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The new VCs of Chandigarh

punjab Updated: Feb 22, 2014 09:46 IST

The other day at a club's bar, I could not help overhearing three strapping young men sipping whisky and gulping kebabs. One of them recalled proudly that his 'mamaji' was the ADC to India's President. But that was decades back. Land ownerships were discussed, which are an inherited endowment. Public schools and surnames, which such scions rely on for ascending the idle glitterati's pecking order, are willy-nilly also a dynastic inheritance. There was little the trio could claim in that back-slapping conversation as achievements in their own right as individuals. Moustaches were twirled as these youths steadily got drunk and swaggered with the pride of not having to work for a living.

I later ran into a fine gentleman at the bar, but one who was also a despairing father. The old man runs a hill resort but his MBA son refuses to either get a job or help him run the resort. Instead, the son prefers drinking with his pals at the club. The father confesses: the real reason behind his visits to the bar turning rarer and rarer is that he can barely manage footing the bills for his son's drinking binges.

Such an increasing prevalence of this wasteful, non-aspirational culture may not be the best of augury for Punjab as these fellows are otherwise well-endowed to be high achievers. Their forefathers once did their names proud by winning Victoria Crosses (VCs) and Param Vir Chakras. But driving on Chandigarh roads lined with delicate laburnum and looming silk cotton trees can be a nervy encounter with the "bravery" of the neo-VCs or the Vela Crowds. In the city's Sector 8 market, we were held up because lads in new Mahindra Thar jeeps were rally driving. They were braking and racing, leaning out of windows and exchanging notes with passing friends, and squealing in delight with each manoeuvre. It was obvious their sensibilities had entirely taken leave of standard niceties such as traffic civility.

Then again, on the 'Gehri Route', I witnessed a close brush with death. A family in a car had obviously prayed hard before setting off that morning. An SUV negotiated the roundabout before Hotel Mountview at breakneck speed from the wrong side. The SUV driver, a fashionably-attired youth, was grinning as he missed the horrified family's car by a proverbial whisker.

Perhaps, we need to import more than BMWs and burgers from the West. How about imbibing some of its sterling values? Parents may like to take a cue from US billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who have bequeathed a fraction of their wealth to their kids, knowing that inheritance stymies individual growth and breeds familial discord.