CSS? No, Thank you!
Parents have no idea how controlling behaviour can take a toll on mental health of their children. Like one day, I came home and I was told that I am supposed to do CSS. When I said there is no charm for me in it, my mother said, “Just get an acceptance and then leave it.”
So the idea was and perhaps still is that I am supposed to put in decent amount of effort just to win a trophy for my parents which will mean nothing for me. This is not just my story but the story of millions of students in the Indian Subcontinent which I am narrating on their behalf.
It is the exact same thing my mother did to me when I was applying for engineering universities. I, Alhamdulillah, got acceptance letters from all top engineering universities in Pakistan and in some universities my mother made me apply just to get that acceptance letter despite the fact I was admitted to the then top engineering university of Pakistan. Trophies you know. I parents see us as source of trophies that they can display in their drawing rooms. This is some messed up mentality anyways I am coming back to that CSS thing. It didn’t stop there. My family also selected ‘Idaras’ that suit me as well. Foreign Service, Administrative Services topped the list of choices made for me.
When I told them at the cost of repetition that there is nothing in it that attracts me and I have other goals in life, I was told that ‘Babus’ got to have a lavish lifestyle. My response was I am content with whatever I have and I hate the idea of living in sarkari house, riding a sarkari car and have attendants. (I don’t mind a comfortable lifestyle on my own)
Fetish for this sort of lifestyle particularly powered by national exchequer is a trait of most of middle class families in the Subcontinent so this is not something exclusive to my family.
Average age in my family is 64 and I have spent one third of my life and my family still wants me to achieve things for them to perhaps be proud of or brag about. I am content with my progress and positive about my future but somehow our families drag us down with their objectification. Being an engineer and writer is not enough now I have to prove myself worthy with a CSS acceptance letter which btw I am not going after.
I don’t mince words and I will not do that here as well. Parents at times see their children as commodities that could elevate their status in the society. Parents of an engineer stand at a different ladder, parents of a doctor stand on a parallel ladder and then comes the parents of lawyers, while the rest follows.
We are like cars for them. An engineer or doctor son or daughter for them is like Honda City and beyond that. A lawyer is like Cultus where a business student’s status lies somewhere around Mehran and rest are like CD70s.
Another thing at the back of desi parent’s mind is how much upper hand they can have while finalising Rishta of their sons and daughters hence these highly paid professions. There is equaliser effect that puts extra pressure on engineers and doctors to do something more than they have achieved.
By equaliser effect I mean if an engineer, for instance, marries an engineer there is no room for either families to exploit the other to enjoy that upper hand and ego brushing that comes along with it. So you have to be more than an engineer and more than a doctor to have that kind of acceptability within and outside your family. To dismantle that equaliser, classic solution that middle class families come up with is appearing in CSS.
Once, a Rishta proposal came for my cousin. The guy had a decent educational background but one thing that was being proudly tabled was that the guy is a CSS aspirant as well. As if that enhances ones’ acceptability and may be it does in certain cases.
This doesn’t end there I have come across decent number of people giving motivational talks in universities and their only eligibility for giving such a talk was that they were ‘CSS aspirants’.
This is funny and sad at the same time. Before signing off I would like to touch, certain political reasons behind my dislike for Civil Service. You may read upon my articles published in various newspapers for details if you wish to.
Pakistan was an idea of North Indian Urdu-speaking elite who after the revolt of 1857 felt threatened. It was less about socioeconomic pressures than about nostalgia for past for the Muslim elite. Muslim elite then and even now in present day Pakistan has the same cheap nostalgia and to somehow in an attempt to fulfill their fantasies they put future of ‘aamadmi’ on line.
You are left with two options. One way is to try and become part of those elite – that aristocracy, that same system that exploited the working class and will keep on doing so. Because most of the recruits get institutionalised sooner or later and are either incapable of unlearning colonial demeanour or unwilling because of the perks attached with it, where the other option is ‘Reconstruction of the Ideology of Pakistan’ on progressive lines through a political struggle with an initial focus on disinfecting this country from historical lies that have been vehemently fed. I choose the latter rather dangerous yet exciting option. Hope I get people to join else I will walk alone.
The writer is a Political Activist and a Research Analyst based in Lahore.