Friday, November 21, 2008

This Generation & Ours.

I once suggested to my daughter that she should start preparing for the civil service examination. ”What for, amma?’ She asked. “To have some Lalu’s beetle stained spittle sprayed on my face? I think I can do without that face pack!”

And she was not even twenty then but, I noticed, she had the poise of a person who knew what she was talking about.

I was taken aback. Apparently, a lot of water had flowed under the bridge since my time, and I had not kept pace with the changing perceptions of the youth, despite being a teacher and a mother. My generation had looked upon the IAS tag as the most credible index of an educated person’s outstanding calibre, for, the Indian administrative Service was a site that could be inhabited only by a select group - the very best. To us, getting selected for the Indian Administrative Service was the ultimate achievement for an educated person. It’d make you an instant celebrity. We thought of nothing beyond the prestige, glamour and the challenge of this elite service. It was a dream – an unattainable one for most.

For today’s youngsters, it’s not a dream – both in terms of its attractiveness and unattainability.

Today’s youth (I am talking of the youth in their twenties) are a different lot. The difference, I realize, is born out of the changed world in which they grew up.

As teenagers, they lived in an India where Dr.Manmohan Singh and Dr. Sam Pitroda were among the most celebrated names. Dr. Manmohan Singh’s maiden budget was watched by all TV owning families in Kerala, the viewers comprising the teenage children, their parents and grandparents. Expectation was high, though comprehension of the nuances of the budget was inadequate. But all sensed that a fundamental change was in the offing.

By the time it was time for these teenagers to decide what to do with their lives, the path was well beaten and laid for them. India was opening up. The triple mantra of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation had begun to partially ease out the License Raj and protectionism in our economy.

The IT sector boomed all over the world and Indian Engineers became a much sought after commodity. Even the critics who were vociferous about India exporting techno-coolies had the smirk wiped out from their faces when the young Indian engineers and B school products (not from the premier ones alone)started earning in a month what the earlier generation could not in a year or more – sometimes even in a lifetime!

Engineering colleges and B schools mushroomed all over. So did software companies. It no longer mattered what branch of engineering they took. The companies would recruit them if they were ready to “unlearn & then learn”. Opportunities beckoned them with great eagerness from within India too.

And with outsourcing becoming the order of the day, the very gait of the youngsters became different from what it was in our time. New horizons opened up not just for the professionally qualified youngsters, but mere graduates too. Sometimes, the companies did not even ask for a degree. Certain types of employment began to be de-linked from degrees.

The uncertainties and the sense of insecurity did not stalk them. Even stop gap employments were well paying.

Attrition rates troubled IT companies and BPOs and the confidence level of the youngsters rose proportionately. Job jumping became a regular feature in the IT industry.

This is the scene which greeted the present generation as they entered the world in search of a job. They breathed the air of promise - promise of sure livelihood and immense prosperity.

Their self- confidence and poise are indicators of the ambiance in a growing economic superpower.

What I admire about today’s youth is their focus. They know what they want from life. They know what they don’t want from life. And they are honest about it. They don’t get carried away by idealism or dreams. They are smart enough to know that with an engineering degree or management degree, their future is made. Hence, one often hears such remarks:
“I love literature – but what’s the point in doing a degree in literature?”
”Chemistry is my first and last love, but I’ll go in for engineering. No scope for pure science”
“No medicine for me. It’ll take me more than 7 years to start earning. And the uncertainties too”.

Yes. They are down to earth. And their pragmatism pays. They become lucratively employed even before they complete their courses.

The demands of the job make them a disciplined lot. They don’t squander away money but invest it wisely. To think that these youngsters were part responsible for the boom in the real estate industry in Kochin and elsewhere!

Now to come to our story.

As youngsters, we were so different. The world in which we grew up was also different. The India of the sixties and seventies (the period of our teenage and twenties) was still a young nation. Idealism and faith in the system were high, though in the seventies they began to suffer erosion. For a quick reconnaissance of the memories of the sixties and the seventies – the famine of the sixties, Nehru, Socialist Democracy, Shastri, break up of the Indian Nation Congress, the rise of Indira Gandhi. Garibi Hatao, Family planning drive, minor subversion of democratic systems, Bangle Desh victory, Russia our friend, Jayaprakash Narayan, the Emergency, Janata government fiasco, protected economy - -

Yes. We grew up in a nation in its infancy, struggling to recover from four centuries of colonial exploitation. Those were difficult days, but optimism was high. Cynicism about the political system hadn’t set in.

But as job seekers, we struggled. The mismatch between education and employment was huge. Even, marks were difficult to earn. A first class in the family was an event that called for a big celebration. Jobs were hard to come by. In Kerala, the number of unemployed graduates was on the increase.

The youngsters in my days were insecure about the future. The obsession with public sector jobs was an indication of the sense of insecurity the youth experienced on the job front. The number of young girls who wished to pursue a career was rather low. A graduate degree was a qualification more for the marriage market than the job market.

