“Are you pursuing your dream?”, “What is it that you want from life?” – If you are a 20 something Indian, are these the questions coming your way from people around you? Instead, are you being asked a different question – “When are you settling down (read getting married)?” Probably the later question is more common, and if you are a woman, you get this question much more often and much earlier, than your male counterpart.
Should our society make us feel guilty if we wanted to pursue our dreams, take an off beaten track, explore our true potentials, take some risks? Are we pushed to follow societal deadlines in every phase of our lives? Does it feel like we always have an age clock and a set of “social expectations” dangling above our head?
Well, people who ask the “settling down” question need to understand why it is difficult for a “20 something” to answer this. “I am not sure” – is the answer you mostly get, and the young person actually means this. Because he/she is “not sure”, and there is a lot to “figure out” – it could be the aspiration to pursue further studies, settling into the right career, travel to new locations, and of course the finances. On top of all this, one would not have found the right person to commit to a long-term relationship. So, give him or her a break!
Quite often the question comes out of concern – “If you delay then you wouldn’t find a person.” This is probably true in a society where everyone is succumbing to the same pressure. Well, if you thought this was the end of deadlines, wait once you get married – the next deadline would be on having a baby. The concern here is – “You know the biological clock is ticking”.
Honestly – the question that someone genuinely concerned should really ask is “Are you ready for a long-term relationship?” and “Are you ready to take up the responsibilities of parenting?”. And those who are not genuiniely concerned shouldn’t even ask, respecting the individual’s personal space.
Now, where does all these deadlines leave us as a society? If you look at the level of economic participation by women in our country, we are ranked 124th (towards the bottom of the 136 countries listed in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Index). This does not prove the incapability of the Indian women, but the incapability to prove her capability. The social deadlines and timelines that she succumbs to, does not allow the girl with a dream to discover her full potential. You would also see the side effects when these smart women becomes moms. Some of them unknowingly start pursuing their dreams through their children – pushing their kids to all activities possible and putting pressure on their kids to be winners irrespective of the child’s capabilities. Check the bournvita ad – it almost feels like the mom is getting the kid ready for a war.
The situation of the men isn’t a lot better. They get a lot of push back if they want to take the off beaten track for pursuing their passion, rather than getting into a secure company job in their late 20s. And once they settle down the family way with additional responsibilities and expectations – of buying a house, car and whatever is part the society’s norms of an affluent life, his desire to fulfill his passion is killed forever.
As a nation we can achieve a lot more if we let individuals live and fulfill their dreams. Taking our dreams seriously and the desire to fulfill isn’t stupidity. Allow individuals to take a few risks/fail and learn in the whole process. It’s always good to fail than to have never tried. And if you haven’t fulfilled your dream, please don’t push the heavy baggage of your dreams onto your kids – let them nurture their own.
This needs to be our FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT – The freedom to pursue one’s dreams, exploring one’s potentials and not being judged for doing so. This would make us a society of more fulfilled & happier individuals who lead the country towards the path of true growth.