Coconuts and cappuccinos

My friend Priya is 20 and lives in Mumbai. She's not religious but accompanies her mother to the temple every morning. She wears a vest top to college but covers herself in a jacket when she leaves the house. She attends cookery classes every afternoon to please her parents and sneakily meets her boyfriend every evening. She wants to have a career and a boyfriend. Her parents think it's time for marriage and a family. She needs to make a choice.

Another friend, Rahul, is 24. He wants to study art but is struggling as an accountant in a corporate. He wants to follow his passion for art, but doesn't want the wife and children his parents expect him to have in the next two years. He needs to make a choice.

India's youth are confused. Our political leanings are unclear. Our values are torn between traditional and modern. We are defining the country but have yet to define ourselves. We are conquering the world but inside all of us is a conflict between individual choice and collective values, what is or is not part of "our culture".

Rashmi Bansal, editor of India's youth magazine JAM, categorises Indian young people as coconuts (brown on the outside and white inside) or cappuccinos (white and frothy on top and dark beneath). The former visibly accept traditional Indian fashion, food, music and other paraphernalia but are essentially individuals. They will, for instance, consider premarital sex as a personal decision. The cappuccinos, on the other hand, appear cool, hip and western on the surface but are very conservative beneath. Men of this category will date many girls but marry only a homely girl of their parents' choice.

Young Indians can be both at different times or simply in between. Many are now choosing their own partners but seeking their parents' approval before forming any alliance. This new combination of arranged marriage and marrying for love is perhaps the best example of the compromise that young people are reaching.

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