The ‘Sorting Hat’ of Life: Children and their Career Choices

We are pleased to add another writer, Sultana Fakhri, to this group Blog. She has written this post to more or less coincide with “Children’s Day”, celebrated on November 14th in India. Please welcome her warmly by commenting on her maiden post. – Priya Raju.

`Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.  `I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, `because I’m not myself, you see.’ (from Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”)

I have felt the truth of these lines several times …the most I must admit in my professional life.

If I had consciously known as a child what my inner sub-conscious leanings were, (for the Child is Father of the Man!) then life would have led me on a path less traveled indeed. But what I did was only to fall into line with the many bustling passengers on the path most traveled : The Rat Race.

It so happens that I was not destined to be a Rat. Maybe I was destined to participate in the graceful royal walk that is a jungle cat’s birthright !  Instead of scurrying fast through the undergrowth of life as if afraid that something or someone would get me if I’m not fast enough!!

Now that the moment of truth knocks, I never wanted to be a rat, what do I do?  Does it mean that I wasted my life all along?

That brings me to the moot point of this post: childhood counseling and its importance in shaping the child’s future professional calling :

  • I recall the counselors of my early age:  very sober dames, multiple-degree holders in psychology, pointing out better ways of behavior to awkward teenagers who just now realized that they are no longer children; or those strict, spectacle-clad ‘Aunt Polly’ of Tom Sawyer kind of ladies with strong notions that children about ten are best treated sternly; I benefited from neither kind.
  • Who knows a child best? No, not his father and mother; not even his teachers who’ve heard him blab his alphabets; it’s the child himself. He knows what tugs at his tender heart-strings, he subconsciously knows what he is meant to be when he grows up. In true childlike fantasy when a three-year old says he wants to go up to the moon when he grows up, his frustrated father cuts him short and jokingly tells him that he better remain and learn to build things on Earth. A lot less jokingly when the son is entering college and wants to be an artist or a musician and the father says none of this nonsense, please can he fill up that engineering application form? And the innate vision is lost in the shadow of a mundane so-called reality.

There seem to be cropping up various kinds of questions on the subject of helping children decide the path of their professions at an early age based on what their innate capabilities are … and here I ask some of them…

  • Who is to take the responsibility of probing these capabilities in a child without influencing the tender mind too much on the virtues of one profession over another?
  • How to make sure that the child himself / herself is not misled by the glamorous ‘outside’ of a particular profession (like the Media/ Film /Aviation Industry for example) without knowing the hard inside story?
  • What is the ‘fitment’ ratio of the child’s capacities / soul urge to his or her choice of profession? Who could possibly be a fair judge if it will not be a case of a ‘square peg in a round hole?’
  • Who is it who will take the time to observe the child so well so as to observe the particular ‘flair’ that the child may have got : for those of us who have watched these films ‘Monsoon Wedding ‘, Lakshya or  ‘Taare Zameen Par’. regarding the temperament of children/youth in relation to choice of pursuits and capability.

Now what is needed for our future generations, friends is a Sorting Hat. Yes, I mean the very same Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat of Harry Potter fame. And for all the great reasons!

  • The Sorting Hat is not the child’s parents or Teacher; so it does not matter to it whether the child grows up to be an Engineer, scientist or Carpenter! Impartiality therefore enables it to make a fair decision from a detached vantage point
  • The Sorting Hat groups children based on their innate capabilities and leanings : the ‘core’ of personality
  • The Sorting Hat LISTENS to the child’s inner voice : In the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’, the Hat almost sorts Harry Potter into the Slytherin House but it also gives ear to Harry’s mental protest that he wants to be in Gryffindor and there he is sent. It does not overrule the leanings of the child though it holds its own judgement very superior.

Psychometric analysis at an early age definitely comes close at identifying the strong and not so strong areas of a personality which, along with the child’s own intuition can nudge in the right direction of a future vocation / profession. And no cowing the child down please in the name of all those good intentions that we are capable of!

The key essence here being ‘uniqueness.’ If a Sachin or a Sania are to shine on the sports field, what good would it have been to push them into an IIM? Imagine the agonies that an Einstein would have gone through trying to be a ‘good student’ at college?

And so to unleash this unique color is to add to the Rainbow of Life on this Earth! We need to reflect all this as we celebrate the Nehru-chacha inspired “Childrens Day” on the 14th of every November. Lets give a new deal to our children!


