The Guilt of Privilege and the Privilege in Guilt

*The following was not written after listening to Coldplay*

If there is one thing doing a degree in the humanities taught me, it’s that I am a fleshy, over privileged waste of resources and time-space, who is so good-for-nothing that an absurd tragic hero of a plump goat, raised with the singular goal of being mutton biriyani, that contacts malaria during Bakrid is probably more useful to the planet than me.

Goat Meme2

If there’s one thing that a degree in humanities gives all students, it’s crippling self-doubt while at the same time possessing a superiority complex it’s guilt. It’s the same guilt that I guess a certain Prince Siddhartha felt that turned him into the Buddha. But unlike Buddha who got a religion, most humanities students either get nothing or, at best, a debt (which is a good way of making sure they don’t have time to start their own religion). Now I am not saying, we, humanities students, are worthy of starting our own religion. Trust me, if some of us started our own religion, it’ll just be a lot of people with crushing social anxiety resorting to debate on social media but in real life having the argumentative skills of an overthinking puppy, that knows too much and too little about Karl Marx.

I don’t want to talk more for other humanities students as my degree has taught me that I can’t speak for others. Or myself. I shouldn’t speak? But I also shouldn’t remain silent. Gibberish?

Noil leber fo tca na siHsire bbig?

(That’s gibberish for “Eh?”)

Buddha

Anyway what I really wanted to talk about is about how sometimes I can’t come to terms with the privileges I possess. And I am terrified of defining what exactly ‘privilege’ means because definitions provide a false sense of accuracy that constantly changes across with time, space and individuals.

.(looks around to check if people have bought that excuse)

.Erm…

.Uh.

Okay, fine. You got me! I’m lying. I don’t want to be held accountable, for defining such a loaded word, by definition dictators (they are like grammar nazis, but the term is invented by me. Re-post it until it becomes a cultural norm). So I’m going to give a vague definition of what I mean by privilege. Every time I read a Buzzfeed articles that goes “ X things that every 90s kid from India will relate to” for a few seconds I am convinced that every 90s kid will relate to this, before I realise most 90s kids actually don’t relate to those things. Those few seconds in between are my moments of privilege. Every time I think the monsoons are a great time to have coffee and read a book, before I realise it’s literally the worst time of the life for a lot of people, those few seconds are me forgetting my privileges.

I also know, privilege is a lot more and serious, but this is a humor blog, so don’t get your tightie whities up your flowery nighties (another one of my coinages, please free to use them).

Once I took all my privilege into account, everything I have done, doesn’t really amount to much. My inner voice, which is basically a drunk South Indian attempting an impeccable Irish accent, trying to scream over a cranky pressure cooker that just refuses to go off, always takes an opportunity to remind me of it.

A casual conversation in my head:

Me: Hey, I’ve traveled quite a bit. That’s kinda nice. Feels like I’ve achieved something.

Inner-Me: You are a guy. You can do anything and get away with it in India.

Me: I guess you’re right. But I’ve also got a decent education and some social respect.

Inner-Me: Oh my god! Can you believe this guy?! Let’s not even get started on your caste. The big bad B word. That starts with a B ends with N and has the name of a popular Hindu deity squeezed in. Just in case it wasn’t obvious!

Me: But, but…Uh, I am trying to do stand up comedy. And that’s kinda tough. Don’t I get any points for that?

Inner-Me: What do you mean? You think you deserve points because you can burn through money and be okay with it? Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Abdul Kalam, those guys deserve points. You have everything going for you.

Me: Hey, but I was a fat kid. So that’s something. That made life kinda difficult.

Inner-Me: I’m sorry, your problem was you ate too much in a country where people die of hunger!  Besides once you ate so much that your friend tried convincing you that you had the biggest belly in the world.

Me: Hey. I got made fun of for that. There must be some larger socio-cultural explanation for being fat. Besides weren’t we supposed to suppress that memory?

Inner-Me: Nope that’s all on you. That’s your achievement. Some people use their privilege to go the moon, some people use it to believe that they have the world’s biggest belly.

