Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Indian Dream

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 3; the third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
I am sure there are several images that cross our mind in a flash when we sit and think about ‘The Indian Dream’. And one question: What is the Indian Dream? And another question: Who decides it?
Is what defines the Indian Dream directly linked to what defines the expectations of the Indian Marriage Market? If Indian Dream can be defined as the general aspirations of youngsters in India, how else would you explain the ever-changing imageries that are associated with it? I ask this question thinking about a time when Software Engineering was the best thing that could happen to an Indian Youngster and everyone The Marriage Marketwas hopping into the ‘Coding Bandwagon’ And then all of a sudden we have an Economic Meltdown to deal with and the first reaction was the screenshot of a popular matrimonial site doing rounds. It was the image of an advertisement seeking ‘matrimonial alliance’ for a 24 year old female. It read: ‘software engineers please excuse!’ May be, one stray incident is not enough proof that Indian Marriage Market decides the Indian Dream! We will come back to that in a while.



I would like to take you back to an author I had already discussed on pagedIN. In fact, he was the first author I discussed on pagedIN, in my first and largely unnoticed post. [Not that my posts are greatly noticed now!!] Three books and one author. Yes, I am talking about Chetan Bhagat and his three books. I would like to show you, though you must have already guessed it, how these three books have artfully caught the ever-changing popular notions of an Indian Dream.
Five Point Someone, Chetan’s first book,  was not just about how not to do things in IIT. It was not just about three guys messing up life in the Mechanical Engineering Department of IIT Delhi. It was also about how an old generation that could not become what they wanted to be forced its dreams on its children. That is, to a great extend, the Indian Dream even today! As Thomas L Friedman, the author of ‘The World is Flat’, wrote in New York Times [Something which you have probably read while hunting for what is there around on Indian Dream, with Google] in 2004: “One such asset was Indian culture's strong emphasis on education and the widely held belief here that the greatest thing any son or daughter could do was to become a doctor or an engineer….”
But that dream was soon replaced, by the time we reached “One Night @ the Call Centre”, by something we blindly thought phenomenal, though it never lasted – the big time money that flowed from Offshored, Outsourced Indian Initiatives. It was like the Californian Gold Rush of 1840s and 50s. I know people who took leave from Government Service to join the Call Centre Gold Mine. I know kids who left their higher studies half way through and rushed to Bangalore. Hundreds of Call Centres operated like sweatshops, beckoning the new India. Many thought this is going to last a life time. But it never lasted, as dreams never do.
Then came ‘The Three Mistakes of my Life” along. Three Mistakes explored the new Indian Dream: make it big in cricket; if not, in politics; if not, in business. In short, make it big in ‘show business’. All the three meant big money. However, I think there is more in it than the money. There is a notable transition from the main character of Five Point Someone to the main character of Three Mistakes, and I would like to call your attention to that before you take a look at the money. Hari and his friends in Five Point Someone are people who ran their lives the way their parents wanted them to run it, though they hated doing it that way. Govind, of Three Mistakes, on the other hand, runs his life the way he thinks fit. So do his friends. So does Vidhya, Govind’s ‘Girlfriend’. Govind’s mother wants him to become an Engineer. He decides to become a businessman instead.
That I think is the new Indian Dream – to run our lives the way we see fit. On the other hand, let us come back to the Marriage Market that decides the Indian Dream for us. I remember my father telling me how, when he was young, people wanted to get a ‘government job’ because that meant a better ‘matrimonial alliance’ and a ‘handsome dowry.’ I remember the time, very recent time, when all that a youngster wanted was to do Engineering, MBBS or Nursing and go abroad because that again meant the same thing. Once Manmohan Singh opened the Indian Market to MNCs, very few wanted to go abroad.  People wanted to do Software Engineering, stay back in India [at the maximum, go USA] and get married to beautiful Doctors, be it allopathic, ayurvedic, dentistry or homeopathy. So where does both these worlds stand?
A dream is a dream and I think the 20-somethings of our country dream of running their life they way they think right. Not the way the marriage market thinks of suitable boys and suitable girls. Not in any way the parents want them to run it. I think they dream of defining their life in their own terms. The Marriage Market still has some say about what an average Indian dreams only because we are to a great extend confused between the Old Indian Dream and the New Indian Dream.

I bought a used-copy of APJ Abdul Kalam's and Y S Rajan’s ‘India 2020’ from the flea market in Mangalore last month and I am reading it right now. The book is basically about what, in detail, we need to focus on if we want to see India as a developed nation by 2020. What made APJ think of writing the book is as interesting as the book itself and it is mentioned in the first page of the book:
After one of his talks delivered by Dr Kalam, a ten year old  girl came up to him for his autograph. ‘What is your ambition?’ He asked her. ‘I want to live in a developed India,’ she replied without hesitation.

To me, that girl meant to say, she wants to live in an India where she could live based on what she decided is good for her. Her own terms. Her own aspirations. Her own dreams. And I am sure this will make people responsible about what they do. I am sure this will in turn contribute to national growth. And I am happy to see India and its young generation is moving towards achieving this Great Indian Dream.
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