Status update

If I had to pick out one person, place or event of the year, one thing that truly defines what it means to be young today, it has to be this scene between Katrina Kaif and Hrithik Roshan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Hrithik has just experienced deep-sea diving for the very first time, and his eyes shine with a new and different light. He understands the philosophy of the scuba chick, the idea of living in this moment — the only moment you truly have. It’s a philosophy which pretty much sums up the mood of a generation. And this mood is reflected in just about everything you do with your life.

The world, according to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is defined by your status update. And who the hell remembers yesterday’s update? Nevertheless, here is my pick of events of 2011, which made a difference to the lives of the young and the Facebooked.
India Against Corruption’s crusade in August this year, which galvanised young people across the country like never before. They skipped work and bunked college to join the protests on the ground, to carry candles and placards in support of the movement.
Yes, five years ago young people did pour out onto the streets, but it was mostly to raise a matter of personal interest. The Youth for Equality movement railed against reservation for OBCs in elite institutions. The fight was for “merit”, for seats which belong to “Us”, who had worked hard for it. Not “Them”, who got lucky by accident of birth.
In 2011, it was different. The movement was about national interest. And yet, they plunged into it, both offline and online. A frail old man with a Gandhitopi reminded them of the India they had read about in history textbooks. The one they thought had been forever lost.
For a shining moment, they were part of a new independence movement. A daily drama played out in 140 characters, and it was covered live, like a hot new reality show by excitable television anchors.
Four months later, it all appears to be a distant dream, a part of “history”. The cache has been cleared of idealistic chatter. Conversation in the canteen is back to cricket, Bollywood and girls.
Speaking of cricket, India’s win over Sri Lanka in World Cup cricket was possibly the proudest moment of the year for any citizen of India. But even more so for the youth, who have absolutely no recollection of the 1983 World Cup victory.
The trouble is the performance of Team India since that victory. Young India still loves M.S. Dhoni but would rather spend its time watching F1 and Manchester United. F1 bole toh, 2011 was also the year that India “arrived”, with the Buddha International Circuit hosting its inaugural F1 race in Greater Noida. It was thrilling to know that the gods of racing were descending on our soil.
Love us, hate us, but you can’t ignore us. We’re the largest youth population in the world, the market of the future for every brand.
The idea of the “brand” is, in itself, changing. A brand is no longer a fast-moving consumer good or service — each individual is a brand.
Salman Khan’s Character dheela hai became one of the “it” songs of the year, because it rang so true about the actor. It’s all about “being human”, after all.
With humanity also comes tragedy. Twenty-two-year-old Malini Murmu, a first-year student at IIM-Bangalore, committed suicide in September this year after being humiliated on Facebook. Her boyfriend’s status update had read: “Feeling super cool today. Dumped my new ex-girlfriend. Happy independence day.”
The peril of living your life 24x7 online — under the scrutiny of peers — is vividly reflected. Just an instance when being “in the moment” was not advised. But then, youth is all about extremes — of passion, of depression, of ascension.
It’s everyday events that don’t make it to newspapers and television channels that matter to an 18-year-old: The first flush of love. The cruelty of an exam. An iPod received on a birthday.
To pick out any more “events” of 2011 which defined or changed youth is kind of irrelevant. Yes, Steve Jobs died, but life must go on. The future is ours and what we make of it.

The writer is a best-selling author

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