The bigot in the mirror


Indians outraged by racism might want to look closer home for ammunition, says Nisha Susan

THIS SUMMER two people, one afflicted by the flu, and the other by sympathy, went to a South Delhi clinic. The flu-bitten woman was leaving the clinic when the doctor told her that she had a ‘pigmentation problem’. The patient was startled. Her deep, smooth darkness has been admired most places in the world. As a Bengaluru woman she had not expected to be feted in Delhi, but she had not anticipated a pink Punjabi doctor saying that her skin could be ‘fixed’. The doctor turned to her companion and pronounced, “You have a pigmentation problem too!” As a Malayali who went to school in Delhi, he was prepared. His earliest memories were of the neighbourhood children refusing to play with him or his equally dark sister. He laughed and tried to calm his outraged friend. Defusing the tension is now as much part of him as his skin.

As a country we’re now all about the ‘offendedness’. Our sentiments are as easily hurt as the princess who was bruised by the pea under a stack of mattresses. We could do with less moral outrage. But when we’re frisked longer in New York, when our young men are beaten up in Melbourne, it’s difficult not to swing the bat of racism that we learnt from multi-culti movies.

Closer home we don’t have enough stories that inform us that we are the whip-wielding arch-villains of the racist tale. There are not enough stories that explain why the man with the pigmentation problem has adopted comedy instead of outrage as his talisman.

Other victims may pick up arms or venomous politicians or the hope of a different nation. Meanwhile, it’s easier for us to be angry about not being treated like the white people we know we are.


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