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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Racism In India: Obvious, In Your Face Yet Hush-Hush
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If you have read the title of the post correctly, you will know that in this particular post, I will be talking specifically about racism in India. Yes, you heard me right.

Most of the stories you hear about racism work the other way – where Indians are at the receiving end of racist comments and jokes, where we Indians are discriminated against based on the colour of our skin. That is true, I have experienced it myself, a long time back, when I was staying in Germany for work, and was quite nicely stared at. This, in a city as big as Frankfurt, in a hill side beautiful town of Heidelberg and also in the quiet town of Rheinheim. I did face racism there, in the looks I got, in the way people would look at me. In fact, very recently, I also faced this in Hong Kong! The funny part was that I was sure offended, but I also found it quite funny. That’s another story and I will share it again in a different post. Let’s not digress here.

So yes, most of the racism stories that we hear have Indians as the victims.

But trust me, and I know that if you are an Indian who is reading this right now, you know what I am going to say is very true. We Indians are one of the biggest racist people that exist.

You may agree, you may be offended or you may really want to trash me out here – honestly, I don’t care. It is after all my blog and I choose to share the truth, as I have seen it countless times, and of course you have seen it too, or maybe done it too, and are now just trying to be nice and say you don’t know what I mean and how can I say something like this. Come on!

There are many aspects of racism, the most common one being identified is the colour of your skin. The other aspects of racism include your facial features, how you speak, where you come from, your religion and your caste. India has all these aspects of racism to pick from.

Check out any Indian market. The first time anyone who is remotely African walks by, many many eyes will stare. No matter if they are Africans or African-Americans or whatever, almost all shopkeepers turn around and stare. And if that person happens to wear their hair in dreadlocks (which I quite like), then the sniggers and the nudges are even more common.

The racism you see in Delhi is cruel, it is filled with disgust, loathing, it is dirty and intense, full of vulgarity.
Kolkata, on the other hand, is also a little racist, but it is more of a curiosity that makes them stare. I have been there a few times, and felt that the people will surely stare at you, especially if you are dressed differently, and speak differently. But it is not an unsafe feeling (can’t vouch for that anymore, as  ever since I was there last, the news reports have been full of the crimes that have been committed on women in Kolkata) and there were many nights when I went around the city, camera in hand, exploring.

On the other hand, I found Mumbai to be much more adaptive. There may definitely be instances of racism here too, but I personally have not experienced or seen any yet.

I have been born and brought up in Delhi and I have seen some really frequent and regular instances of racism on an everyday basis.

Go to markets like Sarojini Nagar, Janpath, Lajpat Nagar or even Dilli Haat and you will see how the north-Indians look at those who are of African origin. The shopkeepers will be perfectly polite while they shop and spend money, giving them their sales. But the moment they turn around, they will start laughing and pointing, discussing their dress, their hair, their face and of course, their skin colour. You may think this is a class thing, that only the shopkeepers do this as they are not as educated and hence as mannered. True?


Check out the young guys in the place, in their latest branded dresses and expensive watches and shoes. They will stare equally hard, and most often than not, their jokes will be cruder, filled with more dirt and indignity.

Delhi is filled with students who come over from the North-East. And these lovely soft-spoken and mild people are subjected to some cruel racism – every single time.

As if being stared at was not enough, almost ALL Delhi guys are of the opinion that girls from the north-east are available for a ‘rate.’ They will even blatantly go near her and ask her ‘kitna legi,’ or ‘rate kitna?’ And this again is true of the educated Delhi male too. Anyone who remotely resembles a north-east person is called ‘Chinki’ and there are many dirty jokes about eyes that do not open and how ‘they’ all look the same.

Another very common form of racism that is seen easily in Delhi is that towards anyone who is from southern India. The first thing is that for us Delhiites, anyone from any part of south India is the same – we simply cannot distinguish between the different states and parts of the south.

And one big example of racism that you can see on an everyday basis in Delhi (maybe in other parts of India too but that I am not aware of) is how north Indians (or Delhiites) look at south Indian. If you are from any of the states from down south, everything about you will be made fun of – your hair, the oil that apparently ‘drips’ from your hair, the coconut oil that you use in everything, your dressing sense, your lack of makeup, your accent and of course your skin colour – anything and everything that is otherwise perfectly normal and fine is turned into something that is made fun of.

Bengalis too are made fun of, especially those who are from Kolkata. The mustard oil ‘karwa tel’ that they use in everything, the accent, the monkey caps (ya I find that quite funny either, sorry, but being honest here) – all of that is made fun of too.

I find it extremely shameful that we, as Indians, complain so much about racism that we face outside (and yes, we should, because racism, in any form and in any part of the world towards anyone is not acceptable), but the sad part is that we do not learn. And we do not like ourselves, we still subject others too.

And oh, how can I forget the classic religion based racism that is so apparent and huge in India! I am a non-believer and I have many friends from other religions, especially from the Muslim faith. In this age and time, I find it quite unbelievable that I have been called a ‘spy’ ‘un-Indian’ ‘unpatriotic’ and so many other names, all because I have friends who are Muslims, and because many times I have supported them in different aspects.

So, there you go. These were some of the biggest racist issues that I have seen regularly in India. There may be many many more, I am not aware, or maybe I can’t recall it right now. But if you do, and if you have faced anything like this, do share your story here.

- Debolina Raja Gupta

And like I always believe in and say:
"Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children" - MJ

Debolina Raja Gupta