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E-Pao! EI - On discrimination in Mainland India

On discrimination in Mainland India

By Hahat Melchior *



This is especially for those who live outside the NE India but within India and perpetually feel sidelined and discriminated for being perceived as so 'different'.

I spent almost 12 years in Delhi for various reasons - student, non-student preparing for various national exams, working woman and finally a married woman and a mother before we moved to Zurich, Switzerland early last year.

During most part of my stay there, I had a lot of reasons to not like mainland Indians. I hated the word 'chinkies' in reference to us. I hated having to face harrassments when having some work at DU main campus, especially upon seeing the clerk not giving me attention.

Maybe the clerks are lazy in general but to a naive student, it was easy to infer that it is an act of racism. I hated it when our girls in particular are perceived as immoral because of what we wear and our outspoken independent nature.

Well, wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, minis etc were not new to us. We've worn them for ages. And now if you go to nightclubs in Delhi, you think you're wearing too many clothes cos' Delhi girls wear almost nothing. These are the same people who pointed fingers at us over a decade ago.

O! how I also hated being touched or pinched at in public buses and at Pragati maidan during trade fairs. But the most overrated insult is when I would be asked where I am from, and then I'd say 'from manipur' and they'd implore 'where is Manipur?

Is it in China?' or 'Are you a Nepali?'. Aarrgghhhh!!!

I just wanted to scream 'which school did you go to? In Manipur we know so much about your place, your little towns, your dams, et al.'

I like Nepalis and I respect them for their humility and independence of willing to work as house helpers, drivers etc. but when mainland Indians refer to us as Nepalis, it is usually in a derogatory term.

Fast forward that to today, in Europe, in Zurich in particular. I have this gift of people, that people love to come and chat up with me (maybe I look friendly and maybe out of curiosity).

My church in Zurich is very international, people from around 100 nations so I get to meet alot of them. When they come down to the point of asking me my native land, I always wished I had a camera with me to capture their expressions of "What!!!! you're from India?!!.

You're too nice to be an indian. Your English is too good to be an Indian. No! its not possible" and so on....

It sounds like a compliment to me but its not. I feel sad that people are surprised to know that I am an Indian. I am very much an Indian.

So now, can you clearly sense that the Indian govt is doing nothing much to let the world know about us unlike Malaysia or Singapore who clearly let the world know that they have people of Indian origin there too.

Isn't it sad? Maybe and maybe not.

I just have no regrets about being from Manipur and the NE India. Maybe we're not loved in India as we have wished but the world over loves us which is a more comforting feeling. And one of the things I am really proud about our uniqueness is that people identify us more as south east Asian but with good communication skills because of our fluency in English (majority of SE Asians are still poor with their English spoken skills).

At the same time, we can also dwell in the glory and greatness of India because thats what we actually are - Indians. I am just so happy to have belonged to where I belong.

On a light hearted note, I am also proud to admit that much before MTV came to India, we were already so updated with the latest bands and best selling albums (one of the many things we excel in).

My husband who is a Swiss also have deep respect for our modern yet traditional cultures. And he is so proud to tell people "My wife is from the north east India. They're very unique, friendly and different".

So now, whenever you feel you are being discriminated or harrassed by a Mainland Indian, dont get mad.

Just smile and remind yourself of how much the rest of the world embrace you.

And also that there are many good Indians who love us very much too.

PS: Can anyone of you tell our local politicians that I am willing to continue speading the goodwill work for our region as long as they also give the world and the country a good impression about us all.

Have fun.

Go look into the mirror and say "Thank you God for being from the NE India".

God bless you all.

If anyone of you knows someone from our place living in Switzerland, please do let me know.


Hahat Melchior contributes for the first time to e-pao.net
She can be contacted at itshahat@yahoo.com
This article was webcasted on 06th June 2005.


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