“I have enough money for this month, am gonna buy this beautiful dress and get matching accessories alongside it for the party coming week” – said 24-year old Sana to her bestie Rahul.
Sana and Rahul are “friends“, as per Sana at least. While Rahul is still ecstatic about how his fingers grazed the back of Sana’s palm when they both reached for the red dress at the shopping mall, is unaware of his friend zone status. As Sana nudged Rahul, he came out of the reverie and said- “Come on Sana, let me buy it for you. Anyways it is your birthday next month, this can be your gift” mentally calculating how much money is left in his sad little bank account and realized that even if he does buy her the dress, he has got to buy her another present just to get that “Aww, you didn’t have to!” and a peck on his cheek by the girl on whom he has a crush from past 6 months.
Living in the city, I have analysed people; a lot. Everybody here between the age of 21-30 are living in what is called urban poverty- meaning living month-by-month. Except those who live with their parents from past 20 years in the city and are thoroughly taught about the value of money, even if they have commuted everywhere on a four-wheeler i.e., the richie rich kids.
That is how it is said, two-wheeler, four-wheeler, unless it is KTM, bullet, falling in the previous category or Audi and BMW falling in the latter one. The other group of people who are not part of the urban poverty are those who are the offsprings of the poorest of the poor, living on daily wages; the truck loaders, the cobbler, cleaner, washer etc. These kids are happy with a bag of chips that they get from the nearby paan shop who pities the woman, mother of four children, who sweeps that road every morning.
The candidates belonging to Urban Poverty line were never really poor in essence. They just never had to go through money problems while living with their parents who were part of middle class families in the smaller towns. They had a beautiful childhood, loving housewife-mom(homemaker is an urban word for housewife), banker/teacher father, a good education and a dream to live in the city, as part of the urban populace, doing IT jobs.
Their dreams, no doubt have been achieved; they are part of the urban society; sipping overpriced coffees, savoring pizzas at the famous pizzerias, planning parties and hangouts with ‘friends’ whom they have met hardly a few months back and call each other stuff like BFFs and bro. Yet these people are struggling at the end of the month to even buy a pound of fresh bread, some eggs and petrol. They are used to spending on materials that will complete their urban look; shades, graphic tees, numerous hair spa sessions at the branded saloon which have air freshener sprayed every 10 mins and yet make a face when the local vegetable vendor denies them ‘extra’ coriander leaves.
The need to be part of the social media culture, the morning-look candid pic Instagram users, the uber cab daily users who despite the cab facilities available from the company they work with, are too lazy to get up in the morning and miss the office shuttle; the ripped guy from the gym who always wears Nike clothes and Puma shoes and sprays deodorant every 10 mins during gym sessions, who also grazes his own washboard abs looking into the mirror, the cute look-a-like of Alia Bhat who has to wear red lipstick, carry a designer bag and never repeat clothes and feels the need to flick her hair every few minutes, needs to take a selfie and post it on Instagram, the tall guy with glasses who always has an eye for the ladies in his vicinity, shamelessly looks her from top to bottom, delivering a shady line to his friend and is thoroughly perverted, the cool, checkered t-shirt wearing-short-bespeckled-girl who has guy friends and talks about politics and the stand taken by the localites against the authorities for not clearing the garbage; these few are the people you get to see just about anywhere.
There is one thing in common amongst all these urban children; lack of money. Whenever the topic of payment or money is made, they casually pull out their cards and make the said payment. They also share the fare amongst their friends and promise to get back together the next weekend and discuss more such topics. There is no question of bargaining; it is cheap.
The pattern goes like this; the first weekend of the month, the party place is a hip hop pub with ‘dhikchik dhikchik’ electronic and trance music; this is followed by dinner at the restaurant with the highest stars on a certain food blog website. The following weeks gradually dry down as everyone gets thrifty and the last weekend when they are waiting for their next salary, friends manage with a vada pav from a local barrow vendor who has questionable hygienic sense for the food he is selling.
Most of the money is spent on drinks, dinners at high-end restaurants, shopping spree, concert tickets, petrol, summer/winter/spring look, a vacation to the nearby beach or hill station. Young girls and boys coming from middle class families get independence from their so-called stingy parents who paid lakhs together money for their children’s education and had to deal with caring for more than one child, as the parents wanted ‘Aarati Ge ondu magalu and Keerthi Ge ondu maga‘ translating to ‘A girl child to perform pooja and a boy child bring prosper’ which was a family planning slogan. Back in their days, couples wanted more than one kid even though there was only one breadwinner in the nuclear family. After decades, when the children have grown up and are asking for iphones and Macbooks, they are suddenly bad parents not giving their children what they deserve.
Once these power hungry, independence-craving teenagers step into adulthood and bag a job with a payscale adhering to normal city standards which is exuberant for the small town folks, want to live their life without having to worry about money(as their parents had to). All the packed frustration of teenage comes out in the form of vengeance, in the beginning of adulthood under the tag of “I want to live my life as I wish to’.
A few love stories are woven, between the constant struggle of living life to the max at on point and struggling for a piece of bread at other, many find their future partners too.
Good or bad, one thing for sure is, these are the best days of one’s life; carefree, energetic, packed with a fresh batch of hormones induced with independence and ambition. As one grows old and progresses in life, they fall again into different categories; married, in-a-relationship, struggling entrepreneur, stud NRI, team lead, freelance content writer, business owner, MBA graduate, Software Engineer the list goes on. As responsibilities fall upon them they move forward and start saving money or investing and the weekly hangouts turn to monthly hangouts with fewer friends or replaced by spouse or relatives; they are followed by freshers who are again carefree, party animals, Instagram hotties, gym studs and English series buffs, repeating the cycle of life and thus all is well in the city.