Why it’s important to think out-of-the-box in a stiflingly boxed society

(Published in The Times of India: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/shaira-mohan-blog/)
What happens when you try and fit a triangle inside a square of the same size? It doesn’t fit.
In the same way, it is impossible to try and fit an unconventional mind in the prison of conventional thinking.
Since we were little, we were taught to abide by rules, regulations and to obey orders. As children, of course, these were necessary disciplinary measures but as we were growing up, the expectations of society only diversified into the many different ways we were expected to sit, stand, eat, drink, talk, think and act till we entered adulthood. And as a consequence of this, we obliviously began to cut the corners of our capabilities and limit ourselves and the extent of our potential to fit inside this ‘box of expectations’.
Lets take the example of education in India today. It is no secret that the unbelievably high cut-off percentages in Delhi University colleges have rocked the boats of even the most deserving and scoring students. Some courses now have a 100% marks requirement which is just mind-blowing. Parents push their children to excel putting such tremendous pressure on their academics that any hope of working towards that sport one had exceptional skills in was extinguished as quickly as it was kindled. And for a girl, it is always that much harder. The tide, though, is certainly turning today owing to increased awareness through social media and the arrival of the ‘new age’, resolute generation. Nonetheless, the struggle is far from over.
But the biggest flaw in the Indian education system is the fact that by the age of 16 or 17, a child is expected to know what she/he wants to do or be for the rest of her/his life. Because of both the restraints of a grossly flawed education system stuck in the past and parental pressure sprouting from societal influences, the child is cornered into making a choice that, in many cases, is not her own. It is the pick from the box and anything outside of the box is not even in the realm of consideration.
And that is where we are limiting the child to fit into that box that WE perceive should be their life’s path. More often than not it is these very children who,some years down the line, either change career paths altogether or lead dissatisfied lives. In recent times there has been a surge of people in their late twenties and thirties who have let go of their jobs that were only a means to pay the rent and embraced those true passions as a career that now make them happier than ever.Today every discipline has many further specializations serving packed classrooms that only proves that the only limit is the sky.
The 2011 movie that also became a hit TV Show – ‘Limitless’, conveys the same idea though I certainly don’t condone the use of any drugs for this purpose as the charming Bradley Cooper’s character has tried to convince us. Nonetheless, the movie certainly strikes a chord and makes you wonder how much of ourselves and our capabilities we are unknowingly suppressing today.
Another pivotal example to illustrate this issue is that of the state of women in our society. The box that has been put up like a fortress around every Indian woman so that she has to ‘cut herself down to size’ to fit the unrelenting box of societal expectations is the proverbial elephant in the room in more or less every household. The fight for equality today in various aspects of life wrapped in the label of feminism and progression has been induced by the existence of this very box. While progress is certainly being made to this end in modern India today with many women taking the helm at large multinational corporations and others scooping up eminent positions in various other fields, there are others who have no option but to give in to the pressures of the other important roles of being a mother, a wife and running a household too. It is high time that a woman is allowed to stretch out to reach her full potential and be able to make choices for her own life without the air of disdain looming large over her.
Sadly, misogynist mindsets thrive like a disease even today and pose as obstacles for women to think and act beyond the conventional. Bhupendra Chaubey the journalist from CNN-IBN in his recent shocking interview with Sunny Leone has swiftly earned the label of chauvinist king of the month! Nirbhaya and the heart-wrenching stories that both make the news and also don’t to such barbaric stories from even beyond our borders like the Cologne mass assaults on women last month only reiterate their predicament.
There is an urgent need for every girl and boy in school to be taught the importance of believing in themselves and following their dreams. There is a need for every child to grow up with the mindset that both men and women are to be respected in equal measure instead of a regressive legacy of ideas being passed down generations on how much a man can do and how much a woman can not. But in order for this change to truly come about, we need to elect leaders who are also on the same page. While the reality is that in most rural, uneducated sections of our society today, this feat is difficult to achieve, awareness drives need to be stepped up in a concerted effort.
“Those who do not think outside the box are easily contained” as they say. The real challenge is to do away with the box altogether. Just imagine how much more we can then accomplish!

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