Q: When is it all right to ask someone, “Do you know what schools I went to?”
A: Never. You just negated any glory you may have been seeking when you left that preposition chilling at the end of your question.
B: Never. What kind of an insecure kundi does that?
C: If– and only if– you randomly stumble upon a celebratory gathering where such information is relevant…like at Gold Cup, where different tents are hosted by different institutions of higher learning. Trust me, the UC tent was much nicer than the jokes hosted by Bates or Rollins.
D: Okay, one more: when you run into another alum who is temporarily unaware of what you both have in common. For example, if I ever see someone getting in a car festooned with both UC Davis and GW stickers (not bloody likely), I reserve the right to ask “Guess where I went to school?” in an effusive and ebullient manner, because those are the two places I have degrees from, too! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
And with that admission of my middling alma maters, I have outed myself as someone who has no right to brag about her academic achievements. Good thing I live in swampy, sleepy old D.C. and not New York, where train conductors are sometimes interrogated by outraged ticket-holders who are really, really invested in where they paid for a degree.
I’m referring to the strange case of Hermon K. Raju, erstwhile Metro North straphanger and last week’s favorite viral-panni-on-tape. Raju was riding a Metro North train when other passengers allegedly complained about her loud cell phone conversation, which was purportedly profane. A conductor warned Raju about her disruptive language and the young woman exploded, defending her right to a “private conversation” while asking “Do you know how educated I am?” Raju also dared the rail employee to stop the train and asked for a refund before threatening that she would never ride Metro North again. To her credit, the Metro North employee remained calm despite the torrent of education-fu aimed her way. Raju, on the other hand…well, she was being taped surreptitiously on an iPhone.
Let’s get two things straight, right now.
One. I HATE people who yammer on their phones on public transportation. Here in D.C. no matter which subway car or bus I board, there’s always some idiot yelling, “What? I can’t hear you. Hold on, what?” Newsflash, dick. They can’t hear you because you are on a train. Yet WE can all hear you because we’re trapped on said train along with your entitled, self-centered, oblivious ass. Talking on the train is one of my biggest urban pet peeves. Please baby Jesus and Saint Anthony, prevent cell phone conversations from ever being allowed on airplanes. My cross-country treks home are already too infrequent and barely tolerable as they are; a cabin full of selfish morons discussing nothing important on their iPhones sounds like the third layer of hell.Two. Hermon K. Raju was obnoxious to someone who was just doing her job. No, we don’t know all the facts that are salient to this situation, but I’m hard-pressed to imagine a scenario where Raju’s reaction to the conductor is justified and trust me, between the substances I abuse and my innate, irrepressibly fecund imagination, I can imagine some shit, y’all. So, once more, for the cheap seats in the back:
I am not justifying what Raju did. At all. Additionally, insinuating that I am just because we have brownitude in common isn’t just insulting, it’s lazy.
Unimaginative, really. Raju was wrong to invoke her degrees as if they were some omnipotent way to deflect criticism. WRONG WRONG WRONG. Got that?
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a little bad for her.
Here’s the thing about being in my 30s. I’m nicer. There’s no other way to write it. During my turbulent 20s, I couldn’t get out of my own way; I was so worried and anxious about my own disastrous life, I could barely walk a mile in someone else’s chappals. Now, it’s nearly always my first response. I may have lost my stellar metabolism and lovely lines which proved that I once had vague muscle tone but I really, really think that the increased thoughtfulness and compassion that old age brings more than makes up for that other shit.
Would you want to be her? Fine, fine. You are better than her. You would never. I hear you. I believe you, I do.
But what about that one time…when you were so faded you woke up in some shrubbery at 9am the next day, missing all of your belongings except your cell– what if someone had secretly been videotaping you, eight hours before that glorious awakening, as you threatened to burn the village of the overly-gelled Guindian who bumped in to you at the officially unofficial Bhangra Blowout 48 after party? Remember? When you made all sorts of frothy allegations about penis size, bank account balances and how you hope he enjoys how you taste, since you stole his gf blah blah blah?
Yeah, not your finest moment. And now we all have smarty phones, which capture and upload every cringe-inducing detail, at 4G speeds!
I’m a little weirded out by how easy it was to name and shame Hermon Raju, how people relished the way infamy was ruining her online rep. Someone sent her video to Gawker and soon after the New York-centric site posted it, a former classmate from NYU mentioned that they knew her; it took merely a few minutes of convincing from other commenters to get said acquaintance to reveal her name.
