Yesterday, I read a short story ‘The Cut Off’ published in Brunch, Hindustan Times – the first ever by Chetan Bhagat. A young man’s story who wants to commit suicide just because he knows he hasn’t made the cut off of a highly sought after and reputed college even after scoring 92% in HSSC Commerce, just because he’s afraid he’ll disappoint his parents and others.
Familiar? Very familiar… in my small town school of Goa itself, 2 boys have committed suicide in the last 5 years. And not a day goes by when you don’t hear about it from someone or read it in the newspapers.
Expectations – the word itself has become a taboo, like a naked steel blade hanging inches over your neck, perennially reminding you of the price you’ll pay for failure. And not just any failure, a failure combined with guilt of breaking your parent’s heart!
And academics isn’t the only issue here…
No – it’s the clothes you wear, the friends you have, the time you come home…
It’s the career you choose, why commerce? Why not Science?
Creative arts? That's so risky... do you think it's easy? Just do MBA!
It’s the person you choose for your life… she’s from the other cast???
Why do you want to adopt? I only want biological grandchildren.
Maybe I’m biased. But at 23, I still find it very exhausting to try and keep up with my parent’s outlook. Being a fiercely independent individual is like a curse.
Let’s just go back a few months, when pressure started building on me, it took its toll. I would burst out at every opportunity, blaming my parents and the world around for their over-expectations. I have a few friends who do the same.
My mum asked me, “You say we expect too much! But is it wrong for us to want to see our kids succeed and do well in life?” I understand it's normal for parents to expect from kids, a person to expect from spouse, a friend from another friend. But how much is too much? When does it stop being caring and start coming in way of relations? Don’t we need to keep a track of that as well??
Up until a few years ago, any expectations from my parents were only a chance for me to prove that I was the best daughter in the world. No matter what they put on my shoulders, I deftly carried it through. I was always a brilliant kid and the expectations only kept mounting.
But ever since I got into CA, any expectations began to be a burden, a put-down. I couldn’t understand, was it because of the already demanding profession or was it that I just grew out of the age where I would do anything to please Mommy and Daddy.
I’m not used to disappointing my parents, but lately that’s all that I seemed to be doing. And I always carried a façade of superficial strength, and that started breaking through too. For me, it feels like I have reached the ‘crossroads’ where its more important for me to find myself apart from them, but how do I explain it? I’ve come so far walking on a path somebody else showed me, that lately all I do is look back and wonder. And I’m confused, because I do not know if there’s a path left to choose from here or even the courage to do so.
I don’t know when its time for me to live for myself… whether that means anything at all?
The Monk who sold his Ferrari states, ‘The secret to happiness is simple. Find out what you truly love to do and then direct all your energies towards doing it’. Personally, I’ve always believed in it. But I also know that freedom of choice isn’t an easy virtue. There’s always the fear of breaking someone’s heart when you make the detour on their path of expectations; but an even bigger fear of losing yourself if you keep riding along.
You’ll always have the world telling you what’s best for you, your parents included. But finally it comes down to the choices we make…. the choices that define us… the choices that make or break us - the choice to take a stand or commit suicide, the choice to believe in yourself and surge ahead or quietly follow somebody else’s footsteps. Finally it does come down to this… whether or not we have the courage to break through expectations, whether or not you have the courage to define yourself!
Link to the short-story by Chetan Bhagat 'The Cut Off' : http://www.hindustantimes.com/thecutoff