It took Canadian stand-up comic Sugar Sammy only a few hours in Mumbai to notice the cultural divide between south and north Mumbai. “Find another city to pick on at least, guys,” he said, literally laughing at us. But then again, ‘Why should we look outside when there is so much to discriminate between around us’, is the logic, right?
On February 19, a friend told me about an incident of racism that his African buddies faced at a restaurant called Apna Dhaba in Andheri east. The waiter asked them to pay their bill before their meal arrived. Last week, their story was finally reported in a tabloid. One of those Africans was Alain Sedaminou. He’s been here for two years now and is from Togo. “I cannot blame them (here, ‘them’ is us). Maybe that’s the way they are educated,” he told me, referring to the incident. We were chatting about his stay, when I asked him whether he likes the city. He paused and then laughed. “So far, so good,” he said. “There are people here, who are like second family and there are incidents that are spoiling the good memories. But that doesn’t mean I won’t have a life. I go to Blue Frog, Irish House, Escobar, Big Nasty and H2O quite often.”
Alain’s a positive guy. But not everyone is patient about not being allowed to enter a club on the basis on their colour. Many of Alain’s friends are leaving Mumbai.
“They have no reason to stay. Why should someone behave like they are superior to them?” he says. No one should; not in this city that’s made up of so many different communities.
Then again, this sort of profiling isn’t just restricted to tourists.
A few years ago, an Indian friend was stopped at the entrance of a popular Colaba inn. He was well dressed, but had a dark complexion. As he was stepping in, the guard held out his arm and signaled him to stay out. Shocked, he reacted aggressively; anyone would. He was then let in. Before leaving the bar, we informed the management of the incident, hoping the message would get through. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. Sometimes, just making a noise helps; these days, noise translates to flooding social media pages; that tends to do the trick.
Whatever it takes, incidents like these shouldn’t go unnoticed; not in a melting pot like Mumbai. Here’s to the spirit of many others like Alain, and to hoping their good memories aren’t sullied.