Reading about New India in the dailies or watching the news channels, with their OTT stories of doom and gloom, can be enervating. Talking to citizens of new India, however, is always enlightening, even entertaining. How could it not, given the youngsters’ innovative thinking and their desperate ambition to get ahead, no matter what the impediment or cost? What I find most fascinating is the youth’s relentlessly-resourceful approach to life. Be they poor or middle class, industrious or lazy, the thinking is always upwardly mobile.
Tomorrow holds the promise of an escape from a grotty today. They yearn for its arrival and prepare for it by learning new skills and the ways of the world. Most of the knowledge is gleaned from watching TV and surfing the net on their Apple-lookalike touchscreen phones. Unlike the affluent, private school-educated youth of a different India, when this set demands things or seeks out new pleasures, it’s got nothing to do with privilege or a sense of entitlement; it’s simply a belief in their impending tryst with triumph.
That’s certainly true of Bobby, who works in the beauty salon I frequent. Both attractive and articulate, she is determined to marry well. She’s taught herself English, which she considers the vehicle of social progression. She slogs for her money and spends it all on herself, largely on branded clothes and accessories. The last time I was in the salon, she asked my opinion on a face serum she had just bought for `12,000. Her dermatologist had asked her to get it, she said. “You know I must look my best all the time. Who knows when I meet Mr Right,” she laughed.
I laughed with her that day. But I didn’t realize just how much unadulterated aspiration is the life blood of this generation till a boy in the neighbourhood came with his father to talk to me. The father works as a cook in my building. What the boy wanted to know was this: He had learnt that Aamir Khan was asking people to come and do shramdaan as a jal mitr in Maharashtra to stave off drought. If he went and worked, did I think he would get a chance to meet the actor and show him his portfolio? He said he wasn’t silly enough to think Aamir would give him a film role, but would he, at least, look at the work he had done?
If I answered in the affirmative, he would persuade his father to give him the money to go; if I didn’t think he had a chance, he would just stay put, he said. Had he heard about the water movement on TV, I asked? “No, my friend saw it on YouTube and showed me.” Why me, I asked. I have nothing to do with films. “You’re in media, you people know things,” he said cockily.I should have probably said no immediately, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Not when I knew that the bravado was a cover for the million hopes lurking in his heart. So I told him I’d find out more and get back. If you can dream it, you can do it, they say. Who knows what tomorrow brings?