By this we mean that fake images, certificates and claims of athletic and academic achievement along with some common or garden variety of palm greasing of university administrators was carried out - but not directly or anything tasteless like that
News made its way from overseas, about a college admission scam. The US Justice department accused 33 celebrities and business persons — yaniki rich and famous people — of using bribery and corruption to get their kids into the top colleges of their country. By this we mean that fake images, certificates and claims of athletic and academic achievement along with some common or garden variety of palm greasing of university administrators was carried out - but not directly or anything tasteless like that. It was all through a broker, mera matlab hai, college preparatory consultancy called, rather too aptly, The Key.
William Singer, the man who ran this agency said, "If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in where a student just does it on their own, and then there's a back door where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they're not guaranteed in. And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in."
I am sure the whole thing left many khaate-peete-gym jaate Indian families mystified, yaniki, wondering ki ismein what is news-worthy? Everybody knows that money opens all doors, aage hi nahin, peechhe bhi, oopar hi nahin neeche bhi. I mean, just like you have a separate lift for the staff in posh buildings, like that you have a back door for the baba log in the posh universities, what's there?
Before the back door, there was the invisible portal, a platform 9 ¾ of cultural privilege. The invisible portal dropped you at the front door of a 'good' college. So, you had to be a certain type to get into a certain college and you made sure your kid went to a certain school or college so that they would come out a certain type. Now, because of democracy and social revolutions and hard work, many types of people got the password to this invisible portal. Some people cry about this and denounce quotas and reservations. Others simply create a rich people's quota, or push for privatisation of education (but obviously, with liberal arts in the mix), so that the old days can come back in new bottles and back door, front door, side door all let in same to same folks, because you know, caste is dead.
Education is a useful thing. It can give you both, privilege as well as a language to mask your privilege, aka political virtue-signalling. You can enjoy the tastefulness of access, sometimes wealth, while castigating 'tradition' and the backward thinking of others, aka maintain your cultural privilige. You can make a show juicy with designer wedding indulgence but give gaalis to patriarchy. Aage hi nahin, peechhe bhi.
Perhaps the universal truth revealed by The Key fraud, is that while cool speeches about equality might bring a lump to our throats, social change requires the redefining of privilege. Put another way, it's a worthy business to see liberal folks declaim their liberal positions on social media on an hourly basis. But, as long as they still seem to get a sense of superiority from the fact that they have better English than right-wing bhakts, and love to point out the grammatical and spelling errors of fundamentalist mouth-frothers, we'll have to knock on a few more doors to find an inclusive politics.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com
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