4 obvious signs that India is destination racism

It is my opinion that most Indians are racists. I am no exception despite being a very dark-complexioned person in a country seemingly obsessed with fair skin. I might be ticked off that discrimination is prevalent in modern society. But I am also a racist. I think that makes me a hypocrite.

You can’t call me that though. Especially if you are lighter-skinned than me. That might make you a racist. Or something just as confusing and stupid. So here are 5 obvious reasons why India, despite the paths it has paved for medical tourism, is also destination racism.

Black is just the colour of our hair

Indians consider fair skin complexion to be an added advantage. In bartering one’s daughter to the most affluent bidder. Finding a job. Feeling self-confident. Skin tone is a decision maker in India. A deal-breaker too.

Maybe it stems from our nationwide inferiority complex that has its roots in pre-Independent India; tumultuous times when our forefathers struggled to cope with their ethnicity in British-occupied areas.

Perhaps the fault is with Hindustan Pencils. In 2014, they released a peach-coloured crayon labelled as “skin” that supposedly represented the archetypal Indian skin colour.

Let us blame it on the mindbogglingly offensive advertisements that promote beauty care products. The racist and scumbag conglomerates who want us to believe fair-skinned people fare better in their professional and social lives. And the relatives who would prefer us to be agoraphobic just so that they can find a white-washed mate for the family to parade around at dinner parties. The meat market bulletin boards that are matrimonial websites. And celebrities who promote Fair and Lovely products.

F**k Fair and Lovely.

Bronzed Drongo, Kodaikanal

Tales from the South

We think that people from Tamil Nadu are discourteous, loud and conniving. Those from Kerala are lecherous, arrogant and egotistical. The good citizens of Andhra Pradesh dress like they are trying out for the carnival that is never in town because time-machines don’t actually exist. And the State of Karnataka has people too but not much is known about their origins or behavioral habits. Most of them are pigeon-cooped in this mysterious place called Old Bangalore. They are fluent in Hindi; that much we do know.

These are popular yet baseless opinions that South Indians have of each other. Most of them masquerade as punch lines to casual jokes. But these are strong beliefs that arise from thinking that we have experienced the worst in each other. Wrong directions to forks in the road that don’t exist. Auto-rickshaws charging a few extra bucks. A few morons here and some jackasses there. Apparently good enough reasons for us to think Tamilians are imbeciles, Malayalees are jerks, the Telugu are silly and Kannadigas are…errr from Old Bangalore?

Racket tailed Drongo, Thekkady

Mutiny in Diversity

Discrimination runs deeper between North Indians and South Indians. By South, we mean any particular place in India where it would be okay to call dark-skinned people as Madrasis. And by North – anywhere outside of South India. Goa stays unscathed because of its cheap indigenous liquor and rave parties.

We think each other’s wedding ceremonies are tacky and boisterous. We don’t like the way some celebrate national festivals. Others talk funny. They watch movies that suck because we use subtitles only for foreign movies. By foreign, we either mean French or Iranian.

It is always us versus them for no reason at all apart from a cultural complex about how our daddy is the strongest and our section of India – the loveliest, safest and most liberal place to live in.

There is such a thing as the Northeast

A majority of us are indifferent towards Northeastern regions. Ignorance plays a major role since the army, the militants and archaic government policies obstruct the view for those looking in from the outside. It is also because we don’t really care.

Black Drongo, Chennai

Sometimes the media wakes up to the realities of the Northeast. It shines a light on the daily violation of their human rights. It voices the public concern over unscrupulous political agendas that govern the land. Seconds later, the media plays a jingle that asks you to stay tuned to find out why it is both awesome and frightening to be an upper-class metropolitan Indian citizen.

We, the rest of India, hang our heads low for a few seconds as a tribute to the women of Manipur before channel surfing for more relevant news reports on India’s first-class citizens. Or we hold candlelight vigils because nothing screams justice like candlelight vigils. Ninth-degree burns on pinky fingers. That’s how high the fire rises. Hasta la siempre.

An excerpt from an article about racism in India by Gautam Bhatia .

“But through most of India, the Northeast evokes an ambivalent response… Last year, when two women of Chinese descent from Singapore were molested in Goa, the police delayed the registration of their complaint with the excuse that they thought the women were from the Northeast. Two years ago — triggered by an SMS hate campaign — many Northeast residents were forced out of Karnataka back to their home States fearing racist attacks. Only when the Rapid Action Force was deployed in Bangalore did the exodus stop. By then 30,000 people had already left the city. Similar campaigns by Sena activists in Maharashtra have led to marches against Bihari outsiders. Despite the media uproar, little or no action is taken and race issues are brushed aside as being insignificant”.

