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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Adolescence in India: Street Urchins or Silicon Valley Millionaires?

Summary

Introduction

The Indian adolescent? A kaleidoscope of images flits through the mind's eye – the jeans clad 18-year-old, dressed ever so casually in designer clothes, attending an elitist institution in technology; the veiled young girl of 15, her first child tucked on her hip, trudging to the village well with two shining brass pots on her head; the stunted 14-year-old boy, who toils at the roadside restaurant from dawn to dusk so he can live on the footpath and send his meagre earnings home to a sick mother in the village; the doe-eyed Bengali refugee girl, sold to prostitution by parents too poor to feed her or themselves and other children; the bejewelled and bedecked bride all of 17 years, waiting for her groom who will come riding in on a white horse … kaleidoscopic images – images of dreams for a rosy future, of dreams that died before they took shape, of privileges and deprivations, of leisure and toil, of hope and despair.

The same problem that confronts the respondent when asked, “What is Indian?” leaves one baffled when asked to describe the situation of the “Indian adolescent” at the dawn of the 21st century. The contrasts are so vivid that any attempt to generalize needs to be tempered with a caveat. Against the backdrop of social and economic disparities that characterize Indian adolescents and youth, this chapter examines the trends shaping adolescence in India.

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The World's Youth
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