Racism

My friend Prashant’s blogpost about North-South divide and racism prompts me to write this. In a country of so many different races, languages, food habits and religions, it is not un-common to find people complaining about not feeling welcome in a different land. Here are a few observations from my own experiences or my close friends’.


One thing where racism happens most often is language related. There are two aspects to it:

a) Ridicule of your language. People who only know single digit words in Bangla, start talking in Bangla: “Ki khabo? Rosogolla khabe? Jol khabe?”, the last question to ridicule that Bengalis “eat” everything – drinks included. At most times, I ignore this one, but if people persist, which happened one time, I had to point out that in formal Bangla there are four categories of food and eating: chew, suck, lick and drink; and only in modern spoken language, we “eat” (consume) edibles. Of course, my follow up question remains un-answered: “In hindi, you say sutta piyo. How do you drink sutta?” I don't think any language is superior or inferior to any other language, so it's not prudent to ridicule any language, especially when you don't know the language.

b) Ridicule of you speaking other language. Hindi is my third language as it is for many people in non-hindi speaking India. So, if I make a mistake in Hindi, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Of course, when I make a mistake, I expect my friends to correct me positively (and thus encourage), but without ridiculing me (which will surely discourage). Similarly in south, the inability to speak a common language is a problem. In most of Bangalore, I could talk either in Hindi or English, except for some autowallas, who when I boarded the auto knew Hindi / English, but while taking a longer route or asking for extra money, forgot! But, since at other times, I have managed to communicate with people (some of them - so called illiterate) without sharing a common language, I think, it’s the attitude while speaking which determines if the communication is pleasing.


Another thing that I think is wrong is type-casting. This is most evident in mainstream hindi movies. All Bengalis must be rosogolla eating, weak, and coward; all Sardars must be brave but foolish; all “South Indians” must speak in a funny tone wearing a folded lungi, and so on. In real life, I can recount the numerous times I have been branded as “North Indian” in Bangalore, disregarding my protests that I am from Kolkata, which in the official map of India, is rather East than North. Type-casting is most evident in case of North Eastern states. For the rest of India, somehow, all the seven sister states (except Assam?) and Sikkim are same. A Manipuri friend of mine narrated a story to me about this. While searching for a house in Delhi, she was asked if she ate dogs (with a smirk on the landlord's face) before, you guessed it, refusing her. (The fact is, only a very few tribes in North East India - mainly in Nagaland actually eat dogs). Of course, she has more stories to tell about how no one shared lunch with her in school (she studied in Delhi), calling her “Junglee”! And somehow, all “Chinkis” are ‘easy’!


The generalization is ignorance at most times. Take food for example. South Indian food is Dosa and Idly with Sambar! Having sampled various cuisine myself throughout Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala, I can safely contradict this. The food habit of all four states is different, with obvious overlap of some foods. So, we don't need to classify everything to three types of food in India: North Indian, South Indian, and Chinese!


These are just a few examples of racism in our own country against our own country people. I am sure there are incidents like these happening everyday, everywhere. I don’t know what prompts these behavior: it could be ignorance, it could be complex (superiority), it could be lack of sensitivity. But I do believe, the situation can be improved. All we need to do is to be sensitive to others; forget the differences (cultural, physical appearance, language) and see how much is common; and most importantly, respect other cultures, religions and habits. That’s not too difficult, is it?

9 comments:

Kanu said...

hmmm.........i would rather say it is the inferiority complex rather than a sense of superiority...

I so called belong to north India and that too Delhi and I am ashamed to admit my hindi leaves a lot to be desired. My friends often contradict me and even make fun of my inability to comprehend certain hindi words...

Take it the way you like it...all i remember is my mother telling me that a person can mock you only if you take offense...as they say...everyone can increase their tolerance a tad more to make this a truly spectacular country.

~ | | OM | | ~ said...

Subbu...

i am not sure how you took my post... but the intention was not to draw a line when i wrote what i wrote...

the intention was to forget that line which is drawn already some way or the other...

most of the times we make judgments basis what we have seen... and that goes for everyone from the north or the south or the west or the east...

so let be it...

i do have an opinion... but i am open to change with more interaction and more knowledge...

hope things improve...

~ Deeps ~ said...

you have put it very well.....from my experience its generally the people who havent ventured out of their home cities and they they are totally adjusted a certain kind of culture........anyway this is never ending issue........

Rohit Talwar said...

I agree with everything you wrote. Seriously. But this won't stop me from calling you dada (and all the variations to it I have managed) and I don't care how ridiculously abused the term is. You're my dada after all.

Butterfly said...

Upto now, I thought that it really was difficult, but after reading ur post, I have been forced to think about it again.

This post is just great and I think, it's one of ur best posts till date.:-)

Reeta Skeeter said...

Mutual respect takes the cake here! Happy Blogging!

burf said...

yea, i don't like people bashing up languages they don't know about, and the funny part is, in India there is such cosmopolitanisms of languages that i doubt if the people know their own languages

Subhadip said...

@Kanu
Increase their own tolerance and also towards others - I agree

@Om
I understood your intention; my point is we can't simply forget this line unless we understand the reasons properly and do something about it. I like your line about being open to change. I think that's what everyone needs to be.

@Deeps
It is never ending argument, but surely things are improving and will improve in future too.

@RT
:)

@Butterfly
Thanks :-) I hope we will all think about this.

@Reeta
Thanks for stopping by

@Burf
Yeah :-)

Anuradha said...

Racism and bias exists every part of the world.

Most people have biases and stereotyped notions about a person belonging to a certain part of the world (can be india or otherwise).

Its easiest to generalise and form/have a perception of things based on a single interaction or what the media projects but the world and people out there are very different and we shouldn't label them :) ..

I have met the most interesting different people from every part of India and someparts of the world who just don't fit into these.

I am told i am one of those non-stereotypes ,don't know that but anyways :)