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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Chp 55. Racial Ponder

I was typing a reply to Matt’s excellent comment on my previous post when I realized it was growing longer n longer every passing hour. Hence I decided to publish it as an entire new post as it contained different substances not necessarily related to what Matt had pointed out. Given below is the reply I initially meant to post as a comment.

Dear Matt,

As I promised, here I am back with a few cents to contribute... First and foremost, I completely agree with you on the whole gender issue. All over the World it is an unfortunate occurrence that a man who sleeps around a lot is considered "Da Man" while a woman who does the same thing is labeled a whore. My apologies for unfairly generalizing the fairer sex. I guess this notion is deeply rooted in some of our minds because of the assumption that a man is ever ready to take off his pants while a woman isn’t. And when a women does take her pants/skirt off all the time, then it is automatically assumed that she is not normal, that something is wrong with her… hence the slut label.

Well, during my party days, I once went to this Pub on Residency Road called Spinz. Amazing place… and the crowd had a good mix of Mainland Indians, NE and foreigners. Well, I met a couple of mizo girls I know and it was all like a casual hi and stuff. I was with my mizo fren (who, believe it or not, is now my current roomie) and his girlfren. As the party reached its peak, there was this one mizo girl (who I shall not name) who got a bit high and suddenly started smooching everyone around her. And most of these guys happily accepted her advances and seriously, it was a very bad scene. My fren and I, even though we got no rights to interfere, were embarrassed about her behaviour and tried stopping her. Instead she pushed us away. I mean, seriously, here we are, a group of frens happily contented with ourselves and who shouldn’t be affected by the behavior of someone we hardly know. And yet deep down inside why are we concerned about her action?

I guess this once again has a lot to do with the whole tribe and small community thingie. And being a minority, we are subjected to a much more harsher stereotyping than the majority. I still remember when I was in school, I was a House Captain. One day, I couldn’t take it any longer and went up to the Principal and these were my exact words. “Bro (as in a catholic brother, that is how we refer to them here in India), why is it that when Asif or Ajay breaks a rule, people say Asif or Ajay did it. But when Stephen or Puia (who were my Mizo classmates) break a rule, people say a mizo guy did it? I mean everyone knows these two by name, and yet, why are we always given the mizo tag? I have never seen our Principal more uncomfortable than that. It was on that day that I finally faced what reality was really like. Throughout my childhood, my school, Montfort, a residential boarding school, has shielded me from all these harsh realities. It was on that day that I finally came out of my cocoon.

A couple of years ago, one of my frens threw a big party in TGIF, the one on Airport road, B’lore. I was the only person with a mongoloid character in that group of ours. The guys blew a lot of money, bought tequila by the bottle, and ended up misbehaving big time. Yes I know it was very embarrassing even though we had a blast. And till today, I dare not step inside TGIF. Now the next morning a fren of mine called me up and asked me if I had created a scene at TGIF the previous day since he knew about my party plans with my frens there. With a pounding hangover in my head, I meekly confessed and asked him how in the hell did he know about it. Its seems some people he knew were there at TGIF that same nite and they told him “A group of guys and a chinky were completely sloshed and started giving each other wedgies right there in the middle of the Pub until the Management had to kick them out”. There, the chinky label once again.

Sometimes oppression can really change the character of a person and the way he or she thinks. Similarly, so does stereotyping. A very close fren of mine, Pawan, wrote a testimonial on my orkut community page… “Kima is a blah blah blah…Dude...I have to sandwich this...one flaw that u have...you care too much about what other people think about you!!”. Well, this has never occurred to me, but yes, I just realized I really am. The other day during my times in Hyderabad, I was with another very good fren Jason, a tam. We decided to eat out. We came across this really posh restaurant and decided to check it out. And I immediately said Hell no, I aint stepping in there. He asked why and I said, look we are in our shorts and sleeveless and chappals while every person in there look like some big shot CEO in his business suit. His immediate reaction was “Kima you are so fucking vain!”. Ouch that hurts. But seriously it is so true. Why have I become this person I never used to be?

