First World Bandh Problems

Satire

First World Bandh Problems

Illustration: Akshita Monga

T

hat flyer for the New Year’s Eve bash you attended wasn’t lying when it promised to bring in 2018 with a riot. Here we are, only four days into 2018 and we’ve already seen our first communal riot. In the Laxmi bomb that is India, caste serves as the agarbatti that lights it’s shorter-than-average fuse with alarming regularity.

We’ve all seen a riot or two in our time, a riot of passage of sorts. During ’92-93, my family locked itself in, venturing out for absolutely essential supplies only during periods of calm. Food was scarce, so we made do with khichdi and pickle, and were held hostage by Doordarshan news, considering school was shut and we had no permission to play outside. We were scared enough not to stand out on our balcony for fear of a bullet or a stray stone from the rioters.

On Wednesday morning, with #MaharashtraBandh taking over Twitter trends, it happened again. The old pit in the stomach at the threat of impending violence in the air. But this time around, the problem was not survival. It was Swiggy!

I entered an office full of people moaning about the bandh because they couldn’t order in their lunch. The shock in their eyes was palpable. It was almost as if they’d been told Skynet had become self-aware and was about to launch nukes. Everything they held dear was about to burn away in a nuclear firestorm.

Then, just like with last year’s floods, with this year’s riots, WhatsApp groups and Facebook walls began to be inundated with a slew of “I can offer shelter” posts and messages.

The riot bought other emergency situations too. In addition to no Swiggy, there was no Uber (or it was operating at a surge level that would put a dam to shame). And along with no Uber, there was no… gasp… cigarettes! All the sutta and chai stands in and around office areas were shuttered and the colleagues you once called chainsmokers behind their backs, became your messiahs, preaching the message of peace, love, and nicotine. The stimulant was the order of the day for those who lived far, far away, thanks to stresses brought on by Google Maps which confirmed their worst fears of being stuck in office with news of blocked highways and redirected traffic. Spending a night among colleagues was the last thing they wanted out of their careers.

Then, just like with last year’s floods, with this year’s riots, WhatsApp groups and Facebook walls began to be inundated with a slew of “I can offer shelter” posts and messages. The underlying cause of this sudden altruism is also Black Mirror-esque in nature. Social currency, the impending selfies with temporary urban refugees, and of course the influx of goodwill. (I’m waiting for someone to write about Urban Refugees with the same panache as someone once wrote about the rise of the Urban Poor.)

Fortunately, the riots occurred at a time when everyone’s collective bank accounts were flush with funds at the start of the month, and even 10x surges on Uber were no biggie and the bandh came and went without much brouhaha. Because at the end of the day, four hours later to be exact, when the dust settled and the rioters went home, life returned to normalcy. Swiggy was summoned, the day’s work log was cleared, and pictures with hashtags like #riots and #survivor were being uploaded to the ’gram. I guess millennial problems are just like their relationships: Over before they even begin.

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