Are you Ready for the
Survival Kit for the Young
Let's face it: It's tough being young these days. The world
is much more competitive than it ever was, and there are so
many things that need to be done. Newspapers and television
tell us what kind of people we should be and the kind of
clothes we should wear. Everyone wants us to earn a five
figure salary. At the same time, we have to keep the values
of Indian culture flying high. How does one find a balance
between the two?
Add to this the dangers that lurk around corners. Some of
them are pretty obvious, such as the importance of keeping to
the right side of parents and teachers. Others are more
devious: one can have an accident or worse, fall in love.
This is to say nothing about other tragedies, like getting
rejected in an interview, losing out on admissions to
prestigious colleges, AIDS, pollution, restrictions on
wearing jeans, teenage pregnancies.... the list is endless.
Who said that being a young person was an easy task? We know
it isn't. The canvas of a student's life is filled with daily
risks and uncertainties. Each brings us to the end of the
world, well, almost. But the tragedy is that nobody
understands that. What we need is a survival kit, something
that tells us the kind of persons we should be and what we
should be doing to succeed in life. No, we should not end up
on a rope attached to a ceiling fan just because we can't
cope up. We have to be made of sterner stuff.
Here it is, then, the Survival Kit, containing essential
tools designed to make you a better person. It takes you
through a maze of common problems and suggests solutions that
will help you become a winner.
Usually, the foremost problem faced by youngsters is related
to studies. For the top students it is the fear of losing
one's position by a few marks, while for those lower down, it
is not being able to get enough no matter how much effort is
put in. The uncertainties of the examination system seem to
make it so impossible to excel. What matters is the quality
of our concentration. Here are some ways by which our efforts
can be better rewarded:
Always attend classes.
Bunking classes may be a fashion, but
it is always better to have somebody explain things rather
than reading a book later on. Take notes. Revise the topic at
home on the same day and mark your book with simple
explanations which you will otherwise forget.
How to stay awake? . Feeling sleepy in class is a common
feeling. Asking questions or taking notes is a way to keep
awake. Do not accept what the teacher is saying, but keep
debating in your mind. Try to make points which need
Studying at home. It is an accepted fact that the human mind
cannot concentrate for long periods. It is better to break up
your study plan into 45 minute intervals. Take a break after
each. Studying for five hours continuously would yield less
result than putting in 5 intervals of 45 minutes each.
Wake up early. Many students study into the night, but it is
more efficient to put the same effort in the morning. That's
because one can concentrate better in the morning. Just two
hours in the morning will be better than four hours at night.
Work to a schedule. Always have a time plan for working.
Divide the chapters you want to cover and allot dates for
each. This way, you can cover more than working without a
Studies are just one aspect to succeed in life. Becoming
confident and speaking in public is often the insurmountable
part, especially because these skills are not taught in
schools or colleges. There are some students who take part in
college debates and declamations, while the majority of
students either do not get an opportunity or are unable to
get over their shyness.
In most careers, team work is required. The inability to
speak coherently or being shy will thus be a major drawback.
Shy people often have a negative self-image and may feel that
other people may make fun of them, even though nobody has
enough time to think about others. The self-inflicted
thoughts prevent people from being normal and the impression
they project is one of being snooty and arrogant. Shy people
may, thus, end up being looked down upon, turning their fears
Very often we create our own limitations. "I live in a small
town and people living in cities are better than me", says
one. Another person will say, "I live in a city but I was not
educated in a convent school, so others are better." This
goes on, almost as if people are trying to justify their
weaknesses. Needless to say, the walls are imaginary. People
from small towns or government schools often do quite well
for themselves, cometimes even better than those who consider
themselves better off. Take the example of the President of
India Mr K.R. Naraynan. He was neither educated in convents
nor did he live in big cities. When we analyse the
backgrounds of successful people, we will discover that only
a few of them were from large cities or educated in convents.
The way to overcome this niggardly feeling is startlingly
simple: take control and volunteer for everything. Take part
in outdoor activities. Play games. Volunteer for any group
activity taking place in the neighbourhood. In college, seek
opportunities to make presentations and speeches. That is how
confidence is acquired.
The tensions of life
The pressures of studies and inter-personal interaction
usually results in tension. One is beset by self-doubts and
every small failure appears magnified. This leads to a
feeling of being let down. Most people are able to bounce
back and recover after a little while. In some cases, it may
lead to depression. Affluent young people, of course, use the
term to describe boredom or restlessness.
