Can we be blamed for our lack of creativity in our adult lives?

“A lot of parents crush their children’s dreams. I give many lectures at universities and colleges all over the country, and always say that parents kill more dreams than anybody. They squash any artistic drive that children have when they say, “We don’t want you doing this stuff, because you can’t make money and you’ll end up being a cab driver or a waitress.

This can be devastating. I don’t know how you recover from that if you have a great love for the arts. You’ll end up hating your parents for that, especially when you’re stuck in some dead-end job that you really hate.”

So said Spike Lee, American filmmaker, several years ago.

Some children, like Spike Lee, are lucky. Their parents encourage their creative instincts. Their parents support their love for music, for painting, for creative writing… and give a helping hand in their children’s development. Their parents don’t brainwash them into believing that, unless they pursue an activity or a field of study that makes money for them in the future, or sets them up for it, they’re useless.

Sadly, as Spike Lee’s words suggest, most of us in India have grown up with parents who have discouraged our creative endeavours during our childhoods. “You can’t make money as an artist or a musician or a writer,” they’ve said. We’ve had to pursue engineering, medicine, law, accountancy, and in the last 20 years, business management or software engineering. For women, it had always been teaching.

With such encouragement, can we be blamed for our lack of creativity in our adult lives?

Our parents had drummed it into our heads that the only successful professions are the ones they’ve grown up with, or know of. The ones guaranteed to get us well-paying jobs and set us up in a career they approved of. The rest were for shirkers… a waste of time. Particularly the arts. All musicians, painters and writers lived in poverty and died bankrupt. Except for those born with silver spoons in their mouths, such as Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

As children, whenever we pursued our creative instincts, our parents have told us that it’ll lead to despair. Sure, it was great to be able to draw and paint, learn origami, recite poems, participate in school plays, and sing the latest songs faultlessly; but, to pursue the fine arts, the performing arts or literature was a guaranteed path to failure. That, if we chose these modes of creative professions, we’ll end up being office clerks, waiters, taxi drivers and farm labourers.

Or worse, we’ll remain unemployed and depend on handouts from friends and family.

Sadly, this attitude doesn’t change over the years. Although some children are encouraged to be creative, as they grow older, they find themselves in an entirely different world. Their parents, who had encouraged them several years before, as well as their teachers at school and college, and their bosses at work, all view them with amusement; saying, “Don’t try to be too creative. Just follow the rules and you’ll get there safe and sound.”

With such encouragement, can we be blamed for our lack of creativity in our adult lives?

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