Are you from a respectable Telugu middle class family?? I want to ask you some straight questions. When did you last hear a young boy or a girl from your family say that he/she wants to become a cook? Or a wildlife photographer, a journalist or a footballer? Very rarely, isn’t it?
Now add another phrase into the above sentence and read it as “When did you last hear a young, boy or a girl from your family who tops in school in studies….”. Is the answer an emphatic NO? Ha..Ha.. I knew it even before you told me.
Forget about cooks, wildlife photographers, journalists and footballers. Bright Telugu students don’t want to become scientists, singers, actors, musicians, reporters, TV anchors, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, yoga teachers, social servants or even spiritually evolved saints and sages. All that they want to become is engineers and MBAs. Why? Why? If you think that’s because they have great fascination for engineering and have taken immense inspiration from the likes of Sir Arthur Cotton and M. Viswesvarayya or even from the likes of Bill Gates and Steve jobs, you have just stepped on well-cooked dal.
Then what drives this herd mentality? The answer lies in the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of an average Telugu family which is now steeped in “copy-cat”ism, mob mentality and complete lack of originality in thoughts and deeds.
The modern story of the Telugu society is one of ongoing evolution from feudal mind-sets and Zamindaari trappings. It is a society well entrenched in hierarchical tendencies and is just becoming nuclear from a combined family set up. A society where what an uncle, aunt, her cousin and his mother-in-law think is still very important. That the uncle and aunt are next to duds doesn’t really matter. That your parents care for them (and for their half-baked opinions) is an insurmountable hurdle. There are lakshman rekhas which are all pervasive in family thoughts, not visible but controlling every move of yours like the 3G waves. Then of course, there are neighbours, their uncles and aunts. When pinni gaaru, baavagaaru and vadina gaaru keep pouring all their wisdom into your mothers’ ears, and tell stories of how their cousin’s brother-in-law’s son cracked the IIT by taking coaching in Narayana, your mother leaves you with no great choice. At an age when you feel that your mother is even better than Nargis in Mother India, utter reverence will force you to look at Narayana like a divine intervention out to save your wretched life from all those feelings of inadequacy and incompleteness.
usNot that there have not been trail blazers among Telugus. Phanindra Sama started RedBus before the Flipkart-fuelled start up revolution came into being. AG Krishnamurthy founded Advertising agency Mudra when there were zero Telugus in that field. Celebrity chef Sanjay Thumma ( popularly known as vah chef of www.vahrehvah.com) gained national popularity when an average Telugu feels it is unmanly to enter kitchen. Vijay Tagore and K.Srinivasa Rao are very popular sports journalists. The likes of P.Sainath devoted their lives to reporting on impoverished Indians and their causes. Trilochan Sastry, an IIT, IIM and MIT alumnus, did not bother to wink at cushy corporate career even for a moment but instead chose to shake Indian political system in early 2000s and forced it to accept personal disclosure norms.
Bharati Veerath (whose death is the biggest talking point in Bangalore for the last few days and mourned by its tallest citizenry) was the much loved first ever woman driver of Uber cabs. I am only quoting names of some people who made it in totally unrelated fields by simply following their hearts. But alas, none of the above could become role models for Telugus. In fact, we don’t even bother to know, forget deriving inspiration from any one of them and from similar other profiles.
Telugus need to self-answer a few straight questions. What are you studying and why are you studying? Where are you working and why are you doing that work? Is your work close to your heart? If your entire education and the subsequent career path are designed only with the intention of earning money, why not think of another avenue that can earn you some money and give you self-satisfaction too. How long do you want to be driven by the goals that your uncle, aunt, her sister and cousin set for you? After all, who is responsible for your life and how much of originality do you want to pursue? And finally, what do you think of a person who shies away from even attempting to try out his dreams, lest uncle and aunt think otherwise?? A Gentleman, hero, villain or pure middle class Budget Padmanabham??
If Telugus truly want Navyandhra and Bangaru Telangana, their society can no more afford to be populated with copy-cats and mob-followers. No society can dream of attaining prominence without its own very original thought seekers. Telugus badly need to defy well-entrenched norms and become true-to- themselves in thoughts and deeds. Yaddanapudi has written a novel in 70s titled “Andhra Yuvakuda!! Daari Itu”. I have not read that book but like that title immensely.
Time someone tells again, “Andhra Yuvakuda!! Navyandhra daari itu”. High time Telugus re calibrate their compass and find out real and effective route maps, not lanes and bylanes which lead to traffic jams!!