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Don’t follow your passion, please

Funny child trying to perform singing badly and annoying with a false voice

Funny child trying to perform singing badly and annoying with a false voice

I have nothing against people addicted to self-help. Until recently, self-help was mostly a harmless pastime that offered the balm of hope to people who would habitually compare themselves to their peers and feel miserable. This is classic neo-liberal subjectivity — you do an unprovoked self-appraisal, come up short on your own expectations, and conclude that unless you do better, your (super-inflated) super ego will fire you.

‘Doing better’ means demanding more from the inner employee that works for You Inc. Beyond a point, however, the inner employee rebels against the rising burden of expectations. He switches from one kind of self-help (boosting productivity, time management, etc) to another that’s more pernicious. These days the second kind is spreading like Omicron. Its primary symptom is that people drop whatever they are doing to ‘follow their passion’.

Of course, people who’ve spent all their lives in dead-end jobs have every right to seek the joy of self-fulfilment. But there is now a veritable deluge of books, videos, and webinars that brainwash people into ‘following their passion’. This could be deadly, because when people don’t have the skills the ‘passion’ demands, there is often no one to tell them that. End result: I have to compromise on my values and press the bell icon.

Face time

For instance, something is seriously wrong when a seasoned chartered accountant quits his job to become a tabla player because tabla is his passion. Hello! You are a CA! We entrust our IT returns to you because ‘following your passion’ is prohibited by your chemical composition!

Don’t get me wrong — I have nothing but respect for CAs. They are people who are so rooted in reality that if you ever feel like quitting your job and following your passion, they promptly mail you your tax computation — a potent remedy that snuffs out all passion for the rest of the financial year.

Take the case of Shyam, a former neighbour of mine. He is a CA in his early fifties. He worked at a private firm for three decades. Stable job, decent salary. Last year, he resigned to ‘follow his passion’ — singing. He now has his own YouTube channel. He keeps sending me links to his renditions of Bollywood hits, with pleas that I ‘like’, share, and subscribe.

One, I am not into music; two, he has a terrible voice; and three, his narcissism is so advanced his passion should have been to become prime minister. But I still complied. I had to manually drag my cursor, kicking and screaming, to his YouTube channel, and I did click the ‘like’ button once. Mine was one of the seven ‘likes’ his video had amassed, and it made me feel conspicuous. But he is relentless. He keeps sending me fresh links to new videos, and in all of them he is singing in a T-shirt that has a photo of him singing in a T-shirt. With his WhatsApp DP, which is his face, and the YouTube page, which also has his face, and the T-shirt — it’s like looking at your vaccination certificate three times. Why would you want to do that?

Then there’s this relative from Wife’s side of the family. She used to work for an IT company but now her ‘passion’ is to earn millions by becoming the most influential influencer for pet brands. She makes videos of her dog and uploads them on every social media platform known to man, animal and bot — from Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to Twitter, Koo, Meow and Bowwow.

Karan Johar mode

I am someone who actually likes dog videos, and I still don’t like her dog videos. Part of the problem is that her dog isn’t really likeable. It’s a mix — 72% Labrador, 18% Pomeranian, and 10% bhakt, and strangely enough, it’s the Pomeranian part that’s got all the bhakt DNA. So while it has a face that looks like a dog’s face, when it barks, it sounds like a troll, and I find it triggering.

I have told Wife several times that I don’t like to ‘like’ content that I don’t like. But she switches to Karan Johar mode when it comes to extended family, which means I should be ready to sell out my social media integrity for the sake of a relative’s dog.

One time I made the mistake of venting my frustration. I said, “That dog is so fat, and it looks half-human!”

“Excuse me?!” Wife’s eyes narrowed. “Did you just body-shame a dog?”

“Of course not,” I said. “A dog doesn’t understand it is being body-shamed, even if it is being body-shamed. So no harm done.”

“So you are a dog psychologist now?”

I’d had enough. I quietly went and subscribed to that dog channel. Every day I have to see that stupid dog in my inbox. So all I’m saying is: please do not — I repeat, do not — follow your passion. And if you do, never ask me to like, share, or press the bell icon.

G. Sampath, author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor , The Hindu.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2022 5:44:48 am |