“Humare Zamane Mein…”: Millennials Are the New Boomers

·6-min read

The year is 1975. My parents are sitting in IRL gardens with their IRL friends, talking about IRL things, studying diligently without any distractions, and going on to build a solid life.

The year is now 2006. I am LOLing with the one friend I made on Orkut, hashtagging merrily on Twitter, and sharing my writing with people across the country through a revolutionary medium called blogging.

The year is finally 2021 and amid a crippling pandemic, young ’uns are creating elaborate short videos, making new kinds of music, being part of global fandoms that troll police forces in other countries, and sneering at the very mention of Harry Potter.

The sands of time keep moving and they’ve been turned into a real groovy TikTok timelapse.

The sands of time keep moving and they’ve been turned into a real groovy TikTok timelapse.

A lot has been written about boomers vs millennials, the generational tussle that was an annoyingly constant part of life for the past two decades. After years of millennials being universally reviled as a whimsical entitled generation of losers against whom aspersions were cast about avocados and a severe lack of commitment, we’re no longer the pipsqueak punching bags we once were. The oldest of us are now pushing 40, and the youngest are puttering around in their mid 20s. When we weren’t trying to claw our way out of a recession that came smack dab in our formative years, we were sighing deeply at the boomers who just could not give us a break.

A phrase we often associate with our parents is the filmy and stereotypical “humaare zamaane mein”. “Humaare zamaane mein people had real values,” was a common lament. “Humaare zamaane mein we respected our elders.” In this zamaana of yore, relationships were more real, there was an abundance of line-toeing, an admirable dedication to institutions, and a quaint willingness to buckle down and get things done. Confused at our behaviour of switching jobs quicker, we were told about how they held a single job for decades. Bemused at an insistence on dating, we were given examples of their long-lasting marriages, never mind whether they were happy or not. Shaking their heads at our insistence on self-care, we were labeled selfish and narcissistic. That generation thumped their chests and pitied the younger lot of gadabouts who didn’t seem to take anything seriously. We took all this with a heaping spoonful of salt and soldiered on. What a shame then, that we seem doomed to repeat this cycle with the next lot.

Bemused at an insistence on dating, we were given examples of their long-lasting marriages, never mind whether they were happy or not.

The disdain we directed at the olds is coming right back around to us from Gen Z, who are facing even bigger horrors at a much younger age and shining through with great aplomb and an impressive amount of style. All with good reason, too. We millennials, the revolutionary generation who did so much, are slowly morphing into staid old chaps resistant to change, while the teens of today facepalm at our increasingly “old and broken” ways. We’ve reached a pivotal step in the passing of this unfortunate torch, with the main difference being the vocabulary of expressing the generational disappointment towards kids these days.

It’s time for millennials to be honest and self-aware about how we used to react to advice from Boomers, and what we have thought in the recent past about Gen Z and their ways. Feel the familiarity, and let us collectively cringe at the parallels.

Feel the familiarity, and let us collectively cringe at the parallels.

Boomers → Millennials
“We used to have real relationships, we would spend quality time with friends and family. Look at you people, messaging so many people, chatting with just anybody. Seems very shallow no?”
Millennials → Gen-Z
“We used to be able to make real friendships online. Early Twitter was the best, so many meaningful conversations. Now it’s just noisy and full of hate. What is the point of TikTok again?”

Boomers → Millennials
“We used to play outside, feel the soil beneath our feet and sun on our face. You kids just sit in front of the computer doing god knows what”
Millennials → Gen-Z
“We’re the last generation that has a healthy balance of online and offline. We knew when to disconnect. Kids these days live their full lives online tsk tsk.”

Boomers → Millennials
“What is this short skirt? Why jeans instead of trousers? You’ll never get a job with coloured hair or tattoos, be professional.”
Millennials → Gen-Z
“What is passing in the name of fashion these days? Not understanding only.”

Boomers → Millennials
“Pearl Jam and Beyonce? Best music was Pink Floyd and Pandit Ravi Shankar, so timeless.”
Millennials → Gen-Z
“They don’t make good music like they used to. Only mysterious K-pop and Ariana Grande what is that a Starbucks drink hehehe”

Case in point

https://twitter.com/kwaig/status/1272449524737486849

The truth hurts, but it is rather illuminating. As we get older, greyer, and not necessarily wiser, we see young folks do new and exciting things that we don’t fully understand, and transform into what we’ve spent so much time rolling our eyes at. We seem to automatically hark back to a better era when we knew (and decided) the next big thing instead of having to frantically Google what it could be.

All too quickly, I see my cohort being smack dab on the verge of Boomer-hood in the worst possible way. Too much “kids-these-days”ing, not quite enough scrambling to get with the programme to see where the world is at and where it’s going to be. We used to own that space – we wangled careers, friends, money, side gigs, and hobbies out of predicting, defining, and following the curve of culture. We put in a tremendous amount of effort into writing, tweeting, quizzing, making memes, and having discussions… too much for us to be disconcerted at the dazzling array of things that teens these days are creating. Humaare zamaane mein, we used to despise needless nostalgia so spouting our own now is only a temporary Band-Aid on our increasing obsolescence, and it ain’t a pretty one.

All too quickly, I see my cohort being smack dab on the verge of Boomer-hood in the worst possible way.

If history has shown us anything, it’s that even teens of today will grow up to complain about the kids of the 2040s being too ungrateful and distracted, and the grumpy wheels of time will keep turning. The only way out is discarding the kinship with the generational label we have been given, which is, let’s face it, just a state of mind. Gen X, Y, Z… They’re artificial constructs that give us an oversimplified way to define ourselves and a group to cling on and belong to. These divisions have even been compared to zodiac signs, an arbitrary way to feel identified and unique. Unless you strictly govern your life by the mercury rising in the third house, you shouldn’t have too much trouble drifting a bit from your assigned cohorts. There’s no doubt that kids will always be befuddling and overconfident and middle-aged chaps will always grudgingly be playing catch up with them, and occasionally catching up if they allow themselves to.

The only way out is discarding the kinship with the generational label we have been given, which is, let’s face it, just a state of mind.

So let’s allow ourselves to. I’m going to. Every day throws up a whole host of issues that admittedly seem like a challenge, but really are a to-do list. The world is morphing into weird and wonderful shapes and instead of creating a little learning plateau for myself and snuggling up on it, I’m going to revel in the discomfort. So… I’m gonna try talking to the younger folks to see life from their POV. Experiment a bit (with abundant caution) with crypto and buy or make an NFT or two. Embrace ARMY. Advocate for new technology and newer forms of self-expression. I don’t want to become one of those who call their children, nieces, or young neighbours for guidance on the latest newfangled gadget whilst I bemoan the good old days when comfort zone was king.

Now let’s see, what’s this feud between Olivia Rodrigo and Sabrina Carpenter about? Is that still a thing? Damn, am I being cheugy? I really gotta go make friends with my teenage neighbour to know what’s what.