Real or clinical depression is a more serious thing. It may
be marked by incapacity of work, thoughts of failure and
death, fatigue and suicidal leanings. It results from
disturbances in the brain's neuro-chemistry and is a
crippling disease. With an estimated 6.5 per cent of adult
Indians suffering from depression, it may not be as rare as
we might expect.
Self-doubts are natural to a great extent and parents, while
being supportive, should ensure that they are not
overbearing. If you have negative feelings, or know of
someone who is thus inclined, confide in someone you know.
Contrary to popular feeling, friends and teachers will go out
of the way to help you.
A hobby can drive away depression, keep you sane and give
hours of pleasure. Yet, even though the number of activities
have increased over the years, youngsters seem to have fewer
Youngsters can develop hobbies for pleasure and profit.
Collecting stamps, interior decoration, reading, gardening,
fashion designing and writing are some of the common hobbies.
Some of the more exotic hobbies could be to fly gliders,
enrol at the local radio or television station for becoming a
presenter, operating a ham radio. Of course, these depend on
the kind of facilities available in your town. Remember that
watching television for long hours is not a hobby. You will
lose out on many friends and experiences if you are stuck on
A hobby will add to your knowledge as also the kind of person
you are. For example, if you are taking part in some
activities as a hobby, your self-confidence will undoubtedly
Dealing with the opposite sex
As one grows, one begins to become aware of the opposite sex.
One wants to be noticed and make friends. For its part, the
media is relentless in projecting images of young people
going around with someone of the opposite sex: the staple
diet of films is a boy-girl relationship, while in
advertisements, it seems that everything must be used to
attract the opposite sex. Soap, toothpaste or talcum powder
is not to be used for personal hygiene, but for the attention
they may help in getting.
Can you blame a young person from getting confused? It is
common to come across complaints from youngsters that they do
not have a steady girlfriend or boyfriend and are considered
backward by their peers. In every college, there is always a
small group of Westernised students who seem to have no
inhibitions or parental restriction, giving an inferiority
complex to the others.
Let us pause and think whether this complex is justified and
how it can be tackled. A school or a college are preparatory
stages, providing opportunities to interact with many people.
If there are sixty people in your class, it is an opportunity
to have sixty friends. Being part of a group is enjoyable.
Why do you want to reject all those wonderful people and get
limited to the friendship of just one person? Often, it would
mean moulding oneself to the whims and fancies of that one
person. Is it advisable to give up your freedom? Needless to
say, an involvement at a young stage would also mean saying
goodbye to your dreams of making a professional career. A
romantic involvement is never without its costs.
Moreover, intimacy with one person may also result in
something more serious as a sexual relationship. Statistics
show an increase of teenage pregnancies all over the country,
pointing to the mess that young people are making of their
lives. Are you up to handling a pregnancy during college?
The smart person, on the other hand, does not get involved.
Friends of the opposite sex are all right and one enjoys
their company in a group. This is a healthy relationship
which will add to your confidence. At the same time, it is
important to have your head firmly on your shoulders and not
get carried away by peer pressure or media images. One must
develop the ability to say no politely. If you do feel
strongly about a person, wait till you start earning. There
will be plenty of time to romance and to find out whether the
feelings are mutual.
The next time you see a commercial on television where young
couples are close to each other, remember it is a con-game:
an entire industry of gifts and cards rests on making you
fall in love. The manufacturers will no doubt succeed in
selling their products, but what happens to your life is none
of their business. If you want to fall in love, ask yourself
the question whether you want to be conned by images designed
by marketing experts. Make sure that you have evaluated all
the consequences before committing yourself.
Surviving as a girl
Whatever one may say about advancement of women in all
spheres of life, it is becoming increasingly difficult to
survive as a girl in modern India. Blame it on the media
which projects the image that every girl wants fun, or on
anything else you wish. The dangers are many, from being
teased by unknown people to being touched in crowded places.
In extreme cases, this has taken serious turns: rejected
males have thrown acid at girls or tried to harm them in
other ways. Every once in a while, a scandal erupts which
makes one wonder whether girls are really equal at all. Cases
of rape and sexual exploitation are common. The latest
scandal was exposed in Kerala where girls going to an ice
cream parlour were drugged and their photographs taken, which
were used to exploit them. Such scandals have been reported
in the most unlikely of places.
