Sunday, October 23, 2011

How did your gene fulfil its wishes?

For a long time till recently, I had a few regrets that I thought I would carry for the rest of my life and speak about in a brooding fashion, if someone were to ask me "So, do you have any unfulfilled wishes, Sinduja?"

Well, they weren't any earth shattering dreams. Simple ones actually. 

I wanted to be formally trained at dance and music, yet never could be. For the major part, I blamed my parents for it. Sigh, if only they had enrolled me in those classes, what a star I could have been at school and college! News of today's super ambitious parents busy creating stellar timetables that would put an Olympic trainer to shame -  fighting for slots to squeeze ballet, cricket, tennis, piano and what not -didn't help the least.  

I somehow confidently assumed that I would have done very well for myself in these arts had I had a little training. What a braggart, you might think. 

Nevertheless, unfortunately, not one known for narcissism or over-confidence, I believe that they might be a little truth in that assumption. During the few occasions that I did dance, I have done quite well for myself. People have shown surprise at the performance despite the lack of formal practice or training. So, you see how the reasoning took route.

I took to literary events during school solely because I never had the confidence to try my hand at the cultural ones and I somehow couldn't digest not being anywhere. So it was always the boring essay competitions, asking us to write on the immortal pollution  crisis or  never ending ill effects of television on youth, the anxiety wreck maker called extempore and dramatic elocutions, making gestures like you were having tremors from Parkinson's. Who were the audience? English teachers. Passionate orators who sat like they were going to address the UN and had discussions whether education was pronounced  as 'ejucation' or 'ed-yucation' and of course, the judges themselves. (All these literary event evaluators have this dress code - cotton suits; thick rimmed glasses; big colourful  earrings and a bigger bindi - the kind of attire uniformly worn by this artistic 'theatre crowd,' making me wonder if there was some secret dress code that I broke).

And then, I would go to the other side and witness raw magic. The energy of high decibel music, the greater energy of the crowds going crazy, cheering, dancing, totally losing themselves in the performance that has come alive on stage and spread its life all around.

Dance and music have always been an intrinsic part of ourselves.  Sound was the primordial energy behind the universe's beginning. Many believe that it was the first energy form that created everything else, including us.  We were always ready to respond to sound. But language? the urge to communicate, yes, we have always had it. However, higher forms like elocution, writing creatively, reading works of others... a large mass, even literate, simply do not take pleasure in it. I did, yet I missed being a part of the act that pumped everyone up and the performer itself in the process.

Okay, so to cut a long story short, yes, there was this girl miserable that she couldn't do certain things...until..recently. Today, the blame game is gone. I have stopped blaming my parents for the lost legacy' and 'unknown genius'. Firstly , I have begun to wonder - Is it really dance that I missed or was it all the attention that I could have got had I pursued dancing?  More stage presence, more contacts, more popularity, more prizes and so on. Perhaps it was this visibility that was the over-riding factor. Not that this is a bad thing in itself.  All of us have this streak to ..umm.. make a mark. Some of us just took birth with an iota higher of it

My point is, had I really had this 'dancer' thing within me, I would have somehow found a way to just do it.  A dancer, if born to be a dancer, would have become a dancer anyway.  Heard of the nature vs. nurture debate? Last thing I hear, they have finally reached a consensus. What decides our life? Gene or environment? It seems, while our environment decides what opportunities come our way, the gene decides how we would react to them or what we would choose among them.

Someone who has instincts to steal might probably become a pro at the trade had he been born to a poor drunkard abusive dad. Yet, the same guy born to the CEO of GM - can he turn out to be a clean slate? Probably not. Perhaps he might have started at a later age or got good treatment. That's all.

You can't avoid what you were born with.  Had I really had it to be a dancer, despite the lack of training, I would have compensated with other avenues. Perhaps, I would have learnt it myself from self-instruction videos or requested a friend to teach or at least made sure I volunteered to try my hand at all the functions.  Since I only wanted to be known, I found other means to engage/ fulfill/ satisfy it.

