And then I grew up. And I realized what really the youth means. It was just another bus ride that I was taking. As I stood in the midst of a variety of people and in the midst of a variety of smells, in the heat struggling to maintain balance and not fall on the weird guy who was sitting right behind me staring at me as if I was an alien, I realized something. What exactly do we mean when we say the youth? And what exactly is Young India? I mean you have the rich brats whose only obsession is getting the latest apple products and the not so rich brats who lust after them. You have your hopelessly poor youth whose daily battles for survival consume their entire life and often pressurize them to take up crime as a way of life. Or are we talking about the young people who we see washing our clothes or giving us chai at the Gallas and thellas we so love to hang out at. Or should I say that the young India is another IIT or some IT college mass produced engineer whose is looking forward to doing an MBA from abroad or IIM and go abroad or that doctor who topped PMT and is on the run to become a brilliant Doctor studying with another who got in through a hefty donation and through the ever popular NRI quota. And of course we have our roadside Romeos, the smart men who wear the latest Hindi film style clothes, ride on bikes around and believe in living life to the fullest, who painfully sigh at the tragedies that happen everyday but don’t let them interfere with ‘fun’. the metropolitan modern people with money and ambition or the small town hard working not so smart simple guy or the wannabe or the unfortunate or the irresponsible talented and it goes on and on. And then it hit me.
One thing about Indian bus drivers is their super ability to stop a vehicle as huge as a bus overcrowded way beyond the safety limit. Within seconds they can go from 60 to 0. And they get years of practice with nonchalant pedestrians who know they are immortal when they walk the roads and expect a huge bus to stop for them to cross the road instead of weight like a loser for the grand vehicle to pass. When that vehicle was stopped I did something I never thought I had it in me and I stopped myself from falling on the weird staring guy. I stood with a new found pride and smiled and then it hit me. As a youngster I didn’t know much about how life really is and how hard survival is and still India is thriving. Yes there are categories that each of us falls into and yes the Indian youth shows as much uselessness as the predecessors. But there is something different about the people today. They are growing to become fearless. And today when I think I believe that there are people who want to be free and independent. India is a country that nurtures hopes and dreams. Every man who travels in a bus hopes to drive a bike on the road one day. Every person who grew up as a chaiwalla works hard to give his children a better life. That hope to get better one day is what drives this nation. Yes there is corruption. Yes there are evils that would disgrace the devil. But there is also hope. There is a sense of getting a better life. Its more than survival. it’s the greed for a better life. And as my understanding grows with age and I see people around me I realize that everyone is fighting for something. And I realized education doest really give you the kind of encouragement that you really need to bring about a change. There are so many educated doctors and engineers I know who are a far cry from being civil or for that matter socially responsible. I still hold that dream of having an army of smart Indians but I don’t see only educated people. I see normal Indians who have not only fought and survived but have grown to get better lives.
I used to believe that the period of the revolution for independence was the best time for an Indian to be born. To live with the feeling of fighting for something you deserve- independence. To be surrounded by architects of society who believed in virtues like honestly, simplicity and peace. To live in a world where every Indian had a common enemy- a white fascist gora. And most of all to live with the feeling that you are ready to die for the land you live in always swelled me up with pride. And today I understand that apart from the hunger of freedom it was their greed to make things better that made them fight the mighty British and defeat them. I see that hunger today. And its never black or white as it used to be when I was young. Its become grey.
So smart Indians is a possibility but a possibility with very different members that I had expected to be. I mean wouldn’t you want that chaiwalla who fought strong and hard to give his son the best education and make him an engineer or the woman who refused to beg and worked as a labourer and even as a prostitute to protect her family and send her younger brother and sister off to college. Or that young engineer who worked hard in college and is working with the brightest minds abroad or that lawyer who chose to fight for the poor labourer who lost his hand in the factory or the young journalist who exposed how corruption is so rampant rather than sit on an expert panel and ‘discuss’ what should be done or wouldn’t you want the bright young man who studied hard for IAS so that he could change his village into a city. These are the people I see today as young SMART Indians. People who aren’t afraid to go out and make things better. Maybe for themselves or for someone else. You cant hold someone for wanting a better life. One day this feeling will become the public sentiment. One day we will say no to useless politicians who want to create divides in the name of regionalism, language, religion, caste. We will stabilize our self from a bad shock. Maybe get up or not fall at all when someone pulls on the break suddenly and we will smile and say “shut up! ” and take control in our own hands.