Indian Youth: The Future Of The Nation… Really?

Posted on February 4, 2012 in Society

By Arastu Zakia:

A majority of the Indian populace has remained faceless, a mere statistic that intermittently reminds us of their existence somewhere in the back pages of our newspapers associated with ‘alien’ concepts such as ‘hunger’, ‘poverty’, ‘malnutrition’ and so on.

Let me try and list my observations on that section of Indians which is getting increasingly visible: The Youth – the ones who stay in cities and are privileged. Concealed somewhere beneath the external image of being ‘fashionable’ and ‘modern’ are lots of painful and sometimes scary traits that need urgent analysis.

When we hope for great things from our Youth, one fundamental assumption we make is of them holding a distinct identity of their own choosing. Yes there certainly is a bunch of brilliant, unconventional Youth changing the future but for reasons that I will come to later, most Youth today are left leaning on other people and/or things for a semblance of their ‘own’ identity. Their dependence on ‘tags’ and ‘names’ as indicators of their own worth, not knowing who they are and what they want and their belief in a hierarchy in every aspect of life are just a few indicators of this phenomenon.

I distinctly remember reading in a Helpline coloumn just before the Delhi University admissions a few years ago, an appeal by a girl who had scored about 92% in her 12th Standard exams and was contemplating suicide as she missed the cut-off for the college of her choice by about 1%. After a heated Youth debate on the Jan Lokpal bill, another girl had once asked me: “Ok Anna Hazare’s demands seem to be unfair. So you tell us, who should we follow?” At another seminar at a private MBA institute in Ahmedabad, the first boy to answer when asked what the Jan Lokpal bill was replied: “When we go to a shop, the bill that we ask for is called the Jan Lokpal bill”. A group of about 10 students from a very prominent college in Ahmedabad were shocked when they discovered that a few lakh people were staying in refugee camps in the same city for very long after the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. At a Personality Contest at a college recently, when a girl was asked who was to blame if a girl got raped outdoors by a drunk man at 10:30 PM, she replied “the girl’s family, because they should never allow her to go out so late”. Instances of NGOs getting calls from Youth wanting to work for “a few days” in their projects because they want “a certificate for greater chances of admission to MBA colleges” are increasing with each passing day. One can find thousands of facebook profiles of girls (apparently) with one photo and a few hundred comments below by boys trying to compete with each other for getting her into bed, to put it openly. The misdirected priorities of Indian media and the Youth’s fondness for anything that is seemingly “western” don’t help much either. In such times, expecting awareness or knowledge about which candidate to vote for or understanding the role played by global economies on several aspects of one’s daily life remain luxuries that can only be fantasized about.

If we think about the people they meet, the things they do and the places they go to each day, from morning to evening, how many positive influences on Youth today can one manage to count! Who is telling them to not hate, to freely love, guiding them to an exposed and aware position in Society, facilitating the formation of their own identities and development of their strengths, sensitizing them to the many pains people around them suffer from? Maybe, ‘one in a million’.

The obsessively capitalist times we live in and the dominance of religion and other hierarchical structures deeply engrained in their psyche have been major contributors to the present state of Indian Youth. The rigidity with which Society’s version of the gender roles of masculinity and homely behaviour respectively are thrust upon them damages their behaviour even further. An education system that is governed by vested interests and in Ken Robinson’s words “mines children’s brains the way we strip-mine this Earth in search of certain marketable attributes” virtually ruins their futures. But according to me, the most important factor, one that is always shockingly under-rated, is the utter failure of families, mostly fathers in a patriarchal societal system, to understand and support their children.

Several instances of domestic violence which may not necessarily be only physical, a total control over every small aspect of their lives and the absolute lack of support or motivation for most things of the Youth’s own choosing play the biggest role in destroying the psyche of our Youth.

The beautiful scene depicting the confidence and belief after the long transition of a Youth in ‘3 Idiots’ where Raju (Sharman Joshi) sits in front of the interview panel and proudly states “If I don’t get this job today, I am not worried because I know that I will do something or the other with my life” remains a distant dream for most Indian Youth today.

For a long time, we have heard and read repeated stories about how crores of Indian Youth are the future of the nation. For once, be scared, be very scared!

Arastu is a columnist at Youth Ki Awaaz and Founder of The Difference. ‘The Difference’ is a unique youth led and youth focused effort that uses interactive and innovative methods such as debates, forums, on the ground action, presentations, audio, films, theatre, games and so on to empower youth with a range of values, skills and tools to become better citizens.