Society cannot point a finger at them, without taking some of the blame

TWO OF the articles that appeared in the Open Page section on March 26 were concerned with today's youth. One (Mr. Dinesh Kumar) accused this generation of being evasive, irresponsible and irreparably obsessed with money. The other (Vidya Venkat) pleaded for the generation's inability, trapped as it is within today's society. I think the reality is somewhere between the two.To Mr. Kumar, I would like to say: Sir, not all the members of my generation are money seeking hedonists. A friend of mine is currently touring remote villages in Maharashtra, working on health care projects. Another dissolved a consultancy he had set up with six years of hard work and effort, because he did not want to work for MNCs. I know a person who after completing an architecture degree, forwent an opportunity to work on Gurgaon's shining malls, and chose to join the Institute of Rural Management. Another is in Sri Lanka - working in rehabilitation - under threat to her own life. For every batch of IIM that passes out, (some of them on salaries more than 1 lakh a month), there is a batch of social workers from TISS and IRMA (some of whom start their career on 1 lakh a year). And I could go on and on. I concede that a majority of the youth today are extremely self-centred and detached from politics and society. But who is responsible for them? Can society wash its hands of its youth? All the young people mentioned in the earlier paragraph are engaged in socially relevant work, against all odds from society, and mostly against their parents' wishes. The key concern of Indian parents is that their children should `settle down' - which means getting a secure, well-paid job, or sometimes for girls, a rich husband. Parents coerce their kids to take up lucrative professions; I know quite a few who have refused to finance their children's education for anything other than stipulated courses.

Pat answers

Moving on from parents to recruiters, I do believe that interviewers are looking for pat answers; they are not looking for convictions, but conformity. If there exists a thriving business in coaching classes for interviews for everything from IIM or IAS entrances to lucrative jobs, the classes must be doing something right - they must be preparing the candidates for pat answers that the interviewers foolishly (or intelligently) lap up. Convictions do not land upon one; they are the result of a lot of soul-searching and experience, for which society provides the youth with neither the space nor the time. The youth are but a part of society, and they are but a symptom of what ails society.But if I believe that society cannot point a finger at its youth, without taking some of the blame, I also believe that the youth cannot blame everything on their parents, society, and the world at large. Vidya, all the youth I know who are working to make a difference in society are doing it on their own initiative, with little support from elsewhere. Social pressures are as old as society itself. The youth of every generation have been subjected to social pressure. Some more than others. But they refused to buckle under it, and followed their convictions, and so must the youth of today. The road less travelled has never been easy, and will never be. We cannot absolve ourselves, and expect the underprivileged to raise their voices by themselves; they are no less or no more bound by society than the youth are. If social change has to take place, everyone must stop pointing fingers at others, and do their little bit, and so must the youth. Having spent a year at an international university, I sincerely believe that the Indian students are more intelligent, more socially aware, and importantly, more idealistic than many others. Callous, money-minded many of the youth of today might be and yet it is to this generation that India must look to for its future leaders.