Sunday, September 09, 2007

It is Mum ..... Ah Ha Mumbai !

Its been said - 'The observation of a phenomenon ....... changes it!" ....... well its certainly true of Mumbai! I had been here only 8 months ago ...... and in 8 months, this place has changed face again..... May be I wasn't as observant the first time around ..... or may be its the rains that highlighted the changes in the city, but I could noticeably make out the difference.

How do I best describe Mumbai! the mumbai of today, the place I am returning from ....... (this blog is written in transit ....... well to kill time and finish up on some long due assignments) ...... the Mumbai of today is about generation next...... specifically males and females in the age group of 23 - 33 i.e. todays youth ......... its the most visible, influential and defining demographic of the city.

The city's youth wants .... wants and wants........ and they are prepared to slog real slave hard for it. And many if not most are getting it ...... not all of it ..... not exactly the way they want it..... but they are moving forward anyways..... what impressed me most this time around is the omnipresent motivating AMBITION of this demographic..... you pick any individual in this group and ask him/her what is it that they want, what are they working for and I assure you - that you will get a very specific answer.... they are not idealistic or philanthropic ambitions, most of them are materialistic, but they are ambitions none the less.

Some 10 years back, this wasn't the case. Students who did well in their high school got into prestigious colleges and got themselves engineering/ medical degrees and then became successful citizens, the ones who didn't sulked, cursed the system and whiled their time away.
The IT revolution and the emerging BPO changed all that. Suddenly it became possible for these people (and they were many I tell you) to earn good money, and money plays the most important role in this city....... no - these are not gold hungry satyrs ..... money is important and very very essential to the youth..... and for good reason. Let me take a diversion and explain how the young mind works ...... the logic behind the ever increasing need for money... Having experienced the first world for quite some time now, I was able to objectively note the intricate workings of this vicious need circle....

The hallmark of a country's progress is the ratio of resources to demands of its people. It is this ratio that directly projects the standard of living at any place..... In India this ratio is still ..... unfortunately staggeringly short ...... be it any resource, the number of ideal trains ..... as compared to the number of people using it, the number of effective, wide and efficient roads, trafic signals, as compared to the number of vehicles on the street, the square feet of land per person ... which essentially determines individual space, the number of oxygen molecules in the air as compared to the number of nostrils that want to breathe ..... any resource .... its short.... and by a long margin, the likes of which an average first world citizen can never imagine in his existence.

Since the youth cannot fix the resource problem overnight, they try to mitigate its effects .... to whichever extent they can. Train problem can be fixed (partially) if you buy a first class ticket, traffic problem can be made livable .... if you have an air conditioned small car, land problem can be cured if you look for a living place on the outskirts but for all of these solutions to work, you need money! And so the youth is obsessed 24x7 to find new ways of making more money. Why? So they can afford more things, buy better clothes, look sexier, eat better, in general ..... live better...

The resource problem that I mentioned before, is very subtle .... and unconscious .... many people donot realize the reasoning behind their crazy spinning - work your ass off - lives - I am pretty sure, if I had stayed back in Mumbai and joined the working IT class, I would have been in the same boat. Besides, just what is the first world! what should the ratio of resources:people look like ....... you don't get that idea by watching Hollywood movies and Friends ........ you got to taste that luxury first hand to know what you have been missing all this long..... I did, so I noticed....

And so people complete their education and get into working hard .... the harder you work the better results you get, which means ......... yup you guessed it right ..... more MONEY. But I talked to several of my friends ..... married and single ....... and asked them ...... about their reason behind ...... late nights, break neck pace, the malignant work environment ....... and many if not most ...... were without an answer.... I am working, I am earning ......... for what? Am I able to achieve that purpose? Especially with couples, I noticed the amount of quality time they are left with ..... with each other ...... was meager at most..... and most people seemed helpless about improving that ..... the reason ???

I may be wrong, for this is purely my hunch but I think people here are so obsessed and occupied with getting basic necessities of life fulfilled that they lose touch with enjoying life and reasoning about each action they take, why are they doing what they are doing? And is that purpose achieved? If not why not? What can I do to change that? I believe very few people ask themselves this. After a crushing train journey when the 26 yr old female gets down at Thane station, shes greeted with construction sites and mud ponds, with a huge line for an auto, so she stands despite paining legs and gets in ..... when her turn comes (lets not describe the bus journey) ..... gets home where she still has to cook for the day....... tend to her husband ....... same goes for a modern day man who wants to help his wife with everything ..... GOD knows when and how they have sex!

And now please allow me to turn my attention the nursing hatred you have in your mind towards me ...... for bringing out the grey black areas so bluntly. Yup! you are absolutely right, I am criminally apathetic ... and I completely accept your grudge .... of all people who say ...... "You have no right to say a word, when you know the problem, you chose to quit and run to America when you should have stayed and fixed it!" ....... any person saying this is absolutely right.

I came to America to pursue Artificial Intelligence research ..... which frankly, is still an impossible career option in India. I can not live with the thought of not trying to help my own country. The recent Times of India articles for Lead India burnt my heart with the acid of my own guilt. For the moment, I am financially tied to this place.... A day might come when those ties don't exist any more and I would truly face the choice of staying and commenting ..... or returning and helping ....... but till the day - I make that choice ...... all readers are permitted to call me the names, I am sure they have been calling.

My motive behind this article, is to awaken the youth, to the WHY? in their lives. I admire their ambition, I absolutely adore their spirit, but I question how informed they are about the motivations behind their day to day actions.... None the less, Suketu Mehta was right when he desribed Mumbai as the MAXIMUM CITY. ....... .. it truly is!!!


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