What if a rickshaw puller was born with the dancer gene?  Of course, hardly is he going to aspire for a career in dancing. Yet, he would still dance - perhaps in death processions or in some post-drinking get-together. Anything. The environment merely decides how much time you might devote and how and where. Yet, what is in , WILL, inevitably find expression somewhere - anywhere.

Not everyone of us can afford to take bold career decisions and shift jobs in a drastic manner. The money keeps us going. The stability is yearned for. Yet, your genetic desires will find their way  out. Let us say X, a well-to-do upper middle class fella, was a born helper. It is just in him to serve and help others. Ideally, he might have  done great at a career in counselling, or perhaps in nursing.  Yet, our gender biased society  still frowns upon if a man were to indulge in such professions. A good pay check is a key necessity. So, he does an MBA, looking at a corporate career. Chances are, he might tend to drift towards HR. Okay. Still, things go another way and he has chosen finance. My bet is  a few years down the lane, he would be looking for postings as financial advisor. Even otherwise, he would find other means to satisfy this urge. He might start a community group for the environment in his neighborhood or the least, enroll as a part-time volunteer at a local elderly-care centre.

We cannot escape our genetic blue-prints.

A friend of mine is an IT professional. She doesn't majorly complain about her job. Boring, yes, she accepts. Yet, she feels she cant ask for more. However, she is an active player in her company's dance team and spends many hours every week there. She finds it extremely gratifying. The grand mother of a friend of mine buys sarees whole-sale and sells them in her apartment - probably venting the entrepreneur streak in her that she never got to employ.

Today, if I am not this hot-shot dancer, it is only because I never really desired it that deep. You can never kill who you are and really want to be. Innate traits somehow find a way of attaining equilibrium with life. Homeostasis, they call it.

Look around you. We are constantly making one choice over another all the time - of the way we spend our time, of the books we choose to read and the people who tend to approach. And this choice that we have opted for over a hundred others speaks volumes about ourselves. Which is why, if you want to know about yourself,  don't ask your mind. Instead, observe your behavior; your choices - what they do, what you tend to talk about, what you prefer to do in your free time, what you tend to persevere practicing at and so on. Perhaps human behavior is far more simpler than we think it is.


harishsram said...

wat if one feels his desire changes continuously? some days he does one thing n feels good abt tht n gets accolodes too. but d next day he goes into another passion n become successful there too. wat will a jack of all trades do? (thts wat i feel ppl here r - no experts but has good idea on lot of things) which dream all equally close to his heart, not coz some1 asked him to persue r coz he is doin it for money, shall 1 plunge into?

Srinidhi said...

I sometimes ask myself very similar questions.
As a child I was more outgoing and extra curricular activities type. Even now, I am a very sporty person. But off late I prefer reading and writing. It just comes more naturally.

I think the environment we are in shapes and tunes not just our interests but our characters.

When I observed closely my behaviour over a period of time, I realised how many characteritic similarities I have with my parents and siblings. Makes me wonder how much of me is just me. Or perhaps, the combination of them all is me.

Lovely post!
Got me thinking as always. :)

Abhishek said...

When the days pass by , you come to realize that the void between what you want and what you have is .... quite a large one .

To get across that void , you need " Perseverance , Courage , And Determination " -----> or atleast that's what those inspiring speeches tell you .

Just one day can I look at someone and say " I go for Toastmasters " without being given a look of ignorance/spite/mock/disgust ?

It doesnt just take a lotta luck and lotta determination to do something ...You have to *want* it My mum sent me for .... 4 years of piano , 2 years of singing , and some art-classes too .

It worked out okay , and while i dont say i've become a musician or an artist , there is a certificate that does !

But i just look at it and think " Sigh .... those are 2 years of my life wasted =/ " instead of thinking " Wow ! i'm a pianist now ! "

I guess this post explains the reason perfectly .....

Sindu said...

