By Saket Suman
T here’s talk that the country has lost track and is headed in a direction not envisaged by those who fought for our independence from colonial rule. Those growing up today are faced with the unnerving challenge to thrive against all future obstacles — increasing population, decreasing jobs and unmatched inflation — that, they are told, awaits them. Yet we are doing fine.
In fact, we are doing pretty well. Our health sector no doubt needs a lot more attention, but has undoubtedly come a long way when you look at the spread of hospitals across the country over the past two decades. Miserable as they may be, but government schools and colleges are thriving. There are world-class private universities and even for those who cannot afford their exorbitant fees, it had never been as easy as it is today to procure education loans. And most importantly, the gap between the village and the metros, as also the tier II and III cities, has decreased tremendously.
Even before we could realise it, rural India has been connected to the rest of the country in ways that were simply unthinkable in the past. Today, moving out in search of employment or education is easily accepted in homes as well as society.
Picture this: I was born in the last decade of the 20th century in a rather privileged family of landlords in Bihar. I spent most of my childhood in a reputed boarding school in Darjeeling, but the first journey from the village to the hill station was not easy. Relatives, neighbours and family friends expressed their anxiety, pointing out quite arbitrarily that it would be a worthless exercise. Few from the village had gone out, for schooling of all things, at such an early age. Today, education of children is both a priority and a norm.
Then, there was the matter of changing two buses, boarding an overnight train and then taking a taxi to reach Darjeeling. Today, it is much easier — one straight train to New Jalpaiguri and then a two-hour drive to Darjeeling.
By the time I moved to Delhi for my college, the process had become much simpler. There were not many questions raised about my decision to move to the capital. If there was a question, it was only about the choice of subject — journalism. Civil services and government jobs were what dominated the minds of people back then. This too has changed, much to the relief of those growing up today. What were previously looked down upon as alternative career options are the dreams of youngsters as well as their guardians now.
Thus, we see thousands of students from all parts of the country graduating in various disciplines from leading universities every year. Where do they go? No matter what you have been told, there is such an upsurge in opportunities today that almost each of them secures a job. And they are doing fine.
True, it is leading to unplanned migration at an alarming rate, but then new cities are fast turning into hotspots for job-seekers too. Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Chandigarh are today’s alternatives to yesterday’s Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
Never before in India’s history has there been so many opportunities for women as there are today. They are inside every office, at par with their male colleagues, and are doing better than them in sectors like publishing and many others. Whenever there is an instance of discrimination, we hear it louder than ever before.
The face of offices too have undergone significant change. Until very recently, we had the experienced greys managing all affairs but there has been a sudden boom in the presence of young Indians in offices. As the greys approach their retirement, imagine the extent of opportunities that await youth in the years to come.
And then, there is the burning question of freedom of expression. Even as we see protests against movies and writers or a ban on beef and threats against minorities, it is worth pointing out that the voice of dissent, which many say is being throttled, is only getting louder with every passing day. Our society, like every other of its kind, may have a number of shortcomings but at the present juncture, it is much more than the sum total of all such things to be unproud of. There is a great hope for India in this millennium.
I earn a decent salary, but I am usually broke by the end of the month. And yet, I am doing fine. Because unlike our predecessors, the mindset of my generation has changed too. Hoarding huge amounts of cash is not our priority — we spend what we earn — and are happy at the end of it all. I go shopping every once in awhile, dine out with friends and relatives, read books that I love, participate actively in the national discourse and travel to the mountains whenever I get a chance. In short, I am living the Great Indian dream.
In the midst of all the pessimism that we are surrounded by, there is actually very little for young Indians today to be worried about. There has never been a better time to be young in India: The Great Indian Dream is here and it is here to stay. (IANS)
(Saket Suman is a Principal Correspondent at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])