Meet the anytime money college kids
Even till the 1990s, student life was all about minimalism � iron-clad rules, tasteless food and the occasional outing. And yet many would swear that...
Even till the 1990s, student life was all about minimalism � iron-clad rules, tasteless food and the occasional outing. And yet many would swear that those were some of the best days of their life�Today, youngsters' life is no more about meager means and with parents gladly funding their monthly expenses, no one seems to be complaining Suchismita Pai Remember those good old college days? The fire breathing hostel matron, who had you scurrying into your room well within the 7 pm curfew; the note from the local guardian that you simply had to produce if you ever wanted to stay out late; or the long wait for that horrible mess food, which you wolfed down anyway because you were too hungry to care. Even till the 1990s, student life was all about minimalism � iron-clad rules, tasteless food and the occasional outing. And yet many would swear that those were some of the best days of their life. Ok, now imagine what it would be like to have a hostel room fitted with an air conditioner, washing machine, gas stove and a mini refrigerator. And how about having a car to zip around the city and loads of cash to splurge on that newest outfit available in the market? Shreya Sharma's room at the NRI hostel of a reputed technology institute in Pune, a popular destination for higher studies in Maharashtra, boasts of all these facilities. A second year engineering student, she used to share a room with two other students in the regular hostel in the first year. But she moved to the NRI hostel, which has just two students to a room and a host of amenities that make life much easier. While the regular hostel fee was Rs 2,000 per month, including mess charges, today Shreya is not only paying a little over Rs 4,000 in monthly charges but also has to fend for food. But that is not something she is too bothered about. "I can eat what I like instead of the boring stuff at the mess," she points out. The price of flexibility and comfort along with sundries like personal grooming and the occasional drink roughly adds up to Rs 12,000 a month. And what if Shreya got homesick? Well, gone are the days when students would stand in line to purchase a train ticket and travel squeezed in an overcrowded general compartment. In these times of Tatkal reservations and luxury Volvo buses, Shreya goes home to Mumbai once a month in a car that comes to pick her up from the hostel. "Haircuts, eating out, shopping and sleeping in late are a part of the homecoming," laughs Neeta, Shreya's mother. The youngster also gets reimbursed for books, gadgets and other little extras that college life demands. Like money for the Rs 3,500-six week Salsa classes or the guitar classes she plans to enroll into. While going to the movies is no biggie, tickets to concerts like the NH7 annual music festival that Shreya attended last semester or the Blues festival she plans to go in the coming weeks, costs anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000 a pop and are funded by her parents on a need-to basis. For getting around the campus or jaunts into town, Shreya has her very own small car, for which her parents pay for a full tank of fuel once every month. "Any additional petrol has to come out of her monthly allowance. I also put in a Rs 500 recharge her phone every month. If that runs out, she pays for it. Additionally we give Rs 5,000 per semester for the occasional bit of shopping," elaborates her mother. Not all students live in hostel though. Nishant, a third year engineering student at another leading college in Pune is staying at home with his parents. Last year he had shared a flat with two friends "just to see what it was like". The rented accommodation came at a steep Rs 25,000 a month. His parents even arranged for a maid to cook and clean for the boys. "We loved eating out and so cooking at home was done only three or four times a week," he recalls. Today, there is no fixed budget he has to stick to. At the top of his list of must-dos is "going out", which doesn't come cheap � he spends anywhere between Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 a month. "The months with special occasions like New Year's or a birthday can easily set me back by about Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000. If my expenses cross Rs 25,000 in a month, I dip into my own savings," he says. Drink and cigarettes make up for a sizeable chunk of Nishant's expenses, especially since he feels it is "unsafe to drink cheap liquor and land up with health problems". Initially Nishant had a motor bike and smaller fuel bills, but after he met with an accident his mother insisted that a four wheeler was more stable and so now he drives a swanky mid-segment car. Phone bills, vehicle maintenance, and gym fees are "taken care of" and living at home has not changed things much except that the cooking, cleaning and laundry are literally "on the house". Like Nishant, Sarika, who is enrolled in a business management course, too, relies on her parents to pay for "entertainment needs" besides her education. She lives with them and commutes to college in her snazzy small car. In addition to the Rs 5,000 a month she spends on petrol, "eating out, drinks, cigarettes and personal grooming amount to about Rs 15,000 a month". Sarika, a self declared shopaholic, spends "Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 on clothes and trinkets every couple of weeks". Her monthly phone bill of Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 is picked up by her mother. She says, "My father spends a lot of time travelling so my mother wanted me to stay at home. I would have liked to be in a hostel as I see my friends having fun." As for missing the comforts of the home, like most of her classmates, she too would have paid someone to clean her room and wash her clothes. "Or just got them home with me on the weekend," Sarika states blithely. While Shreya, Nishant, Sarika and many others like them dip into their parents' seemingly infinite pool of cash, some students do have more regulated spending. "My hostel fee includes food and it is paid at the beginning of the year. I get a Rs 3,500-deposit in my account at the beginning of the month," shares Ashita, a third year engineering student, who hails from Bhopal. By the end of the month and a couple of additional money transfers later, she has spent around Rs 6,500. The youngster shares a hostel room with two other girls and uses all the facilities provided by the college - be it eating at the mess, riding the college bus or working out in the on campus gym. Her phone bills and her bimonthly trips home are covered by her parents. "They also pay for any extras like books and classes I want to take," adds Ashita, who has enrolled for CAT classes and guitar lessons. Of course, in all this talk of cars, concerts and cool clothes, let's not entirely forget that hitting the books, burning the midnight oil for assignment submissions and cracking tough exams is still very much on the agenda, though as one student put it "college is the best time of your life and if you can have fun in comfort, then why not?" So while the older generation still gets misty eyed over the watery 'daal' and hard as stone 'rotis' or the once-a-month cinema treats, the Gen Now is literally having their cake � or whatever else there is today - and eating it too! (Names of students have been changed on request.)
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