Saturday, September 17, 2011

AWOL youth in a B-grade India

When I was younger, I had even less time than now with all the burdens of age.

There was so much to learn, places to see, fortunes to make, reputations to shape, fall in love, break a few hearts, rebound from heartaches, and find my authentic voice. The only things I didn't have time for is to breathe or sleep.

Can't imagine I would have given up any of that for Twitter or Facebook.

How do today's twentysomethings manage it all?

The conventional wisdom is that India's economic growth is a consequence of reform.

In truth, we've barely had any reform. India is still infatuated with socialist chains that criminally impoverished two generations. The political contest is between the secular-left and the religious-left. The economy is still micromanaged with five year plans.

How has India grown when this discredited thinking took down the mighty USSR?

I think this has to do with growing confidence. A confident population consumes more things, which creates demand for products and services, which creates higher paying jobs, which creates a confident population.

This confidence is not the result of any geopolitical change or domestic policy. Rather, I'd argue, it's because India has progressively grown younger. The median age is now 26 years and falling. The youth may lack knowledge, experience, even social graces - but they don't lack confidence. A long life lies ahead, caution is not in their vocabulary.

I've not researched this but am certain that the older the Indian, the less confident he/she is.

You can see this in the polity. The octogenarians who pretend to rule India are anything but confident. Their inferiority complex on the world stage is something to behold. And despair about.

Caught between the uninformed confidence of youth and the unfortunate caution of the experienced, India sails on as a middling nation with delusions of past glory and day dreams of future greatness.

Amy Winehouse died recently. She was merely 27.

Silicon Valley is all about the young. Fresh ideas pursued with infinite boldness.

The young are busy shaping their era. Except, I fear, in India.

Maybe they are out there. Putting their heads down and chasing their dreams. Maybe those on social media are not the dreamers and doers. We should look elsewhere.

But what if this is not the case?

What are the big ideas and achievements of the youth bulge in India?

I may disagree with him, but Mr Anna Hazare has big ideas. And, Nandan Nilekani. They are not young. Where are the big ideas of youth?

When we think of art, we still debate M F Husain & bow before Gulzar. Where is the twentysomething art to give expression to a young India asserting its place in the world?

Let's take politics. Yes, there are a few young voices but they are hardly authentic. And, no, trolling people on twitter is not a big idea of politics.


I've interviewed a lot of people over the years for jobs. Many of them Indians. I've noticed a growing brashness in Indians, not usually substantiated with real knowledge.

I think of when I came to business school. All these smooth talkers discussing swaps and options and beta and gamma and this and that. I was rather unnerved for I had never studied economics nor ever understood what stocks and bonds are. Then, in my microeconomics class, I discovered I was the only one who understood what slope of a line is. Or, how compounding works. The rest, as they say, was a breeze.

I think that Indians used to be more like me. Maybe we didn't know all the fancy stuff but the foundations we knew better than anybody. This is why we won.

Now, they have become more like my classmates. They know all the fancy stuff but the foundations are cracking. You know where this leads.


India is growing because it is increasingly confident.

But it isn't reforming. And its confidence is the callow brashness of the young.

There is so much for them to learn, places to see, fortunes to make, reputations to shape, fall in love, break a few hearts, rebound from heartaches, and find their authentic voice. The only things they don't have time for is to breathe or sleep.

Or spend their time chitchatting on social media.

I'm not so confident about India's future. I guess my age is showing.


Vidyut said...

This is so similar in sentiment to the stuff I write... we are reflecting less. I do think a big part of it is our education system. Unfortunately, no one is bothered.

nullint said...

I'm 26 & I agree in totality with you. Even at my age when I interview young folks in my office or get to talk to the juniors, I can sense their restlessness, their need to get everything without even trying hard for it. Be it big fat salaries at the very start of their careers or that new smartphone, they want everything right now. All this makes me wonder, am I too old for them, at least in thoughts or am I missing something?

Primary Red said...

Thank you, Vidyut. Completely agree with your point that we are reflecting less, reacting so much more. Yes, it has to do with education, but also values that are learnt at home.

Nullint, I think this nervous energy is not surprising in the young but it needs to be channeled right. Otherwise, as you are noting, it chases trinkets instead of real achivement.

Here's hoping for the best :-)

@indianalltheway said...

Interesting read. We are getting things too easily now. Young generation is taking less pains to get what they want. And when you get things easily you tend to become restless and brash. If you can speak fluent English you get a good job straightaway in a call center. Does it need any foundation of understanding slopes of lines? It is a hard pill to swallow but we probably will have to live with it.

Aditya Nayak said...

I am 19 and I disagree. The majority of my generation might be like the ones you described but some other do exist.

I am proud be amongst the handful of us who have broken away from the convention and I am also trying to build a network of other youngsters who have.

Check out

Amar said...

If we waste time in blaming then we are no better than the whining masses! Take Action, friends! Become Leaders! Create more leaders! There are initiatives like In fact, Aditya Nayak who commented above is also contributing to this cause. You can invite honest, intelligent and ACTIVE people to the next fortnightly meeting in Delhi which happens to be tomorrow at 3 PM, Alaknanda:

Saima said...

I am just two years in this profession, i see interns in my office, and all they want is quick money, at any cost. Morals and ethics have vanished-this is true for my generation too, not just the younger ones.

A. Mitchell said...

I wonder what impacts have been caused by television watching. Has TV encouraged brashness? Has it taken away time that would have previously been used to study fundamentals?

Yes, there are many contributing factors, but television would appear to stand out more than most.

hmadhok said...

I agree with you. I am 40 and am seeing the change and the brashness you have mentioned everywhere. I am from Jaipur and I call this Hawa Mahal mentality. It can be translated to mean castles in the air and also if you have seen Jaipur's Hawa Mahal, it is a building which promises a lot from the front but actually has no depth to it.
I also feel that most of the growth we see was fueled by allowing MNCs to setup establishments in India. These MNCs ended paying a lot of money to their employees as a part of equalization and to have a global work force. This in turn led to general resetting of salaries and pay commissions etc. This increased consumption. Actual work, I am afraid we haven't even started. India maybe shining but Indians so far haven't done anything to deserve it.

June said...

I agree with you. I feel the present generation study only to pass exams. A certificate that would fetch them a good job. Most of them don't go deep into the subject, and dont bother to study all the chapters, because they don't expect it in the exams. Copy pasting projects also doesn't help. They depend a lot on notes and spoonfeeding.Have a lot to say, about the education system. I have been dealing with all sorts of students from different institutes and education boards. I've noticed they are just detoriating.