Let me share some of my insecurities today on Iris. I am not sure if many of you feel the same that I am feeling.
Apparently, world economy has slowed down in its growth, the value of money is lesser than ever, there is a relentless competition at all levels (corporate and higher education) for creating grounds for survival rather than co-existing as equal survivors. I am intrigued by this level of competition and the constant need to “prove” yourself in the market. Recently, I visited Mumbai and met some old friends and juniors. All that I am able to recollect from my past discussions and interaction is the stupendous insecurity and the constant need to say that “I am better than such..such…such…” and that “I achieved”. It’s not that these thoughts, these competitive vibes do not touch me. Let me confess, these vibes are sometimes deeply disturbing — they create a pressure to perform or perish into anonymity.
This “perform or perish” business is deeply ingrained in the human mind. When Mr. Rajesh Khanna (the proclaimed first super-star of India) died recently, a whole bunch of news articles and stories proliferated on his life, achievements, and his times. I was reading Shormistha Panja’s article on her blog on IBN Live about the rise and fall of Mr. Khanna as the superstar. What struck me was her title itself: “Catch a Falling Star”. Stars shine bright on the firmament and then move into pitch-dark falls from the skies of their popularity.
Celebrities and super-stars, constantly need to prove their mettle to the world and out-do what they have already achieved/ are achieving. If you have observed the pulp news-papers and Page-3 glorification of a certain young star/ sportsperson, proclaiming her/ him as the “next big thing” of the country, you must have observed that there also follows a sharp decline in their performance after these proclamations. My study is that these declines are a result of overwhelming psychological and social pressures to “outdo” their own past performances. Mr. Khanna is perhaps a classic example of the fall of such an angel who became the victim of his own performance and his own competitive abilities. The tribute article by Mr. Amitabh Bachhan, the man who is thought to be instrumental in the fall of this “angel” by popular mediums, clearly spells out some of the insecurities that stars go through when they are competing with each other and with themselves. Prof. Panja also writes that it was the release of “Zanjeer” that spelt the downfall of Rajesh Khanna.
Some actors are proclaimed as super-stars based on their first movie by media and the public. After that one performance they are so deeply entrenched in that character, that it becomes difficult for them to sustain anything new coming their way and re-invent themselves.
I have been citing celebrities in the context of this article because our own lives sometimes reflect theirs. As human beings we tend to show certain kinds of traits, patterns of behaviour that are similar. These behavioral patterns create insecurities in ourselves as well as in others — fair enough, as long as these insecurities do not disturb your own and someone else’ equanimity.
Performance indexes in education are inflexible and judgmental. We judge people by the pages of papers or presentations (many of these might be sub-standard) that they produce. In my opinion, some of the solution to education policies and necessity for reducing the “perform-perish” equation may be based on the returns that we give to society in terms of thoughts, ideas, service work, creativity, etc. Idealistic it might sound, but it is not impossible. My reference goes to some intellectual persecutions happening at Kolkata during the current regime in the name of anti-government campaigns. India needs its own model of assessing performances rather than relying on borrowed indexes. What these models are, the think-tanks need to figure out for themselves….
Who determines individual success quotients? I am not very sure — might be subjective. For some success might mean ample bank balance, for some it may mean a great house and family, for some it might refer to promotion etc., while for many others success is determined by the fact that you managed to survive one more day on earth without going hungry or dying on the streets. For such people performance is determined by the daily wages they earn and perishing refers to the day they go without work….