Being Born Privileged Is Not the Same as Earning It

When we think of an equal society, we imagine one where each human lives a life of dignity – with the same privileges afforded to everyone.

Today, the world is arguably moving ahead with a left-leaning mindset, and the youth is increasingly finding its voice for rightful equity in society. Minimum wages, right to healthcare and free public higher education comprise a few examples of the path we must take to make our society more just and equitable.

Ideally, a society functions on inter-dependency, wherein each person enables another person – who in-turn enables someone else. In an ideal society, this virtuous cycle is complete and we all end up taking care of each other.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at our own society and those who enable us to live in relative luxury.

“It’s a beautiful sari you wore, and a gajra would go so well with it.”

It’s 4 am in the morning, you just left the pub and want to cab it back home. But did it ever occur to you that your cab driver, vegetable vendor, balloon-seller, toilet cleaner, domestic help, the person who polishes your shoes and the garbage collector – commonplace conveniences which we take for granted –  are also human beings with stories of their own? That they, too, are striving and surviving?

Till birth do us apart.

It’s only when you interact with people born into privilege, and hear statements like: “I’m from a humble background, I didn’t take my first flight until I was 15,” that you begin to understand why society is the way it is. Such people are scarcely told stories of the daily trials and tribulations of those who cater to our everyday existential comforts. As if God dealt them a poor hand at birth.

Also read: ‘On The Edge’ – our series on caste-based discrimination on campuses – When My School Principal Refused to Enroll Me Because of My Caste

Hardly. It’s the system that failed them. We, as a society, are failing them and their families.

The community where the balloon-seller resides is obviously not prosperous – far from it. Moreover, by virtue of his occupation and residence, he’s been confined to a vicious cycle, preventing him from uplifting himself or his family. His poor child spends her childhood, wistfully gazing into a bubble where her dreams are limited by the horizon drawn by her father’s income.

Why does she never get the same opportunities as, say, the daughter of a bank-clerk or the son of an industrialist?

Because we, as a society, have set the balloon-seller’s daughter up for failure and a limited future. Her future is determined by her parents’ resources. And just by virtue of her birth – because of no mistake of her own – she was born to her balloon-seller father, and she will have to live a life defined by its limitations.

The preposterousness of determining one’s destiny based solely on birth is the notion we need to shatter. We should call out the people who have a lot, but did nothing to ‘earn’ it – and tell them that their successes are also at the behest of their parents. So far, at least.

And that’s why it should be their turn to look at others and create a world that might offer equal opportunities for everyone – you, me and the daughter of the balloon-seller.

Mandar Gupte is currently working with an NGO geared towards education. He tweets at @gupte_mandar and you can find him on Instagram at mandargupte93.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty