by Anand Halve
This post first appeared on afaqs.com on October 17th, 2011.
As I write this on 15th October 2011, I recall some of the tragedies caused by the failure of the BlackBerry service last week.
Some users were heartbroken that they were unable to use the BBM. Others felt frustrated that they they were unable to check personal email. Yet others felt life had lost all meaning since they could not tweet. They all sounded as if the world had come tumbling around their ears. (There were a few of course whose work had actually suffered.)
But along with this, I was also witness to Kaun Banega Crorepati on the 12th and 13th. Let me tell you about two winners on those days. On the 12th, a lady named Sujata Wankhede was on the Hot Seat. Her husband Anil, who was also present, spoke of how they were struggling under the burden of loans. He talked of how helpless he felt when he was unable to give his young son a toy he wanted, because it was all they could do to pay the EMIs on the loans. Sujata Wankhede won Rs.50 lakhs and quit when she was unsure about the answer to the 1 crore question.
On the 13th, a gentleman named Rajendra Latne from Phaltan, Maharashtra, described the jobs he had done: delivering newspapers, working as a waiter in a beer bar at night, cleaning dishes in a restaurant, to get to this day when he had become a primary school teacher, and come to the Hot Seat. He won Rs.12.5 lakh
Later that evening, I saw a TVC for a telecom brand, in which a bunch of youngsters – none of whom look like they have ever had to earn a livelihood – drive around the city late at night, confronting the existential angst of being unable to find a place that was open. Followed by another TVC for a brand of shoes probably priced per pair at an amount approximately equal to Rajendra’s monthly salary. I recalled the casual conversation I had overheard recently in a premier management school about landing Rs.18 lakh annual salary jobs and a discussion in a 5-star hotel coffee shop among collegians about who had the Samsung Galaxy tablet and who had an iPad 2. No one in that group was tablet-less.
And I was struck by the contrast between these privileged children and Sujata and Rajendra. Not so much by the fact there are people who are well to do, and others who are not so well off. But by what drives the two groups of Indians. And what perspectives tomorrow’s Indians will carry.
The current 20-somethings are the first generation in India, who have parents with the economic surplus to indulge their desires. Who have grown up without the experience of having to work for something. Or to cry at its loss. Never having to hear the two-letter word, “No”. Always being able to get the newest model of smart phone. Or laptop. Or Nikes.
And then there is the other bunch of people who have to wait to get a simple thing like a new compass box. They have to work nights to get three full meals. They don’t get new clothes on a whim. They don’t have New Year’s Eve parties. And they look forward, at 25, to their first mobile phone. Any mobile phone.
As I think of the aspirations that drive these two groups, I am reminded of a story about a fox hunt in ye olde England. The fox has eluded the hounds over a long chase. But as the gentry pause after a hard ride, a hound and the fox speak to each other from a respectful distance. The hound wonders how the scrawny fox managed to out run the sleek, trained hounds. The fox replies, “You were running for your Masters’ pleasure; I was running for my life.”
Just as we have one group of people who aspire for the latest smartphone or SUV. And another that aspires to overcome their fate. Whose aspirations will take them further? One is running to fulfill ambitions of power and pelf. The other is running for their life.