One fifteen year Indian kid operated on a patient and actually performed the surgery aided by his own father in Tamil Nadu. The father is proud of his son’s achievements and when the medical association protested against this surgery, the father said that everyone is ‘jealous’ of his son’s achievements.
In another incident, a thirteen year old Indian CEO launched his own company in Silicon Valley. He has an executive team of other thirteen year olds. He hopes to secure funding for his company, and drop out just like Bill Gates.
Many Indian parents nowadays try to see accomplishments and their successes through their kid’s performance and achievements. These parents having reached midlife see a plateau in their career. They now compare their kids with others and feel proud only through the achievements made by their kids.
In India, parents are obsessed with the scores of their kids. They measure the kids only by the scores they get in various subjects at school. And when the kids don’t do well in the exams, these parents get really upset. Some of the parents punish themselves for their kids lack of performance. They are not ready to go out and face the world. They don’t talk to the kid for months. Some parents resort to punishing the kids, stopping their allowance, stopping their play activities, stop their TV watching, etc.
These days its all about child prodigies and child geniuses. The parents don’t want a good kid, they don’t want an excellent kid, what they want is a genius kid- a Bill Gates or Lakshmi Mittal. Not anything less.
Some readers may quickly conclude that we do this because we are in a rat race here in India. Its not very different in other countries. Most Indians kids in US are in a race to outperform the other. Scores, marks, grades, percentiles matter more than anything else. Not much has changed just because you are in a different country.
You will see hundreds of parents in US who want to outdo the others through their kid’s achievements. For most part, their life revolves completely around these kids. They drop them off at school, pick them up from the school, get them ready for music class, drop them off, pick them up, drop them off at soccer practice, pick them up, finish their homework, etc. Their weekends involve more such practices or meeting up other parents who have their kids in the same rat race. The talk revolves mostly around the kid’s performances. In fact, most Indian kids perform very well in US. Spelling Bee contest, or a Quiz competition, Indian kids are right there to outperform everyone else. Those parents whose kids are doing well are sought after for advice by other parents who want to bring up their kids the same way. And those parents whose kids are not doing well, and have realized this, have shunned themselves from such parties, and they hang their faces in shame.
So who are these parents?
These are the middle class parents, just like you and me- lower middle class, upper middle class, all middle class. Most of these parents are above average, have done well in life, but NOT that well. They always felt that they should have had a head start, should have had much better education (than what they had), should have much better opportunities (than what they had). They feel they would have become much more, a Bill Gates, a Sunil Mittal, a Sharapova, if ONLY, if only they had much better access to opportunities, if ONLY they spent more time studying instead of whiling away time in the playground playing silly games, if ONLY they had come home from school and went to evening classes instead of spending time with friends. For these parents, who feel they have lost out on missed opportunities, their kids shouldn’t be wasting their time. They shouldn’t wait to become adults to prove and perform, they should start right away, right now. They should win the spelling bee contests, win the trophies and awards, speak in debates, win the quizzes, win the talent competitions, and be the smartest, brightest, and always the first. These parents PUSH the kids to perform better and better each time, raising the bar each time, and when these kids win accolades, these parents bask in that glory. These are the parents who want to be behind the stage, on the stands, in the audience, congratulating, encouraging, supporting, video-recording, photo-shooting, while their kids keep winning laurels. They have given up struggle for themselves, and instead focus that struggle on their kids now. They think they have reached the peak of their performance, but believe their kids have the world open for them to conquer.
Its not much different for Indian parents in US. Every Indian family in US is more or less the same- two cars, a house, a green card or citizenship, few trips to nearby states, a big TV, small investments in real estate in India, etc. Now they want to differentiate from other families, and this they do by pushing their kids to perform.
Recently, I was visiting a bookstore in Bangalore. A mom was accompanied by her 3-year old kid. While the kid was looking blank into the space, the mom was buying a book, it was titled something like ‘How to make your kid a genius’. There, I felt pity for that little kid and I thought, ‘here goes another wasted childhood’.