Saturday, April 26, 2008

Remains of the Day

After spending the week studying for my science exams, it was refreshing to take a break and study for my literature exam. I have read all the prescribed books (except one) and so now its only a matter of reading through the reviews and various other publications or secondary readings on the texts. It has been incredibly interesting (I regret not having declared my minor in English studies earlier on). Of course, sometimes it can lead to funny occurences. For example, I spent 6 hours straight reading reviews and interpretations of the novella "Heart of Darkness". All these readings basically tear the novel into bits and critically analyse each bit to interpret the motives of the author. While most of the readings praised the book as "ahead of its time" and an "anti-imperialist novella", several others chose to look at it as a racist, sexist and imperialistic novella. Phew... 6 hours of reading interpretations. My mind was tired. So I decide to take a break by watching a bit of the disney movie "Aladdin". And guess what. The minute they start singing "Arabian niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiights!", I start critically analysing the movie and concluding that it was subversive and stereotyping the Arabian countries with dome shaped buildings and fire eaters! *slap slap* take a break from literatary studies MG! This is a friggin cute disney movie!!!

Today I started reading stuff on the book "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro. Fantastic book. Very tragic. I was analysing the life of the butler, Stevens. He lost the woman he loved because he was so taken by the idea of the "great butler" that he saw his duties in his profession come before personal life. There is a particular moment in the book when Miss Kenton, the woman he likes (and she likes him too) tries to move him by telling him about a marriage proposal she had received. Because they cared about each other so much, it would have taken him only a few minutes to persuade her to reconsider her decision in his favour. But instead he chooses to hurry to the room where his employer is so that he can be present when he is called for. He hurries out to fulfill the role of the "great butler" and hides his stress and true feelings on the matter. That, in my opinion, is the most tragic scene of the book, which changes the entire course of Stevens' life. If only he had given his personal life some priority, he'd still be a "great butler", only, he'd have a great wife too! (who works in the same house... so convenient! He wouldnt have had to search for a replacement for her!)

Somewhere in the secondary reading, the author quotes Ishiguro saying that we are all butlers in some sense. That got me thinking. Stevens gave up someone who really meant a lot to him in order to fulfill the responsibilties of the job. Was it worth it at the end? All it would have taken was a few minutes to console Miss Kenton. It would have made life easier for both of them. Don't we all also have those moments where we seem to refuse to do something that means a lot to us in favour of our professional life?

Sometimes I wonder why I left home to come here and do my udergraduate studies. And why I will leave to a more distant place to pursue my graduate studies. Why does it mean so much to me that I get degrees from institutions with a good name. "Great institutions", if you will. Why do I pursue this when the people who mean the whole world to me live elsewhere?

I know that kids can't stay at home forever. Every bird must leave its nest. So maybe its alright that I am here now, learning exciting new things (including literature!). And maybe its also ok that I aspire to go further in my studies to some institute that has more to offer me. I want to see the world. Maybe I don't care so much about which university. Maybe I just need an excuse to travel the world. What better way than to step outside my comfort zone?

What about when its time for me to start working? My career. Will I give preference to a job far away from those who mean the whole world to me just because it is a "great job" or will I take the job close to them even if its not the best in the world? What will come first? Family or career? While it might have seemed possible a few years early to have a job of your liking close to home, these days it seems more difficult. We have become lots more competitive = lots more picky about where we work. Big company vs. small company. This makes it harder to find a job close to home (some amount of personal experience factors in here). So I think my question is valid. Family or career? There are so many families where the father works somewhere, the mother elsewhere and the kid some where else. Do I want to be like that? On one level, yeah, career matters to me at this stage. But a part of me doesnt want it at the cost of family and friends (ironically, I found the most amazing friend only because I took a step away from home)

Personal or professional? Stevens or Miss Kenton? Lets see where my ambitions take me.


Clueless said...

It's an interesting situation, isn't it? I think it would be hard for anyone to choose between a family and a career. I guess no one answer is right - when the moment of truth comes, you weigh the pros and cons and see what serves you better. Ultimately, whatever you do should keep you happy. Stevens did lose the chance to be with Miss Kenton and that is definitely one of the many tragedies of his life, but if, in his own misguided way, he felt that he was happy being the 'great butler' he always wanted to be, then I think that makes it less tragic. If doing something makes you happy, even at the cost of something else, then I guess it's ok. And it's a difficult matter, because you won't really know what gives you greater happiness (family or career) until you actually take that first step. The good thing though, is that nothing is fixed and unchangeable. The moment you start feeling unhappy with a decision you made, you always have the choice to change it and do something else. You know what I mean? I don't know if I'm explaining myself properly here, but I think you'll get the gist - we've talked about it between ourselves so many different times by now! :P

soleil said...

Since coming to Paris, I have come to conclude that nothing can keep me from my family, not even distance. So I think that what matters is whether you have your family's support in chasing your dreams. Your family will always be there for you no matter how far away they are. The same goes for friends ;)

Macho Girl said...

wow! thats a long comment! :P

Yeah, i get the gist of what you are saying :) but for the sake of literature exam, lemme tell ya... coz its there in the readings... that Stevens was never really truly happy about being a "great butler". Its a form of self-deception :P :)

Yeah... its funny how I didn't realise that in spite of being here in singapore for 3 years! It only took you a few month in Paris!!! Thanks! :D

soleil said...

You're most welcome! :D Btw, could I have an earring stand too pretty please? :p

Shubhada said...

You are not in a situation same as Stevens. He could have been a great butler and still married the lady he loved. You are in the formative years of your career. It took a great courage for you and your parents to send you away for studies. Moreover as Soleil says, your family will always be with you. There is no question of chosing one over the other. What about taking up a job close to home or away? You can decide that when time comes. Things will fall in place as time comes. You always do your thing in the present which is good for your future.

soleil said...

Yay! I'll hold you to making that earring stand together :D Can't wait! *hugz*