Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Intolerance

I was sitting down in the kitchen with a couple of friends of mine, and having an intellectual discussion, as is my wont.

It was then that my moral flatmate (regular readers may remember my allusion to him during the post on 'moral Indian girls' -- too lazy to search for the link) decided to walk in, equipped with his voice like a foghorn, and his radical Indian (read Hindu) concepts.

Some idiot was unfortunately stupid enough to start the topic of Mr. Modi's pogrom in Gujarat. My moral flatmate could no longer resist. In a voice that would have put a racecourse bookie to shame, he began to wax eloquent on the evil that Muslims represent, and how the liquidation of Muslims would be a perfectly logical thing to do.

I listened to him, though trying to cover my ears (I could have heard him perfectly clearly a mile away), wax eloquent on joint families, how cheating the Indian government of its taxes was completely legitimate, how arranged marriages where the girl was chosen by the chappie from a list was perfectly legitimate, and how Muslims were the scum of the earth. I was tempted on ten different occassions to interrupt him for I found the following unacceptable:

a) His treatment (both in speech and real life) of women as commodities.

b) His belief that Muslims, who are as Indian as me or you, were in some way subhuman. In fact if he were white and anti-semitic instead, Hitler would have embraced him with a jolly Seig Heil for his intolerance.

c) How he felt bilking the Indian government by not even bothering to pay his taxes was perfectly legitimate. As an Indian, I found that bleedin' disgusting. It's the progeny of rich, uneducated, brown trash businessmen, like him (who have no qualms in griping about the state of indian roads - which are built out of taxes that these arseholes don't pay) that have got India to where it is today.

d) His murder of the English language. For chrissake, English is a National Language, and as an educated Indian (in the UK, for heaven's sake), one would expect him to have a rudimentary grasp. Messrs Wren and Martin would have turned in their respective graves at some of his sentences - 'The government are slapeing me in the faace. I am not tax payment.'

e) His belief (though not expressed at the moment; expressed several times in the past) that South Indians were black, ugly, subhuman, unintelligent, and incapable of speaking in Hindi.

f) His equally uneducated, ignorant and bigoted belief that South India = Madras (mispronounced), Idly, Sambar (mispronounced) and useless.

About an hour later into his monologue (which probably kept half the building awake), when he was by implication damning my 'disgustingly Western liberal' parents, and their 'filthy western' concept of a nuclear family (and their willingness to allow me to choose my bride), I could take it no more.

Primarily because his voice, never pleasant, had begun to grate on me, and secondarily because his bigotry was unbearable.

I said, 'Dude, arranged marriage is like a VB application with radio buttons. Select the girl you want - only one selection allowed - and click OK. The girl's wishes be damned. She's a girl after all.'. In Hindi - so that he could understand it as well.

He then glared at me, and began a prolonged attack on my family values - and the immorality of a family that had brought me up to actually respect a woman's choice as much as a man's. The filth of a family that actually told me that it was okay to decide for myself whom I would spend the rest of my life with. Citing specific examples of what he thought my near and dear were like, with the caveat that he was not attempting to offend me. While he was doing so all along.

But I did not react. I had become quite used to the bigoted attacks of him and his acolytes.

Over the past one year, I have had my friends back home called black and ugly because they're South Indian. I've had my mother tongue ridiculed and made fun of. I have listened to several jokes the butt of which was the colour of South Indian skin. I have had everything that I value and hold close to my heart made the butt of a tasteless, racist 'joke'.

He continued, this time on Muslims.

I have Muslim friends. They are Indians. In fact, they are more Indian than this racist bigot. They are my friends. They have never ridiculed me. I do not wish to see them slaughtered by people of my flatmate's ilk.

Everytime he starts off on his (perfectly rationally and calmly spoken) ideas of a pogrom against Indian muslims, I think of Sam. I think of Imran. I think of Shadab who carved 'India' on his forearm with his blood! I think of my President, who is much more of a man, and much much more of an Indian than him! I think of every Indian who just happens to be Muslim, and who has to face people of this kind in their country just because of their religious beliefs!!!

At some point, something snapped within me. I asked him how he would feel if after 9/11 the Americans decided that every brown person was a terrorist, and began to slaughter his beloved Patels.

