SONGSOPTOK: To which generation do you belong? To which generations do the members of your immediate family belong?

SIDDHARTH: In keeping with contemporary definitions, loosely defined as they may be, I belong to the much vilified group called the ‘Millennials.’ Being the only child, and an unmarried one, I thankfully have to grapple only with the travails of the generation preceding mine - my parents - who can both be clustered under the ‘Baby Boomers’ label.

SONGSOPTOK: In your opinion, is generation gap a myth or a reality? How would you define generation gap?

SIDDHARTH:  I should think the generation gap is a difference in the points of view of two or more generations brought on by the evolution of culture, technology and several other socio-economic factors. In my opinion, it is a very real phenomenon. Although I daresay it is not as wide a chasm as it is portrayed to be in books and other media.

SONGSOPTOK: Have you personally had problems with your previous generations? In which domains specifically? How did you react to it then?

SIDDHARTH:  Indeed. I have had several clashes with my parents, more so in my teenage years. Back in the day, I went to a college where the students believed in - let’s just put it this way - living life king size. Naturally, I used to be invited to a goodly number of parties every now and then. Throw in a sleepover or two (which, of course, included all sorts of nefarious activities well known to all teenagers), and one would find his social calendar rather choc-a-block. Of course, attending these required surmounting two barriers, namely a) parental permission b) money. Accordingly, I used to dutifully trot up to the mother with a lot of hope in my heart to seek her permission. As was the case most of the time, she used to deflect the topic with a very thoughtful, “Don’t ask me. Ask your father.” Hope sinking fast, I used to take a quick five minutes to concoct a story to relay to my dad as to why this was the most important party in the world and why attendance was almost compulsory. Then, after having developed a plausible story and gathering the necessary amounts of courage, the question was posed to the father who, with levels of disdain that I still marvel at, shot back with “Don’t ask me, ask your mother.” Then with the desperation of a shepherd trying to free his only lamb from the jaws of a wolf, I used to try and reason (read - throw a fit) with my mother. Invariably, I got the same lecture every time. “Bhalo barir bachcha ra raatire baayre ghure baraay na”, or something to that effect, which essentially meant that kids from good homes do not leave said homes at nights to lead the vagabond life at a club or a friend’s place. This nugget was apparently passed on to the parents from their parents, who, based on the stories told to me, were so strict in their upbringing of my parents that they could make Kim Jong Un seem like a harmless teddy bear in comparison.

Clearly, my parents were somewhat keen to apply the prevalent principles of 1965 (BC?) in the early 2000s. In my view, they simply didn’t understand that in this day and age, it is equally important to let your hair down, have some fun, know and maintain relationships with people, as is probably anything else that makes for good life habits. In their eyes, what was good enough for them was good enough for me.

Back then, I reacted most of the time by rebelling, sometimes sulking, sometimes by simply walking out of the house (Kids, please don’t try this at home) and sometimes, very very rarely, with the sagacity of the Buddha - i.e. retiring to my room peacefully with the promise of living to fight another day.

SONGSOPTOK: Have you ever heard “You wont understand” from the next generation? Do you remember the specific situations when you heard it? How do you react? And do you remember saying the same words to your parents / elders? In what context?

SIDDHARTH:  In the same context described above, I have heard, “You will understand when you get older.” when I used to question my parents as to why I cannot go out at nights, like all my other friends could. I always wondered why I was getting such cryptic responses. I mean, doesn’t everything on earth have an explanation? Not getting one was a rather frustrating experience, and for the life of me, I wondered why I kept getting such vague and high handed answers.

I quickly found myself on the other side of the fence when I was breaking away from the confines of the traditional office and trying to set up my own financial services company. My father, who has always worked in a company, was not very quick to accept that today’s generation has a larger propensity to take risks in life, and do not mind risking the safety of a monthly wage for an opportunity to make their dreams come true. Although he eventually accepted my decision, it did take some coaxing. In one such heated discussion, I distinctly remember having told him, “Let it go, Dad! You just don’t understand how the world works these days.” It was a pretty amusing moment, and my mother still gently reminds me of it. My, how the world had come a full circle!

SONGSOPTOK: In a globalized world all generations dress alike, eat alike, dream alike – is it still possible for generation gap to exist? Or do the reasons for the famous gap lie elsewhere?

