By Renuka Kamath
She studied under the street lamp in the heart of a large city, where their home was temporary so it had no electricity. She got the time to study after she had helped her mother with her chores and that was after she got back from her evening school.
He had a tough time deciding which bike to take to college, so he could ride the short distance between the college and hostel. His parents told him, he can choose one every month. After all he was going to get a fabulous job after graduating from one of the premier B-Schools.
He was one of the five children of a plumber, a family which believed girls and boys are equal. So, his unusual (in the context of the average thinking even in today’s day and age) parents decided to spend money on educating all children and struggled all the way.
Yet another story. An only child, her parents impressed upon her through her growing up years, that studying hard was the only way to achieving all that she aimed for. She wanted to become a swimming champ, but her family insisted that there was no money in it and even if she did make it anywhere to the top, there was really no money or life.
All four of them are and were my students.
To all four and many more like them, I asked one common question, subtly meshing it into conversations. What do you think has played a major role in your life – luck, fate or hard-work?
It has always fascinated me, growing up in a middle class family, how luck, fate and hard-work are at times, pitted against each other. They almost seem to play hide and seek at different turns in our lives. I am not sure if you did, but I have often pondered about fairness in life. I mean hard-work is good, but is it enough to get you what you want?
From the time of being a teenager, it has been a curious habit with me to ask people, interesting people, famous people, privileged people, the same question. I’ve even asked people I’ve met, who have had extreme adversities in their lives and have been kind enough to humour me with an answer.
Relentlessly I have checked and keep doing so, each time I meet anyone who is even remotely fascinating, intriguing or an average person like me. Delicately bringing it up in conversations to get a peep into minds.
‘Hard-work’ cries everyone. Hard-work wins hand down! Well, yes, hard –work is the winner! And it has never stopped surprising me!
Folks with privileged upbringing who have likely had it all, to those who have fought all odds. Here at SPJIMR, I have the fortune of meeting and interacting with the current generation and this institute being the way it is (for years), brings together students with all types of experiences. So, while the proportions do vary, rare is the person who gives a higher weightage to luck or fate in their lives.
Or could it be that we are socially wired this way, to accept that it is the right thing to believe? Is it just too deeply entrenched in us…sown deep over the years, to say that ‘karma’ rules over ‘kismat’ or ‘bhaagya’. This write-up is not to go into the philosophical meaning or the deep-rooted understanding in our scripture, but to make an observation of how easily we slip into believing that we make our destiny.
Psychologists and social scientists have been researching this area of chance and luck in humans’ evaluation of their lives and outcomes, for years. ‘Individuals get rich primarily because they work hard’ is a statement more likely to be made by people with higher incomes (more privileged) than those with lower incomes (research at Pew Research Center). Other researches confirm that higher income people credit their success to hard work rather than to luck or even being in the right place at the right time. But research has its limitations - the whole tendency of ‘hindsight bias’, where we believe that a happening was predictable and deserved, even when it wasn’t, is difficult to control in experiments. Hindsight bias is particularly glaring when the outcomes are highly successful.
Anyway I am no one to prescribe the right answer. What I do know is luck and fate played a major role in my life, and by far. I got the best set of parents anyone can wish for (like most of you), I got good schooling, I had a knowledge rich environment while growing up and all these shaped me.
So, on this occasion of Teachers' Day, my dear students, a word of caution from me – always be conscious of every privilege, every small privilege that life has doled out, for hard-work is a necessity and in your control, but luck and fate are not.
I firmly believe it all begins from being born in a ‘favourable’ environment. Would you agree?