Living out Daddy’s Daydreams

Love is a strange thing. I thought it was just a saying when parents said they loved their children to death. But, something in the news the other day reminded me that love really can drive some people to death.

Living out Daddy's Daydreams

Living out Daddy’s Daydreams [Illustration by Anup Singh]

A newspaper reported that a class XII student shot herself to death with her father’s licensed revolver on the day the CBSE results were declared. She had failed her examinations.

As parents we may not often realise it, but children do feel the pressure to please us. After all, as they are constantly reminded, their parents have done so much for them, sacrificed so much. So many of their hopes and dreams for a brighter future lie in the hands of their children.

Nowhere is this seen clearer than in the annual ritual of exam results. The pressures on children are immense. Parents often do not realise the harm they are doing by constantly nagging their children to study more and more. And when result time comes around, the long drawn faces of mum and dad are enough to send any kid over the edge.

This is exactly what happened with my next door neighbours. Their daughter is 17 years old, and has just completed her Class XII from an elite Delhi school. For the last two years that I have known them, all I have heard from the parents is “When our daughter becomes a doctor…”, “When she enters medical college,” etc etc. Their hopes are pinned on their daughter.

And then the results came in. Their daughter got an aggregate of 69 per cent marks. A pall of gloom has descended on the house. Even the medical entrance exams that she is routinely writing seem to hold no hope now. After all, how could a ’69 per cent student’ even hope to get into medical college?

There’s more to the story than just shattered hopes. The point is that the hopes that were shattered belonged to her parents. Sometime through Class XI, their daughter discovered that she rather loved psychology, a subject she had opted for as an elective instead of mathematics.

But parental pressure ensured that she never dared to opt for a undergraduate course in psychology.

You may wonder why the pressure. Well, that too has a story. Apparently, her father missed getting into medical college by a whisker (“negative marking, you know”). Add to that the fact that the family’s financial situation is rather grim. Business is at an all-time low, and her father, who swung from a medical hopeful, to a trainee lawyer, to handling a family business, has, for the past few years, completely transferred all his hopes and dreams onto his ‘brilliant’ daughter.

Even now, all is not lost. “She must try to get into a biochemistry course,” says her mother with frightening fervour. Why biochemistry, one asks. Isn’t she interested in psychology?

“Because there are more opportunities in biochemistry,” pat comes the answer.

Opportunity, not happiness is driving many families down the beaten road of disaster. Trailing behind, with unspoken wishes on their lips, are youngsters opting for “money-making”, “secure” career options which often have little to do with their aptitude and desires.

Twenty years from now, they will probably grow up to be a bit like my next door neighbour. And foist all their broken desires and suppressed hopes onto their children. As a popular song rightly asks, “When will we ever learn.”

Perhaps never.

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