SIDDHARTH:  It is indeed possible for the generation gap to exist in spite of globalisation. My theory is that a large contributor to the existence of a generation gap is socio-cultural evolution. If we are, by and large, shaped by our upbringing and other external influences in our early years, and if we tend to use those as guiding principles while communicating with a subsequent generation, it follows that there will be some gap between the influences exerted by a prior generation and those prevalent in the world that the current generation lives in. Accordingly, I feel that a generation gap will always exist. It is only the severity that may vary, and that might be a direct function of the age gap between any two generations.  

SONGSOPTOK: Given that in this age of connectivity, it is easier for parents or guardians to keep connected with their children or wards (keep track of their activities through Facebook, Whatsapp or whatever) – also make them aware of their own interests and individualities - do you think “generation gap” still exists? If yes, why do you feel so? If no, could you please share with our readers on the ways that you remain connected and how does that help you overcome the gap.

SIDDHARTH:  It has definitely made it easier to narrow the gap down, even if it has not eliminated it completely. The internet has made it easier to provide evidence to a previous generation that the ideas and actions of their children / grandchildren are not as revolutionary as they think them to be. For example, I made my parents read multiple stories of people who had quit a stable job to pursue their interests. That went a long way in soothing their nerves about my actions!

It is my humble assertion that the readers try to use social media like Youtube, Google, Twitter to show the previous generation that there are indeed others like you in this world who share your beliefs and thoughts and have made the  “unconventional” work for them. Social proof can sometimes go a long way in bridging the generation gap!

SONGSOPTOK: What do you think – is generation gap a gap between two individuals of different age groups or is it really between two generations across individuals? In this context, what role can the parents / elders play to bridge the gap if it exists?

SIDDHARTH:  In my opinion, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, with the severity of the gap being a function of the age difference between two individuals. It would help if parents and other elders kept an open mind while communicating with or addressing the needs (and angst) of the younger generations. You can provide all the proof in the world to someone but no ground will be covered if they don’t keep an open mind and are not accepting of ideas that go beyond their comfort zone & understanding.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you ever face troubles created by generation gap outside your family? Especially in office, educational institutions, market etc.? How do you react to that?

SIDDHARTH:  To be very honest, I have not faced problems stemming from a generation gap in educational institutes. However, I have faced massive problems working with the ‘Old fogies’ in a professional setting. At the risk of generalising, I have noticed that the older generation is of a bureaucratic disposition, preferring to work with established standards and a paint-by-numbers attitude rather than trying to find customised solutions to individual problems. I have also found that they are not very open to new ideas put forth by people they perceive to be ‘junior’ to them.

There is very little that can be done in this specific set of circumstances. All I do is present my ideas as clearly as I can, explaining my rationale, and hope that it is received well. If it is, great! If not, all one can do is keep one’s head down and continue working.

SONGSOPTOK: We feel that generation gap starts creeping in as we age – on one side we try to acquire new things from changed times and on the other – we try to cling to our own inheritances. Do you agree? What would be your advice on how one can overcome this contradiction, if at all?

SIDDHARTH:  As a friend once told me, albeit a little crudely, “Keep in mind that the only way to stay afloat in life is to keep your input port open and your output port shut.” What he meant is, learn, listen and observe a lot more than pontificate.

My advice would be in the same vein. Keep an open mind, and a scientific temperament. Keep educating yourself about the world around you. Let go of all ‘inheritances’ if there is no further rationale for holding on to them, lest they turn into prejudices. Learn to think from another person’s point of view. Walk a mile in their shoes before judging them or shutting them down, if you are in a position to do so. It is my humble assertion that not only will this help in reducing the ‘generation gap’, it will also enable you, dear reader, to have a fully developed and well trained mind.

SONGSOPTOK: Please leave some parting words for the next generation, your generation and the previous generation that reflect your thoughts on this topic.

SIDDHARTH:  May I first thank the reader for allowing me to lecture them, and for reading very patiently through the sermon.

I would like to conclude by saying that every generation is indeed lucky to be influenced by both a generation older than as well as younger than them, at different stages in their lives. We must all make the most of that opportunity to learn from each of them and to enjoy and embrace their points of view. While it may lead to short term strife, it can only help us grow as individuals and well-functioning members of society in the long run.

SIDDHARTH KANGLE: I am a Financial Services professional in India, having worked across Private Equity, Investment Banking and Wealth Management. I am a keen student of “Value Investing” and I enjoy reading, cooking, gardening, driving and playing Warcraft.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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