Did you look at my face? Did you notice that I have a flat nose, comparatively smaller eyes than the rest of ‘mainland Indian’ citizens? You surely must have noticed my light hair and yellower skin because fair might not be the word for me. With this feature, either I have become a Japa-nese , Kurean or a tourist who cannot speak Hindi in the eyes of the blue-collared job people like the antique shopkeepers in Hippie markets mushroomed in various parts of India. I remember one such guy in Jaipur remarking, “Medam, this iz my shop, will you like to see in my shope?” in crisp Indian accent and a tone of invitation like in the movies at the top of his voices. Most of the time, I end up leaving voices behind that calls me from my back saying, “ Ae Chinese Chinky, Ching Chong, room? Goodh price, very cheap,medam”. After some serious speculation and patience test, I ended up yelling back in Shudh Hindi, “Kaun hai Chinese? Tera baap? Ching Chong ke Aulaad”. (Who is Chinese? Your father? Progenies of Ching-Chong) I have realized I do not get offended by calling me a Chinese for my Mongoloid features because I do not get to choose it, but when I hear the racist remark ‘chinky’ which post-colonial buffoons are fond of using casually, I feel like carrying a huge, magical broom made of political history, just to brush them once with few facts to their prejudiced, ignorant minds.
I used to stay silent before and bear the brunt of labeling before, but these days I have broken the vow of silent fights, entailing in shouting, abusing all the brothers and fathers of the eve teaser’s lifetime. It is similar to getting a lifetime achievement award to those gracious commenters from my side in those few seconds and few words sputtered in Metros, college vicinity, ticket counters, bookshops etc. That transposes me to a funny yet grave serious incident at Agra. I was with a few friends of mine from Switzerland, I went to the ticket counter with pride to get tickets and the counter person asked me for my passport. Why will an Indian will think of carrying the passport when the monument is in your own country? I showed my college identity card and he was adamant, despite me speaking ‘crystal-clear’ Hindi if Hindi is the marker of Indian national identity. Ultimately, I had to surrender to his whims of identifying me as a Hindi speaking Firangi, having to pay the equal fee as my friends who were paying nearly Rs.750/- per head, not considering the Indian citizen charge of Rs.50/-. I realized that awareness about small eyes and light colored hair surely needs to be in large number amidst the sharp-featured, long-nosed ‘Indian’ consciousness, only if someone stops appropriating and allowing the tolerance that even about this ethnicity among one of the many inseparable identities of an Indian, be it in cinema, culture, and TV adverts.
What was the necessity of Priyanka Chopra playing MC Mary Kom in the movie when there exist considerably talented Manipuri actresses like Lin Laishram and dozen others producing at least 80-100 movies in a year? Priyanka Chopra’s artificial upper lip to match up with Mary Kom was inherently offensive, in my point of view. This instance might be outdated but questioning the politics of making a movie saleable, reinforcing tiny-eye phobia by cultural and ethnic appropriation is unjust. Where is the North-East India in the known Indian movie?
And, what is this fuss about Airtel 3G or 4G working in the Himalayas, Shillong to be precise, with a bunch of small-eyed people shouting with fake joy and dancing instantly as if they are dancing 24*7*365? The offensive part was when the actors speak in Hindi and the natives try speaking Hindi entailing in a happy-go-lucky dancing affair together as if the Hindi language solely connects everyone like the bogus network. Leaving aside the hoax and politically incorrect advertisement, let me shell out the truth about the signal in my hometown Ladakh, erstwhile diplomatically vital to the nation’s pride, in front of whoever is reading this rant. Airtel 4G does not work at all, rather 3G network staggers and refuses most of the time to work as well as walk well like a drunkard man left on a pot-holed road. Yes, I know you are asking about GPRS, but GPRS is the step-child of Airtel 3G, so why shouldn’t we avoid the topic altogether? One funny anecdote is that during my holidays back home, I try to finish sending emails and replying to all the WhatsApp, Facebook messages before I reach halfway home. Why? Because once my network suspects that I am reaching home, it ceases to function despite showing the existential ‘E’ on the right corner of the device. So, I told once to one of my friends, as soon as I boarded the public, running taxi that she has to reply soon and should not expect my reply until next visit to the market. On questioning, I casually said that I am under strict surveillance of network, that’s why I had named it Nazi network (the Airtel network) excluding all the residents beyond a certain radius of the market. Of course, mountains must be playing a huge role as they surround the entire city! I hope you get what I mean to say here, yes, it is a deliberate obliviousness towards those wretched, tiny-eyed Ladakhis who probably are not necessary to cover under the ‘great’ scheme of ‘Bharat Sarkar’ called Digital India. Why will those mountain-living savages need digitalization? No? I probably might sound exaggerating, but when you will come to visit the complete- identity-reduced-to-lake (special thanks to the media) called Pangong, do not expect to be making calls like Chatur Ramalingam to Phunstok Wangdu in the 3Idiots movie, to let known the world that you have finally scaled the lake of mysterious origins with no anthropological evolution around! Even internet café owners will be moaning most of the time saying, “Sorry Medam, system is down”, but there are sunny days too when the system is ‘up’ and an hour of internet browsing becomes an upper-class, educated section occupation costing at least Rs.60/hour. I do not blame those poor café owners who have to keep systems ‘up’ through various ‘connections’ and wires, the cost actually looks trivial when you have to flood the Facebook wall with your recent visit to Nubra Valley, riding on a double-humped camel wading through surreal sand dunes or a pouting picture with black sunglasses, feet dipped in the ice-cold water of Pangong for few picture shooting seconds. Next time or first-time visitors there, please try bringing back the non-biodegradable wastes like beer cans, wrappers, bottles of yours as well as of any ecologically-insensitive soul , if there is space in the bumper of your taxi or car! Why? Because many species of rare birds have been migrating there since decades for breeding and nesting purposes, which might shift or extinct due to the petite act of littering or trying to show some irrelevant stunts by wading the vehicle into the lake by our very own heroes of the times. The origins as well as the 60% of the lake, on the other side of the border, is worshiped and even considered sacrosanct to the echelon that if seven rainbows occur there, it is a symbolic communication with the heavenly beings. I have pulled you through enough, right?
But, questioning my own assumptions about these anecdotes occurring almost daily, what do we call it other than Racism to exclude the region digitally, reduce it to a tourist retreat for pleasing the senses of the upper-class or caste people within and out of the country, physically and socially? Are you trying to make the generalization of keeping the land for land’s sake, politically ostracizing the presence of natives from the national myth of ‘unity in diversity’? I wonder, what is lacking in the politicization of the issue, agitation or organization against structured racism?
P.S: Racism can be surpassed with a loving heart and a sensitive conscience!
Picture credits: Maryam Azwer,Sri Lanka.