Friday, December 02, 2011

Ambitions through the ages.....

What one aspires to be, at various points in ones life, is often a function of the person's age, his environment, and as we grow older,  the monetary benefits.  It wouldn't be wrong to say, that in urban India, it really has very little to do with a person's aptitude, unless of course you happen to be some kind of genius, artist , or a person with, say,  overpowering infrastructure systems (like some people who , as a family of four , actually slum it out in a 27 storey building, all for themselves.)

The best time to have ambitions is when you are a kid. 

Like when you lie gurgling  in a crib, amidst admiring family members , all pointing out how you resemble  them,  your real ambition, is to get that big toe into your mouth.   

My ambition in kindergarten was to be like my teacher, an AngloIndian beautiful lady called Mrs Rowe, who wore lovely frocks, lipstick, high heels, and played the piano and sang nursery rhymes with us.    This advanced to simple things later, like being class monitor, where you jotted down names of those who didn't listen to you, you got to walk with the teacher importantly to the library to lug back stuff to class.

At one point, after a visit to the Sathe Biscuit and Chocolate (then a competitor to Cadbury in Pune) factory near Pune,  and seeing a plateful of stuff  for us  , I thought it was the thing to be the owner of a chocolate factory.   I mean you just opened drawers and everything lay before you, yours for the asking.

There was also an ambition to be a skater , after watching a Abbot and Costello film where a tottering Abbot on skates, simply fell down because a little skating girl, simply blew air at him.

By and by  , reality kicked in, aptitude tests were done, advices taken, and one went to college to do pure sciences.

Many years later, in the middle  eighties, a little boy who was learning to cycle and admired the home delivery grocery boys who came on their cycles everyday ,  declared his ambition to be a home delivery chap. I mean nothing was better than cycling around the whole day, particularly when you carried a load of biscuits and chips and stuff.   By and by, he went through all the phases of police, engine driver, cricketer and so on.

The trouble happens when you leave school.   I have seen hordes vying for engineering and medicine admissions, regardless of whether they were interested or had aptitude.  Ambition was then simply about aiming to be  an engineer or a doctor.

A few years later,  business and commerce caught on, and everyone rushed to get a commerce degree, doing a chartered accountant course on the side.  Business diplomas were the most popular. Throughout all this, computers reigned supreme, and the country reeled under an IT obsession dotted with .coms.....

Today, the field has widened. There is Mass media studies, event management, law, and all kinds of stuff where folks are rushing.  An ordinary liberal  Arts degree,  sometimes suffices to get a BPO job.  Pure sciences are treated like step siblings.

Basically the fun in having an ambition has gone.   Because of the sheer numbers you  encounter. People, procedures, types of commuting, restrictions etc etc.

And then, I recently encountered a young man, who had organized a senior citizen card issuing program  as part of his membership in a political organization.

Not that folks mistake me for being half my age :-), but it helps to flash a senior citizen card, while trying to enter from the front door of a bus,  or advance to a shorter line  in a queue meant for senior citizens, at various places. You also qualify for discounted rates for tickets .

He sat at a desk flanked by large portraits of leader types, standing in benevolent poses , two flunkies on each side (of him, not the portraits), lots of forms being filled, signed by him, and  continuous calls on his several cell phones.

I wondered  if there was something else besides an altruistic gene that caused this.

And then I found out.  Stupid me. How dense could you get in your old age ?

The latest in ambitions was to become a politician , and even better still, an MP. 

I mean where else, can you enhance your assets  by 300% in 5 years ?  Where else can you vote yourself three fold hikes in salary, plus full pensions after 5 years (even if you graced the Hall only for a total of 1 day ?

  As an elected MP , you will  receive an assured income of Rs 1.3 lakh (a salary of Rs 50,000 plus constituency allowance of Rs 40,000 and office or stationary allowance of Rs 40,000) a month.  You are guaranteed , vehicle loans of 4 lakhs, at a very low rate of interest . Free petrol, free telephone, free housing,  and free shut-eye when you make unallowed changes to the housing at government cost. Furniture, electricity also paid by the state.  Free first class rail travel across the country, priority bookings, and 34 free air trips a year, for self and companion.  Even the spouse has a special travel allowance  , presumably to watch her husband, run to the well of the Parliament to protest about something.

