A woman I went to college with in New Delhi, now 29, lives in her family home on Prithviraj Road, one of the toniest parts of the capital. She has a shiny new convertible BMW 3 series, bought by her father. She doesn’t have a job.
She called me recently and we met for lunch. She looked dull and withdrawn. She told me she was extremely depressed and felt that her life wasn’t worth living. She isn’t the only Delhi rich kid to feel this way.
Sanjay Chugh, a Delhi-based psychiatrist, says he treats three or four young, wealthy, unhappy patients a day. “Such children are often brought up being told that they have nothing to worry about and that money can take care of everything,” he said.
Often, newly wealthy parents don’t want their children to go through the hardships they experienced growing up, Mr. Chugh says. But they fail to teach them there is more to life than fancy drinks, new toys and branded clothes.
On a recent evening at a posh lounge in Delhi, I saw Prada and Gucci-clad teenagers arrive in Lamborghinis, Jaguars and Porsches. They air kissed and went to the bar. “Hedonism is back,” a note on the bar’s website says.
After an hour or so of drinking, a chubby guy in the group got the bill. “Oh, just 60? Not bad,” he said loudly. It was 60,000 rupees ($1,000.)
An acquaintance in Delhi says she spends most afternoons in her apartment, sitting on the couch drinking beer and smoking marijuana.
“I always got what I wanted, and that’s just how it works and always will,” the 30-year-old said. When she was 13, she asked her parents for a top of the range laptop, and she got it. “Apart from this, you are not getting anything this year, except that holiday in Cairo,” she quotes her parents as saying.
Mr. Chugh says many young patients are in denial of their depression.
He says situations and symptoms often include a need for instant gratification, an abundance of money, feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose, minimal parental supervision, and alcohol and drug addiction.
“They never learnt how to be responsible for themselves and those around them, and they keep moving from one thing, place, or person to another in pursuit of happiness,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this problem is increasing day by day and it will be more serious in the future,” added G. Satyanarayana, a sociology professor at Osmania University in Hyderabad. “[Parents] have no time to spend with children and inculcate essential values needed for a rooted, balanced and healthy life.”
“Modern society is rational and rigid, whereas postmodern society is irrational and flexible by definition. Delhi transformed into a postmodern society about two decades ago. Naturally the behavior of kids born in the postmodern era reflects the postmodern culture,” he said.
Samir Modi, managing director of Modi Enterprises and father of two teenage girls, believes there are two different approaches to raising children. “You either spoil them or you make them realize the value of money,” he said.
His daughters have some luxuries, he said, but they get a set allowance each month. “They have to manage within it, no matter what,” he said. If you give children all the money they want, they won’t have a reason to work for it in the future, he added.
“It is our job as parents to lead by example and set clear objectives and boundaries for our children,” he said.
Radhika Borde, a social scientist who spent her formative years in New Delhi, comes from a privileged background and her grandmother left her a handsome inheritance when she died.
“I lived in Delhi during the period of my undergraduate education and had the typically glamorous lifestyle of people my age,” she said in a recent interview. “Very soon however, I started to find it quite boring.”
“The India of dirt, danger and determination that I saw as a child was far more interesting,” she said, referring to her childhood in Jharkhand. “This was the India of villages, village politics, poverty, many smiles, laughter and strong social ties,” she said.
Ms. Borde left New Delhi. She divides her time between the Netherlands, where she is getting a PhD in environmental science, and rural Jharkhand.
Mr. Modi’s children and Ms. Borde appear to be in a minority.
I met my college friend at her mansion again. She sipped her tea, munched on cookies and stared blankly at a huge rock on her finger. She said she had just got engaged to an investment banker and will have a beautiful house on Baker Street in London. Apart from that, she barely spoke to me.
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Thanks Judy for sharing. It seems that this problem of extreme spoiling of children has reached the rich in India, too. Just expensive gifts with no meaningful relationship is a curse that over rides the blessing of things. . . .in my mind anyway!
The excess of the rich is evident in India just as the excess of extreme poverty. Remember the billion dollar house in Mumbai? My thoughts on the young people is that they are poor in spirit in their lack of empathy and total consumption of their consumerism. Oh what good they could do if they were committed to helping others, even with just a little of their money and time.
Our two children worked when they were teens. Was it hard then to get summer jobs? Yes it was and had to be a priority My son had a paper route from the age of 11 -14. He also worked as a cashier in a fish fry restaurant. Someone asked me if I didn’t object to him coming home smelling like fried fish! I said, “That is what showers are for!” I have no doubt that his working with the others in fish restaurant gave him a perspective he had not learned thinking everyone’s dad was a college professor. This experience has helped him in negotiating contracts with unions in his work.
My daughter baby sat, dog sat and even cut the lawn for an elderly couple. She did work as a carpenter’s helper at her dad’s school in the summer. She didn’t like that first time work and wanted to quit. Dad said, “Nope, you wanted the job and I went to bat for you. I will not be embarrassed with you quitting. It is only 3 months and you will finish what you started.” She has worked successfully with people of all socioeconomic groups in her work.
I am not holding us up as “great parents” but where has the common sense gone today? These are just life lessons that we all need to learn. . . . . being dependable, working hard, and understanding that others have different backgrounds. . .
What say you about either the rich kids of India or child raising in the US ?