Considering the recent flood of media attention on how Indians are victims of racism, one can only say that we Indians are not as pure as driven snow when it comes to harbouring racial prejudices of our own. Indian magazines and Indian writing are comfortable with terms like ‘gora’, ‘firangi’ and ‘angrez’. In tourist spots like the Taj Mahal in Agra or even in Connaught Place in New Delhi, we love staring at foreigners, almost breathing down their necks.
A friend was visiting the Taj Mahal with a German friend. “I wondered whether I had made a mistake by coming here with a White friend,” he told me later. “The whole time we were surrounded by interfering guides, dishonest salesmen and curious standers-by, which made us feel like members of a roadside circus.”
The salesman they met at the gate insisted they buy a replica of the Taj. When he saw that the German friend was interested, he quoted exorbitant prices. When my friend tried to bargain, he remonstrated that his profits depended on “White people like her” and that he should not interfere.
When they reached the Taj and were about to take their shoes off at the rack that was provided free to tourists, a man approached his friend and told her that her shoes would be safer with him and it would cost her a dollar. The ‘friendly’ guide who had been trailing them suddenly heard my friend telling the German girl about Taj’s history. He said in his faltering English, “Sir, you no right to tell them history of Taj, that my job sir.” Perhaps the ‘crime’ of aiding a foreigner and adding to his losses was greater than the crime of eavesdropping.
But more was to come. While returning from Agra, someone asked him whether they were married. And then mistaking his silence for approval, he went on, “They have ruled us for long, it is right that we now marry them!”
The irony is that while the nation raves and rants about racism in general and how Shilpa Shetty tackled a racist gori on British television — not to mention how the whole Western world harbours racial prejudices — we keep mum about our own streak of racism. Not to mention, the ‘race hatred’ targeted regularly at Dalits, Muslims and women in our non-Western nation.