The RemiX Generation
Rath Yatras and rap. Bollywood and Beverly Hills. Pani puris and pizza. Generation X in India today is a peculiar mix of the east and the west. Confident, goal oriented and urbane in their outlook, they are essentially winners. Yet, they are equally comfortable with their traditions and roots. And can happily swing a dandiya in a discotheque. A close look at what makes them tick?
BY ARSHIYA KAPADIA
Young India is witnessing a strange kind of paradox?today's Indian youth is a cocktail of the East and the West, Bollywood and Beverly Hills, rath yatras and rap.
And this contradiction in the young Indian can be seen in the two vastly contrasting sides of Indian television and Indian cinema. While Indian films are becoming bolder and definitely in-your-face, Indian television is still tame and traditional (not counting, of course, the racy Western programming such as Baywatch and The Bold and the Beautiful which seem to be generating quite a following)
Take a look at some of our recent films?the subjects can be best termed outrageous and unconventional by the traditional Indian standards. In Jism the female protagonist Bipasha Basu makes no bones about her sexuality and has a no-holds-barred extramarital affair; in Pooja Bhatt's Paap, the protagonist Kaaya (Udita Goswami) yearns and indulges in the forbidden and in Govind Menon's Khwahish, debutant Mallika Sherawat, plays a newlywed who doesn't hesitate to walk into a pharmacy and demand a pack of condoms. And 2004's early scorcher Chameli has Rahul Bose, playing a suave investment banker who is smitten by a streetwalker Chameli (Kareena Kapoor).
And now let's take a look at Indian TV; the soap operas (?dailies' as they are referred to) have subjects with a traditional bent, the treatment is completely Indian and relies on stock Indian characters like the suffering bahu, the do-gooder devar and the gone-astray son. In the mother of all Indian soaps from the Balaji Television stable Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and other equally popular ones like Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kksum, the main female protagonists are the epitome of the ?adarsh bhartiya nari' (ideal Indian woman) or homespun versions of Sita. Clad in saris, spouting lines straight from Ramayan, bedecked with sindoor and a mangalsutra they bear little or no resemblance to their counterparts in the film world who are aggressive, like Bipasha in Jism or even brash like Kareena in Khushi.
What is the real face of today's Indian youth? The melodramatic world of Indian television or the volatile face of Indian cinema?
Perhaps both. In the urban metros youngsters are far more Western than ever before. They are go-getters, achievers, well groomed, appearance conscious, open about their sexuality with a know-it-all attitude that spells confidence with a capital C. However, these same youngsters don't mind going in for arranged marriages or temple yatras at the drop of a hat.
A volatile combination?
This duality in their personality is strange. This breed doesn't think twice before smoking a cigarette or drinking a margarita. They are more open and accepting then the previous generation?and this openness is not just restricted to their clothes.
Their choice of careers is also more dynamic and unconventional then their predecessors. They don't mind combining an Art of Living session with a DJ'ing class. They experiment with their make-up and morals. Most youngsters are cool about relationships and have no qualms admitting that they are ?going around'. They love their Bacardi Breezers, their bikes and their babes. They party the night away, snort grass and organize raves.
So what makes today's Indian youth tick?
19-year-old Munawwar Merchant, a resident of Bandra, a suburb in Mumbai studies architecture at Rizvi College in the second year. He has one major grouse against his elder sister who is employed as a media professional; she hasn't bought him a cell phone for his 18th birthday even after months of cajoling and pleading. A cell phone?a major necessity for a teenager in urban metros today. "Why not?" he opines, "all my friends have one and it is important to own one." On the aside he reveals that girls go for guys who have the necessity tools for fun; a cell and a car or a bike.
17-year old Aarti Kanodia from Delhi, supports him. "Hey, it's important to be noticed these days," she quips. And to get noticed you have to project the right image and do all the right things. Which means wearing branded clothes like Levi's, Nikes, etc., driving a car or a bike (preferably) and doing all the right things like hanging out at popular cafes like Mocha (the Mumbai version of Starbucks) and Caf� Coffee Day.
Looking good is important. The gym is the second most popular place after the canteen. Muscles and flat stomachs (to show off that sexy belly button) are the order of the day. Makeover places like Juice (an upmarket hair salon in Mumbai), Nail Bar, The Lakme Beauty Salon and Vandana Luthra's Curls and Curves offer complete packages that help reinvent the entire look?right from haircuts to nail art and the important do's and don'ts of grooming.
