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Welcome to Guest Tuesday

Today, I am very happy to welcome an author, blogger and good friend to guest post on Diary of a Doting Mom. Beloo Mehra is a blogger  I met via the last A-Z Challenge in 2014. Beloo’s posts are a very interesting cocktail of the spiritual, socio-political and academic which make you pause and go inward in a quest for peace and happiness.

Please welcome Beloo who speaks about the academic options open to kids today and more importantly, our role as parents in helping them with those options.Thank you, Beloo, for writing this post.


About Beloo Mehra:

Beloo Mehra has a Ph.D. in Education from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Masters in Economics from Delhi School of Economics. She was a professor for many years at a liberal arts university in Ohio, USA. Before moving to the US, she had worked as a high school Economics teacher and school administrator in Delhi for 5 years, and also served as a volunteer for the National Literacy Mission. She currently lives in Pondicherry and works part-time as an adjunct online faculty at Antioch University Midwest, and devotes rest of her time to studying the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, writing, reading, gardening and just being. After having written several academic papers and articles for scholarly journals and conferences, she now enjoys writing shorter pieces and being more creative with her style at her blog

A good mental education aims to help prepare the mind, the key instrument of learning. 

According to Sri Aurobindo, a true and living education is that in which the mind is consulted in its own growth. He reminds that each individual has a unique temperament and nature, and also a unique life-purpose, and that education must be able to tap into this uniqueness of each learner. He further explains, “To force the nature to abandon its own dharma is to do it permanent harm, mutilate its growth and deface its perfection…The chief aim of education should be to help the growing soul to draw out that in itself which is best and make it perfect for a noble use.”
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It has been more than 30 years.
But I can clearly recall the time when I passed out from my tenth grade, and the conversations I had with my parents, school principal, a few teachers and friends about what subjects I should study in grades 11thand 12th. I recall the similar conversations that took place two years later after I graduated from high school and was applying for colleges. I recall similar conversations when my sister was applying for colleges three years later. What pressure – overt and covert – most youngsters in situations similar to mine had to and still have to deal with!
Our parents and well-wishers want the best for us, or so they think. They want us to pursue those areas of study that can help secure our economic and professional futures, which can help us get decent jobs and a ‘good’ standard of life. So back in my high school days I successfully argued with and convinced my parents and teachers that I didn’t want to study sciences and become a doctor or an engineer. I simply couldn’t be.
I was interested in literature but that was not considered a very ‘safe’ choice. But fortunately for me, I was equally interested in social sciences, so Economics became the next best alternative. And ultimately, and especially after seeing how convinced I was that I couldn’t be a doctor or an engineer, my parents left the final decision to me.
I also think that if I really wanted to go in for literature I could have done that too quite easily. After all, my younger sister did her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts (Painting) a few years later, and the youngest one did study English literature. Obviously, the pressure was not so bad in my case as in some other stories I heard at the time. And since then through friends, acquaintances and strangers.
Most lower-middle-class/middle-class parents in India, at the time I was growing up and perhaps even now, have to sacrifice a lot so their children can have good education. So it is understandable that they want their children to prepare themselves well for a meaningful productive life and a decent standard of living. I can understand and also empathize with the social/familial perspective that is behind this line of thinking.
But at the same time when taken to an extreme such perspective can lead to what Sri Aurobindo is cautioning us about – it can mutilate a soul’s growth and prevent it to draw out that in itself which it needs to grow toward perfection. I guess we all know people who could have been good singers, painters, musicians, actors, writers etc. if only they had been encouraged to do so or given the right environment in which to discover their hidden life-purpose and grow into that.
Perhaps in the larger divine scheme of things everything has its own meaning and serves some purpose. Even the experience of becoming an engineer or going through an MBA when one’s heart is really in painting or composing music or cooking may have some hidden purpose behind it which the engineer-turned-musician or the MBA-turned-chef might only discover much later in life.
It must have been about eight months ago.
I was visiting my brother and his family. My three- year- old nephew is very fond of doodling and writing in his toddler-style (thankfully, with washable crayons) on the tiled floors of his house. And he not only doodles himself, he enjoys making others join him in his play and asking them to draw for him. As I was participating in and enjoying his session one afternoon, I casually mentioned to his mother, my sister-in-law, that perhaps he will grow up to be a master Rangoli/Kolam designer. And immediately she replied, “As long as he is happy doing it, he can be anything.”
This is a big change that has happened in the last 30 years. For the sake of our children, I really hope this change is here to stay and is more wide-spread.
For the sake of my little nephew I really hope his parents feel the same way when he is 15 and needs to choose a course of studies in high school. And also when he is 20 and almost ready to make a career choice.
Mind must be consulted in its own growth.
(NOTA: None of the Above)