  1. Quote

    Great Article. Our kid’s future is key for all parents now. I think as a parents we have to provide all platform for their decision making but should not force any thing to them. I read the Psychometric analysis, but we don’t know the success rate as of now and how reliable those tests are? Nowadays kid’s has so many choices but in good old days we had only 2 forced options doctor or engineering. I hope once we provide the basic education and solid foundation, they can choose their profession after 15 years old.


  2. Quote

    Hi Sultana,

    Nice post. Most children are made to carry the forbidden / failed dreams of their parents. It will be really interesting to see how accurate the analysis and tests are. If it could really attain its purpose the difference and impact it brings in would be enormous.

    Now on a whole -I like this site very much since each and every post gives something for me to chew on .Good work guys
    Happy to let you know that the posts help me a lot.


  3. Quote

    Sultana – An excellent post, straight from your heart. As a Harry Potter maniac myself, I think the Sorting Hat analogy is spot on. I love the way you threaded it with the rest of the post.

    Parents can have dreams for children. But, they can’t impose their will on them, without understanding the dreams & capabilities the kids have.

  4. Quote

    Excellent post. I totally agree that we should let each child choose its own path.

    However, i think this is an extremely complex issue in a country like India. If observe this parents-forcing-children phenomenon it is mostly the middle-class and upper-middle-class. These people are very afraid about letting their children take a risk and fail. Ultimately if the kid doesn’t get a good degree and a good job they may not survive and being middleclass they may not have the financial muscle to fund the child through a risky profession like arts, music, sports..

    But when well-to-do families try to force their children it is quite grating.

    Maybe to tackle the middleclass dilemma, we may want to start support groups etc to help the parents manage their expectations for their children. You know not everyone needs to be a v.anand or a sania mirza or a a.r.rehman. Decent money can be made if you are quite good at something.

  5. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 17, 2008, 12:22 pm:

    That was beautiful Sultana,

    Sorting hat metaphor was awesome

  6. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 12:55 pm:

    Hi Subba,

    Thank you for the wise questions you have raised on the success rate of the psychometric analysis. I shall write more on this in another comment where more data regarding reliability and usefulness of this shall be elaborated upon.

    You’re right about providing the basics first and then letting them decide. I would say the decision should be made before taking the public exam in Class X and immediately after passing Std X, for it is there that the student actually decides on a mature path of study… for eg. its very difficult for an Arts higher secondary pass out to think of getting into a para-medical / biotechnology field, though he / she may have developed a genuine interest in the subject. whereas somebody with good grades /distinction in Physics / Chemistry/Biology will be a more natural candidate in the selection process. Therefore, it must be decided ‘then and there’ what path to pursue. Hence the need for early career counselling. If we go wrong in Class XI, there are chances we might find ourselves unhappy down the line.


  7. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 1:18 pm:

    Hi Deepak,

    Thanks for your response. You have made a very interesting point ! In bringing up the “forbidden / failed dreams of their parents”… Little do such parents realize that Time has moved on. What was once a lofty goal is now commonplace. The standards have changed and the child of today wants to achieve Today’s lofty goal and now what was in yesteryears…

    To my knowledge, the new HR Mantra is psychometric analysis to get the strong points and not so strong points of an indiviudal and it is pretty accurate if the person answers the questions honestly.

    as for such a thing for young people, it can be useful if handled by trained professionals.

    Do check these links.. I found them interesting.

    this link really felt nice to read , check this out :

    Best Regards

  8. Quote

    Hi Sultana !

    This was indeed an interesting read. Children and their dreams being killed is so mainstream these days, that a child living his dream is almost as rare as finding a pot full of gold as you dig the garden !

    Although, i must say that things are not what they used to be, even some time back, and there is tremendous awareness about possibilities that reside within young minds. And many a parent has taken the first tentative step to fight their own fears !

    The sorting hat metaphor seems to have been created for this post !

    However, i am not sure if the answer lies in psychometric tools. Validity of their results reside at one end but more importantly the potential of it being understood and used in convenient bits resides strongly.

    I would imagine the answers lie in awareness, discussion and discovery. More for parents than for children…!

    Lovely read !

  9. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 2:19 pm:

    Priya and Sukumar,
    Thank you very much for hosting my thoughts on your blog.

  10. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 2:26 pm:


    thank you very much.

