Nagpur: Saturday night yesterday must have seen all dhabhas on Wardha road and Amravati road full – with waiting crowds. They must have all been stags, including married ‘bachelors’ ( who leave wife and kids at home for such gatherings). You don’t take your wife and your little ones to the ‘bring your bottle’ kind of parties that go on whole weekend at such dhabhas, away from the city! Some Saoji joints even within the city, actually.
Then there are also the ‘farm houses’ where people don’t actually live. Mostly party places, the more enterprising youth who love to experiment with their own cooking – and also save money in the bargain, to buy more ‘daru’ with, take over these places 30 -40 Kms away from Nagpur. Fare cooked is of course non vegetarian – Mutton/ khur being most favoured. With the mutton, there is also desi chicken, Bhandara prawns and occasionally fish. These are all Foodies, with a capital F, you see!
Ranjeet and his friends had just such a party at a friend’s farm house last night. It was a group of 6-7 young men, all in their thirties. Ranjeet himself is a new Builder along with his brother. Recently married. The friend who owns the farm house, Ram, is a Doctor having his own family run hospital in Butibori. Then there was Bhasin who works in a Public Sector – the only ‘working’ guy and 3 others who are all into running their own ‘business’. After struggle and strife of ten years, they are finally ‘settled’ and getting returns on their investments. Don’t be surprised though if after a couple of years you hear they are doing something completely different.
This group is a good example of the cross section of youth who were born and educated in Nagpur and somehow were not destined to, or resisted ‘migrating’ abroad or to Western Maharashtra or South India or Delhi for jobs. (We are talking mostly guys here because for girls the story is a little different. Marriage plays a big role in where they settle in life – but there ARE girls who leave Nagpur for jobs and prefer to find husbands in those cities only.)
So how many young men stay behind in ‘apna Nagpur?’
Exact percentage is anybody’s guess, but doing a spot analysis of my lane and my locality the ratio varies between 30 to 40% maximum.
Who are the guys who stay?
As a thumb rule, professionals like Doctors, CAs, and sons of business families who have their own homes ( as against apartments) and a family business to inherit. There are of course exceptions here too : one brother might stay, others move out.
Upper middle class, educated families are prone to losing kids in ‘brain drain’ simply because they find admissions to US Universities or jobs elsewhere easiest. We then find the parents selling their properties in Nagpur and also moving out to ‘be with the son’ sooner or later. (Sadly, this is more to aid the ‘beta’ in buying property in a big city rather than parental affection on his part.)
The parents’ train
When my own daughter spent 6 years in Pune to do CA articleship and then work, we found that if we had to go to Pune suddenly, driving there was the best option. Train tickets were just now available – specially in the long distance trains that came from East. Kolkatta, Bhuvaneshwar etc. They were all full of parents whose kids were either working or studying in Pune. Tickets would not be available for the next two months, easily.
Whenever our daughter came home for Diwali, we HAD to send her back by bus, that too at ticket rates that were inflated 3 to 4 times!!
Ofcourse there is Indigo now, which was not an option then!
The unhappy, unemployed lot
The lower middle classes also do export brilliant/ hard working sons but maximum do not study in professional courses and stay behind.
My neighbour – in Bajaj Nagar – for instance. Her father in law was an uneducated mason, but ambitious and upwardly mobile. Wherever he worked on a project in a ‘new area’ of the city ( 50 years ago) he earmarked plots that were for sale and were also cheap. Believe it or not, he and his brother – both working at construction sites – bought twin plots in Sitabaldi, Dharampeth and Bajaj Nagar. One brother’s both sons remained illiterate and since they were ‘moneyed’ now did not go into construction jobs like their father. Between them they have 4 sons – all still at home.
When my neighbor’s eldest son was in the 10th we tried convincing her to send him to some ITI course where work would be guaranteed in two years. (By then they had fallen on hard times, the sasurji was long gone and she had to take up cooking jobs, along with rental income to run the household).
“Why should my sons not go to Engineering colleges like yours?” She asked affronted. So her sons went to Junior college, did 12th, two have since done M.A. and third did B.Com. None of them have a job though the eldest is almost 35. Last year he set up a zerox and internet centre and earns a little – not enough to get married though. The other two keep going in for ‘higher education’ and preparing for Banking competitive exams. The youngest son, went into clinical depression last year and almost committed suicide.
