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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 flaw that u 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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chapter Interlude: Arsenal 1 Real Madrid 0

Muah ha ha ha!!!!

Its 4 in the morning here in sleepy Bangalore and yet here I am, rejoicing like Hell after just watching my Arsenal beat the crap out of Real Madrid on a precious away score margin of 1-0. Man I've never seen my team play this good. Nevermind the 1 goal difference, the gunners had a hell lot of chances to pump in more goals, if it was not for the brilliant predictions Casillas made. The score line even forced Ramon Lopez to activate an injured Raul who, fortunately for Arsenal, missed a free header that nearly made my blood pressure rise to 250. Arsenal dominated the entire game, and I just hope and pray they play their EPL matches this way too. Kudos Arsenal Kudos. You have definitely made me proud.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Chp 54. Inter-racial relationship

Given below is an article I've just submitted for our BMA (Bangalore Mizo Association) Annual Magazine. I'm sure most of you must be surprised at my standings, but really hope we can look at this maturely and have a good discussion regarding this. Thanx.


Isn’t it strange how things that happen around you or around people close to you make you ponder on it deeply, and in my case, write an article about it?

This particular article is probably one of the most controversial topics in our Mizo culture. It’s something that every Mizo knows about, but prefers not to talk about in public, especially when they're in the midst of their non-Mizo friends. Before reading any further, I would like to warn you that this is just my personal opinion with no intention of maligning anybody, and would also like to apologize in advance if I have hurt anybody’s sentiments during the course of this article.

Inter-racial relationships.

Aghast! I have just uttered the forbidden word! Such audacity. Surely I must be an exile, banished from the homeland thousands of miles away. Haha fat chance. I believe the right word would be “candour”. I’m just an average Mizo living in Bangalore with lots of Mizo friends, who regularly go to the Mizo Church on Sundays and actively participate in various Mizo activities in Bangalore.

Since time immemorial, we Mizos have always been protective of our women. We are a tribe. No matter how deep Nike, Reebok, Pepsi, cable TV, cellular phones and western music have penetrated our cities, culture and the minds of our youth, deep down inside, we will always be a tribe.

A tribe always looks out for each other. If your brother’s blood is spilled, it is your honour to avenge it. If a woman of your tribe is humiliated, it is your duty to protect her honour and retaliate. Anybody resembling the faintest threat to the existence of one’s tribe is either annihilated or viewed with much skepticism. It’s an immediate call to arms.

And most Mizos still look at Mainland Indians as the aggressor, the evil perpetrator. After all, most of us have been through years of abuses under the Indian Army, journals after journals of absurdly falsified information over-sensationalized by wanna-be journalists who have never even set a foot inside the North-east, days and days of discrimination from the public majority just because of our different looks or customs.

Anyone victimized by such ordeal will definitely look at the World from a completely different perspective. Every little thing that befalls him, he blames it on racism. A bunch of drunken idiots out looking for trouble sees him and roughens him up. Racism. It’s been ages since he asked the waiter for the bill and it hasn't come yet. Racism. A really mean son-of-a-bitch suddenly cuts the queue and stands in front of him. Racism.

From my own experience, I must admit that things are actually never THAT bad. Of course yes there have been many incidents where the balance is skewed purely due to one’s identity, but this is a part of life, and this definitely does not mean that every other little thing that does not work out in my favour is because of racial discrimination. Not every apple in the basket is sour.

Similarly, when a Mainland Indian goes around with a woman of our tribe, our blood pressure rises. How can one sleep with the “enemy”? Treason! Treason! Burn her to the stake!

I've always been struck by why so many of us do not appreciate the fact that a Mizo girl is going around with a non-Mizo. One of the first impressions most people get is that, she’s a slut (Excuse my French). This is due to the fact that there are some girls from the North-east including Mizoram who go to various late night discotheques and pubs and flirt openly with even strangers. If you have a car and money, chances are, you can do almost anything you want with these girls. And this makes the common people stereotype other north-eastern girls into thinking they are there to be picked-up when in fact all they wanted to do is just have nice clean fun at such places.

And there are also many girls, really nice girls, who have genuinely fallen in love with a non-Mizo, not because of the size of his bank account or the number of BMW’s lined up in his garage. We’re talking about true love here. Love is blind and cupid is drunk. His arrows know no such distinction. Where they fall is where love sow.

