By Adv. Tanya Chandra, Co-Founder, LexQuest.
Sometimes, it dawns upon us that being born into privilege of any kind, in an underdeveloped country, changes the course of our priorities, and it is indeed a safety net, hence an escape route from a life of deprivation, oppression, indignity and neglect that millions of the same country are otherwise subjected to. This is when, on a daily basis, us, the depositories of country’s fate, full of life and potential, encounter them, who, for the reason of being born without any safety nets, can never afford the opportunities, tastes, lives and priorities that we feel entitled to. This is where the conflict magnifies and it’s folly to believe that all human beings can change the course of their lives, as and when they choose to. For, choice itself is still largely a matter of privilege in our part of the world.
Our Private Schools today, are envisioned by seasoned businessmen, who perceive education as just another business opportunity, while the common man, in his attempt to make sense of the exorbitant cost of education, is prepared to put all his assets at stake, because these brands are selling luxury and “First World” dreams as obvious choices, thereby reinforcing the idea that being rich is not a state of material acquisition but the ultimate test of achievement, hence aspiring to be rich is the only worthwhile dream for the masses of the “Third World”. Children therefore, very early in their lives, are learning that class divide is an acknowledged and celebrated aspect of our culture.
I live in a city, where the owners of a beatific shopping mall (encouraging “shopping therapy”’ to resolve all our woes), which also serves as a status symbol scale for the middle income group population, concluded that building a public park in order to stash out poverty from the street overlooking their structure of global appeal and grandeur, shall not only add laurels to their CSR records but will also garner praise from all quarters. As always, the rich didn’t go wrong when determining the privileges the poor are deserving of. So now the said park, stands in aplomb, declaring the stature of its patrons, trying hard to keep up with the glossy structure across the street, which is swamped with people seeking happiness of the material kind. So the only class that can actually afford to build structures that seek or aid transformation, could go only as far, to hide the grotesque face of poverty stemming from the sheaths of an ailing system of economy and society.
As Indians, we tend to find solace in the knowledge that all countries and economies have “similar” issues, that our systems are only as flawed as everyone else’s, because universally, the world is now a forsaken place, full of disparities.
Meanwhile, I might feel better after putting down my thoughts on this piece of paper, because even in countries like ours, of late, being able to articulate the persistent state of misery, in a language the Social Media can strike a chord with, works just fine, as public display of opinions is our attempt to feel progressive. More so, because while growing up, we were told that thinking “too much” is a bane to the simplicity of our middle class dreams, and hence our life choices should leave us with no time or energy for this, but as a lawyer working in the social sector, my work calls for me to talk.
Also, because I am a part of a generation that thinks of itself as global citizens because capitalism has allowed it the luxury of credit card sponsored, i-device enabled dreams, where acquiring knowledge in order to attain sound and polite opinions is a choice it tends to make. We are a generation bred by academic and social institutions that want questions to be forgotten, so that the hidden mess can’t ever be surfaced; so this life is indeed a privilege.
However, while our privileges and hence the luxury of choices we are free to make, should often stir us to move beyond our “Netflix chill” lives. Strangely enough, it has only rendered us a reluctant and apathetic generation, immersed in our safety net aided glories. What wouldn’t we do to feel as ahead in our lives as we believe the “First World” to be, even as our thoughts continue to be mere by-products of our culture. Do we look good in our selfies? Do we feel excited at the idea of destination weddings in all their opulence, stretched out to a week? Do we read intelligent books, know better cinema, understand cool art, et. al? Say yes, and partake in all the aforementioned activities, while assessing ourselves as forward looking, progressive Indians, who feel “so bad” and “really sad” at the state of affairs in “this” country. Meanwhile, there’s always time to spare to judge and mock those who dress, walk, talk, eat, pray, feel, live, love, act, react, suffer, struggle, object, reject, question and believe differently. Irrespective of where we stand, we will get all the opportunities we are entitled to, as is the story of prosperous lives in a deprived nation.
Maybe, our generation can do a whole lot of good by being and doing a lot more. Maybe we can acknowledge, accept, embrace and talk more; so much more that our thoughts seek transformation and materialize into action. Maybe we can be more than a product of our egos, insecurities, prejudices and patriarchy, not too eager to prove our liberal ideas in a group while forgetting to check our conduct when left alone around the aforementioned batch of people. Maybe we will realize that our mindsets need an overhauling before we can set out to reform the political, economical, social and cultural constructs of the nation. Maybe we have more to come, before we are gone. More to do till we are truly the nation of a forward looking, billion plus people.