It has been a while since I posted anything on my blog which is partly due lack of time and mostly due to a lack of any inclination or inspiration towards the same.
The fact that I am sitting down and writing today, however, is an effect of circumstances very different from the ones that have pushed me to write in the past.
Reading through my blog today made me realize that although I do blog about things that happen to me and also whine about them at times, inspiration has always stemmed from emotions such as happiness (as in the case of when I learned to ride a bike), self-realization (when I realized that I shouldn’t take life too seriously), amusement (at our stupidity on that fateful night when we couldn’t find the main switch) or just silly, girlish rambling as in most of my posts. This is not a fun post. It is not a rant either. I am writing today about something that I believe is a huge issue in our nation that has somehow been overlooked due to circumstances. If you are not in a mood for heavy reading, I would suggest you either scroll down to the other posts or just go to another web page.
Today I write out of a feeling of great sadness and a sense of extreme disgust. I feel let down and things that I have long believed in and ideas that I have always held very close to my heart as being solutions to problems that I believe plague our country and prevent us from being the superpower that we could be are, as I have discovered, not really solutions at all.
This brings me to the title of this post. I am fortunate, I believe, to be born in India and yet belong to a section of society that can afford a college education, speaks fluent English and believes in educating a female child. I consider myself very fortunate. I thank my stars for it every time I see beggars on the road or children in slums. I have often wished that we could be richer as a nation and fast so that we could educate those people who need it and bring them up, hence making us a more empowered and understanding nation.
I have very recently discovered, much to my anguish, that educating a nation isn’t as easy as sending a child to school or college. Education involves wiping out ignorance and ignorance is NOT easily wiped out. Ignorance stays. Ignorance in our nation is a powerful force, pushing itself through every nook and cranny, entering the deepest and darkest crevices, till I find to my disgust, that it is around me too. It has found its way into this wonderfully comfortable world that I have made for myself with my fancy college course and English speaking friends. I believed that I was and would always be surrounded by people who are educated. What I am actually surrounded by is people who are most definitely “very literate” and “above the levels of required literacy levels” who have also “studied things and are pretending to be a part of an educated India” but are in reality only doing what they have to in order to get a degree which may enable them to make money. It is pathetic but they have not even attempted to actually educate themselves and become “educated individuals” that they should. They are still ignorant and stand to be a conspicuous example of how the Indian system of education has failed and continues to fail.
It must be killing you by now, if you are still with me, as to what I am so angry about and the events that have brought forth this rant. To answer that I would have to give you a little history about who I am and where I come from. If you have followed my blog in the past or know me personally you would know that I am Indian, 22 years old as on April this year, I am South Indian (Mallu to be precise) and have spent most of my child hood in Chennai first and then in Manipal, which is in Karnataka.
I will have to admit that through the years, being from a very South Indian family I have heard many awful things being said about people from Northern India. When I learnt that I would be going to college in Pune, the first bit of advice I received from my grandmother was
“Please make friends with South Indians. North Indians are money minded, racist and cannot be trusted. They come from families that are not very educated and do not speak good English. If you mingle with them you will also become crass and the boys will beat you up.”
It made me very awkward to hear these words as I wanted to vehemently disagree and create a scene. I had to bite my lips and repeat “she is old” in my mind a hundred times before I could finally force a smile, pretend to agree and say “yes ammumma” and change the topic into something that would not make me want to go into a psycho rage and start screaming.
Needless to say, I did not heed to her advice. Of my closest friends from my batch only ONE is South Indian, that too, only by blood. I specify that because he has grown up in Delhi and as a result, the only Indian language he speaks fluently is Hindi. In fact, I would not be wrong if I said his Hindi is as good as his English. He stands to be yet another example of South Indian tolerance and our readiness to imbibe other cultures.
I came to this city as a person who could not speak a word of Hindi. I never had to speak it in the past and hence did not have the opportunity to learn. Today I can hold a conversation in the language. Yes, the grammar is horrific and the accent is downright awful but I can convey what I mean and that is the ultimate aim of a language right? I am also trying to learn every day.