I guess what bothers me is that the more privilege a person has the fewer number of people that person competes with. That, to me, is the best example of how unfair the world is. It’s basically the reason why Nawazuddin Siqddiqui will always be “alternate”, and Bollywood star kids, part of the “mainstream”. And at some level, all of us English-speaking, blog reading, individuals in many ways are no different than star kids. We are all part of the same game: we are holding on to our ten of hearts and complaining that they got dealt the ace of spades while the not-yet-Nawazuddin Siddiqui next to us has Uno cards and realized he’s completely fucked in this game.

Which brings me to the next part of the title: the privilege in guilt. It’s also weird that as I type this I am staring at a laptop which was probably made in factories in China where committing suicide is tea-time conversation. And here I am worrying about what to do with guilt. My big problem. And that again is privilege.

YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE PLAYING UNO BUT REALISE LIFE IS PLAYING POKER WITH YOU | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

My Big Fat Pajama Shaadi

Watching a friend get married gives you a good sense of what your age really is. There is a formula for this.

Number of years since you were born (Y) times the number of friends of yours who are already married (F) divided by the estimated number of years you are not going to earn money (E).

Real Age, R = Y*F/E

My real age, R, is nearing a zero. Mostly because my E has discovered the end of numbers! It’s a surreal thing to attend a friend’s wedding, because on the one hand you are admiring the courage that a person has to take this bold step of promising, what hopefully should be, a lifelong commitment, but on the other hand your brain is also thinking “CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! DID I LEAVE THE GAS CYLINDER ON?”

I am not your average pop-culture inspired teenager adult who is “afraid of commitment” and says things like “Marriage Bro. I don’t know if I can handle it. It’s too much effort bro”. I have always thought that marriage is a great institution for as long as I can remember.

*In School*

Teacher: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Non-Me1: I want to be a Truck Driver. (There is always one kid with this response)

Non-Me2: I want to be an archaeologist. (This kid probably saw Indiana Jones last night)

Teacher Cliché 1: In our days we only had Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer.

Teacher: Mukesh, what do you want to be?

Me: Husband.

Teacher Cliché 2: With your marks you’ll end up there only.

As to what kind of wedding I want, I didn’t give it much thought until I attended one recently. Going for one reminds you of how elaborate a process this can be. I don’t think I know as many words in the English language as the number of people at that wedding. I’ve decided mine is going to have a strict pajamas and shorts only policy. It’s going to be a Bring Your Own Pajamas Wedding. (Repost that until it becomes a cultural norm). There’s going to be a giant game of hide and seek and the ceremony ends when the bride and groom find each other. Then there is hurrah and merry and champagne and speeches and everybody passes out till they leave.

When people come out of it, people are not going to go “Bro, it was so much fun dudebro. I don’t remember anything”. People are going to go “Wow. That was just super comfortable.

Also no pictures allowed. I believe that a moment should be enjoyed and lived in and stored as a memory rather than trapped in an abstract socio-metaphysical construction such as a photograph. And because in photos my face looks like the age rings of an ugly Eucalyptus tree! So no photos!

The number of photos and the amount of makeup and the amount of smiling for photos at shaadis, gives a dubious desi touch to how The Joker got his scars.

Joker: I can’t feel my face any more. What is happening?

Batman dressed as North Indian Uncle, Bruce Jain: Why so serious, beta? Put a smile on your face?

Is that the best origin story for a villain? Or the worst?

Before I get stereotyped as the guy who wants to get married as soon as possible because he saw a lot of rom-coms, STOP! It’s more a belief in the practice of living together, which I get, is not for everyone. And I understand that there are so many things that go into the life of a couple living under the same roof, beyond the usual rut of romantic gestures etc. But I still feel, that there is a lot of cynicism regarding marriage in so many young people. And I am no one to blame people for their fears or pinpoint the source of their cynicism (American pop-culture, I tell you).

Now I am speaking with the confidence of a Fair Skinned, Brahmin, MS in US, settled in Silicon Valley Telugu Software engineer on Shaadi.Com. But, I am aware that the prospects of my wedding happening in such a manner are near zero. I mean, there are more chances the bride will happen to be a Koala bear given how much they like eucalyptus trees. But I shall be relentless in my optimism. Please consider this as an invitation for the wedding which has the probability of a renegade fat goat Rambo-ing itself to survival during Bakrid in interior Baluchistan.

