The Poster Boys of Affluenza

First Person

The Poster Boys of Affluenza

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

T

here is a chain of stores in the city that prides itself on selling stuff like truffle-scented organic cacao beans and artisanal bread baked by the blind. It’s called Nature’s Casket. Now, it has been proved by careful scientific research that such stores are full of pretentious pricks. It was during my time there as a humble store supervisor (read piss boy for the rich) that I met El Fatfucko. No, that’s not his real name just as it’s not called Nature’s Casket. Duh.

Anyway, Senor Fatfucko was some sort of a real estate tycoon, who inherited his father’s steel mill. Also, he might’ve been a coke dealer. He rocked bespoke shoes, tailor-made Egyptian cotton shirts and wore a limited edition Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The scene is as follows: There is El Fatfucko swaggering down the coffee aisle intending to pick up those overpriced cacao beans. Crossing the aisle at the same time is a hapless new shop assistant carrying a bag full of frozen peas. Their paths meet. The hapless assistant pivots to avoid contact with El Fatfucko but… contact takes place. The cold pea bag brushes against an engorged arm clad in linen.

The dampness of the bag brings El Fatfucko’s world to a halt. He reels at the insult, as he spins around, and yells with an added fake accent, “Boss ye Egyptian cotton hai, bahar se laaya hai ye shirt. Aur tum ispe ganda paani lagaaya?”

I was the supervisor on duty and was immediately summoned to hear how one of my minions had committed the ultimate transgression by brushing past him with a cold bag, and how this was unhygienic and below set standards. I tried to explain and apologise, not mentioning that it was after all just an encounter with fucking peas. But El Fatfucko didn’t care. He wanted the transgressor’s head on a sterling silver platter from Buccellati’s, custom engraved with his initials, bought to him by a couple of exotic beauties who would address him as “master”. The issue was resolved after a personal apology by the manager, and the promise to foot the bill for laundering his shirt.

#Truestory.

Anyway, I didn’t know it back then, but I had seen first-hand the symptoms of a dangerous disease, which affects scores of people, avoids detection and spreads unchecked across continents. It’s symptoms (in addition to super-prime douchebaggery) – a loss of motivation, low self-esteem, depression, an addiction to chaos, the inability to delay gratification, a low tolerance for frustration, and a wholly false sense of entitlement. Blood tests can’t find it, psych profiles may chalk it up to some inexplicable psychological problem. Some call it the “The Rich Bitch Itch” or “Silver Spoon Syndrome”, but its real name is affluenza.

***

Closer home, Salman Khan and Rocky Yadav are the poster boys of Indian affluenza, followed by many others involved in hit-and-runs, gun violence, sexual assault, and a plethora of other crimes.

Affluenza was coined sometime in the 1950s when post-war spending in the United States had reached its peak. It received its day in the sun when this kid’s lawyers pleaded affluenza at his manslaughter trial. His subsequent flight from justice and re-arrest in Mexico only proves that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. If you thought this problem was confined only to spoilt rich kids in the US, I’ve got news for you – this is a pandemic.

Closer home, Salman Khan and Rocky Yadav are the poster boys of Indian affluenza, followed by many others involved in hit-and-runs, gun violence, sexual assault, and a plethora of other crimes. Many of them go scot-free by playing the famous “Jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai?” card or simply flashing their Amex black or throwing a couple of crores at the problem, in case it doesn’t accept cards.

Affluenza can grow into a monster with total disregard for law or life, but it starts small. A country like ours that’s at the cusp of an economic orgasm with a booming service industry for us to feed off is a ripe breeding ground for affluenza. Like El Fatfucko we’ve all behaved like total pricks – some of us more than others. We’ve been rude to waiters, yelled if staff doesn’t use the servant entrance, flipped out if the guy at Starbucks hands us a solo espresso instead of the requested doppio, and God help him if his computer hangs while we’re waiting in line for billing.

We’ve all been El Fatfucko’s at some point in our lives and what’s worse is that we’re rearing a generation that is weaned on shrewd knowledge of the difference between haves and have-nots. In the chocolates aisle of Nature’s Casket, I’ve heard an eight-year-old kid ask his six-year-old friend if his dad takes him business class on holidays. Thankfully, the six-year-old had no clue what he was talking about. But I have no doubt that by the time he’s eight he will.

Anyway, I was done dealing with self-entitled pricks (miniatures and adults), so I moved on from Nature’s Casket to less rarefied pastures and started on the somewhat rocky road to chefdom. I forgot all about El Fatfucko as I threw myself into my work. And then one day, about five years later, he thrust his corpulent self into my memory.

I was running late. Traffic was being the bitch it usually is, so rather than idle away in an Uber, I chose to be thrifty and hop onto a train, which would also save time. It was crowded as usual. I was in a terrible mood. It could be because it had been long since I’d taken the train or because I was annoyed that my brand new Nike Air Force 1s were going to be ruined in the muck. And then it happened.

A hapless young man, crushed by the masses around him, stepped on my toes. The virginal, white-and-red footwear, was sullied with a splotch of black. The next words that rang out loudly above the cacophony of the train were, “Saale, naya joota hai bhen…”

My moment of pure unadulterated douchebaggery was here and El Fatfucko was laughing his head off…in my head.

Hi, I’m Damian and I have affluenza.

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