When the old uncle said “one more vada and a coffee”, I knew it was his third medu vada. He already had two pooris and two medu vadas at 6:25 AM in the morning.
My intention was not to count how much he was eating. When I walked into Vanitha Tea Stall, all I wanted was a bit of nostalgia with a glass of hot tea and a sweet bonda. I left Ambattur four years back and I have a lot of memories tied with the tea stall.
But, I got curious seeing an old man in his seventies eating pooris at 6:10 AM in the morning.
When I was thinking “Does the shop serve poori this early? Can he eat poori at this age?” he ordered two medu vadas.
The uncle was dressed in a worn out, grey-colored shirt and a pair of bermuda trousers. He was thin, bald, and wore thick-rimmed glasses. His shirt pocket was heavy with an old mobile phone, some loose cash, and receipts for purchases that dated back several years. There was an old cloth bag that hung from the backrest of the chair he was sitting in, and it had freshly bought milk packets.
The uncle looked happy and content as he ate the vada.
When I looked around, I saw several old men eating vada, sipping tea, and having a nice chat about current affairs and politics. They did not seem to worry about the lack of money, regretting their decision to not follow their passion, or worried about their unpredictable future.
That is when I realized how the previous generation of Indian men are living the Indian dream, where they achieved everything in life before they retired from their jobs. Something we wouldn’t be able to achieve when we were at their age.
The Indian Dream
Most of the previous generation men, who are retired now, achieved everything that is believed necessary for a happy life. They worked hard for several years, built their own homes, saved up, educated their children, got them married, and now enjoying a peaceful retired life having vadas, occasional beers at clubs, talking politics during morning beach walks, and interesting conversations at the park.
This also applies to previous generation women. Some worked hard at their jobs, while a majority of others lived their lives as homemakers. Either way, they had a strong impact on the family and the society. They saved up gold, had a firm say in a family’s financial decisions, and went out of their way to support their kids’ education.
They imbibed principles and values in their kids and made our society a better place. And, after retirement, they spend their free time watching TV, taking walks in the parks, visiting friends in temples, and going on tours all over the country.
Both men and women didn’t seem to worry too much about money. They saved enough to live a content, peaceful life.
When I look into our future, I seriously doubt if we’ll be able to experience what retired people are experiencing today.
A lot of conditions favored them when they started their careers.
They joined a job and forgot about it
Previous generation men hardly changed jobs. They usually join a job and by the time they thought about switching to another one, they turned sixty. They hardly worried about job security. Also, they were able to predict their future. If a person got a job in Chennai, he pretty much knew that the rest of his life is going to be in Chennai. This allowed them to make a few bold decisions like buying a land, building a house, etc. Also, they forged stronger bonds with their colleagues and neighbors and a lot of them found friends for life.
But, today, we switch jobs every 2–3 years. And, people are hesitant to buy a flat because they’re uncertain if they’ll be living there for the next five years. Sometimes, they buy a flat with a 25-year EMI schedule and get a better job offer in another city. In such cases, they often move to the newer city, get a house on rent, end up paying both the EMI and the rent. This would not increase their savings, which would’ve been the first reason to move to the newer city.
Savings was paramount
Our fathers have started their careers at a very young age. Probably during late teens or early twenties. And, the best part is they started saving at a very young age. So, even though they made less than what they we’re making today, they were far ahead of the savings race than us. Also, the money they had saved helped them when their family grew bigger. They were able to address the increase in demand without going for a loan or EMI.
The newer generation on the other hand hardly have any savings. We believe in ‘carpe diem’ and were told that it is now or never. So, we often spend our salaries on stuff we’re attracted to. Most Indian men and women did not think about savings until they get married, which has now been pushed to 30 today.
And, it is a widespread fact that the age until one can work in IT is roughly till 45 (or less). So, the newer generation is posed with an impossible challenge of meeting the demands, saving up enough money for retirement and educate the kids that currently involve more money than what cost us our college degree.
What our dads saved us for 35–40 years have to be achieved in 15 years.
They believed in retirement
Our parents believed in retirement. And, since they managed to live a healthy life, they were able to successfully go through it. Us, on the other hand live in a world of uncertainty. The rise of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, cardiac diseases, diabetes, cancer, etc. play a huge role in our lives. Most people I speak to say they won’t live till their sixties. All they want is to live their lives bigger and care about the present and not the future. In spite of all the medical advancements, we might end up living shorter lives than our previous generation.
It is okay to be a little old school
I’m not saying we should stop living the ‘carpe diem’ lifestyle. I believe in living a life without regrets. Go to the country you want, find a job you’re passionate about, start the business you always wanted to start and live the moment. There’s nothing wrong in it. But, we can also borrow some old school principles from the previous generation.
Apart from seizing the day, saving for the future is also equally important. Because the job market is not as stable as how it was a couple of decades back. We can be out of jobs anytime. And, the amount of money one needs to take care of his family has exponentially increased in the past decade. The education and healthcare costs have increased so much and so is our monthly EMI payments. Only a proper spending and savings schedule can save us out of this.
Also, living a healthy lifestyle should also be part of our lives. We’ve seen a great shift in culture with an increase in social drinking, smoking, and eating junk food. As we keep doing that, we also need something to balance them out and keep our health in check. Create an exercise routine and follow it everyday. Because, in today’s world, living healthy is a great way to retain your savings. Because, one trip to the hospital can wash off your entire savings. So, don’t forget to go for a walk or a run.
And, forge stronger bonds and better friendships. Because at the end of the day, we all need a circle of friends to share our success of failure.
Originally written for endangered blog