In the picturesque landscape of Chitral, where nature’s beauty knows no bounds, a silent and wishfully unheeded crisis is gaining impetus – one that resides in the hearts and minds of its youth. It’s the burden of expectations, an ever-present shadow cast by parents and society, and it’s pushing many towards the abyss of despair – depression, addiction, and tragically, even suicidal tendencies.
The historical context of Chitral plays a significant role in shaping these expectations. Centuries of rule by local nobility and then as a part of the British suzerainty have left a profound impact on the collective psyche of Chitrali parents. This phenomenon can be likened to what K.K. Aziz referred to as the “Mughal syndrome.” It’s a syndrome that stretches beyond Chitral, pervading communities across Pakistan, where the dream of every parent seems to be seeing their child become a “Rai Bahadur/Khan Bahadur.”(Otherwise among the unbiased historians known as the ones who in servitude even washed British Generals’ Dog). A child must be imparted to stand up against immorality, and shun conformism.
The belief that success is synonymous with working for someone else to attain recognition is, at best, outdated and, at worst, detrimental. It’s a notion that desperately needs reevaluation. Society’s expectations, often unrealistic, place an enormous burden on the shoulders of educated individuals. The relentless pressure to conform to these expectations can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. It is high time for a reality check. The world has undergone profound transformations, transitioning from an agrarian society to an industrial era, then to a post-industrial age, and now to an AI-driven world (We still cling to an agrarian one).
The jobs once coveted by society may soon become obsolete. Public servants, such as deputy commissioners, should be recognized for their service to society rather than the grandeur of their palatial residences. And soon they will be held accountable in a democratic way ending colonial romance altogether. Minus magnificence from such jobs, it’s utterly onerous task. It’s time for society to shed its archaic mindset.
A conversation with a friend serves as a poignant reminder of this situation. He aptly noted that children in Chitral are often treated as crops – cultivated and harvested according to societal expectations. He said, “at times I imagine a world where Humans too were hatched from eggs… Perhaps then these unabated yokes of idealistic expectations wouldn’t have existed”. This analogy reflects the suffocating burden that many young individuals bear.
Children should be allowed the freedom to choose their own career paths and life partners, as long as their choices align with legal and cultural norms. While it is natural for Chitrali youth to want to ease the burdens of their parents, they should not be shackled to live out their parents’ unfulfilled dreams. Instead, they should be encouraged to explore their own talents and passions. This emancipation from unrealistic expectations will not only boost their morale but also decrease the prevalence of depression, drug addiction, and suicidal tendencies. Chitralis are renowned for their strong family bonds, and this change will strengthen those bonds further.
Simply put, it’s time for Chitrali society, and indeed all of Pakistan, to embrace a more progressive and empathetic approach to raising the next generation. Encouraging our children to pursue their own paths and dreams will lead to happier, more fulfilled lives and ultimately contribute to a healthier and more prosperous society. It is a shift towards a brighter future, one where success is measured by personal fulfillment rather than conformity to outdated norms.
So, dear parents, dear society, give your children the space they need to breathe, to grow, and to craft their unique paths to success. By nurturing their dreams, we nurture a future that’s free from despair, servitude and filled with promise. It is always better to be a futile freeman than to be a fruitful slave.
(The writer is Lecturer in IR/European History).