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There’s nothing to suggest that I’m qualified to write a letter to you other than the fact I too was young like you once upon a time and now suffer from a delusion of grandeur which makes me believe that I can write letters to millions of anonymous people.
According to studies, a typical Indian Youth will have read on average of 1.7 open letters a month written to him, between the ages of 18 and 29, after which the number of open letters addressed to him will drop to a precipitous zero per month. The numbers may vary depending on your Hue or Shade. If the studies are right, most of you must be well versed with the concept of open letters by now, and must expect to be subject to a steady barrage of bilge in the years to come.
It must be noted that while writers of open letters will also come in varying Hues and Shades, it is not reasonable to assume that a writer of a certain Hue and Shade will write to Youth of the same Hue and Shade. In fact, some will almost certainly attempt to cross the divide between Hues and Shades with a certain air of assumed superiority and will urge you to nobly put aside considerations of Hues and Shades in the interest of following their prescription.
All the while, marketers of all Hues and Shades will continue to conduct research on you so they can steer you towards the finer things in life like a Rs. 100 3G pack which they will insist can be shared among friends or a Rs. 15 bottle of Coca Cola, which will come cleverly disguised as a metaphor for good karma earned by spontaneously gifting it to a doorman who earns less in a day than you spend at a fast food joint.
It is possible that rumours of your mythical abilities to make or break our nation may have been grossly exaggerated in boardrooms and political conclaves around the country. And soon you will reach a point in life when the clamour for your attention becomes a din and you will have to decide carefully the people whom you choose to listen. After all, you are what they call our Demographic Dividend.
Having said this, there is a smidgeon of truth in the belief that you bear a certain responsibility to the nation, and your views of the world have the potential to change it. If you believe that to be the case as well, here are a few tips to help navigate.
1. Be your own person. Question authority. Be careful when you choose icons.
You will be what you set out to be. Or you can be what someone else sets you out to be. You have to figure this out yourself. Ask questions, especially of the authorities and the pretenders. There is no such thing as an icon without an expiry date. There has never been a wider chasm between faces on posters and unfulfilled promises than in the times we live in. Choose your icon as carefully as you might a pair of blue jeans, not for the bling but how comfortably it wears on you.
2. Enjoy your youth, but stay tuned in.
You must not waste your youth in reading open letters. You must get out there and learn real lessons in the real world. That’s how you get to be your own person. Play a sport. Learn how to make friends and to keep promises and to understand the value of relationships. Breathe deeply and enjoy the pleasures of youth, which as Shaw once said, is wasted on young people. You will be young only once. At the same time, keep in mind that you will inherit the India of tomorrow with its warts and cancers and grotesque ugliness. Do what you can to change things now so you may inherit a better tomorrow. You might want to start with changing yourself now because it only gets harder as time goes by.
3. Do the right thing.
Doing the right thing is not necessarily the same thing as showing up in the nick of time to cut the blue wire on a dirty bomb. It’s not necessarily about being the hero of the tale. It’s about seizing those little opportunities to do things right. It’s about being kind rather than right. It’s about putting aside the self and embracing the humanity of others. Pretty soon, all the little stuff will add up to epic proportions, the kind of which emphatically changes the world. And it is likely that no one is going to notice your quiet contributions. It is likely that you will fade away an unsung hero. But that’s ok. That’s how things change for the better. That’s what life has taught me in the days which have passed since I was young. I hope you’ll agree with me in about 20 years.
Dr. What Ho!