Thursday, January 17, 2013


Some of my recent reading (and listening) has made me think about "my generation". Although this may come off as a gross generalization, I have observed in me and around me that we are all overwhelmed. I know that I might be getting an eye roll for using 'overwhelmed' instead of 'lost', but I really do think that we are not as lost as we may appear to be. We are just overwhelmed. In our defense (God! this sounds like the opening of a debate) we all just have too much thrown into our faces. First of all, we were brought up to believe that we could achieve anything we wanted to achieve (that's probably because our parents met each other in the 70s). As feminist Courtney Martin puts it, we were raised as precious little snow flakes. We all inherited, to a certain extent the uber-progressive-liberal ideologies of our parents. I still remember how blissfully  unaware  I was of the caste system in India, until I changed schools and was confronted, by the group of popular girls in my class who asked me about my caste. I came home and asked baba what caste we belong to and he told me to go back and reply, "I am a human being and that is enough". I was innocent enough to do it. I spent two lonely years before I was finally accepted as one of the popular girls in my class. :D

In my travels abroad, I met many men and women with a similar (or even a more left leaning)upbringing. People who grew up in communes, who lived in communes themselves, people who knew more about Yoga than I did (You don't really have to think liberal to be liberal. All you need is a headband with a peace sign on it, a $100 Yoga mat slung across your shoulders and a bicycle), people who could trace their ancestry back to about seven different countries and people who did not really care about social structure.

Of all of these, I have always found it very difficult to agree with the last kind. Some of my friends have blamed it on my Indian upbringing (which also came from the stereotypes for India they grew up with) or my personality (I come out as a strongly judgemental type on the Myers Briggs test). Being Indian and preferring order over chaos, were apparently my 'undesirable' traits when I was in the company of  liberals. But when I traveled to America, I realized that there were many twenty five something people around me who actually preferred a clear social structure, had faith in the institution of marriage and family and were also very progressive on issues such as women's health, education and immigration. It really messed with the black and white parts of my head. Jonathan Haidt explains it better than I can.

Some of us in our zeal to change the world, forget what we really owe to all the religions. It is true that we have grown up in a world which has a potential to induce a severe identity crisis in us, depending on how far we let our guards down. We have perhaps witnessed the fanatic and divisive side of religion to a greater extent than our parents. But by not opening up to religion, we also deviate from the basic quality of being liberal -- being open minded.

Another common practice of my generation is to associate freedom with actions. Maybe we have inherited this from the previous generation. From people like Kerouac. We think that traveling will set us free. We think that preserving the habits of our youth, all life long, would keep us young and set us free. I was fascinated with On the Road, by the sheer span and the events of the book. But I was also filled with resentment for the life that Sal Paradise lives. Particularly to the slightly begrudging allusion to the women in the story line. Somehow, women seem like an obstacle in men's way to freedom. The road is more enticing than setting up a home, a resting place on your way. Perhaps that is why my generation has also witnessed an age of long lasting female friendships. Maybe someone could come up with a feminist version of On the Road!

Whatever we "do" to become free ties us down in some way or the other, maybe as emptiness, loneliness and insecurity. Too much choice has the potential to at best slow us down, or at worst, lead us astray. And an overarching structure if not social, emotional, would perhaps put our lives into perspective. So it is not surprising that I have always met people who think like I do, in Yoga or Meditation sessions. Why do we need it so early? Why do so many of us seek peace of mind at such an early age? Is it because there is pressure to constantly display the best of us? Is it because our existence is so virtual that we never log off to face the seemingly ordinary yet essential activities of everyday life (watering the solitary plant in your room every day, at the same time?).

Maybe we seem overwhelmed now. But at this pace, I think we would end up either as perfectly balanced fifty year olds orstubborn lunatics. :)


1 comment:

Chaitra said...

I just turned 30... I relate to most of what you say and attribute it to 20s' angst... I only have to say that with time, choices happen, we are more at peace with ourselves, we have the option to become more open-minded(if we so choose) and growing older is not one bit bad...