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Friday, September 11, 2009

Des-crimination

One of my dearest chums D (not popular blogger D, another D I know in person and has been mentioned here before) has started blogging recently and sweetly wrote me a guest post (seeing as how of late I find it hard to come up with two lines worthy of being written down). Off you go to read that:

Thanks DewD for the honour of writing a guest post for you! [Aw man, too much credit you give me! The pleasure's all mine babe, thank YOU! :)]

So here it rolls -

A couple of months ago, I was in Mumbai. One evening I went to catch up with some old friends, had dinner and returned home in a rickshaw.

So it was 10.30pm, and as we approached my street, the driver, in his late 30s, pointed at my building.

Driver: Is that where you need to get off?
Me: Yes
Driver: See! I knew it! How do you think I know?

Me: Have you been here before? (Mr. Desperadooooooooo)
Driver: No. (Waits for me to guess again)
I have no interest in playing games at this point, so
Me: Then?
Driver: I can tell everything about the passenger just by looking at them. It comes with experience in our profession. All the 'hi-fi' people who come to this locality live in that building. That's how I know you live there.

Bloody show off! Although at this point I was tempted to lead him into making a fool of himself.
Me:Oh wow, you've got good skills
Driver:
(enthusiastic now) Let me explain. For example, do you know 'Brahmand society'? I can look at a passenger and know that's where they want to go. Because people living in that society are all dark and fat. You know, the typical SOUTH INDIAN types.

WTF???!!!!

Being a south-Indian myself, I am offended at this point although I don't fit into his description. I could have given him a lecture, got into an arguement, spoken about being an Indian first and make him bite his words. Well, I choose not to. I decide to play along and teach him a lesson, in a way that he might hopefully understand.

Me: (with a very serious voice) Do you mean to say all south-Indians are dark and fat?
There is a 5-second awkward silence.
Driver:(with a scared, shaky voice) Madam, are you a south Indian?
By this time, I have got down, and searching for my wallet in my handbag
Me:(with a sarcastic chuckle) Well, it looks like you don't know everything about your passengers after all...
Driver: Sorry madam. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Please. Sorry. Actually I had not looked at you well enough, otherwise I would not have said that
Me:
(but you still would have opined that throughout your life! Anyway, since you apologised...) Its OK.
Driver: (hesitating)So are you a south Indian?
Me: (handing him the fare) No
The smile of relief on his face would have brought tears of joy to his loved ones!
Driver: Thank God!
Me: (before turning and walking away in a stern voice and a straight face) I was kidding. I am what you guys would call an 'Idli sambar'. I am neither dark nor fat. (I hope you learnt your lesson today.)

His facial muscles tightened, eyes wide in horror. As I enter the elevator with this expression as my compensation, I hear another 'Sorry Madam' yelled in the background.

He was not a bad person. Neither are many. What they have is an opinion. A racist opinion. Thrusted and imposed on them by society, friends, family. Every racial group or clan has a tag - cheaters, misers, bad-dressers, cunning, and so on. Proposals are rejected in arranged marriages openly because of the skin colour. All this is inflicted by none other than fellow country-men. And we mock other countries for being racist.

How do we change this?

16 comments:

  1. Nice blog! Went there and liked it much!

    I had the exact ditto..almost word to word conversation with a nosy racist rickshaw driver in B'lore once.

    The difference there being he was rude and nonchalant when I told him I am a south Indian. Infact he went on to say I am one of 'those northese' who know some kananda and trying to act smart!!

    Arrrgh!

    Wish I had wiser words and wit like this girl..would have loved to see him learn a lesson.

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  2. Nicely written :) :)

    These kind of racist comments are everywhere!
    I have had so many experiences like this that it's quite disgusting!!

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  3. nicely written..
    this racism thing in everywhere in india!!
    have faced this many a times not in such straight-forward manner like in this case but mainly comments..
    "And we mock other countries for being racist."
    something to think upon..

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  4. Now I would say that was just stereotyping.

    I don't deny the existence of 'racism'.

    South Indians on an average do have more of dark melanin - FACT. By saying that would I just turn into a racist? I don't think so. (Now, fat - I differ there though :) )

    It is mostly taken offensive because darker skin has 'less value' in our society. The moment we accept that colours have nothing to do with 'human nature', it will be fine.

    First ever comment here is too long and of an argumentative nature! :(

    Sands.

    FYI: I am a south indian.

