It's summer already and Delhi is back on it's infamous heat streaks....a whopping 40 degrees for a while and lingering at 36+ in Celsius all day is anything but pretty...and to top it off, the Air Con at work was turned off....some intelligent soul decided that the Air Con deserved a holiday and thought of giving it one this Saturday. Uhm no...I'm not talking abt the situation at my company, but it's well....at a site where i'm working....the details, I shall refrain from revealing...let's just say an earlier cribbing session has come back to haunt me in the form of a project :( (Hey don't get me wrong, work's awesome!)
Aaaaaah...now that we're done with the drooling...how many of you have got a compliment from a person who has later made you feel extremely uncomfortable with a racist statement? It was just another day at work, a site that is being set up by us Engineers and one of the officials from the client started up a conversation with me, let's just call him Mr K
This conversation has been translated from a combination of English and Hindi to English to assist the linguistically challenged and to avoid embarrassing myself 'coz of my extremely funny version of the National Language
Mr K: Hey Shanim, how's the progress on the site?
Me: Going on great sir. We're moving quite quickly and have managed to make and beat most of our targets. (yes yes I'm trying to make it sound 'professional' ;) )
Mr K: Do you know something, your Hindi is real good for a south indian
Blushes stammers and speaks gibberish and Mr. K regrets having uttered those few sentences mentioned above
Me: No sir, I'm far from perfect. I still make quite a few blunders as I speak. (sigh...modest ain't I?)
Mr K: Oh no, it is quite good. Since you primarily use other languages and use Hindi only to converse with us, I feel it is good. We find it very difficult to speak English, which we use only in rare situations, and you are quite fine with both English and Hindi. Even your accent sounds quite good and not like a southie.
Me: Oh!...Thank you :)
An awkward silence follows....
Mr K: So Shanim, what does your name mean?
Me (thinking): Sigh...hate this question!
Me: It doesn't really have a meaning. My dad had made it up and I find that a good enough reason to love it.
Mr K: That's real nice. So what is your full name?
Me: It's Shanim Sainul, sir.
Mr K: Oh, so you're christian are you?
Me (thinking): sigh....this would be the 2324112nd person assuming I'm X'ian...how do I tell the guy I'm agnostic?....uhm...let's leave it as Muslim
Me: No no sir, I'm Muslim
A silence follows, he looks uneasy and suddenly gets defensive
Mr K: Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't be asking you this. Hope you don't mind.
Me (thinking): WTF???
Me: No sir, why should it be a problem :) It's okay.
We move in different directions and he resumes his silent chantings from the Bhagvath Gita as I continue to watch my Malaysian friend talk to the sub-contractors in a language that baffles me, it's a mixture of english and a dramatic performance worthy of an award. (Uhm...yeah I do help out eventually....I mean I have to stop laughing to do so, right?)
A normal conversation isn't it? or is it? Aren't we all just plain racists? We walk around talking about people from south india as madrasis or southies and when we're down south in Bangalore, we abuse the 'northies' who have absolutely no care for the city and it's beauty. We call people Mallus, Gultes, Pandis, Chinkies, Surds....the list just goes on. True we never realize it. We probably have the worst case of racist behavior and it continues to be a part of us being Indian. I've often heard people talk about their caste and how it is not acceptable to marry someone from a different caste, or of how another person was of a lower caste and their 'kind' used to deliver milk in villages. Now why did all this spark a thought in my otherwise vacuum head?
It's 10:30pm. I walk home after a tiring day at work and a tough search for some snacks for the long night (fine....I choose to make the nights long by sleeping at 2am) and on my way to the gate I overheard a very weird conversation. A man, quite tall and bulky was talking to a cycle rickshaw guy. The only thing I heard (which was quite loud mind you) was "Tum Hindu ho ke Musalmaan??" (Translated as "Are you Hindu or Muslim??"). I was distracted by a friend of mine at this point and didn't see what happened next but.......does this question really matter???? I often get jealous of the Chinese....most of them are free-thinkers and are not limited in their sights and perspective to just religion or castes for that matter. A Chinese friend of mine was fascinated when we talked about religion. She had never heard of Buddhism and Islam before and she looked at us like a 5-yr old at a candy store.
We remain in our closed boxes, shying away from interacting with people from 'other' backgrounds. After all, they are different and they can be threatening to us. Why the $!#@# are we still living in a archaic society??? Isn't it time we moved on and changed our perspective?
A religion is merely our guide to be good to the world, it's there to give us peace of mind and more often than not, we're born into it (atleast in India). Is this a reason to fight on or profile?? BEATS ME!!