This article was written by Tanay Desai.
My name is Oliver. Not him – not John Oliver, no. There is an adequate outflow of satire in my country, and by no means do I need a thick British accent and square rims to make political footing sound funny. For it already is – be it in the form of one man trying to fight the state in order to get his race labeled ‘backward’ – yes, our making, solely and faithfully. Or in the form of our gentry, with two decades of experience in their respective professions, contributing to a television debate aimed at quantifying the intolerance threshold in India. Whether Mr. Khan’s statement accounted for right or wrong is none of my business. What confounds me is the fact that it accounted for something in the first place. Over the years I’ve amassed so far, there is one takeaway I can confidently place my savings on – the ones that make it to the other side of the chaos are those devoid of opinion. Come. See. But don’t you dare try and conquer.
I now live across the seas, where supposedly freedom is not a scarcity. Land of the thinkers, men and women equal. Where resources are abundant, and the coveted “work life balance” metric tops the table. I beg to differ. This is where grandpa was right when he said most things aren’t what they seem to be. I left home at 21, in pursuit of academic and social satisfaction under a rather strong impression about the disarray of the system back home. It was a safe diversion nonetheless. I had just turned legal. And boy was I walking on the Stairway to Heaven! We often wonder what the other side looks like. The young seek age. The singles look for love. The sober vie for the high. We Indians long for the west. And so did I. Three suits and an undercut, cash from Dad and blessings from the community – off I went.
Now here’s where I’d like to hit the FF button.
Oliver doesn’t want to inflict boredom on you. And while he did take the west down on a few fronts – third world math dominance, social effervescence and spirit consumption to name a few, seldom did he fall out of line. He was the low-hanging, next door grad school kid, but only from the beginning of an eventful Friday evening through dawn on Sunday. Occasionally Wednesdays. But apart from such outlier activity, he did ace his data science and corporate finance classes. He jostled nature’s volatility, from the rare C+ at school to a failed long term relationship. Bruised and conditioned, he experienced it all. And now he’s sitting in front of the screen, accompanied by his Jack and the customary escape-avenue called Netflix, reminiscing about what he’d left behind. He sure has a fat salary and perks enough to treat himself to an occasional opera or the lavish Italian meal. Seldom is there a barrier to indulge in Friday nights or host the ‘until sunrise’ house party. But there is a tinge of uneasiness somewhere. A little sedation; the feeling of incomplete. He wakes up every day, only to realize how painful a sober morning can be. His companions are beyond sight. The chaos has subsided. And passiveness pulled the door on its way out. This one’s for real. Perturbed, he treads along the cobblestone at noon, amidst the sight of men clad in three pieces, fiercely ready to carve the meat on Wall Street and pocket the buck.
He feels a disconnect for he thinks of home, where freedom was plenty, and real. Where it manifested in the form of a carefree toddler bearing a stick and tire on the pavement, or the tea-vendor whose clientele encompassed the likes of clerks leading up to a business magnate or two. Oliver is subject to major doses of dejection. Back home, a single text helped him amass a dozen comrades on the soccer field. Scheduling the Thursday night premiere was weekly entertainment in itself. Out here, is different. He spends hours googling an appropriate league, let alone assembling a crew for a casual excursion.
He looks forward to speaking in a dialect that is his own, yet fails, for a lot of his native folk is arrested by the western accent, with little knowledge of how pretentious they sound. He doesn’t remember the last time he consumed a home-cooked meal. Frozen, organic or starving were the only options. On most occasions, life was business, and business was life. But he does remember the smell of home, where weariness wasn’t a word, and giving life a second thought wasn’t a choice. He longs for the ride back home.
He walks along, the disarray in his head augmenting by the moment. He ponders over his choices. But on a good note, he hasn’t gone as far as jotting an opinion. He will see another day.