When we were young, our elders used to tell us off for being the rebellious, radical and carefree Gen X. “We were brought up in a disciplined manner; we would never argue openly with our elders; we would always listen to our parents; we would never dream of defying the societal norms…” were some of the regular tirades aimed at us.
Nowadays, whenever I interact with today’s young kids, I am always left wondering as to how they are so different from us! It is strange how a mere gap of 10 years seem like a huge generation gap to me.
Whether due to more disposable income at the hands of the parents or the lack of time they have for their kids, Generation Y are brought up in a manner completely different from us. These days, I am amazed to see every teenager and sometimes kids younger than them flaunting the latest mobile phones and tablets. They party every Friday at nightclubs, make friends with strangers on Facebook, spends thousands of money at a spa, do not think twice before getting a tattoo, consider having a boyfriend or a girlfriend cool and making out in the backseat of the car as the most normal thing to do at their age. Their pocket money begin with a minimum amount of a thousand bucks and some of them even have credit cards with unlimited credit limit. Treating friends on birthday means throwing a whole-night bash or taking them to the 5-star buffet lunch. It does not matter if you are middle-class – today’s middle class drives i20, stays at a high-rise apartment complex, spends 2.5 k for weekend movie and dinner and preaches to their children “money can buy everything”.
When I went to school, none of my classmates except one or two, had mobile phones, but they never carried them to school since such gadgets were strictly prohibited inside the school premises. Internet connection on home computers were strictly monitored and we had very little access to chat rooms etc. Social networking sites were unheard of and the only friends we had were the ones we met on a regular basis.
We read more comics and watched cartoons like Duck Tales and Disney Hour. We borrowed Noddy and Enid Blyton from school library and Shibram Chakraborty from friends. Parties with friends meant only birthday parties at their places where parents would drop us in the morning and again pick us in the evening. The most risqué stuff that we used to do along with friends were making crank calls from landline phones, writing fan letter to Ajay Jadeja and secretly reading “Teens Today”. If we wanted to have bhelpuri/phuchka/churan after school, we had to save our pocket money. If we wanted to buy a gift and card for friends, we would visit Archies Gallery or Hallmark where nice cards for as little as 12/- or 15/- could be bought.
Our pocket money used to be peanuts compared to what children get today – only the bus/auto fare to and fro tuition classes. Eating outside was strictly prohibited but whenever I could not resist the egg roll or fish fry, I would save the auto fare (by taking the bus instead) for a week. Wasting money on frivolities like hair spa and manicure was absolutely unheard of even in high school. Watching Big Boss/English movies with kissing scenes along with parents was uncomfortable and best avoided.
We had to work hard to achieve even the smallest victories. When we were small, only a handful brilliant students became engineer/doctor… parents used to distribute sweets near and far if their son/daughter cleared the JEE or gained admission in any good college. Now, everybody studies in a ‘premier institution’ and works in a ‘MNC’!
I may sound old-fashioned; may be Gen Y is not to be entirely blamed; may be the only reason here is the rapidly changing times but the children are losing their innocence fast. They no longer marvel at fairy tales, play hide-and-seek with mohalla friends, know the excitement of buying a gift with saved pocket-money, experience the follies of adolescence or understand the value of money and what it can and cannot buy.
This post was triggered by my conversation with a young girl of 14 years where we debated about our respective times. Our debate remained unresolved but at the end, I knew she was more shocked at my stories than I was at hers.
P.S. Before you jump at the conclusion that I must be some old hag of 40 years to have written such a post, let me assure you, I am still in my twenties . So the era I mentioned is the glorious 90s.