What ‘Privilege’ Means

Surabhee Arjunwadkar - Ecuador


October 6, 2018

It is difficult to accept your privilege. Privilege is something I thought
I didn’t have, something that only ‘rich’ people had. That is until I came
to Ecuador. Somewhere in my mind, the word privilege had gained a negative
connotation, that growing up privileged somehow made you ignorant and
unaware of things. In this journey of self-discovery, I had not expected
such harsh truths this early.

I want to say that growing up in India, I had a hard time. I didn’t. There
is a perception that everyone from developing/under-developed countries has
a hard life. It is true, but it is also not. It cannot be used as a
generalisation. Maybe the measures of what a hard life is might be
different, but if you have everything that you could possibly want and
need, you’re life is not hard.

When I think of privilege, it is always accompanied by guilt, that I have
more than someone else.

When I say I am privileged, I don’t mean it from a western standpoint.
Privilege means different things in different contexts. I mean privilege
from a strictly developing country point of view. I am not privileged in
terms of money or wealth. But I am privileged to be born into a family that
prefers intellect over money. I am privileged to have had parents who knew
that education in my mother-language was more important than learning
English (most people won’t feel the same way in India).

On the third day with my host family, I washed my clothes by hand. It was
the most liberating experience of my life. I had never washed my clothes by
hand.

On the fourth day, I asked my host mom where my host dad was. She said he
worked in a different city and came back home only on weekends. I could see
the tears in her eyes. I had never felt that kind of pain—the pain of not
seeing your loved one for a long time; not due to choice but due to
circumstance.

I am living in this country. I am the farthest I can be from home. I don’t
speak Spanish, and yet, I am surviving. I ask myself everyday how that is
possible, how I am doing it and I cannot think of an answer. It doesn’t
feel like I am in Ecuador—a Spanish speaking country in South America where
I am “teaching” English in a school. Instead, I am in Ecuador—a part of my
soul that I was meant to discover, a part of India that simply happens to
be on the other side of the world.

This is my privilege; the opportunity to be able to do this. I am still
making peace with all of this, still struggling. I do, however, feel that I
am the closest I have ever been to accepting this part of myself that I did
not have the strength to do so for so long.

Surabhee Arjunwadkar