Could this be the reason why we mizos as a whole are so concerned about the way we dress up and groom ourselves? This has always been the Universal question every time I am with my non-chinky frens. They always ask me why we take so much longer to get ready than most Mainland Indians (Comon Amra, Ankita, Shubha etc, just because I take longer than you girls to get ready doesn’t mean all mizo guys are like me.) and why we always seem to over-dress for every little outing. Ofcourse there are some people from the NE who truly don’t care about their appearance but yeah, most people from the North-east do take that extra mile when it comes to dressing up for an occasion. I did a little bit of bio-technology after school and I am pretty damn sure the adenine or guanine or cytosine or whateva do not have any genetic DNA coding for a dress code. It is something that is inborn in us. The real question is why? We used to be head-hunters for Christ’s sake, dressed only in a thin film of animal skin or handcrafted cloth wrapped around our private parts. And yet suddenly, we are now transformed into this much western oriented citizens wearing the latest hiphop attire or Paris fashion house products. Why this sudden transmogrification?

Are we ashamed of our past, the way we used to dress up? Or are we plain perturbed about the fact that Mainland Indians might make fun of us?

Anyway Matt, I believe I am diverting a lot from the topic we initially discussed. The point I am trying to make is, sometimes, what happens around us everyday really affects the way we think and percept things. And most of the time, we never know about this change within us because everything happens at the sub-conscious level.

Take for example, your Hollywood movies. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t it one of the regulations there in the US to compulsorily use a person of colored origin as one of the characters? And somewhere in a sleepy town in America, a couch potato who spends his entire day watching the idiot box is affected sub-consciously when he sees a black dude save the life of a white dude. Ofcourse this may not reflect the perception of most people, but I am sure atleast a small percentage of viewers have changed their attitude based on such story lines. Similarly, maybe it’s high time the Indian Government does something on the lines of that, like, maybe a tiny representation in Bollywood movies by people from the North-east.

Anyway, what I am trying to point out is that, it is not that easy to change the mindset of people who have lived through decades of strong cultural and traditional norms. That is why I pointed out that no amount of social revolution will ever uproot the practice of identification and segregation from our system. Yes I now admit using the word “never” may be a bit too strong, but that is what it feels like for some of us. African Americans marched under the banner of solidarity and shouted slogans such as “We shall over come”. It worked. But that does not necessarily mean that other countries will follow its footsteps. China is still a communist country after Tiananmen Square and Myanmar is still ruled by the Junta after Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 15 years ago. Similarly here in India, it will take many more years before North-east people are identified as true Indian citizens, with nobody questioning them as to why they look so different or dress up so differently. Look at Raja Ram Mohan Roy for example. He pushed for the abolition of Sati and Child Marriage as early as 1829. Even though he had been quite successful in the Sati department, the practice of child marriage is still very much dominant in present India, and we even have politicians, elected by the people, endorsing such activities.

I guess racial profiling is something that will be always there in our society for a long long time and the best solution to it is to learn how to live with it. All comments are welcomed as usual.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

yea, rite. we north east people are the N.I.R.- non indian resident.worse off than the N.R.I.

C'est la vie said...

Agree with whatever you say except the fact that I simply can't understand your prejudice against the women of your tribe. I mean it's not only you, all Indian men think if a woman sleeps around she's a slut. The woman is always wrong. "Oh she got eve teased? She must have been skimpily dressed". It's too ingrained in our society. There needs to be some sea change to change these sentiments and attitudes.

Sundancer said...

C'est you are so right..it's sickening, some nights back I was on my way home from work when one asshole 'grabbed' me, and when I recounted the incident to a friend the next day, the first thing she asked me was what I was wearing when it happened!
And Kima, you're doing a fantastic job, I only wish more men from 'our tribe' feels the same way about this as you do.

illusionaire said...

