Monday, December 04, 2006

On "Calaspia", or Kids and Career Choices

When my twin boys' first novel, "Conspiracy of Calaspia", was published one day before their 18th birthday last week, it was a bit like history.

The twins have been working away on their novel (the first of a series of seven novels they've planned, actually) from the age of eleven.

The younger twin, Jyoti, particularly impressed me with his desire to write because he would rather write than sleep, or eat, or play football. He always worked with the older twin, Suresh, because they did everything together - though Suresh has always had other interests too.

When Jyoti decided that he wanted to quit school to become a full-time writer, I was in a quandary because he was only 14.

On one hand, I have always loved literature (and writing). "Always"? Well, not quite. To be precise, from the age of about 14. Later in life, for a time, I even tried to switch careers and become a full-time writer.

On the other hand, I therefore know how tough it is to make a living as a writer. As a father, ought I not to discourage a young boy from making a mistake which he might regret later as the realities of life hit him? Ought I not to even disallow him to be a writer? At the very least, should I not be cautious and suggest that he at least finishes a first university degree - if necessary in literature - before committing himself to any career?

In the end, the family tradition won out. First, at least from my grandfather's time, the tradition has been to encourage individual interests: when my father wanted to depart from our traditional caste-related focus on business, my grandfather paid for him to go to Oxford to study in order to become a professor (he became one of the first Indian graduates in English from Oxford, in 1933). When my father died, with the result that we had almost nothing and my mother had to work day and night in order to bring us up, even then my mother always encouraged me to follow my own interests, however "uneconomic" and "non-career related" they seemed. The great bane of life today is that kids are bored. People don't know what to do with their lives. So if a child has an interest in anything, however "stupid", we should feed that interest, not squash it. Second, our family have been businessfolk for at least the last two thousand years. We ought to know how to calculate risks and when to take risks. In my view, the world has changed fundamentally in the decades since my own teenage years. Today, in any reasonably developed part of the world, you can make a sort of living working at almost any profession, however lowly. However, you can also "make it big" in any profession, if you are the best in the world, or among the best in the world, in that profession. The historic Hindu and Roman Catholic and Tribal-world distinction between "noble" and "ignoble" professions has been broken by the Protestant Revolution. We are all Protestants now when it comes to our daily lives, whether or not we believe in the essential beliefs of Protestantism or are even aware of them: Luther's attitude (or the Bible's attitude) has come to prevail, and every profession is now regarded as more or less equally worthwhile. Though it may still be difficult to be the world champion at road sweeping, you can make as many millions from being a world-class car driver, singer or cook as you can from being the world's top economist, doctor or engineer (these last three being the favoured professions in my teenage years, and most Indian parents still "push" their offspring towards such professions). In other words, the risks are much lower that children will make a disaster of their career if they follow their passions, than if they follow the herd and somehow struggle with their boredom more or less passably.

A straw in the wind was that Jyoti published an article in the Wall Street Journal at the age of fourteen, becoming the youngest known writer to have done so, and I must say that influenced my judgment.

Then, in one of our discussions, Jyoti came with the clincher. He pointed out that if I was willing to support him through, say, ten years of being bored and having to struggle at things in which he was not interested before he could start trying to make a living by his writing, did it not make more sense for me to support him through ten years of an apprenticeship at something to which he is totally committed?

All that sounds terrible "rational" and "ordinary". I was constantly praying that God would guide him and guide my wife and myself as we discussed these matters, so that we would know from God in our hearts the right decision. After all, we are not accidents in a universe that came into being by chance. We are the results of God's deliberate creation and each of us has a specific purpose for which we are born. At least, that is what Jesus taught.

Finally, I agreed that if Jyoti proved that his dedication to writing could create the motivation to study on his own to finish his "O" Levels successfully, then he could really stop going to school and become a full-time writer.

Jyoti did buckle down to studying on his own (not without struggles), eventually doing creditably at his "O" Levels. So he took to full-time writing.

Two years later, the result is "Conspiracy of Calaspia", the first of the Insanity Series. It is thoroughly enjoyable reading. I think they handle the genre of fantasy surprisingly well. Their writing style and their sensitivity to words is better than that of many other published writers who are very much older as well as "established". And the twins have a philosophical point of view which should make the series increasingly interesting for those who have the interest to follow it. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

ninoto-india said...

jyoti's work is exemplary and he is a great inspiration .