  11. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 2:38 pm:


    ‘The Middle Class Dilemma’ as you so rightly put it – Needs a solution as early as we can manage to get it. Maybe there should be another blogpost by someone on this, not just with respect to Childrens’ career choices and education, but the entire ‘Life Patterns’ of this large chunk of Indians; It would be an interesting study;

    and yes agree cimpletely: One doesn’t really need to be a superstar of any kind to be ‘sucessful’ person in life.

  12. Quote
    Surendar Chellappa said November 17, 2008, 3:42 pm:

    Sultana – very nice post.

    Early fantasies of children are uninhibited by adult realities. And when their dreams are encouraged, I guess the big thing that happens is, their brain wires up for accomplishing those dreams.

    Considering that adult ‘realities’ (for the most part) are really other people’s misadventures and half-trials, getting us out of the way seems to be a good thing to do.

    My first reaction to childhood psychometry is a NO. Pls do share why you recommend the same.

  13. Quote

    Very thoughtful post, Sultana. It is very true and sad that parents try to live their life through their children and impose all their dreams (mostly unfulfilled) on them. Ideally, parents need counselling on how to be non-interfering in their children’s decisions and at the same time be supportive and intuitive enough to guide and equip their children with enough abilities to be self reliant. Most of it has to do with our culture (certain good aspects like respecting elders become a bottleneck when we overdo them). Most of the problems will be solved when parents get into the shoes of their children and behave more as a peer/friend than as an “elder”.

  14. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 5:38 pm:


    thank you for your response.’Non-interfering, yet support and intutive enough to guide’ – this is indeed what the New Age parent needs to do for their children, for this is the need fo the hour.

    Surely, a ‘peer’ is what a child seeks as a confidante rather than an elder, hence we need to ‘become’ a child if we truly want to understand one.

  15. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 17, 2008, 6:11 pm:

    Dear Surendar,

    thank you for yet another angle of analysis.

    I recommend that every child above ten needs to become aware of what his / her inner leanings are : what is his / her ‘Life Path’. The earlier a child gets to know the difference between ‘Life’ and ‘Living’ the better. And that having made a successful Living is not the same as having lived a Great Life. It is not wrong at all to choose to make a great Living. Its just that you have to be sure that it is what you want most. And for this, you need to be sure of what you want / do not want to do. The ‘Inner Calling’ as I call it. Then you start sharpening your skills like a good sculptor would do his tools, before creating his masterpiece. Or like an Artist who deciphers the intricacies of shade and palette before touching the Canvas.

    I recommend early personality analysis because it is at this malleable age that one can mould one’s personality with a Vision. Mother Theresa decided to be who she was at the tender age of 12. And we know the story of ‘Little Abe’ (Abraham Lincoln) who avoided hunting to spend time in Reading – to become his Country’s President and the abolisher of Slavery – Yes, he managed to do all this without anyone telling him what his stregths were. But not everyone is a Lincoln or a Mother Theresa. We need help and its good to know that I have the qualities of Empathy to become a good HR person. I must know the level of my Organizational skills to be a good Administrator or my Visionary Insight to be a high-level leader – so that I can start aquiring the necessary skills for my chosen path in life.

    Such tests may not altogether elminiate, but will reduce the risk of a ‘square peg in a round hole’ kind of scenario.

  16. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 17, 2008, 9:06 pm:

    Actually Sultana,Children have amazing dreams,but when as they gorw they exhibit Ratistic tendencies and follow the crowd.The few who have left crowd have struggled initially but are finally happy.

    The problem with most parents is that they try to save child from fall instead of actaully letting the children hurt themselves and learn about life.I do feel but atleast in West some amout leverage is there for the kids.

    About 6 years back on a trek to in Ooty my friends and I met an 18 year old bloke from UK.He was just out of school and he had taken a year off to explore different parts of the world to see what interests….and we met met him during his Indian leg,here was here to work for a charity organsation doing medical aid, and hence he decided to pursue a medical course after some years based on his liking for the same.

    @ 18 i was worried about my engineering options ( rather the colleges ) ,I could not even think beyond it ..So i feel children should evolve themselves

  17. Quote

    Nice post Sultana. Thanks.
    During my student days , what I felt made most of us guys choose the beaten path was the inflexibility of the system. By system , I am referring to both the academic system in India and the social system that’s prevalent in almost 70 % of Indian families who send their kids to school.

    Academic : As you rightly pointed out, class XI can be too much of a decider. I didn’t want any damn system to decide in a years time what I’ll be doing my whole life. The system should be more fair by making options more flexible to the extent that a student in the science stream should be allowed to sit in a commerce class and earn some credits if he is so interested. This mentality follows in college .Somehow I feel most of the Indian colleges/universities should be more aptly called Academic Jails.Not too sure about Arts/commerce colleges, but Engineering ones for sure are ! The golden word is ‘credits’ . If a student wants to learn something about human psychology/Music/religion/foreign languages , she should be allowed to do that & awarded credits in return. This somewhat ‘closed wall’ approach to education that we have built over the ages is not helping anyone. I think this flexibility is more so required in the Indian system where we have a huge number of ppl choosing courses to study without even going through what is going to be taught to them in the next 3 or 4 years.

    Social : As Sukumar points out, the Indian middle class is obviously afraid to fail. There is just too much penalty awarded to a student who fails/deviates from the system today. So it’s very difficult to make parents understand the importance of encouraging the less taken path if the child so desires. And what makes it worse is the fact that there is just too much short term gratification awarded in the beaten path that no one worries about long term results/prospects.
    One solution might be to start awarding short term rewards to more and more career options & bring more visibility to them. Long tem scholarships/fellowships etc could generate more interests. And yes, high time for some dedicated parent counsellors in schools too !

  18. Quote


    Nice post. As for me, based on my personal experience, I do not know if I was mature enough or had enough data/experience to decide what the right path for me was. All I knew was that I was an even-steven average student.

    I certainly was not a V.Anand or Tendulkar in the making. And I even if I had pursued the sport I was somewhat good at – Cricket, I probably would have not crossed 4th division in TNCA circuit.

    Yes, when I finished 12th, I was at a cross-roads, but I pretty much followed the usual pattern – went into engineering and even then the school of choice was my father’s. I wanted to stay closer to home, he suggested/goaded me to take up college in another state at a ‘better’ university. Undergrad confirmed the fact further that I was an even-steven/average bloke. And then I decided to follow what some of my friends had done – write GRE and do an M.S in U.S – though I did persuade my father to pay for some tuition etc.

    What is my point? Perhaps, the current generation is sufficiently mature and experienced enough to make such a decision at the ripe old age of 15, but I certainly was not. In a way, I am glad that family and later on my friends goaded and guided me to pursue a profession that is earning me a decent living. Otherwise, I do not know where I would be standing today.

    Here is what I would like to see change – Afford the opportunity for every one to change their career path or pursue their passion (once they figure out what it is) at a later age also. One should be able to make a decent living and support their family by pursuing any profession, as long as they strive to do their best and be reasonably good at what they do. In India, this is easier said than done.

    Everyone is not born a Tendulkar. The Rangachari and Vasu’s of the world who are only good enough to play the 4th division of TNCA also need to feed their family.

    Here would be my soap-box stance – Follow your dreams, but have a Plan B, C and D.


  19. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 18, 2008, 10:04 am:


    Good Point – this Plan B, C & D…!!! very practical and worldly-wise. 🙂

  20. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 18, 2008, 10:15 am:

    Ranjit, I echo your sentiments on the ‘closed wall’ approach of the Indian Education System!

    Indeed it is extremely unfair how they decide that just because one studied Engineering, why they can’t opt for Fine Art side by side if they have a passion for it…… I personally faced this when I was trying to do an M Phil in a subject different from what I did a Masters in…………

    Hope to see this change happen in the education system.

  21. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 18, 2008, 10:28 am:


    thank you so much for the good words..!

    Indeed the ‘answers lie in awareness, discussion and discovery’ for both parents and offspring of today. very good point of yours – the key word being ‘Aware’…

    About the psychometric analysis, as I say, having a fair idea about your own strengths and non-strengths (like a SWOT analysis) is better than having no idea at all….. that’s all there is to it.

    If I’m a right-brained child, leaning towards creativity – painting, sculpting,writing – there’s no point in my parents pushing me towards a ‘logic’ oriented study program with a lot of formulas and calculations which are a science-oriented child’s passion, right?

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of the different ‘learning’ methods we use as children and adults as well…
    the ‘Visual learner’ – who learns by ‘seeing’ and visual aids, the ‘Auditory’ learner who learns by listening , audio tapes etc. and the ‘Kinesthetic’ learner who learns by ‘touch’… by actually doing what he has to learn………. similarly the personality traits also differ from child to child…while one child in a class is good at Oral questions and Answers and does very average in the written test papers; while another child is great at essay-writing, but can’t do well in oratorical programs…

    Validity of the pyschometric test, we can get from qualified child psychologists, education specialists etc.