LoLz Pri, believe me, I am the last person on Earth to think that if a girl gets eve teased, its bcoz of the clothes she was wearing. I have witnessed with my own eyes, girls wearing a decent traditional salwaar kameeze get eve-teased. Do remember I've spent most of my life in Salem, Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Theni etc :-)

@ Sundancer, thanx. Damn wish I was there with you when that "arsehole" grabbed you. I would have shown him a couple of moves my fren Sammy, the Asian bronze medallist, taught me. :-D

Almost Unreal said...

Hna thulh thak a ka'n chhiar chu le..and Kima, thanks for pointing this out. Try as we might calling ourselves Indian, these mainland ppl will never accept us an Indian, looked us differently,
this is the same thing we faced over here in Delhi. Y'know i am so pissed off when they call us 'chinky' and i always shout at them :D. Anyway, wish all our Mizo guys are like you, well share your viewpoint

illusionaire said...

Yup. Sad but true, Biteii. :-(
We just have to live with it...

Anonymous said...

Hmm....Gerry here, that is if you still remember me...Well i somehow stumbled on your article here (thru pagalguy!!!)Reading thru it there are some things I have to point out. Well yeah in Montfort we used to refer to "Mizo guys" collectively but it could be cause they always seemed to move around in grps with little or no contact with others...(dont know how it was after the 10th std) Maan, we used to be good friends in school, (stephen too) but i still used to remember how aloof my mizo seniors used to be..also the innumerable run ins our batch used to have with them. So maybe thats why a general stereotyping used to happen out there in school itself..Ok maybe thats all past...but another thing I cannot understand is the reference to "Mainland Indians". I mean this is a rather self imposed effort to cocoon yourselves on an island!!The North East is an integral part of the country and there is nothin extra anyone needs to be 'accepted'. Its like the idea of Muslims celebrating on the street after an Indian victory over Pakistan (in cricket)being concorted as an effort to justify their "Indianness".

Hope my comments are taken in the right spirit!!!!

illusionaire said...

Hey Gerry! Kallungal! Ofcourse I remember u dude! Remember how much u and I used to compete in french back in 10th std for that prestigious French Anglo-Indian Board topper rank? Finally u beat me by 2 freaking marks!!!! Aaaaarrgh! How have u been man!!!! Thanx a lot for visiting my blog.

Well, see you took the words right out of my mouth. I dont mean to say we were looked down upon or anything like that back in Montfort. Montfort was the one place where there truly was no discrimination from my batchmates. But yes there was a little bit stereotyping. You said some of our mizo seniors grouped together. But comon, u knew me and Stephen. Till 12th std, even though we hang out with our mizo classmates now n then, we were very close to our non-mizo frens. Similarly, most of the other mizos like John, Franklin, Solomon, Emmanuel, Zoram, Kima Sr. etc hung out with their non-mizo frens till graduation rather than with their mizo classmates. Its only the mizos who get admission in 11th std that group together because they are suddenly exposed to a completely new culture and surrounding. And yes, naturally there used to be gang fights too among groups (plus i believe the traditional 10th Vs 11th std annual fights only makes the mizos look worse, as 11th std always have more mizos than 10th std due to fresh admission directly from Mizoram).

And about me referring to you all as, "Mainland Indians" I only did so to identify Indians on the other side of Bangaladesh, and I have no intention of seperating or being exclusive or anything like that. Just like how people say North Indians, South Indians, North-east Indians etc, I combined both North and South together as "Mainland Indians" since that side is much bigger with a much larger population than this side.

And about being acepted as Indians or not, man Gerry, what can I say. You are truly one nice dude believing in complete harmony among all Indians and hence u feel we are all the same and there is no need for anyone to prove their Indianness. Tsk tsk. Its so sad not everybody else is like you. If only you could live the life of an oriental person from the Northeast settling in one of the metro cities of India, then you will know how it feels like to be different, how it feels like to be stared at, how it feels like to find out that people think ur a chinese or dont even know Mizoram is one of the states of India, how it feels like to be taken for a ride by an auto driver (pun not intended) or by a salesman just bcoz we look different. I could go on and on and on Gerry. The World is made up of not just sugar and spices and all thing nice... there are many uglier ingredients involved.