Dear States of America,
I have a confession to make. I’ve truly enjoyed seeing you lose the ‘united’ from your name.
In more ways than one, the past five years have been an elongated feeling of schadenfreude for the rest of the world — but especially for me. You see, in India, we’ve always considered the US of A to be THE place where we get good jobs, great money, and the best Mission: Impossible films.
After the advent of globalisation, the ultimate goal for most middle class Indians became landing a gig in the American corporate sector, where obeisance and positive stereotypes about our arithmetic acumen would take us a long way. Or at least, far enough for us to never return to India again.
‘You Guys in the US Have an Extravagant Amount of Free Speech. What Are You Doing With It?’
I took up Humanities subjects in high school as a way of rebelling against our education system. And the US played into this rebellion of mine for no fault of its own.
It turned from being an object of my admiration to being perceived as a tumultuous country where I didn’t want to apply for my higher education. You’d be glad to hear I’ve recently gotten into a great college in India. The first thought I had on seeing my offer letter was, ‘Who sends these out at 1:30 in the morning?’ My second thought was, ‘I can live without you, US’. I would like to apologise – ‘I don’t really wanna live without you. I love your fast food too much.’
But just like Tom Cruise, you’ve been around for long enough to break an ankle or two — along with the world economy.
Your COVID-19 briefings were as entertaining to me as they were depressing to your people. Us Indians, after all, weren’t the ones being influenced to inject bleach into our arms. We were drinking cow urine instead.
The Capitol insurrection, the Amazon Twitter bots, and the Biden-stairs feud made me laugh. They made me think, and they made me worry, but they mostly made me laugh. You people still have an extravagant amount of free speech in your country. You use it for defending your right to carry (out) gun (violence), and you misuse it to spread conspiracy theories. But you also use it to satirise the world you see around yourself.
You Americans Are More ‘United’ Than Us
I’ve read humour sites like The Onion and McSweeney’s, and watched endless hours of Stephen Colbert in my lazy afternoons. I realised I do this for two reasons – because I want to laugh at you, but also, because I’m afraid to laugh at myself. And that’s why I’ve started to voice my opinions with my writing in the real world, talking about hot topics such as why you should not drink cow urine to immunise yourself to a pandemic.
The States remain more ‘united’ than its politicians and media would like you to believe. Us Indians are fragmented in a hundred different ways, be it on the basis of our race, religion or our tolerance level of ‘hippies’.
But aren’t we similar in so many more ways? In our hatred for the name of the Washington Redskins, in our love for the good part of an Oreo, and in our hunger to see more of those damn fine set pieces from Mission: Impossible.
We’re also similar in the ways you and I are broken. On 12 April 2021, we became the second country in the world to have registered more than 100,000 COVID cases in a single day since the pandemic began. You were the first. And we haven’t really given our consent to getting in line for this dubious record.
‘Misgovernance, Attack on Free Speech, Casteism’: What Affects India
Misgovernance has put our country in jeopardy once again. It was a long time coming, considering our lack of faith in public health protocols and the light-on-data vaccination drives.
Those in power right now haven’t been particularly mindful of the COVID-19 pandemic even as they’ve gone about campaigning for elections.
Free speech in our country is no longer unfettered. It’s why, sometimes, I want to write for foreign publications more often than I write for Indian ones, and why I used to joke about foreign headlines much more than I care to comment about our own home-grown brand of media sensationalism.
Casteism cripples our societal structure, and the marginalised are so oppressed that they could perhaps never start a movement like Black Lives Matter — thousands of years of oppression has led them to believe they aren’t ‘worthy’ of the freedom the Constitution claims to provide them.
I’ve started speaking up for what I believe in — and joking about things I cannot change. Yet there’s already fear in my heart and fatigue in my soul. It parallels that of the citizens of your country, whom I have grown out of despising. Us Indians are worse off than we realise, because of the way the powerful have taught us to think. And Americans are better off than they realise because of the way they see the world. In the end, both of us are myopic — or we would have learned to appreciate the existence of Jack Bauer much more by now.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
This pandemic has made our lives harder. This nightmare of a day never seems to end even though all of us want it to. The violence afflicting our world seems to take place only when no one’s looking. And those who claim to protect us don’t even have it in them to produce and televise more seasons of the best thriller premise there is. But if there’s any hope which remains, it’s the fact that life’s a television network, and God is an executive.
Hopefully, this pandemic gets cancelled before it’s renewed for another season.
Thanks and regards,
An Indian who sincerely hopes the both of us figure things out
(Abhijato Sensarma is an 18-year-old student from Kolkata who can be reached on Twitter and Instagram @ob_jato. His works have been published in The Guardian, The Telegraph in Schools, The Statesman’s Voices and he has won TOI’s Write India competition twice. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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