I was born on 9th of July, 1962. My parents migrated from small villages to the city. They were Government Servants. They were educated and it made sense for them to pursue their life in a city and bring up their children in a city. Giving a better life to the next generation is a strong emotion even today.
Understandably, they put me into an English Medium School so that I too could become a government servant. They shared that thought with me and that became my goal in childhood - To become a Collector. Of course, it did not turn up the way my parents expected. I moved into private sector refusing to work in a nationalized bank after getting selected. My mother still thinks that I would have become some GM or Director of that Bank. Mothers are always like that.
During the 60’s & 70’s Man set his foot on the moon. The nation faced wars. Globally the cold war set in. Five-year plans were rolled. The white and Green revolution started and everything was licensed. And the Golden era of movies & songs continued. And Amin Sayani’s Binaca Geet Mala and the charts from Radio Ceylon gave us the music t. I now have an Alexa doing what Radio Ceylon did.
Till the 80’s we did not know what a TV was and thanks to Asiad Games and World Cup we had color TV with some Yagi Antenna on top of every house in city with Doordarshan and its unique call sign. It still rings in my ears. Soon we had few more channels and cable operators. The only means of information during my formative years was Newspaper and thanks to it, my vocabulary improved. And thanks to the post cards and inland letters, I learnt précis writing. And if there was something urgent to be conveyed, we had the good old post office where we could send telegram. And having telephone at home meant that it was a phone for the entire “mohalla”. Every second person would give away the number and some business men used our number on the card with “PP” mentioned. Now this PP meant particular person. So, if someone got a call, I had to run to their house to call them. Now we were privy to all the conversations they had on our phone in our living room and that meant my father playing the role of an advisor cum mentor to their family and business matters. We were that educated class with a phone and a TV at home in early 80’s. Sunday used to be a mela with that movie on Doordarshan and Chitra lahari.
I witnessed the Emergency, the Turkman gate massacre, the Janata Dal, the Mandal Commission, the Bhindrenwala, the Golden temple storming, the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, the riots, the Rajeev Gandhi regime, the so called abolition of License Raj, his Assassination, so on and so forth.
It would take me nearly 24 hours, a train, a bus and a bullock cart to reach my grandparents village every year during summer holidays. That village did not have power, no drinking water and no toilets. Water was drawn from a community well, go to fields to defecate and use lanterns to light the house. I could count million stars sleeping outside in open air on one of those folding cots that my grandparents provided us. We had that falling of Skylab moment too. Everyone in the village would wait for us to come from the city. I do that same distance in five hours now and that village is now a model village as per GoI. Every house in that village has their grandchildren overseas. IT professionals and only the oldies of our parents’ generation are living there. Thatched houses gave way to bungalows. The village now has piped drinking water, 24/7 power and of course a good drainage system and broad band. They now do face time with grandchildren. People call it progress. I still do not know if we losing innocence is worth this change. That is a matter of discussion for another day.
I got into the private sector after refusing to working in a Bank against the advice of my parents and moved to a very bigcity where my kids were put into some ICSE school and from a shop floor in early 80’s, I moved to the board rooms by early 90’s. Then the internet and mobile phones happened. What took my parents couple of years to own a telephone and a scooter in black market, did not take me that much to own a Maruti Suziki, the original one with a glass hatchback. And I flaunted it. Since the company I was working dealt with mobile phones and Pentium 100 desktops, the family had a desktop, a mobile phone with an outgoing cost of Rs16/- per minute to Rs 8/- per incoming calls. We had those pagers too before that. I moved from Maruti 800 to a bigger car. We had those 1000 CC sedans of Maruti, Daewoo, Ford by then. That’s our Y2K time. The world was supposed to come to end because of some digit missing in the legacy operating systems of mainframes.
For domestic reasons, I came back from that bigger city to the city where my parents were living, got into the journey of entrepreneurship in early 2000’s. And over the last 2 decades my children did their post-graduation overseas, fortunately came back to India. They are working in private sector and are also planning a startup and they are virtually Americanized. Everything is online for them.
I wonder if these youngsters who are quite intelligent enable themselves without getting into the credit card traps and EMI traps. It’s called BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) economy. Can these youngsters avoid living beyond their means? Can these youngsters build something on their own without our guidance, our reach and our experience? I doubt it. How many would make it without our wisdom?
From a dial-up telephone in the Mohalla, I now use one of that latest iPhones. From DD I moved to DTH to OTT. From postcard I moved to emails. From telex, telegrams I moved to WhatsApp and Zoom Calls. From the neighborhood shop whose owner knows me personally, my kids moved to Amazon and Flipkart. I commuted in a bicycle but my kids now use SUVs or better still, they hail a cab if need be.
We all came a long way. It’s now called “Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” of which we lived 60+ years.Does my story sound like yours?
Probably yes. And therefore, I want you to help me build an ecosystem, a discovery platform that can help the youngsters with our experience, our reach, our resources and influence. I see 30% of MSMEs and 90% of startups failing and I also see that 7 out of 10 senior citizens are keen to work after retirement, but have little or no options. I want you to help me “Empower the Senior Citizens”. I want you to “Enable the youth” of our nation.
Look at the paradox. By the turn of this decade, we would end up having some 600Mn youngsters and 200 Million Senior Citizens and a nation that cannot provide for both. I am a stubborn optimist and I think we together can make a difference to our nation. I want you to spare some time for me, sit in front of the laptop/desktop that you have and share your story and your thoughts, by replying to me on this email address.
Better still if you go to a post office, gather your thoughts and send me a postcard or an inland letter or an envelope. I would love to read your letters.With best regards