In the fifty odd blogs that I have written for Campaign India so far, no blog has got the kind of feedback that “Rich Kid Poor Kid” has elicited. There has been an avalanche of responses, some agreeing with me, but mostly at complete 180 degrees from my point of view. What is interesting is that the feedback has come from a cross-section of Campaign readers.
Without any comments, or any editing, I reproduce some of the mails received by me on Rich Kid Poor Kid. The insights are really ingredients for a good and healthy debate.
This article made me introspect on some of my own lifestyle choices and the choices of those in my close circle. They certainly mimic what Sandeep Goyal describes.
Also, at the risk of sounding facile … isn't this the premise of capitalism? To be hungry all the time? To want more and be dissatisfied no matter what? The haves must be have-nots constantly for this economy to flourish.
My contention really is that while there are these millennials, there are also millennials in my circle who aren't doing this. They're saving, they're taking the train and they're not shy of eating at a tapri. They're urban too. Perhaps then this is about a predisposition and a function of class rather than age? The author perhaps hasn't met these millennials ... maybe they have a lot to say about this class of millennials.
Koninika Roy, 23, is an Advocacy Manager at The Humsafar Trust. She’s also a writer, researcher and human.
Millennials have a bad reputation. This generational demographic cohort with birth years between the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s have become notorious for their spending habits, their job profiles (or lack of it) and their constant outrage.
Psychologists attribute millennials with the traits of confidence and tolerance, but also containing a sense of entitlement and narcissism. What is clear from author Sandeep Goyal’s piece is his disenchantment with the youth who are self indulgent to the extent that they would rather sleep in a car they bought with limited money, instead of on a bed in a home. Dissonances like this are not uncommon.
The divide between the two generations -- one that has seen the roots of industrialisation, growing jobs and emerging technology in a newly independent country, and another that grew up to digital technologies, globalisation and financial crises, is hardly surprising. While labour, processes and loyalty to systems were valued in a working class society, the shift to a service sector, and later entrepreneurship, demanded innovation, social canvassing and networking. As expected the qualities towards employability changed, job profiles widened, and workplace habits were vastly different from those of the previous generation. More than ever before, this generation has placed an emphasis on producing meaningful work, finding a creative outlet, and receiving immediate feedback. Sometime, these choices are made at the risk of financial insecurity.
In the social and familiar sphere, responsibilities for the parents of most millennials leaned towards early employment, stable income and savings, and long-term job satisfaction. In the west, unlike the previous generation, many are living with their parents instead of going out and seeking whatever job they can find to change this situation. It is worthwhile to understand why these choices differ and how they came to be.
Despite opportunities in specialised skills, a substantial number of the youth today are making below par salaries, living in rented accommodations and paying off student loans. Being ‘digital natives’, they have grown up with impressionable mediums like sharing applications and social networking sites.This greater exposure to cultures, establishments and people is inarguably a double edged sword. While it is an avenue for greater opportunities, the pressure to prove your success is also palpable. Navigating these pressures in the climate of a staggering economy, while keeping up with the generational mandates of putting up an admirable show for your friends on the internet, can be confusing not just for the millennials but for anyone.
While it is tempting to say that things can and should be different, the giant clockwork that is society, is full of nuts and bolts and creaks that often go beyond the contemplation and the reach of 20-something-year-olds. They are as subject to the vagaries of economy, politics, technology and social pressures, as any other generation. The best thing that the older generation, with their acquired wealth and wisdom, can do, is to do what every good parent does. Watch over them without judgement, and let the kids have their day managing their generation’s absurdities and accomplishments, so they can learn from it and become better human beings, better citizens and better diners.
Nidhi Nambiar, 28, Bengaluru. She runs a theatre company and consults with the The State.
I’m not rich, but I am not poor either. When I was working in Mumbai, I was paying INR 15,000 as rent and sharing a room in a 2BHK. I ate out 2-3 times a week but still managed to save 20-30 per cent of my income because I am a saver by nature. I don’t shop like a maniac. I buy the cheapest washing powder, keep my electricity bill to below INR 1,000 and pay for what I eat, when out in groups.
I know friends who earn a lakh a month and still can’t manage to pay their credit card bills and I know friends who invest their monthly savings in mutual plans. I do not know how rampant this phenomenon of poor ‘rich’ urban young professionals is, but from where I stand, people seem to be quite smart with their money. They take public transport as much as possible, eat or drink out when there are ongoing offers, are masters at using coupons and discounts and even manage to save enough to take trips abroad.
I am not afraid to tell friends that I don’t want to eat in expensive restaurants and am one of those people who has garnered enough courage to sit in a Starbucks and chat with a friend without succumbing to the pressure of having a coffee. Starbucks has multiple outlets and their business won’t crash if a person occupies an empty table without placing an order.
I know that some of my friends find it very odd that I am so conscious of my spending, but I don’t think it’s ever too early to save. Because of my saving I am not slave to a job, I can quit and live off my savings for up to a year. When people start living well below their means, I think we shall be able to cut back on mindless consumerism and turns towards what we need rather than keeping up appearances.
Simran Rana, 26, is a Young India Fellow 2014-15. She just finished a stint with Swaniti and Gaurav Gogoi - MP of Golaghat district, Assam. In true millennial style she is now looking for her purpose in life. We are told Julia Cameron’s “Artist’s Way” is helping.
Pretense vs practicality might be an oversimplification of what the author has seen and observed at the restaurant. My parents lived 'practically', saved roughly a third of their income (in line with national savings/GDP ratio) and made sure rainy days were taken care of. As the author says, maybe this was made easier by Yum Yum Cha not being around back then, however, it remains that they never experienced a Sushi roll or a spicy salmon. I grew up hearing only of the sacrifices and difficulties the previous generation had to make or face to reach where they are today and all I thought was surely, that juice can't be worth the squeeze.
Maybe, everyone at that restaurant felt the same way growing up, or maybe they just felt like sushi. Overall numbers indicate that every person eating there was fueling the economy, maybe they feel they are doing their part in helping farmers and chefs. It's hard to discount the pretense though, we all grew up watching the 'Friends coffee shop culture', surely that explains proliferation of coffee shops across the country. We are fed a constant feed of Gordon Ramsey's specials on TV, surely that explains the many restaurants mushrooming in the city. Maybe if we had grown up being told stories of why the economy had to be restructured in 1991, instead of why Ross and Rachel were on a break, things might have been different.
(Srivathsan, 30, is an IIFT alumnus and president-strategic alliances of a Chennai based Fintech start-up OptaCredit.com)
The points of view expressed by the readers above clearly point to a generation learning to live life differently from their parents. This is a here and now generation looking to maximise every experience, every moment, every occasion. In itself there is nothing wrong with doing that, but some of the social manifestations and behavioural patterns that are emerging, are somewhat scary.
But, it is not my job to be judgmental.
There is lots of more feedback. I will share the same with you over the next 2-3 blogs. I am quite enjoying the debate though most of those who have written back, don’t agree with my views!
(Sandeep Goyal encourages debate on issues that affect us all. The Rich Kid Poor Kid
blog is pulling in a lot of diverse views, which he believes makes for a meaningful exchange of views.)