@Harish: I am assuming that if a certain desire was inconsistent, then probably it never were a strong innate one. Or rather, you desire was not the end in itself but merely an outlet for something else. Like maybe, you seek innovation or novelty in everything you do - that is your desire.

@Srinidhi: Guess you have finally settled or are getting closer to where you want to be. Combination of them is you - very profound thought indeed. Yet, that is the scientific truth too I believe - not just your parents and siblings, we are the culmination of every thing that happened in this universe till the point we were born. Far stretched, eh? :)

@Abhishek: Exactly! Hmmm... and while you cannot say how life might take shape, hope you do understand what your strengths are! Coz I think I know yours quite well! :)

siddharth said...

Hmmm.. This post reminds of the times when my interests and aspirations used to vary over time for too long. So much so that i'd, for the large part, always be curious/ filled with regret about things not done or achieved by conveniently ignoring the little success i might have had in other areas (declamation, academics, music etc). But then, as you and Abhishek rightly point out comes the need to figure out the difference between what you 'want' and what you 'can'. I guess that's where self awareness and self acceptance become key - ones that still continue to be one of the toughest ongoing battles for me.

All said and done your posts provide great 'food for thought' with simple day to day observations that makes one ponder about oneself and the world. Great writing as always! :)

PS: Loved the grandmother as an entrepreneur part.. Dont ask me why!

bomzie said...

Good one Sindu.

Would love to meet that dancer friend of yours...:)

Arumugam said...

Quite an Interesting post,you have out here.I wonder often too along these lines:D My 2 cents worth...

Warren Buffet calls it the Ovarian lottery.Quite simply it means the place you were born in is hugely responsible for what you turn out to be.He says,I am a successful billionaire the world admires.But am I really that intelligent?So amazing? No.Pluck me out from the United states and let me be born on the soil of Bangadesh.Then we'll really know how great I am. I admire this guy greatly,just because of this statement.

Earth maybe a planet of shrinking functional distances but remains a world of staggering situational differences.Place remains a powerful arbitrator in human destiny.It is human nature to blame place of birth/upbringing for failure AND to credit personal virtues,NOT place for success,but for every 'self made man',there are thousands who were born in the right PLACE and the right TIME who own their success to just that,luck and who all too often have less sympathy for those not as well off/successful.
Thomas friedman calls the world flat,a misnomer actually as the world is reasonably flat only for those cocooned in the glass and steel towers of modern India for a lucky few like us,who were fortunate enough to learn the global language of commerce(English).

I would assign a much higher weightage to nurture(80),more than nature(20).Jk rowling's literary gene would'nt stand a chance if she was born a woman in rural India who would most probably be an illiterate married off at age 15.

Sindu said...

@Siddharth: :) Hmmm... that said, I have never mentioned anywhere in my post that one 'can' only do cartain things. So, never give up if really want to do something! And yes... I like the grandmother too... and her grandson ;)

@Bomzie: Ahaan. Sorry pal, she is already committed and in a very beautiful relationship! ;)

@Arumugam:Very true.. nurture plays a huge role. However, my post was about how nurture can reduce or minimize the glory of nature but can never totally eliminate it. So Warren Buffet, had he been born in Bangladesh, would have been a successful CEO but he would have at least started a huge grocery store. JK Rowling, had she been born in rural India might have been an illiterate married off at 15 but compared to all her other illiterate kin, she would have had a greater desire to learn English and might have even wandered off to the local school to learn something herself. The least, she would have at least been quick to grasp whatever she can.

Sindu said...

*would NOT have been a successful CEO

Arumugam said...

In that case,there are no rules that a literary gene has to express itself in any particular language,like English.Maybe she would have penned something in her local dialect and been happy with the readership in her village:D

I see your point.You are talking about a direct cause effect phenomenon.That there is a gene for every human talent.Since you are a teacher you probably must be aware of Howard Gardner.Check this out

Warren attributes his success and burning desire because of the childhood experience of living through the great depression post WW2.Was his gene triggered by that experience?Might it have been dormant,if he was born affluent? I am just wildly fantasizing here.I dont know .The truth is no one can ever really know.There are just too many variables in life.

