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How The Pecking Order Of Social Privilege In India Is Exposed By The Coming Of Coronavirus

Posted: April 5, 2020

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This lockdown isn’t easy for me because of the restrictions in my movements but it’s even less easy for my house help. But here’s what I know I can do for sure, whenever I get the mic, I can pass it on to her.

The plague of 21st century has arrived, exposing the weak points of this ‘civilization’ bare to its bloody bones. As this epidemic stand on our doors with its gaze locked on our already-crumbling economic systems, I was forced to take a step back from the comfort of my home and make myself aware, just a little bit more aware, of my position in the pecking order of privilege that exists in our massively unequal society.

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Image credit Fotolia

Things changed for the entire world with the dawn of this new decade but hardly anyone could have foreseen the magnitude of devastation that COVID-19 has/had in store for us; after all we are in the future as predicted by Hollywood science-fictions. But one thing I suppose none of us saw coming is how we will be left to face the harsh reality of where we stand in the society and the pros and cons that follows our social statures.

My truth is that I don’t have victim-syndrome but I realized that I do have the habit of constantly blaming the system for all the things wrong in this country, seldom realizing until now that I am a privileged recipient of the boons this system has to provide. The ongoing chaos is what showed me the mirror.

Photo by Hannah Rodrigo on Unsplash

Photo by Hannah Rodrigo on Unsplash

My middle-order agony

Every time I open my Instagram or Facebook, I see my friends doing fun, innovative things to pass time (I’ll come to this in a bit). As I scroll more, I get to see a sea of videos posted by celebrities, constantly preaching/ showing off to their fans how to be fit in quarantine times or asking people to join in their singing to ease off the ‘pain’ of being homebound in their bloody mansions. I can’t help but think what a bunch of rich idiots’ bullock excreta that is!

These overpaid celebrities are in singing when they can give up some of their riches to help the ones in real need. Honestly, I standby everything I just said. The rich everywhere do need to pay more taxes and donate more generously for people they keep selling things to for bigger pay checks.

As I compare myself with these celebrities, I feel like a bloody destitute with uncertainty dripping off my future with an ever-depleting bank account.

And this is when my reality got a reality-check.


Photo credit: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The reality check of privilege

Remember when I said about my friends doing fun things on Instagram to pass time; that’s my bloody privilege which allows me to have friends who can be in their homes, with food, internet and means of entertainment. It took an epidemic for me to realise that.

My house help, Lakshmi, a quiet lady in her early 30s, is a mother of two children one of whom is almost an adult. (Fun fact: Lakshmi is only a few years older to me.)

This lockdown isn’t easy for me because of the restrictions in my movements but it’s even less easy for my house help. I, an educated content writer, has the utmost privilege of working from home and still be paid, but she doesn’t have a WFH option, and most households might not be lenient about paying her salary following her quarantine-imposed absence.

With her not coming to work, all of us in my house are sharing the strenuous household chores that she does alone everyday for many houses. I always thought she has a socially acceptable ‘nice’ body, by that I mean ‘thin’. Now I know the ‘work’ it takes for her to have that, which for her is not a ‘lifestyle choice’.

As I was washing dishes the other day, I had an funny thought that Gal Gadot is so lucky because she must be having a dishwasher installed in her house and then immediately an eerie thought struck me, that Lakshmi does the same work that I was doing at that moment for people she is not even related to.

Savarna privilege is the only thing that sets me apart from her I fathomed, nothing else. Given the right opportunities, she could have been a writer, far better than I ever would, who knows.

The middle child

I am the middle child of privilege. Somewhere between Ananya Birla and Lakshmi, but the only difference is that my savarna privileges give me a better chance to turn the pecking order around compared to Lakshmi.

I am part of the system that has built the order that can’t be toppled easily. Here’s the thing; I can’t be a voice for Lakshmi because she doesn’t need a savior and she has a voice that is far more authentic than mine.


Photo by Allec Gomes from Pexels

But here’s what I know I can do for sure, whenever I get the mic, I can pass it on to her.

First published here.

Header image source: a still from Nil Battey Sannata

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