Friday, February 14, 2014

Being Indian

'Bruised Souls' By Nirupam Borboruah

My husband faced his first instance of racism 22 years ago in Assam. His Assamese father-in-law had just picked him up from the station and was bringing him home, pointing to some shanty huts on the way he said casually, these “Biharis” have come and made this once beautiful place dirty and filthy. The poor chap didn’t know how to respond as he was a “Bihari” born and bred and a proud one at that.

My husband has done his post-graduation from the iconic Delhi University. The campus was full of “harries” (Biharis) as they were referred to as in the 80s.They were the target of jokes and taunts by the local Delhites, these sometimes got pretty violent too

I am from Assam (and people disbelieve this as I am not remotely mongoloid in looks) and my friends from the other north-east states often called ‘chinkies’, ’Nepalese’ or even ‘Chinese’ in the D.U campus, were always presumed to be very casual and western in their life-styles. I had a friend from Nagaland, mongoloid features and all, she was the most introvert and shy creature I have ever come across. She never opened up to strangers, weighed her words and checked her behavior. She was solemn and serious on all occasions. Now this was contrary to the mind-set that the people had about the tribes of Naga land. They presumed she would be the typical north-east types-casual and easy-going, out to have fun, very ‘western’ in dress and outlook. Alas she was but the exact opposite.
What parallels do we draw from these examples? 

That Indians are prejudiced about everybody. Just because someone is from a certain part of the country, we are biased about them. We joke and make fun of people from anywhere. We have zero tolerance to those who are different from us. We are chauvinist in our attitude to anyone who is not from our caste, region, religion, community, who speak a different language, or who look different. The more the difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’, the more judgmental and dogmatic we become. We harbour narrow-minded opinions and views about the ‘differences’. We are sometimes hurtful and mean, and sometimes as in the case of thousands of Nido Tanias with violent consequences.

It may be someone from south then it’s “Madrasi” and they are fools, unless they are from Kerala then they are ‘kali-pilli nurses’. 

Punjabis (Sardars) are stupid and their stupidity strikes at 12 noon mostly! I lived in Punjab but never witnessed it and I pity the many Sikhs who are named Banta Singhs. 

Gujarati’s are gaudy and spend-thrift! And so are the Marwaris! Bengalis are snobs and argumentative. And the gibes continue, engulfing almost everybody!

We feel so proud and superior that we mock and make fun of anyone who is even slightly different from us. Yes we are xenophobic, bias and chauvinist and full blown RACISTS!!!

Life is tough in India being an Indian!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Two brothers bound by tragedy; a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past; a country torn by revolution. A powerful new novel--set in both India and America--that explores the price of idealism and a love that can last long past death.” The blurb at the back of the novel reads. The Lowland is this and much more- A story of two brothers, separated by fate. One of them, Udayan, is drawn into the Naxalite movement of 1960s while the other, Subhash, leaves for the U.S for research. Their growing up years in Calcutta’s Tollygunge and then how each face their individual destiny is this story, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri.

This is Jhumpa Lahiri’s 4th novel. Her previous works of fiction, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, ’The Namesake’, and ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ all deal with migrant Indians in the U.S. Most of her stories shift between these two countries.

The Lowland speaks about fate, will and exile; A man’s struggle to prove his love; the love for one’s family which is the bed-rock on which a man stands. The ties of blood that link us across continents. It is an intimate tale that revolves around its four main characters and their points of view.

The story will leave you crying at some places and smiling at others. The typical middle-class aspirations of Indians, the enthusiasm for adventures when you are young,  the relation between individuals within the family, all so well described by the author that you feel you are a part of their lives and you belong to that era and land. The book explores human relationships and at the same time the individual’s struggle to establish an identity for himself. This is Jhumpa Lahiri at her best. Pick up this book today and I promise you, you will be swept off by its drama, tragedy and suspense, and you can’t put it down till the last page is read.