Saturday, 20 January 2007
Shilpa’s prob is our prob
Yes, I know, enough has already been written on Shilpa Shetty’s abuse on UK’s Big Brother, I also know it’s just a bloody silly TV show where losers and idiots get together to make some quick bucks and minor exposure. I also know the channels and the producers are delighted that the racial attacks happened, that many people are offended, that people like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have got sucked into the debate, because this gives them additional eyeballs, which is what must matter to them. So by writing another piece, I am falling right into their well laid booby trap.
However, I really think what’s transpired in that house is a crucible of what goes on in the world out there, the racism that exists in the western nations, and its impact on all of us, whether we live in the west or travel to those parts. It’s a bad rat we always bury under the carpet, and this Shetty incident has helped bring it out on the discussion table. Truth is, racism in some form or another has always existed not just from the ‘whites’ but from the ‘browns’ and the ‘blacks’ too. We all know, for example, how much communalism thrives within India.
What has always pissed me off, is that while we non goras are quite naked in this matter, with the goras, it’s usually concealed behind the veil of politeness and civility, the many ‘thank yous’ and the ‘my apologies’. Which then makes it far more deplorable and sinister. The people inside Big Brother’s house have chosen to come out in the open, and now it’s out there for the world to see. The silly apology from Jade Goody cuts no ice with me, sorry!
Sure, racial bias against people from the sub continent soared after 9/11 and the ‘Bangalorisation’ of IT jobs, that is a fact. But having travelled abroad on various occasions, I have to say the resentment was always there, only now there’s fear and insecurity too. I have been the subject of many underhand biases during my travels to the US and the UK, and I will list a few here to underline how demeaning they can be. At the Greyhound Bus booking counter in NYC, I was screamed at for ‘asking too many questions’. At a pub in London, I was deliberately served badly cos they wanted only whites inside. I was denied a better room in a hotel in London, despite paying the normal fare, because those are reserved for the whites. (The browns are allotted dingy rooms, I learnt from a migrant housemaid.) And my experiences in the underground trains are far too many and too sad to narrate. And I am sure a whole lot of us have felt discriminated against, overtly or subtly, at some time or another. Of course, I admit, generalisation is always fraught with peril, there are countless good people every where, but that doesn’t diminish the broad reality, does it?
And what upsets me then, is when the goras come over to our land, we revere them, suck up to them, and usually go out of our way to be helpful and friendly. Waiters and chefs at five star hotels are known to go full-on for the goras at the cost of us unimportant Indians, call it reverse discrimination if you might.
So will the Shilpa Shetty episode on a silly game show change all this? Of course not. If racial bias is seeped deep into our veins, we can’t purge it in a hurry, can we? BUT, the ugly controversy has triggered a huge, much needed debate, and it’s time we had it out in the open. The incident is also putting pressure on British leaders to come down hard and strong on racists, so who knows, maybe we could see some positive action.
Meanwhile, thanks for your warm thankyous and sorrys and the half smiles, but if deep down inside the colour of my skin makes your skin crawl, then bollocks to you, mate.