Why always the same story?

Just another title ‘inspired’ by an Imtiaz Ali movie. Naturally, that won’t be the subject of what is to follow. The question however, is ubiquitous when it comes to films and to a certain extent, books today.

A scene from Once upon a time in Mumbaai, comes to me. An apparently shattered, and visibly drunk Randeep Hooda drawls that it is the choice between two wrongs, which is the most difficult to make. America will have its Hooda moment this November and I hope they are better at choosing than he was. Anyway, last Friday, I finally managed to weasel out the time for a movie. The choice was as difficult as Hooda’s: Dharma’s Baar Baar Dekho vs Bhai’s Bhai’s Freaky Ali. Sidharth Malhotra and Katrina Kaif’s attempts at acting versus Nawaz’s courting of Amy Jackson. The innate Dharma supporter in me and Nachde ne Saare, made me decide in favour of the former.

To say that I regretted my decision as much as Hooda did, would not be completely untruthful. The movie did nothing to dispel my doubts about the lead pair’s acting abilities. The premise wasn’t exactly new, with Aditya Roy Kapoor in Action Replayy and Sanju in Shaka Laka Boom Boom having already depicted the virtues of time travel in repairing current relationships. Neither was the whole ‘Get your priorities right, i.e, love your family’ message.

A professor/lover of Mathematics is clearly not Mr. Malhotra’s cup of tea. But then, what is. Ironically, I’d gone with him over Varun Dhawan back in 2012 when faced with the ‘Hooda dilemma’ after watching the masterpiece that was Student of the Year. Four years down the line, and I still can’t determine whether I was right. For every Hasee toh Phasee, there’s an Ek Villain, while for every Brothers, there’s a Kapoor and Sons, the last easily ranking amongst the best movies that I’ve watched in the last three years, if not ever. It could well have been his Wake up Sid, but he chose to flaunt his eyes and palpable chemistry with Ms. Bhatt. The graveyard scene was nice, though.

Isn’t it thus surprising that hindsight ranks as low as it does on the (hypothetical) list of desired superpowers? To be able to take decisions at t=0, having the knowledge of what happens at t=1, does increase the possibility of arbitrage. (Apologies for not being able to resist showing off my recently acquired gyaan of Derivatives.) The possibilities are immense, especially for people, like yours truly, who need to embark on a journey to be able to gauge whether it’s right for them or not.

There was a time, around seven years ago, when Chetan Bhagat seemed to be the embodiment of the perfect man to me. His books were ‘funny’ and he was the pioneer of the ‘CB Path to success’, as I then used to call it. That path involved going to the ‘prestigious’ IITs and then, IIM-A. The fact that a 13 year old in India defines success as being a part of select academic institutions says a lot. Not that I’d ever bothered to look beyond the edifice purported by the various media forms, my peers and my elders. I had found a notion to adhere to, a goal to work towards and needless bouts of introspection were not to take that away from me.

With time, and the natural tendency to rebel against established norms that adolescence brings forth, our perspectives broaden; just about enough to accommodate what seems to be an acceptable compromise. But the die has already been rolled. We either end up getting the college and stream of our dreams, and begin a journey which is fulfilling for some and a let down for others; or we compromise with our ambitions. Reiterations of “Pehle Engineering karlo, fir aage ka decide kar lena“, reassuringly settle any qualms that our introspective side comes up with.

At some point in college life, one realizes what one wants to make a career out of. Or like in my case, what not to. And when one makes that decision, you expect it to be respected. That sadly does not happen. Sure, you, and countless others like you have their share of supporters, but they are far outnumbered by people who are either disgusted at your apparent lack of effort in the stream of your choice or who demean your decision making process, even going as far as to accuse you of wasting a seat.

For a culture that has typically answered every “Why engineering?” query with either a “Why not?” or by falling back on the age old “Life begins after engineering”, why are we so unwilling to accept someone’s inability to do justice to his/her ‘chosen’ stream and the resultant search for greener avenues. Isn’t college supposed to be the time when you figure out what you want in life? If yes, why are we derided for wanting to veer away from the predetermined path and looking to do what we really want to? If no, isn’t there a fundamental flaw with the “Life after Engineering” logic?

I had my first experience with a group discussion, the previous Sunday. Discounting my experiences in the holy city, as always. It was a tad too loud at times, but nice nonetheless. My overthinking brain was already at work, trying to pre-empt questions for the plausible interview. (which didn’t materialize. Ha!) Questions about why I chose my branch of study in particular and engineering, in general seemed natural. Try as hard as might, the only answer that I could come up with was that it was what my peers were doing.

And oh yeah, because I was good at Math.

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