I don't usually receive too many phone forwards, but when I do, I like reading through them, and having a good laugh. Yesterday, one was sent to me. A joke. It read:
"A man kicked a mad dog to save a lady. The news the next day read, "Indian saves lady." Man said, "I'm not Indian." The news was updated to read, "Foreigner saves lady." Man said, "I'm Pakistani." The news then read, "Terrorist attacks local dog!"
Needless to say, I was pretty shocked. Have we, as a race, reached such a state where we classify all Muslims as terrorists? Or perhaps all Sardars as stupid? Or even all Marwaris as money-oriented? What place is there for individuality?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who take offence at every little thing, I don't shake my head disapprovingly when Indians are made fun of in certain movies. I'll laugh at a Sardar joke, I might even grin if you tell me that Hitler would sneeze with a strong burst of "Aah-aah-Jew!"
But perhaps in our desire for humour, we have all taken it a bit too far? Perhaps now we do not bother to draw a line between humour for the fun of it, and shocking generalisation. What about the Muslim who is not a terrorist, the man who wakes up every day, goes to work, comes back, and spends time with his family? The one who leads a perfectly harmless life, the one who is a respectable law-abiding citizen? Must he go through this torture as well?
This prejudice exists in each and everyone. I'm no hypocrite, I'll admit I have my share of prejudices, but I'll also admit that it's not healthy, that I'm trying to rid myself of them. What's not healthy is clinging on to these meaningless notions of hate for a particular race, or religion, and acting as if they define us.
A few days back, my friends and I were sitting at the canteen, when this one boy in our group started talking about how he hated Marwaris, and how they should all be banned from the face of the earth. Now there was a Marwari boy sitting right there (a really nice person, whom we all like), and he doesn't take offence easily, but he did get a little ruffled. He asked, "Why such strong opinions?" And this Marwari-hater calmly says, "I don't know. I can't explain it. It's anger at its purest."
Anger at its purest?? What on earth does that even mean? Does he think he sounds like some Greek tragic hero? Does he think that we Bengalis are universally loved? Every race, every community, every religion in the world has its share of haters.
It's horrible. The way a person can calmly say that he despises X race or Y religion, and in the same sentence admit that there is no reason. Have we been brought up with all these shortcomings, or do they gradually grow on us as we go along?
This joke in the phone forward was in humour, I get it. I'm not making a mountain of a molehill. But all the same, it's pretty shocking to see that we're living in a world where individuality does not matter anymore, where your character is judged upon your colour, caste, religion, or even sex. I know I'm being idealistic in thinking that we should live in a world where individual characteristics and personality traits matter, but the world is a complicated place, and I guess there's so much to take into account in each case.
But, meanwhile, a slice of blatant discrimination, anyone?