This is a post I wrote last placement season then forgot all about it. This year the incidents that motivated me to write this post raised its heads again and led to the publishing of the post finally! Please note this post refers to people I know personally.
I have noticed a phase in life that some young men in Kerala go through! I have termed this phase “Residual Romanticism”. Someone who read the draft of this post tells me that this is Quixote Complex. But then I am no psychoanalyst, so I will stick to the terminology that came to my mind when I first observed this phenomenon.
Residual romanticism can be observed in guys and to a lesser extent girls in their late teens and can last up to their mid twenties. It is a phases of angst and restlessness and rebellious thoughts against the predictable march of life. The phase sets in during final year of college or maybe earlier for some. Typical symptoms are talk about boredom and or unsuitability with their professional course or jobs and a restlessness to pursue something more ‘meaningful/suitable’. Definition of ‘meaningful’ not known to these restless folks. Some people start feeling restless from day one on the job. Some during training. Some for years after that. All of them feel trapped in their present roles by circumstances beyond their control.
“Residual romanticism” is nothing but the residues of wonder and awe that are evoked in childhood when these young men were younger and read or heard about the exploits and achievements of heroes, conquerors, Formula one stars, Sport stars, famous investigative journalists, social workers, advertising legends etc. All of us have gone through this stage. Including me. We read or hear about these achievers and want to be like them when we grow up. Most of us outgrow this stage as we mature into people who can appreciate that these achievers were extraordinary people. However some young men do not outgrow those wonder year dreams and reality, like college and a job comes as a bitter boring pill to swallow. They think that they are cut out for a more illustrious future than coding or marketing or whatever! They feel that the “real them” was sacrificed at the altar of their parent’s desire for their economic security.
They are sure they could have made it big as writers, sportsmen, painters or musicians. This leads to restlessness and a feeling of extreme disappointment. They sit in cubicles and wonder why they cannot be in the great outdoors doing things that their heroes did. Then comes bitterness. You get mails telling you how miserable he is at his job and how he wishes he could do something more “worthwhile”. As I write this I realize that daily life is pretty humdrum when you compare it to the fables you hear in childhood. And when your mind is still stuck in the wonder years and its shining stars it is no wonder that you are miserable as an adult.
These people are yet to appreciate or understand is that routine life is normal. That there is nothing wrong with going to office on a 9 - 6 job like others. That all of us cannot make it as novelists, Ornithologists, Journalists and copywriters. And the irony in this scenario is that these very people can be seen lazing away at weekends instead of pursuing their passions. I have some cousins like this. One such guy is a guitarist who thinks that his parent’s ambitions (engineering college and a job) have nipped his talents in the bud. When I ask him if he practices and pursues his passion during weekend, he says that he does not. If he really was a budding musician, it was in the head. I know several passionate musicians and sportsmen. All of them have jobs and pursue their passion during weekend and on holidays.
I am not suggesting that most of these people flounder due to this tendency. They do stick onto their jobs, but hate it passionately for some time. And a terrible amount of time is wasted in angst. Some of these people do pursue their passions and return beleaguered to their professions older and wiser. I have to admire them for trying though they waste precious amount of time away from work and have to start at the bottom. These past two years I have spent considerable amount of time drilling sense into some of these people in the family. And succeeded too. But the energy I spent was exhausting.
I wish teachers and parents who exhort their kids to be like larger than life heroes and heroines put some reality checks in their exhortations as there are quite a few young impressionable minds that take these stories to heart and to adulthood and often end up comparing themselves to these legends and falling short in their own eyes.
Ramesh Menon is a New Delhi-based journalist and documentary filmmaker. He received the 2006 Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism for an article in India Together in which he reported on pesticide poisoning in Punjab. Here’s what he has to say about Kerala’s Development Paradox. Link courtesy a reader of this blog.
p.s do check out a report on the quite extinction of an endangered species in Kerala.