The story of Nikita Rana is a story of real contrasts. From living in urban Mumbai to switching to far away Assam, to returning to the reality of Mumbai, Rana’s experiences as a millennial actually define the choice set for this generation. Uber is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. But it is a necessity because you can afford it. Including the crazy surge pricing. So, the overcrowded Mumbai local is no longer part of either the consideration set or the choice set simply because Uber is not just preferred, but a choice without which the new millennial would find it hard to exist. The moot question remains whether Uber created the millennial or the millennial created Uber. Methinks it is the latter. But opinions in these columns have varied.
We share today in this blog the experiences of corporate lawyer, Maninder Adityaraj Singh; of Nikita Rana, corporate consultant; of Amrita Harsora, dentist and Rushva Parihar, a CSR Consultant. An interesting mix of NewGen professionals.
Maninder Adityaraj Singh
I first came across Gayatri Jayaram’s ‘urban poor’ in 2016 when it became viral enough for her to write the book ‘Who me, poor?’. The portrayal of a generation that took Steve Job’s ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ a little too literally seemed like an exaggerated view of the situation then. Being a part of a corporate structure for two years now, it seems more and more real. Sandeep Goyal’s insights on the issue delve into the ‘why(s)’ and ‘must they?’ of the issue.
The predicament of a millennial today lies in the moment of exclusion or the possibility of it. Somewhere amidst the Instagram influencers, string of brunches and birthdays in Prague, lies a compulsive need to fit-in. Not that it was absent before but it has just been given the power to manifest itself in full-glory now. You are not competing with your peers from school or college anymore, you’re competing with people your age globally. Thanks to social media, it takes minutes for Vogue to tell a girl what her peers in New York are wearing, it takes even shorter for her to know at which club Vandana from Corporate Banking downed two bottles of champagne. The gap is blurred everyday between those who can afford it and those who aspire to afford it. At the same time, the bar is heightened every day. For instance, when Uber came to India, people used it over the normal taxi(s), now, its kind of a necessity for the same people to order an UberX even if it comes at a surge price or takes 20 minutes extra.
The millennial segregation of society is based purely on consumption patterns. There is a constant judgment on what we wear, what we eat, what Netflix series we watch and whom we do it with. I clearly remember a colleague once telling me ‘never be seen with the wrong kind’ after I went out for dinner with a few other colleagues who she clearly thought did not make ‘the cut’. To answer Sandeep Goyal’s question, it might not be so real afterall, but it is certainly a desirable perceived-reality for many. Its sustainability in the long run is akin to questioning the sustainability of a happy bubble, its all rainbows and confetti, till one day when it isn’t. The bursting of this bubble rested strategically on fallacy of choice shall come worse for those who grew up being told that the consolation prizes were as good as the winner’s.
Personally, I believe that it is a rite of passage. For most Indian millennials, the moment of financial independence is also the moment they come out of the overprotective shells that their parents create. I think its okay to make a few mistakes and learn a life-lesson, till the damage is repairable and doesn’t put you on the negative side of modern natural selection. At best, some will make it having faked it, and at worst they’ll be like my friend Naina who realized after a year that maybe blue and gray hair mania did not make her look her best and she’d have to settle with the less eccentric red hair.
Maninder Adityaraj Singh is a corporate lawyer who took Davies’ Leisure to heart as a young boy and can often be found standing quietly with an amusing stare.
After reading the pieces by adman Sandeep Goyal and writer Gayatri Jayaraman, I cringe. It is as if Big Brother sent the two of them a neat excel sheet which had all sorts of details about my whereabouts and my bank accounts. Totally relatable! Born in 1987, working since 2007, I’ve changed a job every 1.5 years and not saved a dime. Am I proud of it? No.
In order to break out of my pattern of trying to buy 'the best experiences' and 'products' (read Kitchen Garden by Suzette, Mango, Zara, Good Earth, Yauatcha) I tried the opposite last year. For 6 months, I moved to Golaghat, Assam. I lived in a spacious 2 BHK with pristine white walls and balconies on all four sides (they come very cheap there), slept on the floor, had no furniture in the house, no fridge, no TV and no inverter. In the hot summer months, life was hard. I cooked all my meals, hand-washed my clothes, mopped the floor, and walked a kilometer to throw the trash. (Aside - After a few weeks, the milkman Hari gifted me his old bicycle. Really.) Needless to say, these tasks didn’t happen with the regularity they should. My rather high hygiene standards were compromised. Because I didn’t have a fridge, I would take an e-riksha every two days and buy just enough vegetables for four meals.Good thing is, I finally learnt how to cook. Bad thing is, I cooked and ate very little.
Because I didn’t even have curtains, sunlight streamed in at 4:30 (that’s when the sun rises in Assam) and I learnt to jog on the streets. With tea gardens on both sides of the road, the experience was worth a million bucks. I was 20 mins away from Kaziranga. Life was good. I had decided to live in Assam forever.
Unfortunately, living in Assam demanded that I work as an independent writer and consultant and there were very limited ways of growing the business there. Plus, you can’t tell the client that your internet is down and your electricity will be back in a day because it rained too hard last night.
Long story short, I moved back to Mumbai and tried to continue my frugal lifestyle but the city and my upbringing didn’t permit it. I had to shell out an unthinkable amount for rent because I wanted to stay close to Worli Naka and not live in a slum. I had to go back to Ubers because in trains, I’d get pushed around (even in the women’s first class compartment). In addition to that, walking in and out of the local train station was extremely unpleasant. Not only would the men stare, some would even put their hands on my shoulder and say 'lavkar chala'. Of course, I’d fight back and yell, but how much can a sweaty person with messed up hair fight early in the morning and late in the evening? Fortunately, unlike my CNBC stint, my new consulting gig didn’t require that I look like I stepped out of a magazine; but my Charles & Keith shoes and white Zara tops were soon ruined by walking on broken and shit-filled roads.
I am now resigned to the fact that I work so hard to keep Uber in business. And of course, I don’t cook any more. Even though Swiggy Bhai/Bai is expensive, he/she is worth employing. The variety and quality is unmatched. Also, he/she/it is always on time.
How much can a die-hard feminist do? House work + client work together is just too much. Fortunately, two weeks ago I got me a husband who doesn’t mind chores.
Nikita Rana, 31 is a Consultant with Spotlight. After studying English Literature and working at CNBC TV-18, she decided to do an MBA. She’s now crossed over to the dark side.
Rich and poor, although the terms are antagonists of each other, often seem to complement each other in our day to day routine. As shallow as it sounds, these terms go hand in hand in this era ruled by the internet and social media.
In our neighbourhood, resides a very affluent family , obviously well-read. On a Sunday evening, they decided to order a pizza from this renowned pizza parlour that apparently promises to deliver the pizza at your doorstep within 30 minutes against all odds, else you are entitled to receive the pizza at no cost whatsoever (although the delivery boy is to bare the loss he has brought to the company). Here’s what happened. The delivery boy arrives at the neighbour’s residence unfortunately late by seven full minutes. And this extremely well-read young chap opens the door with a widest grin and grabs the pizza box with both his hands. What was most flabbergasting was that our neighbour abuses the pizza delivery boy using a very invective and a profane term , making it amply clear that the pizza would be welcomed into this family for absolutely free and slams the door on his face. Sure thing, on practical grounds, the well-literate young fellow deserved his meal for free, but the delivery boy definitely did not deserve to be mistreated.
Well exactly a week later, my husband and I walk into this fancy, elite restaurant in South Mumbai to celebrate our special day and to our surprise we notice our proud neighbours seated a few tables from across ours. And as shamelessly as I eaves drop, I realise that the young, well – learned couple has been awaiting their meal for more than fifty minutes since they had arrived at the restaurant. Yet to my surprise, the words they exchanged with the stuart, were extremely humble, also involved the “namaste “ gesture (in India one joins their hands to show respect and submission) a few times, not a glimpse of annoyance, let alone using an inappropriate language with him, not to forget the smile on their face.
Quite certainly the couple being able to afford a meal from outside at least twice a week, residing in what’s considered the beau monde of the Mumbai city, well educated, and now apparently well-spoken, could have posed a slightly better behaviour with the delivery boy. A typical practice of claiming to have higher standards and noble beliefs than is actually the case.
