Sharng a guest column I wrote for India Today's Youth Special issue. Pasting below my original, slightly extended version.
by Rashmi Bansal
If we want a Facebook or Google from India, we have to stop telling Johnny and Jyoti to "be good"
The moment I walked into Christ College, Bangalore I knew something was wrong. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Until a student giggled and whispered to me, “You are wearing jeans. We are not allowed.”
College without jeans? That's like Dabbang without Salman. Is it even possible? The old fogies seem to think so!
Welcome to the brave new college campus where 'discipline' rules. Students will be less distracted if they are neatly dressed in t-shirts with collars and formal shoes. Girls, please don't leave your hair open and stick to salwar kameez. Now, nose in books!
Of course, we encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Can't you see the shiny new incubation centre we have set up? Please - feel free to disregard conventional thinking and come up with the next Facebook or Google.
But no bunking classes, and complete your syllabus first. We are disabling the net connection after 12 midnight, because we care about your future more than you do.
Our college had 100% placement last year. Students got jobs in a wide variety of jobs which require very little thinking but everyone has at least heard of the company names. It looks good in our brochure.
We would very much like this trend to continue.
Across India, from Kota to Kakinada, I have visited college campuses where students are being moulded, into sheep. The kind of minds which will not think, or question but accept what is told to them. Instead of searching for answers from within.
'Be good and we will be good to you'. That is the unspoken letter of blackmail posted into young hearts by parents. Whether it's career choice or whom to marry, the Family Stamp of Approval still dictates dynamics. Surrender and you will get a pink laptop and study abroad and inherit the family business.
Who wants to be a rebel and lose all this?
And yet, in moments of darkness, moments of doubt, the Young Indian knows there is something more out there, waiting to be discovered. A hidden potential, a secret spark.
Ki hum bhi koi cheez hain, is duniya mein. Our time on this earth has made some difference.
I see a small but growing band of young Indians taking the path of idealism.
Breaking out of the 'Be Good' box and breathing free.
Some, leaving plum jobs to set up their own companies. Others, choosing the path of social entrepreneurship. Many more thinking and dreaming of such options.
“Please help me, guide me, mentor me…..” they write to me, after reading one or another of my books.
Very well, I say, but remember there are no shortcuts on the path of Self Actualisation. Unlike that Bournville chocolate you really have to earn it.
Do not be fickle, do not be weak. Be steady on the path, and persevere. Your life is your life, live it while you have it.
Or, wear Levi’s jeans and forever hold your peace.
Choose whichever path makes you happy. Just remember, you owe the same to your children. When it's their time, their day.
A note to Indian parents
Kahlil Gibran on Children
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams….
My last word: Let your children live their dreams, not yours.