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20@20

The generation born in 2000 will turn 20 next year. As these Gen Z youngsters leave their teenage years behind, a look at 20 ways in which the world around them has changed

Poulomi Banerjee

What writer Vivek Menezes from Goa, remembers of the year that his eldest son, Rohan, was born in is that it was a much friendlier world. “The economic liberalisation in India had started in the ’90s, and there was a sense of hopefulness. True global integration was taking place.” That was in 2000. “A year later, there was the terror attack in the US, and the world was never the same. Today, we live in a conflicted universe,” he says. Both Menezes and his son are also worried about the drastic change in the environment.

The beginning of the new millennium saw the birth of a new word – millennials – used to refer to the generation which reached adulthood at the beginning of the 21st century. But as this new millennium prepares to enter a new decade, the generation born with it is poised to enter adulthood.

Much has changed around them in the last 20 years – politically, environmentally. But there have also been changes in their lifestyles – how they express themselves, how they connect with others, what they eat, how they travel, and their modes of entertainment. Many of these changes are tech-driven, others aspirational. And they

affect all of us. But Gen Z has assimilated these changes more deeply than others. They’ve shaped their personalities, affected their decisions, defined their relationships. As the 2000-born step out of their teenage years, a look at 20 such changes around them.

Being gay is not a crime anymore

In September 2018, the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised “sex against the order of nature” and had been used to target homosexuals. A few years earlier, the apex court had recognised trans as a third gender.

From landline to mobile

According to data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the number of mobile/wireless users rose from around 3.5 million in 2000-01 to over one billion in 2018-19. “We had a single landline connection at home when I was a child and it was used by the family and often also neighbours,” recalls 21-year-old law student Manali Ahlawat. Many homes, including Manali’s, don’t have a landline anymore. And STD booths and PCOs? Ummm… what are they? Ditto, for internet cafes. In the late ’90s and early to mid 2000s these cafes – offering the use of a desktop with internet connection and printer service – were a part of school and university projects, job resumes and love notes. Now, every smartphone has internet.

BlackBerry’s out, the iphone is in

The BlackBerry came to India in 2004. The original phones were all black and targeted at businessmen and executives, because they could be synced to the office mail system. There was also BBM – BlackBerry’s private messaging system. This feature made it wildly popular among the youth. But the Android revolution was too much for BlackBerry to handle.

Orkut is dead, life’s on Instagram

Launched in 2004, Orkut was our first brush with social media. Long-lost acquaintances were traced, new friends made even as love blossomed, all via Orkut. But its popularity was short-lived. Facebook followed, then Twitter, and today it’s all about Instagram. “One reason for Instagram’s popularity is that it offers the best privacy,” says student Shubham Chaudhary, 20. Orkut finally shut in 2014.

Cameras to selfies

There are a lot of things the mobile phone has made redundant. The camera is one of them. And with front cameras that aid selfies improving by the day – there are brands now which push their phones on the quality of their cameras – we don’t even need someone else to take our photos. But somehow these photos don’t make it to our walls or table tops anymore.

What’s streaming?

The liberalisation of the ’90s taught us there was entertainment beyond Doordarshan; it brought us ‘Baywatch’ and ‘Remington Steele’. “I have clear memories of my mom watching ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thii’. But I hardly watch TV now,” says 19-year-old student Arpita Dutta. The TV is used, instead, to stream content via the internet and its OTT platforms.

Vampires get a makeover

Dracula who? Vampires are boyfriend material ever since Edward Cullen first snatched teenagers’ hearts in Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ series (first published in 2005) and the movies based on them. There was even a Twilight-inspired desi TV show – ‘Pyar Kii Ye Ek Kahani’ (2010-11).

Not just convent schools

Pick up a newspaper and chances are you will see matrimonial ads extolling the virtues of a “convent-educated” bride or groom. Today’s trendy and popular schools, though, often come with an international tag, are co-educational, and may offer syllabus and exam patterns that mirror those of the US and UK, though some also offer the option of CBSE or ICSE affiliation.