Categories: Guest Post

Shailaja V

Hi there! I'm Shailaja Vishwanath, a blogger with 12 years of blogging experience and a parent to a teen. I work as a digital marketing and social media consultant. From positive parenting tips to useful productivity hacks, social media advice to blogging advice, you'll find them all right here. Welcome to my blog.

0 Comments · April 21, 2015 at 2:49 am

I agree, Beloo. It makes a lot more sense for one to pursue something one has the interest in. But even that can sometimes take years.
I did my engineering, because I wanted to. It was only after my Masters and years of working that I found my passion was in writing.
But I'm happy and confident, that at least as parents and elders, we are giving the future generation more freedom to make their choices.

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 3:11 am

Thanks Shailaja for featuring this post. I like the 'cocktail' part in the intro 🙂

Vinodini Iyer · April 21, 2015 at 3:14 am

These are exactly my thoughts. I've always encouraged my son to decide on the vocation that excites him…now that he's finished his 10th grade and has to chose his future course of study. I was lucky enough to have parents who were far ahead of times and did not pressurise us to opt for the so-called ambitious fields of studies.
Mind must be consulted in its own growth, for sure. Brilliant post Beloo! Thanks for hosting Beloo here on your blog Shailaja. It gives me a tiny spark of joy to see two of my favourite blogger friends collaborate to churn out this wonderful post! <3

SHANAYA TALES · April 21, 2015 at 4:43 am

Mind must be consulted in its own growth. – What a beautiful thought.

I agree that our parents had our best interests in mind when they presented the limited 'safe' choices to us. Me and my sister were given 4 choices – Medical, Engineering, CA or MBA. I hated Math, so it ruled out Engineering and CA. I freaked out when I had to take a basic tetanus shot, so that ruled out Medicine. Thus, the only real “choice” I had was – MBA. It is funny now to look back on the decision making process. Maybe, if I had been adamant on wanting to pursue literature, they would have let me. Who knows? But I guess at some level, I too considered literature 'unsafe' as that seemed to be the opinion of the masses. Whatever unsafe meant.

Nonetheless, history is not going to repeat itself with my son. Like your S-I-L says, my son can do anything he wants to, as long as he is happy doing it. 🙂 Great post, Beloo!

Rachna · April 21, 2015 at 4:55 am

I can completely relate to what you have said. And like you, I am proud of many parents of my generation who are letting their kids pursue what they want to do. I remember back in our days, it was just a few options and overt/covert pressure as you mentioned. I can also understand why our simple middle-class parents pushed children. Mine were an anomaly because they were completely detached never worried about or pushing us in a direction. I guess I get my open mindedness from them. In my case, I've enjoyed every field that I dabbled in. I loved teaching, Marketing and brand management and now writing. And I am equally proud of my education as an MBA. I still believe that education is the cornerstone of our life. We all must endeavor to study as much as we can.

Great to see you here on Shailaja's blog with yet another insightful post.

