Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The parents were right. We screwed up.

Remember that time when our parents used to scream - These kids don't have any personal discipline! I wonder what will become of them in life!

And we used to grin?

That was many, many years ago.Parents have always said that, right? " आज कल के बच्चे ! Kids these days!" has always been a pet rant of all things parent and adult. And we turned out just fine, didn't we?

No, we didn't. We screwed up. Big time. Bad. Real Bad. And it only occurred to me this morning, when I tried to analyse how we're doing vis a vis the parents (ironically, in a bid to establish the fact that we turned out "just fine". )


When I was 7, an average 70 year old would be ashamed to wear their glasses. Today, an average 7 year old is almost certain to be wearing glasses.

When I was 8, diabetes was a "bad disease" - reserved only for the sinners who ate too much sugar. People were shocked by the word. Today, a 35 year old is very likely to have diabetes and a 40 year old is almost certain to have it.

When I was 5, the average age of the heart attack person was 80 and above. Heart attack was what killed you. Today, 25 year olds get heart attacks.

When someone fell ill, they rested at home and allowed their body to recuperate. They also first did some basic home based cure. Going to the doctor was a last resort. No one popped paracetamol to go to work and infect other people and be praised for it.

People got up on time, did physical labour - at least, worked in their own houses. There was no avenue to eat out, nor was it so permissible. And people ate good, wholesome food cooked by a family member. They went out to get fresh vegetables every day and did not eat imported fruits. Because they didn't get them. And they stayed healthy.

We screwed up real, real bad.


Since the mid 1990s, the world has seen more financial failures than perhaps the century before. Whats more, the participation in these epic failures was from the public. The Dot com bust, the Y2K problem, the sub prime crises.. and we refuse to learn! Today, real estate in India is in a mess - as an industry. There is another parallel circus of startup valuations, where there is no revenue, but there is tonnes of funding. Predictably, the funding dries up after the jackals have fed off the carcass. What suffers is the overall economy and the gullible small investor. Why was the small investor not so gullible 30 years ago? Because he was a simple man who liked to keep his money close, asked common sensical questions like "पैसा बनाओगे कैसे ?" before investing money, and did not believe in debt. Was told to live within his means and contain his dreams. Then, we went out to live our dreams beyond our means. And ended up - in debt. And how. 

Today, the average 45 year old worries about retirement. Because companies have taken away the pension shield and investments are nebulous in a financial sector that is dominated by Wall Street professionals whose basic job is to be con men.

A person who remained content rather than aspirational was praised 2 generations ago and ridiculed today. And that, ladies and gentlemen, has made all the difference.

We screwed up. And got a lifetime of financial worry.

Mental Health

Evolutionary biology tells us that man is a social animal. Over the weekend, parents lugged us to the prayer place and then to the houses of relatives, where we were forced to play with assorted cousins and make life long bonds. Then, they told us to stay in touch with the relatives. And we thought they were old fools. They saw what we were doing and went "Aaj kal ke bachche" on us. And we paid no attention. With the net result that today, we know our relatives only through facebook. The era of arriving unannounced is over. Long gone. Weekends are dedicated to worship of the sloth followed by household chores. No one goes to the temple except to offer ritualistic offering. There are no temples inside the house. And no one visits anyone except on a "play date" . We don't know who our neighbors are. So we pay shrinks and take to "social media" to get rid of loneliness - The no. 1 cause of depression. But we don't know what is leading to the depression epidemic. We don't even acknowledge that there is a depression epidemic.

We make our children sleep alone, scared and unprotected. When evolutionary biology tells us that man finds safety in numbers, and all primitive tribes have "sleeping huts" - where people sleep literally, skin to skin. We forgot the joy of fitting 5 cousins on a double bed mattress and surprisingly, everyone sleeps well. Today, our egos sort of fit that bed. There is no space for another human being.

And we have a depression epidemic. And we wonder why. 

We don't keep a temple in the house and don't practice 2 minutes of meditation and silent prayer in a day, but we pay ashrams a ton of money for satsangs and prayers and blessings. We pay respects to our Gurus - who are visited by thousands of individual islands in a sea of humanity - every devotee lonely, everyone looking for answers.

We screwed up.

Work Environment
We had processes, and we had common sense. Then someone came along and said the magic words " 100% compliance" . Anyone who has worked in compliance knows that no one size fits everything. There are exceptions where common sense needs to be used. And we should use it. Problems cannot be solved by checklist based solution sheets. But those check list based solution sheets do something magical  - they completely absolve us of the onus of having to actually use our heads!
So basically, we live with mechanical checklists that accomplish nothing except the shifting of the blame. And this is the Dilbertworld that creates majority of our economic activity.

We really, really screwed up.

What amazes me is how quickly we took the path to this. Within 2 generations, the entire ethos of a civilisation has changed. Our aspirations are diametrically opposite. For me, personally, the lesson is that you should not empower someone to think if they are not educated enough to think well. This dramatic shift in our lives coincides with the 70s - when the new parenting movement of "let the child breathe" came in. Coupled with a lot of other things of course - liberalisation, unbridled ad spend of the multi nationals - gunning for a piece of the "big indian middle class market". What could have resisted that wave of consumerism was the common sense of the old folks, who answered a request for any purchase with a stock question - "Why do you need it? क्या ज़रुरत है ?"

But that's not what we did. We sidelined the old folks, empowered the children, and the elders nodded their heads and went "क्या होगा इनका ! Children these days!"

सत्यानाश हो गया इनका!


Team BlogAdda said...


Congratulations! Your blog post was featured in the Spicy Saturday Picks edition on April 30, 2016 at Blogadda.

Please find it here:

How do we know said...

How awesome!! Thank you so much Blogadda! Honored and humbled!!

Onkar said...

Very true and very interesting

Himanshu Tandon said...

Wonderfully said.. Loved every bit of it.. and yes scary but true.