(technically, it was coffee :D but tea sounds more poetic :P )
What a ride this past one week had been! What a ride indeed.
For those of you wondering what this is about, recently I wrote a simple blog post about how a policeman uttered racial remarks at us last Sunday and how I wanted to invite that person for a cup of tea, sit down together and explain about the North East to him and become his friend.
The post was picked up by First Post and I got immense support from the online community. I never expected such an overwhelming response in the first place. And the best part was when Mr. Sadanand Date, Joint Commissioner of Police himself replied and mailed me personally!
So last Thursday, I got a call from the DCP office inviting me for tea at 4:30PM with Zone II DCP Nisar Tamboli at Malabar Hills Police Station. I went there with two of my Mizo friends, Charlie and Lawmi, who were present that day when the unfortunate incident took place. Since I wrote, “I will even bring one of my Maharashtrian friends along if communication is going to be a problem during our friendly conversation over tea” in my previous post, one of my dear friends Preeta Sukhtankar immediately volunteered to be that Maharashtrian friend.
Anurag Mazumdar, a correspondent from First Post too came along for the meeting to do a follow-up report since FP first broke the story. He had done a brilliant job of covering that whole meeting with the police and you can read all about it here.
DCP Tamboli’s one of the smartest police officers I’ve ever met. He understood the whole problem and even had a long talk with the constables, making them understand why it was wrong to say those words. Since Anurag covered the whole incident very well, I’ll not repeat what he had already written in the link above, so please do read the First Post article.
I’m very thankful to my friend Preeta who took time off from her busy schedule to accompany us to the Police Station.
She was a star, lighting up the Police Station immediately with her grace and charm. She warmed up the mood of the moment, creating an easy rapport that set the tone for an easy and composed conversation. I’ve never seen a Police officer (Sr. Police Inspector Vinay Bagade, head of Malabar hills Police Station) laugh that much.
My friends Charlie and Lawmi too had a great experience meeting the police. Lawmi was a bit shy and hardly spoke unless a question was asked directly to her, but her sweet innocent smile enchanted the police completely :)
We were served this really awesome poha and THAT was when I realized, “Shit, I haven’t eaten anything till now!” because when I got the call in the morning, I was super excited, and nervous. I had never dared to assume that the police would actually take such an effort, and my heart was pumping faster than a NASCAR rally because thoughts like who could I ask to come with me to the station in the last minute, what should I wear, what should I tell the police etc flashed through my head immediately, hence forgetting to eat.
Mr. Bagade explained how the Malbar (yes that is how it’s officially supposed to be written) Hill Police Station functions and where his policemen patrols etc. I was very surprised to know that there were around 1.5 lakhs people under Malbar Hill Police Station jurisdiction! That’s a lot of law and order’ing to do.
And even with such a heavy workload, the fact that not just the PI but the DCP himself took time off to sit with me and talk to his constables about this situation meant soooo much to me.
And the best part was when DCP Tamboli showed up at our Mizo Church the next day after our Good Friday service! He assured our Mizo community and any other North Eastern communities that we would always be treated as equals, as fellow Indians, and this spoke volumes about the quality of our Mumbai police.
Below is the video, courtesy Mr. Vanlalruata Fanai, Vice Chairman of our Bombay Mizo Christian Fellowship (BMCF).
Below are some pics taken that day (Good Friday), source: facebook :P
Frankly speaking, the publicity that this is getting is definitely beyond what I had ever imagined. To have an article about this mentioned on Mid Day, TOI, Telegraph, NDTV, DNA, Hindustan Times, our local papers in Mizoram etc is extremely overwhelming.
And I have read most of the comments on First Post, twitter and my blog, and am extremely thankful to all of you for the positive and supportive comments. And to the few angry comments which I'm hoping are trolls, I just want to say a few things – No I am not an attention-seeking whore. I never wrote that article for First Post, it was merely cross posted by an editor of First Post who chanced upon my blog post (thank you, Anant Rangaswamy). And no I am not using it as a cheap publicity stunt to start my journalism career either because I have no interest in becoming a journalist. I know it is a very respectable profession but I am a tech geek who is currently producing Android games and that is what I intend to do for the rest of my foreseeable future.
And I did not mean to offend the Nepali community in anyway. As I have been very busy, I didn't have the time to reply to the comments, but let me just make it clear that when I said Mizos, Nagas, Manipuris, Khasis etc don't want to be identified as Nepalis or people from Kathmandu, it didn’t mean we looked down upon Nepalis and hence didn’t want to be associated with the community. And I'm sorry if my previous post might sound as if I didn’t consider the Indian Nepali community residing in the North East to be a part of North East, which I wasn't implying.
This is exactly why I wrote that post. Every time there is a race related article, everybody’s ready to hurl abuses at each other. I’ve been online long enough to know that that doesn’t solve anything. Instead of just fighting, I wanted to try something new. Let’s sit down and discuss amicably. Here's an old blog post I wrote way back in 2007 about the slur "Nepali". Maybe if you could go through it first, then you'd know where I stand. And if you want to discuss more about this issue over a cup of tea, you know I'm always up to it :)
I know how extremely complicated and sensitive the North East is, and the wrong usage of just one word can be extremely politically incorrect or insensitive to some. For example, just two paragraphs ago I mentioned, “Mizos, Nagas, Manipuris, Khasis etc don't want to be…” and a Meitei might say, “If you are identifying Khasis as representatives of Meghalaya, why aren’t you saying Meiteis instead of Manipuris”, and a Garo could take the previous statement as an insult, and a Kuki or Hmar or Naga resident of Manipur might take the next statement as an insult, and then an Ao or Angami might take it as an offense for including Tangkhuls as Nagas, and vice versa, and a Hmar or Mara from Mizoram might say they are not Mizos, ETC ETC and so on. Yeah we are a very complicated and insecure bunch of people, BUT this IS NOT about OUR internal problems.
This is about how people like us, who share similar facial features, are often looked upon differently by the rest of India. This is about educating the masses, about how stereotyping hurts us, especially if it is coming from somebody meant to protect us from those who racially abuse us. This is about reconciliation and how we can make a change, not through hatred or violent outburst or abusive comments, but rather over a friendly cup of tea.
Another newspaper correspondent asked me how long I’ve been blogging about the North East. I just want to clarify that I DO write about the North East and racial discrimination because that is something very close to my heart, but I also write a lot about other stuff, like music, basketball, Arsenal FC, partying, gaming, silly life experiences, relationships, short fictions, humor etc… After all that is what blogging is all about – you write what you want to write about because it is your blog. And the North East issue just happens to be one of the many things I write about.
And then I was asked to name my favorite five posts I’ve written about the North East. I really didn’t know how to respond to that because I wasn’t ranking my posts. But quickly going through some of my old posts now, I guess the five North East related posts below are some of my favorite ones…
1. Chp 94. Racism I: Chinky - What me insult? - I wrote this way back in 2006 and it was cross posted at Sun Magazine, North East edition. About why people from the North East take it as an offense when they are called “chinkies”.
2. Chp 406. Chinki/Chinky in the limelight again - This is about the recent 2012 Court ruling banning people from calling us “chinkies” and the misconception that many had about this ruling. And how it actually made things worse for us.
3. Chp 163. Sex, drugs and North-east girls - About how a prominent Indian tabloid described girls from the North East as a “combo pack of drugs and sex” and my utter disappointment in the quality of journalism in our National Capital.
4. Chp 134. Ethnocide: The Great Hibu Fiasco - About how IPS Hibu released a book that he thought might make life better for Northeastern students but it backfired on him. My personal analysis on what actually went wrong.
5. Chp 1. Freedom - The post that started it all, the reason why I became a blogger. An assignment when I was in IIM-B. I ended up getting the highest mark in our batch, and that’s when I discovered I have a passion for writing, hence started blogging.
If you do read the above posts, you will see that the way I think and write have changed through the years. This is because as we get to know more people, our opinion changes a bit. In fact, in my post “Freedom” mentioned above, I was extremely bitter against our armed force. But as time goes by, my own cousins and friends from Mizoram joined the armed forces and tempers cool down. Of course it still hurts when one is reminded about the past, but there are ways in which we can reconcile now without violence. Compare the post above to my recent post “Silence of the Nightingales” and you will see a difference, even though it is about the same topic.
Back then, had I been racially abused by a cop, would I have invited him for tea to have a friendly conversation? I probably wouldn’t. I might even rant about it on my blog, criticizing the police harshly. But years of blogging and taking part in online discussion forums and meeting new people, different people, awesome people, have made me realize that there are indeed better ways to handle this. More effective and friendlier ways.
As we grow older, we change. Hoping to see changes from this incident too.