They talk George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” to discuss labour rights and quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Feminist Ted Talks. They discuss “To Sir With Love” and its central theme of racial issues in a city school while rooting for more representation of people of colour in mainstream media. They chat, drink, argue and deliberate. Progressive and strong-willed, proudly carrying around tags of “you’re highly opinionated”. Quick to call out sexism and problematic behaviour – the Indian millennial is not what it used to be on most days.
This woke Indian millennial of today’s day and age might have adopted the universal messages of social justice that erupted as a by-product of a series of political campaigns for reforms that took place worldwide, like the Feminist Movement or the Anti-Racist Movement, but – this same woke Indian millennial, as for now, is far out of touch and out of sight of the extremities of social injustice that plagues every nook and cranny of this vast country called India.
Years and years of unprecedented systematic conditioning and subconscious prejudices passed on from one generation to the other has instilled acute senses of casteist and classist undertones to the ways in which this new woke Indian millennial speaks, perceives, eats, reads and believes. More often than not, becoming a woke Indian millennial (and I do speak from personal experience here) also has to do with the fact that they come from an immensely elevated ground of privilege, with its edges fenced with elitism.
If and once, they recognise the grossly inadequate and unjust society that they are a part of – they do not fail to call out the sexist and patriarchal concepts that surround them, even though they are the ones spearheading the class hierarchy. However, what they do fail to do is, look down on the pedestal that they stand on and realise that a lot of their own behaviour and words on a day to day basis, drip in decanters of “us versus them” behaviour and comes from the caste and class discrimination that India has been subject to over hundreds of years. Us vs Them because they perceive themselves to be part of the norm and the less fortunate as deviations of it.
So, even though the woke Indian millennial is well accustomed to the universal equation of building social capital by being an intersectional feminist and avoiding instances of cultural appropriation on their part – they have yet to stop teasing their peers and acquaintances by using “Bihari” as an insult. The woke Indian millennial is yet to stop grooving to jazz numbers played by a band called “Bhangijumping” in an affluent South Delhi Jazz Club or frequent a certain high-spirited club in Pune that is well known to be run by sexual offenders.
The woke Indian millennial is yet to realise that the factual inconsistencies, grammatical errors, awkward “faux pas” they pick up in the things around it and tries to, so vehemently, correct – is only possible because their privilege allows them to do so. It is also highly disturbing, how much time and energy the woke Indian millennial (myself included) spends in trying to correct people on spellings and punctuations, and the general use of language in casual conversation, online or otherwise – a practice you could only undertake if you’ve tasted the perks of elitism and believe that by somehow demeaning the linguistic capabilities of your peers, you one-up them.
The point is, this activism of the woke Indian millennial may be complacent and pleasing to the eyes and ears of those at the receiving end of their Twitter accounts, at first. However, the activism is far from being anything but truly intersectional, especially when it is looked through the Indian societal kaleidoscope.
The air-conditioned schools and college classrooms that these woke Indian millennials sit in and use as conference halls to discuss and support internationally acclaimed social justice movements are often times built on the blood, sweat and tears of those at the lowest rung of the hierarchy. The “invisible” masses who remain so, to the eyes of the persuasive few. The persuasive few, who are #NotInMyName activists by the day, and snap at their domestic help for taking ‘x’ number of leaves by the night.
So, no matter how “woke” this new Indian millennial is in its speech and thought on social media on issues of equality, liberty and justice of the world – unless and until it recognises the recurringly gross class and caste disparity that occurs time and again in the affluent circles around them on an everyday basis, the activism remains perfunctory and shall remain so, for as long as it takes for the millennial to be truly “woke!”