Priloza, a friend and Bangalore-based blogger from Mangalore who doesn’t live in Old Bangalore – which makes her Tom Hanks from The Terminal in this racist blogger’s mind, had written a really funny article on the disparities of being an Indian in 2011. Do check it out.

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59 comments

  1. Its almost scary to think that people are conditioned genetically to think that way ever since their subservience to their British overlords..sound lashing to the senses made the Indians like Senthil running away from an albino Goundamani

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Here, in the U.S amongst the black community, we have something similar. It’s called, colorism. It’s ridiculous how one can actually belittle or pedestal someone based on their complexion. Ludicrous!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My favourite line in this whole piece – “Yeah f**k Fair and Lovely” 😀

    As an Indian brought up in a multitude of regions, I love being Indian and that includes ALL of our varieties and shades – I think it’s where one of India’s MANY beautiful aspects lie. Plus, it’s very handy when your friends are using up half their pay checks at the tanning salons for something that is all natural for us!

    For me, Fair and Lovely advertisements are just another example of what fake shade of white I need to paint my bedroom in next, now that stupid rickter-scale thing would be handy against my “impatiently awaiting to be assaulted in dire need of a paint job” wall 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Very nicely napalmed, comrade! It’s funny how “white is the absence of color in the strictest sense of the definition” ain’t it. I am in favour of white walls because of my fascination with white-washed picket-fences and Tom Sawyer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly true, we are racist in some form or the other 😦 – these fair and lovely, fairever, ponds ads are forever claiming test results and successes – has there really been an improvement? We should ask the CBI to verify the claims of these companies 🙂

    What is happening in the Northeast is indeed shameful and tragic – One fine day – Timesnow will report stating that China has captured – Arunachal, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur and Shillong. The national parties will be left twiddling their thumbs 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not Indian myself, but I do believe many countries in the world are, for the sake of a better term, whitewashed. The past determines our future, and the media does not help AT ALL. All the books I read growing up involved white female or male protaganists, and I’m still trying to wean myself off from writing only purely white characters and introducing some diversity into my stories, despite being ethnically East-Asian.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know what you mean but I don’t know that I’d call the colour based bigotry in India ‘racism’. As a pale-skinned Aborigine it doesn’t feel like the kind of racism I’m used to. The communal and regional bigotry of the Shiv Sena feels much closer and I’ve met Indians who are definitely racist towards Africans though.

    I guess part of it because it even happens within communities and families.

    The Bengali former diplomat, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, tells a story of an embassy get together he attended with his daughter during which he was shocked when a French diplomat complimented him on his daughter’s beauty. She was darker of skin than the rest of the Chaudhuri clan so the consensus in the family was that she was ugly. Chaudhuri had enough experience of Europeans to be able to see his daughter ‘through their eyes’ but until the Frenchman had made his comment it never occurred to him to do so. Only then did he realise she was beautiful.

    And while the Brits are doubtless to blame for many of the ongoing fissures in Indian society I think you have to go back a lot further than that to find the roots of colour prejudice.

    I think the meaning and connotations of the word varna tells us something about the origins of colour prejudice on the subcontinent. Even the Rig Veda refers to krsna dasyu with contempt. Some anthropologists think the Vedic references are to a prehistoric conflict between Aryans arriving from Persia and the existing inhabitants of the Indus Valley civilisation and that the enslavement of the vanquished ‘dasyu’ into menial roles marks the beginning of the caste system, though I know this interpretation is quite unpopular in India.

    I’m not in any way trying to belittle colour prejudice in India or suggest it is better or worse than racism as I understand it. Just trying to point out that it feels to me like a different kind of bigotry. It’s as if the darker skinned are seen as inferior, but without being ‘othered’ to the degree I associate with racism.

    Your primary point, that India is riddled with discrimination and prejudice, is well taken. I’ve seen worse in Sri Lanka and Vietnam but the first time I was in India I was pretty shocked by its extent and variety. I arrived in NW Karnataka just after a Konkani language riot and I didn’t know how to respond to the vehement hatred expressed to me about those who spoke a different tongue. Not least because the people who expressed it were talking to me in English.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for such an insightful comment. I do see what you are saying about interpreting bigotry. No matter how or to what extent it can be construed as racism, it’s a feeling that no citizen should be forced to endure. Again, thanks for taking the time to write!

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      1. it’s a feeling that no citizen should be forced to endure

        Amen to that.

        For all it’s horrendous divisions there’s something in Indian culture that somehow transcends it too. Not so much unity as indifference to difference. Not to mention widespread xenophilia. There were times I felt like a complete alien and others when I felt more fully integrated into an Indian community than I’ve ever felt in Australia – as if there had been a place there waiting for me all along. It’s the most contradictory country I’ve ever visited.

        And look at Bengal in 1947. How many places in the world would you see communal mass slaughter come to a screeching halt just because an old guy wouldn’t eat his dinner? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m really happy to have found your blog. Thank you for writing this piece and really fleshing out a lot of stereotypes that exist but aren’t often talked about. It’s really refreshing for me to read as an Indian-American. And yes, f**k Fair & Lovely! Amen!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Completely agree Christy! I would not go on to say that I have never aspired to be fair-skinned because the measure of beauty in girls is “fair”. Have done it all – fair and lovely, loreal white beauty, etc. And at a big price of those ‘cheap’ cosmetics, I realised that beauty is not about being fair. Well, der aaye durust aaye (better late than never).

    Thankfully, there are people who look through the crap and celebs who also raise their voice. Nandita Das is one among them. I got to know this recently. I love one quote which she uses frequently: “You don’t need to be fair to be beautiful”. Lets hope things get better and those morons (Srk included) grow some brains.

    This has been bothering me since so long. Nice to vent out on your blog comrade. Hope you don’t mind!!! takes a deep breath

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am no exception either, comrade 🙂 i used to feel confident as a child whenever people said “oh look you ve put on colour”. Little did we know, eh 🙂 And vent on, that’s one of the reasons why I wrote this. Vented 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. YES! F**k Fair & Lovely. And you’re spot on about everything comrade. I’ve lived a bit all over and have faced racism. I would say without batting an eyelash that I’ve faced more racism in India than I have in Europe or in any of my dealings with non-Indians. A damn shame!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Damn shame indeed. And many either don’t realize it how they feel that they are too liberal to be considered a racist. And no matter how many times I hear it or say it, it’s always music to my ears – F**k fair and lovely 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We are some amorphic unclassified southern breed of people. You’ve made me think now! Dammit!
        We like our ‘Baths’, you know Bisibele and Kesari; we like our sambar way too sweet and without lentils. It’s fun because my mum’s an Iyer so I had proper saapadu at home, which made the contrast that much more fun!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “We are some amorphic unclassified southern breed” – the BEST!

        The contrast is fun, comrade. I used to complain about there being actual masala on the masala dosa asides from the clumpy potato filing inside. But then I used to wonder, why call it a masala dosa if there weren’t well you know. Ok now you have made me think.

        We are bad influences hehe

        Liked by 1 person

  10. You’re absolutely right. But it’s easy to see where the racism is coming from. All of us grow up around these images of what beauty is and other people, with their years of wisdom to account for, tell us nothing better. It’s depressing. I’ve just given up on society really, works for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As bleak as that sounds, I couldn’t agree with you more. Save for the tall guy sitting in the theatre in front of me, I ve given up on the rest. I think the world has given up on us too. Or else there wouldn’t be something scary and hilariously misleading as swine flu. Fist-Bump.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was unpopular in my school cos of my dark skin; I was never a teacher’s choice for school plays or dances. Even if I were, they wanted pretty girls with pale skin and red cheeks to dance in the front rows. Being a shortie I’d hardly be seen standing in a corner (but that was the intent i suppose :P). Worst of all I never had a chance with the most good-looking guy in school 😦 😦 I had a nick name too ..some sort of abbreviated word , I remain ignorant of its meaning till date, but I was sure it was something associated with me being dark. Years passed and my skin lightened just tad bit (definitely not work of fair & lovely) and society by then, had started to warm up to dusky skinned beauties.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww you, thank you for sharing these personal experiences. I can imagine how difficult it must be. Now yeah duskiness is a fad. I hope I live to see the day when it is just another skin tone. Although as someone who is still dark skinned and short, let me tell you that it really helps while nocturnal trekking 🙂

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  12. While my husband and i were enjoying a delicious Biriyani in Hyderabad (we had been there for almost a month), a guy (obviously from the North), came over and chatted with us. He seemed really friendly, then he came out with something to the effect of “don’t worry, it is safe here, these people (waving his hand nonchalantly over to the darker-skinned locals surrounding us) are nice will not harm you. Clearly a racist remark, but one said so ignorantly, we just shrugged it off and smiled embarrassingly to our fellow diners after he had walked off. I’m half white and half dark. So i’m neither. Growing up, i’ve constantly been bullied because my skin has either been too fair or too dark by different societies. Now, of course i’m comfortable in my own skin, but this kind of colourism/racism is a fact of life for many of us. Just visit anywhere in Southeast Asia and you can see at what lengths the local women there go to cover up from the sun. F**k Fair and Lovely! Good read. Nice bird photos too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks comrade. And yeah, we are forced to often shrug it off because the other option to turn into the Incredible Hulk. “That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry”. Thanks again for dropping in.

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