Preparing for the future: youth/self-making in the waiting rooms of India’s economic reforms

This project is an attempt to understand the multifaceted significance of ‘preparation’ (Taiyaree Karna, in Hindi-Urdu) as a distinct phase and practice undertaken by young people transitioning from education to stable employment and full adulthood. This study looks at young individuals who call themselves ‘aspirants’ and are preparing for the Indian Civil Services Examination (CSE) in the various ‘aspirant localities’ of Delhi like Old Rajinder Nagar, Mukherjee Nagar, etc.

The experiences of aspirants, many of whom are migrants to the city who have come exclusively for exam preparation and coaching, open up the possibility for other projects of personhood and self-making. Moreover, as individuals aspiring for a career in the nation’s public services, their own aspirations of social mobility and stable futures intersect with the nation’s concerns and future vision for its youth. This is also a generation that has grown up in the aftermath of India’s economic reforms of three decades ago, finding themselves in a fundamentally changed socio-cultural and economic milieu from their parents’ generation.

The actions, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that these young people gain from the time spent on such preparation are critical for us to expand our understanding of the changing nature of youth experiences in the region’s urban spaces and how new and hybrid ideas of identity, personhood, mobility and youth publics are created, contested and negotiated in the contemporary.

Abhishek Ranjan Datta
Research Student