  22. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 18, 2008, 1:55 pm:

    Excellent comment. In my case also, I have been doing what everyone else was doing. As you said, i did not have the self-awareness at the age of 17 to decide what i should be doing. Aside from cricket which i was pathetic at, i really didn’t have any exposure to any other activity. Lack of exposure, my own conservative views (in fact, my parents never put pressure on me to do anything), i followed the herd and ended where i am today. i don’t have any complaints.

    The problem Sultana is pointing out i think is when parents exert undue pressure to make their children do something that they may not want to be doing. In my case, even if if my parents did put pressure, i would not have had an alternative course of action due to my own lack of awareness. but today’s kids are not like that. They know a lot and have exposure to a lot more things, and when parents put pressure which goes against the grain of what they want to do, it causes issues.

    As i said before, i think today’s parents (middle/upper middle class) exert pressure because they don’t want their children to “fail” according to what their definition of “success” is.

    As Ranjith says, we need counseling on both sides – parental side as well as students side to educate people on what are the possibilities, what are things that are not unduly risky etc.

  23. Quote
    Meena Chidambaram said November 18, 2008, 6:44 pm:

    Sultana – a very relevant post for today’s parent.
    I have been in dilemma over the same issue. Personally I don’t have any dreams for my son but I most definitely don’t want to see him fail…but there are some issues i see.

    1. How do we identify a child’s potential? My son liked to draw and paint at an early age and I wanted to encourage it and put him through a drawing class but he hated going there. Not sure if it was the teacher or because his drawing was being structured!! So i gave up he still draws and paints ..but it is more of modern body can decipher what he has drawn. You have mentioned about psychometric analysis. I would really like to know how well it works for kids. Sometimes because parents want their kids to try their hand in a lot of these options they end up enrolling them in so many classes. I feel sorry for the kids as their days are so packed that they hardly have time to be kids !!

    2. Another issue I see is that not all kids turn out to be stars..and when they choose the road less traveled unless they shine it is very difficult to make a decent living. In a country like India if you are an average sports person or an average musician you may not really be able to sustain as you would like to.

    3. One other issue is that even if you shine as a star will you be able to support your career..because a lot of these alternate options require financial support in the initial stages. I had read an article a couple of years back on kutraleeswaran , the ace swimmer who gave up swimming because of lack of sponsors and he also choose to be in the rat race and take up a masters degree at U.S.

  24. Quote


    Very touching post. I found it very profound. Priya is right – most parents live their dreams through their children without realizing that they are not letting their children live their own dream. This cycle has to be stopped somewhere.

    In the US, there is a human engineering research foundation – Johnson O’ Connor foundation that does this type of natural ability and aptitude testing. Students typically from 12 – 16 go through this 2 day analysis where they analyze you for what your natural abilities are and tell you. Any earlier, the foundation says that it’s too early and we haven’t developed all the skills fully yet.

    It’s also used by adults for Career changes. Anyone interested in a career move should go through this to understand what our natural abilities are. I did take this a couple of years ago and it’s extremely illuminating (my perspective).

    I think we need an Indian arm for JOCRF ( This will be very useful for the kids all over India.

    Like you said, what’s the point in being in a rat race, when you can excel in an donkey race or some other race perhaps.

  25. Quote


    I do agree with you that the kids of today have a lot more media and technology exposure and in general may even be more mature than we were between the ages of 15 and 20. Also, they do have more options than just engineering and medicine. Certainly more jobs in avenues such as journalism is now available to youngsters.

    If a peon in the government sector can earn enough to make ends meet and live a comfortable life, then it might make him/her pursue his/her passion on the side knowing that his family is not going to die of starvation. The current situation in India does not allow this. Given this, constant goading and pushing by parents of their wards towards an education and career that will help them maintain an appropriate standard of living is probably just normal parenting.

    If a child is exceptional in a particular arena and even after that if the parents push the child to do something else, that would be wrong.

    Until the standard of living in India rises to a level where majority of the population averages a salary such that they can eke out a decent living that puts 3 meals in the table a day, parents will continue to push their children. I am not saying this is right, just that it is the reality. Until then, JOCRF and physchometric analysis as tools will only be leveraged by the rich and ultra-rich.


