The curious case of millennials
Two weeks is absolutely zilch in the ocean of time, but that's the longest period our daughter has spent with us in the last seven years. Two weeks is such a long time for a doctor to take a break, but she now wears the demeanor of a cool cat, floating like a ball of cotton fluff in the stillness of what she calls her "cosmos of peace and tranquility".
"Aren't you going back?" Any father who wants to help build a solid career path for his daughter would have asked. Two years of job experience back home is a sure passport to a lucrative job in the Gulf. But generations are poles apart in perceptions. We think with our brain; they do it with their heart. My heart skipped a beat when I heard her replies to my colleagues who asked how long she would be around in Dubai.
"I am home," she said with a grin that spread across her face.
"What did you mean by that?" I asked her later in the evening, as she bit into a big roll of spicy shawarma under the awnings of a Karama cafeteria past midnight.
"The weather has improved since I came. It's less humid," she said, as if to skirt the topic. She ordered a medium avocado juice to go with the sandwich.
"I am talking about your job and leave. When do you want to book your ticket?" My patience was wearing thin.
"I have resigned, dad," she finally dropped the bombshell.
"What!? You don't want to work?" My scream tapered into a whimper as a gaggle of teenagers suppering at nearby tables looked on.
"Of course, I will. Am just taking a break."
"What kind of break? If I opt to take a break like you, who will put bread on the table?"
"We are millennials, dad. We think differently."
"What? Millennials don't eat?"
"Listen, for the last seven years, I have been hopping from one place to another. From a high school in Dubai to a medical school in India, and from there to several places in several jobs."
"We've all done that. That's how life grows, from a seedling to a tree."
"Dad, being a dental surgery student, life on campus was a real turmoil, but I managed to create my own home with some of the best human beings I have met, people from Kenya to Bahrain. We would do whatever it took to make ourselves feel at home, away from our families. It's agonising."
"Big deal! That's the case with all NRI students."
"Stop comparing. I was looking forward to a break after university because I thought it would hold me back from the rat race, but I was under compulsion to jump straight into the job market."
"Why waste time is a common question," I countered.
"Yeah, but we are all human beings. I followed the crowd thinking this is the age I will have the energy to build a future where I can put my legs up on Sunday mornings and feel proud that I have created my own destiny."
"You think it was a wrong decision?"
"Things won't always pan out as you wish in India. Your dream job is not served on a platter. In fact, there is nothing called a dream job. When zero professionalism in the business of health suffocates you, you end up hopping jobs. But it's the story of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I had to leave a job once because I undercharged a patient by 200 rupees. Can you believe that?"
"Every job will have its own merits and demerits. Your success lies in learning to live with them."
"Dad, my dream is not to have a job that fills my pocket, but one that fills my soul. Nearly two years in the field has made me grow from a girl into a self-sufficient woman. As I scroll through social media, what I see is my classmates and acquaintances sharing their lives' milestones, like engagements, dream weddings and babies. But I believe that's just five per cent of my concept of life."
"What else is life about?"
"Each time I came home for vacations, I noticed the increasing wrinkles and fine lines on my parents' faces. And I would think I need to be with them. I want to be with them, as long as I can before I move on in life. These are obligations I want to take care of before marriage takes me away from them."
"Thanks, Vava, for such great thoughts."
"I also want to take stock of my life, deciding what course I have to pursue and where. The world is much wider. Let me explore new horizons. But before that, let me cosy up to my parents for a while. Let me scribble on the walls - one more time. It's a great feeling when the hand that fed me Cerelac now pours me a drink. Dad, we have both come a long way as friends."