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.


anoop said...

i wouldn't agree with you more.
I stay in UK, the other day, when i was at my late eve jog, i got jeered by a man in his late 20's. He should have been cussing rather loudly as we were not on the same side of the road. Anyway, he was shouting something like - " what's with these paki's ". given the context, it should mean that we south-east asians are not sophisticated enough to jog in their country.
These racist comments have become so common to me now that I'm usually prepared for them and give it back as good as i get it. but, in this particular case as the offender was behind me and as i was almost out of my breath a short glance was all i could manage.

barkha said...

in fact i think racism in our nation is far more sinister and dangerous! shilpa just got lucky, that's all.

inferno said...

i agree. implicit discrimination is just about the mother of discrimination. there was this time when i was travelling by BMI to london anf the stewardess flatly refused to serve me non-vegetarian. i was completely nonplussed. its shocking when one comes face to face with discrimination. when the target is you. and reverse discrimination sucks. it's pathetic watching indians fawning all over firangs.and what REALLY itches is that most indians actually DO feel inferior to whites. and all the common man can do about it is shake his head.

Rita said...

discrination based on colour, caste,creed is there since ages. It is sick and sad.Most of us are constantly in searh of identity.V.S.Kumar puts it well in his poem..."Going by my passport/they call me indian abroad/But in my own land/i dont know who i am./Beyond the Vindhyas I'm southie/or more often a madrasi/in madras i am a malayalee/Does anyone know whoam i?/To a muslim i am a hindu/to the hindus i'm a brahmin/or some other caste name do tell me ho i am". Though Anil says it over a glass of beer i think more and more inter caste and inter religion marraiges shoul happen to do away with all the barriers and such untoward incident like that of Shilpa Shetty.

Rita Som