I would like to pose to you my dear reader with a question, a puzzle, a conundrum if you will. But before I can truly get to the heart of the matter and raise that little dilemma for your contemplation, I feel a little groundwork is fair – something to give you an inkling where I’m coming from, what brought on all this needless introspection and doubt-raising in an otherwise perfectly happy and self-contained cynical young mind.
Now for those not aware of this little fact yet – I am a very modest 26 years of age. Not too young to be excluded from all the various vagaries of what is considered adult life, but still young enough to be looked upon as a bit of a babe in the woods deserving of the all understanding nod and tiny smirk meant to tell me I’m out of my depth when is suits the situation.
As anyone with half a brain to spare and any basic awareness of the world around them living in this lovely hometown of mine called Delhi, things are anything but simple. Life is rarely ever as good as we make it out to be and things are almost never as easy as we make them out to be in polite conversation. Beneath the surface everywhere you find the grit, the hard-ship, the anguish and the dysfunction that has come to define the modern world as we know it – though we more often then not simply choose not to acknowledge it.
But before I begin rambling about the world around us and digress into things that have no real relevance here, lets just skip it and say we did and just get on with this little eulogy to the modern Indian youth shall we.
What is it we want most? In all fairness this is a question pretty much nobody I know can answer with any degree of certainty no matter where they come from or how old they are; if you sit down and think about it hard enough, you never really know what you truly want – its what we need that fills in that void and drives us. And its in this compromised drive that we eventually get lost, inevitably.
I look around me and Im surrounded by this veritable sea of families and groups all bound together by either blood or some other human contrived reason for loyalty, all except the one that is needed most – you just flat out want to. Period.
On to something that caught my eye the other day on the idiot box that wonderfully helps illustrate my point here (yes I called it that, yes I mean it and yes I watch more then my share of it regardless – it is the e-parent of the new age is it not?). If you watch any of the stream-of-mediocre-consciousness like any good normal person, then you get to see the barrage of adverts that repeat themselves over and over until they’re burned into the relevant part of your frontal lobe and cortex and you couldn’t forget it if you wanted. Well amidst this endless deluge of disturbingly persistent product placement I caught one about platinum rings based around a couple in an arranged marriage and how they do everything like good Indian kiddies and eventually find their love and happiness.
Now don’t get me wrong – this is not a tirade against marriage, arranged or otherwise. The ad states something to the effect of all this stuff happening and the two kids could do nothing but smile through it all, and of course this leads to happy ending and all. But the point is that it is clearly targeted at the average Indian family with their average Indian values. It targets the family where the son/daughter will love their lives well like the good kids they are meant to be and eventually settle down and live the Indian dream – moving to the west to make an ass load of money and raise grand-kids while your marriage and relationship develops lovingly into the most routine oriented and passionless one possible. Perfect.
This is not to say this happens only in India or that this is a given or a standard – merely an observation on certain patterns that often emerge.
But like in the damn ad, real life in this case imitates art. I see people around me getting pushed in ways both blatant and controlling and in ways far more subtle (read: devious/cunning) into making a choice they don’t know they are ready for yet. Now in case anyone is still assuming this is simply about marriage – its not. Marriage here was just a strong example of a far broader problem, and that problem is that when we talk generation gap, the world has rarely if ever seen one quite like this one.
On the one hand we have this country full of young kids, many still holding onto their hopes and dreams, spending all their time worried about what mom and dad are going to think and what people will say if they do something apart from the norm. We the youth of this proud nation have a failing in that we are a part of the brave new world out there but never quite get out from under that omnipotent thumb of tradition, that old world mind-set that kicks pipe-dreams and hope in the nuts.
How many of you either are or know those kids from good conservative backgrounds who are the models of virtue and morality, but only so far as John Q Public is concerned? How many of you want to go out at least three times a week, party till your body cant take it anymore, drink yourself until your words are as blurry as your vision, try and get your hands on some narcotic and get laid whenever possible? Don’t be shy, this isn’t an assembly, its the wonder of the internet age that will allow you to be honest and say “Yes I am!” without fear that someone might see or hear you. Go ahead, might make you feel a little better if nothing else, besides what have you got to lose? I see these same people every day – trying their damndest to spend every rupee they can spare (or get as pocket money) on indulging themselves but when push comes to shove they will give up their hedonistic lifestyle and plethora of parties and partners and quietly marry the one chosen for you by mom and dad without so much as a second thought. All the while often working careers and job that give you a lifestyle but no real life and no real joy. And pretty much every single one has told me (usually while heavily intoxicated – a good time for good old honest conversation) that they want nothing more then to get out, to get away and to live a free life. Now call me crazy but things like these often tend to mean something.
