What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Circle of Life

Life has its funny little ways of catching up with you. No matter what you are running from, life makes you run in wide circles and come face to face with it all over again. It is like a sadistic game of deja-vu. Remember how you swore as a child, you would never turn into your mom or dad. However, years down the line you find yourself becoming more and more like them. In fact it is almost as if you are undergoing metamorphosis to exactly turn into them. After ten plus years in the United States, after having believed to have left a lot behind, after running away from several things, today I find myself undergoing that ironic metamorphosis.

Unlike many people across the world who immigrate to the United States, our family did not 'need' to immigrate. By the grace of God we were quite well off. People before us had worked hard to get to a good place in life. In fact we honestly did were not that keen on immigration either. When people ask us what brought us to the United States, we don't really have a good answer. To tell the truth, it really was a total crap shoot. We rolled the dice not caring about the outcome. We rolled the dice, got United States and here we were.

We were definitely not wealthy by any means. In fact our lives were that of the average middle class Indian, simple and modest. I took the bus to college, watched movies in cheap theaters and glued back the soles of my shoes instead of buying new ones. However, every now and then the well off factor came to play like I received H.S.C mark sheets for science and arts, when I clearly remember studying and sitting for the arts stream only. I was pretty loopy those days, but not so much as to give a series of six grueling papers and not know it. Well of came in little perquisites here and there. I would have got the admissions and jobs I desired.

In fact the last resounding reminder of well off came a few hours before I boarded the plane to change countries of residence. The customs official saw a less than ordinary dorky eighteen year old and her younger sister flying abroad, and thought he had some clueless desperate to immigrate Indian to fleece. He asked us for police clearance certificates, and I said the United States immigration did not require them. He threatened we would not be allowed to enter, and I said we had done so once and received our green cards. He said they would deport us, and I shrugged my shoulder, like I give a damn, if I'm back, I'm back. In a last ditch effort to terrify us, he mumbled some threats and that he could get the certificates for us and asked for our passport. As soon as he saw the names, he changed his tunes, wished us well and escorted us in.

So why was I one of these crap shooters taking a gamble. Well, I was a crap shooter, rolling the dice to see what would happen if you leave well off behind. The last few years of our life in India, my father did not 'work', he did 'charity work'. I was sick and tired of his interest and devotion to the 'schools' and reforming this 'public school', and resented that I did not matter as much. I was frustrated at his constant desire to join politics and claims that all major parties had approached him. I was also disillusioned by the charity work my grandfather had done and continued to do. I was distraught by the hours he spent in the slums 'lending' money to people for their ventures and needs. I resented that he did not stop even after being stabbed, and thought that family did not matter. 

When I left India, in a way I was just like some other immigrants - an ignorant and apathetic youth, trying to chase an American dream. I really did not like the idea that India was a socialist state, giving so much emphasis on public sector and opportunity.I hated politics, politicians and the power games that the played. I could not respect the sense of entitlement that I believed people had, some of the strikes, hartals and bandhs that kept happening. I believed in a sort of social darwinism, that people who were poor and less off deserved that. I was unable to understand why people in my family felt such an obligation to serve. I thought everybody should mind their own business and everybody will get what they deserve. It was actually quite a capitalistic and opportunistic point of view.

After all that here I am full circle in life, unable to recognize who that youth once was. Today, I am am a proud part of the cheddar revolution. Today, I find great honor in standing in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin and the average working man across America and the globe. Today, I am humbled in being just  a small voice that will speak for those who are poorer and less off. I always felt that I had to be at the top of my class or someone highly successful to make my parents proud. But now, everyday I protested at the square, I think I was a person my mom and dad would be proud of, my grandfather would be proud of, my family is proud of. Today, I am that person who has an appreciation and understanding of what society truly is and how we collectively owe to each other to make stronger people, stronger families, stronger towns, stronger states, stronger countries, a stronger humanity.

I understand that my grandfather did not squander his hard earned money, but found a way to give back to working people. I have a lot greater respect for the efforts my father put in a school, which I often mocked for the boorish village vernacular students. It is immensely ironic that a person who once ridiculed strikes and labor movements, has spent afternoons on the square protesting for labor (to the point of falling sick). It is immensely ironic that a person who once abhorred politics is now at the heat of it. I'm just one small nascent voice in this movement. I'm new to this sort of passion for a cause. But I want to be a bigger part of it and get involved more with political action committees and devote more of my time and effort.

I will attribute this change in me to 'education'. Not that I was uneducated, I was well educated SSC, HSC pass, fluent in English and quite smart. However, the Indian social reformer Gopal Hari Deshmukh once said "Education is not what earns bread, what earns bread is labor. Education is what makes one a better, well rounded person". My education has been towards the pursuit of higher goals. But for a long time now, education has not been about higher goals in life, but just a part of it. A large part of my educational pursuits has been to become a well rounded individual, to be informed, to interact with intellectuals and understand what society is and what it means to be a part of society.

A lot of educated, intellectual people will never be blessed to have this change in them. A lot of people will probably never find their souls stirred and awakened. A lot of people will never find themselves part of something bigger than themselves. A lot of people will go their lives only thinking about themselves, their small worlds, their individual needs. A lot of people will never really find compassion for their fellow human beings and believe that everyone who was less fortunate, or unsuccessful was lazy and had it coming. A lot of people will use education to get ahead in lives, improve the quality of their lives, but never give back to society.

I could have been one of them despite education. The biggest difference why I am blessed with this opportunity to revive my soul, I'd say is my mother. For even when the world revolved around me, she taught me to always treat people with respect and gratitude. No matter how much I hated my teachers, I had to appreciate them. It was a novel concept in the society we grew in, but she taught that we had to treat workers with respect. Our milkman, our garbage man, our waiters, our cleaners, our maids, our washer men, they were not servants but people who provided something we needed and we ought to treat them with respect.

My mother is not very opinionated. She is usually very quiet and does not express herself much. She quietly goes with the flow of life. Recently, my mom has shown a very rare uncharacteristic expression of opinion. Not any ordinary opinion, but a strong political opinion - "Scott Walker is an idiot, and is ruining Wisconsin". That reassures me that "Scott Walker is fucking douche bag and corporate whore who is screwing Wisconsin over". It gives me hope that I am standing for what is genuinely right and for the good of the people.The people will always prevail.

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