Thursday, 3 September 2009


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?


storyteller said...

I love your post and I am glad you have written about it. I don't understand, where does all the hatred come from? Why must we always have extreme notions about another religion, ethnic group or race? But the problem lies in individuals and perhaps their issues need to be confronted to bring about some kind of change in mindset.

little boxes said...

it's scary how we are learning to make jokes out of the grimmest of affairs.
just goes on to show the self centredness, i guess.
very very nicely put post.

Anonymous said...

bangalira khub racist. bhabh, mogonlal meghraj holo bangali's projection of the evil marwari businessman who will run out bangalis of their businesses.

tarpor the whole gorkhaland affair. bangalira toh anti-marwari, anti-gorkha in general.

the Lonestar said...

A very candid post. I agree with all of it. Good that you have blogged about this. Aar odhikangsho bangali erokomi hoe. Nijera prejudiced to the core, abar bole, 'oi deshe jabo na babah, ki racism!' - Huh, aar tomra nije ki koro. Hypocrites.

Well-written. :)

Rene Lacoste said...

I dunno-I've tried to analyse my own prejudices as well as those of people around me. Majorly, its the lack of familiarity with the other side which lies at the root of it all. The precipitating factors? I guess it is linked to peer pressure in some way. How? Our society values strong opinions and holds people with strong opinions in high esteem.

Then again, catching on to one extreme guarantees you the membership of atleast one "camp", as opposed to having a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand(which mostly leads to a neutral stance). You happen to catch more people like you-the sense of belonging, which is yet another..umm...incentive.

I have no idea if all of this makes sense to you...

Rene Lacoste said...

Bah! That was tangential. And badly framed. :(

Minka said...

I'm surprised at the way some of the students treat the African students who come to our university.On the one hand we make a big deal about Indians being victims of racism.But what about the kind of racist behaviours the brown-skinned show towards the Blacks?

Magically Bored said...

@ Storyteller: Yes, the problem does lie with individuals, but on the other hand, it's also true that some children are brought up to despise or look down upon another race, or religion, or even colour. It's pretty scary.

@ Little Boxes: Thank you, I thought this was something that needed to be written about.

@ Bhooter Raja: Bengalis are very racist. I agree with you. And then we get sore when non-Bengalis make fun of us for being lazy and sleepy, or being too fond of maach-bhaat.

@ The Lonestar: Thank you. The thing is, we're all hypocrites. And yet we don't admit it.

@ Rene Lacoste: I understand what you are saying, I think lack of understanding and peer pressure are major factors. But they need to be tackled, for the cause of peace. All this isn't healthy, to say the least.

@ Minka: That's what I am saying, precisely... EVERYONE is racist and hypocritical to some degree. The problem is, some people won't admit it, and those who do, justify themselves for being so.