A LOT has changed in the last 50 years. Technology has improved our lives as we have got access to more resources and wealth. Today we have more options – there is abundant choice in a Global village. Conveniences, luxury and information is at our fingertips.
But the question I ask is how have we evolved as Humans?
Are we sensitive to Mother Earth or will we go down in history as the generation that plundered her resources. Are we more greedy, selfish and egoistic when compared to our parents? Are we better Humans?
These are some of the questions I look to answer when I reflect on life over the last 50 years.
Let’s start with how the material world has changed. For starters in 1969 Gold was only Rs 158.50 / 10 Grams and Rs 7.5 could get you 1 USD. Not that it helped very much because only the elite earned a monthly salary of Rs 1000 or more. 1 Paisa, 5 Paisa and 4 Annas were frequently used denominations and could actually get you stuff. A teenagers pocket money was probably 25 Paisa. School fees in a Tier 1 Convent school was Rs 10/ month and a loaf of bread was less than 50 Paisa. You could build a house for less than 1 Lac. Yes things were a lot cheaper and Inflation over the years has had its affect.
A big change has been how we communicate. Today, getting a letter in the mail is charming, if somewhat antiquated. However, just 50 years ago, it was one of the most effective ways of communicating with people who didn’t live close by—especially if you wanted to avoid those sky-high long distance charges. We then moved to email (Remember the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail starring Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks), and now we open our mailbox to find thousands of mails waiting to be read every day – 90% of which are spam. People find it easier to send you Best Wishes and greetings over group What’s App and very few send you a 1:1 or call.
Back then children enjoyed themselves, climbing trees, stealing mangoes, building sand castles, getting dirty, playing barefoot. It was Ok to get hurt – You rarely rushed to a doctor unless it was an emergency. You twisted your ankle you used Iodex and limped for a month till you healed, one out of 30 kids in class had braces. The neighbourhood doc just a MBBS felt your pulse, peered into your eyes and throat, patted your stomach, used a stethoscope and gave you medicines from his shelf that cured you in a few days.
Today things are different. Kids are happy with their iPads and Video Games. You rush to the doctor when your child sneezes and the friendly orthopaedic next door diagnoses all bone hurts as an ” hairline fracture” and promptly gets you into a sling. 90% of the kids aged between 12 – 14 have braces. Doctors rarely check your pulse and the mildest of colds needs multiple tests to diagnose.
Our cities are flooded with hospitals and a lot of people above 50 need a bye-pass, knee replacement, dialysis or chemotherapy. We are not a healthy lot.
In the 60’s and 70’s if you wanted to find out what was happening in the world, you’d have to wait for the morning paper to Or the 9 PM News on All India Radio. Now all we have to do is go to our preferred news site—or even Twitter—and we can find out what’s going on in real time, 24 hours a day. The world of TV did not exist and the Radio was your only wireless connection to the external world. I guess our imagination was better because when the commentator narrated how Gavaskar blocked Michael Holding you had to visualise the swinging delivery and Gavaskar’s straight bat.
Flying was a rare luxurious experience, with comfortable seats, decent food, and ample room to spread out—even in coach. Today, unless you’re flying first class, your seat is tiny, the plane is cramped, and you’re lucky if you can even get a glass of water. Train travel was fun. I remember my Dad used to make friends with everyone in the coach during our Durgapur – Chennai annual trip and invariably he would trace some long lost relative. Today we don’t acknowledge the guy seated next to us on a Bangalore – Delhi flight.
You hailed a cab down and many a time had to wait for long till a free one passed by. Today you do it with your App.The world of Fashion has changed. A Formal suit with a tie and a well groomed look is no longer fashionable. The Punk look is in.
