I had an uncle who was a veterinary doctor. By all accounts, he was very good in his profession. As a child, I have tagged along with him a few times to his hospital and have seen him treat assorted animals with total commitment. But what I remember most about this veterinary uncle was that he hated animals. I have never seen him pat a dog caringly.
For years, I used to take my daughters to a pediatrician, who again was very professional and quite reliable. But he used to view children almost with disdain and would make no effort whatsoever to put them at ease. It could be concluded that he hated children.
These examples illustrate that being good at your job or in your profession does not mean that you should love what you are doing. Or love the object that your job is centred around or concerned with. I may be highly competent in my job as a power sector professional. I may even love my job, but I don’t need to love the boilers and turbines and the other objects that I need to deal in or the people that I need to deal with.
Prem Panicker, in a recent post, writes that he is repeatedly asked why he has given up writing on cricket and he cites ‘ennui’ as the reason. When the questioner protests and remarks that his is a job that others would kill for, he replies “You want to try doing it, day in and out, for a year, mate. Then let’s talk.’ Prem adds : “Doing this for a living’ is not all it is cracked out to be. How do you explain, for instance, the difference between kicking back and watching cricket as a fan and sitting in front of the TV or in the press box, laptop open, scrutinizing each moment minutely for technical points to make, for “turning points” to identify and use to season your report, for broader narratives to expound on? After a time, you see only the trees — the greater beauty of the forest is lost to you.
Prem links to an article by Tom Swick who expresses very similar sentiments about travel writing. “Travel writer” may be the one title everyone wants except the people who have it. The travel writer, when thought of at all, is regarded as a charmed figure, never stymied in front of a customs officer or a computer screen. The travel writer, when he reflects, sees himself as aimless, clueless but nevertheless underappreciated.” A travel writer is too busy picking up minute details for reporting later that he has no time or inclination to enjoy his travelling.
On a related note, Prem cites a mail from a friend, Siddharth Vaidyanathan of Cricinfo.
We all began as cricket fans before becoming professional cricket writers. Being in the profession, though, takes away a lot of the fizz….At some point, … you start watching the game through a different prism. It’s no more the innocent past-time that made you jump up and shriek or kick the floor in anger or sulk all day. It’s now the sport that you trying to be detached from (though you’re actually very close to the epicenter). It’s a sport you think you have figured out (though you actually have very little expertise on the subject matter).
Gradually you begin to view it as another job – I’ve actually felt really frustrated when a cricketer died on a Sunday, simply because it meant more work. Soon you ask yourself – just like Swick says of travel writers – what (the heck) am I doing here? And over time, you gradually forget why you got here in the first place.
That’s why, says Prem, he has given up writing about cricket. He loves the game too much.
Loving your solitary pet dog is fine. But, when you are a veterinary doctor who has to treat hundreds of diseased dogs day in and out, your perspective on dogs may undergo a change. Similarly, your children may be the apples of your eyes, but for a pediatrician, they are merely objects that need to be repaired and sent out of his garage. You can love’em or treat’em, but not both. You can be a cricket fan or a cricket writer, but it is difficult to be both.