Since making a major career change from academia to the delivery and management of social services, I have felt inundated with the depressing stories told about a rather small but specific segment of our society. The heroes of these short stories were cocky individuals, involved in illicit trades, recruitment of impressionable young men and women, with offers of unconventional get-rich quick schemes. The stories would end always both with ‘heroes-and-zeros’ facing the barrels of guns, in morgues, underground, or in the burners of a crematorium. The lucky ones, with better karma would find themselves in jails.
The National Parole board offered me an exclusive view of this segment. As a member, I had the opportunities of going through their gory records and of interviewing them face-to-face. Some of these individuals had committed the level of gruesome criminal acts I wished society had never invented.
However, very recently, hardly a month ago, I experienced a dramatic boost both in my mood and morale. A local Punjabi radio station based in Surrey, (BC) offered me an opportunity to go through a very different set of records, bursaries applications. They asked me to help them assess the suitability of candidates for their bursary program for secondary education. I immediately said, “Yes,” to their request. And I am glad I did.
The review of the applications was like a breeze of fresh air laden with the fragrance that I could inhale, smell and enjoy without the fear of shocking my psychological and spiritual balance. The applicants were a group of male and female young people. They were ambitious, deeply committed to advancing their lives through education, aspiring to earn a living through honest hard work and to helping their community.
What thrilled me more was the ratio of female to male applicants; which was double. Of the thirty-five applicants, two were rejected for not providing required information, twenty-two were female and eleven male.
Here is an account of who wants to do what: Of the 22 female applicants: 14 are aspiring to go into medicine (including dentistry, family practice, specializing in neurology, oncology and pharmacology), 2-teachers, 2-nurses, 1-lawyer, 2-accountants and 1-software engineer. Of the 11-male applicants: 5 are aspiring to go in medicine, 1-lawyer, 3-engineers and 2- economists.
It was a bit disappointing for me to note that there was not a single applicant who wished to become a social worker; not a single male student who wanted to pay back to the future community of youngsters by joining the ranks of teachers. I wonder why? Is it money or social status? It had to be both.
Another trend that surprised me was that no one of the 14-applicants, aspiring to become doctors indicated that he or she was preparing to manage the challenges and opportunities of the rising tide of aging population. In 1900 life expectancy was 47; today it is 80.8. Professor Dr. Ken Dychtwald and Joe Flower call it, “AGE WAVE”.
They say, “Because of the AGE WAVE, every aspect of our culture—patterns of social and personal relationships; financial and political powers; workplace dominance; the focus of product development and marketing; healthcare and educational priorities—is already showing signs of transformation.”
Nevertheless, the candidates left a clear impression on me that not only they have been working to live a meaningful life, but their parents have also been steering them on the path every civilized society and every nation looks forward to moving on.
On a personal note, my mom and dad had no academic certificates, degrees or diplomas that they could frame and display on their house walls. Mom’s entire education happened at home under the stern supervision of my grandmother. And my dad! Well, he was pulled out of school at a very early age. He did not even complete High School. But it did not mean that they were uneducated. To me, the first indication of their being educated was that they never neglected instilling in us the value of education–viddya dhanam sarva dhanam pradhaanam–the wealth of education is supreme. And the second indication was that they never forgot to keep themselves reminded of their dharma as parents:
“maata shatrooh, pitaa vairee yen baalo na paathitaah
na shobhate sabhaa maddhye hans maddhye vako yathaa”
Those mothers and fathers, who do not educate their children, are the enemy of their children. Their uneducated children appear as misfits in the company of educated people as cranes among swans.
I sincerely hope that the Punjabi radio (Red-FM) station will continue to develop resources and raise funds to help these aspiring young men and women achieve their educational ambitions.