Why Are Malayalis Yet To Accept The Concept Of ‘Gap Year’?

Ask movie buffs how important the intervals between a movie is, and backbenchers why they wait for the recess all day long. It’s simple; it’s a break. Like someone famous once said, “Life is too short not to take breaks. When you do take breaks, be sure to enjoy it and find a part of yourself”. Then why do we look down upon ‘Gap Year’ and misinterpret it? Read on to find out as we deconstruct the notions of Gap Year.

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What is a gap year?

By definition, a gap year can mean time taken out, particularly after your high school, which in the Indian system is 12th standard or post your graduation. It is a form of sabbatical that is a year-long before a teen joins a university. Our culture pushes us to enter university right after high school. It leaves us no time to understand our passions or interest in the subject.

The Indian system technically identifies just a select few courses as routes to ‘accepted and most prestigious’ careers and professions. Therefore, the dreams and interests of many students have been washed down the drain as they’re forced to pick a job that will pay the bills. Here’s what we forget when we become a part of this rat race. For the next 40 years of our life or so, we will be working in a well-paid job that won’t bring us happiness. Our interest remains as hobbies that are eventually worn off.

But gap years do exist in India and especially Kerala, but it’s a modified version. There is this skewed concept of a gap year in Kerala – “repeat”. You repeat the engineering/medical entrance exam after your 12th. Interesting right? Not only are you forced into a field that might mean nothing to you, but you spend a year to ‘crack the entrance’. And what happens if you’re unable to crack? You are faced with guilt and shame and the typical, “naattukaar enthu parayum?!”.

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We acknowledge the efforts of the students who have a genuine interest in becoming future doctors and engineers. But, we are not in support of those who lose their dreams to fulfil the ones of their families. A gap year will help you figure out your life and gives you the power to decide YOUR future. Ah! The irony.

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Why is a gap year important?

The transition from teenage to adulthood can be stressful mentally and emotionally.

Most students who pass their matriculation and choose the streams in 11th, which are mainly Science, Commerce and Arts, do so for various reasons. Family pressure, peer pressure or simply because you don’t know what to do. Should this stream choice you make govern the rest of the decisions of your life?

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Confusion, unrest and even panic about your future are absolutely normal. When we try to figure out things all at once, we realize that our hands are full. So what do we do? We take a break to clear our minds. A gap year is a reward we give for ourselves in the form of:

A breathing space

After years of toiling in academic life, maybe you want to take some time out just to watch movies and eat home food. Some want to read books, write books, and a few others want to travel. High school can be enduring and toxic and may threaten the very roots of our mental health. Keeping it on track is very important. Taking care of ourselves and making our life choices is the very essence of a gap year. It gives you a breathing space for your mind and soul. This breathing space will help connect us to our creative roots and open a view of avenues. It will help us discover courses and subjects that we identify with.

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Enabling us to follow our passion

If given a choice, probably half of the medical and engineering colleges in Kerala (and probably, India) would be empty. Amongst us are singers, artists, dancers, and even comedians forced into a white coat or building a bridge or filling an Excel sheet. If given a gap year, they would’ve followed their passion. They would have realized their true worth lies in cherishing their dream and honouring their talent.

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Most students graduate high school with zero ideas about what to do in their lives. During this period of uncertainty, students are impressionable and take up the easiest option at hand. Obviously, the previous generation doesn’t understand the concept beyond academics and jobs. But as pioneers of a new era, this gap year will allow us to make a choice that we will be proud of. 

Celebrating your individuality

We are part of the rat race in compromising our individuality and assimilating with society. Should we condition ourselves to sacrifice our dreams for society and carry the burden of broken dreams? If given a choice, most of us would love to go back and take a year out to explore our options and passions and plan our life ahead. After all, we are more than the tag of “Batch of 2018”. It is definitely hard to watch our classmates in universities while we sit at home ‘figuring our life’. The journey of each person is different, and your sanity is your matter. Do not be afraid to be different, be proud that you are an individual.

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Does a gap year really help? 

At PinkLungi too, all members had various opinions about the need for a gap year. While many agreed, others opposed because the ‘culture of a gap year hasn’t been normalized yet. A gap year allows us to explore our strengths and weaknesses and what we want to pursue in life. And Ultimately, we see MBBS aspirants becoming literature students while students are waiting to crack JEE work as psychologists.

People also fear to take a gap year due to the financial burden it will bring on and also that one year lost means a year late before your first salary. Some others think that gap year means sitting idle and is entirely useless, and others foster the thought that gap years will make one lose their momentum in the academic field. 

Taking a year out now to figure out what you want to pursue in college will ensure that you do not have to find your pleasure in doing another job post your graduation. For example, a software engineer working as a banker and so on.

Malayalis have always said to be academically bright, and a state with nearly 100% literacy also means that all the students are forced into a rat race early, which perpetuates the next generation into the same rat race. Ultimately the race ends with the rat’s death, and the rat realizes that they’ve not gained anything after all these years because rolling stones gather no moss. Pursuing your dream is never going to be easy. It may take years before you’ve reached a milestone and show everyone that your decision was correct.

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Malayalis are yet to normalise the culture of gap years because they’re yet to understand its reason. Once they’ve understood, they can also see that a gap year is just beyond idling away and can be used to do short online courses from prestigious colleges, which will help us understand ourselves better and make the right decision in terms of our university. It is also the perfect year for some academic research or creating your dream portfolio to apply abroad.

Taking a gap year is never a wrong decision, and in fact, it facilitates us to be the master and face the consequences of our own decision. A gap year will allow an artist to hold a paintbrush instead of an Italian coat to a business meeting. 

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