Today girls have broken free of that mindset. They have a level playing field in both education and employment. IT industry is a great leveller of sexes.

And the salary scales in those days were pathetic. An average employee’s dream did not stray beyond a hand to mouth existence. Yet job jumping was unheard of. Jobs were simply not there. The car was a luxury which many could not afford till the onset of middle age.

The creamy layer (financially) discouraged its youth from taking up a job. Family business s or taking care of the family estates were more lucrative.

The comfortable jobs - the executive in a bank or companies or in the public sector – were not as paying a they are today, and the competition to secure them was stiff.

No, we did not possess the self-confidence, poise and affluence of today’s youth. But we soldiered on, cheerfully. WE scrimped and saved. And contributed our mite to the growth of this nation.

And our country acknowledged our efforts by giving our children a better life.

Disclaimer: The source is my memory and observation. This is just my take. Please excuse inaccuracies and false information, if any.


  1. >>What I admire about today’s youth is their focus. They know what they want from life. They know what they don’t want from life.<<

    I disagree KT. They dont, thats cause like you say a path has been already set for them and many just dont think outside this path. Interest in literature or science will not be thought of as future career possibilities, cause the job is almost like the next grade you graduate to after studies - like your 12th is there after your 11th grade, your IT job is already there after college. You dont think that there is a choice. I am just saying this is the case with many people, not all.

    Many in IT, I know, later lament about not having thought of a different career - but they hesitate to make a movement atleast then - the payscale ensures that.

    And girls, yes many of them have a job in mind - but then when it comes to marriage, you;d see most of them forgetting or leaving career, without really wanting to...
    More to write, but power failure so later..

  2. a member of the present generation11:46 PM, November 21, 2008

    This is a must read for the present generation. Parents left their hometown after PDC or even tenth, gave those clercial , bank and staff selection examinations, served the government, toiled hard and laid the foundations for the growth of the economy as well as made both ends meet and provided their children with a good education .
    Today's generation enjoy much more privileges, opportunities are abundant and at times they take too much for granted.
    With the recent economic turmoil we're going to experience a paradigm shift again. We cannot have only the good-effects of opening up our economy isn't it?
    Just a month or two back we were having a discussion on layoffs where the younger generation were panicking and the older generation of govt employees were flaunting their pay-commission revised salaries and arrears.
    Talk about money management,parents of your generation accounted for every penny spent and saved but majority of today's generation spend the money they earn irresponsibly. All those investments they made, without thinking about the pros and cons, going by the convincing words of the agents, the trouble these people have landed into will slowly show up.
    Parents of your generation were first time employees who spent only on necessities and sent rest of the money back home to your own families. But, how many of them in the current generation do that? Your generation served the government and inevitably most of you were part of participatory democracy. But today? how many bother about the country? All they do is scoff at government employees and in their circles a govt servant = a corrupt employee.
    You served the country, the country gave your children a better life but what about your grandchildren. Do you really think your children would be able to do so much for their children coz they got everything the easy way.

    Good post KT. Forwarding it to my parents. I'm sure they are gonna love it coz they can relate so much to what is written here.

  3. today's youth and confidence come from the power of information (WWW) at their finger tips. -INFORMATION IS POWER
    A burgeoning economy also gives birth to the power of choices. 10 years ago we still didn't have it.
    But I like what I read on the blogs ( can't trust newspapers anymore )
    Only if the GATT treaty was signed at least 5 years earlier --if wishes were horses beggars would ride..
    And now india will only have more fun - safe without being in the down shackles of the economy and setting its own path it can only accelerate its race. but it has to decide which economy do they still want - cash or credit. and both has cobwebs of its own.

  4. Good post.Have you some times felt that these youngsters are too focused?Too focused on themselves and luxury?
    Protected economy might have helped us in those early days of Nation building.But it remained tangled in red tape for too long.My early memories were from the Emergency period.I feel the election that ousted Indira Gandhi in '77 and that which brought her back to power in '80 showed maturing of Indian electorate

  5. I think you've take a very one sided-view. The other side:
    Most people in my generation are more high-strung than yours. My generation is burdened by greed; expectation arising out of being made aware of what is out there and being instilled with the idea that anything is reachable. Your generation had a cheerful resignation; they got a job and they stuck with it, irrespective of what their native intelligence might be; that intelligence they then diverted to pursuits of leisurely pleasure; today even the pleasure is high-strung excitement leaving us feelings voids of boredom in the calmer moments of life.

    Just some things to look out for next time you are observing.

    Note: The earlier paragraph isn't entirely my views. It is just opposite views.

