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It's Time To Acknowledge The Privilege That Makes Your Art Possible

The freedom to chase your dreams has been built on several generations' worth of curtailed ambitions. Wield it well.

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Back in the '70s and '80s, our parents only had one thing on their minds. Securing a decent job. What that job entailed was a consideration that always came a distant second.

First priority was always job security.

Because much like our parents, our country too was finding its feet in the new world order. Job creation was slow and very sarkari. People were underpaid. Patience took precedence over passion. Economics took precedence over passion. Providing for family took precedence over passion.

Basically, passion didn't matter much at all. They simply grabbed with both hands, whatever they got.

They took up bank jobs even if they hated math. They took up sales jobs even if they didn't like people. They worked in factories even if they dreaded science. They took up teaching jobs even if they detested kids. And they toiled away at those jobs that they hated, for the rest of their lives. If they didn’t get along with a superior, they waited 30 years for the superior to retire. That was the only solution; quitting simply wasn’t an option.

People didn’t follow dreams back then, they just followed pay checks. And even the dreams they had were carefully rationed. They dreamt of owning a two-wheeler, sending their kids to a good school, having a gala meal on Sundays and locking on an HMT watch on their wrists every morning. They only made enough to dream of these little things.

The system was rigged in such a way that they had to work damn hard to exist. Not live, but just exist. There was no place to showcase other talents. No YouTube, no Facebook, no Anu Malik offering breaks on Indian Idol, no viral smash hits.

There was just one place where they showcased their talents: society get-togethers.

If they could sing, antakshari was their moment to shine. They could take prabu ka naam and claim their few minutes of adulation. They could build a fan following that included all 15 people at the party. And that fan following probably gave them enough joy to help them forget the struggle to exist for a few minutes.

To show off their dancing skills, they had to wait for visarjan to come around. They competed for the limelight with kids and drunk dudes and if they still managed to stand out, then they landed dancing gigs at other society functions.

If they made jokes, they just made people laugh. That’s as basic and beautiful it would ever get. They didn’t land Amazon specials. Their skills wouldn't get them branded as stand-up comics. They'd just be labelled “full of life”.

If fashion designing was their calling, they could find it only while designing clothes for their kids' fancy dress competition. Pots, bottles, plates and trays served as canvases for artists. And art exhibitions were whenever guests visited home.

The ones who had the shittiest deal, however, were those who loved writing. Their only outlet was writing letters to friends and family. Their finely crafted words laced with effortless wit that took quintals of effort had an audience of just one. The literature they painfully and lovingly produced would die with just one person, hidden from the rest of the world for posterity.

And yet, they derived joy out of it. Maybe that’s true love for craft.

Come to think of it, we are actually the first generation of middle class Indians to be able to follow our passion and talent. To be able to find work for ourselves based on our interest. To pick a college and a course based on our passion.

We lucked out big time thanks to the generations before us who chose not to follow their passions. This is what makes the likes of Dinchak Pooja, Baba Sehgal, Venu Mallesh and Taher Shah role model-material for me. They followed their calling, passion and talent without any inhibitions.

They did it just because they could. Unlike so many of us who don’t exploit this privilege that has been thrust upon us.

Generations before us have worked their butts off to ensure this much for us. I just hope that we don’t squander it away by being cynical and judgemental of our own abilities; that instead we go out there with our talent to create things that can outlive all of us.

This post was originally published by the author on Facebook and has been republished here with his permission.

Contact Devaiah Bopanna at

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