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Swati Rai, Hindustan Times
January 19, 2013
I live in a small town, one of those that union minister Jairam Ramesh famously christened 'Trishanku' towns, for they have not yet found their place in the development agenda of the authorities.
Small towns often form an interesting backdrop in Bollywood films with a heady cocktail of dirty politics, sleaze and quaint characters finding footage in 70-mm space. On the small screen too, particularly in reality shows, it is not the upmarket, urbane, slick, city youth who queues up to get publicly humiliated on national television to 'make it big'!

The real situation, however, is not as rosy as the reel one. The youth of such towns are the actual 'trishanku', hanging between India and Bharat. The raw ambition and talent of the small-town youth must find a voice in the mainstream. The trouble is that this restless lot wants to strike it rich the soonest. This section of youth can be the future nation builders if given correct guidance and if appropriate steps are taken.

The mass media has been successful in communicating an accepted physical image of a 'with it' person. It is common to see beefed-up bodies and men's T-shirts giving 'tight' competition to women's tank tops, in the 'gallis' (lanes) and 'cloneys' (colonies) of a town. Certainly, the 'Axe effect' is visible here among the youth, whose body of work is …their body! These young men are quite usually in their twenties and most certainly school dropouts looking for a talent scout. Being fit is one thing but being beefy is a trend that requires deliberation second only to the issue of 'the shirtless Salman'.

The youth here are first generation learners and have the tough choice between English and Hindi…mostly in hurling abuses! Needless to say, they pick up both. There also exists a constant clash between their sound middle class backgrounds and their unsound present compromise or… the choice tostay with the LOSER tag, a Scarlett letter! In the wake of becoming 'cool' and acceptable they are shunning their humble roots and trying to be accepted by the so-called high society.

Villages transforming into towns may be progress, but if it is at the cost of losing one's identity and by emulating the rashness of city life then it is better to stay stagnant. Identity crisis has taken a new meaning in the context of small towns.

The writer can be reached at swatirai.nee.sharma@gmail.com