This is a PSA. While all you lovely people were concerned about mild issues such as the pandemic, Covid, climate change, racism and women’s rights, there is a different kind of pandemic that has creeped up on us in the shadows. Yes, the Brodemic is real and it looks like it is here to stay. Cast your mind back to a showroom in the mall you visited, a walking stick with red spiked hair comes to you and says that magic mono syllable, ‘Bro’. You look around, you think to yourself if this dude is the lost third child of your parents and try to look at genetic composition to figure out if there is any resemblance.
Similar experiences start to happen more often. You pick up the phone after ordering food. The Swiggy guy again claims familial ties to you without even seeing you. You wonder if there is some giant inheritance coming your way that only you don’t know about, but then you see your dad haggle with a coconut water vendor on the road and such crazy thoughts evaporate instantly. It is puzzling how the word has evolved into its own ecosystem. If I am not wrong, bro culture probably started out with the Cheech & Chong hippie context, then moved on to being a locker room, frat boy expression (remember Barney Stinson), to a now working man’s word of equality. All jokes aside, ‘Bro’ has come a long way.
In India, when your Swiggy or Amazon guy or a waiter calls you ‘bro’, he is not calling you ‘sir’ and I think that is the subtext that we need to be aware of. It might not even be an articulate, tangible thought in the person’s head, but that is the statement that is being made. It is a sign of the new India in my opinion. An India where everyone is empowered, at least in their own minds. Everyone wants to be equal and no one wants to be indebted to anyone. It is a sign of pride in work. Everyone is the king of their jungle. Everyone has big dreams.
Not so long ago, ambition didn’t work this way in India. And that is why there were so many stories of outliers who grew up in modest households and went on to achieve greatness. Today, great has been re-defined. Today, achievements that would have been celebrated a decade ago are now matter of fact. ‘Let’s go for the next big thing’, seems to be the standard mindset. I am not saying that everyone is always successful and everything always works out. But the thought process, the hard wiring of the brain has transformed over the last decade, and I would like to think that I have had a front row seat to witness it.
The caste system, the gaping socio-economic divide and a lack of education has defined India for as long as we can trace our history. And caste also used to define ambition. Your ambition was limited to achieving one step more than your father. This is how India dreamed for centuries. Today, these shackles are slowly breaking. Sure, I do live in a metro city and I might be woefully out of touch with ‘real India’. But hey, let me look at the bright side.
As India celebrated its 75th year of Independence, pictures and videos of uncles in their gardens and terraces wildly waving the flag like kurta clad cheerleaders did the rounds on all our social media feeds and phones. While celebrating your country together with your fellow country people can be powerful and patriotic, I think the transforming aspirations are a real testament to change. We all know the issues plaguing our nation; there is enough written about it every single day. However, the people are what make up this country we call home. And the people want to grow, want to transform and metamorphose into the proverbial butterfly.
An incident with my cook got me thinking about this recently. He constantly asks us for his salary in advance to pay off certain debts. On one occasion, I got exasperated with this constant ask and enquired as to what kind of debt he is paying off. He said, “Beti ko school me daala hai na. Aapke vaale school mein hi daala hai. Isliye thoda karza hai”. Translation: Have put my daughter in a good school. Your kind of school. That’s why I have some debt. I asked him what his daughter wanted to become, he said she wants to become a teacher. He himself is not educated and has been working since he was a child.
So, the next time someone unknown comes up to me and calls me ‘bro’, I am going to bro him right back. You never know who he is going to become.
Disclaimer: This article has been written from my POV and I admit that it might not be the absolute truth, factually. It is my personal observation and I could be woefully wrong.