Additionally, I have also discovered a deep rooted love for Punjabi music. Somehow, I have a knack for Punjabi songs and I am not exaggerating when I say that I can sing Pehli Waar by Imraan Khan and Sadi Galli and get the lyrics right (the accent, off course, is still messed up.) I love Honey Singh and swear by many of his songs. I have been known to suddenly start dancing when Punjabi beats play. This behaviour has been greatly encouraged by my friends, one of whom is a Sikh from Chandigarh and is also one of my favourite people in the world.
It is being around people like him and the others that shut me off and made me believe that backward and archaic ideals like regionalism and racism are concepts that no longer exist in our society. I brushed it off as a myth and as something that exists only amongst the poorer classes and the lower echelons. “We are all united because we are educated and know better!” said my mind.
My stupid, naïve and clueless South Indian mind.
These happy thoughts were crushed on one fine day in March during a get together at a friends’ place. We were discussing Chennai as a city and about living there. I agreed completely with people who were cursing the weather there and also to their inhospitable nature with regard to treating people from the North. I teased one of my batch mates, who hails from Chandigarh, about how her life would suck if she ended up in Chennai. She however, decided to end any chance of humour or pleasantry that conversation may have brought up by saying:
“I can’t live there because I am not black enough.”
I stopped smiling and I couldn’t help but say “What?!?!” in a very surprised tone. It was also a slightly angry tone. Not because I was angry at the statement or that I felt it applied to me (while I am dusky I am not what one would strictly call black) but because the statement came from a person who I had always respected. A girl I had always considered as one of the few whom I could have an intelligent conversation with. I had seen her as a friend and as a person who was, as I mentioned before, educated and bright.
It breaks my heart to say that I cannot think of her that way anymore. She broke my little delusion. I suddenly felt stifled by ignorance and an utter lack of class. I left the room. One of my other friends I had mentioned earlier came and said sorry knowing that I was annoyed. The problem was that although I could forgive the statement itself, nothing he said could take away the fact that my delusion had been shattered by that single statement or that I saw in it the failings of my nation, which I very much love.
Two weeks later I heard another one of my friends make a derisive comment about how we should stop eating watermelon with our hands “like south Indians”. This time I let it go because it came from a person whom I really cared about and hell, my delusion had long since been shattered anyway.
Today I log onto facebook and I see a status update by a person on my friend list that goes like this:
“At a signal in Delhi while I was riding, an uncle in a car pulled up beside me and with absolute conviction asked:
"Bhaiya, woh madrasion ka mandir aage hi hai na?"
"Bhaiya, woh madrasion ka mandir aage hi hai na?"
It actually amused me and I shook my head and smiled. I commented on it and moved on. I receive a notification a few hours later and the same girl had commented on it with a cold and blunt “hahahahhaa brilliant”.
· We have legislations in place that make calling people from the north east “chinky” a crime. (Win! )
· We have reservations for our SC’s and ST’s (Win!)
· We even try to protect our religious minorities (Win Win Win!!!!)
Why then, is it okay to make racist and demeaning comments against people from the South?
I say this at the risk of sounding obnoxious but we South Indians have contributed to this country in a billion ways. We have brought in Classical music and classical dances. We have produced individuals like A.R Rehman, Aishwarya Rai , Adhoor Gopalakrishnan and Shashi tharoor amongst many others.
Our Literacy rates are higher as is our sex ratio. We have a larger percentage of our population doing professional courses and actually studying. To top it off, most of us speak at least a minimum of three languages AND we are mature and cooperative enough to learn Hindi as well, just to make it easier for everybody.
Yes, we do not make a fuss.
We do not riot or ask for special rights and privileges.
Nor do we comment upon the stark differences that we see everyday with regard to our families and upbringing and that of people brought up in the north (as I mentioned before, my grandmother actually gave me that bit of advice in perfect English)
All we ask of you, dear North India, is to let us be and not force us to.
I could go onto Google and bring up a list of reasons why we should be accepted, not discriminated and treated with respect.
Then again it would be pointless because after all, I am South Indian and hence “Black”.
Why would they even listen?