Million Dollar Question for millennials today

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What is the one question that you were asked innumerable times as soon as you learned language – by every uncle and every aunt, by your parents and grandparents, by all the neighbourhood, by every single soul who was aware of your existence? Any guesses? Well, that million dollar question was – what do you want to become when you grow up? And though it was not announced, it was an objective type question. Choices were limited: a) IAS officer, b) Lawyer/doctor/engineer, c) Professor/lecturer/teacher, d) Chartered Accountant. Creative pursuits were a strict no-no.

And it is this question that haunts us all our life – what is the purpose of my life? I wanted to be a pilot. This was when I was in Grade 4 Joining the army was my next interest as my father had served as an army doctor. And then, it was no longer my choice. I was expected to be a doctor, just like my father. But I am not. I am a Computer Science graduate, and MBA. But even these were not my choices. What is surprising is that this scenario persists till date.

But there are exceptions too.

For this, let me share a story with you. It is a report from Khaleej Times dated 8th June 2017 Varshil is 17 years old and from a middle class Jain family in Ahmedabad. He has scored 99.9% marks in class 12 exams. His parents are Income Tax officers and respect his decision for further pursuits in life. And can you guess what that is? He plans to take dikshya – a religious ceremony that marks the initiation of Jain monks or nuns. His calling in life is to be free of all callings, all worldly ties.

So this can be the extent of freedom of choice. It is not necessary that the purpose of life is related to studies. But that does not mean education is not required. Education of any kind never goes waste. When I tell the doctor that I have constant wheezing and sneezing and a permanently blocked nose, he tells me it is “sinusitis, a permanent inflammation of the mucus membrane of the respiratory system due to low immunity of the body.” I am able to understand this because I studied Biology. So you see, knowledge never hurts. On a serious note, education gives us a rational and logical mind. Shouldn’t we know that when a girl is born, it is not the mother’s fault; it is the father giving the X or Y-chromosome. There are certain illnesses which are actually considered stigmas in society like AIDS and mental illnesses. Only with education, we get the power of understanding right from wrong.

I go for yoga classes. Our yoga teachers come from all backgrounds. They are of all ages – including girls and boys as young as 18 or 20 The qualification they have to teach us is not any graduation or post-graduation or a PhD. It is a rigorous training programme of 8 months’ duration. In the class, they are our gurus, having the same respect. So you see, it is not necessarily a degree that earns you respect. It is what you do with it, or without it. It is the experience of getting education that matters more.

There is an abundance of opportunities and loads of information. Parents have to be guides, not shepherds. Children have to be explorers, not followers. So let them look around and try out everything. To achieve their purpose in life, they have to work very hard, but it is equally important for them to take care of their physical, mental and spiritual health. Eat well, sleep well and don’t let them sacrifice their hobbies and their leisure time. Let them decide what they want from life.

And, don’t worry. What is meant will eventually come to you as Paulo Coelho says, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

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