The millennial way of life
Anjali Jhangiani chats up a few ‘woke’ people from Gen Y and discovers how they have changed the way we work, form relationships and celebrate life, leading to a departure from the way urban middle-class functioned a decade ago
A decade ago, everything was different. The way an average middle-class Indian went about living their life — if we had to simplify and generalise it — was completing their education, getting a job or starting a business, stocking their cupboards with formal-wear to dress in throughout the week, get married, have kids and so on. Millennials have rolled up this life-schedule and thrown it out of the window.
Be it taking a break to get some life experience before completing their college education, or opting for a live-in relationship before getting married — they’re all about looking at things practically and making the most of their time before life gets the better of them. This is the millennial way of life — to each, their own.
Pulling out a pair of track pants and tank top from her cupboard, Sheena Rao gets ready. Is she going to the gym or is she headed to work? If there could be one look that would define Generation Y, 50 years from now, it would probably be athleisure. Dressed like they’re always ready to drop down and do a few dozen push-ups or head off for a quick run, millennial have lapped up the whole fad of figure hugging bottoms and airy loose tops in breathable fabrics with or without sassy slogans in colours, that may or may not match their personality.
Most of the MNCs still follow the traditional dress code of formals throughout the week, whereas start-ups and other establishments, who focus on productivity rather than what their employees are wearing, relax the rules. A 26-year-old social media manager, Rao says, “My parents don’t understand why I don’t wear salwar kameez to work everyday. To them, that is what formal dressing for women means. My father works in a bank and my mother is a teacher, so dress code is important for them. When I started this job two years ago, I tried to explain to them that the company I work for operates from a co-working space and we don’t have a dress code as such. They thought it’s not a ‘serious’ job, but I’m doing well. They took some time to adjust to the world that is changing.”
Many designer brands are coming out with athliesure collections as it is in high demand among young working professionals.
Making work as fun as it can get seems to be their motto. Ankit Batalvi, a 24-year-old marketing professional at a t-shirt company, works out of a bar which doubles up as an office space. “We have been working from Agent Jack’s Bar for the last few months. Before that, we used to settle down at the Starbucks on Koregaon Park. All you need is wifi. We use video conferencing and the internal messenger system to get in touch with fellow employees, so it eliminates the need for being physically present in the office. We’re a small company of about 25 employees, and most of us usually work from home. It’s only when we have to meet clients that we venture out to these places.”
He adds, “Our clientèle is quite young. I think you can build a better rapport with someone outside the four bland walls of the office. Spaces like this provide for a fun engagement,” says Batalvi, who loves hosting meetings with pitches of beer and french fries.
Home is where equality is
Just like they say about charity, feminism too starts from home. The ‘woke’ generation is changing the way the average middle-class (working class) Indian lives. Only if the previous generation gets off their high horse and relax their arched eyebrows they will realise it’s not total blasphemy if millennials opt for live-in relationships before taking the plunge into a marriage. In fact, it has quite a few advantages.
Pursuing her Masters degree in Biotechnology, 22-year-old Preeti Dixit, who lives with her fiance in an apartment in Mumbai (mainly because it saves rent and other living expenses than to test their love), says, “My sister, who is eight years older than me, disapproves of me living with my fiance before getting married. But I don’t see eye to eye with her on this even though she had a love marriage in 2011. I feel that I must know the person I want to spend my life with. Only when you live with a person, you get to know how they really are and whether you will be able to put up with them. It will surprise you that my mother agrees with me, she’s cool with this situation. She is happy with the fact that all the household chores and the expenses are divided among my fiance and me, which gives us equal footing in the relationship too.”
With the concept of feminism sinking deep into the middle class strata of society, scrutinising a working woman is no longer looked upon favourably. If you do, it will be at the risk of being judged as an uncool misogynist. Nobody wants to have that kind of a public reputation now. Both men and women, husbands and wives, are now taking up the responsibility to run the house together.
When it comes to parenting, there are obvious responsibilities that a mother has towards her child (like breastfeeding), but broadly speaking, taking care of a child is no longer considered a ‘mother’s job’. Praveen Adhikari, a 29-year-old BPO employee and father of a 10-month-old girl, says, “Before my wife went back to work from her maternity leave, it was upto both of us to figure out a plan for our daughter. We had my parents over for a while to take care of her while we were away at work. Now we have taken up different shifts so one of us can be with her even though we have a full-time nanny. My wife and I read a few parenting books and did a lot of research together while she was pregnant. I want to be equally involved in raising my daughter. That doesn’t mean going to her parent-teacher meetings and hosting her birthday parties, but also changing her diapers, cooking for her, feeding her, burping her and all of that.”
Fun comes with functionality
If there’s anything that Generation Y takes seriously, it’s how to have fun. And it’s not just the kind of fun where you enjoy yourself, resulting in the consumption of money, energy or electricity. New-age eco-friendly entrepreneurs are using the element of fun to lure in consumers to do their part to save the world. Be it sustainable fashion, where designers are collaborating with traditional artisans to revive their craft with modern designs and marketing their products to millennial buyers in attractive ways, or viral games that allow players to contribute towards cleaning the ocean with every game that they play online, fun now comes with functionality.
“Online multi-player games are a big thing, specially in India. Even in tier two cities and smaller towns, you will find people playing PUBG on their smartphones. Their India server is one of the biggest. So why not use all this man-power to play a game that will help do something for the world instead of just leaving our carbon footprint?” queries Raunak Sewatia, a 30-year-old game developer.
He is working on a video game that will help clean the water bodies around India. “The idea is to make people do charity while having fun. For every game that they play, and the core they reach, based on our calculations and algorithms, a certain amount of money will be donated towards charities that work on cleaning the oceans. So without giving real money, the players will be helping to raise funds for environmental issues just by playing the game on their phones,” he says, adding that they are still looking for funding for the yet untitled project.
But even if you’re not one of those who is glued to their phones, fun is all around. So much so that millennials have changed the meaning of the word ‘festival’. About a decade ago, when someone asked you to “go to a festival”, your reply would probably just feature a perplexed look resulting from the incorrect grammar in that phrase. For now, Pune is the festival capital with everything from Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Supersonic, Sunburn and what not happening here. “Just like I buy new clothes for our traditional festivals like Diwali and Holi, I buy new outfits for the music festivals I attend too,” says Sneha Pawar, a 26-year-old IT professional, who is a regular at Sunburn.
“I love the music festivals because they are like a fairy-land. They have big adult-sized playground equipment, selfie spots and everything that let’s you take a break from your mundane life and make a short trip to your childhood for a few hours. I literally celebrate these festivals more than the traditional festivals where all you have to do is ‘clean this and clean that’, cook and distribute sweets,” she says.