Inderpreet Kaur Uppal · April 21, 2015 at 6:56 am

This is a double bonanza, two amazing ladies together. Congratulations Shailaja & Beloo. Not is the message so relevant it is so crisp and simple.
I hope all parents heed to it. I know I will because I do get quite worried about my son many times & he is in first!! Thank you 🙂

Inderpreet Kaur Uppal · April 21, 2015 at 6:59 am

This is a double bonanza, two amazing ladies together. Congratulations Shailaja & Beloo. Not is the message so relevant it is so crisp and simple.
I hope all parents heed to it. I know I will because I do get quite worried about my son many times & he is in first!! Thank you 🙂

Soumya · April 21, 2015 at 7:49 am

I agree with you Beloo, the next generation should be given freedom to choose what they want to do. But I hope there are more parents like you. As I see around me kids aged three being forced to go to tuitions and other courses. It pains to see this. I shall be sharing this post with every parent!

Thanks Shailaja for featuring Beloo here! Both you ladies rock! 🙂

Mantratantra Yantra · April 21, 2015 at 7:53 am

This makes me feel really special!! :):) I hope too that I have the same attitude when it really matters.. I had thought when my kid was born I would never compare my kid with anyone.. I still don't most of the time but there are instances where i have really struggled to keep my words..

sulekkha · April 21, 2015 at 9:23 am

It's great to see two very fine bloggers come together in one place. Thanks Shailaja for inviting Beloo to write here And the topic she has chosen is extremely interesting and important. Three Idiots, the movie starring Aamir Khan in the lead role dealt with this issue too. Parents need to learn to trust their kids and the choices they make.

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 11:40 am

I agree, no field of work – be it painting, music, cooking, gardening, writing – everything requires years of learning and practice for someone to gain sufficient mastery and expertise. It is too bad that often in our society certain lines of works are not considered 'professional' or 'respectful' enough, and only a few professions are considered safe choices. It is actually also good that often people have multiple interests – so while studying and practicing engineering one could be simultaneously pursuing another interest. We all know doctors who are also equally good musicians, computer engineers who are also wonderful painters or dancers….more power to such people! Thanks Sid for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

Thanks Vinodini for your wonderful comment of appreciation. And thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic. I am sure with such a supportive mother (and grandparents) your son will figure out the right course of studies for him and will greatly enjoy the process. All the best to him!

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Thank you so much Shanaya for candidly sharing your experience and perspective. I am happy your experience has made you more convinced about your role as a parent for your son. I am glad this post connected with you deeply. Thanks again!

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Rachna for sharing your personal experience and perspective. I think when minds are trained in the right ways, we find that we can be good at many different lines of study/work. It is a matter of identifying which faculties need to be trained and how. And yet there is something to be said about a certain temperament and preference of the mind, and that's why it is so critical that parents, teachers and our education system as a whole allows children to figure that out for themselves. The schools and system can at best facilitate such self-discovery process through exposure to a variety of activities and interests. I agree with you, all kinds of experiences and education ends up having an impact on who we become and how we see the world and life. I am happy you found the post insightful!

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Thank you Inderpreet for your kind words. I am sure your son will, in due time, figure out what he likes to do! Let him just have fun right now 🙂 You will be there to support him and encourage him fully, that's all that matters. Thanks again for sharing.

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Thanks Soumya. When three-year-old kids are being forced to go for tuitions, can there be anything more wrong with our education system?! It is sad indeed. I am happy you connected with the post. Thanks!

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Hi Anshu, I am sure you will have the same attitude, don't worry. If you ever change your opinion, I will visit and warn you, sis 🙂 I am happy you found your way through this post. I was going to send it across to you, but got busy with somethings. (Everyone, this is the sis-in-law, who and whose son, my little nephew are mentioned in my post.)

Beloo Mehra · April 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Thanks Sulekkha for your kind words! I am glad you find hte post interesting. Yes, that was a good movie, in so far as making this point was concerned.