He glared at me and started screaming,

'Shut up! You are offending me!! It is my caste (sic)! Take it back'

He said it three times - the last time he said, Tony Blair probably woke up with a start at 10 Downing, wondering what on earth the racket was!

I screamed an 'Ok fine, I'm sorry. Happy now?'

He picked up this pint glass full of water, and glared menacingly at me. For a minute, I expected him to throw it at me. He could, with one stone (or glass, in this case) disfigure a subhuman, black South Indian, a person who considered women equal (!!), and a creature who thought Muslims were Indian.

A part of me wishes he had thrown it at me. I may have bled, but then he would have seen that Great Britain is not India (where his rich father could get him off the hook after having assaulted a fellow citizen). He may hve understood that you do not go about preaching hate and assaulting people who disagree with you.

But he did not. He threw the glass onto the ground, smashing it into a million pieces. And he stormed out of the room, screaming, 'YOU DO NOT INSULT PATELS!'

The chap probably knew too little English to understand that I had not in any way insulted his Pateldom. Patels are as Indian as me. A Patel, to a rational mind, is no different from a Warrier, an Iyer, or an Asghar Ali. But, ah well!

I just had to blog about this.

When I stepped into Europe, I was scared. I was scared of racism. I was scared of white people throwing stones at me and beating me up because I was a brown Paki.

But in the one year I have stayed here, I have never once been insulted by a white man or woman. They have always treated me as their social and intellectual equals. I have never once been called a 'Paki' by a white man. I have never once been called a 'Darkie' or any other racist slur by a white man.

But I have been called a 'Kaala Madrasi' several times by my own countrymen. I have had to tolerate them teaching a foreign woman the word (without telling her the meaning).

I have had my fellow countrymen look at photos of my family and friends back home, only to comment on how black and ugly they look. I have heard them speak of how filthy a Tamilian (read South Indian) is. I cannot take this anymore. I have never felt so racially discriminated against as I have in the past one year. I spent an entire semester hanging out outside my flat - with white people (!!!!) - to avoid the racial slurs and discrimination. I spent an entire semester eating outside as I could not digest the insults and humiliation I have had to face for my ethnicity and my opinions whenever I entered our common kitchen. I have had to listen to humiliating innuendos being made about the relationship between a good female friend of mine and myself!

There must be something wrong if my own countrymen treat me the worst.

P.S: I spoke to a Tamilian friend of mine -- an extremely intelligent and erudite economist -- the other day. I asked him, 'Where have you faced greater racism? Here in the UK, or in Gujarat where you lived?'

His answer was immediate, 'Gujarat!'

3 comments:

Vasanth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanthini Narmadha said...

Hey, I jus' happpened to come across this post of urs..yea I'm a stranger to ya..but that doesn' matter here..I really wanna discuss da subject here....ya claim that ya have faced racial discrimination by fellow citizens, then why can't ya jus stand up to them n fight for ur color, for ur 'Madras', for ur Mom n friends..is it so difficult to shut those scumbags' mouths..i dun think so..I have lived there in the UK,as in studied..I was treated finely by da Brits..I jus loved them..but some of ma fellow classmates(Indians)did see the 'difference' n not once have I let them talk ill abt ma 'mother tongue', cuz they ridicule me with not knowin 'the so-called national language',huh wateva..like I care..Im in the UK n why do I bother abt Hindi, neva was I bothered when I was in India only..whenevr someone questions me abt da 'National language' they get it royally from me..I snap them back wit more sarcasm n attitude..so they neva discuss the South Indian matter in front of me..I care a damn when they bitch abt me, but not within earshot..I jus made that thing sure when I was livin there...Neva be scared of fellowmen..this wouldn help ya...Snap them back..wat could they do..nutin at all..I seriously wonder y ya even apologized to that Patel..ya were rite..n u could have stayed that way...cuz ya were not offendin him on purpose jus cuz hes a Patel, u did so cuz he was hurtin ya..neva mind..jus felt like sharin ma views..n I seriously agree wid ur P.S...Discrimination is not outside India, its within..huh..have to face it..Cheers!

widsandeep said...

couldn't agree with you more