I recently received an international award as a classical singer and an economist, and some thoughts, some memories came to my mind and I penned them. Having done that, I thought of sharing them with you all.
My childhood dream was to become a singer! I used to dream of singing in front of an audience, dream of recording in a studio, dream of being broadcast some day... Much of that dream, I'm living now!
After school I selected 'Arts' as my stream (I prefer the term Social Sciences or Humanities though, as it describes the stream more accurately!) Back then, all the intelligent students, the achievers, who would do something worthwhile in life, were the ones who went for 'Science'! Arts was often looked down upon as the poor cousin of Science. Being a good student all through school, many of my close relatives and friends did not understand why I was thinking of 'wasting my life' enrolling for a B.A. And when I said I wanted to do a career in music and an 'Arts' course would offer me time and space to do it, people felt it was the most ridiculous 'excuse' ever! Who gives up a great academic future and career just to pursue a 'hobby'.. was their skewed logic! For them, music could at best be only a hobby, not a profession, as is the common perception in many educated families. I was the first one in my family of engineers, scientists and doctors to select 'Arts', and the first one in my family of music lovers to take up music professionally. So obviously, you can see the lack of understanding in my social and family circles, anything beyond conventional norms! And this didn't stop here, I was often looked down upon by the Aunties whose kids were pursuing engineering, and even my parents were given unsolicited advice as to how they could allow me to waste my life like this! Stereotypes everywhere in our society! We just don't let people be! My parents stood by me in all my choices with their rock solid support, and that's the only reason I happily sailed through everything.
I applied to both Science and Arts, and saw my name appear in both the lists, just to prove to these intrusive Aunties and other 'well-wishers' that I was selecting Arts out of choice, and not because I couldn't make it to Science! At that age, it mattered what people thought about me, it doesn't bother me now 😜 That still didn't impress them, though! Then one day, I selected Economics as my subject for graduation and just a few years around that time the great Amartya Sen received the Nobel Prize in Economics, and whoa! Suddenly in the eyes of all these well-meaning critics, I was doing something worthwhile, majoring in Economics, which suddenly had become glamorous! All us Indians were proud that an Indian had won the coveted prize, it was in the news everywhere, and Economics was the subject he had received it for!
I never understood then, I don't understand now, the whole hue and cry about Arts, as every subject is great and is knowledge after all! I also could never understand how the perception could suddenly change due to a completely unconnected event! I later went on to pursue a PhD in Economics, as I gradually fell in love with the subject, and people's perceptions changed completely. I'm happy that times have changed as compared to what they were 23 years back, with 'Arts' now receiving the status it deserves.
That I did not give up on my dream of becoming a singer either (so it was no 'excuse' after all!) and the conviction I had all through about what I was doing, was later on lauded many a time by the same people who once ran me down: the irony of life!
And then there was the perception that if you strive to excel in one thing, you can't excel in another! So back I was fighting another stereotype! And that too, Music and Economics! Oh my God! Completely unconnected, poles apart from each other! But then, I feel destiny decides some paths you choose in life, and I just went with the flow and kept doing with utmost dedication and sincerity, all that came my way! And I continue to do so!
Moral of the story: People do not necessarily always mean to hurt you. They just don't know that their casual remarks hatched in ignorance can be of so much pain and distress to others. So, be nice, be kind, be positive!