Three years ago, a young man wrote, (in response to a query on a b-school form on “What is the alternate career that you would like to pursue?”) “Teaching. I would like to be a teacher. A person who can shape minds. A person who they can look at as a friend. A person who can inspire young people to follow their dreams…” and such similar senti stuff. He wrote all this even when he did not know terms like ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘thought leader’.
He was not writing an answer to impress the panel of b-school judges about his interest in a 'noble profession'. He sincerely believed that a teacher could change his students’ lives. That a teacher could be a role model, that he could make them remember not just debit and credit but the way to account for right and wrong, make them learn not just economics but make them change the economy of the country. Such noble thoughts. Such foolish ambitions.
Some of his students went on to do well. He believed he had played a part in getting them to believe in their abilities, in getting them to think beyond the obvious…
The young man went on to do an MBA. Apparently, the panel of judges did not bother about the stupid “I want to be a teacher” line, when they knew in their hearts that every guy who enters those hallowed gates goes out with million dollar dreams. Ok, million rupee dreams.
The young man did the same thing that 99% of MBAs do. Got a good job with a nice pay packet. And conveniently buried his ambition to be a ‘thought leader’ to students.
He came across an initiative by a leading newspaper that exhorted people to stop being armchair critics of the government, and go out and do something instead. A front page advert which asked for just two hours of time in a week, to ‘Teach India’. Three years back, he would have signed up without thinking.
But now the young man thought, “yeah, the more kids that learn English, the more newspapers you can sell…”
And he also thought, “And half of those who sign up will put a pathetic “I volunteered for Teach India” to spruce up their CVs and show that they care for the society…”
And he continued thinking, “And those poor kids, who will see new teachers every other week, will just end up memorizing alphabets, and nothing more. Where is the time to form a relationship, to earn their respect, to make an impression?”
He was thinking these thoughts even though he had not gone ahead and seen the good work that the people involved are likely doing.
And he finally thought, “When you see everything with cynicism, you cease to be a young man anymore.”
The dreamer is dead. The corporate rat race has buried him. And no one mourns. Not even his students.
His dreams have been burnt. And a cynic rises from the ashes…