Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fear of the future

A few days back, I was faced with a tricky situation. I was having a conversation with my dad and one of his business partners. 

Uncle – as I usually called his business partner – wanted to know what plans I had for the future. I explained to him that I was still trying to understand my interests and passions, but I was certain that I wanted to get an MBA education from one of the top business schools in the world.

Unknown to me, his son was preparing for engineering entrance exams for colleges in India. Tired of the immense amount of hard work required to get the scored required for a good enough college, he had recently given up preparing itself. His idea of higher education now revolved around giving the SAT and aiming for a university in the United States.

Parents in India are often scared about sending their kids to the US for undergraduate studies. According to them, the influence of the west has already started ruining the morals of the younger generations. They feel that if their child were to study in America in those formative years, he would grow so enchanted with the country and its preference for instant gratification, that he would settle down there itself. They however think that since we are more mature when we go for our masters, we might be able to take a more ‘sensible’ decision.

Parents don’t want their kids settling down in a foreign country, far from the Indian culture. And most of them think that the institution of family has degraded completely in the western world. As a result, relationships in the west have become more about momentary pleasures and less about loyalty and dedication. And the media does highlight this often enough, even going to the extent of proclaiming that weak family ties might be the main reason for high rates of depression in the West. Parents don’t want their kids to imbibe such values.

Uncle was discussing the pros and cons of studying in the US and I could provide him with many pros – better quality of education, greater flexibility, experiential learning, greater emphasis on innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. It is my belief that had I studied in such a conducive environment, I would have retained my love for technology and maybe even entered the field of research. At least, given the kind of options that would have been available, there were greater chances of me finding my true passion.

I tried to assuage his fears by explaining all this to uncle. I told him that his values would hold his son in great stead and that he shouldn’t worry so much. Uncle wanted me to talk to his son and help him with his decision making process. However, I had no answer to uncle’s single most important albeit rhetorical question – “If he goes to the US, isn’t there a chance he might never come back?”

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