  26. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 19, 2008, 1:15 pm:


    Thanks for taking the time to write these wonderful comments!

    Point 1 : I agree with you on ‘kids losing their childhood’ because they have a hectic schedule like adults because their parents want them to join up many areas ………this is exactly why we should let the child decide what he / she wants to take up – one or two areas of focus and become an expert at it… As to your son, I think you should encourage him to continue as he wants to – maybe that’s exactly what he wants to paint : Abstracts! I, for one thing have never understood the cubism in Picasso’s work, while I’m able to enjoy the form and structure that Ravi Varma does…. You see? Form is not your son’s method of painting. Abstract is what he wants. Just keep encouraging him… The lovely Vodafone ad comes to my mind :’Every Day I want to fly , stay by my side, Every Day I wish to dream, stay by my side’ – so just stay by your child’s side. He will do just fine. If he is really serious about Art, as he grows up you’ll find him digging out Masters from whom he wants to take classes, methods that he wants to imitate etc…

    Your son’s school counsellor can help with the Psychometric analysis as a starting point.It really helps. I shall dig up some more resources on this and mail you. do check this out : : its good.

    Maybe when he grows a little more, you can take him for full-fledged career counselling.

    Point 2 : What when you don’t become a star – Very True. The definition of success is not starhood or the lack of it. If the child ‘feels’ and ‘perceives’ himself as a star and successful, that is the defining factor. You have pointed out a very very imporant thing here – Livelihood. Back to the basics, yes, that is where I feel Ganesh’s Plan B, C, D etc is required. Sky is the limit, but you must at least land on the tree-tops…….. that’s where I guess we need to be geared to enter the job market if necessary….

    Point 3 : Another stark bare-bones reality of this World : Talent , specifically that which does not fall under the ‘business or trade’ umbrella won’t sell so easily. The story of Columbus and how he had to seek out Finances to discover a ‘New World’ , the trials and troubles that this World’s famous Philosphers, Scientists, Writers etc.. have gone through are recorded in history. It’s the same old story. To be a survivor we need to develop the ‘Life Skills’ that are necessary to beat the obstacles that stand in our path to success and rise as we say in the scientific world, ‘Against the concentration gradient’ under a lot of pressure which again needs a lot of mental and pychological resilience. And this brings me to the ‘Emotional Intelligence’ aspect of all this. To develop mental resilience, we have to inculcate at an early age, this EQ factor. Most high IQ people have failed due to a low Emotional quotient, because this is the trigger factor which drives a person how to use his high or medium IQ effectively. I sincerely hope and pray that the dawn of the New Age (the Information Age) of today shall bring better opportunities for special talent than what the World had to offer in bygone days.

  27. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 19, 2008, 1:20 pm:


    Can’t agree more with you on all the points you have said…..!!!!!!! and twelve is exactly the right age to begin ; pre-teens is the criteria. I’m thrilled to know that this is in practice. It is the need of the hour for the children in India, really. I do wish somebody takes it up in a big way and does something about this

    I can’t wait to take this test (adults) for me….!!

    thank you for this………… if you know more about this subject please do put it up, there are a lot of parents who want more info on this……………


  28. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 19, 2008, 1:54 pm:

    I agree with you for the most part especially concerning peons and other what could be called lower middle class folks. They definitely cannot afford to chase their passions – it is just way too risky.

    But does that situation cover all of India? I am afraid that we tend to sweep any egregious behavior of ours with the – we are poor people, we cannot afford it. The Indian middle class is said to number 250-300 million people. If you believe that estimate, close to 100 million out of that are upper middle class. Should they also be thinking in terms of putting 3 meals on the table or should they be doing things differently?

    Lot of the pushy parents i see today around me are the upper middle class ( I am sure there are exceptions). The root cause i think is – their definition of what constitutes “success” or “failure” is antiquated.

    Secondly, If as parents we don’t put an effort into understanding what the child’s inclinations are, i am not sure, how we can identify the “exceptional”.

    Encouraging originality or doing the atypical is just not being encouraged in our society – and interestingly the people that are most suited to afford that encouragement are not doing it.

    Perhaps some parental counseling as Ranjit has suggested may help.

  29. Quote

    Let me give a contrarian view, being a much older visitor to this blog.

