Growing up in Pakistan, for any child, is far from easy. Having experienced the complex process myself, I like to think that my experiences have taught me enough to construct this piece. “Dreaming” is the easy word here. A child encounters a fair bit of hurdles even to dream.
Even before they name their child, most of the parents have already stamped their child with some sort of future occupation. Most of stamps have future Doctors, Army Officers or Engineers written all over them. By the time he or she barely starts doodling, a school at the end of street (in most cases) is ready to recruit the 2.5 to 3 year old. This is not the end of it as there has to be a post school academy to learn ABC all over again for kindergarten students. I doubt if during all this, there’ll be anyone asking them what “they want to do” in the true meaning.
The struggle to get first position continues till middle school with little sports and co-curricular activates here or there. There is a continuous focus on which rank our child is securing in his class. Mind you the burden of stress has yet to be unleashed on him, as then comes the most pivotal and life determining time: the 4 years of matriculation and intermediate.
Everything around you starts to shrink. Everyone gets a right to tell you how important your time is. Thinking or talking about your interests other than those 8 subjects of your board exams is thought as a sin. Sports become a criminal act in most cases. You have to study quantitatively. Quality can go jerk of in western society (we just have to score 550 out of 500 marks). No wonder Pakistan hasn’t won any Olympic medal since 1996 despite being the sixth most populous country. The reason is evident as the heavy majority of the youth is either focused on those mere 8 books in their most agile years or is imprisoned at home by parents to focus. After all they have to become Engineers or Doctors so they can lead a happy life afterwards. Okay enough of rants, fast forward 4 years. We have people opting for various careers and society reacting to it.
“My son got into medical school; I’ll distribute meethai in the whole neighbourhood. Congratulation calls and letters will flow in. Friends will be proud of you. You’ll feel like you have earned your Olympic gold that, at one stage in life, might have made you drool”
“Got into reputable Engineering or Computing University. Ahan good going man! You have made your family proud, You’ll live a happy life.” Although I am not sure if a guy, who wanted to be a music composer, would really be happy solving those difficult algorithms.
“I have been selected in army. I’ll have people saluting me all the time. Best facilities in country. I’ll have to move though. I hate travelling. Other than that dream comes true but I hope I don’t get posted to Siachin”
“Chartered Accountant!! Woah! Great field, it guarantees a life full of cash and numbers.” Good luck in passing all the difficult exams though.
“Business subjects are ummm well okay in some cases but in most cases that necessarily means that you failed to get admission elsewhere other than arts of course and of course you’re branded as a failure by most of our good for nothing commentators. But well umm you people won’t die of hunger”
“A career in sports? Are you mad or what?! How will you earn? Do you plan to live off of your parents for rest of your life? One in millions reach top, leave it! You are way out of your senses. (In case if someone has somewhat secure option) What will happen once you retire?”
“Wanna be an artist? Waila rehna ha?” Add the reservations of religious commentators to it and it’ll be as difficult climbing Nanga Parbat. You won’t be respected in society. Some religious extremist might even stamp some fatwas against you so you better get your head straight
All these ‘conventional’ careers are fine if one actually wants to study them.
But But But For those who had their passions and dreams elsewhere, these professions could be miles away from the idea they like to pursue. The effort of convincing your mind to start liking the idea of pursuing the career is no less than walk through hell. They might be the disgraced ones in society because of their so called lack of ambition. It is difficult and I have seen most of my age groups surrendering to these mafias and not listening to their heart. They’ll try to get that top acceptable gig, otherwise they’ll settle for the next secure thing according to society.
So that leaves a very minute percentage (Negligible actually) who might listen to their heart and pursue their dreams. Maybe that is why we have a total of zero medals in Olympics for last 20 years. Our engineers are jobless. Our doctors are on roads begging for pay increase. Our lawyers are protesting every day. Maybe because as a nation we have only acknowledged a few occupations as respectable and that’s why the brighter lot only pursues those. The rest goes to the posts that are left. They might be brilliant to begin with but now they won’t be half of their brilliant self. Dented self-confidence damaged mental strength and a lot of question marks over their ability and limits.
I hope that one day our paradigms will take another road. Our thinking will change and we’ll respect everyone’s dreams. People will pursue their passions and their work will become fun for them. That will lead this nation to endless prosperity, as success comes after all the components of a country are top notch. We’ll see the Pakistani flag flowing in all fields of life.