Before the Lockdown
A drunk girl walks into a police station, and starts shouting, “Oiiii stud, oiiii briew. Open the door! Open the door!”. The video goes viral in the town that she’s from and everyone erupts in spontaneous laughter. There is a barrage of iconic memes, remixes and picnic time humour.
A few weeks later
A few weeks later (A month? A year? What is time even amidst a COVID-19 pandemic?), another girl is taken to a police station, and she says “You give me your uniform and I will do your job (and many other things).” Probably not as hilarious as the first time, but definitely meme material. But this time the laughing is kind of subdued, like there’s some sinister threat looming over the scene. While the first lady was an unknown face, her little tirade being her only claim to fame, the second lady is a well-known personality around town. She was driving a nice vehicle (ML02 official police vehicle no less), speaks fluent English and has enough social clout for everyone to want to be her friend.
So this comedic sequence goes quickly from being slapstick to dark. The outrage, the solidarity, the defence of her actions – I bet all the petrol bombs that have collectively been thrown in Shillong couldn’t muster this level of outrage from these people who are standing up for her. It’s especially strange for regular Shillong dudes who’ve been within the four walls of the police station. All they’ve been fed were moral lectures, disdain and some hard shoves here and there. The kind of moral lectures regular people get at police stations are staggering, they make you deeply question your morality, your values and your place in society, and that too for the most minor of infractions, my personal favourite being – standing like a shady guy in a shady area.
And yet here was this woman pissed off, seething, shouting at everyone, telling people that they are ‘nobody’ (or was it Noddy?) – our very own Rage against the Machine parody. But this was unfortunately not a soldier of justice standing up to the iron fist of the law. Nope! This was an incident where a person not holding any official rank was using a government vehicle for a joyride in the middle of a global pandemic. It probably would have gone unnoticed if she had chilled out, but the subsequent drama has incensed a lot of people, and why shouldn’t it? The videos of the incident are a crystal clear example of how privilege works in Shillong, Meghalaya. With the right connections, it looks like you can get away with anything!
Watch the following news report before it get removed to get some visual outrage.
What’s even more perplexing is how people are justifying it. It seems the lady in question did some charity work and is therefore deserving of our deepest sympathies and support. And it looks like this is the reason why the abbreviation LOL was created. How does charity absolve someone from judgement for illegal actions and some pretty rude behaviour? Tomorrow if I give away a thousand kilos of rice to orphaned children in Dawki, does that give me the right to talk to you like I’m the king of the world? What is the connection between charity and being visibly ‘excitable’ and talking shit to people in the middle of the night? Were the children of Malki lining up in the streets waiting for this ML 02 saviour to come and show them some love? Was this Christmas time for Saint Nick incarnate to come rolling down the streets in the middle of a virus outbreak?
The messed up person in this story is not the girl herself. The messed up people here are those trying to justify her actions. Those who are tacitly propping up these structures of privilege, dependence and corruption. To put things in perspective – Last year, a musician from Laitumkhrah was battered and bruised in police custody. How many people stood up for him? A week ago, another boy from Shillong was called Corona by Bengaluru police while being taken to jail. How many people stood up for him? Now, a woman has become a meme legend by saying crazy things at a police station. And some mindless people are writing odes to her innocence and silently shedding a tear for her strength. And they try to muffle the people’s laughter and they paint the people as prying voyeurs who have nothing better to do. Well unfortunately for them, the people are no longer blind and deaf to the perks of privilege that certain persons in the state enjoy.
While the privileged brats of previous generations have managed to live their lives pretending that they own this beautiful land and state of ours, we now live in a brave, new world. Thanks to WhatsApp and local media, we have videos that show just how obnoxious privileged kids can get. We can see the stark difference between the treatment of us vs them. Whether the ones who caught the lady were from the Dorbar Shnong or just volunteers, they showed that local institutions still have the balls to not cower before special numberplates and privileged people. Certain people may think themselves to be untouchable, but they must remember that there is a great change coming, as more and more people in Meghalaya are empowered by education and exposure to radical new ideas. Soon the smoke screen of infiltration will fade away and be replaced with more pertinent questions for Shillong – Do we live in an egalitarian society? Why are all Shillong citizens equal, but some more equal than others?