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Happy? Or Indifferent?

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IndifferenceOne more survey has hit the headlines on TV. This time it concerns close to five and a half thousand young adults in several countries around the world. Conducted by MTV, the survey rated young Indians the happiest, with 60% professing they were ‘happy’ with the way their life is shaping, and 93% of them enjoying the support of parents. In contrast, only 8% of young people in Japan had a similarly happy outlook.

This should really be a reason for us to rejoice once more. However, unlike the other survey from Men’s Health magazine I wrote about recently rating Indians as lovers, this one did not really warm the cockles of my heart. Why? Didn’t I believe in the ‘happiness’ of the young people who were tested in this survey?

Not at all. I am sure all the people who answered MTV’s questions did so with absolute truth. Young people in Indian cities do enjoy great good fortune. They have loving friends - just observe the millions of SMSs that keep scrolling on the screens of music channels. They have strongly supportive parents ready to finance and enable their dreams. They have plenty of job opportunities in this globalized and competitive India. In fact, their lifestyles can compare with the youth in any developed nation, and appear to great advantage.

What makes me droop with inner disappointment is that this ‘happiness’ is also based on the absolute indifference of the Indian middle class to their less fortunate countrymen and women. Suicides by farmers may have crossed the 1000 mark recently, but the smsing youth going to the multiplex for his trice-weekly fix of movies will not even know of this fact, much less be bothered by it. Weekends in Mumbai may have become occasions for regular bloodbaths of pavement dwellers by young drunk drivers. But the pub or lounge bar is not becoming a less attractive haunt for young people, at least by the look of it.

In this supreme indifference, I hardly blame the young. It is their loving parents from my own generation, who have so carefully brought up their children to hold balloons and ice-creams as they serenely walk past the slums and shanties of their city. Nowhere in the world is poverty so taken for granted as in India. Attribute it to bad karma, or rotten politicians or whatever. No middle class person face to face with a poor person actually ever feels that he or she could also be responsible, or at least could do something to help matters. This indifference, a kind of survival quality, helps Indians abroad. Arriving as immigrants in the US or elsewhere, they have a high tolerance of squalor and suffering. They can get past this and build more prosperous futures. However, at home this translates into the middle class being able to be absolutely unperturbed by the plight of the poor.

When we urge the young to pursue their dreams and go after whatever they wish, why don’t we also tell them to have a heart for others less fortunate? If there is one thing that Indian youth need to make them near perfect citizens and human beings, it is a social conscience. Then the prospect of being ‘happy’ may even include sharing time, space and possessions with a less privileged young person.

Otherwise, just think, what is the relevance of the ‘happy’ survey to rural youth left grieving for parents sent to their graves by debt? Or to those separated from prospects of development by a crippling ignorance of English?

Let’s be a little less indifferent and a lot more sensitive. Disagreements welcome!

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Responses to Happy? Or Indifferent?

  1. 1 MA

    The survey results are only applicable to the sample….the previleged youngsters in urban India. It is sad that we have come to a point in civilization where happiness is measured in hours spent doing what you want to do; success is measured in how much money you can spend to get that happiness. Leave alone sharing time/space with a not-so-fortunate; Gen-X crowd are re-defining the caste/class system. Then it was a person’s occupation that put him/her into a caste; now it is what you wear, how you accessorize and how much you can spend for parties.
    Does anyone value simple things in life anymore?

  2. 2 scharada bail

    Thanks for your comment. Actually, every crack in the armour of middle class indifference is to be welcomed! Your sensitivity points to other people like you who enjoy the simple things in life, and give a thought to their fellow citizens. Lets find ways to express this around us.

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