With the declaration of the UPSC 2019 result, there has been an interesting development of conversation online, mainly on WhatsApp groups. The sentiment in most of the conversation has been that of disappointment. This is because, of the 829 selected candidates, none has been from our community. Now knowing the competitive nature of the said exam and expecting someone from our community to be on the list every year, I think the confidence we have on our youth is commendable. At the same time, it is frightening for our youth the amount of expectation and high standard of success set by our society. I’m no expert on “how to crack the Civil Service exam” and I do not have a YouTube Channel with videos about the tricks for such an exam. As such the objective here is not to analyse why our youth could not clear the exam this year or to give any advice on what to next and how to prepare for it. The objective here is rather of a larger issue, and it’s also a continuation of the personal discussion with friends or classroom discussions with professors over the years.
Being a young university student and soon to be job hunting from place to place myself, I had some problems with the kind of conversion happening around the idea of “success” that we as a group are promoting. Before I get into that, I would first like to apologize if I offend anyone by sharing and writing about these group conversations, but as they were from public forum groups I don’t see much problem in scrutinising about it. Also, anyone can take this as a precaution warning about adding me to WhatsApp groups; I might turn it into an essay without your consent and let me confess that this is not the first time. Secondly, I would like to also clarify that I don’t have any problem with the UPSC aspirants. Rather, I have high respect for some of them who are commendable in the dedication they have for it, which I can never do myself. However, by problematising our collective obsession with UPSC and other more stable and lucrative government jobs, I would like to stress the importance of understanding that these jobs cannot be “the be-all and end-all”, as a friend said to me.
Coming back to what happened online, as I was observing one of the groups I was part of, the conversation began with some expressing disappointment about the result. Some were more encouraging in their words, where one said that despite the result this year our youth must continue to aspire of it and work harder. The problem…or let’s say a healthy debate began when someone posted a meme that critiqued the student forum. The meme critiqued the student forum for their “bad” use of resources on sporting events while expecting a good result in such an exam from the youth, without much resource support in comparison to sporting events. This led to hundreds of messages more that were, either, in support of the critique or against it. I believe both were right and problematic in their own ways. The critique against the forum comes from a place I believe is frustrated. Frustrated because these “experts” without much constructive support are quick to point out reasons for their failure. Such scrutiny instead of helping can instead increase the amount of pressure they are already under. Saying that I would also remark that CS aspirants have it better than those aspiring for some other career option. The time and resources spent on CS aspirants are seen by the larger society as legitimate in comparison to someone picking a career in music or sport.
As I continue observing the debate back and forth, a very problematic statement was made, that was not questioned while some even showed support. The comment roughly translated said that “in our society, some brilliant CS aspirants get stuck in jobs like Call Centre/BPO or IBPS/Bank PO, (taking the) Easy way out”. This is the sentiment I would like to address and problematise. Further, I would not be wrong at generalising this sentiment as a collective one, seeing the support it got from others. Also while only a few make such statements, the sentiment plays out subtly in different social and family gatherings, and many of us have been at the receiving end of such judgment. At the core of such a statement is our obsession with UPSC related jobs as a community, and that defines our understanding of “success” and “respect”. Different Jobs are placed in a hierarchy and your place in those jobs defines your status in the society as well. At the top of this hierarchy is UPSC related jobs, their passion is the most legitimate and if they are lucky and brilliant enough to clear it, they will get featured interviews on the local newspapers, TV channel, and many more WhatsApp groups. Below them are any other government jobs, which can be anything from high paying engineers and professors to bank POs. Their struggles are still legitimate and respected in society but not as much as the one mentioned above. At the lower end are those that society sees as “easy way out”, like the call centre job or any other BPO related work. And even below them are those whose passion that society cannot legitimise in any way, the ones that if you mentioned to your family would lead to arguments, tears, and ridicule from cousins.
This outlook on career option is ingrained on us from a young age, where every year with the declaration of metric and higher secondary board examination, topper are advised to start preparing for UPSC and from there other options are discussed. This is the start of a race that will define whether you will be gloried or shamed in the future. While the repercussion of such processes is beneficial for a few at the top, it is not so for the many at the bottom. As one of my professors says such a celebration of certain “success” is detrimental to our society as a whole, wherein creativity is lost in the process of mechanically producing some jobs. Social relationships are also affected wherein many decide to not participate in one of those “respected” gatherings because they belong to a certain group of people working in a not so “respected” job. A common meeting ground for people lessen and distance between those at the top and below grows and humanity is lost in a process where both groups do not have an understanding of the other. In conclusion, I would like to propose an ideal, something to aspire for as a collective. This society is one, wherein all forms of passion are equally respected and legitimate, with the hope that success is not associated with a certain form of CV, and failure is not associated with failing to fill those CV a certain way.