Dating is common. In fact it's accepted. The gender biases have been broken. A guy or a gal can casually ask anyone out for a date without hesitation. "It's not like it was till two years ago, when you had to muster up the courage of Zeus to ask someone out for a movie or meal", points out 21-year-old Akhilesh Chaudhry from Mumbai. "You can casually walk upto someone and ask that person out, without apprehension." And what if he or she refuses? "It won't be the end of the world. There's always someone else", he smiles with a twinkle in his eyes.
Casual dates are cool, but what about casual sex? "See, today back-slapping or a hug is not seen as a sexual gesture. I have many male friends, who I go out with, but I never go beyond a limit with anyone", says 19-year-old Kavita Khanna of Mumbai's Mithibai College. And what's that limit? "Well, if a guy is going to take me out, spend money on me, obviously he expects something in return. So, may be kissing and stuff, but definitely not more that that", she says.
While teenagers are cool about dating, which is seen as an extension of ?having fun', the trend towards casual sex is not much, though it does show a bent in that direction. But one thing is certain; youngsters today are more open with the opposite sex.
Mrs. Mukherjee, an English Literature professor in a suburban Mumbai college calls them ?the remix generation'. According to her, it's all about EMI's (equal monthly installments ? a reference to the growing culture of financing and credit cards), appearances and money; having a car which is bigger then you can afford, going to expensive restaurants, sporting an expensive watch and so on... "They believe in starting out young, which is not wrong, but I fear that by the age of 28, they'll burn out. Fast cars and lives are OK up to an extent ? but they should know where to draw the line", she voices with feeling.
Actress Gauri Pradhan who essayed ?Gauri' in Sony TV's popular Balaji soap opera Kutumb says that the characters she plays on TV are quintessentially Indian, "We may have become techno-savvy and also very modern but in our hearts we are still very Indian ? the popularity of these serials shows that traditional India has not changed. India may be shining in the metros but there are still large portions of the country that believe in our age-old culture and cling to their roots."
When asked about the dual persona of today's woman as depicted in our serials and films, Gauri says that neither depicts the true picture. "Today's generation is more aware about everything then any previous generation? they have taken the best of the West and our own culture. They may sport halters and low-waist jeans, yet they trek to the Siddhivinayak temple (in Mumbai) every Tuesday. They may appear as a fun-loving generation?they love ragging, won't hesitate in taking a lift from a perfect stranger or even offering one, they'll party till they drop dead but also get up and go to college for a seven am lecture. They are career conscious. Everyone wants to be a winner."
Mukherjee agrees with Gauri. She cites the example of one her students Siddhanth Maitra, 22-years-old (name changed), who took up a job with the Sahara Group in Mumbai after his graduation and is a finance manager today. Siddhanth is also doing his MBA, from a college in Mira Road (a far-flung Mumbai suburb). "That's where he got admission?and he doesn't mind going that extra mile, as it'll benefit him in the long run" opines Mukherjee.
THE ONE FOR ME...
Finding a perfect life partner is one of the top priorities. And most youngsters admit that they will marry a person of their parents' choice.
Jaahnavi Paal, editor of shaadi.com, a successful Internet matrimonial portal, sums up this attitude succinctly, "I don't think that opting for an arranged match means that Gen X has a contradictory view point. This generation is remarkably focused and challenged?they have their priorities right and they have understood the fact that an arranged match will find them a 'tailor-made' partner. And this is really smart! Also the inherent ?Indianness' in most of us cannot be disregarded and this trait surfaces when taking such important decisions. Hence, however high one may have climbed up the career ladder, it's OK to ask your family to look for a match. Similarly celebrating traditional festivals (like Diwali and Eid) and Valentine's Day with equal fervor shows the regard this generation has for our tradition and culture. I can even go a step ahead and say that we have placed our legacy in the right hands."
THE LAST WORD...
This generation is savvier and more global than their predecessors. Today's youth not only knows what it wants, it also seems to have figured out a way of getting it. Which is what matters. Whether it's music or MBA, lifestyle or love, ambition or attitude, politics or paisa, they have an opinion and they make sure that they are heard.
In the end, the value systems in our society may have changed?hence it is not that the young don't have any values. It is all about how we rate the values they have. However, one thing is for sure, they are not callous. They may be thinking short term, but they are aware of that.
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