  6. @ cris
    i have often wondered if they regret their choice of an IT career. When i ask them, I find that they have not had the time to think of the regrets question!
    however, their blogs make me think that these people would have made a terrific impact in other fields too. some of the most perceptive and well informed blogs come from those youngsters in the IT sector
    @ a member of the present generation.
    'With the recent economic turmoil we're going to experience a paradigm shift again. We cannot have only the good-effects of opening up our economy isn't it?'
    yes. difficult times may be ahead. It is in times like that the present generation is going to show their true metal. Like all of you observed, they have not had the privilege of being schooled by the discipline of denial.i hope and pray they are trained to take setbacks too in their stride.
    by the way, why the anonymity?:-)
    @ anrosh
    i think we are going to be grateful for having been born indians and not americans, europeons or the chinese.
    and i agree with you. the availability of having information at your fingertrips havemade life easier for them. even a simple thing like applying for admission has been made infinitely easier by online facility. yes. for this lucky generation opportunity lies at the fingertips.
    by the way, there was an interview of the FM by barkha dutt yest. dont know if it was tendentious talk by the FM,, but it really gave a feel good feeling. see if u can watch it on U tube.
    @ charakan
    "Too focused on themselves and luxury?"
    i dont know about that - at least not as a gen rule. i know a lot of cases where these youngsters give a better life not only to their parents but to relatives and even the needy in their circles. but i dont know if it is a rule or an exception

    @ karthik sivaramakrishnan
    The other side:
    'Most people in my generation are more high-strung than yours'
    u r right there - and their health also is taking a hit. but i think the corporates have woken up to this fact and are offering stress management facilities.
    'My generation is burdened by greed; expectation etc - - - '
    coming from the horses mouth, i should take it seriously. when i read their blogs, i get the feeling that they are so blinded by the glitter of pelf(Or the security it offers) that they deny themselves the expression of their native genius.
    but, there is a price to be paid for everything.
    @ all
    i have a couple of posts in which i have dealt with related issues. pl check those out
    The last one is long-and reading it is a painfulexercise:-). just warning u.
    if any of u have related posts, pl give links. want to make a blog based study.

  7. amazing post!!!
    I seriously can understand now why my mom cribs about me not taking up the cs exam...
    And you quite nailed the point..but not so exact though...There are still a lot who aspire to be civil servants..but the years of toil is uncertainty for many like me..I would rather choose an equally satisfying certain path than an uncertain future...
    And yeah...many a times we give up!!![Not the sign of it??]

  8. old generation... and the present generation.... I was thinking where I belong to. May be somewhere in between. The change was gradual and we cant draw a line between generations.
    Cris... I liked what you said.Being a doc or Engineer was the course set for students in my time too.Very few brave ppl could break away.
    But do I regret? No

  9. @ charakan
    guess you belong to the transition period
    @ ursjine
    to give up uncertainty for certainty is definitely my ides of focus. it's a choice between a dream and a definite possibility. It takes courage and sacrifices to chase a dream. it takes courage and a great sacrifice to discard the dream.

  10. Hello!

    Nice post

    Rush for civil services has certainly abated, but only in the four southern and western states - Mah, Guj and Goa.

    The number of aspirants for IAS from the BIMARU states continues.

    The main reason for this has been the attractive career opportunities in industry and services have opened up much more in these selected states.

    You will also observe that inter-state migration (a touchy topic of late) is lowest from these six - seven states and maximum into these states.

    Coming to the younger generation - The last six - seven years were heady and an embarassment of riches. This has meant many without firm foundation (of skill sets), inflated salaries and expensive lifestyles. Of course, there would be many exceptions.

    The current downturn promises to be long and painful (not withstanding Chidambaram's pep talk). This will further separate chaff from grain and value of a slower growth trajectory will be appreciated.

  11. Your post is right to some extent, coz i feel most of the youngsters are focused and they know exactly what they want. Older generation was more intersted in IAS, medicine, atmost to engineering. But these days, we dont restrict ourselves to few options and ofcourse we are earning big bucks. Something the older generation took almost a decade to make. Above all these days, the parents influence on their kids career is decreasing. When i decided my career, my parents just supported me blindly and i just showed them that i was right and they are proud that i can take decisions.

  12. Brilliant as usual.
    I agree about this generation (mine are in classes XI and XII ) being more fortunate, they do have wider options. One never heard teachers, parents or counselors, say "follow your heart' in our generation. Today parents and schools are opening their eyes to the realisation that your career is a part of your life. If love your job, you'll never work a day, competition won't bother you, the job will be the motivation. Okay this touches a chord , this is my next post :)

  13. First of all forgive me for laughing when I read that you took so long to realize how much things have changed.

    When I was suggested to try for IAS I replied that I'd not take the job even if it were offered to me on a silver platter. Reasons are varied. Lack of power to actually make a real impact, being surrounded by suck-ups, no outlet for creativity, promotion based on seniority instead of performance etc. And glamour and prestige are stuff people without substance chase after. You long for attention because you're not worthy of it. I don't care about what ordinary people think of me anyways.

    Your article is an interesting summary of the differences between your times and ours and how that has shaped generations. I can't help but notice though, that you look at our generation with rosy eyes and simply ignore our shortcomings.

    It is also interesting to note that even though some of the comments that people made are contradictory.........they are all true.

  14. A beautiful and well written post speaks volumes.. its like realizing,understand and appreciate my parent's generation


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