Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

ABCD: The Issue of the Transition Generation.

Posted on: May 10, 2008

ABCD – American Born Confused Desi. That’s what they’d call an individual whose parents are originally from India, but probably gave birth to, and raised a son or daughter in the American Soil. The kid probably grew up with nothing more than strong dose of american culture, idealism and the values which grow with interaction of the location population, but the skin color just gives it away. No matter how american you are on the inside, you always end up having to live up to the expectations that rise because of what is visible from the outside.

I remember some of my friends growing up in other countries, that whenever they met people who had lived their entire lives in India, they’d ask them something about the hometown of their parents and some remote village, or some news which was a headlines for a while, and they’d draw a blank. I knew that they always whispered under their breathe that this kid was pretentious, when he or she really wasnt.

That’s not where the issue ended. The issue really began there. The issue really got worse when it came to social engagements. Now Whom would an ABCD marry? An indian girl – in which case the girl would beat him with a worn out pair of slippers cause he’d be clueless about any of the local customs, or a foreigner of the land who’d possibly adjust well with him, but his parents and family would have a hard time reconciling?

This is a question that people spoke about, lived out and reconciled as the first generation of American Indians were born and raised. We have a similar issue brewing up.

I essentially believe that there are three generations of people living in India – or types if you may call it so.

The Conservative. The Emancipated Male and Female. And the Pretentious ones.

The Conservatives are the easiest ones to handle with. They wish things were as they were, and they wish things will be as they are now. Change is an enemy and most of the reasons to stop change are always dropped upon the commonly sought out excuses of culture, value, family prestige, etc etc.

The Emancipated Male and Female. This is the new generation of the youth which are coming up. These are the Indians 2.0, if you may call them so. These are the folks who have strong values, and do not compromise them for anything or anyone – even when it at times stands in the way of something else that they are equally passionate about. This is the target group that is our hope.

The Pretentious. This are the group of people who’d fling depending on which side would make the most sense and which seems to be the trend in the cool-o-meter. If going around sipping coolade was cool, they’d do that. If sipping wine and cognac was, then so it would be. If sleeping around, getting drunk, and growing hair and wearing ‘blink’ got them what they wanted, they are a content lot. The wanna-bes. There are quite a few of these around, which is the group which makes the most amount of noise despite very few productive contribution.

The Dilemma of the ABCD has found a new home in the lives of the Emancipated. The pretentious depending on when the going gets tough usually hops onto the bandwagon of the conservatives – at heart he is one anyways – and usually ends up quite happy. It’s the emancipated and enlightened souls which actually get stuck with the same questions that taunted the first generation of foreign born indians.

I am mostly talking about relationships here. I am lately talking to quite a few folks, and realizing that most of the folks in my circle of friends are folks who are quite strong headed about something, do have an absolute direction and conviction about where they want to go (Artists, Writers, Lawyers, Investment Bankers, IAS Officers, Life-changing-social-work) and all of them are… single. Most of them are also women, and the excuse one of them gave was that “The Indian male isnt truly ready to accept an emancipated woman yet”. Perhaps there is truth to that.

The previous generation before us wasnt all that picky. My dad and mom tell me tales as to how they got married, and it was as simple as their parents meeting, my parents meeting (once) and the wedding that followed. Fino. By the end of it, I am always gasping for breathe with the millions of questions that rush into my head. The expectations of the present day generation are quite high. From values, to social commitments, to goals, aims, religious beliefs, to the community we belong in and the circles that we run in seem to play a role as to whether a potential spouse will find us compatible or not. Now thats just the preliminaries. There is more to it when it comes to the actual conversations, and let alone the dance that follows that.

I have observed that there are three issues that plague and complicate these relationships. The Mental combination is the first. Most of these folks do require their personal space and their freedom to pursue their dreams. The Second requirement is that of the expectations each of them have in terms of their potential partners – all the way from the height, to things like – she should be someone who appreciates food, language and cultures of other lands, should love to travel, and perhaps be musically inclined. The third bit is the part where the family comes in, where community, values, and other issues have to be ensured to align.

Mind you though, this is not a common problem. This is a problem that that rare 1% will face. And that one percent is a million in India. And if you take the less than 50% of the population being below 25, and perhaps a much smaller percentage being in the age group of 21 to 27, you will soon realize that though small, the power house of the next indian economy is not socially adept yet.

They say that its not social policies, nor the government, but an entrepreneur who looks for social inefficiencies and brings about the needed fixes to cater to the social segment that might most benefit. For one, I refuse to believe that the 20 odd people, the most fabulous people in my life, do have to compromise on something – most of them quite personal – to even look at the possibility of a marriage. I refuse to believe that there is not a fit available out there who’d make their relationship, values, and expectations fit like a glove. Bharatmatrimony, Shaadi.com, Second Shaadi, or Idontwantdowry.com, are not going to, and arent cutting it. You tell me, how you’d fix an issue like this? I’m personally interested – on the business side.

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1 Response to "ABCD: The Issue of the Transition Generation."

Human relationships are never binary; they’ve always been multi-dimensional, a product of adjustments and compromises. The 20 odd people you cite are fabulous because they’ve compromised somewhere – in choosing not to marry is their compromise #1. Get upclose and you’ll know.

You’re right. Neither Bharat Matrimony or Shaadi.com is going to do it for you. What are they? IT solutions based on binary concepts. They can never quite `get it’ because they are inflexible, not knowing how to provide for numerous adjustments or compromises that go to build a great relationship. At that crucial moment when you meet your match, something inside will tell you “she’s the one”. Now all that you could do is pray that she says “I do” 🙂

If she says NO, you are lucky in that you are a free bird again. If she says “I do”, you’re done in. You begin to compromise right there.

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