Shameless confessions of an Indian girl in Africa

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Ajita Chowhan


What compels the white skinned to justify the otherness and exclusion of the non-whites? Who permits where Hispanics stay? Whose land is it anyway? And most importantly, ‘where is home?’

Stepping for the first time on the African continent two years ago, I was acutely and profoundly conscious of what I am perceiving, because a decade ago, it was remarkably a different story.

Then, to my utter disbelief, I had seen Paris inundated with people of Afro-European ethnicity. I had caught the bull by its horns then and there. ‘Watch out for, the thoughts, you think’, I forewarned myself.

Hollywood, Bollywood or media has not helped much in forming an impression of non-browns in my early years. The only Africans I knew were Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, and Nelson Mandela. Sixty six per cent Africans I knew were celebrities, the other 33 per cent were changing the course of humanity after being in jail. Thanks to the popular culture I was exposed to, the remaining 1 per cent were mafia, drug peddlers, pimps and gold smugglers. In my head, on that evening 10 years ago in Paris, I saw the 1 per cent descend right in front of me. ‘Watch out for, the thoughts, you think!’.

Being in a new cultural stimulation always feels different. There is a similarity in the difference I have felt in Iceland, New York, Indonesia, Costa Rica or Jordan. However, the difference, in the difference that I felt in Africa, was an invisible, yet tangible power hierarchy.

I wonder, who taught me equality or the lack of it or that white is better than any other colour? Home, school, friends, acquaintances, media, or myself?

But we are not equal, are we? I know everyone is not the same – but different. However, rarely are we taught to acknowledge and respect the differences rather than rating, ranking and reviewing them.

The course books that I read half sleepy eyed, surviving the history lessons as an insignificant kid, in the small school of an insignificant city, written by an insignificant author, taught by an insignificant teacher, said, that an abysmal thing called racism did not exist anymore. I had felt secure learning those lessons. I could safely doze off back to sleep as all things terrible, had ceased to exist. But in 2018, I feel nauseous when my fellow humans intelligent-ify arguments that are a blow to humanity, strut with superiority and vociferously revel being born non-black.

One such evening, the gentleman rejoiced the lone-wolf attacks across Europe, calling it karma. Another such evening, another acquaintance had thrown a ‘cavemen’ remark at the end of a sentence while talking about a few Congolese, she had to deal with at work.

Black, white, brown and Caucasian are deep seated divisions inside our minds that are probably visible from space. As telescopic or microscopic you go, the undercurrent to it is all drawing a line that represents a divide and then labelling the side which you are on – as the better side.

Apply this logic to anything. It holds true.

Football teams, educational institutions, professions, race, geography, social status, castes, food habits, preference or abstinence of alcohol, choice of being a homebody or working professional, LGBTQ, sexuality, going out on weekends or curling up in blankets, trade, economy, corporates, going to a party or not. The list is endless and ever growing.

History is said to have been written by the winners, the educated, the powerful, and men. I wonder what the narrative would be if the oppressed, the poor, the illiterates and the women began penning down the piece of history that has not yet made it to the pages of publication.

I cannot undo history. But I can pick up a pen.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

via TOI Blog

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