The World Bank dropped a report last month (at 290 pages it’s a veritable tome), comparing living standards of people born in the 1980s with that of their parents. The study, across 75 countries, showed that for an average Indian millennial, 75 percent of their current average income has little to do with ability, but is dependant on parental connections, legacies, membership in a preferred social group, or political power.
As Quartz pointed out, “In the case of India, even though relative mobility has been improving, it is still low by international standards and the lowest among the six large developing economies.”
VICE met up with a few young people in Khan Market in Delhi, one of the country’s most expensive retail locations, to ask just how much they benefited from privilege.
Nidhi Varshney, 21, preparing for MBA entrances
My dad is a businessman engaged in solar products and all that. Once I graduated, I realised that the option of giving GMAT alone isn't available to some people. And you know these fancyass coaching [centres] cost 50,000 rupees straight. It's very difficult for people to do Internships also. Big [multinationals] pay like Rs 2,000 a month. I can afford to do them because I have a house in Delhi and my parents are there and food and everything, other people cannot do that.
My parents struggled lot more than I did, because I've seen a lot of people around me, having to work extra hard to get the same things I get just like that. Like clothes like Zara and all. A lot of people have to really save up for those.
Avikant Bhan, 19, Economics student at St. Stephen's College
I’m not a believer that your personality is static, that you can’t gather awareness about different social classes or different levels of privilege.
Like I’m relatively well off. I haven’t had to struggle as much as a good portion of the population. I get that. My dad’s in the government, my mom teaches at Lady Sri Ram College. Yeah man, It’s not been that hard for me on a financial or residential dimension. I’ve had basic facilities. But having a schooling system like ours, I have had to work hard.
Naina Durga, 19, undecided at Columbia University
I know I have privilege. I have the funds that my parents are paying for my college abroad. I know some students struggle with application and college fees. I feel like I haven’t struggled much financially.
My father worked a lot to get where he is, so that he could work for us, provide for us. He went on a full scholarship to IIT and then Stanford, so I definitely feel that I haven’t struggled But if you had asked me a year ago, when I didn’t have an idea of privilege, I would’ve been like “Yeah yeah I struggled so much in my application, in my SAT and all”. (Laughs) Now I realize that no, I did not struggle.
Rahul Sharma*, 24
Why would I lie about my privilege? I eat here, hang here, at these expensive places. Of course I’m privileged. I work with my father. He has a manufacturing unit of agricultural implements like blades, etc. I’m decently well off. (Laughs)
It wasn’t a struggle for me to reach here. Fuck it, no it wasn’t. See running a unit like that, there are always financial ups and downs. The pressures are different, it’s not the same.
Mayank Manish, 21, Public Policy student at St. Xavier's College, Mumbai
Undergrad was an inflection point for me realising my privilege. My professors made me see there are somethings that we see everyday but we don't observe. One simple thing would be, where will I sleep or what will I eat or what will I have to eat tomorrow. A lot of students had to do part-time jobs to make ends meet along with their studies, which is a privileged we sometimes ignore. Ignore may not the perfect word, but are ignorant of.
My father is a bureaucrat and my mother is a professor at Mumbai University. If things don't pan out for me, like there's no other option, then I will have to find a job. My dad will kick me out, as he will think like, “what are you doing here”. You cannot rely on them for ever and ever. And considering my ethical and moral stance, I personally would like to get out of my parents house.
Shreya Khandelwal, 21, Graduate student at University of Edinburgh
I’m not well off, my dad is. (Laughs) But sadly no, it wasn’t a struggle to reach this point in my life. It was easy. My dad is a businessman--an exporter of steel goods.
But I realised as I got older that it wasn’t the same for everyone else. Living here, you see the difference, like education, poverty, poverty line, houses, cars, everything. It’s sad how privileged people act and behave. I’m not entitled, but privileged for sure.
*Name changed at subject’s request.