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  5. "Popular blogger D" :D :D :D I couldn't get past that!

    Actually I did! Your friend D has made a very interesting point. This is India - we attribute looks, behaviour, mannerisms, just about everything to caste, religion and region. A Sindhi, Baniya or Gujarati is considered miserly, a Punjabi is considered loud, a Bihari is considered uncouth, a UPite is always a 'bhaiya', a South Indian is mostly dark (which isn't a bad thing actually unless you mean it as a bad thing)!

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  6. @alwayshappykya - thanksss!
    my friend's bro was in B'lore, confronted by a mob asking him if he was from Karnataka, he said 'yes'. They asked 'why don't you speak Kannada'? He said 'coz I'm from M'lore. Live in Mumbai. I do not need to know Kannada'.

    They still were quite violent -luckily he came out safe. Makes you think.....

    @Pixie, @wishes galore, @D - thanks a lot!!!! :D :D :D

    @Sands -'Stereotyping'. Now why didn't I remember that word! Very true, it is stereotyping. It is only when the stereotyping offends somebody, we start thinking of racism.
    For eg: If a sari vendor tells my dark-skinned gran, 'this sari won't suit u madam', I wont feel bad, but somebody saying in an offensive way, I would pick up a fight.

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  7. Ah...I have gotten the "you don't look like a South Indian at all" as if it is meant to be a compliment. WTF?

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  8. @CelestialRays

    I remember that word 'stereotyping' because I do it a lot ;) :P ...

    Well, I am trying to find out when all I do 'stereotyping' so that I can refrain from it a lot.

    In a good mood to put another argument.. But my bed is sooooo inviting. :D I choose bed over argument!

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  9. @DP.. Fantastic... i rem this convo between u n tht rickshaw driver.. u had mentioned.. and how we had a long discussion over this.. well true every south indian is looked upon as an idli sambar or a madraasi..oh how can i frget.. "andu gundu" ..i've been thru these several times especially where i used to work ..surrounded by gujju's and marashtrians..i was always an easy target for them.. Believe me itss irritating. But arguing with them did no good..coz for them its the "fun" part ..so i choose the other medium "ignore" :P That worked!!!

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  10. Well, anybody who has seen any South Indian movies knows the difference between SI men and women ;)

    Jokes aside, it is hard to get out of such us-them thinking. Since every culture has its own quirks and style of living, it is easier to understand and interact with somebody if you know he/she is different than you. As long as this does not lead to negative discrimination...

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  11. :) nice post and nicer way to teach a lesson!

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  12. interesting... i think all of us tend to use stereotypes... bikers-bad, gujjus-stingy etc...
    as long as it doesn't bring in negativity... i guess it's ok...
    i've been told a lot of times that i don't look/sound like a ghati... and they say it like it's a compliment or something...gah!

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  13. Yeah I too get the 'You don't look south-indian at all' line quite a lot. WTF does that even mean?! On the other hand, I am not entirely sure I ought to take offense.

    It is stereotyping, to a point. Unfortunately in our country tact is hard to come by, people are rather blunt and occasionally don't stop and think that what they say might be construed as rude. Intentions mayen't be offensive but it does get to one after a point.

    The other thing I don't get is the word 'Ghati'. What is wrong with Marathi or Maharashtrian pray?

    I think largely the problem is that people tend to go beyond your appearance/ethnic inheritance and draw conclusions on you as a person keeping in mind a skewed description of an entire community. Which isn't fair to the community but is worse for an individual.

    @ D: I tell it like it is, babe ;)

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  14. i get that a lot too - 'you dont look like a south indian'. I just draw a blank :P

    hmmm on a similar note, how do you feel if people around you start talking in their native totally oblivious to your existence?

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  15. Annoys me like hell. I had a friend visit recently and she insisted on talking in Kannada while my firang housemate was around. I hate it when people are so discourteous as to ignore other people around and start talking in their native tongue. What's WITH that!!!

    I even said 'Okay that's enough now' to one south indian chap who kept going 'South India rocks!!!' around people of other regions ... I mean, yes they are teasing you and yes you probably should retaliate/parry for a bit and yes South India rocks but for the love of God, don't overdo it!

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  16. There have been times when people try to decide if am a south Indian or a person from the north based on my name...:D leave alone appearances...My name is Vishwajith...and people with whom I would have just started a conversation would pop up and say you must be a bengali nu...Classifications, judging someone are attributes that come along with this baggage...

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