Tag Archives: Indian Millennials

The changing timetable for adulthood.

Why aren’t the millennials (defined as the group those who are born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter) settling down? The word “settling down” unsettles this lot. This topic gets quite uncomfortable around the dinner table with parents and quite weird with relatives at a  family function. Most of the time the settling down question is a polite way of asking – “When are you getting married ?”

The earlier generation is not to be blamed because sociologists traditionally defined the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: 1) Completing school 2) Leaving home 3) Becoming financially independent 4) Marrying and  5) Having a child. Well in the Indian context and especially for women milestone 2 might be listed after 4 :).

But what they fail to realize is how the definition of adulthood today has remarkably changed. The 2014 Clark University Established Adult Poll found that the top three markers for adulthood were – 1)Accepting responsibility for self, 2) Financial independence and 3) Making independent decisions.

That’s exactly what the millennials are trying to achieve. We’re in an era of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Jeffery Jensen Arnet a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “Emerging Adulthood”. Emerging adulthood is identified as a stage of – identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities”. Emerging adults are on an intense search for personal authenticity, awareness, and personal definition. Robbins and Wilner in their book Quarter Life Crisis state that twenties are ripe with self-doubt and intense with introspection.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated. The path to adulthood is taken now at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones –  adults could stay single or couples could stay childless by choice.

The “emerging adults” who are in an identity exploration phase, the idea of “settling down” is naturally quite unsettling. But the question is – why do we consider committing to a long-term relationship as “settling down”? Why does it feel like there is a lot to be ticked off from the bucket list before that “settling down” happens?

Wouldn’t it make better sense if the idea of committing to a relationship rather “stir” up our lives with possibilities – bigger dreams and a bigger appetite for taking risks, because now you got a partner in crime.

  • Have a start-up idea – now you have a partner to support.
  • Caught up with wanderlust- now you get a partner to travel with.
  • Always dreamt of publishing your book – now there is someone who pushes you to get it done or even better you co-author with them. Like this couple.

Sharing that wanderlust with your spouse and even your children or allowing your dreams to grow even larger to include your spouse and family – makes your aspirations even more worthwhile. According to a US research, nearly 70 percent of the founders of high-growth successful businesses were married when they became entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos quit his high paying job and started Amazon.com with his wife MacKenzi, immediately after their marriage). Talking about the initial days of Infosys, Sudha Murthy mentioned – “I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape.”  

Think about it – the companionship in marriage should rather unsettle us with new perspectives, new journeys and new experiences. It should not be a full stop to our aspirations but an exclamation mark in our life stories. This would only happen when we free ourselves from the burden of societal expectations on what a picture perfect settled life should look like – considering the fact that the “emerging adulthood” is a new concept and traditional milestones of adulthood are still relevant in the minds of many around us.

Let the path of adulthood be uneven and individually paced – to  each, their own. Let it not be a rush towards ticking off societal check boxes and let committed relationship be an exclamation mark in your life story because as the quote goes:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”


SoulCafe: Building & Celebrating Soulful Relationships.


In Love with a Narcissist

Relationship issues of this generation has been most of the time attributed to the growing “Narcissism” of the new generation. Is this just another thought terminating cliché beyond which we are hesitant to explore? Do we really know what narcissism actually is ? How do you know if you are in love with a narcissist?


Eastern culture has traditionally accepted selflessness and humility as virtues, while self-love and bragging as vices. With globalization introducing corporate culture that emphasizes on “perception management” and  social media that makes bragging posts and selfies just seem so normal – has the traditional vices become virtues? Before we go any further lets actually understand what narcissism is, and more importantly how it impacts relationships.

The term Narcissism originated from the Greek mythology where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image in a pool of water. (I am sure he would have loved selfies 🙂 ) If we observe Narcissus closely, we understand that he fell in love with his reflected “image” and not his true self. In essence narcissism is about being in love with one’s own idealized  “reflected self” – an admirable mask. Narcissism is about not having a clear understanding of one’s authentic self, and being overly obsessed with an ideal self-image.

Talking about relationships, the “admirable mask” of the narcissist is attractive and hence they are popular at “zero acquaintance”. The individuals are usually charming and socially confident as they love being admired by others. The initial phase of a relationship with a narcissist would seem “too good to be true” because if the narcissist is keen on impressing you, would do just anything. So when you find a person to be highly charismatic, a good rule of thumb is to delay the decision as the charisma of a narcissist slowly starts fading. The other aspect to understand is that the social media becomes a great haven for a narcissist to display their idealized self and so it’s very important to look beyond, rather than falling for the “admirable mask” on the social media.

When the relationship with the narcissist becomes long-term, you might find yourself to be the one making all the effort to keep the relationship going. What’s missing in a narcissist is “empathy” which is vital for any relationship. Being shallow and indifferent, the narcissist is not capable of being unconditional, or loving a person for who he or she truly is. Hence when you’re ‘down’ or need support, they would end up being irritated and disturbed. Such experiences make loving and being in a long-term relationship with a narcissist really painful.

The next question is – would the narcissist ever change to become empathetic enough to see beyond their idealized self? Will true love ever melt them and change them to unconditionally love their partner? How I wished that happened. But in realty it’s very difficult – because it takes an enormous effort of self-realization, recognition of one’s flaws and responsibility to change one’s pattern of behavior. The biggest hurdle to change is that the narcissist don’t even realize they have a problem, and to make a change self-realization is  key. There are chances where certain life altering events make the narcissist look inwards and understand their pattern of behavior leading to a change and these chances of change highly depends on the degree of narcissism.