My dear brothers, do you really think that sitting around that table with your homies and bitching about Mizo girls who have a non-Mizo boyfriend is really going to change anything? Wake up and smell the coffee! I know more Mizo girls with non-Mizo boyfriends than those in a relationship with Mizo guys here in Bangalore. They keep it a secret from people mainly because of the way you tend to judge them and look down upon them as if they are an outcast.

These girls face an enormous amount of pressure from the community. I have met a couple of guys who have met their cousin/friend’s non-Mizo boyfriend/husband and believe me, they are impressed. Instead of talking trash about these people, why don’t we just look at this whole scenario and try to analyze why this is happening.

One of the first reasons is because of our tribe. We Mizos are in a Patriarchal society. Father is the head of the family. The man works and makes a living while the woman does not have any recognition in the society even if she has a more prestigious occupation. Laws are made by men. Executed by the same men. Judge, Jury and Executioner. If the father is not a Mizo, the progeny aren't, legally speaking.

Another reason is, I have noticed the way some of us treat women. Respect would be a word nearly void in our dictionary. We take pride in boasting about how many virgins we've slept with, and yet if a girl is in a lot of relationships, we brand her as a whore from Gomorrah. Most guys just assume that Mizo girls are theirs for keeps. Maybe during the days of Kroll the Cave man. Duh! Today’s Mizo woman is groomed with Cosmo and exposed to a world of glitterati. They are educated, strong and independent. They would occasionally like to be treated to a romantic candle-lit dinner or a walk together in the beach with the waves slowly hitting their feet under the bright moonlight. Times are a changing; either keep up with it or be left behind.

Most urbanized Mainland Indians residing in the Metros (and by this I mean “Vai changkang chin tawh” from an open and liberal family, and not your average roadside romeo or somebody from a conservative background) have been brought up with a sense of respect for women. Be it their mother or sister, they respect them like how the baker Enzo Robutti respects Don Vito Corleone. Whereas in our society, we sometimes make the mistake of taking girls for granted. Sure, it may work out for some women, but the vast majority wants something more than just a boyfriend who will bash up anybody they’re jealous of. They want someone who will genuinely listen to them when they want to talk or just hold them without crossing any boundaries. Someone who will be there for them when they need them the most, and not out drinking with his buddies. Of course I too used to be in the “Bros before Hos” bandwagon, where my loyalty was always with my group of guy friends rather than some girl I've just met at a party. But once you’re in a committed relationship, the better half deserves to get all the attention she can get. Your priorities must be reshuffled.

Yes after reading this far, some of you may rub me off as somebody completely frustrated with our Mizo culture, somebody who encourages inter-racial relationships. This is where you’re wrong. I love my culture and tribe, and I still advice all my friends to get into a relationship with a Mizo. Here is where racism takes a backseat. My advice has nothing to do with one’s race or colour or creed. We, as Indians, live in a society where everything is based on one’s background and caste. India is not the US of A, where multi-racial relationships co-exist harmoniously. No Sir. We still live in the Dark Ages. Wherever one goes, be it North India, South India or NE India, that person always carries his identity tag along with him. That is how things have always been for the past thousand years. No amount of social revolution will uproot the practice of identification and segregation from our system (maybe in the future, but not soon). Mind you, this has nothing to do with discrimination.

Hence when you are not married to your kind, you are cutting off a part of your culture and history. To some, it feels like your entire bloodline ends there abruptly, giving birth to a new line of genes. Maybe that new offspring is much better than the old one, as had been proven medically. Any matured Mizo girl/guy deeply in love with a non-Mizo is definitely well aware of these facts too. But woe is them, for what can they do? Are they willing to sacrifice their happiness just to continue their bloodline with somebody, a Mizo, whom they may not even love as much as their current girlfriend/boyfriend? Well, I've done it once, and believe me, it was not easy at all. I broke up with my Marwari girlfriend mainly because my family was not going to accept her and her family was not going to accept me either. But now, I've found somebody else again, and I've never been this happy in my entire life. Sometimes we think a torn heart will never heal. Believe me, it WILL heal.

And then of course there are the children. Most of these children are brought up in a confused atmosphere, not sure of what their exact identity is. Had it been in the US or Europe, they would easily fit in. But as I've said before, in India, we must all carry our own identity with us, and also whole-heartedly cherish family values. Family background plays a very important role in one’s status and welfare. One area where Mizos and mainland Indians have a lot in common is when it comes to joint families. Even though we as an entire family don’t usually live together like most Mainland Indians, we are extremely close to our relatives. People in the west are more independent, and there are also more cases of family feuds. With such close proximity among family members, children of mixed parents usually feel left out. They frequently become the butt of racial abuses, and what makes things worse is, they get abused from both sides! And all for no fault of theirs. They're usually either unpopular in school or popular for the wrong reasons. A fortune's fool.

