Sunday, August 30, 2009

At the Traffic Signal

His eyes sparkled with fun,
His laughter rang out with sincerity,
His limbs strained with perfect concentration:
The little boy at the traffic signal.

With a queer disproportionate moustache
Painted across his face
And the confidence of a professional,
He confronted us:
The little gymnast at the traffic signal.

His pride in his simple paraphernalia,
His energy as against his fatigued sister's despair,
His confidence in his prowess to earn for them both:
I saluted the little master-of-the-family at the traffic signal.

Flaunting his shabby, dirty, scanty, tattered rags,
Twisting his emaciated body through the tiny hoop,
Attempting cartwheels and risky somersaults:
The little champion at the traffic signal.

And the signal turned green,
And the bus shook out of dormancy,
And he looked at his worldweary sister for help:
The little brother at the traffic signal.

"Money"! he cried and chased us...
But the bus rolled nonchalantly along,
With us perched upon it leaving the performer behind:
The little beggar at the traffic signal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

and you thought i was a racist?

When I got really high marks in my social psychology test, I had thought no end of myself..."an expert in interpersonal relations...yeah, that's Supurna"...what an immature statement, how abominably presumptious...and of course, as most would say: "how pretentious"! Even if I prepare myself to overlook such follies, today's experience has taught me something quite contrary to what has been flashing in the newspapers over the last few months.

"Aussies beat up an Indian", "Are we still racists?", " Before blaming the Aussies, look into the Indian fabric", "Chinky- an insult?"....is THIS what today's globalitarian world is coming to? Is this the desired farfetched land of utopia where "ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony"? But of course...to be discriminated on the basis of one's place of birth is not "racism", it's mere regionalism. And to be asked to leave a gathering on the basis of language is not "racism", it merely reflects the linguistic heritage of our country....does it not?

Racism is to feel discrimiated agaist for your social identity...where your dentity as a individual is deliberately overlooked. Racism is not merely being called "chinky", "mallu", "gujju", "small-town girl", "bong", "maru"...racism is to perceive a contempt, a sense of being different attached to such tags. Being tagged is comfortable, it gives one a sense of belonging, but being slotted rigidly the most profound ( and incidentally the most disturbing) feelings of detachment, of ub-compartmentalization wtin compartments that are already too limited to be fragmented further.

Racism is to be deliberately ignored amongst a group of people who are "alike", racism is to be deliberately paid "special attenion" to the point of indecency. Traditionally the "whites" have discriminated agaist the 'blacks", the "chinkies" have been discriminated against by the rest. Today however, there was a mini-revolution in our college cafetaria: where after having been warmly included in a huge group of "mallus' (malayali-s), I was startled to discover that all the while they have been messaging each other about me....

Racism is to know with an unnatural force that you are different from the rest...different in ways that make you unaccptable and an object of ridicule. When I call someone a "chinky" I do so only to make others understand who I am talking about...just the way I would say "that short dark girl with curly hair", or.."that boy with a really funny nose and a goatee"...being chinky is just as normal as being any other Indian.

After today's experience I really discovered another facet of racism...I still remember how I was scolded by my aunt when I had said "chinky" a litle too loudly in a restaurant...I wonder , was I being a racist then? In fact, when I discovered the whole messaging affair, it was my aunt's face that had flashed before my eyes..."and you thought I was a racist?"