Just for attending valid Parliament sessions , regardless of whether they are adjourned , wasted or whatever, the nation pays the MP 1000 Rs a day.   Of course, it is not all serious work . You get to be members of junkets like MP's travelling to study the use of Hindi in Norway, ways of fixing CCTV's  on the roads in London,  public transport in places like California, where there are 4 cars in a 3 member family, and say, maintenance of statues in New York, maybe ?

The nicest part of this job, is that  that , just like the Princes and Rajas of the pre independence days,  you can train, manoeuvre and  arrange for your offspring to follow in your footsteps in Parliament !

Should you stray , (and I don't mean away from the group during junkets)  in a sudden criminal moment, you will only add to the 150 MP's who have criminal cases against them in court. Should you really be suspected of committing a well documented crime , you will  then join the 73 MP's who are currently being investigated for serious criminal charges like rape and murder. Till you are convicted, you are always, assumed to be , what else, pure .

Of course, , out of the 543 MP's in Parliament today, 315, or 60% are millionaires, not all to the manor born.  And so there is a good chance that you can intern with them follow them,  and possibly be the 316th millionaire very soon.

Now who in his right mind, would want to spend years in college, commuting  like cattle in the suburban trains,  being laid off  from a job because the company is going bankrupt, standing in queues for everything,  learning the real meaning of "being taxed" , trudging through hip deep water in the monsoon, suffering power and water cuts at the height of summer, seeing fellows who never braved all this all their life, being hailed as the saviours of the nation, and being halted and troubled by avaricious police because you didn't see the light changing  behind an inconveniently placed political banner ? 

I don't blame the guy. I just hope I get my Senior Citizen card soon .....


  1. brilliant commentary on the state of affairs..

  2. I could only relate to the first part of the post... !!!

    the second part... sigh... ! I have given up !

  3. I love the progression of ambitions:)

  4. Awesome awesome awesome...I loved the hitchy said...I can so relate to the first part of the post...I have gone from cobbler, to postman, to dance teacher (still have hopes on that one) to school teacher to air hostess, to librarian to working in a chocolate factory (yep, I did apply to cadburys after graduation, didnt get a response)

    and the second part, I didnt know they had so much freebies thrown in..I mean 34 air trips with spouse!!!! for what? wasting the nation's money? I think if they are punished properly, our recession problems will be solved!

  5. Having a chocolate factory.. bliss.. I had that ambition after I read the book "Charlie and the Chocolate factory".

    MPs get paid 1.3l +all those perks ;-( ? If they getting so much, why is this extra 1000 doled out for doing their duties? Really sad state of affairs.

  6. Great post, Suranga! Yes, childhood ambitions were so much fun, weren't they? :)

    As for MPs- I think my New Year's resolution will be not to read anything connected with them. So many perks for doing almost nothing! Sad.....

  7. I liked this post. When we shifted to Mumbai [and I was in Primary School] I saw a motor car was raised on a platform and a mechanic was cleaning it using a water jet. My ambition was to hold that job!

    In our hearts we think a job is immensely enjoyable!! When we get a job in corporates we discover the bitter truth!

    Increasing assets by 300% is a bit on the conservative side. MPs seem to do far better than that.....notwithstanding an occasional slap in that pursuit.


  8. Happy to land in your blog...cheers!

  9. Like many others here, cud so relate to the first part of ur post.
    And amazing that u interconnect things so well! 34 air trips? *gulp* Let alone the sponsorships, do we even hv the time to do so many :P

  10. I think many MPs will be very upset with your blog post.

    How can you even estimate it to be a mere 300% jump !!

    For all the standing up, shouting and not doing work, they need to be paid more. Besides that red light on that flashy car that is !

  11. magiceye Thank you. Depressing, isnt it ?

    HW me too ....

    Dipali Thank you.

    R's Mom All I can say is Vinaash Kale Viparit Buddhi ! Sigh ...

    Sam I still have that chocolate factory ambition ...:-)

    Manju Read the comment I wrote for R's Mom above. True, isnt it !

    Vivek Just wondering if there was a zero missing there ?

    Ashok Cheers !

    Swaram Thats what I was wondering too. Forget airtrips, I havent gone to the corner mochi to repair my chappals for 3 days.

    Kavi yes Kavi. I look forward to someone shouting and cursing me and maybe running to the well in Parliament, in opposition to my post. ...:-)

  12. Awesome! Awesome! It's timeweshould raise our voice and stope these guys frm minting our tax money!