And then there is the reservation factor. If one is a pure Mizo by birth-right, that person immediately gets various benefits like State quota where they can get an admission into the best Engineering and Medical colleges in India while a person of mixed birth (read, a half Mizo) will have a lower rank even if he/she scored much higher in the entrance examination. But then I don’t wanna dwell much into this topic as I've never been a strong proponent of reservation. Reservation only makes us weaker as we tend to take things for granted. But then, this is a completely different topic which I will not discuss here.

My last two cents on this whole issue is that, a majority of Mizos who have tied the knot with a non-Mizo reside outside Mizoram for various reasons. And most expatriates usually feel homesick later on in life. A deep inner longing to be back among one’s own people, one’s own brothers and sisters. Sure they are content and satisfied with their current life, but sometimes there is something deep within them that feels so hollow, something that they really miss. Maybe it’s the “bekang or the “vawk lu bawl”, or the Christmas and New Year feasts, or the “tlawmngaihna”, or the way life seems so normal and simple, or the idyllic sunrise view, or the Church bells chiming across the silent valley on Sundays, or the hilarious Mizo jokes that are not funny when translated in English… There is usually a small speck of unhappiness in their life, though there are those who are content too.

The bottom line is, everybody’s free to do what they want and marry who they love. Love is blind, but unfortunately reality is not. It all depends on how the person decides to weigh the scale. How involved are you going to be with society, with your family, with your community. Yes there are times when such people spend restless nights thinking about the situation, debating about whether to commit further or not, maybe even thinking of an alternative. I for one am speaking from such an experience too. Trust me, it's not easy at all. Unless you have been in a relationship with a non-Mizo before, you won't understand.

And similarly, if somebody, a non Mizo, “stole” the princess of your dreams, don’t bitch about that person. Be fair. If you really want to win her back, go after her with all guns blazing. Don't whine about how she fell for him instead ONLY because he's not a Mizo. Maybe it has nothing to do with race. Maybe it's the way you treated her or the way you ignored her. Woo her like how Don Juan would. Respect her. Worship her. Listen to her. Put your Mizo male ego at the back seat. And believe me, you CAN win her back. As long as you are completely honest and truthful, nothing is difficult. Because deep inside, know that she would probably rather be with a Mizo than a non-Mizo because of all the complications I've stated above.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Ps. I know some of you may disagree with my opinion. Do feel free to contact me if you want to discuss about this. – Kima , phone no. 9845-5-KIMA-5 (that’s 9845-5-5462-5 if you don’t understand).

Disclaimer: My views and opinions are entirely my own and are not influenced by any external pressure, and my views does not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor of Chhinlung Magazine or anybody else related to this magazine.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Chp 53. Skeletons in the Cupboard

I am no fan of the Spice girls (eeeeww), but long long time ago, when my generation first started partying, the hit songs on the boogie floor those days were songs like “Be my lover”, Backstreet boys’ “Get down” and Spice Girl’s “Wannabe”. Hence the lyrics of that particular song kinda stuck to my head. “If you want my future, forget my past”.

Man, how true is this. Think about it, it’s much deeper than you think.

How many times have we judged someone solely on the basis of his/her past? How many times have we said “Oh she used to sleep around back in school, don’t ever get involved with her?” or “Him? He was into LSD n all sort of crazy stuff man while we were slogging for our publics exam, don’t ever trust him”.

Everybody change. That’s what the Human life cycle is all about. But why does our perception about a person we’ve known before seems so hard to change?

When we were young, our hearts were restless and wild. We wanted to experiment on all sort of crazy stuff, after all, that’s what youth is all about. What is youth without curiosity? It would be just a mundane boring dullsville occupied by nerds and geeks of all ages. I’m sure when you were young you must have taken at least a drag from that magical ciggaweed, downed a couple of sleeping pills or painkillers, drank a bottle of cough syrup etc just to see what’s it like, or even switched to higher forms of synthetic or street drugs. The thing is, most of us have been through all these, either in our school or college days. Curiosity is more to blame rather than foolishness. And this is what life is all about.

