21/09/2015 8:24 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Indrani Mukerjea And The True Meaning Of Ambition

Pacific Islander woman riding escalator in sky
Colin Anderson via Getty Images
Pacific Islander woman riding escalator in sky

As I write this, the sordid Indrani Mukerjea saga continues to unfold, gorier details emerging by the day. As much as we would like the mainstream media to behave responsibly, the truth is that exciting stories and titillating headlines take precedence over serious issues such as education, the refugee crisis and other developing world problems. Rather than pushing for large-scale improvements, our media continues to concentrate on the alleged misdemeanours of a few people.

The story is being played in Indian media 24/7 to such bizarre levels that one has no choice but to think about it. Among various other "angles", it is also being framed as cautionary tale about ambition. Indrani is being portrayed as a calculating small-town girl on a ruthless climb up the social ladder. What I wish to fervently communicate to the media is that ambition is not a bad thing. It does not lead most people, or women in particular, to murder people. Whether Indrani is guilty or not is for the courts to decide. But amidst all this frenzy, there is real food for thought. It brings to our minds a very important question. Not just for Indrani but all of us. How much is too much?

At the heart of modern suffering is not ambition but our failure to understand the concept of enough. We are not willing to sacrifice our lofty dreams for lesser ones. After all, we don't want to have any regrets later. We want to give it our all. Yet, there is a certain level of responsibility with which we chase our dreams. We cannot repeatedly put ourselves in situations that are not conducive to our emotional and mental health. This does not mean that one should not be ambitious and certainly not that we should give up on our dreams or lock them away. We have to learn to accept that failure is not the worst outcome. That we must carve healthy limitations to whatever we have set out to achieve. Veering to the extreme and doing things that are unnecessary can cause irreparable damage. Success at the cost of giving up your conscience or ethics doesn't amount to much.

Every 20-year-old today wants to be the next PayPal founder, the next kick-starter, the next tech star. Everyone wants to do a Ted Talk. We do not see the hard work, planning and practicing that go into becoming an "overnight success". It takes years of effort. We want to jump stages but forget that we have to do the work. Choosing things that are fun, interesting or meaningful is what should drive us. One cannot just feel entitled to success. Study, knock on the doors, and wait for the process to unfold. That's going to make it really interesting and, guess what, inspiring too. Maybe you will achieve that kind of success. May be you won't. And still have a meaningful life. Stay the course. The goal should be to do stuff that makes a difference and success will be a by-product of that.

And whilst we are on the road to that meaningful destination, we must be willing to embrace rejection and failure and learn to be content with the true kind of more - rather than simply more. So do the work! And hopefully one day our media will follow suit too.

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