Saturday, December 24, 2011

Talent is inherent

I believe that every human being has an inherent talent. It could be in the form of creative arts, sports, hobbies or some unusual activity which makes the person stand out in a crowd.

Super Star Rajnikanth, won the hearts of his fans with his crazy mannerisms- like his talent for throwing a cigarette up in the air and capturing it in his mouth with a flair. There are others who walk backwards or stand on one leg for a long time or sing in both male and female voices. Many others specialize or cultivate such a talent for winning awards or breaking records or just for their self satisfaction.

As a person who had been involved with the creative business of advertising for over four decades, I have had the pleasure of identifying and encouraging scores of talented people who have done very well in their chosen field of activity.

I remember Kumar, a boy of 12 and a son of the maid servant in our company. He used to spend his evenings in the studio of our office lending a helping hand to the artists who were working overtime. During his spare time, instead of idling, he would sit on an empty artist chair and doodle some drawings. Realizing that the boy had a flair for drawing, I made him a trainee artist. The boy took to the job like a duck to water and blossomed into a very fine artist becoming a junior visualiser and later venturing on his own as a freelance artist.

Another friend’s son who graduated as a lawyer, took to creative writing as a hobby which eventually became his career. He is today a Creative Director in one of the top advertising agencies in the country.

One of the best known examples of a person who discovered his talent in his mid forties and changed his career was David Ogilvy – the advertising legend who masterminded some well known advertising campaigns in the Sixties and Seventies. Until the age of 44, he was a Chef in a French Restaurant.

Age is no barrier for discovering one`s talent. One of my maternal uncles became a prolific writer of couplets in Tamil, after he turned sixty. Another cousin started displaying his artistic talent, as a painter, post retirement. One of my bosom pals- ‘Chaddi Dost’ or `Jaddi Buddy` as they say up North, has blossomed into a writer of Tamil poems at the age of 70. He writes on all kinds of topics.

I started writing my autobiography at the age of 65 and published it two years later. Thanks to the encouraging response I got for my style of writing, I am slowly evolving into a writer of short articles on a wide variety of topics. I am thoroughly enjoying my new identity as an author and writer!

I am proud to say that all the members of my family, including my grand children are talented. Hope atleast one of them reaches the World Stage during my lifetime! Needless to say that it requires somebody in the family to spot the talent inherent in a child and nurture it. Invariably it is the mother of the talented child who dons that role in any society. Though in the case of Cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, it was his brother who took on the mantle, sacrificing his own career as a cricketer!

Does everybody with talent get recognition from society? Are they able to use their specific talent to come up in life?

Unfortunately the answer is an emphatic `NO`. All said and done, in the pursuit of a secure career, many children are forced by their parents to graduate in subjects they may not be really interested in. With the result that the child`s inherent talent for something goes unrecognized. The concept that a talent could become a lucrative career has still not found favour with a majority of the Indian parents who prefer to play it safe with their children`s careers! What a pity!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Life Without Responsibilities

I received the following mail from a friend who is an NRI parent, and who has recently moved into an upmarket senior citizen`s home with her husband after deliberating on the move for several months.

"We have settled well at Clasic Kudumbam. The atmosphere is friendly and healthy. The day starts with a morning walk in the pleasant surroundings. After an early lunch [very delicious] .we read books or browse through them. After some rest we have our afternoon tiffin/coffee.
By 4p.m we have yoga class and group recitation of shlokas on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; a discourse on Bhagavat Gita for 1hr on Sunday. We made some new friends. What else we want at this age. The Bank officials bring cash and collect cheque from us. I feel life has become very easy, free of worries and I thank God for that…"

My mother-in-law, a highly independent woman who died at the ripe age of 89, spent the last six years of her life in a good Senior citizen home. I would bring her home for a week every month in the early years. One day, she apparently told my driver; “I don’t know why my son-in-law brings me home every month. I am very happy in the home with a lot of new friends to talk to and I am free to do what I like. Here I spend the whole day only watching TV or listen to music. Everybody is so busy…!

I also met a few others from that Home, many of whom had sold their properties or rented out their homes to settle down in the well run Senior citizen Home. Here they not only made new friends but also indulged in hobbies for which they had no time earlier. Even the few, who felt bad initially, began to enjoy the new environment later. All of them agreed it was a comfortable life without the day to day responsibilities and problems faced when living alone.

No problem of running after the “hard-to-get” plumber, electrician, carpenter, or the ordeal of wading through the heartless traffic of the city to visit the bank, post office or other places; or living in fear of unscrupulous elements who have started attacking senior citizens staying alone in cities like Chennai.

Though some of them had their children living in the same city, still preferred to move into a Senior Citizen Home as they did not want to burden their children looking after them on a day to day basis. With the joint family system breaking down and nuclear families being the norm these days, old people find themselves to be of nuisance value to their children. There are also cases of old people who don’t have the energy or mindset to look after their grand children with office going parents. Obviously the old values are changing where people, both young and old, are becoming more self centered.

Though some children do not want their parents to live in a Senior Citizen`s Home because of the social stigma attached to it, many old people who can afford convince their children and move out to lead an independent life. They are content if their children are in touch with them regularly on the phone or visit them in their homes whenever they find time; and if they have energy to travel, also attend family functions where they can touch base with other relatives.

It is no more a stigma on the children if their parents voluntarily choose to stay in senior citizen homes which provide them the necessary independence, comfort and the company of new friends with similar backgrounds.

Senior Citizen Homes with attached hospices or with facilities for providing full time attenders are alternatives which can be considered by working couples who have old and infirm people who need constant help and attention. (People who try to hire such attenders to look after bed ridden old folks at their own homes have to contend with the idiosyncrasies of such attenders who not only add to the tension with their unreasonable demands but who sometimes take off without warning, leaving the family in lurch!)

No wonder, in order to cater to the growing number of senior citizens who want to lead a carefree and independent life in the company of like minded friends, scores of senior citizen homes are sprouting up all over the country. According to a report there are 4000 dwelling units in various retirement homes across India which may see a five fold jump in the next three years! While there are enough such Homes coming up to look after the economically well off senior citizens, such facilities are woefully lacking for middle and lower class people. A lot more could be done by the Govt or NGOs with support from corporate sector in this area..

Having visited a few such homes and seen the good times that many of the inmates are having, I would say it is an option worth considering by people who have reached the end of their useful lives and who are financially independent; to spend their twilight years in peace and contentment.