Nabanita · April 21, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Such a meaningful post Beloo…It's important that we let children chose their own course…Yes, guide them we must but then I think we should not pressure them into something because we think it's a safe bet…

I did Engineering because honestly after my 12th I wasn't sure what I wanted to do… Literature, writing attracted me but I hadn't considered those seriously at that point…But I guess everything has a greater purpose…But still it's good if we follow our hearts and do what we are truly passionate about

Zephyr · April 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm

I wouldn't just blame the parents for this state of affairs. Often the teachers/school or parents or even the children themselves have no clue about their aptitude while making a choice. So we have irritable teachers, impatient doctors, disinterested engineers and so on. Coming under pressure from peers is one important issue. No, not the peers of the children, but the parents. In their bid to prove that their child is as intelligent as the other one's, they tend to push their wards into courses they have little interest in. The right thing would be to expose the children to the available choices, discuss their preferences and then the pros and cons of the choice before making the final decision. The role of the parents and teachers has to be strictly one of advisors albeit with great involvement, because sometimes impulsive children might take the wrong decision. So leaving it entirely up to them is also not the right thing to do.

Shailaja V · April 21, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Very glad to have you here, Beloo 🙂 The description fits you pretty perfectly, don't you think? 🙂

Rachna · April 22, 2015 at 2:43 am

I agree with your view, Zephyr. It has to be a collaborative effort of children, parents and teachers. Also, our education system does not let us explore multiple interests. For eg. I was equally interested in Sciences and Maths, languages, Economics and Psychology. But I had to choose Science because apparently one can't choose humanities and Science. I nearly chose HRD as my MBA specialization and I am sure I would have done as well as I did in Marketing. My point being that children are confused too and parents and teachers need to guide them to help them discover their aptitudes. I see my elder son grappling with the same choices.

tulika singh · April 22, 2015 at 2:53 am

Taking forward from Zephyr's comment above I completely agree that children are often clueless. You were fortunate in knowing what you wanted Beloo. I just didn't. Few children at 15 or even 17 years have a clear idea of what they want to do. And because I always maxed my math papers (by sheer slogging rather than an inherent aptitude) my parents thought I would do well at engineering. I won't blame my parents. The only yardstick they had were my marks which were good. As it turned out it just wasn't my thing. I would have gone through life not even knowing what I wanted had writing not happened. What we need is proper aptitude testing and of course exposure. Things are changing, yes, parents are much more open now, which is good but it has to be a collaborative effort.

Kathy Combs · April 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm

I think happiness is key. Without the passion and happiness, there is no point. Money isn't everything. It helps pay the bills, but it is more important to be happy and content.

Beloo Mehra · April 23, 2015 at 6:28 am

Thanks Nabanita for sharing your experience. Yes it is often difficult to be sure at that young age as to what we really want to do or what interests us most, that's why exposure to a variety of things/subject areas is important. And of course, meaningful counseling and interactions with teachers can help. Glad you connected with the post.

Beloo Mehra · April 23, 2015 at 6:49 am

Zephyr, I agree completely, it is not easy for children to be fully sure as to what areas interest them and what professional choice would be right for them. That's why it becomes so important for parents and teachers to allow them enough space to figure out for themselves, of course with the help of sound advice and counseling from teachers and parents. The trouble begins, as you correctly point out, when parents because of their own 'parent rivalry' and/or whatever reason (including expecting their children to fulfil their own dreams) start putting subtle and not-so-subtle pressure on their children to choose certain fields of study/profession. And you are so right when you speak of giving good exposure to children of different choices available to them. In fact I would say that is one reason why a good education should be wide enough – in the sense of giving wide mental experiences to children by exposing them to a variety of subjects (though not necessarily pressurising them to excel in all). This can help make their mental development more flexible and plastic enough. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful comment, you really have brought much needed depth to the discussion here on this important topic.

