A for Alumni and V for Varnashram
So there I was at yet another alumni meet after a gap of almost three years and the first thing which struck me was how aged the rest of my batch mates looked to be followed by the sudden doubt over whether this was how I looked to them too. On further reflection I discounted that possibility as I had just that morning peeked into the mirror and had looked pretty much the same as ever if you discount the receding hairline at the temples which in fact gave me a very distinguished George Clooney look.
As is usual in such alumni meets after the opening rounds of exchanging pleasantries the talk veered around to the fact of our respective career developments and it was at that point I came to the belated realization that Manu was right. The varnashram theory actually makes sense practically. As I sat there listening to the talk around me I slowly came to the realization that if only I had chosen law as my dad had wanted me to all those years ago, instead of opting for a career in medicine as I had done just to make a point, I would have been in a much better position professionally and financially by now. I could have benefited from the family connections much like all my friends around me who had followed their respective fathers into the family profession, who made use of their parents’ knowledge, contacts and large networks to get ahead in the profession as 2nd and 3rd generation followers. Except for me, idiot that I was, who opted to be a teenage rebel, to chart a separate path in life, to sink or swim on my own because I wanted the tag of a self made man untainted by any family influence. Well to look at it honestly there are indeed people who succeed in achieving a big success for themselves on their own as first generation pioneers. But lacking their outstanding abilities I should have opted for the safety net of family support and an existing sinecure instead of choosing to strike out on my own with my limited talents.
Oh, I still believe I am the best surgeon around and as everyone keeps telling me I have the fastest hands at the hospital. I was even the best of my graduating batch by a far margin as per the unanimous opinion of my then professors. But I have come to the belated realization that it’s not enough being the best at your work unless you also get adequate breaks at the right time to showcase your talent. If you don’t get those opportunities you are left to languish at the middle of the pile with the also ran’s. And this is precisely the area where the second generation people have an edge. They have expert advice right at home to guide them past the pitfalls and errors which the first generation people are bound to make and learn on their own. They get taken on by the right mentors because their father knows so and so who in turn knows so and so and would be happy to help train somebody who is so much pedigreed. When it comes to jobs they are the first choice picks in existing vacancies for coveted positions and amidst intense competitions. When all else fails they have the security of knowing that they have the old family firm to fall back on and they could easily go and join their fathers or their grandfathers hospital at the beginning post of chairman or managing director or chief surgeon and never anything lesser.
All of which I could have had too if only I has studied law too and gone for the old standby family profession. As my father keeps repeating I kicked over the pot on my own and can’t cry over its spilling. If I had opted for law, which I had also qualified for at the time of choosing a career, by now I would be at the top echelons of the legal profession. Of that I have no doubt. Add my father’s legal acumen and my own innate talents of persistence and thinking out-of-the-box and I am sure that I could have made for myself a very successful career in law. But having foregone that advantage of having a family background and opting to do something which no one in the family is even remotely associated with, I have to resolve all my professional dilemmas on my own. Like for instance what to do when the owner of the hospital makes his newly qualified fresher of a nephew the chief of surgery and asks me to work under him. Which he is perfectly within his rights to demand as it is his hospital and his nephew and blood is thicker than water, talent or experience be damned.
And that’s when i decided that I would henceforth advice every youngster to do the conventional thing and join the family profession if he didn’t want to regret his choice later on in life when nothing can be done about it. You might succeed in carving a path for yourself with your own talents if you lived in the US of A. But in India it’s all about contacts, about knowing the right people, about push and pull and being born in the appropriate caste or religion and you disregard the golden rules at your own risk We might pretend to be a modern nation but we are not actually, for we are still steeped in the age old superstitions of son succeeding father, a Parsi succeeding another parsi etc like Sidhartha Mallaya succeeding Vijay Mallaya at King Fisher, Cyrus Mistry succeeding Ratan Tata at Tata and co etc. And Manu dharma wins every time.
To come back to the premise of this post, yes, we had a great time at the alumni meet reminiscing over how all our old girlfriends would now look like. And how lucky we were not to marry them. And the few usual fights of the type of why did you interfere in my love were also resolved amicably this time as a sign of growing maturity among the guys. And we parted promising to meet again soon and make it a regular habit at shorter time intervals and not every three years or more to meet again.
P.S. As I type this I can hear in the background the FM music channel playing “Budhi ulla manidhar ellam vetri kanbadhillai…..vetri petru manidhar ellam budhi sali ellai” in Comedian Chandra Babus inimitable voice – here.