Friday, November 06, 2015

When racial discrimination is very subtle...

All of us have faced racial discrimination in India. This is one such. In fact, I would venture to say that India is the home of racial discrimination because our culture was based on the Varna system, which is nothing but racism. So, it is no wonder that we have faced discrimination of one type or the other in the journey of our lives.

This happened long ago. A friend invited me to dinner. We had a cosy dinner at his home, with his father and mother. The father was a man of the world, so he was okay with me and my colour. But the mother, I could see had reservations, based on, I think, my colour. My friend didn’t have any such feelings as we were friends, had worked together, and seen many movies together. He was modern and had a friendly outlook to life and I liked his company.

After dinner, since it was too late, he invited me to stay over. I was reluctant. However the prospect catching a train at 11.30 p.m. in the night from the western suburb of Bombay to Chembur, where I used to live, dissuaded me. So I decided to stay. He gave a spare pair of his pyjamas to wear and a kurta. We actually didn’t sleep much that night because we were awake, cracking jokes, destroying reputations, and talking about things. I must have dozed off towards morning.

I awoke quite early wanting to board a train before the rush started. As is usual, since I go early in the morning, I used the only toilet in the house. This is a practise I have, because elimination is the first thing I do, every morning, wherever I am. This time it was urgent, too. The house was silent when I used the toilet and after using it I was careful to clean it as best as I can with water and a brush. I didn’t find a chemical, or, I would have used it, as I don’t want anyone to find the toilet dirty after me. At home, I clean my own toilet, and, usually it is rather spic and span.

A little later, the lady of the house, my friend’s mother, woke up. And she began to let out a stream of unintelligible – to me – chatter about something. She went on cackling like a disturbed hen, and it upset me. I understood that she didn’t like it that I had used her toilet. She wouldn’t stop. I found it wise to dress and leave the place.

Now, thinking it over I feel the discrimination was subtle. Should she have thrown a tantrum, since I was still in the house? Shouldn’t she have been more discreet? Why did my friend invite me stay if his mother was so finicky? I was hurt that an individual who talked to me nicely would do such a thing. They were middle class people like me, migrants from Sindh in Pakistan. From that day I stopped going to my friend’s house.

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