Beloo Mehra · April 23, 2015 at 6:58 am

Tulika, thank you for sharing this important perspective. I agree completely that it is often not easy to know what it is that we are really interested in. Not just at the age of 15 or 17, but even 27, 37 or 47. I changed from Economics to Education when I went in for my PhD. And even after one year of PhD coursework I was ready to switch to Anthropology. And then after finishing my PhD I seriously thought of going in for Journalism. So for many of us our intellectual interests keep shifting throughout our lives, at least that has been my experience. As I mentioned in my replies to Rachna and Zephyr, all we can do is give proper exposure to children to help them figure out what they like and at the same time allow them sufficient freedom to change their line of study/work when they discover something new about what interests them. Our system that forces children to select a fixed course of study is also a big problem, perhaps the biggest reason for many of the problems we see today such as unfulfilled career paths etc. Like you, I also wouldn't blame my parents, nobody should. They are themselves product of the educational-social-cultural mindset that prevails for the most part. And like you say, thankfully things are changing in many ways. But many more serious reforms are needed in making our education system more flexible, wider and more liberal. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

Beloo Mehra · April 23, 2015 at 6:58 am

I agree completely, Kathy. Thanks for reading! · April 28, 2015 at 8:51 am

Yes indeed, things have improved and its great to see not only parents being more supportive but also youngsters figuring out much earlier what they really want to do. However, the latter part still needs to improve and for that, the foundational education class 1-12 really needs to make crucial changes. This is a brilliant post Beloo 🙂

Birgit · May 2, 2015 at 10:50 pm

I wrote a lot on your blog Beloo but I applaud your sister in law. I have to say to know what to be when one is only 15 or 16 is just too young and yet we are supposed to know. I have seen kids go to school for one thing only to drop out near the end realizing it is not for them. I have seen others just crash under the stress of expectation. I have also seen many parents be $80,000 in credit card debt all for their children and the child lives still at home, no job and little drive because the parents gave too much. If we show an interest in something, we need to know all that we can do with that degree no matter what we choose to go to. I may have taken Art all the way through instead of psychology but I had no clue what to do with this degree except being a teacher which I did not want. So how does one find out these things. It is not as easy as one thinks

Teresa Robert · May 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

That's great you has done Ph.D. in Education from University of Illinois, i am also Ph. D. student and i love to read this type of informative posts.
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Beloo Mehra · May 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

Yes, a lot of things must be done differently, particularly in the schooling stage. Students need to be given more choices so that they can explore different things. This will also help them figure out better their learning interests and what subjects they want to study in higher education. The three-stream system that we have at present must be radically altered. But will it happen right away? I am not so sure. Thanks for reading, and I am happy you liked the post, Mamta!

Beloo Mehra · May 6, 2015 at 10:19 am

I agree, it is never easy. Plus to make things more complicated, our learning interests also keep changing as we gain greater exposure to things, with more life experiences etc. And yet we have to choose one particular line of study and work…sometimes all this pressure to specialize can be just too much. I think this stems from a fundamental mistake we have made in understanding human condition. We have always seen a human being, an individual as a “human resource” – one who has to be socially productive and contributor to economic wealth of the society. If one is unable to do that for some reason, he/she is a loser, a good-for-nothing, a drain on society and what not. By this token, our artists, craftspeople, writers, poets who aren't “selling” their creations or who aren't making money off their talents (and certainly all those who have left the world to work on their spiritual pursuits somewhere in the mountains or caves) are all considered losers. Imagine how things would have been different if human beings were considered first and foremost as souls that are here on earth for blossoming, for rediscovering their uniqueness…wouldn't all our standards for educational and social success change completely if this starting point were different? I wonder if that is ever possible….but we can dream, can't we? 🙂 Thanks Birgit for your wonderful comment. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts here on this blog too.

Beloo Mehra · May 6, 2015 at 10:20 am

Thanks, Teresa. Happy you liked the post. Yes, I cherish my memories of years spent at UIUC! Good luck with your PhD, I am sure you are having a great time reading, thinking, writing, and reading some more 🙂

Gracie Edison · June 2, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Nice Post! University of Illinois is the best university
Thanks for sharing this informative post
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Beloo Mehra · May 29, 2016 at 7:03 am

Thanks Gracie!

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