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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Of Heights, Quakes, and How Everything is Wrong

We clawed at walls. We smiled at the world till our cheeks hurt and our lips bled. We did everything right -- to what end? Rickety buses filled with sweat, drudgery and depraved machinations; the morbidly obese sweating at the gym after eating far too much; young people dying because someone, somewhere, does not know better -- and what have we accomplished?
Rumbles of suspicion arise somewhere deep in our brains at every kind word, every kind touch, every holy gesture, because somewhere between the Value Education classes and the deadbeat degree our evaluation of kindness quietly shifted -- from the scale of people served, to the adult and practical yardstick of social points accrued -- and by those measures we give and receive what was preached, to the gullible child by the hypocritical adult, as gainful only in the afterlife. And so we were kind and we are kind, because it helps to be kind. Even if the fear of God didn’t convince us as kids, we’re all so kind, now that we’re grown -- for convenience in this here mortal life. Everybody and their mother is kind in adulthood. Everyone. Not just the pious with season tickets to paradise but atheists like me too. Because it's useful. And so we're kind. So, so kind. Parents are so kind to children that kids don't have to take the trouble of dreaming their own dreams -- don't worry, baby! Mum and Dad lived in the 80s and have a lot of dreams left over from that hopeful era! Here, take them. Fulfil them. Parents will pay for whatever you need to get that done. You just do it. How convenient, right, baby? No need to waste your time being yourself! We're doing you a favour. Just like the government is doing us all a favour! No one has to lift a finger to build an identity. It's all encoded for you by our freely and fairly elected masters. Here are the basic rules that define your identity as an Indian:
1. Government decides what you eat. Don't eat a cow, it's your Mom.
2. Government decides who you have sex with. 'Honey, not now' is something that only men can say in a marriage and expect to be respected. A woman's sexuality is an object promised to her husband by her father who similarly ‘received’ her mother once, so married women beware, you can't be raped by your husband. Because in India, marriage is a sacrament which makes marital rape a non-issue.
3. Government decides who you don't have sex with. Because gender is so binary that all hell will break loose if someone explores outside the extremes. On second thought, we don't understand such sophisticated stuff. You want a reason? Well, because, tradition or some vague thing like that.
4. Women, don't be a woman or you will be raped. Men, if you denounce rape, you are not man enough. Children, there is no such thing as rape. You see, ignoring the very dictionary definition of rape, we believe that she was asking for it.
5. If all of that is difficult, just do as you’re told. SURRENDER NOW OR PREPARE FOR A FIGHT! (Meowth, that's right). Because hey, be grateful you don't live in Syria. At least we don't behead you.
Alright, alright. I'm sorry about the ranting and the discombobulated writing and the fact that the lettering above probably gave you a seizure. But hey, I'm right about the routine, muscle-memory survival summarized succinctly by the movements and conversations of commuters on public transport. I’m right about the hypocrisy in pretending that the luxury of affording good food is not a luxury at all since it makes you fat, as well as the homogenous beauty standards associated with ‘fat’. I'm also right about the pointlessness of parents dictating to children and in turn being dictated to by the powers that be. I'm right about the micro-aggressions we face every day for not fitting into the boxes built around us. You know I’m right.
Before you say it: no, I don't know what to do about it. This is a rambling, whining, selfish, elitist, pseudo-activist piece by a tired young adult who has no idea how to fix the dog-eaten world she inhabits. This is an immature outburst in response to frustrations accumulated over many months of walking on the streets feeling unsafe, navigating online and offline interactions with narrow-minded judgmental dimwits, being irrationally mistrustful of new people because of being hurt and disrespected too many times, and reading the newspaper only to be left thanking my dumb luck that I'm still in one piece.
And yes, this is a rant about everything that's wrong around me, and it’s triggered by survivor's guilt – because Anik Mukherjee, my senior by a year from Hem Sheela Model School, a troubled guy, a flawed guy, and an extraordinary aesthetic, comedic and literary talent who I had the privilege to know and watch performing live, recently succumbed to the crisis of dreams versus conventional careers, and committed suicide -- late last week.  Pragmatically speaking, I am saddened, grieved even, and my thoughts are with his family who must be going through hell right now. On a less pragmatic note, however, the only thought running through my mind is what this all is worth. Anik was a rebel; he didn't walk the straight and narrow. But even those of us who did everything right, as I wrote in the beginning -- what do we get? On good days, we get financial security and false bliss, with a faint hint of regret for having never rebelled. On bad days, the pathetic nature of our robotic existence hits us like a block of ice to the face and we fall into a damaging periodicity of low self-worth and bully-like egotism -- essentially either pulling ourselves down, or rising up by pushing down on others – and so on and on it goes. Our consolation is that some unknown heights are reached in the process. Some unreachable correctness is apparently achieved when we let our lives be copies of a set template. Some comfortable predictability, some spinelessness mistaken for likeability, some ingratiation of the world at large -- that's what we get. That, and the fact that young people die.
Because someone, somewhere, prefers that one or two youngsters die if only to reinforce in the minds of the others that they are being so very strong by doing exactly what is told instead of giving in to weaknesses such as dreams and individuality -- and thus a generation is born who make fun of two friends for discussing the loss of someone they knew (yes, that happened) because it's so funny and so stupid and EHMAHGERD TOO LOL that the idiot killed himself, ROTFL such a wuss. "Oh, look at me, I've never dreamt, never built anything beautiful. Look at me, because it took me such strength to conform and never say enough. I'm gonna be an engineer and my Momma will love me more and cook me bigger pieces of chicken..!" Well guess what, strong-man dear -- Anik lost a battle. You never fought. I wish he were alive, because he was nice to me while you are horrid to me. I’d have him alive and you dead any day.
Sounds harsh, I know, but those are my words for those who ridicule suicide victims. It's a lapse of judgement -- a fatal lapse of judgement -- but it means that the person did something, be it good or bad, to land themselves in deep enough trouble, so there. The strongest are the ones who came back from the brink. The weakest are those who don't know what it's like to be criticized and made to feel worthless. Those who, unfortunately, tip over the edge are somewhere in between. Because:
“It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.” -- Terry Pratchett
So yes, with many apologies to my readers, I will be irrational today. I will be a pseudo-activist today and you can judge me all you want from the great heights you've reached in your quest towards homogeneity. Speaking of those heights, Congratu-fricking-lations to you.
Don't get me wrong. I am probably on the way to a deadbeat degree -- fortunately, for the better part, not because of external pressure but because my academic tastes happen to be conventional. But at least I know that it's much, much harder, and not weak or lesser at all, to be doing something different. As for the non-academic stuff, I know exactly what it's like not to fit in -- and as I said, it's my dumb luck that I'm in one piece. No pedestal here for me to stand on!
Today there was an earthquake here, again – thankfully yet again non-fatal. Now, as anyone with half a brain would, I'm not partial to earthquakes. However, I wouldn't mind a non-fatal earthquake once in a while, especially of the metaphorical kind -- because we as a society, we as a country, we as a species, need a mad shaking up from time to time. Our fake heights need to crumble, our veneers need to be rudely torn, our sense of mortality needs to be reinforced, if we are ever going to get real about how pathetic all of this is getting.
Ergo, we need a quake. A significant one.
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For the sake of preservation, here is a link to my original Google+ post reacting to Anik's death. Feel free to talk about these posts, or not. Thank you for putting up with me.

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