In India, privileged + educated = guilty

Two Man in Costume on Alley
Two Man in Costume on Alley

I stay on the eastern part of India in a city which was the first capital of India — Kolkata.

A massive cyclone hit the city in May and devastated coastal town after coastal town in nearby areas. The city too was hit, with over 5000 trees uprooted apart from destruction to other property.

Some parts of the coastal areas have no electricity till date. Farm lands around the Sunderbans have become unusable due to sea water coming inland. And a lot of village houses have got flattened.

In comparison, my wife and I suffered from a fluctuating mobile connection and no broadband connection for a few days.

Whenever I felt like complaining about my broadband connection to my wife, or my family and friends, I bit my tongue. The extent of damage was too high for other families. People had lost homes and here I was complaining about no high speed broadband (70 mbps+) for a few days.

I did not even like complaining to myself. My wife couldn’t take me suppressing anymore. She pointed out to me that I need to be okay with complaining about what is not working for me. She asked me why am I so embarrassed about what I deal with?

Since then, I have been catching myself suppressing what doesn’t work for me. I have also started noticing all the times people around me do the same.

My brother works in Europe and has been brought up in India. When I ask him how’s life, he generally starts with — Can’t really complain.

Another friend of mine who went to college with me has a paycut and he tells me he will manage. He currently stays in the US and his conversation generally revolved around how the situation in India is worse off.

I remember a conversation with another old friend of mine. She used to tell me that she doesn’t deal with a lot of her problems and her emotions because she feels they are of a “first world nature”.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Martin Courreges on Unsplash

I am starting to notice these conversations all around me all the time after my wife pointed it out to me. Indians who are relatively well off are comparing themselves to the rest of the population, who are not. Yes, there is glaring poverty in India, the vast majority don’t have food security even today. Many live in appalling living conditions and don’t have job security. They have had broken and poor educational experiences growing up. And I am not playing down any of it. These are significant challenges that need to be addressed by every member of our society.

In this post, what I am pointing out is that the other part of India which never had to worry about food, always had their education paid for and took a roof over their head for granted is probably dealing with guilt by comparison.

Many are not acknowledging nor taking efforts to really be with whatever is not working for them. As I examine the impact on me, I can see that somewhere I became zealous to contribute outside of me without really taking into account my feelings and what I am experiencing in daily life.

As a kid growing up, whenever I wanted a specific thing, I was usually reminded of all the kids who did not have even a part of what I have.

Educated Indians will proudly discuss all the problems with the country or the political leadership or causes they are a part of.

However, we have a handicap when sharing about ourselves and what we are dealing with. Oftentimes, we are wondering if what we are dealing with is even relevant or worse, frivolous. And what makes up frivolous is too big a set to even describe here.

And there is an impact to this.

The impact when you are not fully cognizant of what you are dealing with is issues with mental well being. Issues with expressing oneself fully. Issues with loving oneself fully. And someone who doesn’t keep unlayering how much they don’t love themselves have nearly no chance to get how much they cannot love other people.

I want to conclude by saying that I am sure I am generalizing a lot. I see people born in the 1980 and earlier more susceptible to this condition than younger generations. Yet, it is definitely something that needs to be closely looked at. We need to validate and give importance to whatever we are dealing with even if what we are dealing with is a broken broadband connection in the middle of a devastating cyclone. That doesn’t make us less sensitive or less caring about issues that exist outside of us.

Being privileged is not wrong. It is just how it is.

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