At school all my friends came from the same background - middle class. My neighbourhood group was from the same ecosystem. We discussed all things under the sky but never about wealth. As I churn my mind, I do not recollect a single instance where we discussed wealth and the wealthy. I remember discussing sports, sportsmen, Sunil Gavasakar and Kapil Dev, movies, actors and actresses (obviously), government, polictical parties, Indira Gandhi, USA and USSR, Pakistan and the 1971 war, books - lots of books, nieghbours, girls, teachers, some more girls, in other words everything except wealth. Who does? Who is bothered about the rich when you are in school?
As we moved into college, future became a subject of discussion -sometimes. For some like me who managed to get into professional colleges (Engineering and Medicine) the path was clear; so no second thoughts there. Some did not make it to these colleges and though they were excellent at studies they had to settle for fundamental sciences. Those days, for a typical middle class family, Engineering and Medicine were the only two known good options for a bright future. (The outlook has changed a little since, I hope)
Then a handsome boy moved into the neighbourhood. Soon we became friends. I remember 4 of us (3 old friends and this new one) were sitting in my friend's house. It was summer holidays. His mother had served us something to drink and something to munch. For some reason, we started talking about ambitions. This new chap said, "I want to be a model." Model? Who wants to be a model? We looked at each other. A middle class child is brought up to be polite. So we didn't say anything but once he left how we laughed and laughed. Slowly this new friend drifted away from our gang. Many years after I heard that he was featured in some magazine cover and that he was actually pursuing his ambitions.
And the rest of us? We settled into various ambitionless, riskless jobs. Even in my job, I was surrounded by people of similar background: Middle-class families who had pushed their children through engineering college.
Looking back I now wish I had some friends who were from an entirely different background. What if we had friends whose fathers were businessmen? What if my friends talked about wealth? What if we visited their houses and were dazzled by their wealth? What if their fathers took time to talk to us about what we did? What if we had asked our friends from business families what they would like to become when they grew up? What if they had painted a future driven by ambition and passion and totally different from ours? What if we were exposed to an entirely different mind set? What if...?
Lesson: A different future requires different mindset. Having friends from different background is a great way to get started.
There is saying, "birds of same feather flock together." Notice carefully. They do not have the same feather because they flock together. A big part of our future is limited by what we see around. Unless we are Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Need to break free.