People of the millennium prefer arranged marriages because they can’t afford to fall in love, says author Vivan Marwaha – Times of India

Much has been said about the Indian millennium – from the inclination towards avocado toast to their entrepreneurial aspirations. But the thing that unites generations is the financial insecurity they feel, argues author and user researcher Vivan Marwaha. She talks to the Sunday Times about her book What Millennials Want, and the aspirations and concerns that shape their attitudes toward politics, marriage and social media.


How was the process of doing fieldwork for the book?

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I camped in small towns and cities across thirteen states (almost evenly divided into four regions of India), talking to millennials in different contexts. From sanitation workers to snack stall owners and coaching center students to climate refugees, I have spoken to more than 900 Indian millennials, asking questions about their economic aspirations, social attitudes (attitudes toward marriage, gender and religion) and political attitudes.

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At the Skill Development Center where young Indians were trying to master themselves, or in the public squares of small towns in Madhya Pradesh, I constantly tried to broaden the scope of those I was interviewing by focusing on unheard voices.

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In addition to my fieldwork, I use a dataset (with more than 6,000 respondents) compiled by the Center for the Study of Developing Societies to combine broad trends with personal anecdotes to describe an intimate biography of the Indian millennium.


What are the aspirations that drive millennia?

Indian millennials yearn for stability in a turbulent world. The economy has not created jobs before the coronavirus. In 2019, India had a 45-year high unemployment rate and the country was going through multiple periods of rising unemployment. Millennials have been moving towards automation in a global economy and, on an uncertain financial basis, are unable to afford their own homes and become nation builders who will turn the country into a বা 10 or ট্র 15 trillion economy. Therefore, it is the millennium-driven aspirations that promise stability in today’s world: government jobs, arranged marriages and strong politicians.

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Education does not guarantee employment. What will set the Indian youth up for success?

India currently has a filtering system instead of an education system. Instead of teaching children how to think, it teaches them what to think, and the whole education system basically works to filter students towards the same opportunities that existed three decades ago: joining IITs, medical colleges and government bureaucracy.

India needs to think deeply about taking advantage of the massively increased internet access across the country and focus on creating a blue-collar revolution situation by attracting well-paying jobs for those who cannot farm as well as improving its youth for the future. And exploitation.

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You said nine out of 10 millennials said they would not marry outside their community. Why?

About 84% of married millennials have been married, which is almost always between members of the same community. Most are not in a financial position to find their own partners separated from their families, and certainly not from other communities because of the high associated costs. As I write in my book, “Many millennials cannot afford to fall in love: the risk of being separated from their family or being evicted from their home is very high. Due to low income and high cost of home ownership, many find it difficult to move without family support.”

Has social media changed the way young Indians present themselves?

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Social media has given this generation important tools and platforms to define themselves on their own terms. Before the spread of the Internet, young Indians were always monitored for their appearance, behavior and how they presented themselves to the world. And although it still happens on the internet, young Indians are the only ones who decide how they will define and present themselves to the world. They can have uncovered conversations and interactions in a way that is still not possible for many – especially women and minorities – in physical places.


What determines who they vote for?

The Indian millennia came of age at a time of great global churning. Huge advances in technology and globalization have created opportunities for many but led to a lack of stability and identity for many more. In this turbulent world, Indian millennia begin to favor the brave leaders who promise big, bold solutions even if they do not produce the necessary results for a young India.

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Whether the move is a banknote ban or a surgical strike, leaders who give the impression of any kind of bold decision-making find support in the Indian millennium, which needs a radical solution to improve their lives and livelihoods. It is not limited to Prime Minister Modi. Regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Jagan Reddy are extremely popular in the millennium because they promise similar bold steps for everyday problems.

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