Am still to enter proper Middle Age and my daughter is only about 7 years old now. But one is always interested to hear about the parental blues faced by ones colleagues and friends, and learn from their experience. ‘Angst ridden youth’ is an age-old stereotype but it resonates today like never before.
And apparently there is a twist to it as many in today’s generation seem to feel that they have a ‘right to happiness’ and carry on with a chip on the shoulder whenever they face a setback in their professional or personal lives.
My friend is in his early 50s and is a jovial Punjabi who has spent over three decades in managing frontline sales. He is an expert in assessing his young executive’s personalities and tweaks his approach to them to optimize their performance. He feels confident in his approach in handling a team having dozens of youngsters but he finds it awkward to manage the issues he sees in the lives of his kids who are just out of college and struggling to establish themselves in professional and personal domains.
By nature, I am far too cautious to wish to make sweeping value judgements, but his recurrent themes do seem to have some root in reality. He wishes that his kids should show some more spirit and spine to make a fight for what they desire. He is puzzled by their approach of wanting to wallow in self-pity and avoid the pain and commitment required to make things work. He prophetically quotes, ‘Faced with the option of fight or flight, the kids nowadays just take to flight. And then they offer some amazing self-rationalization about their choices’.
Since I continued to sound sceptical he pointed the following trends to me that do support his thesis –
- Just look at the popular movie songs. You will find that the sorrowful numbers are the chartbusters today – be it ‘Sunn Raha Hai Na Tu, Ro Raha Hoon Main…’,’Zindagi ne zindagi bhar gham diye, jitne mausam diye sab nam diye…’, Kaisi teri khudgarzi,Na dhoop chune na chhanv …’ or ‘Main Tannu Samjhava Ki …’
- Personal relationships are always, ‘it is complicated’. It is de rigueur to have had a breakup and relationships easily move into the physical zone. Marriage is the last priority for the youngsters till they explore themselves. A zany concept called the ‘Bucket List’ is their choice instead.
- There is an outpouring of emotions like never before – nothing is discreet or personal. Instead every emotion pops up in your social media – the number of likes and comments it generates is a key measure of being in touch with your feelings.
- Acceptance of pain and rejection has been elevated to an art-form – instead of fighting back for anything, the youngsters chalk down every failure or disappointment as a milestone towards becoming a functional adult
I tried to soften the blow a bit by saying,’While I can understand the anxiety it causes every parent, surely things would not have been much different in earlier times as well. The generation gap is a reality for sure. Am sure we gave our parents much cause for grief with our own wild ways and did not kowtow to their wishes … ‘.
He was not humored by my pitch – he gave a wan smile to acknowledge a fundamental difference. Our generation handled their parents far differently than the current lot – many were reverential but even otherwise the most rebellious ones too were not disrespectful. But the current lot are with such a sense of ‘self-entitlement’ that they don’t even rebel against authority. They march to their own music.
He had tried to explain to his children the traditional rules of courtship, wherein the men took the lead to propose and the women accepted the most suitable proposal. That very much explains the conundrum described by Marjorie Rawlings when she said, ‘A woman never forgets the men she could have had; a man, the women he couldn’t.’ Guess that is perfect recipe for a memories of a lifetime. The children just laughed at his perspective and said that this was typically old-fashioned. What irritated him further is that they had no alternate perspective to offer – everything in life is a bit fuzzy for the youngsters and they are still learning to muddle along.
I could only pity him since he is caught in the cleft of a hockey stick – the mangled middle-aged generation that abided by their parents but in turn cannot ever dream of getting their children to abide by them. And I was left with a thought to ponder upon – my daughter will take another 15 years to grow up and wonder what would be state of affairs by then.