“Indian parents” is the ideal topic to joke on, for Indians. It’s dead straight. You narrate any incident of any interaction, big or small, with your parents, and it’s going to be funny.
It has been a year I am out of college. So I did engineering. Like every other Indian guy. (Those sissies who didn’t couldn’t handle math and/or physics. Those passion stories are bullshit).
And I got ‘placed’ into a few software firms like Zomato and Facebook. Just like any other Indian guy. (You see I didn’t even mention my majors. It wasn’t Computer Science. But that’s besides the point).
And I didn’t join either. Here’s where the regular Indian Guy story goes off the plot. I joined a startup called Coding Blocks as one of the founding members. We teach Indian college students (who, as you by now know are all engineering undergrads, unless they can’t math) to develop software. Because the engineering colleges don’t. So that they can get ‘placed’ into companies like Zomato and Facebook. I can hear you sigh at the irony, but wait, the actual joke hasn’t even begun.
So, now, my parents are in a very uneasy situation. For 22 years, they have been building the muscle memory of asking “Why aren’t you studying?”, every time they had eye contact with me.
Reading a novel : Why aren’t you studying ?
Taking too long to eat : Why aren’t you studying ?
Constipation: Why don’t you take a book inside ?
Looking at the stars and figuring out the answer to life universe and everything : Son, it’s 42. Now please get back to your studies.
And on those rare occasions when I was found performing unspeakable acts that do not befit a hard working student — like playing FIFA, or watching a series — basically almost any activity involving my laptop, I have this massive guilt trip. You can’t look your parents in the eye for a week. You will be doing the dishes, turning off the fan diligently, putting the water bottle in the fridge, and other acts of an adarsh baalak (ideal son) and fervently wishing you get back into the good books as soon as possible.
That’s because for all these years, the only constant in my life was an upcoming exam. Midterm, Sessional, Half-yearly, FA, SA, IITJEE, AIEEE, AISSCE, Olympiad — they come in various names. (No, the only constant in life is not change. If you are above 22, the only certain thing is death and taxes. If you’re below 22, the only certain thing is exams and parent’s telling you to study).
But now, there are no more exams to study for. School is over. College is over. This is such a deal breaker for your parents.
Now I can play FIFA on my PS4, that I bought with my own fucking money (we’re not getting into details like how it cost me a month’s salary), on the TV in the living room, on full volume.
Now I can stay on my bed for the entire long weekend. With 3 canisters of overpriced Pringles (another month’s). And binge watch Last Week Tonight on loop. Without the headphones.
AND I CAN LOOK THEM IN THE EYE WHILE DOING ALL THIS.
This is something they can’t stand now. You can see them squirm every passing second your nose is not in between the pages a thick academic material. They are not used to this new reality — the cannot imagine a world where their son doesn’t have an upcoming exam to study for.
They develop this midlife crisis. This existential gloom clouds over them. Their only purpose in life when they are at home — of telling me to study, is now snatched away from them. And a man without purpose is a man lost.
So now they have other questions. Like what am I going to do in life. Yeah ‘what am I going to do in life’. I am part of a team running a profitable company which grew 5x and opened 3 new offices in the last year. But . . . WHAT AM I GOING TO DO IN LIFE.
Aren’t you going to apply to Google or something ?
Will you try to appear for UPSC ?
Do you have plans for MBA ?
What have you considered about MS ?
Do you see a pattern there ? These are all indirect questions about when is the next time in life I have to appear for an exam ?. When will they, again in life, get the chance to ask me ‘WHY ARE YOU NOT STUDYING?’.
And when I am able to successfully evade such questions with the perfectly logical answer — “Coding Blocks is working out well, can you just let me concentrate on that” — I get threatened by the eternal nightmare of Indians in their 20’s — the ‘marriage’ question.
Now, the fact of the matter is, they know my girlfriend (who is completing her MBBS — yep doctor ❤ engineer == bells whistles, cliche Indian perfect couple), and they know very well her and my plans for the coming few years. And thus the marriage question is not a real question — but just a the sword hanging over my head, to force me to answer the most important question — ‘When can you get the opportunity to force you to study, and give you guilt trips for enjoying your life again’.
Here’s hoping I do not have to go for MS to Trump’s USA. Here’s hoping I do not have to go for MBA and take a bank job. Here’s hoping I do not need to clear UPSC and become a corrupt bureaucrat. And here’s hoping I do not have to brush up my data structures and algorithms for a Google interview.
Since there were some people on whom the sarcasm was lost : No, not being an engineer is perfectly fine (if not by your parents and Indian society, but by the world it is). Those who can’t math aren’t lesser human beings. Please do follow your passion. Don’t be cliched Indian people who figure out what to do in life after engineering. Ye bik gyi hai engineering. Kuch ni rakha hai isme. Ye sab engineering colleges aur parents milke humko pagal bana rahe hai. :)