(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
As students submit applications to institutions in which they will spend the next few years learning about things which will leave them woefully unprepared for adult life (or as it is otherwise known as, ‘college’), our whole offense economy is gathering itself to spend most of next month frothing in the mouth about ragging. Yes, ragging. The cutesy term we give to the event in which college seniors compensate for their imagined masculinity by trying to humiliate their newly-arrived juniors.
When it started, many decades ago, it was probably really about breaking the ice and getting to know each other. A privilege the seniors assumed they had over their juniors, who in turn could assume the same privilege when they became seniors. It degenerated to such an extent that some juniors started killing themselves because of the humiliation they suffered. That is because we’re Indian, when we get a privilege, we have to overuse it. Look, free drinks, let’s drink so much that we lose all our senses and hit on the hosts’ wife. So, the sign outside the restaurant said ‘All you can eat.’ Those idiots may think of it as a marketing slogan, we think of it as a challenge.
The mêlée of people at the receiving end of the objections may also be confused because we are a culture which seems to be at home with bullying. People have objections to what other people are doing all the time and make it their life’s work to make them comply. Anybody who gets an opportunity to bully other people in this country is going to take it. We consider being able to forcibly exert control over people a virtue. We’re okay with someone being a bully as long as they can explain it with warped logic. I just spotted a woman in a pub. Why is she here and not at home learning 18 different ways to make brinjals from her mother? I don’t see her father or brother around her! Let us sexually harass her and put some shame into her. Along with our penises, of course!
We always ‘feel free’ to tell other people how to live their life. Fat people should be thin! Divorced people should be married! Poor people should be rich! Children should never be tired! Gay people should just be straight! Brown people should be white! And white people, ZOMG! CAN I KISS THE GROUND YOU”RE CURRENTLY WALKING ON? And we accept this like its holy gospel! We even teach our children from the day that they are born. Being yourself is never good enough. You need to be better. Even if you are terribly unhappy, you are not supposed to do anything. Just stay there and pray! Show the other cheek! When that turns red from pain too, take off your pants and show your other two cheeks. No, don’t try to fight back. Gandhi would not have approved.
Old people can impose their own agenda on the young because it is our culture. Listen to your elders, even if they are assholes! Police officers who want to be the big-man-on-campus will raid a party full of teenagers and call it a rave. Look how successfully I am protecting your city by arresting a bunch of harmless kids drinking beer! Members of one community will bully members of another community just because they can. Making other people bend to your wishes is a value we hold very dear in this country. It doesn’t matter whether the person is different from us because of his religion, caste or the pastry shop he frequents. As long as he is not ‘one of our own,’ he or she is fair game. In fact, instead of the ‘Ashok Chakra,’ our national emblem should be a portrait of a guy going into a restaurant while the text in the thought bubble above him says “I’ll have what he is having. No, really. Take it away from him and give it to me. Thanks in advance.”
We don’t mind cutting off other people while on the road. Or skipping queues. The right to skip huge queues is probably enshrined in the constitution, though only for those who can afford it. Doctors can bully patients because, they studied for ten years to get here, and they don’t have time to be nice to you. Companies can bully their customers, because what are you going to do? Fire us? Ha! They are so many of you it doesn’t matter if we lose a few. Event organizers make things as difficult as they can for all the fans who managed to buy those overpriced tickets. Just because we promise something, doesn’t mean we have to fulfil it. If you want a good concert experience, go to a different country where even though they will look at you like you’re going to blow them up, they will still treat you better than your own countrymen. And we assuage ourselves, that it is okay to do this! If we don’t be ruthless with other people, they will be ruthless with us.
Even a lot of our sources of entertainment subliminally enforce this message. Most of our popular television reality shows are about people submitting themselves to being harassed and mentally tortured just for a chance at their fifteen minutes of fame. Even though fame is not kind to the people who are unfortunate enough to marinate in it, but everybody wants to be famous. So that they can too be celebrated for being mean to other people.
Now please excuse me while I go and fire the household help for daring to establish eye contact.