Outdated laws in India encourage males to take liberties;
girls do not press charges because of shame and the culprits
are usually acquitted. The atmosphere in the country has been
vitiated to a very great extent that most girls face a tough
time just doing simple tasks. The more beautiful you are, the
more difficulties you are likely to face.
Girls, thus, need a special survial kit which includes the
confidence of dealing with unwanted attention. Of course, it
is not advisable to fight with everyone. But the following
tips will help:
Move around in a group. If you have to take the public
transport, try to be with friends. Ask your friends to
accompany you on errands. A girl in a group is less
vulnerable to advances than being alone.
Avoid unknown places. Do not go to unknown beauty parlours or
restaurants, even with friends. Stick only to places most
frequented by students.
Beware of confidence tricksters. People will try to win your
confidence by many ways, like getting you tickets for a
movie. Refuse politely and go home.
Dress in a traditional manner. Yes, we all want to appear
modern. The sad fact is that roadside males think that every
modern girl is fair game. They will make comments and try to
come close. What is the harm of appearing backward if only to
avoid unwanted attention? Of course, you can dress as
exotically you want when you are with known people.
Confide in parents, friends or teachers. Crimes against girls
continue because they are too ashamed to speak out. Take
control of the situation and confide, even if it is harmless
eve-teasing you are confronted with.
Your appearance speaks the world about you. That, however,
does not mean that you have to stand for hours before a
mirror trying to perfect your hairstyle. People usually do
not pay attention to such things. What matters is whether you
are presentable or not.
That effect is usually obtained by looking clean. Boys are
well advised to shave everyday: a beard or a three-day old
stubble gives an unclean impression. Regular haircuts give a
well-groomed look. Sporting a ponytail or wearing earrings
are best left to television presenters, since these are not
signs of smartness. Long hair is unnecessary baggage which
turns off the people dealing with you. Wear clean clothes.
For formal occasions, make sure you have some ties. For
everyday wear, pick up some jeans and smart T-shirts, but do
avoid garish prints. It is good to use a de-odorant in
summers. Avoid all other cosmetics.
Girls too need some dresses to be worn on special occasions.
For everyday wear, suits and jeans are advisable. Colours can
be used to advantage. Forget all those bold clothes made by
fashion designers unless you want to make a fool of yourself.
A girl can usually obtain a decent effect in clothes on her
own. The hair must be trimmed to give a well groomed look. As
for make-up, a light lipstick is all you need. Have your
eyebrows shaped and get rid of facial hair. There is no point
spending more time and money in trying to look good. Leave
the fancy things to those who want to enter beauty contests.
The formal look, required for jobs and interviews, is
achieved by wearing a plain suit.
The idea is not to spend too much time on one's appearance
because there are more important things to life. Moreover, it
is doubtful that you have friends because of the way you
look. People appreciate you for your nature and the kind of
person you are. This does not mean that one can be sloppy, of
course, but the fact is that you can have as many friends as
you want with your manners and attitude than by spending a
fortune on looking good. Of course if you want to be a model
or beauty queen, your appearance will be paramount.
Today's young person
This brings us to the kind of persons we should strive to be.
There are a number of wrong notions that are being
circulated, including the need to be pushing, aggressive and
competitive, of getting rich no matter what the methods, of
getting an attitude, whatever that means and doing one's own
thing. Modern sales institutes teach the importance of
"selling a comb to a bald man" without realising that it will
erode the credibility of the salesman. One can, after all,
sell something useless only once. In the real world, bluffing
works for but a short while.
Being confident is one thing, showing needless aggression is
quite another. On the contrary, well-mannered youngsters will
be appreciated and are likely to go far. It is important to
maintain composure even if things go wrong.
Instead of being aggressive, young people will do well to
acquire grace, manners and politeness. This is essential
baggage to succeed in the long run.
One way of getting ready for life is to take up part-time
jobs. Use summer vacations to help out in an office. This
will help you gain confidence in dealing with people and
learn manners so essentially required in the modern world. It
will also help you decide which career to take up later. The
spin-off is that one can afford a number of things with one's
earnings, without depending on others.
Today's smart person is a team player, confident about
oneself. Yes, they are ambitious. As compared to youngsters
of the past, they probably have more confidence and are much
more aware. The idea is to use these advantages
constructively. We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves,
since there is nobody who has everything. We can be achievers
too, if we give ourselves a chance. If less fortunate people
have made it big, what really stops us, who are young and
educated, who have our lives in front of us?