Richness and poverty in the English dictionary are a spectrum apart, but look like they are marginally different when it comes to our actions.
It leaves me bewildered, how unexpectedly but conveniently we manage to modulate our values, decorum, behaviour and conduct. It’s a surreal fact that we are all sadly surrounded by, it’s the boundary one needs to transcend to elevate oneself from the shallow thinking that has captivated us in this virtual world of showbiz and social media.
A simple and a more meaningful closure to this would be to help ourselves grow to be better individuals, imbibe into us the values of modesty, kindness, humbleness. Lets us try to be as unpretentious as possible so that the second phrase to this topic “if so poor why so rich” can also be encountered by us in our surrounding.
Amrita Harsora, 30, is a dentist. She doesn’t believe in having just one career though. She’s also a fashion designer, instagrammer, stylist and mom.
I am conflicted in my reaction to the article because in my experience, there is always a balance that can be struck so you can keep up appearances and not starving. The ‘urban poor’ so described by Gayatri Jayaraman in her article are really individuals having a lack of disposable income due to chronic financial mismanagement and poor planning. They are also individuals who have come to believe that money can be made by attending parties and wearing branded clothes while forgetting that there is really no alternative to hard work. What is most troubling in the article are the blanket statements made by the author. So are all 20 somethings suffering because they are living beyond their means? No because I believe the individuals described by her are a small fraction of young professionals and by making these blanket statements we are doing a great disservice to a large bunch.
This bunch consists of the same 20-something who is working his ass off and save money by any way possible so that he can send it back home to support his family. The girl who stayed home on long nights to create an app that ended up making millions. The young boy who went to cyber cafes to learn how to make robots and created drones for the Indian army. These 20-somethings are those who have dared to dream just a little bit. Because they know a little sacrifice here and there today along with hard work and skill will one day blow gold all over the place. Now I by no means am unaware of those 20-somethings that this article is really talking about, but their existence is a result of 50 years of capitalist conspiracy that encouraged them to be young and naive. So we need to do a little introspection and ask ourselves which category we fall in and to accept that there is a wide spectrum of young people out there who are making the world turn and to generalise that all of them are focused on keeping up facades is troubling to say the least. The problem really is not about managing appearances but really about learning to manage money.
Young people today are opening up to the world. The new age of technology has created a range of jobs that never existed earlier, jobs that are being filled by talented young professionals who have the skills to tackle these new technologies. Free lance graphic designers are making as much as a 1.5 lakhs a month at 23/24, young chefs who have opened chains of restaurants at 25 and even web designers who make $300 a day while working from Bangalore. These are realities today which were unheard of for the last generation. These new realities makes it possible for exotic restaurants like Yum Yum Cha to be full on weekday. This is not to say that there is still a very real and urgent need for sound financial education for young people today.
To give you an example from my own life, I am 27 years old and I just applied for my first credit card because I never wanted to be tempted to spend more than I had. Now that I know I have enough to not worry about racking up credit card debt, I thought it was time to apply. However I know that there are many young people who do not think in the same way and are spending all the money they make even though what they make is considerable. So while painting a picture about urban millennials I think is important to not paint a biased one - there are those who are spending all they have but there are also many many more who are working hard and creating success stories that the world is proud of.
Rushva Parihar is a CSR Consultant who works with companies to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also the Founder and CEO of YWater.
With this I conclude this debate on millennials. As I said before, I was inundated by feedback on rich kids vs poor kids. The debate in itself may not be conclusive, but one thing is for sure that this is a subject with lots of opinions and perspectives.
I still think the Yum Yum Cha patron at lunch is more driven by pretense rather than practicality. Eating a meal with a menu you cannot even pronounce, at prices which are just a notch below being preposterous and repeating the same charade at some new restaurant every other day, to me is the hollowness of a generation that needs some introspection. I have no quarrel with Uber rides or movies that cost nearly a thousand rupees on Friday evening. I equally have no quarrel with the caramel popcorn that costs the equivalent of ten idlis. If you can afford it, certainly splurge on it. It is just that if you are splurging just to show off, perhaps you need some time out to reprioritize how you live and let live.
Sandeep Goyal believes everyone has a right to have a point of view. He also does not get judgmental with how people live, work and play.