By Tushar M
So it was just about last night that a bunch of my expat friends and I decided to drop by to this well known club in South Delhi to celebrate one of the friends’ birthday. We’d already had a nice dinner at a sweet restaurant, were down a glass of wine, or two, and headed to this club. Apprehensive about how I’d enter, knowing I was the only Indian in the group (I don’t even have a famous relative or an uncle in the ministry), I kept fretting all evening, but was reassured by my friends that they’d get me in as a guest, saying, “Hey, you can be my +1.”
You know the stamps they put on you when you enter a club? Well, somehow out of the six of us who entered, three got a red stamp and three got a blue one. I, an American friend of Indian origin, and a Thai friend were stopped at the second level upstairs, being told that only people with “red stamps” are allowed to the “private party”. My outraged American-Indian friend stormed downstairs screaming “racist b@$#@%&s” and argued with the manager, while my Thai friend looked completely puzzled. And I stood there, shaking my head in despair, watching how messed up that whole situation was.
Post-colonial India still has remnants of the “white-is-right” mindset, deeply embedded in the collective psyche of a nation whose citizens call themselves extremely patriotic and believe in forcefully playing the national anthem every time a movie starts at a multiplex. It is extremely hazardous to my idealism, as a young adult, when I see blatant hypocrisy all around me, in the very “cosmopolitan and modern” New Delhi, a city where I am treated as a second-class citizen. The innate allure of the “gora-face”, as many of my Caucasian friends tell me they are referred to by Indians, is not only embodied in the hawkers who make it a point to whisper to me “Oh come on! Stop haggling on their behalf; let us earn”, but in the elite too who consider bringing a “foreign” friend to a wedding an auspicious thing. Reducing the unassuming foreigner to the status of a lucky charm or PR tool as well as demeaning their fellow countrymen, and in turn themselves, quite unknowingly.
More often than not, at the best clubs in town, I’m usually the one standing in line asking the manager why I can’t enter even though I am more than willing to pay the entry fee, while a Caucasian couple just walks in and is greeted with smiles. We are a racist people, but we find it okay to cry foul when someone else discriminates against us. I too introspect at times and find out how years of conditioning during childhood have led to me being automatically wary of people with darker skin; I question my upbringing in “Incredible India”, the epitome of cultural diversity, and seek answers.
Oh and you there, feeling so high and mighty about yourself and believing “Oh I’m not a racist”, think about it. Would you be as comfortable with your son or daughter bringing a Black friend home as with a Caucasian friend? Idealistically it’d be the same, as I thought. But what happens in real-life situations is never purely black or white.
As for me, I’ll just hang around. Waiting. In my own country, just another +1.
Tushar M is an idealistic 22 year old guy from Delhi who is working with LGBTQ youth issues, while trying to figure out a future.
(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)