The provocation for this blog posting is not the extravagant nouveau riche youth. But the large number of youngsters, who are torn between their life's professional ambition and a quiet societal pressure to make money.
But before we discuss this, let me just go back in time to my home state of Kerala. When I see Bangalore's milling crowds, mostly youth, looking desperately for more ways to lighten their swelling purses, I am reminded of Kerala's tryst with Dubai wealth. The sudden rush of money, in the late 1970s, in fact altered the social landscape of the state.
On one side were the laments of those who missed their flight to Dubai. On the other side were families who were catapulted into a surreal world of riches from their daily grind of making both ends meet. The intelligent few invested the new-found wealth in pursuit of long-lasting, worthwhile assets like education, nutrition; and spent the rest in making their lives more comfortable.
Many people, who couldn't make sense of what it means to have more expendable income, went into an uncontrolled, indiscriminate spending spree, fully blind to the needs of their children's education, and other essential comforts at home. Needless to say, bars and gambling dens thrived.
This is one aspect. The other, perhaps more important, was the psychological one. When "a Dubai" (a person working in the Gulf) returned to Kerala on holiday, no one asked him what he did there to earn a living. The lure of the lucre was such, that many well-qualified people did menial and unskilled jobs in harsh conditions. Many of them, if asked, would avoid a direct reply. "Don't I look like a man of class, then why do you want to know what I do there," was the unstated answer.
There were many uncharitable jokes doing the rounds then. Behind the Gulf employees' backs, others muttered: "O, he must be washing cars or vessels or must be a labourer in some construction site.." For whatever reason, labour had no dignity, only money. At least it was made to appear that way.
The palatial facade of, for example, a plumber's house that overflowed with Japanese electronic gadgets, did quite a bit to stoke the angst of, say, a principal who stayed nearby in a modest house, the intellect for whom riches meant something different. Today, not much has changed, but the shock element has disappeared.
Bangalore today may not be an exact parallel. But there is an unmistakable similitude. The social transformation of the city from a laid-back Pensioners' Paradise to a 24/7 vibrant Knowledge Hub has been much written about. The IT boom has, no doubt, done the city a world of good. Businesses in everything from catering and construction to tourism and technology are booming. Lakhs are getting employed. So much is the job opportunity, I am told, every sector faces a shortage of competent manpower.
While the living standard of people has improved, the flipside of the boom is real. One aspect is the inferiority-superiority complex this has given rise to among the youth. Many feel that one has "reached" some place in life only if there is enough wealth to talk about and flaunt around. Let it be clear that "acquiring wealth" per se is not the issue here; the priority and importance one attaches to it, is.
Secondly, I have been seeing many youngsters -- all talented in their chosen professions like engineering, medicine, copy writing, journalism, accountancy etc -- floundering in a whirlpool of job offers from foreign IT companies.
"I don't know what to do," cried Amrit, who till the other day was so happy with his dream job being an ad copywriter, and was aiming to strike big in the world of advertising. It all changed after vague, unheard of portals began offering him loads of cash to stare into computer screens and write a few lines of captions for photos or catchy blurbs for articles or write 200 words on a tourist spot which he hadn't visited!
"When I checked the job profile, I knew that it was not at all the sort of work that would give me a kick. For that extra cash, should I sacrifice the love of my job?"
Lakshmi is a nurse. She loves being in the hospital and helping out patients. But "the sort of money" her batchmates have been making, has slowly begun to affect her. "After my friends forced me, I sent my resume to some companies related to health and bioinformatics. And, now they have been contacting me. Money is the big attraction, double to triple of what I am getting now. But when I ask those guys, what I have to do, it is so disappointing. It’s not the hospital and patients… Friends say money matters. I don't know, what to do ..."
Amrit and Lakshmi are just two from a large number of youngsters who have a real problem on hand. They are totally confused.
Should they stick on to, and grow in their favourite profession, which gives them immense job satisfaction or, should they quit to join BPO firms just for a fat pay packet? How do they decide?
Part two of this article