Rajarshi Guha Roy
People say the best times of your life always belong to your childhood. However, the author feels that the most interesting and grueling spell of your life arrives when you just become a graduate and become ready to face the world and most importantly, face yourself. The average Indian middle class legacy of ‘Naukri aur chhokri’ is bound to affect you. That may sound to be a mediocre outlook, but surely this echoes throughout the majority of Indian youth. I am not only talking about young hearts residing in metros, but also in budding urban agglomerations, townships and villages. When you are 25+ and still don’t know what’s coming next in your life, your struggle starts. The hardship is not only with the society and ever-curious relatives, but the struggle is more and more with ‘YOU’, the ‘I’ within your own self.
With the Indian consumer being continuously exposed to rising market forces, the aspiration of the Indian youth has only grown bigger and better. Today he wants to own the latest technology, have the snazziest profile on social network and finally he always wants to fetch brownie points out of anything which will considerably add to his brand value. Gone are those days when Marwari sons followed their fathers into their business houses, now they meticulously earn considerable higher education before taking over the baton. The erstwhile Sethjis now want to rise to the occasion and wish to participate in socio-economic forums. Forget sethjis and come down to the middle echelons of the society. There has been a sea-change in the outlook of the middle class.
During 70’s, when poverty rates were severely high, riddled with ever-rising unemployment, frustration was vented in different forms in different social media. Let us take the example of Hindi films. During the 60’s, likes of Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna basked in the glory of bubbly romantic affairs. The hero had the leisure to chase a girl sitting in a train singing evergreen paeans praising her beauty. Then two major phenomena gate-crashed into the social psyche of the middle class. One was the Emergency and the other was of course, Amitabh Bachchan. The chocolate boy became the angry young man. The youth rose in rage against institutional apathy towards their struggle, joblessness. They were frustrated with the official high-handedness. Many fled to USA, UK and Germany and started doing odd jobs. These are people who are still angry with India. These are people who still hate their own country. The Emergency surely rose to be a watershed moment in the history of this great country. Sadly, in Bengal, the reaction of the middle class was diverse in nature. Some took to guns, some others took to pen and paper, most of them embraced coffee and an avalanche named ‘Communism’.
Change occurred mid-80’s onwards. We gradually realized that we would be isolated from the world if we denounced computers. A new terminology declared its perennial presence in middle class kitchens – ‘Voluntary Retirement Scheme aka VRS’. Things changed heavily when the Indian market was made open. The world came to India and embraced us. It was then that colossal ambition pervaded the middle class psyche which was biting the dust of historic apathy till then. The new consumer emerged. People wanted to uplift their standard of living. They wanted all latest products in their affluent set-ups. The desire to earn more gripped the youth. The mediocre clerical existence gave way to robust ‘It’s possible’ aspiration to become a manager. Eventually, Indian women came out of their stereotypical existence of ‘pati-putra-ghar ki khushali’ and donned the hat of an officer, a manager and even a board member.
Of course, I am not trying to weave a historical document out here. The point I want to make is the fact that during every span of socio-economic transformation of a country, the youth spearheaded the change and changed the gear to skyrocket the society and economy. Being an ardent follower of such ongoing transformation of the society and struggling constantly with my inner self to adapt to the personal and environmental changes, I thought to vent my feelings on this forum.
Post-global economic meltdown of 2008, the sprawling corporate boom has receded. We have seen the dark side of the moon, the bell of social and cultural awareness has rung. Suddenly, the macroeconomists have started carving out the ‘human’ angle of development. As a member of the youth, we can’t afford to be averse to this organic change. Taking a cue from my own struggle and dollops of colourful experiences, I am doling out some hope to those who still think that nothing good can happen to them.
Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s joke. When you face hardship, let it grill you, you will emerge to be a stronger person. It’s not only you who is undergoing this pain. Many peers and comrades are undertaking the same struggle. After all, a good standard of living comes at a cost. Never eulogize your struggle. There are many people who don’t have electricity in their villages and still they aspire to become a civil servant. No one can help you to come out of this. It’s you who will have to face this. There are people who have achieved the same. You are just following them to rewrite history.
Never compare yourself with anyone else. Some of us look at colossal profiles on facebook and feel frustrated. I can recall one case I read – a peon in the irrigation department of the Kerala Government finally became as IAS officer after a never-ending struggle. If you are flirting with mediocrity, stop doing it and start embracing excellence. I studied in a private engineering college and flirted with such mediocrity for four long years. It was a cultural shock, to say the least. I became a bad engineer and moreover a culturally degraded person in the end.
Calibrate your dream with your own capability. If you know you can’t crack AIIMS, it’s not an issue. But if you know you have it in you to get into another great institute, give it your best shot and just do it. Don’t think anymore and start your ordeal. The corporate boom has created great honchos and bigwigs. But on the contrary, it has also given birth to a whole new generation of glorified clerks. Next time if anyone among these tries to engulf your insecurity with their braggadocio, denounce them straight away. I am not being jealous of their success. But if someone is not humble, he deserves to face outright rejection.
This period of struggle is the best time for some intellectual masturbation. Try to reward yourself with intellectual pursuits now and then. Persevere for five days and present yourself a theatre show on the following Sunday. Keep yourself open to the outer world. See what is happening and debate with others. Remember, even if you have no friends, caffeine will never desert you.
I have seen people who denounce the opposite sex during this period. This only makes them more frustrated as the day passes. You can’t ignore this oldest pursuit of the world, you really can’t. Start growing your social network; you may also send anonymous friend requests. After all, such a request is not a marriage proposal. We live in a country where zodiac sign and ‘pay package’ are held to be equally important. This, in any case, is natural for a developing nation. But once you start looking at your life as a balance sheet, you will die with a pair of unkissed lips. A few of my friends are currently in foreign lands pursuing their careers. Apparently, they are globe-trotting on their own and not saving much. That’s what I mean by the ‘human’ side of development. Don’t be serious with life, be sincere. If you become a mad workaholic, earn volumes and still hold the idea that investment means a mutual fund and not visiting Darjeeling once in a while to enjoy a whiskey-steak gala at the Glenary’s, you will surely end up getting a breakup on the day of your promotion.
I am not claiming to be a messiah of the have-nots, but I am trying to share what I see, hear and believe. All of us are bubbling with enthusiasm, yet most of us end up taking a short-cut to success. That’s where we make a huge compromise with excellence. Isn’t it thrilling to get back to school-like time table when you are 25+ and preparing for your post-graduation? Once you wake up and before you hit the sack, you have the entire world’s time! So, when you wake up tomorrow, look at the mirror. The person on the other side is the best on this planet.