the kindergarten and primary classes with no idea of what lies in store for their precious darlings, a few years down the line. Their over shielding attitude will continue till their children shed off their innocence and begin to develop character traits of their own, which will often be much diverse to their parents' current outlook.

When the reality of it all will hit them, it will be at that moment when they will have to accept the fact that their young child has almost become a stranger to them. It is then that the stark fact will dawn on them that a bolt of lightning had struck them somewhere in the past, but they were blind to the ominous signs at that time. Hence, I appeal to all to prepare to write an obituary to the marking system forever and instead give the children a better chance at life on the basis of his or her actual abilities.

The details of this pattern need to be technically worked out to suit children according to their real talent, rather than one that is merely based on predetermined human formations. We need really endowed persons to bear the responsibilities of our tomorrows in doctors, engineers, scientists, politicians and even support staff to these professions.

By the way, Manipur is not in this scheme of things at the moment due to the education process remaining derailed by various elements from within the society. For our children, God alone knows what lies in store.

* N. Arunkumar contributes regularly to The writer can be contacted at hareedesiree(at)hotmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on October 18th, 2009.

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