Unfortunately you see many examples like this. Families, not very educated, not very aware of what’s happening in the world, who were very happy 2-3 decades ago because they had 3 or 4 sons are seeing these ‘kuldeepaks’ turning frustrated and in some cases getting addicted to alcohol or even drugs.
Not that guys who stay behind and opt to be ‘self employed’ are all failures. But ironically, like in the happy examples mentioned above of Ranjeet and his friends, they are the kinds who would have got jobs and done well in Mumbai or Pune also.
But even for such enterprising and intelligent guys doing business in Nagpur is not easy. There are a number of constraining factors. Choice of business is limited since Nagpur does not have many industries. If they settle upon some idea that works, they have issues in growing. They are unable to find other youth as employees or proportion of guys leaving for greener pastures is great. They might even steal your idea and set up a business in competition!
A couple of partners I know have been from commodity trading to importing merchandise from China to finally taking up dealership of a big company marketing telecommunications equipment.
You have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for Government jobs
In an earlier era, if you had a Government or a Bank job your life was made. Even if the job was that of a typist or a clerk. With computerization and other factors such jobs have dried up.
There is also the unfavorable treatment meted out to Vidarbha kids. With almost 23% of the population of Maharashtra, in the Nagpur Act they were promised an equal percentage of government jobs. There are only 2.2% local guys in state govt. jobs. There are no signs that employment opportunities are opening up – even with MIHAN.
35 is the new 25!
One end result of not settling soon in life is such guys are getting married later and later. There is the parents’ built house; some fathers are still to retire but you need a regular income and money in your pockets to afford a wife! (Girls are also quite mercenary in their expectations these days). So it is often only by the time they are 35+ that wives become affordable; or they get the time to look for a girl. (Many will agree – finding wives for your son is much more difficult than finding good guys for an educated daughter!)
So we party!
A General Physician I interviewed some time ago in Nagpur, said the percentage of alcoholism was much more in Nagpur youth than Western Maharashtra.
“In Nagpur distances are such that a group of friends can send Whatsapp messages to each other at 8 p.m. and have a party going by 9. It’s not like a guy in Mumbai or Pune who reaches home from office only by 8.30 – 9 p.m. or later and has no energy to move out. Parties for them have to be strictly on weekends and planned much earlier. Nagpur guys can party any day – every day is a weekend!”
Friends of such guys, when they come home for a visit, are always envious about this easy life style of friends left behind.
“They get to live at home and eat home cooked food. They don’t have to worry about rents and Society rules who often do not rent flats to bachelors from ‘outside’. They can meet up with childhood friends when ever they want!”
Booming Cafe business
This feeling is translating into a new trend. Classmates working outside are teaming up and returning to Nagpur to start up small business’.
Right now the most preferred business seems to be the Food business. It does not need a lot of capital – just some innovative ideas about cooking and serving food to other youth in the ‘right ambiance’.
There are many such Cafes running in Dharampeth, Bajaj Nagar, Ring Road and Manish Nagar areas where the ‘entrepreneurs’ were into good jobs in Mumbai or Pune but preferred to come back.
Government patronage needed
The youth are taking the initiative and taking the plunge.
Now it is for the government of the day – that happily has a C.M. from the city – to encourage them in this move.
Free up licenses, further ease the ‘ease of doing business’ give tax rebates etc.
Two big problems for self employed youth are – cost of renting a property ( for some reason rentals are very high in Nagpur) and cost of power , specially commercial power.
You will hear many customers complaining about why cost of food, even south Indian food which is traditionally cheap all over the country, is so high in Nagpur.
It is due to the above two reasons.
So Ministers from Nagpur – are you reading this?
If you cannot guarantee our youth jobs in their home town, at least solve ONE problem for them. Make them powerful by offering them cheap power. If not at par with tarriffs in M.P., Cahttisgarh, Telengana and A.P. – at least the same as rates of commercial power in Mumbai!!
That is the least you can offer.
We have seen this problem taking the life of many farmers ( remember movie ‘Ghabricha paus’?) at least save us our youth.
—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)