Random musings…
The ones that got written down.

the ism to beat all isms… nepotism…

the caste system is wrong… we know that today… nepotism is the caste system all over again

An exceptionally great doctor I know, the daughter of two exceptionally great doctor parents, has worked hard to keep her children away from the profession. One is an architect now and the other is a media professional. Her reasoning “since the time I was able to understand what they were talking about I have listened to my parents talk in terms of fingers of dilation, now I too am a gynecologist and my day revolves around fingers of dialation, I did not want my kids to have this same life, I wanted them to be different”. Understandably, that’s the same amazing woman who gave me a hug outside the OT while handing over our second daughter and said “Tu to gaya IAK, three girls in the house teri band bajaa dengi yeh” (your goose is cooked IAK and no you can’t eat it)… also the very same woman who told us on the day after delivering our first daughter “make sure you guys have another baby because once a single childs’ parents are gone there is no family left to speak to”… anyway I digress… the topic I was going to talk about was the new darling of every idiot on social media, TV and streets today, NEPOTISM.

How often have we looked upon the son of an Army officer becoming an Army officer with pride, he comes from a family of soldiers. How often do we turn around from the gynecologist husband to bump into the pediatrician wife only to finally land up at the super specialized diabetologist daughters chambers one fine day. Ever noticed how the legacy of Dhirubhai Ambani was not only taken over by his lookalike son but further catapulted into the stratosphere within his own lifetime. Or the politician who is doing such amazing work for the community only to later realize that this good boys father was once the Minister of Railways who had done amazing work in his lifetime. It’s as if the universe has decided that success and excellence would come only from riding the shoulders of giants. This is usually referred to as good upbringing and solid ideals even on the job training from the word go…. rarely sometimes also referred to as being born with an advantage… the proverbial silver spoon… I beg to differ, I just call it plain and simple Nepotism. I mean isn’t that what it’s supposed to mean, parents ensuring the future of their kids. At least Arnab Goswami would have us believe this definition and join him in demanding justice for whatever he’s fighting for tonight, frankly the nation is better off not knowing what troubles his damaged mind…

If you ask me the dice is loaded. The child of a police constable has to work exceptionally hard to break the ceiling and enter the world of medicine. The son of a farmer has to work equally hard to become a commissioned officer. The struggle is real and no one is going to lend them a helping hand, the parents can try but can’t do much because the field is not understood by them and outsiders can do only so much. The initiative, the fire has to come from an unknown place which more often than not is missing. It is only once in a very rare while that an outsider is able to break the barrier and cross over. In the civilized world we call these people outliers or mavericks and promptly proceed to embrace them, welcome them into civilization as we know it. The world is a better place once these outliers have crossed over and left their previous lives behind. As long as these mavericks conform to the norms of society they are feted by all and sundry. And then they proceed on the age old journey of procreating, guiding and providing for their progeny, ensuring that their children appreciate and carry forward their legacy. The world moves on along not realizing that nepotism rages on inspite of this one short blip.

At this point it is important to understand what is it that makes nepotism actually a reasonably good thing. Bear with me, don’t dismiss this outright as a regressive untenable position. What happens when a child is born in a family of doctors? He grows up listening to medical terms, his first toy the very first toy is his grandfathers sthethescope, he knows how to use the sphygmomanometer before his first milk tooth falls off, he has given injections to his house helps before he has figured out cycling, dissections are weekend activities before he sprouts the first traces of a mustache, he has probably witnessed childbirth from the gallery at an OT before his first kiss, medical terms are things he listens to and learns about even before his first day at the medical college. He is good at his job not just because his parents had enough money to send him to the best of schools but because he was all his life groomed for one single thing, not consciously but only because that was his environment. Similarly consider a super stars child, she inherits the parents’ good looks (genetics), is surrounded by messaging about camera angles, lighting, exposure, image building and all the crafts of the trades all the time. She does go to the best of schools but the school back at home is where the maximum tutoring take place. The actors daughter has access to his friends who are also in the business of movies, they further help her hone her skills in front of the camera through cameos in advertisements etc. By the time she is old enough to want to be an actor, the age when a small town girl runs away from home with nary a clue about showbiz except the posters on the walls of her room back home, this super stars daughter has had enough education in the craft to qualify for a screen test. The fact that she is known to people in the industry ensures they give her a chance and lo and behold she too is an actor while the small town girl is still tying her laces. Consider a grocery store owner, same story all over again. Son knows the ins and outs of procurement, storage, adulteration, demand spikes and whatever there is to know about running a business successfully. It is no surprise that this son grows up to become a businessman who is ever ambitious and ever aggressive about profits. Profits for this boy are the bottom line, the only focus he has been shown to respect is the unwavering focus on the bottom line, how much money am I making out of this interaction. By this time you understand very well how a disciplined, principled army-mans son is brought up in the same traditions and grows up ramrod straight and fully aware of his duties and responsibilities. All of these and gazillions more of these are examples of the fruit falling not far from the tree and we all at this stage agree to one thing that what children observe around themselves is better absorbed than what they are told to learn. Essentially hand me down professions or as we in India have come to know them now as, the caste system, are nothing but a function of refinement and natural selection. Do we call this home schooling system of upbringing nepotism? Should we stop parents from letting a child get any idea about what funds the weekend trips to Hamleys? How do we take away this unfair advantage that children of a certain profession have over others wanting to enter that profession?