What is that? Is that healthy? Maybe I’m cynical – and so Ive been called, but how come we do this without even a fair trial? Even murderers get to speak and plead their case.
I don’t blame the parents – more often then not we turn into our parents in some ways so I think its safe to say that there’s a fair number of habits you will all eventually develop and abilities you will evolve that are probably the same as they were several thousand year ago when man first felt them. I get it, you want to be traditional, you want to do the right thing. Cool, I can live with that. But then do it properly. Its like the people who believe in nothing apart from the eternal gods of greed and avarice but in a moment of crisis will go to your local temple and make prayers and offerings and hope that the almighty one is coming to your aid. Call me what you like, but that sounds just a wee bit like hypocrisy to me. That applies as well to the guy/gal who wants to party and have promiscuous sex among other things while going home and washing and bathing and all that other stuff and doing the full religulous. You cant have it both ways kiddies, sooner or later either somethings got to go or the house of cards all falls down. You can take that as a truth.
But anyhow, now that we’ve conversed for some fair amount of time and gotten to know one anothers mind a tad, lets get back to where this all started – to the beating, bleeding bloody heart of the matter.
How far do you go before you reach a line in this matter? Regardless of where on the planet you are, there will always be differences in the way society works, but change has to start somewhere. In this world where all I need is a computer and a net line (which pretty much even the guy on the street owns!) and you have access to volumes of information on a variety of things ranging from sublime and revelatory to mentally scarring for life and in their own way equally revelatory.
Yet in this age of an abundant and under this unending reservoir of pure human chaos filtered through ones and zeroes, not just in India but across the planet we still fight tooth and nail for no genuinely discernible reason but that its how we are conditioned. The writer, the artist, the truly creative mind – often have they been overshadowed. A great writer may well find himself in a position where he is writing something, but it never gets the reaction from people that is intended. Go watch the movie Idiocracy – not the main plot or the jokes, but the little details, the attitude.
There are no real artists left, if you are an artist today, more often then not you have to compromise and make deals and the aim is the fast easy track to success and the galleries are filled to bursting and beyond with the tepid water of junk art mediocrity that tries to take itself too seriously – all in the name of money, that thing that can buy you a semblance if the freedom you are gasping for while keeping your lifelong overseers happy.
We are in a spiral that never ceases to astound me and yet it somehow does every time I imagine it. What happens when the old world is retiring and the new is of age? Will they actually grow and pair and do something or will they just do what’s always been done and just plain turn into their elders with their bland, emotionless and mundane lives? Will all this information and exposure actually give these kids of the future something that they can learn from and grow into better people? I don’t know.
Personally I don’t see it. With the proclivity for pop culture and desire to conform both to the world immediately around you and at the same time into the larger one out there can lead to some very hectic double lives but then again its all a matter of choice right? I mean if they really wanted to not do these things they could anytime – they could walk out of the office anytime, leave the marriage tent part-way through the ceremony or whatever it takes if they actually knew what they wanted. Sadly they rarely if ever get a chance to think these things out, mostly just brainwashed with pressure and the weight of history into believing that they themselves truly want what their parents are advising.
Piece of advice? Chances are that no matter how much they may bull-shit you, they themselves barely know what to do half the time, these days even more so.
Well that’s enough of me tirading for now, lets leave our first big meet at this and contemplate the waste of the last minutes of your life and decide whether its worth it or not. But that’s life isn’t it? Weighing your place. The Egyptians asked the dead if they (a) had joy in their life and (b) if they had brought joy into the lives of others (yes we’ve all seen bucket list smart ass!) but then they also weighed the heart before Horus against a feather to see the worth of the man/woman. Think about it – the questions are simple enough, but the feather thing what does that mean, hm? My guess would be that the more things you do wrong, the more they weigh on your heart and soul.
So life should be about being honest and true, both to yourselves and others, and about trying to be happy in this little life because you know what, I can’t prove any of your damn gods exist and which one is real and which not, and you can’t prove they do. So unless you know for sure what comes next, how do you want to live and what do you want out of life? I ask you this: where is the joy? You tell me because Im hopeful eternally and naively believe anything is possible, but the realist in me just can quite place it in this whirlwind of duty, fear and conformity. Maybe Im wrong, but you tell me.