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This Post was Awkward to Write

I want to talk about something that’s a little embarrassing and people might find it uncomfortable to read. So before you proceed, note that I am squirming as I write this. So if you think it is difficult to read, imagine how difficult it is to write. So here goes!

I want to be a Pakistani shepherd.

Sorry. Fine! I’ll tell you the truth. I want to talk a bit about male molestation. *A random goat in Pakistan who is reading this just went “how the tables have turned”.*

So you might be thinking how and why I chose this topic. On a bus journey back from what was nearly a perfect holiday, I was woken up abruptly when the bus I was travelling in hit a speed breaker so hard and fast, I felt like I was inside the belly of a drunk Malyali uncle fighting an angry Bengali intellectual over the correct interpretation of Sitaram Yehcuri’s left eyebrow. But I also found the hand of the guy sitting next to me all over my crotch. I knew it had been there for a while and he had the obvious guilty look of a teenager watching porn for the first time and he quickly got up and sat in the seats behind. It all felt a little surreal and I got down from the bus as soon as possible.

The reason I felt a little surreal because I assumed that once you grow up these kinds of violations would stop. Yes! I was a fat chubby pink kid while growing up which meant that at almost all busses, trains and weddings it would be extra alright to be pinch buttocks and be extra affectionate with their tongues. And this was when I used to wear pants. So wasn’t really revealing much!

Of course, it was always passed off as affection and it wasn’t until you learn to label the acts that you feel bad for yourself but also for that random uncle’s aunt who probably has the sex life of a basaltic rock.

And it doesn’t really stop there! During college a similar incident happened while standing in a local train in Chennai, when I was with a male friend. Him and I decided the best way to deal with it was to laugh about the fact that it was a Tamil man who looked like a Mahalingam who went for my lingam. That was really how that was dealt with because as men we have to give Thor a run for his hammer, no pun intended!

But more than the labels and boundaries it is the surprising lack of emotional infrastructure to deal with these issues that leaves a lot of conversation to be had. And as the psychological bile piles up, you just hope that you don’t do something stupid along the way.

Somewhere along the way stand-up comedy helped. Not that my jokes are all rants on molestation or anything. It’s just that sometimes standup comedians are lovely people to talk to about anything.

Normal people conversations

(Some place with loud music that sounds like the footsteps from an uncoordinated three legged race with three one-legged people. Some beers because…just the warm piss of a cow, man)

Me: Hey!
Non-Me: Hey!

(Awkwardly tear away at the label of the beer company)

Me: Isn’t it strange how we say hard work pays but in gyms we pay for hard work?
Non-me: What?
Me: Sorry.
Non-Me: Hey. Listen. I have to go now. Just…for something.
Me: Understandable!

(Retreat into a self-made invisible cave and sip the beer awkwardly)

Standup Comedian First Conversations

(Awkwardly hang about at an open mic)

Non-Me: Hey. First time?
Me: Yeah. Kinda nervous really!
Non-Me: Don’t worry man! It’ll be fine. You’re going to be a rockstar. Do you want to try your bit with me?
Me: Hey. Not really. I’m sorry. It’ll just get me more nervous.
Non-Me: That’s cool. Do you want to hear my bit out?
Me: Sure. Would love to! What’s it about?
Non-Me: Actually. Childhood mein, molestation hua mera! I am just trying out some bits on it. This is the opening line. “I know I was an attractive kid during school days. Not because I had many girlfriends as a kid, but because I got molested by older uncles a lot”. Kaisa hai? Edgy, no?

Of course not all standup comedians are like this and this is clearly exaggerated, but you get the drift.

I also found out that the legal framework isn’t too helpful either.

And it’s not surprising that conversation regarding the matter is surprisingly minimal. But the worst direction this conversation can head towards (and I swear I heard this once) is the “It happens to boys also so all these girls are just complaining”. It’s part of the same problem methinks!

Anyway, I’m sure such instances are all around us. So next time you are with your friends and enjoying a moment so warm and cozy that life feels like an American sit-com just say “So guys! How many of you were molested as kids?”