Wrote this in DNA Mumbai’s anniversary issue yesterday
The Guru Cool Factor
“Pilates with a personal trainer? Oh you can’t be serious — that is so last year!” This week the swish set is into flaunting spiritual gurus as arm candy; not for them the role of a devout acolyte or a gushing spectator at a satsang – now it’s necessary to be perceived as being into hardcore spirituality. So if one is into Buddhist chanting, another is into a Bhagvad Gita study circle, while yet another extols the intricacies of applying Vedanta to brand-building. And if the page 3 gang is doing it, then could the fashion-conscious youth of today be far behind?
From amulets and armbands to Saraswati handbags and Gayatri Mantra tattoos, young Indians are unabashedly showing off their spiritual side. Chandan tikas casually accessorize tank tops and frayed jeans, and Bollywood starlets and reality show participants mutter the Hanuman Chalisa before shots. Twenty years ago, spiritualism was thought to be just another word for escapism, but now it appears to be the coolest thing coming. Be it in any form – satsang or séance, scripture study or satanworship, collegians are game to give it a shot; devouring rock, metal, Sufi and bhajans with matching gusto.
However, spirituality today has ceased to be just a fad and has become a very serious and credible way of life. The youth have certainly taken it a few steps further, with many opting to become yoga or meditation teachers, alternative therapists or healers, and extending this to setting up NGO’s addressing issues of familial trauma, child abuse and domestic violence.
This shouldn’t surprise us though, because spirituality addresses two fundamental aspects of a young person’s life – a quest for meaning, and a sustained sense of challenge. Today, more than ever, under a deluge of media bombardment and a fragmented social system, a young person searches for his/her identity, yearning to understand his/her place in the scheme of things.
Young people love challenges, and in a world where mediocrity, mall rats and call centre flunkeys thrive, many dive into the sanctuary and reclusive anonymity of the world wide web. Better to have an enduring relationship with a laptop and a pack of Doritos than risk rejection and struggle to live up to the expectations of one’s peers. Here again, spirituality steps in as it challenges us to emerge from our shells, to take a step forward and build our lives as we want to. Hence it is no surprise to see sensitive young people delving deep into some or other form of sadhana, and emerging refreshed, proactive and empowered to enhance the quality of their own lives, and of those around them.