Mission impossible? (Movie Apna Aasmaan)

This article is published in the November issue of the Education magazine “Educare” under the title “Mission impossible”. The portions in bold are dialogues from the wonderful film “Apna Aasmaan” which furthurs the casue of real education and human resources management.

With parents not letting the child discover his calling in life, a majority of people are stuck up in wrong roles. This is the theme of movie Apna Aasmaan

Though largely a work of fiction, the movie Apna Aasmaan is based on the real life story of Onko (character Budhdhi in the movie), 16, who was mildly autistic and suffered from minimal brain dysfunction due to his problem of epilepsy. He was not able to attend school and until the age of 11 had severe motor control — he was not able to hold a pencil to write a sentence. Later, Onko displayed a talent for drawing pictures. He had a successful exhibition at the Nehru art Gallery in Bombay, which can serve as an inspiration to people with similar problems. It reflects the real meaning of the term “education”, which, based on the word ‘educare’, implies to draw out what is already in. Or in the words of Erichch Fromm, “Education is helping the child realize his potentialities.”

The movie is actually insightful for those people who have faced such problems. According to its website, http://www.apnaaasmaan.com, the basic theme of the movie is, ‘How far would you go to make your child a genius?’ In the movie, they show an autistic child, who cannot do anything except draw. He is given some kind of magic injection to convert him into a mathematics genius. He does become a maths genius but as a side effect, he also suffers from amnesia, forgets to draw and in contrast to his original, lovable, jovial self, becomes obnoxiously rude and monstrous. His parents realise their folly and want their original child back, which they manage to do with an antidote. The fictional magic injection and the antidote may seem somewhat far-fetched, but the movie succeeds in conveying a strong disapproval of the obsession of Indian parents to mould their children according to their whims and fancies rather than let them do their own thing, which the word ‘Apna Aasmaan’ implies.

Some insightful dialogues from the film, before the autistic child becomes a monster:

Doctor: “Look, How Budhdhi’s sketching has improved. Very nice.”

Budhdhi’s mother: “Sketching karke kya banega? Main logo ko kyan mooh dikhaungi (What will he earn from sketching. How shall I face society?”)

The doctor: “His IQ is 70. He is a slow learner with few Autistic traits. Sketching ko encourage karne aur shortcomings ko accept karne main hi tumhari jeet hai”(It would be better for you to encourage his sketching and accept his shortcomings).

This conversation reminds me of a write-up by an Indian vocational psychologist a few years ago: “At least in India no one is surprised at children aspiring to become engineers, doctors, CAs or MBAs. Almost 60 percent think in terms of engineering or medicine and nearly 15 percent fancy their skills as CAs, but in reality only 10 percent become what they dream of becoming. Have you ever wondered why children do not want to be artists, dancers, singers, painters or carpenters and plumbers? The reason is not far to seek. These professions do not have the ‘class’ or prestige associated with it. When they actually start working, they realise that they don’t have the mental makeup for a particular type of job, despite being suitably qualified.”

The great mystic Osho’s views on people hesitating to take up humble occupations are equally profound: “Somebody is a great carpenter, somebody is a great shoemaker, somebody is a great scientist, somebody is a great money-maker — they are all contributing whatever their potential allows them to life, with totality, not holding anything back. Naturally they should have equal opportunity to grow, and they should have equal respect.”

In the film the doctor further explains:

“Har bachcha toh doctor ya engineer nahin ban sakta na (every child cannot become a doctor or an engineer). That’s why so many students are committing suicide. Why? Because their parents keep pushing them. Pata nahin parents ki kab samajh mein aayeega ki unki Lakshman Rekha kya hai. (God knows when parents shall understand what their Lakshman Rekha is).”

Though the doctor talks sense, the couple still persists in making him a genius but when he becomes a monster after the injection, his father remembers his original son. When the child had made a drawing in the pre- injection phase, this is what had been the conversation between the two:

Budhdhi: “Baba, I have drawn a monkey for you.”
The father: “Table yaad kyon nahin kiya (Why didn’t you remember the maths table?)”

The father then breaks down on recollecting how wrong and cruel he had been.

What the doctor fails to say is that even if the child succeeds in the wrong occupation forcefully, later on in life he may yearn for what his essence is, which can be gauged from the following examples of career switches reported in The Times of India on August 5, 2007 where most have shifted from their earlier exalted occupations to arts and sports:-

Srinjoy Banerjee – tyre technologist to classical singer
Dr Mahesh Chitnis- doctor to actor and film producer.
Jayesh Morvankar- advertising to adventure sports
Varun Khera and Manas Wadhva – Jet airways stewards to restaurant owners
Arun Pai- financial consultant to tour operator
Mrinalini Batra- engineer to marketing education
Sanjeev Chopra- engineer to theatre person
Sachin Patil – IT professional to winemaker
Sidhu- doctor to rock star

Osho had once advised a very successful surgeon to spend the last fifteen years of his life as a musician for personal fulfillment. This is what he had to say on the subject:

“Happiness happens when you fit with your life. When you fit so harmoniously that whatever you are doing is your joy. Then suddenly you come to know that meditation follows you. If you love the work that you are doing, if you love the way you are living, then you are meditative. Then nothing distracts you. When things distract you, it shows that you are not really interested in those things. It is deemed that happiness comes when one is meditative; it was just the other way around — meditation comes when you are happy.” This implies that one loses awareness of space and time in an occupation of one’s liking.