You met people with no prior intimation and holidays were mostly to relatives or grandparents. Watching a movie was the only entertainment and the Festivals were the only time you got new dresses. The neighbourhood Club was your Go To Place. You probably ate 1 Chocolate and 1 Ice Cream a year. Hand me down clothes to younger siblings were common. Nothing was wasted. You drank water from the tap and rarely fell sick eating street food. Eating out was a rare privilege. There was no credit card or PayTm – everything was cash.
Today Indian holidays are looked down upon and everyone is hunting for exotic experiential holidays. Your refrigerator is stocked with ice creams, chocolates, cheese and the kids prefer Pasta and Pizza to Roti Sabji and curd rice.
People then spent their entire careers in one organisation – unlike today where you start losing value if you stick on for long. Just like jobs, marriages lasted long – divorce was almost unheard of. Parents taught their children good values – Not to Steal, Not to Lie. Be a good Human Being. Leaders and politicians were role models and were admired for their integrity and truthfulness. A Hero was idolised and a Villain looked down upon.
Todays generation is brought up by telling them “Do what it takes to succeed”. Wicked Smart is OK – break the rules but don’t get caught. It’s OK to dribble so long as you don’t slip and fall. And many of our Corporate & Global leaders have succeeded with these values. The Villian is the new Hero.
It was OK to punish children and scold them if their grades were not up to the mark. Today you scream at the teacher or change the school if your children don’t do well
You communicated a lot. You had real friends, people met you or spoke to you on your birthday – they did not text you on a Whats App Group message or send you greetings over FB. When you threw a party you cooked food at home. When you were sick you still cooked or your friendly neighbour dropped by with food, there was no Swiggy. It was hard work but it was fun.
There was no Washing Machine / Laundry / Cook…. everything was done at home. You were lucky to have a maid who could mop the floors and do the dishes for a princely sum of Rs 10/- Month. Things definitely have got a lot better for the housewife and women at large. Load shedding was common and you sat in the garden with your family hunting for Sputnik in the skies. Dad came back from work by 5 PM and spent time at home – there were no con-calls till late night and business travel was almost non existent. The family was a close knit unit that communicated and engaged more.
There were lesser people. The world population in 1969 was 3.6B and India had a population of 500M. Thats almost lesser than half of what it is today. And in the last 50 years this booming population has wrecked the world. Our rivers, lakes and seas are polluted, the glaciers are melting, the world is getting warmer, Forests are shrinking, garbage is piling up, flora and fauna are getting extinct at an accelerated pace. Our cities are collapsing.
Humans have been around for 2 mn years but between 1970 and 2014 in just 44 years Earth lost nearly 60% of its mammals, birds, fishes, reptiles and amphibians – almost all die to human activity. This rate is comparable to the mass extinction. (Published in WWF report of 2018) *
Sad but true – Our generation over the last 50 years has caused more damage to Mother Earth than anyone else.
But there are positives too
Cigarette smoking population has decreased. In the US just 15.5 percent of the population smokes cigarettes and that number continues to decline with every passing year. In the 60s, 42 percent of the population smoked regularly—and worse yet, many places, including restaurants and airplanes, allowed them to do so indoors.
Communication is instantaneous so news of Birth, Death, Stock Market crash, Natural calamities … reaches you in seconds.
Medical facilities have improved even if Hospitals & Big Pharma take you for a ride. Average life expectancy has almost doubled across the globe and diseases like Small Pox have been eradicated.
Today you have options to choose from. Cars, Phones , TV’s, Soaps, Holidays, schools, colleges – there is abundant choice in a Global village.
There is more choice but lesser peace. There is more greed and lesser contentment. There is more aggression and less subtlety. There is more ME and less US.
Yes the world has a lot more conveniences at your finger tips – but what about the people.
As I reflect, I wonder if our fathers and earlier generation were people with better values. More grounded, more humble, more hands On. More adjustable, more compassionate, more HUMAN.
Was that because life was a struggle for them? Did we get things too easily and our children are getting it easier. I sometimes wonder where we are headed as this trend accelerates.
Please do share your view on this topic.