Survival of the fittest is well and truly alive in the form of the caste system. Yes children should be encouraged to find their own bliss, explore their faculties to the fullest. However how do you think that will happen? When a child, since being born, sees only one type of profession around him and finds that there is discussion almost on a constant basis about that one profession only. It is but natural that she would pick up the tricks of the trade while growing up and become excellent at that profession by when it’s time to go fly. Yes they have a choice courtesy what they are exposed to at school and in some cases they do that as well, the mavericks the outliers, but the easier route almost always is to follow the well traveled path. I feel it is actually a better thing if children take up the profession of their parents, it makes for progress. Of course not if life is miserable, in that case be a rebel be the person who crosses the barrier, breaks the ceiling, flies the coop. But in case the child chooses to enter the same profession as his parents the child will almost always do better at the job than the parents courtesy the fact that he has already learnt what they knew and then he has gone and attended college to earn a degree. His journey starts from pretty much the same point where his parents are at today after a lifetime of experience, it can only get progressively better. This works well for the world as well, because successful people who are not fighting their natural selves are happy people.

So am I saying that nepotism, as we know it or think about it, is correct? Am I saying that the caste system was good for us? Well, yes and no. Nepotism as per the textbook definition means favoring children of friends of relatives usually by giving them a job. It is wrong when you have an opening at your workplace, have five candidates who appear for the interview and your friends child is the bottom of the rung in terms of qualifications and experience but you still give him the job. However is it really that incorrect when you have five equally qualified candidates (on paper) and your friends child has the advantage of having grown up in a similar business, being familiar with you and because of the familiarity being easier to talk to? Imagine ticking off a fresher on day one and imagine ticking off a friends son you’ve employed on the first day. Right, the friends son hits the ground running he does not have to be gently introduced to the work culture and most importantly he knows the technical details of the job at hand which makes him productive from day one. An outsider has to struggle harder and from a business point of view patience is a luxury that can hardly be afforded in a cut throat market. Nepotism is a bad thing only when the choices are between different qualifications. When everyone is equally qualified and enthusiastic then I feel it is ok to pick the friends son. In fact not giving the job to the son would be discrimination against him and unjust to your own business because you know this guy will be productive day one where as the outsider is unproven and will need ice-breaking and on the job training. Yes invariably the question asked will be then how does an outsider gain experience and rise in that profession? the answer being by being humble, being patient and understanding that just doing a college degree does not qualify them to be at par with the candidate who has a lifetime of job specific education besides the same college degree and is easier to talk to… it will take time to break in be patient and don’t start blaming the system…

The other thing to understand here is that if we were to take the example of doctors for instance. You wouldn’t go back to the doctor (who came from a family of doctors) if she is not good enough and does not fix you up properly. You would never spend money on watching senseless cinema if the actor who comes from a set of star parent is not really good at his job, of entertaining you. You would never see a soldier coming from a family of soldiers but who is not up to the mark leading men, that promotion would never come in fact a laggard soldier coming from a family of soldiers will be kicked out once the CO identifies that lack of effort and ability. The point being that heredity and natural selection may work to get you in but once in do you sink or soar depends solely on your own enthusiasm, ability, skill and grit. If you are lacking in any of these you would be toast. What’s more you will always continue to live in the shadow of your highly successful parent, so the pressure is heavier on you to prove yourself worthy and better, the bar is way high. For an outsider it is not so, there is no expectation no benchmark for them, the bar is non-existent. Yes there is an initial struggle to get in but once in you are at par with the privileged kid, in fact better positioned because no one expects you to do anything at all except follow orders whereas the privileged kid is expected to know what is to be done (you’ve seen this all your life how can you do it wrong?). People go out of their way, in most cases, to help an outsider succeed because they know he needs the guidance and also because he is humble about it… that does not happen with the dynast a few mistakes and he’s downgraded to untouchable status, not to be given important assignments.

End of the day nepotism and casteist silos are wrong however bringing up kids in the shadows of their parents is not wrong. Someone in the family through the generations has put in the blood, sweat and tears at one point to become good at their adopted jobs and now all they are asking for is that their child be allowed to skip the scenic route based upon the skills that have been passed on to the children through observation since birth. Early man was not a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon or an automobile engineer or a cinematographer… someone up the family tree worked hard broke the entry barrier and laid the foundation… The early start and experience is a valuable asset in all fields of work. The world should benefit from recursive refinement and not disregard and sweep under the carpet inherent ability gained from having been brought up in an environment that is heavy with discussion, explanations and demonstrations about the trade. Yes the world should strive for uplifting those who wish to break the barriers, and, I believe it does too. However what is unfair is the expectation that success will come over night. The son of a poor farmer making his mark as a sniper in the army opens the door for the grandson of that farmer to become a JCO, lays the foundation for the next generations to finally end up as the CoAS some time down the generations and that is progressive refinement… the only correct way of doing things. Overnight stardom is often not sustainable and only gives the world flashes in the pan, not consistent progress. Again not saying discrimination is the way to achieve success just saying recognize talent, hone it and be patient… those with the advantage of a lifetime of education in the field are possibly going to be better than you… try and wrap your head around that idea and work harder to become better. Do not blame the system for being discriminatory, the system is self promoting itself by indulging better groomed candidates…. deserve before you command and you wont ever need to demand…

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