This appeared in Sunday Times today....
India’s BYTs…. Bright Young Things
While the War of the Generals rages on and the wall of BRICS reveals countless cracks, somewhere in small town India, wonderful things are happening, quietly and minus fanfare. A young engineering student from Allahabad bagged an unbelievable 1.3 crores a year job with social networking site Facebook, and the country smiled. Tanuj Nandan, in charge of placements at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, declared triumphantly, “ This is also one of the biggest job offers made to alumnus of any technical institution of the country.” The brilliant student comes from a humble family in Kanpur, and had to pass nine grueling telephonic interviews before receiving the plum offer that will change his life. Soon,the young man will pack his bags and relocate to Menlo Park, California.Yes, such a long journey!But, what a break!
In Muscat last week, I got talking to a Kashmiri salesman in a carpet shop. He’d been in Oman for over twenty years, leaving his family behind in the Valley. He was due for his bi-annual visit when I met him. We got talking and he mentioned his three daughters back home, his eyes shining with undisguised pride. “Doctors! All three girls …” We chatted about their future, marriage prospects, hopes and expectations. He was very candid and clear about their goals, and came across as an enlightened father, completely in tune with the times. Similarly, a few weeks earlier, I met the young daughter of an antique dealer from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar. She’d qualified as a computer scientist, as had her sister. Both were professors at a prestigious South Mumbai college. As for the father, he continued selling colonial furniture from a tiny shop in the crowded bazaar. And no, he didn’t want his daughters to join the trade. He had worked hard to educate the girls. And he wanted them to make their lives and careers on their own terms. The young girl looked at her father with immense gratitude and said, “I realize how tough it has been for him. I offered to set up a website to help expand his business. But he prefers to do it the old-fashioned way through word of mouth and good will.” Ditto for the carpet seller, who looked a happy man selling exquisite Persian carpets to international celebrities staying at the magnificent hotel in which his shop was located. Of course, he missed India.But this was his life, and he loved it.
Whether it’s the brilliant student from Allahabad, or the doctors from Kashmir and the computer scientists from Mumbai, there is a sense of hope and optimism for today’s ambitious generation that cannot be cynically devalued or diminished. Contrast their stories with the story of a thirty something wine maker I spoke to outside Naples last month. Here was a man born into privilege, educated at the London School of Economics, who went on to become an investment banker with one of the world’s most powerful financial firms.But, he had thrown it all up to come back to the family- owned vineyard in Italy.Why?He took his time to respond. His answer was thought provoking. “I belong to a generation that has woken up to a rather grim reality, which is the fact that our parents enjoyed a far better quality of life than I can afford or hope to match in future. This is so contrary to our history where each new generation upped the game and took it to a higher level.” He was smart enough to recognize the big change sweeping across Europe. It is the youth paying the price for an economic downturn they had nothing to do with. Does he foresee a reversal of the current phenomenon? No, he doesn’t. He knows he’ll have to work much harder, and earn less than his father or grandfather. It’s a tough call. He is married, but has postponed having kids. “We can’t afford them,” he admitted . So, what happens next? He surprised me with his response. “I’m looking at relocating to Singapore.” Why not India? He hesitated before responding, “Safety.”
The War of the Generals has announced the tattered state of India’s security to the world. Despite the dirt flying around, we still have our boy from Allahabad, and others like him, doing India proud. Let’s keep smiling!