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Indian Youth: Welcome Abundance or Reckless Abandon?

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
February 2012
Indian Youth: Welcome Abundance or Reckless Abandon? SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

I was in India recently on a business trip. Everywhere I went I saw young people. At the hotel, on the road to the office, in the office itself, at the restaurant, and, of course, around the universities I visited. I loved it... until I went to a shopping mall to get gifts for my in-laws. Indian cities seem to have a shopping mall on every block. Because I hadn’t been back home in many years, just the idea of fancy glass-and-concrete malls in Ahmedabad was a new phenomenon for me. This one I went to, like many others I saw, was crawling with youngsters. And they weren’t just window-shopping; they were buying all kinds of stuff. Actually “stuff” is too kind a word. They were buying all kinds of junk: fast food, cheap trinkets, expensive cell phones, designer jeans, knock-offs of Rolex watches, and shiny new cars.

What would Gandhiji make of this? Progress? Or perdition?

Dear Friend,

“I believe that the yarn we spin is capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life.” (M. K. Gandhi)

If Gandhiji’s simple possessions—glasses, dhoti, sandals, pocketwatch, khadi clothes, and spinning wheel—are not enough to symbolize his rejection of modernity’s consumerism, the phrase “broken warp and woof of our life” directly and powerfully conveys his disdain for a society that keeps accumulating material goods while unraveling the fabric that makes its culture whole.

To be sure, Indian culture is not unraveling, but something is indeed lost when shopping centers replace home as the center of activity. The bold, new symbol for the Rupee ( ) need not mean Reckless abandon; perhaps a mature Restraint will remind the youth of India that with wealth comes a Responsibility to spend one’s time, energy, and good fortune on something more than trifles.

It may be too romantic to suggest that the currency of home life is love and too crass to suggest that the market is driven by economics, but there is certainly truth in those broad characterizations. While perdition is too strong a word to describe the direction of free-market India, progress does not feel quite right. Young India was a journal published in the early part of the 20th century. Gandhiji’s young India was on the verge of carrying forward an extraordinary civilization while casting off the shackles of colonialism. Today’s young India feels like it has succumbed to the seductive imperialism of multinational advertising while embracing the ordinary sameness of globalism. To be sure, we in America with our two cars, three televisions, and countless smart  phones are guilty of overconsumption, but risking hypocrisy, the hope here is that Indians, Americans, and Indian-Americans can better balance mall and home.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]

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