New era, new campus flick

In his autobiography ‘An Unsuitable Boy’, Karan Johar said he made ‘Student of the Year’ (SOTY, 2012) because no one from the younger generation knew him. His debut film ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ (KKHH), starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, may have created campus goals for millennials, but that’s so 1998. ‘SOTY’ – and now ‘SOTY 2’ – may be as make-believe as ‘KKHH’ (do they look like any campus you know?), but they connect better with this generation.

Now Alexa plays us what we want

“Remember the idea of giving your love interest a CD which had all your favourite music and showed off your exquisite taste?” recalls senior ad creative director and branding and communications expert, Amish Sabharwal. Or creating a playlist for them on their iPods? Now CDs are history, iPods a thing of the past, and Alexa can play us almost anything.

Not just Indianised pizzas and burgers

From home bakers setting out tempting arrays of éclairs, to shops selling microwaveable waffles, and cafés with crepes, fajitas and grilles on their menus, we have the world on our platters today. Tastes have evolved, with ingredients being sourced from abroad, staff trained overseas and chefs from all over the world being drawn to our shores.

App-based cabs and not kali-peelis

We don’t wave to hail a cab anymore, we tap on our phone screens. Of course you then argue about destination and spend endless minutes trying to explain the address. Some things never change. Even with Google Maps. Earlier, you asked for directions from strangers on the road. Now, you just blindly follow Google Maps. But somehow that has made cab drivers lose their expertise on short-cuts, one-ways.

ASL to #TLDR

ASL (Age, Sex, Language) was the conversation starter when interacting with a stranger in an online chat room in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Photos were rare, there were no profiles to check, and the question just had to be asked. Now conversations on social media are incomplete without hashtags, the more, the better. #not TLDR (too long didn’t read)

India finds a place in space

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was set up in 1969. But in 2014, when the Mangalyaan or the Moon Orbiter was launched, the New York Times carried a cartoon depicting a man with a cow, India written on his shirt, knocking at the doors of an “elite space club”. The publication later apologised. Two years later, ISRO launched a record 104 satellites in space, 101 of them foreign. One social media user sketched a cow, India written on it, kicking a man dressed in blue with USA written on the clothes.

Learning apps, not tutorials

When writer Debashish Sengupta’s son needed help with Sanskrit, he went to YouTube. “The way this generation accesses information is so different. They prefer things to be visual. Therefore learning apps and games,” he says. Similarly, with books becoming increasingly digitised, what about libraries? Many, like the British Library and New York Public Library, have already made their content, or at least part of it, available on the internet. There are others – like JSTOR and Directory of Open Access Journals – which only have a digital presence.

Matches made on Tinder

There are apps for hooking up, for marrying, for marrying an NRI, for the LGBTQ community, the divorced, the married-but-looking-to-mingle…

Cricket has gone 20/20

Purists may frown at the 20/20 format, but it makes Gen Z happy. “It doesn’t take up the whole day like a 50-overs match, which I can’t follow because I have other things to do. 20/20 is fast and exciting,” says student Shubham Choudhary.

Laptops, not PCs, at home

“Growing up, we had one desktop computer in the house. Now we each have a laptop, and there is no desktop,” says 19-year-old Arpita Dutta. No sharing, no awaiting your turn. And even the desktops at work are sleek, fast, and can go for days without crashing!

The changing rhythm of rap

“Earlier rap was ‘thanda thanda paani’ by Baba Sehgal. Now rap is an entire underground movement,” says Sabharwal. It’s intense, it’s philosophical, it’s another form of expression and it tackles life and social issues.

Board games to PUBG

Earlier we demolished our rivals over a roll of dice, or in the nitty-gritty of business (Ludo and Monopoly). Today we rip them apart on a mobile or laptop screen. But whereas earlier we played with family and friends, our opponent today may be a complete stranger from another part of the world.

(HT Media)

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