A couple of dialogues from the film are worth stating here:

When the child becomes famous in maths, he is asked, “What is superior, numbers or words”

Budhdhi’s reply: “Numbers woh signals hain jisse do intelligent brains baat karte hain. Words aadi maanav ki bhasha hai jinko poets ne romanticise karke human progress ko barbaad kar diya hai” (Numbers are those precise signals through which two intelligent brains communicate. Words is the language of the underdeveloped man, which have been romanticised by poets to the detriment of human progress)

It reminds me of what international HRD consultants Morgan and Banks used to say, “Are you comfortable with words, numbers (data), things or people?”

At this point let me tell you my own story. When I started studying seriously in high school (late Seventies/ early Eighties), I had a strange attention problem, which I could not properly understand or explain and this was more so with subjects such as science and maths, which I didn’t like. After 20 years of struggle and half a dozen psychiatrists I discovered what Osho had said, “When things distract you, it shows that you are not really interested in those things” Once my boss said, “There is nothing wrong with you. The day you find the work that you can do spontaneously and effortlessly, this attention problem will go away for ever”. He diagnosed correctly what half-a-dozen psychiatrists could not do or tried to hide from me. I came to know through a magazine of a particular type of depression, which affects writers and poets. Since all the symptoms were tallying exactly, I tried to confirm with another psychiatrist in 1998, who replied, “You are not a poet. You just rhyme”. Subsequently, during the same time, a publisher liked one of my poems on nuclear weapons and said that if I could write 25 more like that, they would publish all of them. This left the doctor stupefied and after 20 years of suffering and half a dozen doctors, that was the first correct diagnosis. A couple of my other poems also got recognition. Though not being formally trained in writing or being in a related occupation, I now have more than 15 articles under my belt, which is not bad for an untrained writer.

The issue is not of being superior or inferior but what you feel comfortable with. I have never been comfortable with numbers and I love the personal computer and Microsoft excel because it facilitates any task with issues like accounts and costing, which I cannot do manually. I hate doing anything manually with numbers. This reminds me of the maths suicides that one hears about from time to time, especially in the context of the board exams. I had a lot of difficulty in coping with maths and I had a full time tutor for that. He would tell me abruptly, “Haath chalna chaahiye; haath chalna chaahiye”. When I am in the mood for it, I can fill up a number of pages with poetry, which he may not be able to do. Should I also tell him, “Haath chalna chaahiye, sir, haath chalna chaahiye.” It is a great pity that teachers are not trained as vocational psychologists or talent scouts, or they could be real educationists. In the year of the board exam itself, I once wrote a very good essay, which my English teacher made me read out in front of the whole class. How was a child to know that this was a signal of his true vocation in life? Similarly, whenever I wrote to anyone, I was appreciated for my writing, but it took me a very long time to understand that that was my vocation in life. I considered writing to be a sidey thing and corporate management the real thing.

As for some occupations like writing not paying off well, poet laureate Amit Dahiyabadshah, who has started poetry readings in different parts of Delhi to enable poets to show their work, comes to mind. On being asked what he meant by the statement that he was a working poet, Dahiyabadshah replied that the term implied making a full-time living out of poetry, which is a rare exception. On googling for working poet, I found several who had written poems on how miserable they were in the wrong occupations. Another transparent platform is television, which through programmes like Boogie-Woogie and Indian Idol is revealing singing and dancing talent to enable artists to express themselves and have emotional and financial fulfillment.

When children are assured of their talents and proactive attempts are made to improve the commercial profile of their occupations like poetry above, the root cause of their problem is removed. Dealing with symptoms may work in the short run, but is not likely to last or work with most, if not all people. Some people should pursue two paths with equal seriousness till one of them bears fruit.

The crux of the movie is in this wonderful comment:-

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life longing for itself. You may house their bodies but not their souls. Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit.”

In another great movie in recent times Iqbal, this is what Mohit sir (Naseerudin Shah) tells the child’s father to convince him to let the child play cricket:-

“Mera yakin hai ke ham sab is duniya mein ek khaas kaam ke liye bheje gaye hain. Zyaadatar log zindagi bhar bhatakte rahte hain, yeh jaane bagair ke unki
zindagi ka maksad kya hai. Kuchh hi khushkismat hain jo is khazaane ko paa jaate hain. Aapka ladka cricket khelne ke liye paida
hua hai. Cricket sirf khel nahin hai uske liye . Uski zindagi ka maksad hai. Cricket
khel ke usko zindagi ka salika milta hai.
Saas lene ki koomat aati hai. Yeh sab aap chheen lenge usse.”


“I am certain that we all have come into this world for a special purpose. Most of the people struggle throughout their lives without knowing what their purpose in life is? Only a few fortunate ones are able to tap this treasure. Your son has been born to play cricket. It is not just a sport for him. It is his life’s purpose. His zest for life is supplemented through cricket. Would you like to steal all that from him?”

Would you like to steal his very life away from him? When you actually study the lives of those people, you realize the magnitude of that statement.

Thomas Carlyle says, “The person who has found his vocation in life is a blessed human being. Let him ask for no other blessedness.”

Benjamin Franklin says, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know oneself.”

It is as much Apni Zindagi as Apna Aasmaan..


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