Recently, a certain celebrity from my community has been ostracized for a certain video that surfaced in public. In that video, she was bare bodied, and yeah, I’m sure every up-to-dated mizo (including me) have downloaded her clip from the net. Sure some of us drooled, while others laughed. But coming back to reality, I’m sure most of us don’t think she deserves to be kicked out from her community. Yeah her boyfren dumped her and yeah her employers fired her. The former I can somewhat understand. I mean, here is a guy who is deeply in love with her and completely honest with her while she goes around shooting sleazy videos behind his back. Must be pretty embarrassing for him. And about her getting fired from her job, well, I guess her employers simply wanted to avoid a controversy. But what rights do the local YMA (read my previous post on YMA, the so called Young Mizo Association) have, to kick her out from her locality? Utter bullshit. This poor girl has now found a shelter in the local Salvation Army Church. Rejected by her own flesh n blood, all she can think of now is an uncertain future.

It is incidents like this that makes my blood simmer slowly. We call ourselves a complete Christian state, the last bastion of Christianity, and yet when it comes to understanding and forgiveness, I’ve never seen anyone more hypocritical than these. How different are we from the Talibans or the communists of the Forbidden City? Jesus preached about showing the other cheek while some of our Church leaders stress on an eye for an eye. Shame on us.

But enough on the religious doctrine of our current system for now. Right now I would like to revert back to what I initially meant to talk about: The strength to trust someone with a clouded past.

At one of the mizo forums where I actively participate, one mizo dude (or dudette) posted that my comments were indeed sympathetic, but in real life, am I ready to do the same thing? Practice what you preach was what she really meant to say. This made me think a lot. Yes, would I be ready to accept anyone regardless of their dark past? It’s really easy to say it out on paper that true love knows no past or mistakes. But just take a moment off and think deeply. The love of your life used to be a hooker before. Will you marry her?

Dilemma. I guess I’ll never know since I’ve never come across anything like that in my life. But right now, all I can do is speak out to the person that what’s past is the past and what one should really concentrate on is the future.

Forget the Past. Build your future.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Chp 52. Kamanahalli

Kamanahalli. Yup that’s my new address.

Kamanahalli, an interesting part of Bangalore… I mean Bengaluru (Damn, I even had to program my Word document to recognize this word).

The first impression I got when I first landed here was, man, this is some really rural shit. But OMG, how wrong I was. Kamanahalli had everything I needed. Right from shopping malls to places where I can buy contact lens solutions. Carpenter shops selling wardrobe, utensils market, mattress shops, hardware outlets, groovy restaurants, electronics shop, you name it, its all here. They even have vigilant night cops (who by the way trashed one of my roomie “Jupiter” coz he was drunk while speeding on a bike). Pork shop, junk food outlets and hundreds of liquor bar, man, this is sheer Heaven!

Its not even 3 weeks since I got here, and I’ve already signed an unwritten mutual tie up with one of the bar owners here. He is willing to sell me a bottle of Old Monk rum for just a mere 115 bucks! Plus a discount of 10% on Jaguar beer if the total cost exceeds 300 bucks. How cool is that!

Our house warming party was a blast. More people than we ever expected turned up. It was one of the best parties I’ve ever had. It went on till 5 in the morning.

And here’s the best part I like about the place. The locality where I live is almost 70-80% Christians. I am not trying to draw a religious line out here, but all my life I’ve been in places where I’ve been waken up at really odd hours in the middle of the night by a nearby Mosque’s prayer blasting on the loudspeaker or can’t sleep in the night because of one of the many Puja celebrations breaking the sound barrier in a nearby field. Here, everything was all peace and quiet.

The only problem is, it’s very difficult to find an auto that’s willing to take me to Kamanahalli from, say Koromangala or even MG Road, especially after sunset, coz they don’t usually find a customer back from here. Hence, if I don’t have any transportation, all I do is stay at home like a desperate housewife. Its fun though, in its own way.

Lots of “small eyes” brothers n sisters reside in this part of the town too. From my frens, I’ve found out these people are Koreans. Have no idea what Koreans of all the people are doing here, but yeah, I’ve seen a lot of them when I go shopping at MBO’s like Nilgiris. It’s really strange but yeah, we can make out if a “chinky” is an Indian or not. Many of my non-“chinky” frens have asked me so many times how I’m able to differentiate such people because “we all look the same”. I dunno how to explain this; I guess u’ll just have to understand. To us, its Childs play to identify which one is from North-east India and who’s from South East Asia.

Anyway, I’m really looking forwards to a swell 3 months here in Kamanahalli. It maybe quite far from the more urban part of Bengaluru, but as long as the Bloody Mary is served with the right content of tomato juice, I don’t mind having it without the glass that is rimmed with celery salt.