    When we were young, it was accepted that some students will have enough in them to become engineers or doctors, which was the highest possible then, some would go into the armed forces, some would become bureaucrats, some would go into the family business or agriculture and some would simply float around. There was no pressure on any of us to “to carry the forbidden / failed dreams of their parents.” Some students took their time to finish their studies and it was no big deal.

    We were all quite busy with games, sports, inter school/college competitions etc. Very few did not participate. We had lots of time for everything.

    We, I mean by that, I and my siblings, plus our spouses, brought up all our children like that and they too have developed into sound genuine human beings, and surprise of surprises, even successful as the word is understood now a days. My son for instance is now 37 and a sound human being.

    My generation of people simply do not understand the need for all this competition.

  30. Quote

    Hi Sultana,

    Wonderful post. I loved your analogy of the “Sorting Hat”.

    Your post reminded me of Khalil Gibran’s Prophet where he writes about children as below:

    “Your children are not your children.

    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

    They come through you but not from you,

    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

    For they have their own thoughts.

    You may house their bodies but not their souls,

    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. “

  31. Quote


    You make a good point. I do agree that well-aware and educated parents in the upper middle class should certainly take their kids inclinations/aspirations in mind. I have seen kids who have pushed to pursue careers they were not interested in lose interest in education in total. You certainly do not want this.

    We do not want to paint a broad brush about the ability or the necessity to apply these tools across income class boundaries. Interest and aptitude are 2 different things. A child maybe interested in painting, but could suck a it and know that will never be good enough to earn a decent wage as an artist. This is where guidance and parenting comes in – perhaps let the child continue painting as a hobby, but steer the mind at a different area where he/she might be skilled at and perhaps even make a career out of it.

    Also, upper middle class can afford to help their kids pursue their dreams even if the kids are no good at it. And perhaps they should but always with a backup plan

    I believe middle class and down cannot afford this luxury of a backup plan at this point in time. Improve the general living standards and standards of what it means to be middle class and then hopefully that whole class will become better aware and let their wards be independent.


  32. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 20, 2008, 10:33 am:

    Dear Rummuser,

    I understand your point of view : you belong to my father’s generation from what you have described ” it was accepted that some students will have enough in them to become engineers or doctors, which was the highest possible then”…………….

    But guess what? Today its the ‘first possible’ thing that youngsters are capable of : Any fairly good student can aim to be an Engineer and instead of the conventional purely Medical field of MBBS, the white coats that medical science offers is of various kinds : Biotechnology and R&D, Bioinformatics, Applied Biology, Para-Medical sciences including Hospital Management which all falls under the broad umbrella of ‘Medical’. So any good science student with an Ph.D. in a basic-medical field like say Clinical Microbiology or Human Genetics has a chance if he / she is smart enough to get into the best R&D labs of a world-class Major like DuPont which pays off much better than being an MBBS house surgeon in a govt. Hospital

    Times have changed and are fast changing : It is very nice to hear that in those days children were free to do what they chose; But then those parents of yesteryears were themselves not into the Information Age. They themselves had not undergone pressure as children.

    Today, there is a lot of pressure on the child : self, peer-pressure, pressure from parents and pressure from Society : the stigma of being a ‘non-achiever’ can be terrible to bear.

    About being a ‘sound human being’ I beg to differ. It is not fair to say just because a child / adult find themselves being a ‘square peg in a round hole’ they are not sound human beings. They are still very good human beings, its just that they feel the twinge of unfulfillment in what they wanted to be professionally. That is where they have to take the decision and take the path they wish to travel.

    Coming to the point of ‘Competition’ that is exactly what I’m saying here : When do we compete..? When there are too many of the same kind and each is trying to excel the other……….

    When you have a poet, a painter, a sculptor, a writer, a musician, a singer, a dancer, an architect etc sitting together, each will complement the other’s talent…. the musician makes music for the poet’s verses, the singer sings them and the dancer dances to the tune ……. the architect is the one who built the stage for them with the sculptor adding to the artistic ambience…………… where is the competition……..? But if I all of these people were forced to be Engineers or doctors, then each has to try to be better than the other to get a particular job and instead of he being the Master of his craft and excelling in it, is a subordinate to the conditions of mere survival……

    I want each one of this generation to realise the unique talent that is within them and then tread on that path.

    However, thank you very much for your views………….

  33. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 20, 2008, 10:40 am:


    You could not have touched my heart-strings more ……… Gibran’s mystical poetry simply takes one to a plane akin to the cosmos…….!