Anonymous said...


A personal memoir: Whenever I see these TV shows (Super Singer), I too feel I would have done well had I had a formal training in music. It's an entirely different thing that I was labelled Cacophonix by a whole cohort of cousins etc. ;)

Leaving my personal history and angst aside and coming back to the focus of the post, it's an interesting point of view that you've presented. I agree that there's something in what you say. There could be a part of every human being that is intrinsic (the genes) to that person, which would express itself in varying degrees depending on the environment in which the person grows. I believe that there is a scientific term for this - expressivity of a gene.

One favorite question during coffee-table discussions used to be, "What would Medha Patkar be doing if the Narmada dam was not being built?" Would she have been just another unknown person? Highly unlikely - in all probability she could have spearheaded a campaign that was asking the government to build a dam because of the benefits to thousands of farmers. Medha Patkar's core would have expressed itself.

BTW, what do the genes dictate that Sindu do in her life? Interested to know. :)

Anonymous said...

@Arumugam - being in the right PLACE and the right TIME. Interesting point.
Do have a look at the book Outliers by Gladwell.


Sindu said...

@Arumugam: "Maybe she would have penned herself in her local dialect and been happy with the readership" - Ah! Brilliant! Why didn't I think of it? Arumugam, at the risk of sounding arrogant, let me tell you - you are smart! Lol. :)

And yes, how can any teacher escape Howard's theory? We were made to put up huge charts on it.

Are all our dormant genes merely waiting for some experience/ any experience to kindle them? Is an experience perceived as something only because of the gene? True..difficult questions. But hey, don't say no one will ever know. Maybe the answer is closer than we think :)

Sindu said...

@V: Interesting to be getting to know something about you, Uncle OTEE. It is usually you who makes people want to reveal themselves.

You know, sometimes I crunge when I see the "about me" description in this blog. What the hell was I thinking? Lol. Never mind I am too lazy to change it. Yet, truth is, I think I just want to know - know the world, know other people, make theories - maybe just to come to a closure and define myself better.... or maybe to do something far more nobler through the process. But thanks for asking. :) It felt different. Been a long time since someone asked me that.

Sindu said...


Ah, bad! No tactic to increase comment count, I swear.

Arumugam said...

@Anonymous-Loved the Medha Patkar analogy:D Coffee-table discussions?Wow!Our water cooler discussions are far more inane:D and Thanks for the book suggestion.

@Sindu- The "about me" though metaphysical is quite refreshing and mysterious:D

Anonymous said...

@Arumugam - My pleasure. :) Then there are coffee table discussions, water-cooler discussions and Just Random discussions - one can have one's pick.

@Sindu - I was just about to confess that I, perhaps, possessed the 'Loser friend' gene and what do I see on J's blog? A confirmation of my genetic make-up. Grrr. Just you wait.


Sindu said...

@V: Goodness me! How could you even think of it that I am never going to risk replying late for your comments again. Yet, even if that is true by some wild stretch of imagination, as J says, you are actually exercising power and control here, wherein we start getting restless if you haven't written in. So, be kind! ;)

DRACULA said...

nice i learnt the way of writing in a proper way thnk u

C.V.Varun said...

I am not the type who generally writes a comment on the blogs he read. But, this blog was one of a kind.

Beautifully crafted Sindu. So much of thought has gone behind this.

"And this choice that we have opted for over a hundred others speaks volumes about ourselves." Beautiful.

The choices you are talking about here are of smaller aspects of life. There are choices, say that of career. And there are choices of which taking one particular side of it would need you to fight so many opinions and minions! So, I disagree that human behavior is simpler than as it is perceived. But what would a pessimist know?

But on a positive note, this felt like a page from a book written to give people a positive outlook towards the world. Really brilliant writing. But what would a pessimist know? ;)

P.S: Do I know that Saree Grandma?? ;)