And just like that, all of the trolls had someone specific to pillory, vs. the disgusting collection of stereotypes they had been batting about…that she was “H1B spawn”, a “typical Pakistani boarding school bitch”, just your average “Indian snob, drunk off a caste system that didn’t follow her here” etc ad nauseum. Once her quondam classmate clarified that she wasn’t a DBD, that she was born here like most of us on this site, the vitriol shifted.
The scorn aimed at her…um…extreme pride…in NYU was slightly understandable; like most online spectators, after all her protesting and hollering I expected her to be an [HYP](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Three_(colleges) alum. The racist shit storm about desi women, what our vaginas smell like and how we’re all insufferable cunts is not something I can grok, no matter how much I read.
Yes, the “C-bomb” is the disgusting epithet I saw most often applied to Raju, no matter what site I haunted. And best of all, people thought it was extra apposite in this case! Get a grip, morons. That insult is reserved for Countess Crackerjacks, a.k.a. Luann on the Real Housewives of New York, and Luann alone. Speaking of television characters, I know I wasn’t the only person who thought Raju’s Locust Valley Lockjaw accent was utterly reminiscent of Trudy from Mad Men. But back to the interesting and vaguely depressing public reaction to this spectacle.
Misogyny, hate and ignorance, oh my. In to this caustic stew, let’s throw in a few commenters’ unfortunate personal experiences with brown-on-black racism and a desire for retribution, for making sure that ALL Raju’s future employers see exactly what kind of a person she is– so many commenters justified this by pointing out that Raju had interned for a Congressman, and that it would be horrible for someone who hated poors to be allowed to gasp! craft policy that might affect them. Because whle Raju was showing tourists around or dutifully answering the phone, she had a lot of opportunity to impact how those who are needy might be affected by potential legislation. Please.
People love a chance to retaliate, especially when they cloak it in faux-righteousness. I’ve been one of those people in the past. But I’m not perfect. And despite what Raju’s most vocal detractors think, neither are they. We’ve all had shitty days, and many of us have experienced a public meltdown (or three). The difference is, we weren’t being filmed. We’re only tied to our own shame, not a collective virtual shaming that clings to every google search of our name. Some say that Raju got what she deserved, that surely it will make her a kinder, gentler Hermon; who knows? Sometimes, this sort of backlash puts people on the defensive, it doesn’t necessarily result in edification or reflection.
One commenter who knows Raju in real life said that she must have been having a really bad day, because she’s actually a nice person. No matter. I’m sure you can find me other people who know her and hate her. It’s a wash. Face it, for most of us, it would be the same way. For every one person who thinks I’m neat, there are ten who can’t stand me. Who’s right about me? All eleven, I’m sure. No one is perfect. No one sees all sides of who we are, but we have seen one ugly side of this woman and it is preserved forever, like a creepy crawly thing ensconced in amber.
Maybe the one thing this sorry situation resulted in is this sobering realization: we are all being watched. Girls (and guys) on film. One upload away from infamy and a destroyed reputation. I may not have attended NYU, but my synapses fire well enough that I realize privacy is dead. Online, the mob lusts for a reason to froth and foam, to judge and exact “justice”.
Dear mutineers, I will try to do you proud and be a credit to our race. You do the same, lest we empower a bunch of desi-hating trolls to crow about us and how we suck. And yes, though some choose to deny it, there IS a racist element to this. We have not graduated to some post-racial nirvana where ethnicity does not matter. Raju wasn’t a jerk because she was Indian; but because she is Indian, people feel empowered to be especially vile when they discuss her. Here is what is relevant: her poor manners. Here is what is not: the “fact” that she smells like curry, whether she grew up in a convenience store or if she loves the caste system. Those stereotypes have nothing to do with why she behaved the way she did, but don’t tell that to the anonymous cowards who are having a blast invoking them anyway. Raju was born and raised here; she snapped and suddenly she’s an evil foreigner, a collection of derogatory assumptions typed by people who can’t separate one rude woman from the rest of us.
Our parents came to this country with eight dollars in their hand; they didn’t sacrifice and suffer so that we could destroy all of their hard work via one regrettable rant. Keep your head down, beta. It’s a nasty job market out there and now that this virtual tarring and feathering isn’t just accepted but celebrated…well, do yourself a favor and keep your c.v. to yourself.
I want to apologize to everyone who read this post either yesterday or today. I intended to publish this on Monday morning, and I thought I had saved it as a draft last night; instead, I saw a tweet about it which made me realize that I must have inadvertently published it. What a way to ruin brunch! Anyway, I have just updated it and I am sorry for giving you something half-baked!