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We May Not Be The Urban Poor But Our Struggles Are Not 'Stupid'

27/05/2016 8:23 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Yes, I get it. It's so easy and, dare I say, fun to call the younger generation "entitled" and "stupid". I think humanity has been doing that since the beginning. I bet the generation that learned how to make fire were called idiots by the generation before them for inventing something so dangerous. "Ugh, the kids these days only eat 'cooked' meat! Entitled little brats!"

Recently, the hottest topic on social media was #UrbanPoor. It all started when Buzzfeed published an article by Gayatri Jayaraman titled "The Urban Poor You Haven't Noticed: Millennials Who're Broke, Hungry, But On Trend". Everyone freaked out after the first read and screamed "so relatable!" and shared it, liked it, tweeted it, had it for dinner. But the morning after, it went from "so relatable!" to "so offensive."

A lot of us... single-handedly do the work of three Americans, on a salary so pathetic it makes us wonder if any of it is worth it.

All of a sudden the article wasn't politically correct -- the writer had ignored the existence of actual poverty, it was just an ignorant and privileged rant, millennials are stupid, the writer is stupid, the article is destroying the universe!

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Credit: Firstpost

A poll by Firstpost shows that the majority of people think the urban poor are idiots and need to rethink their priorities; a few others think that they are victims of consumerism.

I agree with both of them, but before we jump to any conclusions, let's look at the facts.

The financial crisis of '08 really screwed us

My sister graduated in '09. A year too late! Her starting salary as an MBA graduate in Bangalore was pathetic. It's the same for almost everyone who has graduated since then, including myself. She earns now what she should have been earning four years ago. But did the world slow down for an entire generation that was screwed over by the worst decisions taken by the "grown-ups" on Wall Street? No. The world kept moving forward. The prices of everything went up. No one had our backs.

No matter how much you resist the urge to go out... at some point you give up. Because all you do is work, more work and sleep...

Remember, we didn't do this to ourselves. We didn't choose this, nor are we responsible for this. We didn't even have any warning. It just happened to us. So a lot of us were left with a pretty big student loan, a job that required us to go "above and beyond" or "go that extra mile" because we single-handedly do the work of three Americans, on a salary so pathetic it makes us wonder if any of it is worth it.

Our home away from home demands high maintenance

When you move to the big city, away from everything you grew up with, leaving your childhood and your Amma's appam and beef fry behind, all you have are the family you chose and the home you build away from home. After the week that almost made you rip off your arm and beat your manager with it, you go home to this chosen family. Now what?

How long will you sit in that one-bedroom apartment with five of your friends and play dumb charades? At some point, you have to eat. Chances are, your kitchen is smaller than your toilet. To order in, you have to spend. To go out, you have to spend. No matter how much you resist the urge to go out and save your pocket, at some point you give up. Because all you do is work, more work and sleep -- sleep that might get interrupted by a call from your manager in the middle of the night saying the server in the UK is not responding and the world is about to end. So you cut yourself some slack and you choose to have some fun.

Even though we've been paid peanuts since '08, society has set high expectations for us urban youth with a corporate job.

So don't ever ask why only the urban youth has the need for fun. It's because the urban youth work their asses off and live in a consumerist culture that revolves around them. Banks keep asking us if we want a new credit card or personal loan or if we are willing to sell a kidney, and brands scream flat 50% off! We are not made of stone, damn it!

We are expected to do a lot, lot more

Even though we've been paid peanuts since '08, society has set high expectations (sometimes higher than we've set for ourselves) for us urban youth with a corporate job in the city. We are still expected to own a bike, then a car, then a house - all before we turn 30. All this while finding someone to spend our life with and getting married. How many Indian millennials can even think about buying a house in a city? If you are one, ask yourself, and if you know one, ask them.

Recently, two married couples in my friends' circle bought houses in Bangalore. Well, not exactly in Bangalore, somewhere away from the city where they can't even get proper broadband or cable or public transport. Not because they wanted to live away from all the chaos and drive four hours to work, but because owning a house inside the city is just too unrealistic now. They took home loans they will be paying off for the rest of their lives. Only because society and their parents told them, "That's how you do adulthood."

[My friends] took home loans they will be paying off for the rest of their lives. Only because society and their parents told them, "That's how you do adulthood."

Yes, the Buzzfeed writer could have used a better term than "urban poor". But that doesn't mean what was said in the article stems from sheer millennial privilege. We might be privileged in a lot of ways but not when it comes to our financial situations. Compare us to the actual poor layer of society and yes, we are "entitled and spoiled." But compare us to our counterparts in developed countries who don't work half as much as we do or are half as qualified as we are, but are paid a fortune, then no, we are not "entitled and spoiled", we are helpless.

This article was first published on the Millennial Introvert

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