“When I born, I Black,
When I grow up, I Black,
When I go in Sun, I Black,
When I scared, I Black,
When I sick, I Black,
And when I die, I still black…….
And you White fella,
When you born, you Pink,
When you grow up, you White,
When you go in Sun, you Red,
When you cold, you Blue,
When you scared, you Yellow,
When you sick, you Green,
And when you die, you Gray……………..
And you calling me Colored ….???????????”
The poem above was written by an African Kid while in school in 2005. It was also nominated for the best poem by the UN. Reading this reminded me of the differential behavior we all have to undergo seemingly as ‘part of our growing up’-be it between men and women; the north eastern ‘chinky’ and the other parts of India; black and white; blonde and the brunette; the rich and the poor; the landed and the landless, the slum dwellers and the apartment dwellers……I am republishing this poem to start a chain of how and when, any of you experienced discrimination, however minute in nature, but important to raising your awareness of being sidelined or discriminated..
Identity has varied facets. I never knew that someone like me could be called a ‘chinky’. It was only when I came to do my graduation in Delhi University and I suddenly heard one of my seniors calling me the same did I realise it. I had just come to Delhi and got admission into Kirorimal College. It was one of my first few days of my college and I was of course very excited. I am sure I stood out with my strange looking chequed full shirt and formal pants mixed with slippers. Almost half the guys in the college were in their shorts and fashionable t-shirts. Actually it makes sense, considering the Delhi heat; you got to keep some space for free flow of air. And the campus was filled with activity, with giggles of the women, guys shouting out at their friends. In that midst, I suddenly heard someone calling out,
“Oye chinky….ek minute rukh……!!!”
I thought to myself, ‘chinky’ would make a hell of name for a girl. The name immediately makes you think of a cute looking naughty brat (girl). So, I turned around with a hope that I would get to see a cute looking girl. But Alas!!!, what I saw was merely an oddly shaped heavy guy with a strange looking tight T. And surprisingly, he was pointing at me. He asked me a harsh tone,
“Do you know where the admin office is???” His tone seemed to me like as if he is doing a favour asking me the question. I silently replied “turn right and then left..!!!”
I thought the whole day about it and could not seem to find a reason suitable enough for the guy to call me ‘chinky’. I came back and shared the experience with my roommate who silently told me…
”There are many more of these incidents to come”
It of course did not take much time for me to figure out what it meant and I had to face many more of those situations. Though I handled many of them with wit and also my knowledge of Hindi language came quite handy. Most of the times, me communicating in Hindi fluently was a matter of surprise for many of my friends. Since then I have opposed any instances like that and have made it a point to make the person understand about the racist elements of the word.
As soon as you Google the word ‘Chinky’ it takes you to the Wikipedia link where it is explained that it is a term (a slang) to describe the Chinese take-away restaurants in UK and also a racist slur to portray the Chinese and other Asians. In India, it is used a term to call the folks of the North-East and other hilly terrains of India.
Delhi is increasingly becoming an unsafe city for the North-easterners and it increases manifold when it comes to women. The Women of these regions (mostly the North-east) are seen as ‘easily available’. The number of crimes committed against them tells a story. Many a time, unjust criticisms are levied on the North-easterners where they are blamed to be very reclusive and not mingle with other breeds of the society. Perhaps, they fail to understand that the so called reclusiveness and only mingling within the group is because most of them feel unsafe and are scared. And it is a tendency in every species known in the world to stay together when they perceive a threat, then why not humans. While others argue that it’s just a term like all the south Indians are called as ‘Madrasis’ and are often used in good humor. But the same cannot be said, as the use of the term to describe a North-Easterner with ‘exotic’ looks have strange behavioural impacts on them. Perhaps it would not have had so much impact if there would not have racist connotations to the term.
Every north-easterner residing in other parts of India and in cities like Delhi, Mumbai etc have a story to tell. A story of brevity, where each one of them has tried to successfully or unsuccessfully revolt against an act of discrimination meted against them. In them lies a story of hope, where they struggle each day to fulfill their dreams.
You are welcome to share your experiences. Please comment or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org