Sunday, May 18, 2014

Interview - A Perspective On How The Youth See Things

While at Bangalore last month I spotted Shikha and her friends talking earnestly to one another and realised that here was an opportunity I was looking for. For a long time I have been wanting to peek into the minds of the youth and try to understand their hopes and aspirations, fears and burdens. I knew that like most youngsters their age Shikha and her friends were at the crossroads too, having to decide, having to grow up and carry as most do, unrealistic expectations society and parents have from the young these days. There is pressure no doubt, but there is also the prospect of delicious change, freedom. Much has changed from twenty years ago.
Yours truly with the young ladies - Pragya, Meher and Shikha (and Anjali who joined us)
I wanted to see what they made out of the whole situation and asked Shikha if she would consent for an interview. She did better. She invited two of her friends, Meher Kaliyadan and Pragya Sahni to join the discussion. Pragya was delayed so we started without her.

Shikha is studying in her 12th and is sure she wants to pursue humanities, teach perhaps. Meher is preparing for CLAT, her law entrance, having completed her 12th. Pragya is preparing for her medical entrance.

1) In a world that is increasingly materialistic and spoilt for choice how does one cope?
A) Meher said that she thought it was all transient in a way. She tends to look less materially at things as of now and considers herself more of an ascetic. Not that she is averse to luxury. But luxury by itself is no motivation for her she said.

Shikha was of the opinion that chasing material things as a goal appears pointless. She'd rather do things and experience them rather than do things to gain material comforts.

2) What does success mean?

Meher said it was more about how society looked at her as a person than about her earnings etc. The respect she earned from society would be a good indicator she said. It would be more about how much she could help people and do something to contribute to change.

Her image of success was of being in a place where she could help the ones who really needed help. As deep down as child trafficking, prostitution etc.

Shikha said that to her success was about being happy. About being in the moment. About enjoying what she is doing. She doesn't think money is everything as some may define success as. She is not being unrealistically idealistic she says and wants to be ideally at a stage where she can support herself and be independent. Success is equal to happiness. Is about doing what she wanted to do.

Her visual of success was of being in a people-related area. Being with and helping people.

3) Is being financially independent important?
Meher said it would be important to secure herself financially. More as a state of mind, where she would be emotionally secure. Where her financial independence gives her the freedom to earn her own self-respect and not be relegated to being a hypocrite. But being financially independent would still make her a person who is open to suggestions, be someone who is not judging

Shikha sees herself as financially independent. No two ways about that.

4) Do you feel a pressure, subtle or otherwise, of choices, of growing up? How do they view society, the country?

Meher said she thought the pressure was imposed on them by society. But then she says it could well be a figment of imagination. But she does feel pressure subtly, not directly perhaps. Finds it disturbing. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of amenities, filth. She feels that the government is non-existent.

I asked if she could find a way to change it, what would she do.
She said she could be kind to others. Kindness breeds kindness. Cannot agree with her more.

Shikha was bothered by the images of poverty, illiteracy, unhappiness, She sees money being involved everywhere, greed, chronic dissatisfaction in society.

Finds the system corrupt. Overall finds the situation rather hopeless.

At her individual level she feels that she can change things by avoiding participating in corruption, By standing up.

5) Did you experience corruption?

Meher talked about how she was to join a reputed Law institute in Pune and could not because there was a large donation involved. In cash of course. What is it if that is not a bribe she asks. She gets upset when autowallahs overcharge, when grocers give chocolates instead of change.

Shikha experienced the same. She added traffic cops to the list too.

6) How do you view the youth? The pluses and minuses.

Meher found youth to be exuberant, energetic, wanting to do things, achieve, outshine, go beyond societal boundaries. On the other hand, on negatives, she finds them too shallow, indifferent, materialistic, egoistic, arrogant, stuck in the rat race.

Shikha felt that the youth wants to achieve, has great ideas and opinions, has energy. On the negatives she finds too many stereotypes, easily judgmental, competition and exam related in academics with little understanding of the subject. She feels they are too closed minded.

7) Is there a burden to prove yourself?
Meher said there was. CLAT would be a test. But on the other hand it is more about myself too. My own self respect, my independence. I do it for myself.

Do you feel like you have the freedom to choose or that you have to appease and gain approval I asked.
Meher:  Do I feel completely myself. No, I feel like I am being 70% someone else.

Shikha found the burden too. Don't want to do things everyone wants to do.

Do I feel completely myself? Not really. Approval is important to me I realise. I need to listen more.

Pragya who was studying for her medical entrance joined us then. She wants to crack the  entrance. She is certain she does not want to do engineering. I feel guilty I am not putting in enough effort sometimes she says.

8) Your role models in society, at home?
Meher said her grandfather was a huge role model for her. Not so much about what he acquired in his life but about his approach to life and commitment to work and people. She does not believe in finding role models outside her life and wants to be her own role model. She says she can find inspiration in any living thing that can commit an act of excellence or beauty. Sweepers, cats, dogs.

Shikha finds a great role model in her cousin Hari who exudes a sense of calm within, her father Rajesh because he is so positive and so simple and so focused and hardworking. She finds Mary Kom and Malala great role models from world figures

Pragya picked her Dad as her role model as he is principled, thoughtful and wants to be like him

9) What are your favorite top 3 movies?
Meher liked Pride and Prejudice, Silver Linings Playbook, Benjamin Button
Shikha picked 3 Idiots, Highway, Queen and all movies on Romedy Now
Pragya picked PS I love you, A Walk to Remember and Faltu

10) What are your favorite books / authors?
Meher picked Jane Austen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Divakurani Banerjee, LM Montgomery (Pride and Prejudice, In the woods, in her books)
Shikha picked the famous Indian writer Harimohan Paruvu, an eminently good choice I must add. She said she liked reading autobiographies more than fiction.
Pragya liked the Twilight series, the Chicken soup series and Physics

11) Do you see hope that you will achieve what you dream of today?
Meher said she believes she will bloom any which way, if she can bloom in adversity. Yes she says. She is certain.
Shikha was optimistic that her future will be whats she wants it to be, rosy. Yes again.
Pragya said that she was 100% sure it will happen. A resounding Yes.

Lovely. So our short interview ended on a nice, high and positive note. It felt like we discussed far more than I captured here because there was much discussion going on. Good energy, good insights, good clear heads. A sense of idealism which is what makes the youth so full of hope, of dreams of changing the world. It is this spark that needs to be kept alive and grown so their dreams come true, so they see a society they wish to live in and not merely buy our leftover dreams of a society that might not be the ideal one for them. The world has changed so much, is changing as we speak, and they have ridden the wave almost as it came in. Our fears need not restrain them, our experiences need not guide them. They must be able to choose fearlessly, clearly and find the support  to change the world from within the classroom, the courtroom, the hospital. I was pretty impressed by the quality of thought and replies and would have loved to continue for longer. There is a good balance between technology and tradition, old and new, optimism and cynicism, with the balance being in favour of the positive.

There is so much more I wanted to talk to them about. Some other time perhaps. But for now, it certainly looks like the future is on good hands. Thanks Shikha, Meher and Pragya for your time and for sharing your thoughts so honestly and earnestly with me.

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