    “For they have their own thoughts.

    You may house their bodies but not their souls,

    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”

    WOW….! How much one has to experience on a spiritual plane, how enlightened you must become to be able to write this………… What my dream is for the child of today to ‘conciously’ decide to take up the pen and write something to match this……… or excel it…………Might take a lifetime, but its worth it.

  34. Quote


    Wow, I love your words. Khalil Gibran is a true master of words. His words indeed take me into a different plane. I truly wish that every child grows up to pursue her/his dreams and is given an opportunity to do so.

  35. Quote

    Hey Sultana,

    Thanks a ton for choosing to write on the wonderful topic of leading children to their passion. This is a topic very close to my heart and it both excites me and pains me at the same time. It excites me to think of the potential that there is for improvement. We have a lot of work to do. It pains me to think that there are millions of kids who suffer from Monday morning blues every Monday of their life only because their parents (and society) did not let them listen to their heart and pursue their passion (or even did not let them find out what they would have loved doing!). Sometimes, of course, the children themselves may have not had the courage and stamina to stand up against their family and refuse to become yet another run-of-the-mill engineer/doctor.

    A point that I’d like to make here is that India is probably at the bottom of the pile in terms of diversity in career goals. Random programs on Discovery/Nat Geo/Animal Planet/History/Travel and Tourism Channels confirms that there is no dearth of ideas on what one can do for a living…apart from picking up the stethoscope or a screw-driver or a calculator or…well…a keyboard. a) We are a country mad for money and will only take the path that is proven to be financially rewarding. b) We are anyway subjected to herd-mentality and want to do what others are doing. c) We are scared to take too many risks and cannot imagine doing anything that society might label as infradig

    But, come to think of it, I think we have been brave when it comes to business. We have gotten innovative and tried a lot of things in the field of business. But these accomplishments have generally come from the richer strata of society and a few brilliant minds from other layers. The good news, we have to admit, is that things are definitely changing. I find that a lot of parents are now open to expose their children to sports, music, dance and other artistic pursuits. But the bad news is that the reasons, arguably, are not something we can be proud of. I suspect that most parents are open to such things because they’ve seen prodigies from these fields make it big and secretly believe that their child might join the league and be famous one day. The joy that their children are likely to experience is perhaps the last thing on the parents’ minds. Recently, I watched a program where a woman-achiever spoke about how her mom put her in a Bharathanatyam class because she (her mom) wanted to learn it as a child but couldn’t. The mother was living her dream through her daughter. But I was amused when the lady said that she finally found her calling in another form of dance (from east India) 14 years later…when she was 24 or so! That was when she began to enjoy dance and went on win laurels from across the world. 🙂

    I think there are a few of us who begin to learn to love whatever we do….but I am not sure if that’s always the solution.

    In a place like India, the first problem we face is in figuring out what are the various things we can pursue! We are not even aware of the possibilities. We first need help with that. We need an encyclopedia of career choices that we can explore. The next thing is that even if we find our “calling” and are not distracted by anything else, we then need expert advice on how to pursue it. I, for example, wanted to be an astronaut (among a million other things) when I was a kid…it may have been just a fascination for outer space…but I never got beyond forcefully declaring “I am going to be an astronaut!”. But I strongly suspect that I may have ended up being one had I been egged on by an adult who knew what to do. (Thank your stars that I did not find such a Guru…for that would have led to the disappearance of the expression, “Thank your stars” ;-))

    Anyway, I know I am rambling on like a mad woman with access to a rare captive audience. Maybe I should wind up by saying that things are looking much better for us with the introduction of new age schools that are refusing to take the usual path of education and exposing their children to more and more possibilities. Long live the new age schools and long live parents who are facilitating but letting their children think for themselves.

  36. Quote
    Sultana Fakhri said November 23, 2008, 12:04 pm:

    Dear Nimmy

    thanks a lot for your response,

    One very striking point you have made is highlighting the difference between ‘loving what you do, and learning to love what you have to do”.
    ‘Labour of Love’ as it is called is what will bring in true productivity of any kind.

    like you say let’s hope the times ahead bring us the opportunities for the achievement of this


  37. Quote

    Thanks Ganesh. You are right – parenting is a fine balance between pushing and guiding. I hope Indian parents figure this out. My armchair research shows that is not the case. But maybe as you say, i am using a broadbrush generalization. I agree i should not be doing that.

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