The movie Tamasha has been hailed for the theme of finding oneself and following that elusive thing called passion. Interestingly, films and other forms of popular culture always equate passion with a creative field. Equating passion with say, what happened in Pursuit of Happyness is a rare thing. It is tough to make a story about a stock broker, staring into his computer for hours before making a kill at the market. Or a movie about the endless powerpoint presentations MBAs have to make (which has been ridiculed a lot in Tamasha). A movie on number crunching on excel sheets, no thank you. And where is the dramatic arc in the story of the guy who sits at the ticket counter punching out train tickets for you? And yet, are these lives not important?
In the recent years, there is this over emphasis, if you will, on following one’s passion. If you look at who talks the most about passion, then it is self help and start up bloggers, who, hello, are trying to make a living selling that idea (or a book/product) to you. That might sound too cynical, but there is a small grain of truth in it. And almost all of them will ask you to quit your job right this minute. Now lets not get this wrong, passion is a good thing to have. But the way it is being presented as panacea these days is bordering on toxic.
What a lot of the passion stories fail to talk about is the hours of plain old hard work and putting your nose to the grind that comes before the proverbial success. The stories in popular mass media end with the first book/music concert/acting gig, a bit like how famous romances of yore always ended in both the protagonists dead. No tallying bills, looking after snotty kids for Romeo and Juliet please. And similarly no bills again for our fictional heroes and heroines who followed their passion, they just do their thing and walk into the sunset.
Anyone who followed their passion successfully or otherwise would tell you it didn’t solve everything. That there were days when they didn’t jump out of their bed excited about work. That there were days when they worried if they would make pay day. That there were days when they were just bored. That there were days when they were so swamped that they wondered if they did the right thing by jumping into it. Some may never regret it, some may regret and even quit and it doesn’t matter.
What this lopsided representation does is create a lot of people who shall suffer from expectation hangover (a fine term coined by Christine Hassler). It creates this expectation that if it is your passion, you shouldn’t have to struggle, thereby making it all the more harder for those who do venture out. You see talent is not scarce. A lot of those who venture out actually have that level of talent. But when it comes to daily survival, a lot depends on your financial backup, the network you were born with or managed to build and your own emotional capability to go in for the long haul.
Quitting traditional fields and striking out on your own is in itself emotionally draining. Suddenly you find yourself alone, even if your deviation is just about not joining the family business. It takes great amount of courage to start and that is in itself commendable. But then so is just sticking to your job. In fact, life, whether you chose the well worn road or the one less travelled is never easy. But being told that passion means joy every day, every minute is only going to create more space for terrible disappointment.
The follow your passion or start your own company bogey also ties in nicely with the current economic scenario. If everyone who gets laid off or is unable to find their footing in the work place, can somehow be convinced that it is all upto them to now find something for themselves, then corporations and countries can be let off the hook somewhat. Empathy can take a walk. In fact, there is enough blame-y literature telling people they are not worthy human beings if they didn’t do something about their passion. If one tries to infuse a bit of practicality into the argument, one is likely to be chastised for not having faith.
The trouble though is that culture really hasn’t evolved enough despite all this to let people be. Earlier the dominant narrative was that of getting a job, keeping it and eventually retiring; only now it has been replaced by the passion narrative. Now the ones who stick to 9-5 jobs for whatever reason are the ones facing stigma, which was earlier reserved for the ones who broke the norm. It is merely replacing one norm with the other.
What is important perhaps to remember more than anything is that every life counts. That guy who delivers your newspaper, he may not have some grand passion, he just works day after day to take care of himself and his loved ones. That superstar you all envy, he may have all the fame, may travel to the best of places, but at the end of the day, he too does what he does to take care of himself and family. One must strive to have a better life for sure, but also take pleasure in the seemingly small achievements that add up to build one’s own life. What is important is to know that every life on this planet counts whether they live it examined or unexamined.