Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What is Racism?

A Bollywood actress participates in a game show and her housemates try to evict her by making it difficult for her to continue staying in the house and the whole nation (India) reacts
But no one really seems to realise the everyday racist attitude that they exhibit to their countrymen.

If calling the actress a 'Paki' is racist comment then would calling a Kannadiga a 'Madarasi' or a 'Tamilian' also qualify as a racist comment?

I was in Delhi in the month of August 2003 and my friend's landlady asked me "Are you a Madarasi?" to which I replied "No. I belong to Bengalooru(known as Bangalore earlier)." She continued "Oh really? I thought you were a Tamilian. You look like one."

I worked in London for a while and a little boy who probably was just six or seven asked me "Are you a Paki?"
I replied "No. I am an Indian."
His mother was quick to apologise for her son's behaviour.

If not being able to say a person's name the right way is Racism then would saying 'Kannad' for 'KannadA' too qualify as a racist behaviour?

My colleagues and a few acquaintances from the Northern part of India say 'Kannad' instead of 'Kannada'. They do not want to say it the right way despite repeatedly telling them the right way to pronounce it. They snub us by telling "you understood what we meant, so why should we bother to learn it the right way".

Some of my British colleagues find it difficult to say my name however had they try to. They invariably end up saying it the wrong way. But they at least try.

The Bollywood actress cooks chicken curry and the housemates make fun of it by saying it was half baked. Is that Racism?!

My colleague who is a native of Andhra Pradesh commented "Bloody you Kannadigas add too much of sweet in all your dishes. It is so difficult for me to eat my lunch". (Oops! Did I forget to mention that he was talking about the North Indian restaurant that caters in my office?)

While I was in Delhi and having a conversation with the landlady of my friend who I was visiting, she asked me what we prepare for breakfast everyday. She was surprised to know that we have a wide range of food for breakfast as she thought that the south Indians (who according to her are all 'Madarasis') eat only idly, dosa or rice and sambar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She added that she felt eating rice everyday was strange as it tastes the same. Really? Then rotis taste different every day? That is something that I didn't know.

Asking Shilpa whether she lived in a "Shack" is Racism. But when you call Bengalooru a pub city with no culture and a city that has only virtual roads with just pot holes, is that Racism too?

My colleague told me a few weeks ago that her friend moved to Poona (Pune -- the city where 280 young boys were arrested in drug abuse case y'day in a Rave party only because Bengalooru has pub culture and nothing else.

I was born in Bengalooru and I have lived in this city for 24 years. 20 years ago Quiz contests had the question "Which city is known as Garden City?" Now the question is rephrased as "Which Indian city is known as Pub City?" This definitely hurts the feelings of any true Bengaloorean. But we should also accept the fact that the city has only been trying to adjust to the "new culture" that the IT industry brought with it. We should also not forget the fact that the majority of the people working in the IT industry are not Kannadigas but outsiders like my colleague who said that the city has no culture.

We Indians do not face racism from foreigners to an extent that we face from our own countrymen. It is an issue that exists between the Aryans and Dravidians or may be between the 'Aryans and Aryans' and the 'Dravidians and Dravidians'.


Vin said...

I come across all this... people in my apartment are tamilians / north indians..... they speak only those languages... They ask kannadigas like me who dunno tamil.. "what u dunno tamil..".. People in blore know tamil..
so it we Kannadigas who have spoilt them.... we learn their language and their cuulture instead of teaching them ours....

Casy said...

My parents always taught me to respect other languages and cultures. There used to be a time when I proudly told everybody "I live in Bengalooru. So Tamil is my second mother tongue." Then I learnt Hindi in school and conversed with all my friends who were from the other states, in Hindi. But in the process, what I didn't realise was that I never gave them an opportunity to learn my language and culture. Now eventhough I give them an opportunity they don't want to learn. Is there some way out? I don't know.

I was having an interesting conversation with my British colleague who lived in India for almost two years. He rightly said "If you have to maintain your identity, don't lose yourself in other cultures. Appreciate, respect and learn the good things from other cultures, but also don't adapt completely to the new culture. Else one day you will find that you have nothing to be proud of. When they see that you are not prepared to be moulded in their mould, they will realise they need to learn something from you as it becomes a question of their survival."