Broaden Your Horizons

By Mehboob Makhdoomi

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It fills my heart with joy to see some of our youth qualify competitive exams which are held at the ‘All India level’. It is clear that these people are definitely committed, dedicated, who persevere with patience and hard work. It’s also true that in the times when our youth is wandering aimlessly due to bleak career opportunities in Kashmir; to get a secured life-long, high-ranking and well-paying bureaucratic position, when you are in your 20s, is a matter of absolute jubilation for the candidate as well as his family and friends.

Unlike the competitive examinations of Medicine, Engineering or Management, you don’t even have to attend school for a professional training, after you qualify. You’re simply appointed, even though you’ve just done your undergrad in some Life sciences, Arts or Medicine. You’re a Government administrator now. That’s pretty quick. Great! However, there are some related issues, which we need to understand as a society.

One is Exclusivity in Hype.

Some may ask what’s wrong in it. Well, it’s been our tradition that we never allow diversity when we set career goals for our children. When I was in high school, to crack the entrance examination for MBBS was the pinnacle. Did IAS exist then? Indeed, it did. It was just something which hadn’t caught our eye as a society (with some exceptions). And when it did, everyone thronged it, abandoning MBBS for it (By the way, nothing is wrong in switching careers).

Two reasons for it: One, lack of knowledge of opportunities and two, our idiosyncratic herd behaviour, which is also referred to as Mob mentality, which means to be influenced by others to adopt certain trends, behaviours simply because everyone else is doing it, without exploring alternatives yourself. Exactly the way IAS was there, but we didn’t know we could do it, in our passion for MBBS; there are avenues for bright people right now which they’re not aware of, because of the hype, given to the IAS.

The fallout is that we rank something as No.1 and everything else as a consolation prize. As an individual, it’s great to challenge yourself but as a society, we know that only 0.0025% is successful to qualify IAS (for instance). So, more than 99% of our youth are forced to think that they’ve got to compromise with their lives now, as they haven’t been able to achieve the best. Thousands of them waste years trying for it, when they could’ve availed other equally well or even better opportunities. Not only is this unhealthy for the society but it’s also a blatant lie.

As I said, we rank things as per our limited knowledge. There are opportunities which are way more lucrative, tough to crack and empowering for you to be able to positively influence others and lead by example. We need to know about such opportunities and give judicious hype to multiple career pathways rather than projecting one option as success, out of ignorance.

My second problem is to see the most capable of our society being consumed in India’s rugged babudom, when they could’ve tried to explore better options, internationally. That would’ve been more rewarding for them as individuals and for Kashmir as a whole. I find it quite logical when I say I want to see the best lot of my place to try international competitive exams, rather than restricting themselves to serve Indian administration. It would be less painful to see our 2nd best or the 3rd best lot in Indian bureaucracy. I call them ‘most capable’ because they have only demonstrated the capability to do wonders, possibly in innovations, inventions, research, international politics and much more. They have not done wonders yet. They need specific further education in their area of interest to do those wonders.

Contrarily, in the case of civil services, everybody’s ability, be that in Science, Arts, Engineering or Linguistics is being put to administrative use. These bright kids may not necessarily be great administrators. Their brightness might actually lie somewhere else. It would’ve been prudent to test the administrative aptitude of the candidates along with the required knowledge for administrative services, rather than quantifying as to how much Zoology or how many History-dates have they mugged up in closed rooms for hours, to make them administrators.

For Medicine, Engineering and other technical fields, it’s understandable, but to test administrative, critical reasoning and decision making skills, one shouldn’t be in need to be locked in a room for hours so that he proves his worth in unrelated fields to be eligible to be a good administrator. It shows how bizarre this whole testing system is. The World have moved on from such a senseless study and grading pattern.

At the same time, it would’ve been beneficial if these students pursued their dreams in their fields of interest, given the fact these are not ordinary kids to struggle for petty jobs but the brilliant ones. I assure you that would have been more advantageous for themselves and the world we live in. Trust me; there are careers which are way more captivating and stylish than being yet another middle-class ‘Sarkari babu’, if you’re really dynamic.

My third and most important reservation with my society is to take it as change of destiny for Kashmir. If you are happy for an individual for having made his career early on- Great; but if you’re going to burden them with your unrealistic hope of them being a new dawn for Kashmir, you’re mistaken.

This is my personal opinion, but I think when it comes to J&K and the politics revolving it, even our Chief Ministers right from 1947, although being Kashmiris, have not and will not be in a position to take Kashmir out of the quagmire in which it’s entangled; and now for you to seek it from these kids who would most probably be engrossed in some bureaucratic files in Bihar or down-south, is unfair. Let them enjoy their lives the way other Govt. officers do. It doesn’t empower you. Your best lot goes to serve those who you politically oppose.

Lastly, it’s quite axiomatic for Kashmiris to take someone as Hero or Icon, who has once taken people out of the difficulty they find themselves in. Unfortunately, we might have or have had some sincere people but we don’t have a role model at all since no one amongst us has actually been able to deliver. And in case, you’re talking about an icon to inspire you for personal success, then I reckon there are careers much more fascinating than being an Indian bureaucrat. I don’t say it to demean anybody but purely with intent to see best among my people at positions much higher than what they’ve achieved.

Hope this inspires some to explore greater heights and open up more avenues for our youth to show their potential and brilliance.

The opinion expressed in this article is author’s own

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