Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Tyranny of Success

A cute sardar boy ran howling to his parents on being rejected in the selection round of a music reality show in TV today. A voice over said, "Rejection is not the end. It is the beginning of a journey to success."

I wanted to slap the scriptwriter. It was just the kind of shallow, oft-repeated thought that sounds deceptively inspirational, but means zilch for the child whose hopes have been raised and dashed. The entire ecosystem - right from parents to the show hosts - is responsible for this. Some children who cannot hold the tune are made to come and contest. They become laughing stock on national TV. Mostly under 12, they may not even realise they are being laughed at!

A week ago, one boy literally begged the judges to give him a chance. The boy was not more than 9 years old. I watched aghast as he started crying. The judges were embarrassed. Finally they called the family. The boy said his father will scold him for losing. The uncle said some crap about if the boy worked hard then he could meet expectations, but to give him a chance. The judge stopped the uncle bluntly and told him not to put so much pressure on the boy at such a young age.

I remember this topic coming up during an interview with Sri Sriram Parasuram, the Hindustani classical singer and husband of playback singer Anuradha Sriram. He was very vehemently opposed to such reality shows for such young children. "The kind of training they have to go through is not fair to them," he said firmly.

When attending a competition at a smaller level, I was amazed at the concert-level quality of some of the young children. Yes, it is amazing. But is it needed? If they do gamakams and palukals when they are 10 and 12, instead of enjoying the pace and the beauty of a song at that age, what will they be left with when they reach 20-25/30-35? Let me put it differently, if they have to worry so much about delving into the depths of ragas at this age, when will they play and enjoy life? Is it necessary to 'create' and nurture prodigies at such a young age?

The premium of success, the definition of success, the stress on success... Or, is it short cut to fame that is being sought, vicariously by parents through their young children? Are success and fame synonymous? Are we chasing success, which comes with hard work and maturity, or fame just to be in the spotlight?

As I watch young children put through the circus, I cannot but wonder what their life would be like once the limelight is snatched from them... What happens to them when they go back to their ordinary lives?

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