How often have you heard the following on Facebook, or the comment sections of blogs:
“You’re sitting in an air conditioned room and passing judgment”
“People are passing comments from their A/C rooms, without understanding anything”
At first, I was puzzled by this constant reference to air conditioners and ACs. Do we Indians despise ACs? Clearly it’s not meant to be a symbol of affluence, otherwise the same would apply to cars, big houses, etc. But after thinking about it for a while, the reason is obvious. Air conditioners symbolize a separation from the nitty gritties of the real world.
Because in India, the “real world” is messy, dusty, hot, and noisy. Like everyone else, I’ve experienced the sheer joy of stepping into an AC room after spending some time outside. The sudden quiet. The cool air. The separation from the “outside”. And the outside is what is perceived as “real”. Those in AC rooms are deemed to be cut off from the realities of India.
This has now become a metaphor. I can guarantee, that most people complaining about people sitting in A/C rooms are in one themselves. With Internet connectivity. But such is the power of the AC in India to create an illusion of safety from the outside world, that the metaphor persists.
For me, an air conditioner in India is an absolute necessity. I am never again returning to my poor college days when I wake up with my sweat drenching the bed sheets. I can finally be beyond all that…until the power goes off. But I’ve just answered my own question. I have the money to use an AC. To separate myself from the chaos outside. And so the idea of the air conditioner symbolizing a detachment from reality goes on…