Research suggests that narcissistic traits can develop from several different types of early life experiences. It could be a parenting style that pampers a child by always giving him his way that leads the child have undeserved feelings of entitlement. It could also be another parenting style where the child is continuously forced to have a certain idealized image to be praised by the parent/society (check this for more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDZ6XLPexJA ).

Talking about this generation, we definitely have higher self esteems which is in fact quite healthy. You can only love someone else if you love yourself. A healthy self-esteem refers to realistic and accurate positive view about the self  which also includes the ability to cope with  negative feedback. Knowing one’s authentic self and being obsessed with an idealized image of the self aren’t one and the same. The first enriches you and your relationship, while the later blocks you from experiencing love in its true sense. 

Here is my personal prayer that sums up my personal belief:

“To not have known and loved oneself is like being in the dark,

The experience is enlightening – like a beautiful journey embarked.

But then there is always the fear of being consumed by the fire of self love

Keeping one blinded from the beauty & sorrows of others near, far and above.

I do want the light in me shining bright,

But need to make sure I don’t burn myself and lose sight.

Oh Lord, lead me from the darkness but do keep me safe from the destructive fire.”


Give up “Pygmalion Projects” in your Relationships

There is an interesting Greek story about a great sculptor named Pygmalion who found all the women of Cyprus imperfect and decided to create a sculpture based on his idea of the perfect woman. It took him several months to complete the statue, but his creation looked so perfect that he fell in love with it – he called her Galatea. However, Pygmalion increasingly became desperate and unhappy as he had fallen in love with a statue that was lifeless and wouldn’t respond to his love.

What has “Pygmalion” to do with relationships? Sometimes what attracts us to someone is the differences (“opposites attract”) in their traits. However, as we move into a closer and long term relationship with the person,  the same differences (that we once liked) becomes “flaws or imperfections”. We then gradually (knowingly or unknowingly) start a “Pygmalion Project” – where we try to change our loved one into this perfect “Galatea” – based on our values, our background and our outlook on life. We would try sculpting them through various means. But like “Pygmalion”, we end up unhappy and frustrated because even if they change under pressure, it isn’t their natural self and people are at their best when  they are in their natural self. So this whole project, even if it looks like a success (which means you were able to change your loved one), is actually a failure.

This pertains to a parent-child relationship as well where the parent often starts a “Pygmalion Project” on the child. Just because the child is born from you, does not mean he/she has to be “you”. Nothing else could explain this much better than Kahlil Gibran’s poem on children.

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

The Greek myth of Pygmalion does end on a sweet note with the Goddess Venus bringing “Galatea” to life and Pygmalion marrying her to live happily ever after. In real life however to be happy in a relationship, one needs to give up on the pygmalion projects, and love them for what they are. 



The “20 something” Indian’s Dilemma

crossroads_full“Are you pursuing your dream?”“What is it that you want from life?” – If you are a 20 something Indian, are these the questions coming your way from people around you? Instead, are you being asked a different question –  “When are you settling down (read getting married)?” Probably the later question is more common, and if you are a woman, you get this question much more often and much earlier, than your male counterpart.  

Should our society make us feel guilty if we wanted to pursue our dreams, take an off beaten track, explore our true potentials, take some risks? Are we pushed to follow societal deadlines in every phase of our lives? Does it feel like we always have an age clock and a set of “social expectations” dangling above our head?


Well, people who ask the “settling down” question need to understand why it is difficult for a “20 something” to answer this. “I am not sure” – is the answer you mostly get, and the young person actually means this. Because he/she is “not sure”, and there is a lot to “figure out” – it could be the aspiration to pursue further studies, settling into the right career, travel to new locations, and of course the finances. On top of all this, one would not have found the right person to commit to a long-term relationship. So, give him or her a break!

Quite often the question comes out of concern – “If you delay then you wouldn’t find a person.” This is probably true in a society where everyone is succumbing to the same pressure. Well, if you thought this was the end of deadlines, wait once you get married – the next deadline would be on having a baby. The concern here is – “You know the biological clock is ticking”. 

Honestly – the question that someone genuinely concerned should really ask is  “Are you ready for a long-term relationship?” and “Are you ready to take up the responsibilities of parenting?”And those who are not genuiniely concerned shouldn’t even ask, respecting the individual’s personal space.

Now, where does all these deadlines leave us as a society? If you look at the level of economic participation by women in our country, we are ranked 124th (towards the bottom of the 136 countries listed in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Index). This does not prove the incapability of the Indian women, but the incapability to prove her capability. The social deadlines and timelines that she succumbs to, does not allow the girl with a dream to discover her full potential. You would also see the side effects when these smart women becomes moms. Some of them unknowingly start pursuing their dreams through their children – pushing their kids to all activities possible and putting pressure on their kids to be winners irrespective of the child’s capabilities. Check the bournvita ad – it almost feels like the mom is getting the kid ready for a war.

The situation of the men isn’t a lot better. They get a lot of push back if they want to take the off beaten track for pursuing their passion, rather than getting into a secure company job in their late 20s. And once they settle down the family way with additional responsibilities and expectations – of buying a house, car and whatever is part the society’s norms of an affluent life, his desire to fulfill his passion is killed forever.

As a nation we can achieve a lot more if we let individuals live and fulfill their dreams. Taking our dreams seriously and the desire to fulfill isn’t stupidity. Allow individuals to take a few risks/fail and learn in the whole process. It’s always good to fail than to have never tried.  And if you haven’t fulfilled your dream, please don’t push the heavy baggage of your dreams onto your kids – let them nurture their own.

This needs to be  our FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT – The freedom to pursue one’s dreams, exploring one’s potentials and not being judged for doing so. This would make us a society of more fulfilled & happier individuals who lead the country towards the path of true growth.